Friday, May 29, 2015

Staining an AK-47 Stock

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In the last two years, I have started collecting firearms. That's awfully hard to do on a budget, which caused me to get rather creative on how I could manage to start a collection. Being willing to learn and fairly handy, building AR-based guns was a real option. Instead of paying ridiculous prices for off-the-shelf guns, I could build one of similar (and sometimes better) quality for a not-so-ridiculous amount of money. That worked real well....

Until I got tired of ARs. Well, it wasn't that I was really tired of them, but just how many ARs do you really need?

You can ready about my AR builds below.

AR-15 Build V2.0

All of my gun buddies laughed at me and told me  I was really missing out on REAL guns, specifically the AK. 

So, I started looking around. The private seller market (on Facebook groups, in particular) is absolutely ridiculous. These guys want more money for their guns than they cost new at the store. But, I detest buying from stores. Like...REALLY REALLY detest it. It takes hours out of your life (feels like years, sometimes).

But, after months crept buy, I went into the local gun shop. I already knew that I wanted a Romanian WASR-10. It isn't the nicest of models, but it is reliable and the price was right ($470). Additionally, it has a chrome-lined barrel. That may hurt the accuracy, but it really helps durability. You can read more about these rifles here.

 The gun shop had 6 and I inspected each one multiple times before I found the one that I wanted. The only thing I didn't like about the purchase was that all of the stocks were unfinished. That is, they had no sort of treatment on them, which gave them a very dull finish on top of a very light wood coloring. More importantly, I didn't want it soaking up oils from gun cleanings or even those from my hands, which would give it an unsightly finish.

After months of sitting in the safe, I finally brought it out after I had remembered to buy some stain from Lowe's. I decided on the WATCO brand and went with the Danish Oil in the Walnut finish.

After removing the stock, I gave the pieces a pretty thorough work over with some 400-grit paper. Just enough to lightly scuff it. And, make sure that you get ALL the edges, not just the main surfaces. Make sure you get get those areas where the fasteners for the metal butt stock plate and the sling mount reside as well as the edges that butt up to the metal. If you don't, they won't soak up the stain the same as the main surfaces and will give you some unsightly areas. I made sure that the finish, post scuff, was uniform. I noticed that the grains on the butt stock were very linear and uniform, but those on the fore stock were not. In fact, the fore stock grains ran every which way, as it had been cut from a tree with knots, specifically the top portion on the fore stock.

The butt stock soaked up the stain, but didn't exhibit much color change, though it brought out several divots that it had accrued over its life. Also, where the metal end cap bolts on, it was obvious that the manufactures had to do some extra fitment work. Two places in particular had significantly more work done to them, which exposed more surface area. This surface area soaked up more stain, making it appear darker. But, the metal endcap would cover most of it. 

The foregrip was another animal. Because of its varying grain structure, it pulled much more stain in, giving it a much darker appearance than the butt stock. I gave it a second coat 24 hours after the first, but didn't want it to be any darker than it already appeared. I did like the look the stain exposed, as it really brought out the twists and turns of the grains.

But, that led to another problem. I now had a butt stock several shades lighter than the fore stock. I gave the butt stock a once over with the 400 grit sand paper and stained it again. It made a little difference, bringing the color slightly darker.

Ever 24 hours, I repeated the process, eventually getting the coloration the same as the fore stock, with the exception that the intergranular regions on the fore stock are darker. Because the cuts of wood are so different, that is just going to be reality.

I am very pleased with the coloration, especially how pronounced the grains now are. I plan on giving it a urethane treatment soon. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Best5Zach's Best 5 SEC Coaches

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It's all the rage! Somebody somewhere did their annual ranking of all coaches in college football, starting with a complete ranking of the SEC coaches. Pundits have an issue with their rankings. You have an issue with their rankings. Me? Yeah. I take exception to them, too. 

I'm not going to post their rankings up here on my blog. Why? Well, because I am too lazy, mostly. But also because they don't link my stuff and I am spiteful. 

I will say that they took the easy way out and voted Saban first and Mason last. Big surprise. 

1) Nick Saban- Yeah, it's the easy way out. Even though I could play my Auburn Tiger card and put him last, without really feeling bad about it. I could easily point out how he has been out-coached when it really matters. It's true, and don't deny it. When Saban doesn't bring his A-Game (specifically when he is overlooking a game), he looses. I point to South Carolina and Auburn in 2010. How about his 2 different Sugar Bowl meltdowns. Look no further than Kick 6 or how about that loss last year to Ohio State and a 3rd string QB? 

