Monday, January 30, 2017

Product Review for Masterbuilt 40" Electric Smoker

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Masterbuilt 40-inch Digital Electric Smoker with Window

For my birthday and Christmas my dad bought me this Masterbuilt 40-inch electric smoker from Academy. At the time, it was on sale for $249, though it is now listed for $299.

I wanted an electric smoker because, well, sometimes I like to be lazy. I love smoking with charcoal, don't get me wrong. But, especially in late November and December, getting out of bed at 5AM and walking to the shop isn't fun. Additionally, dealing with wind and low temps are aggravating. So, I wanted to have the option to set it and forget it.

It took about 30 minutes to set up and I was pleased with the ease of operation. Set the temp, set the time, add water and wood chips and walk away. You can even use the bluetooth to monitor the situation from your phone. I particularly liked the meat thermometer.

That's when things fell apart.

  • The Bluetooth has a range of about 15 yards, if that. Which means it is virtually useless. 
  • I don't like how small the grease trap is. It's ok for one butt and maybe a few smaller items, but multiple fatty meats would overwhelm it. 
  • I don't like how small of a wood chip compartment is. Now, it is nice to be able to add without opening the main door, but I don't always use small chips. Sometimes I like to use chunks. 
  • After three weeks and about five uses, it died.
I went out one day to smoke some meat for dinner. As I set the temp and time, the digital readout said the internal temp was 310 degrees. Obviously that was incorrect and I noticed that the heater wouldn't turn on. I turned it off and even unplugged it. Eventually, I did some research and found the truth: the controller on these units is renowned to fail and it is a complete and irreversible failure.

According to several websites and forums, the venders such as Academy and Sam's have known about this issue, which stems from a cheap controller their sourced from overseas. Instead of pulling them off the shelf, the vendors had decided to sell the remaining stock, forcing buyers to bring them back.

Another option was for the buyer to contact Masterbuilt directly. However, Masterbuilt's solution was to send repair parts. These repair parts were not modular and repair apparently meant disassembly of the controller including the power cord and resoldering it. In some cases, this had caused some electrical fires, for which Masterbuilt would not be responsible. In addition, it might take weeks or months to receive the repair parts.

Owners were encouraged to simply return them and get their money back, if they had the receipts. Because mine was so new, that wasn't an issue. Since Academy didn't have a replacement (at the time, other than another 40-inch unit), my dad simply got a refund. I took the refund and bought the 30-inch version from Academy. Soon as I have a more complete picture of how it works, I will let you know.

Until then, this unit is one that should be avoided. I know of many people who have it and have not had any issues with it, but it DOES have a high failure rate which will likely leave you stranded.

Fishing Report for Smith Lake 1/28/17

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Things weren't so good on our last trip to Smith lake. You can read about that fishing trip by clicking the link below.

To be honest, between our grand total of 6 fish on 6 total bites all day and the information that we gathered from others, it sounded like the first trip to Smith was a combination of the wrong end of the lake and the wrong type of weather. Sure, the weather was horrible: high skies and post frontal. The water temp was in the mid-40s and the lake was at the 498 foot elevation. Still, we had a limit and, all things considered, it wasn't a BAD limit. 

So, Brad and I decided to get out and keep learning the lake. This time, we would put in at the dam instead of Smith Lake park. Though the weather looked to be against us (again) the water elevation had improved drastically. It was up to the 504 foot elevation, which meant that some of the rip-rap and laydowns would be in the water.

Furthermore, we had watched some videos on fishing Smith this time of year, ranging form Tim Horton Outdoors to coverage from the 2015 FLW tournament. We thought we could figure it out and we believed it started with finding the bait.

So, we started scanning. We scanned and we scanned and we scanned some more. We found a grand total of two bait balls. It was so bad that we began to wonder if we were reading the Lowrance units incorrectly. We swapped between the 800kHz and the the lower frequency transducer (435kHz?) trying to get a combination of penetration and resolution. Still, we went from point to point and bluff to bluff. Nothing. 

