Monday, February 29, 2016

Fishing Report for Guntersville 2/27/16

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It is with no small amount of exasperation that I am going to say this: If you want to just get a fishing report on Guntersville: You can read any of the last three from Guntersville. I will save you time and list the link:

Two days after this last Saturday's tournament, this morning I sat in the shower and became irrationally mad. Seriously! I mean, to the point of saying "what am I doing out there and why do I keep subjecting myself to punishment? Maybe I should quit."

Cliff's Notes: I fished Guntersville for no less than the sixth time in the last three weeks and I have yet to find any fish. In fact, if I added up every fish  I have caught that measures, I would have a single limit for under 14 pounds. 

Unlike my past posts where I have railed against Guntersville, I will try and take my bias out of the equation. I get it. I suck. A lot of people suck on that lake right now. But, fish are still getting caught. I just don't know how. 

Ok. So if you came here for the story, which is interesting, entertaining, and perhaps enlightening, then the fishing report is about to begin. 

Friday afternoon I took off a little bit early. See, my 2005 Yukon now has over 220,000 miles on it. While I have never abused it, I have done the very basics of maintenance. Maybe not even that much. I took it for an oil change earlier in the week and asked them to do my transmission, transfer case, and rear end. I got back a truck that had only the transmission fluid changed. So, I had to do it myself. No big deal. While I was at it, I did a few more things.

First, the rear brakes. Because of the bias, the rear brakes wear a lot faster than the front. I've had to change them 2:1. But, an easy and cheap thing to do myself. The rotors weren't even warped or grooved.

Second, I replaced the original air filter. Again, seconds to complete.
All new belts. A small feat for a man with T-Rex arms. 

Now, on to the transfer case. Draining it was easy. Filling back up....a massive headache. I didn't have any tubing, save for one small diameter section. So small, that I couldn't squeeze the ATF out, instead I was going to have to gravity feed it. That meant finding a spot above the fill port to stick the bottle, poking a hole in the bottle, and hoping it didn't leak out.

Alas, I had leaks. And bottles that fell. And tubing that slipped out. And a massive puddle later, covered in ATF, I had it changed...along with a lot of curses and bumps on the head. 

Didn't get to the read differential. 

So, I pull the Bullet out of the shop while listening to weird sounds from the Yukon. Sure enough, I hear some grinding. Oh boy. What could it be? Turns out, it wasn't the Yukon at all....but a trailer bearing. This was at 5PM. 

I jacked the trailer up, yanked the wheel off, had to chisel the old bearing off, polish the spindle as best I could, and head to the parts store. Dude looked at me like I was crazy when I threw the old hub on the counter and asked for new bearings for it. Instead, he retrieved a whole new hub assembly. $43 and 20 minutes later, everything is ready to go. 

I picked Josh up and we headed to City Park in Roseberry. 

We had planned to fish the warmest water we knew of and to fish dirt shallow, as the only info from people catching fish had been. 

We made the haul to north Sauty. The bridges were covered up, as we expected. So, we made our way to the back towards the lilly pad stickups. 

Josh picked up a keeper early on a chatterbait. I caught a short fish on a Luhr-Jensen speed trap.
Both fish came off of rocks, dirt shallow. The water temp had dropped significantly, from the 55 of last Saturday to just over 50. Water color....chocolate milk. 

We fished hard all day, moving from north Sauty to humps on the main channel. We threw squarebills, chatterbaits, and swimjigs with PTL Swinging Hammers. I alternated a little Bama Rig in as well. Nothing. Moved into Roseberry around lunch. Nothing. 

At weigh in, we discovered most everyone had the same luck we had....which keeps an impressive string of tournaments going where everyone has struggled. We had one limit for 14 pounds. one boat with four. One with three, which rounded out the paycheck pack. Everyone else had little to nothing. Big fish was 4.74. In talking with the winners, they hadn't done anything we hadn't done. But, they found fish which began feeding about an hour before weigh in .

The good news is, I don't have to be on that lake for several months. I have devoted way too much time on that lake in the last few years and it hasn't made a single bit of difference. I'm not just blaming the lake, honestly! I just don't know what else to do. Prefishing any other lake is typically a five-pound difference for me. I haven't been on fish on the G in three years. 

