Monday, April 24, 2017

Fishing Report for Wheeler 4/22/2017

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It's been an odd, but good, two weeks on Wheeler. Let me's been a profitable two weeks on Wheeler. No, that's not right, either. Ok. So, in terms of TOURNAMENT FISHING, it's been a good two weeks, I guess?

Maybe I should just tell you how it how it's all come together to get me and Brad a second place finish last week and a first place finish this week, despite never really whacking the fish. 

Starting almost two weeks ago, Brad and I began prefshing for our two club tournaments. The smaller of the club would be first, so we already had one our mind that it was a "throw away" tournament. That is, if we won, great. If we lost, at least gather some useful info. 

Starting two years ago, Brad and I had found fish in practice, catching at least one fish over four pounds in each and every trip. In two or three trips, we would exceed 15 pounds, sometimes even hitting 20 pounds. Again, the key words were in practice. Come tournament day, the same thing happened essentially each time. We could catch fish, just no big bites. Most days, that meant a finish outside the money. One occasion, culling up ounces managed to cash a decent check. 

Just for fun, check out the previous two year's April tournaments. 

Fishing Report for Wheeler 4/23/16

Ok, so last Saturday, Brad and I cashed a second place check with big fish. We didn't really learn anything new, despite trying to build on the previous two years. What we did set in stone was that the big smallies were roaming shallow during the first 10 to 20 minutes of the day. We would catch fish on Strike King top water baits. The story of that day wasn't what we caught, but what we didn't. I had enough topwater bites in the first few minutes to have sacked up about 16 pounds of fish. I had three other fish on the hooks that were the same quality as the big fish, but I didn't get them in the boat.

But I didn't. You can read that report by clicking the link below.

I took solace in knowing that I had left the fish there for the bigger club tournament and I really felt like the first 20 minutes could be special.....if I fished clean. But what would we do after the sun came up? Our practice that week, including the previous two years of experience, had told us that the females went deep and the males stayed either shallow or hugged the main channel ledge. 

Ok, so for those of you wanting to know where were were need to really pay attention to that last three words. We were fishing main river points on the main river ledge, but only on one side of the river. Additionally, none of these were major creek points. 

We could essentially catch all the males we wanted to, including the occasional 15" smallmouth, spots, and largemouth. But there was no size among them. 

Knowing that, we spent the middle of last week venturing out and fishing different stuff including a mid-week trip to Ingall's in Decatur where we fished nothing but grass. The only thing to report was that I kicked my Samsung into the water at Ingall's, so if you find an S5 in a white case sitting on the bottom in nine feet of water, well, it's mine. 

Still, even without getting a bite in Decatur, we really felt that the winning bite would be in the grass, even if we managed to get some solid bites early on topwater on those points. That meant looking around Mallard Creek. I'm not claiming to be an expert at anything fishing related, but I will take my chances in grass, especially non-hydrilla, against anyone.

So, Friday afternoon, I rigged up for a combination of deep points and shallow grass. That meant one top water rod, one shakey head rod, and several heavy, fast action rods with braid. 

All that is well and good, but Mother Nature rules all. In this case, she gave us exactly 20 minutes of morning bite before a very nasty storm rolled through the area. Brad and I spent that 20 minutes as best we could and it gave us two of our five keepers on the day, including our big fish. But the entire time, both of us were looking west and our brains were never in the moment. So, the very thing I said I had to do, I didn't do. I didn't fish clean and that meant missing multiple keepers.

The storm brewed on top of us and we decided to run east to Mallard. However, the wind, rain, and rollers kept us from truly outrunning the storm and we found ourselves trapped in Mallard with the bridge in the back as our only shelter as lightening popped. As we hid under there, we ran into some fellow club members whom I consider the best team in the club. They were coming out of the back of the creek as we were coming in. We met under the bridge. They told us they had a limit fishing grass. 

So, when the weather cleared, we went at the grass ourselves, but after an hour of fishing swim jigs, spinnerbaits, and several other techniques, we hadn't a bite. We decided to run back down river to our deeper points.

That resulted in several short fish, a few lost opportunities, and one keeper. At noon, we decided we would take our chances back in the grass as using shakey heads with PowerTeam Lure's Sick Stick and 7" Tickler was not resulting in the bites we needed. 

The later hours of the tournament began creeping by and we still hadn't had a hit in the grass. I could not understand what the other guys were doing that we were not. We tried a multitude of tried and true techniques to get that grass bite, but nothing. 

What I hadn't tried was a frog. Silly, I know. But I also had been called silly for throwing top water on those points this early in the year and it had resulted in plenty of catches thus far. And, the truth is...I have been catching top water fish for over a month. It wasn't really about the top water aspect as much as it was where I could throw it. The swim jig and the spinnerbait couldn't reach the deep, dirty back of the bank where the flotsam and the cat tails resided. 