That's enough beating up on him, for let's move on to why he is number 1. 
  • One of Two coaches to win National Championships at Multiple schools. 4 Overall. That's a feat in and of itself. And, he has done it in under 15 years.
  • He revolutionized recruiting, across the board. Recruiting has always been the avenue to winning games, but it wasn't in the spotlight until Saban came to the Capstone. He has never finished outside the top 5 and is becoming an annual #1. ESPN really needs to write him a large check for the solid he did them in making recruiting what it is.
  • He churns out an impressive number of NFL talent on defense. And, while the offense turns out its fair share of draft picks, it's becoming impossible to deny that his process is making players appear better than they really are. 
  • He may lack at coaching prowess in some games, but his ability to assemble top notch coaches and make them better is undeniable. Much like the Bear pipeline of the 60s and 70s, in 10 years, there won't be a top coaching staff in the country that doesn't have a Saban legacy member. 
  • Despite all the groaning by his own fans, his "process" may not be glamorous, but it is the most stable one in the country. Even in years without elite talent and with massive NFL turnover, his process is good for 8 games a season. 
2) Steve Spurrier-South Carolina is the 3rd stop of this coach where he came to a dreadful program and turned it into a really good program. Keep in mind that several top coaches had turns at SCAR and couldn't do the job. By the time Dr. Lou had left, it didn't look possible to win in Columbia, SC. He has proven otherwise. Obviously his time in Florida is what puts him in the discussion of all-timers and number 2 on this list, I can't help but stress that the job he has done at SCAR. In my opinion, you take the opening game loss to TAMU last year out of the occasion, and the "bad" 2014 season is a slightly down year to the 3 straight 11 win seasons (best in the SEC, mind you). He has recruited exceptionally well for the top recruits(Lattimore/Clowney/Jeffery) and if he could close the gap on the middle of the road recruits, he will start winning the east. The only gripe I have has been his inability to consistently get to Atlanta in a down period of the East. His ability to develop QBs is most impressive, turning in average guys into clutch QBs. 
  • Until 2014, he had coached 3 straight 11 win seasons. While SCAR doesn't have a NC to show for it, that kind of streak is something that Auburn hasn't has never done, despite their NC appearances. 
  • Produced a number 1 NFL Draft Pick in Clowney. Obviously, that's a big deal. 
  • Has beaten a #1 ranked team. Not many coaches can boast being a Number 1. And, beating a #1 ranked Saban team is something that should really stand for something. 
  • Has produced a Heisman winner
  • Has won a National Championship. Again, Championships really mean something. He has 1 NC and 6 SEC Championships, which is more than a lot of SEC programs. If he didn't have them, we might be naming the #3 guy on our list as the #2. 
3) Mark Richt-Other than Chris Peterson and his stint at Boise State, I don't think there has been a more undervalued coach than Mark Richt.  He has the longest tenure in the SEC, having arrived to the Hedges in 2000 and has compiled a 136-48 record, which is good for nearly 0.750. He has 6 SEC-East and 2 SEC Titles. The largest difference in he and the two above him is the ominous parity in being in the big game. He has stood toe-to-toe with Spurrier since Spurrier came to SCAR, splitting the series 5-5. Against Saban, Richt has been 1-1 in regular season, losing a crucial SEC-Championship game on the very last play. Though Saban has consistently recruited for that top spot on the board, Richt has been a stalwart recruiter who finishes extremely well every single year.  In my opinion, he has matched the rest of the SEC in the ability to churn out NFL draft picks. Though Saban has gotten "over the hump" more than any other coach, Richt is on the same level of program stability. To top it off, he runs a clean program, in that any trouble makers are booted off the team without question, regardless of their talent level. 

  • Recruits extremely well. Richt has quietly been a perennial top 10, having finished no lower than 15th in the last 10 years. 
  • He has an incredible win-loss record in the SEC, even against the top tier coaches and programs. 
  • He has an impressive resume of producing NFL-talent.
  • In terms of stability, he ranks 2nd only to Saban.  
  • He simply can't close out a season and make it to the big game. 
4) Dan Mullen - Unlike the coaches listed above, I don't determine Mullen has the #4 based upon just wins/losses/championships. If I did, I would have to list Les Miles as the #4. But I think that Les Miles isn't here because Mullen does so much more with less. Also, there have never been gaping holes at MSU nor the absolutely bone-headed calls that plague Les Miles. Let's start from the beginning, where he was the QB coach at Utah under Meyer, producing QBs that went on to finish 27-0 in a 2 year stint, which produced a 1st rounder pick in Alex Smith. With Meyer at Florida, Mullen turned a struggling Chris Leak into a National Championship winning QB while developing Tim Tebow, who would be a perennial Heisman finalist (and winner). Tebow would become one of the most iconic players in all of college football. At Mississippi State, he is  46-31 and 22-26 in the SEC. While those numbers are not on the level with the coaches preceding him (and following), he became a coach in the SEC-West during its most competitive era. Since his entry as head coach, the SEC-West has been a legitimate 5-team league and while LSU, Auburn, and Alabama have been the representatives for the division, he has been on their heels, alternating between 4th and 5th in the league until 2014, where he finished 2nd with a 10-win season, only the 2nd in program history. Thought that looks pedestrian, he has been 3 plays away from beating Auburn teams, including two squads that would make the NC game.  Despite being bracketed on all sides by talent-rich pools that are gobbled up by other bordering SEC competitors, including a high water mark for Ole Miss recruiting, Mullen has been able to recruit...and develop....impressive talent. 
  • While he isn't a top-10 recruiter, as per recruiting services, he is recruiting at a higher level than MSU has been accustomed to, perhaps better than ever DESPITE having borders with Alabama, Arkansas, and Louisiana. Louisiana has been a talent-rich area that most major SEC programs continue to dip into, despite having an LSU program who recruits in the top-10 annually. Alabama as two top-tier SEC programs and few top talent players leave Alabama. Conversely, both schools recruit Mississippi heavily, with success.  Even their own in-state rival is recruiting at an all-time high. It is impressive that Mullen can pull Top-20 talent, despite this. 
  • Despite solid finishes in recruiting, he has had a single 5-Star player (which he kept in-state), which speaks to his ability to develop average talent into winning seasons. 
  • Though he "got over the hump" in 2014 by winning 10 games, Mullen has been on the cusp of being a top SEC-West team since he came into the league. As mentioned, he has been 3 plays away 3 different years from finishing in the top 3 in the division (in a division that featured eventual SEC and National Champs).
  • It bears mentioning that he had MSU at #1 for the majority of the 2014 season, which is an accomplishment in and of itself, something that had never been done before. And, he did that by beating a #2 Auburn team.  
  • He has been able to assemble a balanced and impressive coaching staff. Unlike some of his competitors, State has been good on both sides of the ball, never relying on one side or the other, something that his divisional competitors have done. 
  • In terms of stability, have you heard of any behavioral issues in Starkville? I didn't think so. 
  • There is hardly a coach out there who has done more with less, and in the toughest division in college football. 
5) Les Miles- Though Nick Saban may have been the best coach to come through Baton Rouge, Miles did something that Saban couldn't do...and did it in his first two seasons. He won 10 games in 2 seasons. And, in 2007, he won 12 games on his way to a National Championship. He has finished with less than 10 wins only  3 times. Additionally, he has 2 SEC Championships. After Saban, Miles may be the best recruiter in the sport, finishing in the top 10 annually. Despite being an offensive-minded coach, LSU has been one of the best NFL-pipelines, specifically for defensive players. Though he doesn't have the rings that Saban has, he could be one of the top 3....if he didn't have some gaping holes in his game. His inability to recruit and develop NFL-caliber (much less college football winning) QBs is simply mind-boggling, despite his background as an offensive play caller.  Additionally, he has had some of the most ludicrous clock management and clutch play calling of any major coach I have ever seen. The only time I have ever seen it actually work was against Auburn in 2008 where he went for a TD on the last play of the game instead of a field goal. Perhaps the biggest knock against Miles will be his dreadful rematch performance against Alabama in the 2011 NC game. Again, despite being an offensive mind, he coached his offense into the worst offensive production of the BCS era. That brings us to another point, when he losses, he frequently losses to teams he shouldn't, a la Kentucky in 2007 and Tennessee in 2005. Despite that, I don't think I have ever seen someone who can recruit as many NFL caliber running backs and receivers as Miles. Unfortunately for both, he doesn't get to utilize them to their full potential. The former because he has routinely had 3 NFL backs in a single backfield, all who share carries. In the latter, he hasn't been able to field a QB to throw to the receivers, aside from Mettenburger, who wasn't his recruit to begin with. But, defensively, no one can question he and his coaching staff's ability to prepare young men for the NFL. 
  • Aside from Saban, Miles has been the most consistent top-tier recruiter in college football. Despite having the worst NFL turnover in college football, he continues to recruit top talent.
  • And, he develops them...well, at least defensive players. NFL has churned out defensive backs and d-line more than any other program in college football. When they get to the NFL, they turn out to be just as advertised, something that can't be said for all of Saban's recruits, who benefit from the system more than the development. 
  • Les Miles is the only coach that can constantly go toe-to-toe with Nick Saban. That doesn't mean he has the best record doing it, but he has one better than anyone else, despite losing 4 straight. However, he has been in every game with Saban, which not many coaches can say. 
  • Stability. He has had only 3 seasons with under 10 wins. In the SEC-West, that is a major accomplishment. He has held his coaching staff mostly together, over the years, though the loss of Chavis this year may change all of the above bullet points. 
  • Along with his unconventional play calling and time management, Miles is one of the most fun coaches to watch. That's got to stand for something. At least his isn't Nick Saban. 
Just for fun, I asked my wife for her Top 5. Here is what she had to say:
1) Saban
2) Gus
3) Spurrier (although that's more about past than present success) 
4) Richt,
5) Les Miles