We covered who creeks with a combination of jigs, crankbaits, and shakey heads. We didn't get a bite. We never felt like we were around fish, which seemed impossible because we scanned and scanned to the point we began to wonder if there were any fish in the entire lake. 

It really isn't a good feeling when you have a tournament coming up and you can't muster bites on multiple days of prefishing. 

But, hey, that's fishing, right? 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Decline of Guntersville Lake

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If you read this blog, you probably have read about my frustrations with Guntersville lake. Over the last three years, the lake named "Best Bass Fishing Lake in America" multiple times has continually toughened for me. Now, if this is your first time reading my blog, then you may not be too familiar with me, so allow me to give a brief explanation on things. I am not a guide. I am not a professional. I am not paid by anyone to fish anywhere or with anything. In fact, I make no money of any kind through my writing. This blog is an honest account of my experiences in all things outdoors, especially bass fishing. 

With that said, I am decent bass fisherman fisherman and an above average tournament fisherman at best, though I recognize that I refrain from larger tournaments. I would not rank myself above anyone or try to persuade anyone of anything different. 

With all of that said, I woke up and decided that simply saying that "Guntersville has declined" isn't quite an acceptable statement without evidence. After all, for all the times that I have written about my struggles, there are guides who claim the lake is as good as ever. Now, you as a reader have to understand that I fish ten lakes a year so when the lake is tough, I just go elsewhere. 

Conversely, there are a lot of guides and local fishermen that ONLY fish the Big G and make their living on this lake. It behooves them to fish Guntersville almost exclusively as they have too much invested to do anything else. Additionally, the economic impact on Guntersville and Scottsboro are massive. According to a paper written and published by Auburn University in 2013, the expenses for tournaments anglers were estimated to exceed $4.6 Million dollars for the 272 tournaments for which data was recorded. Adding in local fishermen, that impact increases to $6.7 Million. That's an estimated $667 per trip and $225 a day impact.

This amount of economic impacts (which is probably greatly under-estimated, gauging by the tournaments surveyed) make it obvious that those supported by the fishing economy of Guntersville would do most anything to keep fishermen on the lake, despite a possible decline in fishing experience. Guides, in particular, have done much in the way of exaggerating success on the lake though there are some specific ones who are more interested in conservation than making money.

In addition, bigger tournaments who have brought the finest fishermen from all over the country continue to find great success on the lake, causing many recreational fishermen to have a skewed idea of the lake. These fishermen look at the leader board and judge the lake by the very top of the list and not the middle and lower end, which is where their skill set most likely resides. 

For example, the Alabama Bass Trail is a very good blend of expert tournament anglers as well as local fishermen. Looking at the top of the board, you see that winning weights were almost 27 pounds, down over two pounds from the 2015 weights. However, skipping to 10th place shows that it took less than 20 pounds. ABT pays out to 40th place, which took just over 14 pounds to cash that check. Over half of the 152 boats failed to break ten pounds and almost 100 of the 152 boats failed to weigh a limit, which exceeded the 75 boats who didn't weigh a fish in 2015, per AL.comConversely, the ABT tournament on Pickwick a month later took 22 pounds, a full five pounds less to win, but the weight for 40th was within a pound and a half of Guntersville. Less than 50 boats failed to weigh in a limit. 

Moving on to my personal experiences, I took a look at my Fish of 2014, Fish of 2015, and Fish of 2016 pages and drew up some conclusions. In 2014, I caught a total of 28 fish on Guntersville on a minimum of four trips. That represented about a quarter of my fish caught in 2014. Conversely, I caught 34 fish on Wheeler despite taking the same or less number of trips. Yet, my best bags and biggest fish came on Guntersville.  In 2015, I caught 26 of my 138 bass on Guntersville on a minimum of five trips. Of the largemouth, smallmouth, and spots, the best bags and biggest fish all came from lakes not Guntersville. In 2016, 19 of my 283 bass were caught on Guntersville on a minimum of six trips. As in 2015, none of my biggest fish or five fish limits were on Guntersville. Surprisingly enough, the best days came on Wilson, which you can read about in the links below:

Fishing Report for Wilson Lake 9/24-10/1

In summation, each year since 2014, Guntersville has produced fewer and smaller fish per trip. It is the only lake to both shut me out with zero fish in both multiple trips per year AND consecutive trips on the lake. Yet, it remains the site of my biggest five fish limits both fun fishing and tournament fishing as well as my largest bass I've ever caught. Still, it has to be recognized that all of these highlights came from before 2013. In truth, I haven't caught a sack over 20 pounds in three years nor a fish over five pounds on the lake famous for both. Lastly, the frog and ledge season, so famous on the G, have been absolutely non-existent for myself and most everyone I know. 

Since I am just one fisherman, I pulled in all the data from the two fishing clubs with whom I fish. One is a larger club that averages 15 boats per tournament and features around five boats who fish local BFL and ABT tournaments with success. The other is pretty much the opposite, but it makes for some data normalization. The data reported from the 2013-2016 seasons. 

In the percent of boats who weighed in limits, Pickwick led the way with 45% of tournament boats weighing in limits. Wheeler followed with 40%, Wilson with 39%, and finally Guntersville with a 30% mark. Of the 59 tournaments, there were only three tournaments where there were no limits weighed. Two of those were on Guntersville. Interestingly enough, if the smaller club, which features around six boats per tournament is eliminated, Guntersville average is still 30%, but Wheeler stands at 48%, Wilson at 49% and Pickwick and amazing 73% of boats weigh in limits. 

The average winning weight and big bass on Guntersville is a 17.7 winning sack and 6.62 pound big bass average. Pickwick, Wheeler and Wilson checked in at 15/4.7, 16/5, and 13/4.7, respectively. 

In other words, it does take bigger fish to win on the G. However, Guntersville has slipped from requiring a bass over eight pounds in 2014 to over six pounds in 2015 to right at five-and-a-half pounds in 2016. While the data shows that Guntersville has had the larger bass, the window between the Big G and the other Tennessee River lakes has closed. In the 2015 -2016 seasons, Guntersville produced six big fish over six pounds. Wheeler produced three and Wilson two. Overall, the current average is nearly identical between each and every lake and the spread between the four lakes is less than 0.4 of a pound. 

Guntersville does have one thing the other lakes do not have: 10 pound (or larger) bass. It is the only lake to produce a fish over eight pounds. Yet, eliminating that ten pound fish, the big fish average drops to 6.3 pounds which is less than a pound from Wheeler or Wilson's average. And, Pickwick, Wilson, and even Wheeler offer something that Guntersville does not: smallmouth. Wilson and Pickwick in particular are targeted almost exclusively for smallmouth during tournaments and often provides trophy smallmouth that exceed six pounds. 

In other words, local clubs are representative of what is seen in larger tournaments: Guntersville continues to have the bigger fish and heavier tournament weights, but only at the very, very top. However, further analysis shows the true trend: winning weight averages have declined drastically in consecutive years. After an uptick in 2014 from 20.25 pounds to 23 pounds, winning weights plummeted to 19.34 in 2015 to 14.9 in 2016. That's nearly five pounds per year. 

Conversely, averages on Pickwick have increased each year as has Wilson (with a very slight decline from 18 to 17 between 2015 to 2016). Wheeler has not been quite as stable, fluctuating each year.

In summation, nearly all the data points to one thing: there has been a three year slump for Guntersville, based upon the data I have collected. In truth, the lake hasn't been the same since around 2010. Why is the lake so stubborn? Many have speculated that it could be anything from natural trends to fishing pressure to the killing of aquatic vegetation. In truth, it could be any, all, or none of these. Yet, the fact remains that the lake has been impossibly hard for nearly everyone not at the very top of the game. While it behooves locals to avoid Guntersville and move on to other lakes, the word hasn't spread to out-of-towners, who continue to visit from thousands of miles away. While the economy can surely use their money, it would possibly save a lot of heartburn to try the other lakes on the Tennessee River. In the meantime, perhaps the rest will allow the Big G to return to what she was: the site of 30 + pound bags and 12+ pound fish.

