Monday, March 28, 2016

Small Lake Fishing Report 3/26-27/16

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This weekend was non-stop from beginning to end. Our middle kid played in a preseason baseball tournament, which started Thursday night. From that moment until Sunday night, it was non-stop. My wife and daughter had to go out of town, leaving me with the two boys, both of which had baseball games. Add in a busy Easter....

Anyway, I'm not complaining at all. I'd rather things be busy. 

Rather than talk about it, I'll just throw these pics up here. These are from the park's opening day festivities, which led into their baseball games....which were at two different parks. 

But, between their games, I had about a four hour break. After sitting in my recliner for about 30 minutes, I decided that I wasn't THAT tired. Besides, one of our family lakes, which is a multi-acre lake fed by the Flint river, is halfway between the two parks that the boys were playing at. 

So, I loaded them up and we went fishing. 

I went fishing, I mean. The baby was sleeping and the older one was content to watch me fish from the car. Initially, I was a little miff'd since I want to teach him to fish. But, I also needed a few minutes to myself. 

Twenty, to be exact. By the time we loaded up and made it to the lake, I had 20 minutes before Griffin had to be at the park. 

I decided to throw a PowerTeam Lures 5" Sick Stick in Watermelon Red Flake, weightless and wacky rigged on a 6'6" medium heavy H2O XPRESS rod and a Citica Shimano reel

Initially, I didn't get any action. I was throwing the Sick Stick and popping it pretty rapidly. After making several casts, without a hit, I moved into one of the many pockets and changed my retrieve. I started making casts across the pocket towards the grass lines. I would let the bait soak and instead of keeping a tight line, I would simply watch the line. 

It didn't take long for the fun to get started! With a finger under the line at the reel and watching the line in the water, I was able to feel and see the bites through the line, not the rod. I would reel the slack and make a slow sweeping hook set.

Why slow and sweeping? Because the majority of the fish were little and a hard hookset would cause the fish to come completely out of the water and the bait would come flying right back at me.

But, it also caused me to lose some better fish, so I had to start reeling in the slack and feeling the weight on the rod. 

In twenty minutes, I landed 10 fish. Key word is "landed" as I had a hit almost every cast. Only a few went over a pound, but it was still a BLAST. It is a fun way to catch fish and a way that you can teach any kid to use artificial bait because it is so similar to live bait. 

On number10, I tossed my stuff in the truck and took off to Griffin's game. That's the perfect way to end a fishing trip! 

A very similar thing happened Sunday afternoon. Everyone else was in a coma from a combination of fatigue and food comas. Me?  I was the last man standing. 

My stuff was already in the car.....

So I went fishing.

The wind was a little heavier and there was a slight mist. The fish weren't as interested in the bait today, it would have seemed. After the first 30 minutes, I had caught only a few fish and I was having to move around a lot. That was a far cry from the day before as the pockets were holding 5 or 6 active fish apiece and I didn't have to move. 

After the wind caught the line and I cleared a backlash, I rapidly retrieved the worm. As it pulsed from being popped, a sizeable fish smacked it. 

So, that gave me an idea. The fish wanted a little more action, which I assumed was from the ripple on the water. 

Sure enough, that was the trick! I sped up the retrieve and the action, which got me to 10 fish REAL QUICK. 

When the text from my wife came in, asking me where I was, I decided that I would fish for just ONE MORE hit. 

But after I missed three fish, I found myself saying ONE MORE CAST. 

That ended when I finally caught my last fish and also caught a nasty text from my wife.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Fishing Report for Wilson 3/19/16

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To start off, go back and read our prefishing report leading up to this weekend's tournament. 

Fishing Report for Wilson 3/9/16

Ok, now that you are caught up, let me also clarify something. That report was the truth. Just not the whole truth. While prefishing, Brad also caught a new personal best smallmouth that went right at six pounds. 
The story on that? We pulled up on a spot that I really like to fish on Wilson. There is a secondary point that seems to always hold fish. It features a fairly aggressive slope the ends in a rockpile. On this rockpile I have won several tournaments including one of the very best bags I have ever weighed.

But, the wind was whipping and the fish weren't active. However, on the primary point, I noticed that there were a lot of gulls sitting on what is an extended flat. Flats are rare on Wilson as it is. I could see bait flipping, so I moved us off the secondary point and positioned the boat on the 18 foot contour. On my first cast, I caught a drum. On the second I caught a drum. On the third, I had a hit from what I knew was a bass.