So, I know a lot of you are asking about why I didn't list some other coaches in this top 5. Let's just visit that.

Malzahn- The jury is still out, simply because he hasn't been a head coach for 5 years yet. Though he spear-headed the best year to year turn around in college football history in his very first year on The Plains, hallmarked by two plays that will live in infamy, he followed it up much like his predecessor, Chizik, with a disappointing season. There is no doubt that his offensive mind can tear up opposing SEC teams, but can he do what Chizik (despite being a former CD) couldn't do and get am SEC West caliber defense on the field? The proof will be in the pudding,as it was in 2012 for Chizik. If he can develop talent, which signs point to "yes", then he could make this day. Though these lists are all about data points and trending, there simply isn't enough of them to give a real opinion. I sometimes think we haven't seen the best....or worst....from Malzahn. 

Freeze- Top-notch recruiter? Yep. There is NO DOUBT that Freeze can recruit. Can he bring energy to a program that feeds off it? Yep. However, despite the amazing focus on the team from The Grove, I haven't seen too much in the way of production. There isn't a team in college football that has had the benefit of hype that Ole Miss has received since Freeze came on campus. The fact is that in the last 3 years, no one has started hotter and finished colder than Ole Miss. Yes, I realize that he won a terrific game against the Tide in 2014. How did the season end? The one time top 5 team faltered, just as they had in previous years. My main gripe with Freeze is that he has won games despite himself, many times. In all 3 years, he used Bo Wallace to spearhead his uptempo dual-threat QB attack. And, no one gave the ball away like Bad Bo. Listen, I believed in both of them. So much so that I drafted him in both the last two years in fantasy. Though he may throw for 350 yards and 4 TDs, he would have 3 INTs and a fumble to go with it. He single-handedly lost the two most important games for the Rebels in 2013. So, if Freeze is such a recruiting whiz and a great offensive mind, why are we still debating whether or not another JUCO transfer (Chad Kelly) will be his QB in 2015? Additionally, you cannot win in the SEC West without a run game. It as well might be the 11th commandment. And, Freeze refuses to heed this. And it he cannot win down the stretch because he can't run out the clock without running his QB (who usually fumbles). 

Bielema- I really am a Bielema fan. I would love Arkansas to win against everyone but Auburn. Though it isn't really pertinent to this conversation, he runs his mouth a lot and he looks like a whale with his shirt off. What he has done is take an approach very similar to Saban's initially approach at Alabama. He has taken his lumps in his first years, but has focused on player development. Those first 2 years without a divisional win were tough. Tough enough to cry in front of the media......but, it all paid off as there wasn't a hotter team in the SEC by season's end than the Hogs. Believe me, Auburn wouldn't have stood a chance if they would have played them in November rather than September. HOWEVER. Can he recruit? It isn't enough to develop players in this league. You have to get top talent in the West. Similar to MSU, he is bordered by talent rich states in which he has nearly no chance to compete. That's markedly different than Wisconsin where he had ample talent on all sides and few programs to compete with. Also, he had Barry Alvarez standing over his shoulders, whom I think was the man behind the curtain the entire time. I sometimes wonder who was really calling the shots that got them to all those Rose Bowls. 