It is interesting that while the weights on Guntersville have been weights elsewhere have exceeded expectations. Take the ABT, for example, who kicked off the year on Smith lake. It took over 20 pounds to win! 

We have Wilson up next, which I intend to cash a check, if not win. Additionally, there are some interesting tournaments on Wheeler coming up which I would like to look in to. 

Speaking of Wheeler, I was able to get my wife and the boys out yesterday on the boat for the first time. The wind was awful and the water muddy, but we had fun! 

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Fishing Report for Wheeler 2/23/16

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After getting snuffed out for the entire weekend, including losing a transducer leading up to my tournament Saturday (a $160 mistake), I wanted to get out for some low pressure fishing. In case you missed it, you can read about my three day fishing weekend, which resulted in a grand total of 4 fish by clicking the link below.

Fishing Report for Guntersville: Weekend of 2/20/16

So, after work yesterday, I decided to make sure that the new transducer was working. ADditionally, with the storm system moving through and the temps in the 60s, I figured the fish HAD to be biting. 

I put in at the Redstone rec area and quickly found that the 'ducer was indeed working. I managed not to have any screw ups like I did putting the boat in just days before.

I also saw that the water color was horrible. Less than six inches of clarity. The water temp was between 50 and 51. In comparison, most of Guntersville was still in the high 40s, though we did find water as high as 55 in South Sauty. 

So, I decided to dial in my graphs but idling over rockpiles that I am familiar with. Enter my disgust with Humminbird electronics. Most people hardly touch their electronics and quickly give up on using them as a valuable tool. That may surprise you, but ask around. Other than running them for GPS and basic depth/water temp, many people get frustrated with them and quit using them to their potential. Lowerance has done a fantastic job with their units by giving the processor a lot of power in auto tuning. Within a few clicks, a unit can be dialed in.

Humminbird possesses no such feature. I have found that major changes have to be made, not only from lake to lake, but from day to day. Even from spot to spot! I'm not talking about simple changes in sensitivity, but total frequency changes! 

Such was life yesterday as the muddy water caused some serious scatter with my under boat cone. Add in a ripping current that made signal acquisition difficult (moving against current caused a lot of noise, as the sound was reflecting off the same structure multiple times, making the signal noisy OR going with the current, which caused the boat to move too fast for the sound beam reflection, causing a loss in signal). 

Even when I thought I had the settings right, I would pull up to a different spot that was slightly cleaner or muddier than the spot before and POOF, I had to reset again. 

The water was so nasty in some places that I had to swap to my lower frequency so that I could get less scatter and more penetration. As a result, my sensitivity was lower and I wasn't seeing bait or small fish. 

But, I did graph some fish off of the bluffs across from Hobb's Island that made me stop and fish. Tossing a PowerTeam Lures Bull Nose Jig with a Craw d, both in natural colors, I had a fish pop the jig hard as I was dragging it in 18 feet. I knew immediately that it was either a massive bass or, more likely, a drum. It ended up being the latter. 

I guess that the only fish I was going to find with fast moving and muddy water would be the bigger ones. 

From then on, I moved through some community holes, just trying to catch a fish or two for fun, as I didn't have but an hour or two to fish.

In Butler Basin I graphed some fish sitting on the very bottom and center of the mouth. Tossed out the jig. This time, white bass. 

To end the day, I fished just up river from Ditto against some rip ramp bank featuring large current breaks. In each eddy, I found a bass with a Luhr-Jensen speed trap. Of course, the issue was that there weren't enough of them. But, I caught four species of fish and a few bass, so I will consider that a victory. Oh, and no major boat malfunctions or lost lures. That too. 

Monday, February 22, 2016

Fishing Report for Guntersville: Weekend of 2/20/16

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After having a "decent" year last year in the clubs I fish, I really wanted to step up my game this year. Ok, so it really wasn't decent. I had some really good tournaments and I really grew as an angler. But, while I improved greatly on Wheeler, Wilson, and Pickwick, Guntersville continued to slide backwards. 