I told Brad to cast his swimbait across the flat on what I thought was the four foot break. This fish annihilated his bait. We had no idea how big it was until we had it in the net. 

Seeing how well we've done on Wilson and how people kind of know how we fish it, we didn't really want word getting out that we had found both quantity and quality. So, we played mum. You can read about last year's club tournament where we finished in second.

In the days leading up to the club tournament, Brad was able to prefish. He fished this spot again and found nothing. 

As we pulled into Lock 6 ramp, we saw something we had never seen on Wilson: a line at the ramp. The parking lot was filled over capacity and by the time we were in the water, our number had already been called and we were among the last boats to head out. What I did see was that a great number, if not the majority of boats, were headed into Shoals creek, which is where I wanted to start. \

Why? That's a good question. First off, there was no current. From the hours of 1AM to around 3AM, TVA reported no current leaving Wheeler. The reported max was around 19,000 CFS. Wilson needs in excess of 60,000 to really be on. Secondly, the wind was going to be a major factor. Wilson is a fairly wide lake from North to South, meaning any wind will make it hard to fish and navigate.

So, we headed down river to a spot we had fished last year and had netted us our best fish, including a 5.75 pound smallie kicker. Additionally, Brad had been able to catch some good fish on Friday on this spot, which was a shallow cove on the main river, right on some bluffs. 

As we pulled up, I marked fish on the upriver point. I moved the boat from 25 feet to around 18 and made my first case with a Luhr-Jenson speed trap in Red Texas Diamond. 

Before Brad even had his bait in the water, I had him searching for a net after a fish slammed the bait. The brown fish fought and jumped, but ultimately found its way into the livewell after a very long and stressful fight.

At the time, I was almost certain that this would be our big fish of the day, as it was a solid four pound smallie.

Brad put that notion to rest just minutes later when he landed a NICE largemouth on the downriver point. Then, he backed that with a keeper smallmouth that would go around three pounds.

As the sky began to drizzle, we motored back to the up river point. A short smallie off a swimbait and then another NICE smallmouth had us with four fish for around 14 pounds. 

The skies listed and the wind began to howl. The bite all but died. 

We fished the area more, pushing back out deeper where I combed the point with a Spro Little John DD. That is, until I set the hook in a rock and popped the line. 

We gave up on the spot and headed into Shoals Creek to escape the wind. 

It was more of the same in there. The wind wasn't as bad, but it was still hard to deal with. I had to pull into a secondary finger inside of Shoals creek to be able to manage the boat and fish. 

With the water as low as it had been, I was able to notice just how many fish attractors and brush piles had been placed at the end of one specific dock. Parking the boat against the opposite bank, I pointed to where the brush piles and we went to work. 

First, I was able to finish our limit with a decent largemouth on the speed trap. Minutes later, Brad deftly maneuvered his swimbait into the boat slip of the dock and between the brush piles.

 Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the rod bend, but neither of us thought it was a serious fish until she showed us her mouth in a fit of head shaking. We netted the magnum largemouth and dumped my dink back in the water. 

Brad now had four of the five measuring fish in the box.

It was fairly obvious that she was the active fish in the area as we didn't have another bite. 

We headed back to the bluffs, picking up the A-Rig, hoping to push us well over the 20 pound mark. 

Indeed we caught more fish, but nothing compared to the ones we already had in the livewell. 

On the flipside, the wind had built some solid rollers which were now rushing over the front of the boat. 

I guess the highlight of my day was sinking the hooks into what I was sure was THE fish...until it started rolling! 

Though we ran a lot of bluffs, we never found any more fish after about 1PM. We decided to put the boat on the trailer early. 

At weigh in, we were not surprised to see that everyone else struggled. The story seemed to be the same. Once the sun came out, the bite died. Unlike many of our club, we knew where to start due to prefishing and that made all the difference. 

We were surprised to find that my smallmouth pushed over 5.3 and was dead even with Brad's largemouth. We were even more surprised that the other three fish went over 10 pounds themselves! 

Our bag went 20.32 with a 5.36 kicker, which was good for a win and big fish. 

Second was 14.03 and third was 11.40. The next biggest fish came in at 3.91.

Of the other two tournaments out of Lock 6, the winning bags were also in the 14 pound range. 

We didn't catch a lot, but we caught the ones that mattered! 