Jones- Similar to Freeze, but with less defense. He has created a lot of hype on Rocky Top. He hasn't delivered. All I heard about was the great improvement that was going on. I watched a lot of games last year, specifically those late games where they were trying to win the East. Let's not get it twisted. The East sucks. Take any....and I mean in the West and put them in the East ...and you will have your divisional winner. All this hype over the Vols and Josh Dobbs. Are you kidding me? The only good product coming out of Jone's team is the receivers. Which is ironic, because "receiving it"  is the only thing the Vols have been doing. In all seriousness, they have pumped out some great ones. There are two that made my list of fantasy must-haves. You can read about that here:

Best5Zach's Best 5 Fantasy Receivers for 2015

Recruiting has been solid, but it's time to win games. Can he develop Dobbs? Will Hurd become the dominate game closer? The clock is ticking. That's not something a good coach has to worry about.

Sumlin- This guy. I don't know what he is doing. I just don't understand. I have never seen a program win a few games and turn everything we know about college football ON ITS HEAD only to see them melt. Take Manziel's Magical Year. They win all these games they shouldn't, including the Bama game. They STILL don't make it into the SEC Championship...which is what really matters. More of the same in 2013. Then, in 2014, they snapped necks with their first few games with Kenny Trill. We all questioned what was really going on in College Station. The Auburn game aside (which I don't award a win to TAMU, just a loss to AU), THEY ARE WHO WE THOUGHT THEY WERE. Jokers. It's like those ghosts from Mario Bros 3. When you don't look at them, they get you. When you are watching out for them....just kidding...they aren't real. When it comes to recruiting, he is doing a magnificent job at landing some monster classes. How is he doing it? I'm not going to say he is cheating....but.....

Pinkel- Everyone has this guy in their top 5?!?!?! I don't have anything to say about Pinkel. Sure, he has gotten to the SECCG two years in a row.... And lost.... Badly. In case you missed it, I firmly believe the SEC East is garbage, so it's no real feat. Let's keep in kind that if James Franklin were still at Vandy, they might represent the SEC East. In both years, the Mo Tigers have melted down in terrific fashion at some point in the year, something that good coaches (except for Saban) don't allow. His greatest achievement? Getting DGB. His second? Kicking DGB off the team. Oh, and Micheal Sam. Without Frankin at QB late in 2013 and in 2014, the Tigers looked 2nd class.

The rest? Who cares. 

How about her remaining picks?
Mullen Freeze, then everyone else is a lump at the bottom, I might list Jones in there somewhere after this next year 

Monday, May 18, 2015

Fishing Report for Wheeler/Ingall's Harbor

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So, Sundays are generally softball Sundays. We have played in a variety of leagues on Sunday afternoons, but we are playing in a relatively new league. And, it's been difficult. We have had some last minute cancellations, teams that haven't bothered to show up, etc. That's really aggravating when you plan your whole day (and your 3 kids' days) around it. And, we aren't the only family on our team that does the same thing. 

Once again, we were loading up the car when we happened to look on the league's Facebook page to see that games were canceled. No emails. No phone calls. Just a random update that would have gone completely missed had Josh not texted me to ask if we were going to play. 

No. I guess we aren't. We had expected as much, as it had rained all day and all night the day before. 

He had ulterior motives. He wanted to go flipping. I was in. We headed to Decatur to see if we could find the same fish we found this time  last year(well, not QUITE this time last year, but close) in the PEO Aviation Tournament. You can read about that event and see the video of our 2nd place finish in the link below. 

Fishing Report for Wheeler/ Army PEO Org 2nd Annual Bass Classic

So, at 3PM we were on the water out of Ingall's and headed to the flats. We hit the spot we hit last year and did a very thorough job with no hits. 

I abandoned the flipping and threw a frog. The only hit I had was from some gar. 

With some very nasty weather moving in, we decided to head back to the ramp until it passed. 

Along the way, we graphed some rock piles and ledges with Josh's new Lowerance Elite 7. I am no expert, by any stretch, but I have learned a little, so we put it to use. I applied many of the same theories I used in this previous post about dialing them in, which you can check out here:

The rain held us at bay for about an hour, so we played Clash of Clans and discussed, among other things, a guys trip to Logan-Martin to learn the lake better than we had. We have learned a lot in our few trips down there, specifically fishing off-shore structure. We have a contact who wants to show us some shallow water things that could make us particularly deadly in tournaments. 

Additionally, we discussed some up-coming Ditto Wildcats...what we did wrong and what we did right this past Thursday. You can read that report below. 

When the rain slacked, we headed back out. This time we decided to idle over the ledges and see what we could see. 

Well, we saw a lot. As we idled around 2 miles of ledges, we noticed 4 particular spots that featured some sort of structure and held fish. However, only 1 had a plethora of fish. And I mean....LOTS of fish. We didn't think they were all bass, as they were suspended in the channel, but there were a lot sitting right above stumps and rock piles which SHOULD be bass.

We busted out the worms because there was ZERO current and we didn't think a crankbait bite would be there. I did have one nibble on a shakey head, but no takers. We KNEW they were there, and that chances were that it was white bass. But, that was ok. We would be happy to catch them too! 

Imagine my surprise when I tossed out a Spro Little John DD and a nice 2 pound fish latched on. I was so surprised that I didn't have the GoPro on....naturally. 

But, we boated the fish and I got the camera turned on. Turns out, the fish were the same way! We caught 4 fish on 4 casts before the initial flurry died. But for the next hour we caught a mixture of bass, white bass, and drum. The most interesting was a fish that must have watched me get hung on a stump. As I popped it free, it attacked the lure. 