Thanks for the read and make sure to share!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Fishing Report for Smith Lake 1/16/17

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So, maybe I should have used my trip on Saturday to have started prefishing Smith. I mean, it couldn't have gone much worse. Alyse and I fished half a day without a single bass bite. Drifting current and bluffs, we weren't even able to catch trash fish. Oh well, what's done is done. Here's that report, if you don't believe me. 

So, we got a group trip to Smith this past Martin Luther King day. In all, three boats fished together in hopes of figuring out a pattern. It was Josh and I's second time to be on the lake, though my friend and fishing partner John has fished it quite a bit. And, to be fair, John warned us....

I believe his exact words were "Smith lake can humble most any man."

Nonsense. Buffoonery. Josh and I were on the case. We'd solve this lake, forthwith. 


Ok. So maybe not. 

We put in at Smith Lake Park and decided we wouldn't fish anything that he and our friend Anthony of AKRods (who makes all of our custom rods) had fished the day before. Oh, that might have been a bit of useful information....Josh and Anthony fished Sunday and caught two fish. Still, I figured we could build on their lack of success. The only thing they had found was that the fish they caught were on big chunk rock banks. So, Josh and I got on the first chunk rock bank and went to town.

We covered nearly 100 yards before I finally had our first bite. It came when I hit the breaks on a Luhr-Jenson speed trap. At least it was a solid spot! 

We fished the remainder of the bank, ran to another, and fished the length of it before I caught a second fish on a Spro Little John MD in sexy.

Another move and another rock bank produced a third. 

At around 11 we decided that we were going about this all wrong. So, we put the rods down and began scanning for fish. Not only did we not find fish, we really didn't find bait. It was so bad that I began to suspect that I didn't have the right transducer or sensitivity. But, with a little playing around, I was certain that it wasn't the units. There just weren't any fish. We scanned offshore structure and would find some fish, but they would be sitting on the bottom in 35-40 feet of water without any bait. 

Then another problem presented itself: my motor began overheating while idling but would cool off when running. 

That nixed idling. The wind began to build and we found ourselves hoping around, trying a bit of everything at this point but not getting any bites. We skipped docks. We flipped laydowns. We A-rigged bluffs. It was then that John came by and announced they were going home, having caught only one fish. 

The other boat we were associated with caught zero fish.

We ran a set of bluffs before the ramp and managed to catch fish four and five, one on a dropshot and one on a jig. Mine came on a PTL Bull Nose Jig with a Craw 'D while casting on a AKRods custom jig rod. 

In all, we had just five fish for around seven pounds before heading to the local tackle shop. There were several locals who had fished and we caught as many or more than every one we talked to. That isn't a humble brag but just statement on how bad the day is. 

And, if it couldn't get any worse, a blowout on interstate 65 took the cake. But, you know, we've played this game before. We limped into Athens and went to Clem's Tire, who hooked me up with two new tires to replace the blow out and the leaky one (which had a 3" bolt through it....)

Anyways, we PROBABLY will avoid fishing that area again, but I can't see how it will be any different elsewhere. The lake is down about eight feet and you are very, very limited on options. 

Oh, really the worst thing was Josh eating a Sonic double burger and tots in front of me, since I am on this diet. 

Fishing Report for Wilson 1/14/17

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Things started with a big 'ole bang in 2017 as Brad and I sacked up nearly 20 pounds of smallmouth on our first trip of the year. You can read about that trip to Pickwick by clicking the link below.