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Fishing Report for Wilson 3/9/16

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I really hope everyone was able to enjoy at least some of yesterday's fine weather. It was a bit gusty, but you can't have it all in March. I am going to be out of town on business next week, which will make prefishing for my upcoming club tournament impossible. As luck would have it, Brad, my fishing partner, will ALSO be out of town on business. We took a look at our schedules and the weather report and figured out that Tuesday would be the day to go. 

Of course, I had to get the kids out of the house before I could leave, which meant that we couldn't get on the water until after 9. Additionally, both of our wives gave us a hard line on being home by 5PM. All three, yes...even the three year old....had practice. My wife has been on my about my time management and I was dedicated to proving her wrong. 

Brad and I met at West End, which is a local gas station/fishing shop/craft beer store. The first thing I needed was to get some gas for the boat. I had a little over a quarter tank. But, as I passed the last few gas stations which posted $1.49 a gallon, I realized to late when I saw West End in the distance that I had made a mistake. The signage on the Chevron sign said $1.74. I really wanted premium, too. But, I wasn't paying $2.74 a gallon. 

So, since I was a little early, thanks to taking the interstate rather than back roads, I decided to see if I could pick up a few critical items I needed, namely a new Luhr-Jensen speed trap in Crystal Hot Texas. Additionally, I wanted to check out their Spro's and see if they had a few replacements for me.

And then I looked at those prices and decided that I didn't need them that bad. 

So, just in case you aren't keeping score, I stopped at a store for gas and lures and didn't buy either. 

We met up and headed to Wilson, got the boat in and decided to check some bluffs with the A-rig. In between throwing the rig, I alternated throwing some PowerTeam Lures tubes that I had bought in bulk. 
Neither produced. But, the old Luhr-Jensen speed trap did. 

In fact, that was the only bait that produced for me all day, as I caught almost every species of fish in the lake, other than the smallmouth I was targeting. At one point, we stumbled upon a bait ball close the the surface, which caught our attention. On consecutive casts, I caught two drum, a skipjack, several white bass and a largemouth. 

Brad did get some action on the A-rig, as you can see.

We didn't get to run around a lot, for multiple reasons. The first was that the crosswind built up some decent rollers and Bullets just don't take waves well.

The second was that my gas gauge apparently goes from 1/4 tank to E immediately. Did I have more gas left? Probably. But I didn't want to find out. So, we fished within a mile of Turtle Point/Lock 6 almost the entire day. 

I did get to throw those tubes a little. Two casts, to be specific. And, I got hung up and broke both off. 

Additionally, I lost one of my Luhr-Jensen speed traps on a fish attractor that was JUST out of reach. 

At 2:30, we decided to leave and make sure that we didn't anger our significant others. Around Rogersville I caught a glimpse of something rolling away from the trailer. I was pretty sure it was a bearing buddy. A few miles later, smoke erupted from one of the drivers side tires and I pulled over in the first available roads. 

Sure enough, ANOTHER bearing had eaten itself, making it the second in two weeks. 

I had no tools, but I did know of a friend, Jeff at Action Glass in Athens, who wasn't too far away. I called him and asked that he bring the tools we would need. In the meantime, we unhooked the trailer and Brad stayed with it while I ran back up towards Rogersville to the local O'Reilly's. There I purchased a new hub assembly, a grease gun and grease cartridge, a set of bearing buddies, a roll of paper towels, two cans of brake cleaner, a selection of sanding paper, and mat of scotchbrite. Jeff brought me a hammer, needle-nosed pliers, and a adjustable wrench. 

Once we had all the tools, it took me 15 minutes to knock the old bearing off, sand down any burrs I could on the spindle, clean it, and install the new hubb. This one wasn't as bad as the last, but it still scarred the spindle. More important,y the washer that fits against the bearing surface had two bad burrs, one of each side. I had to pound them with the hammer, then sand them down as best I could.

Installation went well, but the phone calls to the can guess. 

Got home about an hour and a half late. which isn't too shabby, all things considered. But, still late. 

My advice to you all? When you buy a used boat, replace all the bearings. All of them. You just don't know what you are dealing with. In terms of bearings, if one is bad, chances are the rest are as well. In my case, the previous owner had bearing buddies on one side of the trailer and not the other. Though I had them greased, it appears they were ready to go to the great bearing party in the sky. 