We caught around 5 largemouth, all on cranks. Another 10 or more white bass and 2 drums. Half were caught on spoons and the other half on cranks. If the current had been on, we would have caught something every cast. The white bass weren't really aggressive as normal and I had followers on every cast, despite the retrieve or crankbait color. 

It was a fun day! 

Friday, May 15, 2015

Fishing Report for Wheeler/Ditto Landing

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Kids ball is starting to slow down. And, for once, I had a reasonable amount of honey-dos taken care of, which meant that I was free to fish a Thursday Night Wildcat. Whoot! Also, it helps that your partner has a boat that is running right, which has been the real issue the last few months. Well, the boat was running and his wife hadn't popped out their first baby yet. That being said, she is So, we already had a game plan for what would happen if we got "the call." Go us. 

I made some inquires about what it had been taking to get a check. 16 pounds last week, with no current. 16 POUNDS? 
But I digress. Now, they did say that it was a big bag from the dam then everyone else trying to scratch out a limit. Of the 10 boats what would go to the dam, only 1 would find a group of fish, and that's who would win.

Now, I don't go into anything thinking that I won't win. But I am a realist. the dam is a long way and a lot of gas money. The chance of success in being one of the ten boats to find the fish at the dam is slim. Now, get a limit and cash a check? Yeah. I can do that. 

When he was out testing his boat last week, Josh was able to get on a solid pattern that would produce bites. Would it produce quality? Maybe. He had caught some decent fish, but it was just a numbers game. I hadn't fished Ditto since the Classic last September, so I didn't have much of a game plan. My only thought was to fish ledges upriver from Ditto, just as Brad and I had done down the lake at First Creek, which had produced some nice fish. You can read and what the vid about that trip below:

Fishing Report for Wheeler Lake 4/25/15

But, some of the features we needed for that smalmouth bite didn't really exist in the upper end. What were those? Ask me later on this year. I'm not quite ready to divulge that....yet. Just suffice it to say that you can see the features in the vid. 

Anyway, so....we would give Josh's pattern a try. We figured with the lack of current (10,000 CFS, which ain't much...heck, the water might as well flow backwards), our plan was as good as any. He would be throwing a creature bait while I would flip and skip a wacky rigged PTL 5" Sick Stick on their Jacked Wackers, which is a magnum wacky hook. Here is everything I had rigged up:

2 boats headed down river. 10 headed to the dam. And our boat, and one other (a friend of mine, Jeremy) started fishing within sight of marina. 

I quickly had 1 bite from a fish who surged at the boat and I discovered that my drag was a TAD loose. Like, so loose I could set the hook. We will pretend that it was a small fish, k? I knew you would understand.

And, a few casts later, I bagged a tiny bass as I skipped the Sick Stick under an overhanging tree. No help. Meanwhile, Josh was getting some hits on his creature bait, but wasn't getting any solid hook sets. Surprisingly, his larger bait was getting more consistent hits than I. I wanted to throw something different than he was throwing, but still wanted it to be similar enough of a presentation to get hits. He was getting the bait further and more precisely into spots than I, and it was because my accuracy with the sissy stick wasn't so good. While I could skip it under things, I couldn't pinpoint it into holes in laydowns. So, I picked up a 6'6" medium heavy rod with a 7" PTL Finicky Tickler on a magnum 3/8ths ounce shakey head. 

I had one solid hit as the shakey head slip down a branch, but the fish ran right at me and though I saw the line coming at me, I was unable to take in enough line to set the hook. However, I was certain I could get the same fish to bite, so I flipped right back in there. This time the fish danced around with the bait and I set the hook into a small smallmouth. Ain't this the year of the smallmouth! 

Naturally, I didn't get that one on video....go figure. 

Anyway, the highlight of the whole trip came when Josh set the hook into a fish. You might say he was a little to judicious with the hook set because he nearly took his own head off with the fish as it came screaming out of the water, over our heads, and over the boat. Poor guy. At least he was right back in the drink. 

We had a limit fairly quickly, although you could say that EVERYTHING happens fairly quickly during these 3 hour tournaments. 

Well, around 7 the bite all but died. We tried a few community holes and they did provide a few small fish. We did cull twice, but that wasn't saying much. 

Weigh in went quick. There was one really nice bag that went 16 pounds. It was from the dam and featured a 6 pound kicker. 

We weren't going to get out fish out of the boat, but there had been only 1 other limit weighed in. So....we went to get our squeakers. 

No, it didn't cash a check. It was good enough for 4th. 3rd ended up going to my friend, whom I mentioned earlier. They had found a quality smallmouth over 4 pounds that anchored another 2 keepers. So, 15 boats and 3 limits, and we were one. It doesn't make me feel much better. Ok, yeah it does. The money isn't that important to me. The competition is. And, we caught a fair amount of fish AND a limit, which is more than I can say about pretty much all of last year. 

Even if those 5 keepers went a whopping 4.50 pounds.....

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Best5Zach's Best 5 Fantasy Receivers for 2015

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See...this one is hard. Maybe I should have done QBs first, since you kinda need a QB to have a good WR...right? Anyways, I love doing WRs because there is so much involved! If you missed my other 2015 post, you can check it out here!

DaeSean Hamilton (PSU)-Hamilton caught a whopping 82 balls in 2014 including a Penn State record 14 in a game. The kid from Okinawa had only 2 TDs to show for it, however, which kept him from being one of the top 10 point scorers this past year. That won't be a problem this year. Hackenberg is already the top QB on draft boards because of his strong arm and presence in the pocket. The front half of the schedule is an absolute joke and the James Franklin machine will churn out points and yards early on before an October 17th showdown with Ohio State, which will make him a shakey start for that week. But, the schedule over all is light and the workload will be heavy. This would be a premier tandem, if you can swing it. 