I chunked a Spro frog all the way to the bank, which seemed like it was 75 yards from where the boat floated. A fish boiled at it and knocked it side ways. I couldn't get it to come back for a repeat bite so I reeled it in, cast it all the way to the bank and slid it into the water when the fish swirled it. I waited until I couldn't see the frog, reeled down, and set the hook. But, I set the hook at the exact moment the fish jumped, leading to a five foot tail walk that ended with the frog coming back at me. In the meantime, the extra juice of the hookset added to her jump gave plenty of air time to see the five-plus pounder go flying back in the drink. 

It was now 1:15 and we had three fish, none over four pounds and a twenty five minute ride to the ramp that did not include the 15 extra minutes to troll out to where the depth was enough to run the big motor. We both kind of knew the score. That was probably it. Hey, I had accepted it. Like I said in February on Smith, it's entirely possible that you might not find fish, no matter how hard you prefish.

On the way out, Brad spotted something that caught his attention: a rip rap bank against the Mallard Creek channel. It wasn't that it looked that interesting, just that after miles of similar banks in Mallard, this one was unique. Being unique was something that we had discussed all afternoon, or rather the lack of uniqueness in the area that may lead to a pile of fish. 

So, as we trolled by, the two of us picked up worms and began probing the bank. My first fast resulted in a very small keeper, but it was number five. Seconds later, Brad noticed his line running to the side and attempted to set the hook on a fish, but the three pounder threw the worm. That was really just perfect, I thought. In the last hour of a very tough day, I had lost a five and he had lost a three that likely would win the tournament. 

Keep your head down. Make another cast. 

As the worm dropped vertically, I found a collection of rocks at the bottom of the creek channel. A fish pecked it. Pecked it again. Then picked it up. I set the hook and fought the fish, which jumped and tail walked, but I had a solid top-of-the-mouth hookset. Brad netted the solid three pound chunk. 

With half my 5" Sick Stick hanging by a thread, I tossed the fish in the box and tossed the worm right back out to the exact same spot.

It was 1:33 when I made that last cast and only two hops of the shakey head into that cast when another fish picked up the bait. I slammed back the 6'6" medium rod and worked another three pound chunk aboard. We threw down our rods, threw the smallest fish back in the drink and hammered down on the Mercury. 

It wasn't a winning sack, it  was barely 10 pounds, but we didn't care. We went from the dumps to a respectable finish, something we could smile about in the weigh-in line. Who knows? Maybe it would get third? 

And, wouldn't you know, was enough to win! 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Product Review for Bass Mafia Bait Coffin 3700 Deep

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"The Bass Mafia Bait Coffin 3700 Deep is a serious storage container built for holding your most valued lures and tackle. The extreme durability of the Bass Mafia Bait Coffin 3700 Deep makes it waterproof, corrosion-resistant, and virtually indestructible. Designed with large customizable compartments, the Bass Mafia Bait Coffin 3700 Deep can hold the super-sized plastics and hardbaits that might not fit in a traditional stowaway.
8-1/2" X 14-1/4" X 4-1/4" "

For Christmas, one of my good friends bought me a Bass Mafia Bait Coffin. I was really excited about these, since, like many of you, I have grown tired of buying Flambeau or Plano boxes every season.

If you are as fortunate as I, you fish with a lot of different people in a lot of different boats, including my own. This means that on a weekly basis, I am transferring my storage boxes into multiple vehicles. They get dropped, thrown around, and generally beat up. I probably average replacing at least three boxes a year. Seeing that I am a versatile fisherman, I have around ten boxes in my boat at any one time. This is only for terminal tackle and hard baits, as I store my plastics in Zip-Loc bags. So, I replace a third of my storage containers a year to the tune of around $40. 

As many of you know, fishing isn't a cheap sport, but it would be nice not to have an additional $40 or more a year for something that doesn't catch fish. 

Enter the Bass Mafia Bait Coffin. Now, the price is daunting, as it carries a nearly $40 price tag from most vendors. However, it also has a warranty that the other two companies don't offer. 

  • I use this for my jigs, in particular. No longer do I have multiple boxes for jigs. They all fit. 
  • This box is a very, very hearty box and the lid will latch solidly, even if it is over capacity.
  • The shear number of slots make it perfect to hold a lot of baits and to keep them separated.
  • There is a warranty. 
  • This box is heavy. That may not matter to most people, but for some people (especially performance boat guys), it will be an extra few pounds if you use multiple Bait Coffins
  • Storing a lot of baits in one box is great, but it doesn't fit a lot of boat storage areas. In particular, many boats are designed with the aforementioned companies in mind. This will not fit anything similar. Therefore, I have to just lay my boxes in the rod/bait locker however it will fit. 
  •  Each box costs in excess of $40. 
  • The dividers slip out of place just as easily as any other company's
My Experience

I have been very pleased with my Bait Coffin, regardless of the Cons. I did have a latch corner break, which is very common with these boxes. I emailed the support at Bass Mafia and they asked for a picture of the damage and proof of purchase. Though I had the picture of the damage, I didn't have proof of purchase, since it was a gift. I explained that and they sent me a replacement.

Of course, the replacement wasn't what I expected. I recieved an entirely new box along with a Bass Mafia hat and bumper sticker! 

So, despite the additional cost over competitors, the warranty made it worth the purchase. I was so pleased that I bought their Terminal Coffin as well, which I also like, very much. 