Considering that Guntersville represents about half of all the tournaments that I fish each year and would do so again this year, I needed to get better on the Big G. Last year we tried winging it on Guntersville and concentrating on the other lakes. That works really well 80% of the time. But, that one tournament or two that doesn't go well sinks any chances of finishing ahead of the pack. While most of my clubs don't have an AOY, I have aspirations of fishing some bigger trails, so it is important that I find a winning combination that can give me a chance.

Regarding Guntersville, most of you know how I feel about it. You should take anything I say with a grain of salt because I am just an average fisherman. Additionally, I get frustrated like anyone else, except that I have a platform to preach from. 

But, I challenge you to go read up on the fishing reports. Check out the guides sites. Not only are they openly saying that it is tough, but even when they "catch fish," there isn't much to see. One of the guides I followed made a comment on his personal Facebook page that he is catching around one fish a day, most days. Lies or disinformation? Maybe. 

Now, go read the fishing reports for the everyday Joes on some of the Facebook sites. You can really see the frustration. 

That doesn't mean fish aren't getting caught, because someone always catches them. But, the weights to win big tournaments are lackluster. Low 20 pound bags and the drop off from, say, 5th, is pronounced. 

Ok, so let's talk about this past weekend. So, I bought a new-to-me boat a few weeks ago. I hadn't had it out much and we planned on using it in our club tournament this weekend. I took off late Thursday afternoon to start prefishing, as well as continue to learn my boat. 

I put in at the Comer bridge ramp. That's where things started off badly. So, the wind was howling. I backed the boat off and tied it up. Jumped in the car and started to pull up the ramp. But, man, was the truck struggling! I turn around in time to see that I was nearly pulling my boat UP THE RAMP by the motor. Apparently the wind had pushed the boat just perfectly so that it circled the trailer and got the motor between the guide rails of the trailed. 

Figured that out. Went up river to Jones Creek. Dropped the trolling motor. Turned on the front graph. WHAT THE CRAP! It wasn't reading anything. Pull up the trolling motor and see that the transducer case had separated down the seam and the bottom half had fallen off. Don't know when. Now I had to turn the back graph around so I could see it. That gave me a headache.

Anyway, I start fishing the creek channel swings in Jones. First cast or two,  I hang a 15 inch fish on a square bill. Up ahead of me, a boat pulls in a similar fish. Considering the flickering bait I was seeing and the seagulls, I figured I was on some fish! 

Just kidding. Fished the rest of Jones. I didn't really have a game plan. In fact, my gameplan was to not have a gameplan. I just led where my heart told me I should go. That found me meandering around, just searching for anything. But, the water was cold and muddy. Usually less than one foot of visibility and hovering around 47 degrees. Never found a good stand of grass. 

I ran some main river ledges, only finding one spot holding fish, but they weren't biting.  I did snap a cool pic of my boat, though.

I put her on the trailer and headed home. 

Ok. So. On to Friday. Brad and I decided to swap things up. We headed to Allreds. We started in the back. The first channel swing, which was next to one of the small islands, had some matted vegetation. Once again, one of my first casts landed me a fish on a square bill. Then, nothing.

We worked Allreds pretty hard, noting that the temperature was about the same as in Jones. The water color was a little better and we occasionally found some better grass. Like yesterday, scanning the creek channel found some fish sitting in a little nook, adjacent to a hump, with bait fish. Couldn't get any takers, despite hammering the spot. 

After checking Brown's Creek for a few minutes, we put the boat on the trailer and headed to City Park in Roseberry. Water color was terrible, though we noted it was 50 degrees. Gave up on that and headed to North Sauty. 

In the back, by the old bridge, we noted water temps that reached 55 degrees, easily the warmest we had found. But, the water color wasn't very good. That being said, we watched a boat land two small fish while jigging the old bridge. So, we at least had a little intel. We pushed further back in Sauty, all the way to dirt shallow areas. No takers. We ended the day on that. 

Saturday morning, we agreed that the only thing we knew was that we shouldn't fish anything we had already fished. Having looked at the map of South Sauty, I suggested we try some channel swings featuring 13 feet channels to shallow flats. We pulled up on the first swing we had identified and immediately graphed a ton of stumps on the ledge, all with fish on them. Additionally, there were bait balls hovering in the channel, even flickering on the surface. We tossed out marker buoys and worked the area hard. Nothing. 