My wife and I found ourselves alone on a Friday evening. Sure, we could go to dinner, maybe catch a late night flick. Instead, we decided to go fishing. Of course, considering that I don't have a truck to pull my boat, that meant finding a tow vehicle. Luckily, my grandfather was happy to let me borrow his truck. 

So, at 4AM, we were off to fish but we knew we had to be back fairly early. If we fished Wilson, it would save us about an hour of fishing time. In addition, though our first tournament is about a month away on Smith lake, I was able to convince Brad to also bring his boat and fish Wilson. 

While crossing Wheeler dam, it was evident that we may have made a mistake. There was almost no current. The half mile under the dam looked almost completely flat. 

As we got the boat in the water and ran up to the dam, we noticed that only one turbine was on and it was number five or six, not one of the ends, which is what it has taken to produce a good dam bite for me.

Brad was already fishing the current so I decided to start right on the dam and fish the wing walls. No takers on the first, but as I pitched a PowerTeam Lure's bullnosed jig, something pounced on it. As it turned its side to me, all I saw was brown and I got really, really excited. Maybe I would finally get that trophy smallie! 

Nope. A drum. Alyse and I got a laugh and I went back to pitching the jig against the wing wall, producing even more drum. At least they were fun to catch! 

That would ultimately be all the action we would have. Eventually TVA kicked on a second generator, but it was number four, which was no help. Working the drifts and the bluffs, we were unable to get a single bite on a combination of lures. Brad called it quits fairly early and heavy fog kept us from running around very much. 

By noon, we were back on the trailer and contemplating putting back in at Wheeler before I decided to just head home and start smoking wings for the NFL games. 

Yeah, I know. It's not what yall wanted to hear. While many guides would feed you lines about how great the fishing is, I hope yall know better by now to expect that from me. No, it isn't fun to write about. But, I'd rather someone tell me not to bother versus telling me the fishing is awesome when it isn't. And, right now I am hearing a lot of that from Guntersville. In case you missed it, the first round of tournaments kicked off and it took under 20 to win them all. A local guide won the Goose Pond wildcat with 14 pounds. 

Conversely, it took 20 pounds on Pickwick. 

Any ways, I'll leave you with this pic my wife took of me in the fog. It isn't nearly as pretty as a nice brown back, but it will have to do! 

Monday, January 9, 2017

Product Review for Ardent Outdoors Apex Elite and Apex Grand

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One of the benefits having a good fishing club and an even better president is the fringe benefits. In this case, our president goes out and gets us great prices on fishing equipment. Last year, he was able to secure us a fantastic (truly unbeatable) discount on Ardent Outdoor's products.  Of particular note were their reels. Now, I have always been a Shimano guy and have occasionally gone to other brands. I have used Lew's as well as house brands from Bass Pro Shops and Academy. For the most part, the house brands are garbage and Lew's is exactly what you get for $100. 

As such, I was hesitant to go all in on Ardent's products. But, I did need a 5:1 reel for cranking as well as a nice 7.3:1 ratio with a lot of strength for frogging/flipping/etc that might compare to Shimano's Curado. Therefore, I selected an Apex Elite in 5.3:1. It also comes in 6.5:1 and 7.3:1, as well as left and right hand configuration for 6.5:1. 

Here are the stats for the Apex Elite:

High Strength Aluminum frame
Deep V 6061 T6 machined aluminum spool
Carbon Fiber swept back handle
EVA grip knobs on handle
270 Degree Mag Brake system
12+1 Ball Bearing
Swept back forge aluminum star drag
Line capacity
Weight: 5.9 oz
Line Capacity 150 Yards - 12 lb

Here are the stats for the Apex Grand

High Strength Aluminum frame
Deep V 6061 T6 machined aluminum spool
Carbon Fiber swept back handle
EVA grip knobs on handle
270 Degree Mag Brake system
Internal Centrifugal Brakes
12+1 Ball Bearing
Swept back forge aluminum star drag
Weight: 5.9 oz
Line Capacity 150 Yards - 12 lb

I have fished with each of these for right at a year now. In that time, I have purchased another five Ardent reels. It isn't the quality or performance, per se, as much as the price point. With the discount we receive (which most people can get if they look around), the price point cannot be beat. The price is less than a Lew's Speed Spool (between $100-$120) and the performance greatly exceeds the entry level of the Lew's and, in some ways, exceeds the Shimano Citica. 