Pharoah Cooper (SCAR)-The secret it surely out of the bag with Cooper. Rarely is a QB situation a benefit to a receiver. In Cooper's case, it makes him one of the top-10 valued players in college football. Cooper can do it all. He catches. He throws. He runs. And, Spurrier isn't afraid to showcase this guy. Even though the QB situation benefits him as a utility player, finding the right QB would turn him into a top receiver, which is likely to happen. Fact is, the WR isn't a position where you expect 10 or more touches every game. But, the Gamecocks' gameplan will be to do just that with Cooper. 

KD Cannon (Baylor)- Many people will see the departure of Bryce Petty and shy away from taking a returning receiver who benefited so well from a prolific QB. However, I ask you to bear with me for a minute.  
In his first year at Waco, he caught 58 balls for 1,030 yards and 8 TDs. Wow. Though I didn't expect him to build on that, I do expect as much production. It's becoming common knowledge that the QBs aren't what are making it work, but Art Briles and his system. Despite being a frontrunner for 2 straight years, Petty follows in the footsteps of Heisman-winner RG3 as looking remarkably ho-hum in the NFL after being superstars in college. Of all coaches, Briles is one I trust because he is doing it at a high level, despite not being in a premier program. Let's not forget that games were won despite Petty being hurt, so there is a serviceable QB in there. I do realize that Coleman is the leading receiver returning on Baylor's squad. But, I think Coleman will be terrifically over valued. Though he scored more points, he had some MONSTER games mixed in that skewed his value. 

Jordon Westerkamp(Neb)- Playing second fiddle to Kenny Bell for the last few seasons has left Westerkamp largely off the radar, despite finishing #91 in points scored in 2014. Bell was the bell cow for the Huskers when they needed a big play. Things are really stacking up well for Westerkamp to have a breakout year in his last year in Lincoln. With the aforementioned Bell and stat monster running back Ameer Abdullah gone, expect Westerkamp to build on his 700+ yards and 5 TDs. It's worth mentioning this his QB, Armstrong, is back and now under Mike Riley, who produced 3 NFL QBs at Oregon State. Westerkamp will be a valuable addition because he zero'd times last year. That's big. Unlike many WRs, his value wasn't built on some monster 60-point game and then mediocrity. He produced steadily. Getting him alone is good. Getting him with Armstrong....

Will Fuller (ND)-Despite an atrocious year for the Fightin' Irish, Fuller caught a monster 76 balls for 1,000 yards and and amazing 15 TDs. Keep in mind that ND had some QB troubles along the way. By season's end, Golson was out and highly touted Zaire was in. Zaire fared well as a starter and targeted Fuller 5 times in both of his first extended action games including 1 TD. Zaire looks to be the man as he looks every bit of a slightly improved version of Golson himself. Running QBs do a guy like Fuller a lot of good, as the play action pass, with the threat of a QB to run, freezes defense, springing him for the big play. Though Fuller never had over 10 catches in a game, he had 3 multi-TD games and was held out of the endzone only twice. Talk about amazing. While I don't think Zaire is a great QB, he does the things Fuller needs to be successful. Even shakey play from Zaire will allow another great year for Fuller. This presents another unstoppable team, if you can get them together. With Fuller's endzone ability and the stat-padding ability Zaire offers as a running QB, you can win games on these two guys alone.

***UPDATED 6/25/2015***

DJ Foster (ASU)- So, Foster has been one of the more electric players in all of college football the last few years. However, in one of the more prolific offenses of the year, Foster moved from being a lead back to a more diverse role, which opened the door for Demario Richard, who was big down the stretch, rushing for nearly 500 yards and 4 TDs. Richard is more of a typical size RB at 5-10 220, a full 20 pounds heavier than Foster. Additionally, De'Chavon Hayes transferred in and lit up the defenses in the spring. On the outside, Jaelen Strong is now in the NFL, the only WR the team other than Smith who had meaningful reception. Who else had receptions? Foster. 62 of them....a monstrous number for a RB. Well, word around the campfire is that Foster will be moving to WR to fill a huge void left by Strong. With Foster in the slot, expect similar numbers of receptions (let's be real, 60 is a terrific number for ANY player) and ALSO some touches out of sweeps and maybe even the backfield. With Foster being the only playmaker for Bercovici, expect 15 touches a game for the safety blanket.  What that means is a game breaker. Across the league, here will only be a handful of these guys who are classified either incorrectly, or prematurely. Between his receptions and touches, you have a receiver who puts up legitimate RB1 numbers. If he reclassifies, he is a legitimate 1st WR off the board. Otherwise, he is still a solid late RB1 or early RB2 because of his PPR. 

Best of the Rest

Duke Williams(Auburn)-I really hesitate to list Duke. It's no secret that I am a huge Auburn fan and I have seen this guy play more than the 5 listed above combined. He has the QB. He has the talent. However, he is the only serviceable deep threat that Auburn has established. In the SEC-West, most teams have a secondary that can take a star receiver...even an NFL-talent like Williams-out of a game. When that happens, those secondary guys take over, and Auburn has those in spades. That's not what you want in fantasy. Ole Miss, LSU, and Bama...and largely Louisville...have the ability to do just that. I still think Duke has everything you need in a draftable receiver because he can act as a possession guy and he has the redzone on lock. However, he isn't a game breaker, fantasy wise. He is 10 points per game with an outside chance to get you 25 three times a season. 

De'Runnya Wilson (MISS ST)-If this kid can stay out of trouble, he will be a top NFL talent. The Bull Dogs success was the ability for Prescott to hand the ball off to Robinson or run it himself, while throwing for high-completion type balls in the middle. Wilson benefited from 47 of those for 9 TDs. Keep in mind though Wilson was outside the top 100 scoring WRs last year, he didn't play in 3 games of Chump Play and was limited in 3 more. But in SEC-play, he caught touchdowns. He isn't an every week start, but you know when to play him. There is a chance that he gets over-valued...but he could drop. The Bulldogs WILL throw more this year and he is the TD machine they need to catch them. If he can stay out of trouble and make the roster. 