Secondly, keep the tools handy to do a replacement. It's a small group of tools. A flat head screw driver, a hammer, a jack, a 4-way, a large adjustable wrench, and pliers. And....a few stress-relieving deep breaths if things go south...and they will.

Water color varied from one foot to three feet with the cleaner water being found in creeks. On the main river, water temp was right at 50. In fingers it would range from 50 to 54. 

We caught seven keepers. Best five would have gone right at 10 pounds. 

Monday, March 7, 2016

How to Build a $10 Chicken House

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Not too long ago, we decided to slightly expand our flock. See, it's a real funny story, so buckle up.

We stared with two chickens. Almost immediately, we noticed that one wasn't quite like the other. About the time the tail feathers appeared, we figured out we didn't have two chickens. We had a chicken and a rooster. 

Well, my dad wanted a rooster, so we swapped the mild-mannered rooster for a chicken.

And that one turned out to be a rooster. Oh no, it doesn't stop there. See, THIS rooster, whom we named Bruce, is the rooster from hell. He is a magnificent bird, no doubt. He is bigger than any other rooster we have seen, and that includes the quasi-illegal "rooster farm" down the street. He is aggressive. He is mean. And he doesn't learn.

But, regardless, we added another two chickens a few months later. For awhile, we were happy with our egg production. I was letting them out every morning and they would roam, which is great. We don't like snakes and other insects. And, free ranging makes for better tasting eggs and (I think) healthier birds.

But, as the days grew short, we quit getting eggs from two of the birds. Only one would lay. We just figured the changing of the seasons had cut short the laying. So, we got another chicken, whom we called Captain Phasma. That brought our flock to four chickens and one really mean rooster. 

But, that went on for a little longer than we thought it should, so I started poking around, thinking that maybe they were laying elsewhere. But, I couldn't find them.

Until one day I was on the far side of my detached garage and Bruce was uncomfortably and illogically (I thought) hostile towards me. But, as he was getting knocked around by a shovel and my foot, I heard the clucking of a chicken. I couldn't see her. It was the clucking they made as they laid. Sure enough, I found her in a dilapidated playhouse on the neighbor's property sitting on a stack of no less than 12 eggs.

So, I started keeping them penned up. But, when I would go out at night, at least one of the birds would be roosting on top of the house.  To make matters worse, one of the chickens was flying out at some point late at night or early in the morning. The results? See for yourself.

I figured I was being told that there was no room in the inn. Indeed, the chickens only will lay in one of the lay boxes and they will only do it one at at time. I guess that gave new meaning to "**** or get off the pot." They needed another house. 

I have already invested too much money in these chickens, of which I will never recoup in the form of free eggs. So, I was little apprehensious about spending more coin. Instead, I looked around at what I had laying around. And, I came up with a plan.

Last year, I wanted to build a rain barrel. But, people were charging so much money for the barrels that it was cheaper by the dozen, literally. So, I bought a dozen. I gave a lot of them away and I was left with three. They ended up costing me $10 a piece.

I also had the remnants of some old cabinets from building The Barn. I knew that simply setting the barrel on the ground was a recipe for disaster. Not only would it roll around, but it would kill the grass under it. So, after removing a door, sawzawing some sections, I had a stand.

Additionally, I had some left over pallet wood. One of the slats would make a great chicken run as well as a roosting board.

First things first. I took the sawjaw and made an (ugly) opening. Then, I screwed the run onto the barrel.

Next, I used a 2: hole saw and my drill to knock a hole in each side of the barrel. Into this I slid the board, which the chickens could roost upon. The finishishing touch was to use foam insulation and seal up the remainder of the holes.

The only issue you may have comes from access to the egg. This setup is so light, you can easily tilt it forward. A little bedding and viola! A cheap and easy fix to not having enough room. Is it pretty? No. I could make it better, but I am engineer. Function over form. I spent less than $10 on this whole project.

Family and Friends Fishing 3/6/16

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One of the families we are friends with has two boys about our boys age. They are getting into fishing. But, like many aspiring fishermen, having a location to fish can be problematic. So, after loading them up on PowerTeam Lures baits a few months ago, we decided to take them to one of our family lakes and give it a try.

Additionally, we decided to bring our daughter's friend, who also wanted to fish.

We stopped by the local Wal-Mart and bought some life bait, as I wanted to get them some confidence in catching before we moved to artificial bait. 

Of course, I don't have to tell yall just how beautiful it was yesterday, and after struggling for a whole five minutes, the two girls were just happy to take long walks around the property. 