Casting: When you read the bio on each reel, you will see that casting distance is a major focus for Ardent. Indeed, these reels, when setup properly, will outcast virtually any reel on the market. These reels will actually cast a lot further than you want to, at times. The Elite, which I use for cranks, can handle small squarebills up to Strike King 8XD's with just slight tuning on the tension knob. 

Tunability: Casting and tunabilty go hand in hand. With that said, these reels will cast as far as you want IF the reels are setup precisely. I find that the two part cast control used on Ardent's products has something to be desired. Now, I am not a hard caster. I prefer to let the rod to the work. I have found that all of my Ardent braking systems have to be set almost to maximum and the tension knob has to be almost as tight as it can go without truly affecting the spool. To that end, Ardent has a lot to be desired on Shimano but are much further ahead on Lew's, which remains one of the most baffling reels to setup and remain dialed in for the same bait. 

Drag: The drag on these is excellent. The Grand could be a little heavier for me, as I throw Alabama Rigs and Bullshads on this rell, frequently through heavy grass. 

Weight and Size: I have zero complaints about the size of the se reels and the weight and I have fairly small hands. 

Quality and Durability: No issues yet. However, I detected a difference in smoothness of one Ardent Elite to another Elite. 

Price Point: Again, with a discount, the Elite will sit in between a Shimano Citica and a Lew's Speed Spool. In many respects, it is a better over all reel than the Citica (with more options, to boot) and be just pennies more than a Lew's while completely out performing. 

The Grand is comparable to a Shimano Curado for the price, but is still lacking in the completeness of the reel. The Curado is just more steady and consistent. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Fishing Report for Pickwick 1/3/17

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First fishing trip of the year! What better way to ease back into the grove  of work than a hard day of fishing? Well, that's kind of what we expected. Truly, the 2nd was the perfect day. It was prefrontal and rainy. We had always heard that the nastier, the better. Judging by Facebook, the smallies were biting on Pickwick.  Our last trip on Pickwick hadn't gone quite like we wanted, though we did catch some fish. The battle was, did we trust the intel we had or should we start fishing Smith Lake, which is the first stop on our club trail. 

So, we went with our gut, though we said that this would be the last time we fished a lake other than the lake we would be fishing for the next tournament. Truth is, we didn't have much faith that we would catch much. 

Now, for a funny story. Shortly after eating breakfast at Chick-fil-A, the coffee was getting to me as we passed through Rogersville. I had assumed that Brad would stop for gas and snacks, but he didn't. I asked him if he was going to stop and he seemed to read my mind.

"You need to go? I was going to the Mapco in Florence."

"I can wait. No big deal?"

About that time, we passed the sign that said "Florence: 22 Miles"

"Just kidding. I need to stop."

However, we were in a really, really bad stretch and the only gas station was the Chevron next to Lucy's Branch. I jumped out, ran inside, and looked around. No bathroom.

"It's outside, around the corner" one of the 12 men eating breakfast stated. I duck walked around the the building and opened the door. I immediately regretted the decision. It was one of the nastiest bathrooms I have ever see, and I don't have high standards. But, I was limited on options. 

On the way to the truck, Brad headed towards the bathroom. I stopped him, told him to think better of it, and we drove away. Avoid it at all costs. 

We hit our community hold early, trying to knock the stink off the boat for the new year. Nothing. Not even a white bass. We went down the first stretch of bluffs, just as we had been told to do. Nothing. We were even trying some of the things the local pros we know told us to do: downsizing drastically and fishing the current with tubes and grubs. Now, I admit that until I actually get bit, I won't know what I am doing...I feel like I was doing right.