We checked a few other places in South Sauty before moving down river to the Seibold area, where we hoped to find a combination of warm and clear water. No such luck, nor on catching any fish. Before leaving the area completely, we stopped and fished some humps on the opposite side of Seibold. The stumps adjacent to the main river were covered up with boats, but obviously not fish. We pushed towards the bank, which is where I hung one measuring fish on a swim jig. 

After anchoring down, we failed to scare up another bite. 

We headed to North Sauty, hoping to use some of the intel we had gained from the day before. But, as usual, the area was covered up with boats. We moved to a pocket that featured some stumps and stickups. No takers. But, Josh and his partner Anthony met up with us and we shared our experience, which came down to two fish total. 

At 130, we started back towards the ramp, but stopped at the North Sauty causeway. While it has been a community hole, there wasn't anyone on it. While throwing a jig on rock, I hung a decent fish on the first cast. Next cast, had a hit, but couldn't get the hook in the fish.

We headed to the ramp. Winning weights were 15, 13, and 12 pounds. Big fish wasn't 5 and change. Only one other boat weighed more than one fish, though that probably means most just didn't bother.

It's tough. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Seared Heart of Romaine w/ Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette Cheese, Peach and Veggie Medley

Items needed:

  • 1 Cup of Feta cheese
  • 1 Cup of fresh Mozzarella
  • 1 Peach
  • 2 cups of Cherry tomatoes
  • Half of a red onion
  • 2 pieces of bacon
  • Half of a cucumber
  • 1 heart of romaine lettuce
  • olive oil
  • your choice of balsamic vinegar
  • honey
  • reduced (optionally) flavored balsamic vinegar 

Begin by mixing 40% olive oil, 40% balsamic, and 20% honey in a jar. In this case, I used a pre-mixed dressing from The Olive from Chattanooga.

If you do not have reduced balsamic, reduce 1 cup. Very little is needed.

On a large skillet on medium heat, heat up just enough olive oil to cover the bottom in a thin film

Dice the cheeses, onion, cucumber, tomatoes, peach, bacon, and cucumber and place into a mixing bowl. Drizzle a generous helping of the salad dressing onto the veggies, stir several times to ensure equal coating and let sit.

When the skillet is properly warm, place the romaine lettuce in the pan, rotating sides every 3 minutes, or until partially charred.

Remove from skillet and split in half, placing flat side down in a large salad bowl. Lightly sprinkle salt on the top.

Pile the mixed veggies and cheese as desired on top of the lettuce.

Add additional dressing, as desired. I did not add additional.

Lightly drizzle your choice of balsamic vinegar on top of veggies. I chose a raspberry infused reduction.

Add fresh cracked black pepper as desired.


How to Build a Lighted Rod Storage Rack in a 20XD Bullet

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I haven't posted anything about it, but I recently picked up a new-to-me boat, which replaced the 2000 ZX202C Skeeter. I purchased a 2003 20XD Bullet from a local guy. If you aren't familiar with Bullets, there is a storage compartment in the center of the front deck. Lift the steps up and viola! A giant compartment. However, they didn't come with a rod storage system. This is what it looks like. 
If you can't tell, it's big enough to nearly crawl in. It is certainly big enough to hold a lot of rods, if you just want to throw them in there. But, between all the hooks and guides, as well as the wiring and plumbing for the trolling motor and front depth finder, you are asking for a disaster every trip. So, I decided to make my own.

Equipment List:

  • Sheet of plywood. The final cut is roughly 27x 14 inches. (Lowe's)
  • Length of 1"x 2"wood or something in the vicinity. It isn't really important what size, as long as it can hold a screw without splitting. 
  • Roll of outdoor carpet (O'Reilly's)
  • Can of carpet adhesive(O'Reilly's)
  • LED lights, if you so desire plus heat shrink, 18 gauge wire, spade connectors, etc. I chose these lights at the loca Academy, as they are sealed units. (Lights from Academy, electrical components from O'Reilly's)
  • Rocker switch. I got a lighted round one with a flange. (O'Reilly's)
  • 10 2" diameter by 2' sections of PVC. Lowes has these precut.  I would advise against buying just a tube and cutting it yourself, unless you have REALLY steady hands OR a good cutter. Sure, it's more money, but it's a lot less hassle. Don't worry, I did both.(Lowe's)
  • 2" diameter pipe straps. These are metal straps that are preformed to fit over the PVC and have flanges with a single screw hole on each side 
  • 4 pack of small L-brackets (Lowe's)
Tools You Will Need
  • Skill saw
  • Powered screwdriver
  • Solder gun
  • lighter
  • Wire cutters/strippers
  • 2" hole saw
  • Small drill bit, around 3/8ths works. 
  • Razer blade
  • Handheld sander with coarse grit paper. 
First thing I did was to remove the factor incandescent light fixture on the passengers side of the compartment. Not only is it not very bright, but it has to be removed to install the rod rack anyway.

Ok. So measure the wall to wall dimension inside your compartment. I would suggest measuring as far back as the small distended bulkhead. Remember, your rod handles are long and you need to be able to fit the whole rod in without hitting the handles. In most cases, it will be virtually impossible to fit a long handled baitcaster above the level of the step. In my case, I cut a 27 width by 13 height. You will notice that will leave a slight gap at the top. Not only will that make installing/removing the rack easier, but it allows the back compartment to breath in the event that there is any moisture. You can't see the gap once it is installed. 

Decide on how many rods you want the rack to support. I decided on 10, though I could have done more. I left a center section open for a number of reasons. First and most important, I was afraid that rod tips would hit the recessed trolling motor or any of the associated wiring. Secondly, I thought about eventually adding a "Bullet" decal to that spot. Neat, huh? Using a 2" hole saw, I created my holes based upon a 4.5" center to center spacing. 

Now, cut the plywood to shape.  I would recommend running a sander over the entire surface including the new 2" holes. Not only will that knock any burs and splinters, but it will also held prime the surface for the carpet adhesive. 

Next, I flipped the board over and placed a series of backing boards. These will be used to mount the pipe straps, which will hold the PVC in place. You want the backing board to be even with the very bottom of the 2" holes so that that PVS can rest on them when they are installed. Now, I would recommend screwing them in from the back first. After the holes have been established, remove the screws and re-install from the front. This will keep any of the tips of the screws from protruding the front. Do this one at a time so that you can keep the right position. Make sure that the backing boards aren't higher than the 2" holes or the PVS won't fit. 

Ok, the next step is optional, if you want lights. 

I decided to mount an LED light strip on each side of the rack with a lighted button centered at the top center. For that, I measured the diameter of the button and selected a drill bit appropriately. Then, I drilled the hold. I used the same drill to create a wiring passage for the two lights so that the wiring would be hidden. 

Ok, get your carpet out and unroll a section. Set the board down and cut a 1" overlap around the board. Now, spray the board with adhesive. I would recommend waiting a minute or two before placing the carpet on the board, as the adhesive will begin to set and will help you. Now, place the carpet. Using an item with a straight edge, perhaps a piece of wood, smooth the carpet in all directions. This will both smooth out and wrinkles but also promote full adhesion. Lastly, apply some adhesive to the back of the board, cut slices on the corners (as you would wrapping a present), and fold them over the back. Ensure good adhesion. Let sit for 30 minutes, preferably in the sun.  

Using a razor, carefully cut out all the holes, including the optional lighting holes. 

If you are installing lighting, now is the time to secure them in the board. I ran the wiring in the created holes and then placed the light bars centered over those holes. I soldered the two leads together to a spade connector, which was then slipped on to the "load" terminal of the switch. I repeated the process, but added a 3rd wire to the ground leads, which will hook to the boat's electrical system. A 3rd wire with spade connector is hooked to the "constant" terminal on the switch. Then, I placed the wiring in black wire loom and secured them to the backing boards . 

Now, using one of the 2" PVS lengths, install the pipe in the hold, slide the metal pipe straps over the PVS, down the backer board, where you will screw each in. 

Remove the PVS and go to the next hole. Repeat until you have all the straps installed.