The boys and I were a little tougher to be dissuaded. Indeed, the fishing was initially tough. The cold weather had killed the majority of the grass and the water was crystal clear. The fish were grouped up in specific areas that were still holding grass. But, because of the clarity of the water, they were a little difficult to catch. 

But, once we had them located, we were able to lock down and catch a good many. 

The live bait worked well, netting us some panfish and occasionally a bass. In fact, the two visiting boys were able to catch some really nice bass! 

I went to work throwing a weightless PowerTeam Lures Sick Stick on a 7ft medium rod on 12 pound test. Initially, I wasn't getting ANY bites. So, I broke down and hosed the bait with Hog Tonic. That made an immediate difference. There wasn't anything feeling the hits, so I had to watch the line. When the light jumped, or moved to the side, I reeled down and waited to feel the weight.

I caught mostly small fish, so small that setting the hook resulted in the poor fish came flying out of the water, spitting the worm out. 

I did see some really nice 4 and 5 pound fish, but they were all cruising and wouldn't be fooled.

Even Alyse got in on the action, catching 3 bass on a Sick Stick. In fact, she caught the biggest bass on the day! 

After a few hours of working real hard for fish, the boys relaxed with their BB gun! 

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Fishing Report for Wheeler/Decatur

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My friend John, whom I have fished with a good bit and you can find scattered throughout my fishing reports, had kept up with my recent.....struggles....on Guntersville. He had been catching a lot of fish on Wheeler Lake's backwaters. That is, places inaccessible to boats. While I haven't had much luck fishing out of kayaks with him, it was better than the alternatives. 

The backwaters had grass that was coming in strong. That grass filters the water. So, where the rest of Wheeler was chocolate milk, the water color in the backwater was perfect. And, it was also warm. 

So, we planned a trip, even though we knew that there would be oppressive wind and possibly storms. But, with a cold front moving in and low pressure, we figured the timing was right, as long as we could stand the effort.

We got a late start and the first few spots we paddled to didn't produce anything. For the first hour or so, we didn't have a hit. The wind was howling and though I had an anchor, I didn't have a way to keep my orientation. So, the kayak would make a circle around the pin-it stick. That was fun.

As the hour went on, I was beginning to wonder if my choice of was a bad one. I had elected to bring just two rods. One had a swimjig and the other was a chatterbait. Both had PowerTeam Lures Swinging Hammers, which I carry in my Discount Bait Page. I elected to go with a natural chatterbait and a white 1/4 ounce swimjig, both with matching swimbaits. 

After giving the first spot a solid workout, we moved to the back of a pocket, which is where John had caught fish previously. He had told me a grand story about catching one on every single cast in a small area. I wouldn't say I didn't believe him, I just haven't had much luck finding piles of fish in the last few years. 

The spot he referred to had a line of grass on the outside which framed a line of buck bushes. Behind that were standing timber. In the middle of all of this was a slightly deeper bowl, where he told me to cast. 

So, I did. 

The first hit took me by surprise because it didn't feel like a fish. Rather, it felt like the rest of the grass that I was working the chatterbait through. It was only when I noticed the line swimming sideways that I figured out it was a fish. 

Obviously I didn't get a good hookset and the fish came off near the boat. The next few casts had hits just like that, but this time I was watching the line. When it went sideways, I set the hook. 

After two or three fish, the bites started getting harder....and bigger. 

Though I had plenty of misses (more than catches) the next ten minutes were a riot as each of us had at least a hit every cast. 

After about five fish in the boat, I started flipping the bait closer to cover, as it seemed that the small fish were in the middle of the bowl and the bigger fish were tight to cover, perhaps even in pre-spawn mode. 

That's when the biggest fish hit. It hit like a freight train and immediately swam around the buck bush, tangling me up. I tried to get the fish to swim free, but she wouldn't.

Eventually I retrieved the bait, but not before ruining the spot. 

We moved away to let it rest, expecting to come back within the hour to fish it again. 

The bites weren't as frequent, but we continued to catch fish.

That was until I looked up at the approaching front and saw lightening crackle. 

We headed back. Though we eventually got back out and went to another spot, the bite wasn't the same as the cold front settled in.

However, we caught a lot of fish and missed a LOT more. Setting the hook is a lot harder in a kayak than on a stable platform. 

I went through a TON of swimbaits, but good thing I buy in bulk!