So, Brad and I got to talking. What we decided is that when people say they drift the bluffs, they aren't talking about a hundred yard stretch but HUNDREDS.  Perhaps the fish move up and down the miles of bluffs from McFlarland to the end of Seven Mile Island. Therefore, we decided to just let the 75,000 CFS of 54 degree water take it where it would. 

In the meantime, we would alternate baits. I gave up on my Spro crank and went to the A-rig, despite Brad having had much more luck on the rig than I. Another 100 yards went by without incident before BAM!

The fish nearly took the rod out of my hand! Brad grabbed the net and we boated a BEAUTY!

What was interesting was the the fish at the PowerTeam Lures Swinging Hammer, which was the largest of the swimbaits and also a different color. Initially, we didn't think much of it. 

That is until the second and third fish slammed my rod again, all of them on the same swimbait. 

Another 100 yards and a fish hit so hard that a bow of slack shot up the line. I reeled in the A-rig but it was missing an arm! Not wanting to take a chance, I tied on my spare. 

In the meantime, Brad couldn't get one to hook up. His A-rig was getting slammed, but he couldn't get them stuck. Meanwhile, I added another set of pigs! Finally, Brad boated a couple of really nice strippers before landing a nice smallie. 

Right about lunch time, the bite died and we headed back to the ramp, but not before snapping this pic! 

Here's another funny. As we appraoched the dock, we had to select one without fisherman on it. As we approached it, we were going a little faster than we should have. So, I tried to brake the boat with my foot before stepping onto the dock. Only half of that worked as I slipped and faceplanted! 

Anyways, first fish of 2017 are in the books and it was a SOLID start. Our best five were all smallies and they went about 18 pounds. 

Fishing Report for Pickwick 12/23/16

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Been another month since I checked in last. I know, I know. I promised I would do better. But, when you are relying on others to fish and the holidays roll in, fishing trips can get far and few in between. Sprinkle in some deer get what I am saying. 

Anyways, we did get out several times the past month and I am trying to get those reports out, not that some of them will help you much. 

Right before Christmas, Brad and I took a trip to Pickwick. This would be about the 23rd or so. It was very cold, but the current was decent and the water was low. We had some intel that we wanted to check out. We began the day by fishing the barge canal just above McFarland. We have learned how to fish the set of five or so barge tie ups based upon how the current is flowing. 

Brad was going to stick with the A-rig. I was determined to get better with some of baits I don't frequently used, especially the jerkbait as I had just watched a video with local pro Jimmy Mason. Mason is an expert with the jerkbait, especially on Pickwick and especially with smallies. So, I was excite to catch some after watching his video.

Fishing the eddy line and the rocky bank, I caught a couple of small largemouth on the jerkbait while losing several others. Keep in mind that I have only caught a handful of fish on a hard jerkbait. After experimenting, I found some of the errors with my retrieve. 

First, I was taking in slack line so I could feel bites. However, a tight line causes the jerkbait to straighten up and start moving, which is counter productive to its natural presentation. Instead, I needed to watch my line. When it jumped, I had a hit. 

Lastly, when I was getting hits, I treated it like a crankbait. I would just reel in the slack. The fish would pull off. Because the bait is on slack line, there is no tension when the fish hits and therefore the hooks are unlikely to penetrate the fish's mouth. So, I learned to really get that slack in and set the hook hard. 

After the bite quickly died, we moved to the bluffs across the river but didn't catch any fish. We moved to the end of Seven Mile Island where there is still grass. We were unable to catch any fish or even have any hits, despite what our intel had told us. But, there was a critical bit that we had overlooked. We had been told to concentrate on small cuts in the island. That is, little pockets. We found the nearest one and found a pile of largemouth stacked in it. For about five minutes, Brad and I caught a fish on every cast. Nothing huge, best five going around ten pounds. 

Then they quit and we called it a day. In all, we caught about ten fish though none of them were smallies.