                   (This picture shows hand-cut PVC, which I scrapped for much better pre-cut pieces)
Now, move the whole assembly into the boat. 

Using the existing wiring from the factory light, splice the new "constant" and "ground" wires from the rack assembly . Make sure to use solder and heat shrink for safety. Ensure the lights work.

Now, Install the assembly into the locker. Remember, this is NOT possible with the PVC pipes already installed. I had to use a rubber mallet to move my assembly into place. You want the assemble NO LESS than 22 inches from the front of the rod locker, otherwise no rods will fit. Once you have measured both sides and verified they are even, install the "L-brackets" to hold it in place. Do not screw into the top and bottom of the locker. Use the sides.

Now, slide each tube into place. 

              (This picture shows hand-cut PVC, which I scrapped for much better pre-cut pieces)

I then added a custom carpet decal. It cost me $27

Make sure to read about all my other projects! 

How to Install a Recessed Trolling Motor Tray on a ZX202C Skeeter for Motorguide/Minn Kota

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Fishing Report for Guntersville 1/31/16

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Tournament season is upon us. After this past weekend, every Saturday from now until, well, forever, Guntersville will be packed with tournament fishermen. 

I admit that I am no exception that that. Except, of course, I am not good enough to fish any large tournament trails, benefit tournaments, or essentially any tournament who has an entry fee greater than, say, $30. 

But, I do have club tournaments coming up and I would like to make at least a respectable appearance on Guntersville before I try and make up ground on every other lake that my clubs fish. 

The best way to get better is time on the water. For me, I can up the ante by fishing in a tournament, even if I have no chance to win, I at least make myself get up on frigid Saturday mornings and put myself in the right frame of mind. 

So, Josh and I headed to fish the  The Bait Tackle and Grill at Goosepond Wildcat.  This would be the last wildcat from Goose Pond and only the second that I have fished. You can read about how we didn't catch any fish at the link below. 

Fishing Report for Guntersville 1/9/16

We had spent the previous tournament inside Roseberry and caught our lone fish with a jerkbait off a dock. We knew of at least one good spot that we wanted to check. Beforehand, we had decided that we would only spend about an hour inside Roseberry before we headed out. Additionally, my friend Brad would be fishing, as would my friend John. We hope to put together some semblance of a pattern between the three boats. 

We ran into Roseberry only to find a boat fishing exactly where we wanted to fish, so we had to be content on fishing the channel side of a pocket. We did managed to catch two keeper fish in the first hour, which we considered a good start. Word was that any fish caught early was a bonus. However, the fish were caught 200 yards apart and on different baits (one on a XR50 in Rayburn Red and the other on a chatterbait.) Without that making much of a pattern, we decided to move out of Roseberry completely. 

We ran into Brad, who hadn't had a hit. 

By lunch, we hadn't had another bite, nor had Brad. John and his partner had caught one fish. 

We worked the mid-lake over efficiently, covering hundreds of yards at a time with select fast moving baits. We slowed down only when we found green emerging grass. 

Alas, we didn't find any more fish. 

Not unexpectedly, several boats did. As typical this time of year, around five boats found a good limit. Another couple of boats would find a small limit and everyone else had ones and twos. There were some pigs caught including an 8.44. The winning sack was 24 pounds.

We were boat 30 and there were a lot more boats behind us. 

Of the three boats, three fish were caught, total, with the largest being around three pounds.

We surmised that the winning sacks came from down river, perhaps beyond the big swing towards Guntersville, as we didn't see but a handful of boats all day, though by day's end, there were a ton in the back of North Sauty, but I think that had more to do with the fact that it was 30 minutes from weight in and the wind was nonexistent in north Sauty, 

In conclusion, it isn't a surprised that we didn't catch fish. We know what baits to throw and how to work them, but when the fish are lethargic in the 42 degree water, you have to be around them....sometimes on top of get bites. If you aren't around them, you aren't going to get bit. Saturday, we weren't around them, try as we might. 

Still, sucks to get skull drug, but I have to remember that these dudes are good....and sometimes great....fishermen. 

My advice to you would be to throw lipless cranks, square bills, and chatterbaits and don't stop trolling until you bag a 3+ pound fish, then anchor down.