Laquon Treadwell (MISS)-I don't think it's a question of "IF" but "WHEN." Someone will draft him, despite his broken leg. Without him, Ole Miss faltered down the stretch. With no run game to speak of and no clear QB, it seems likely that the throw first attack of Hugh Freeze desperately needs an every down guy like Treadwell. Similar to Williams, I don't seem him being a 40+ point breakout guy, but he is good for 10-12 simply because of his value as a PPR player. AS a sophmore, other players benefited from the attention that Treadwell demanded. Guys like Cody Core had breakout games. Now that they have developed, Treadwell may be able to warrant single coverage again. That's especially true if he becomes 100% and defenses are caught napping on him. I wouldn't take him early, but if he is around later...I'd snag him. 

Marquez North (TENN)-The SEC-East is still down. Defenses simply aren't up to snuff. I don't buy all the Dobbs hype, personally, but I do think it helps North. North was a force in SEC-Only leagues and I think he is ready for primetime. He has had 30+ catches both years he has been on Rocky Top and 5 TDs to show off. That's being behind some VERY skilled WRs like Patterson and with shaky QB play. I think he will be terrifically undervalued and will be a mid-round steal.

Hunter Sharp/JoJo Natson (Utah St)-These two dudes lit it up last year. Sharp is a pure receiver who caught 66 balls for over 900 yards and 7 TDs. He really benefited from Chuckie Keeton's injury that signaled a shift from run-first to throw-first. However, it remains to be seen what will happen at QB since Keeton has a 6th year of eligibility and a few QB transfers. It's hard to go wrong here, as there has been terrific stability in Logan. On the other side is JoJo Natson who offers something truly special. He had 50 rushes and 3 TDs to go along with his 51 catches and 2 TDs. He is also the best punt returner in his conference....which makes him ubber-sneaky. He is as likely as any WR to have a 40+ game. You should own at least 1 of these guys. 

Juju Smith (USC)- Smith had 54 total receptions and 5 Tds in a relatively quiet year for the Trojans. Ahead of him was a top NFL pick in Agholer. The Trojans lose their top rusher to the NFL, but Kessler...who had a 39 TDs and a nearly 4:1 TD:INT ratio is back....and behind what many are calling the best offensive line in college football. Juju was very active each game, only having 2 games of 3 receptions or less. He has terrific size at 6'2" 215. With him being the only real returning receiver on this kind of team, be ready for major fireworks.

Bonus Pick
Pigg Howard (TENN)- Not the deep threat that North is, this kid has something unique. He averages at least 1 rush per game. He had 2 rushing TDs in 2014 to go along with his 54 catches and 1 TD. Not a stat monster, but his ability to run the ball adds a lot of stability.

TigerTrek 2015

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Unlike previous two years, the North Alabama Auburn Club would host the event instead of the Huntsville-Madison County Auburn Club. I admit that I was initially skeptical, as the previous two events were held at the Davidson Center at the Space and Rocket Center and they had been pretty dang good. You can read about my coverage of those events here:

Tiger Trek 2014

But, it was being held at the Ingall's Harbor event center in Decatur. While I fish there occasionally, I have wondered what kind of events they held at the really nice looking even center that overlooks the Harbor and Wheeler lake. Well, this would be the perfect time to find out! 

So, I bought tickets for all 5 of us. But, as luck would have it, Aubree had a softball game rescheduled, which would determine the league she wasn't going to miss that. That was actually our call, as she was happy to miss it just so she could go! 

The ticket prices were extremely reasonable, so I didn't expect much for dinner. The past events had been in the same ball park for price and had featured reasonable fare. 

Instead, JW Steakhouse from just down the street in Priceville was set to cater. Again, I didn't want to get my hopes up.....

We were warmly greeted as we entered the building. Turns out, a guy in my Clash of Clans clan (called Auburn, of course) was there to meet us. He was one of the many men and women organizing the event. He gave us a rundown of what all was planned and showed us around. 

My wife wanted to be the first in line to get Gus' autograph and she was HAPPY to stand in line. I mean it. She stood in line for an hour, most of that by herself. Meanwhile, I perused the silent auction items, made some bids(won none of them), and socialized. Turns out, many of my Auburn friends were at the event as well. 

At the appointed time, Gus made his way into the building which elicited a big cheer from the audience. Imagine the laughs when he waved to everyone and proceeded directly to the restroom! My wife managed to snap that on video. As he sat down at the table, I started to pump the boys up that they were going to be the first to see the Coach! Here are the pictures I got....

Yep, the wonders of modern technology! One day we will show this picture to Gavin and explain how he was more interested in Little Einsteins than Auburn's head coach! 

Coach was awesome, as always and signed...and signed...and signed. But he always had a smile and he loves to share a few words with his fans! 

This ball will go into Alyse's office, since I already have one! 

As soon as we got our things signed, we headed to see the Capitol One Mascot of the Year! Looks like Gavin wasn't so excited! Griffin was, though! He could barely contain himself. It wasn't all bad, though. Gavin did manage to turn around and give a dejected Aubie a High-Five. 

Dinner was....amazing. I didn't have high hopes, but I was blown away by the quality of the meal. Everyone recieved a salad starter, then an entree that featured a filet with mashed potatoes, asparagus, and a roll. It was finished with a yummy raspberry cheesecake! 
While Griffin doesn't eat steak...Gavin did. And he did it by the literal handfuls! 
Coach did a full depth chart breakdown for us, which was a lot of fun. The best part was when he took it a step further and showed practice and game film of the players he was speaking of. He also broke down his coaching staff and explained their philosophies, which was cool.

Naturally most of us knew all the players and coaches he was discussing, but it was fun to hear him talk so enthusiastically about his team! 

Perhaps the most moving part of the night came before Coach's talk when the the North Alabama Auburn Club President, Mr. Fite, talked about the real PURPOSE of these events. Sure, we all love the atmosphere and we love to meet coach, but ultimately the events are about raising money for scholarships. Mr. Fite talked about the current cost of attendance and how it is harder now, more than ever, to make it into Auburn University. Auburn has seen a massive increase in the desire for kids to get an Auburn Education, especially in engineering, which is especially big in North Alabama. The money raised from these events helps kids get the quality education they want and deserve. That really hit home for me. 

After the event was over, we were treated with an amazing sunset as we walked to the harbor! 

Monday, May 11, 2015

Fishing Report for Guntersville 5/2/15

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First off, sorry this is taking so long for me to write. I haven't had a spare second in the last week between kids playing ball, being in Utah for work, and playing catch-up at the house.  But, I have a few minutes, which is all I really need to update you on the conditions for Guntersville and the state of fishing....for a week and a half ago, which will probably help no one. But, hey, it's a story to tell and maybe it will help a few. I know it would sure help me if I were to call myself two Friday night's ago. But that's neither here nor there. 

With a club tournament coming up that Saturday, Brad and I were able to get out on Thursday and do some prefishing. 

If you have kept up, we have been fortunate to prefish for all of our last 3 tournaments. And while we hadn't smoked them in prefishing, we have done really well for the tournament. Call it eliminating water.

On both Wilson and Wheeler, we fished all day and only found 1 or 2 places that held fish. We would start there during the tournament, and that paid off. Well, it paid once. On Wilson, we had a spectacular day and cashed a check. On Wheeler, catching fish was no issue, but I would pay good money to have the two 5+ pound fish I caught in prefishing back. You can read about those two trips and see the vids below.

Fishing Report for Wheeler Lake 4/25/15

Anyway, so we hit the water out of Waterfront Grocery on Thursday. A cold front had moved in and moderate winds were expected, despite expectations of warm weather. What really happened? Terrible, terrible wind and a temperature that never got in the 70s. That didn't stop anyone else from fishing, as we counted 12 different states represented at the ramp. What else is new, eh?

The water temperature was around 65. We spent the entire morning and early afternoon looking for spawning fish. We started on humps, but we had to get in line to fish them as every hump from Seibold to Goose Pond had at least 1 boat on it. After fighting wind and other boats, we only had 1 fish to show for it, so we kept moving. 

We had to get out of the wind, so we concentrated on fishing pockets. At first we started shallow, targeting those spawning fish that we were sure were there. Nothing. We moved to the outside points. Nothing. 

Around 1PM we moved into a pocket which featured a fairly steep 5 foot ledge sweeping back towards the shore and running into the pocket. 

I was throwing a square bill, which I have done all year. It produces on every trip. So, why not keep throwing it!

Within the first few casts, I was ripping it through grass, as I do, when one smacked it. I decided not to fight it too hard, since I could tell it was a nice fish. I didn't want a repeat of what we did on Wheeler! It was a good thing too, because the big momma showed her face quickly. An 8 pound fish tried to make the leap out of the water, but instead did a half roll belly flip. I hit the release on my Citica and she threw the bait. 

That's a good start. 

The wind blew us another 10 yards into the cove before a made my next cast. Another one loaded up on the bait. I pulled on it, and it pulled back...hard...and made a run right to the boat. Again, I hit the release and the fish tossed the crank. After a few yards, the grass thickened up and I wanted to throw a bait as similar, but with slightly different profile. So, I picked up the Spro Little John Medium diver.

Another cast and I boated one that I didn't mind boating. 

 So, it seemed that they were still shallow and still biting the cranks. Good for me, for sure. I got a lot of them and I am pretty good throwing them. And, the Little John baits are some of my favs!

So, after 3 quick hits, we loaded up and headed home. Our game plan? Fish that spot! (Or, many more like it). 

Come Saturday, that all changed. Naturally. 

With hot weather on Friday, the water temps warmed up to 70 (or higher, in places). 

We started out in the spot, but nothing came off of the creek channel swing. We moved further into the pocket and I tagged one on a PowerTeam Lures Swinging Hammer

Then nothing. We moved to some pockets with similar structure. Nothing. Tried some humps. Nothing.

But as we moved back and forth between the pockets, we noticed just how many boats were on the ledges. The LEDGES? Surely it is too early! I mean, that's fine if that's what they are doing, as I have had some good instruction AND managed to win a tournament or two doing it myself, as you can see in the writeup below:

But, our experience said they would be where they had been a few days ago. Even if some WERE moving out, MOST should still be there. Right? Well, like I said, experience worked against us. 

Hours later after covering a TON of water of many different types, we had one keeper and a lot of small fish in the boat. (I will say, I did catch some flipping...HURRAY). 

With 30 minutes left to go, I started making phone calls. Of everyone I knew that was fishing, no one had a limit, though they all knew of 1 boat who did. And, I knew where that boat was and what they were doing...because they were one of those boats out on the ledges that we kept zooming past. 

Content to lose, I at least wanted to know if it would have panned out IF I had done it. 

I looked on GPS at where that boat was and located a specific feature on the miles of ledges around us which they were fishing. I scanned around and found a similar feature that didn't have a boat on it, so we hit it. 

I quickly tied on a Spro Little John DD and went to work. In 30 minutes I made a handful of casts that managed to produce 3 species of fish including 2 bass. Again, not enough to matter, so we dumped them. But....I knew. 

Out of the 20 or so boats, only around 5 boats had a limit. As it is at every tournament on the G, 20+ pounds won it. But, the weights ramped down REAL quick.

Ironically, as I wrote this article this morning, a cursory look at the stats showed that the most viewed post this month to ledge fish on Guntersville. 

Oh well. Guntersville continues to be the big fish lake that I can't catch big fish on! Now, I do recognize that I DID hook into two good fish and let them go....but that doesn't count. 

Until next time!