Monday, April 17, 2017

Fishing Report for Wheeler 4/15/17

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In my opinion, there is no better way to prepare for a tournament than to fish a tournament. I know that's probably circular reasoning. Let me specify: there is no better way to prepare for an important tournament than fishing one....not so important. Pros do it all the time. It's the perfect way to approach practice without treating it like practice. Sure, it might pad the fruit jar a little more, but it's a very effective way to learn what the fish are doing in a competitive environment.

Our NASA club had a tournament this weekend which was out of Wheeler on First Creek. Next week, we have an Army Cargo Club tournament, which is our bigger club. We would almost certainly be prefishing Saturday, anyway, so we might as well approach it as a dress rehearsal. 

Up until Friday afternoon, I didn't have a partner. Brad did some begging to his wife and obtained a kitchen pass. That sure beat fishing alone! 

In the past few years, practice vs tournament day has been a bug-a-boo on the lower end of Wheeler. We have caught some phenomenal fish in practice, but come tournament day, we couldn't catch any size. 

You can check out the report from the last two years of this tournament and compare.

We were determined to add some spots to our gameplan Saturday. But, of course, we wanted to catch a few at our old spots, just to make sure we were competitive. It has been our experience that you should have at least five spots that you have confidence on. While we had five spots that we had learned over the past two years, all five spots were almost identical, even if they were spread over three miles of river. Experience had said that the size of fish caught off of these spots was the lone difference between them all. One spot seemed to hold at least one big fish every trip while the others would at least provide numbers. One very important thing was common between them all. When the sun came up, they all quit producing. 

It didn't take long to get on the board as I began fan casting across this main river point. While cranking across the shallow flat, I missed three consecutive fish, something that shouldn't be possible with two treble hooks. That was all forgotten, at least momentarily, when I hoisted my first fish of the day, a tank of a smallmouth.

As I went back to casting, I missed several other fish, all of which were in the same class as the one I had just boated. I got good looks at all of these fish as they threw the bait at me. At first, I believed they were just short strikes, but Brad suggested that I take a look at my hooks.

Sure enough, my back hook had two bent prongs and my front hook was less than razor sharp. With the sun beginning to creep up, I tied on a bait that Brad had, as I didn't have any more of the particular crank I was using. That seemed to solve the issue of short strikes as we both landed fish and filled our limit.

Admittedly, everything wasn't so smooth as I managed to make a cast that was about six inches too long, resulting in me having to take a swim to retrieve Brad's bait. Luckily, the water was around 75 and the sun was hot. 

About 8AM, we swapped over from moving baits to shakey heads. We both alternated between the PowerTeam Lures 5" Sick Stick and the 7" Tickler. As previous years had shown us, bites weren't hard to come by, at least for about an hour. At one point, I caught fish on five straight casts, but the size began to plummet. Leaving main river points, we began to fish up the sides of the bluffs. 

Bites were far and few in between with most of the fish being males. 

That wasn't to say there weren't fireworks. I caught two blue cats on the shakey head. For a team looking for just one big bite, the thumps I had on the PTL Pea Heads and worms were just momentary elation.

Eventually, we were forced to expand to new areas, though we should have done it much sooner. Unfortunately, we spent four hours looking for one good bite, as we had two fish that were really solid and three that were dinks. We figured that we really only needed one more big bite to sew things up.

But all the while, I was thinking about the fish I had missed earlier that day. I hoped it wouldn't hurt us, but I also knew that the ten pounds we had weren't going to cut it, no matter how big the club. 

Indeed, it wasn't enough to win, but it was enough to take second and big fish. That being said, the three fish that I saw were enough to take us to at least 13 pounds, which has a realistic chance at getting a check. 

In an effort to understand why the fish quit biting, I took a look at TVA's website. According the lake levels, the discharge from Guntersville was relatively low, in the 11,000 to 17,000 CFS range. The discharge from Wheeler dam was fairly consistent with this flow out of Guntersville until noon. At noon, the discharge doubles, meaning that there was twice as much water being lost as gained. In layman's terms, they began dropping the water level. This is consistent with our fishing success. 

It should also me mentioned that there was a massive Good Friday tournament as well as the Home Builders Association tournament. This is approximately 250 total boats, at least. That assuredly had something to do with the bite on Saturday. 

In the end, we caught around 15 fish with most coming on worms, though another five or so came on plugs. 

Thursday, April 6, 2017

AKRods Custom 7-foot Medium Heavy, Fast Action Rod for Sale

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I have the following 100% custom, hand-built rod for sale by AKRods for $180.

This 7" Medium Heavy, Fast Action will be a terrific multi-purpose rod but would excel as a terrific jig rod. Pictures do not do this rod justice, especially on the handle's custom wrap. 

Please email me at for more information.   

If you will recall, this is who I am now getting all of my rods from. Once you go with a hand-built, custom rod, you will never want anything else again. This has a lot of very high end components and each is built to maximize efficiency is all aspects of fishing, from casting, to sensitivity, to fighting the fish. I have half a dozen of these custom rods and you can read my review here.   

This starts out with a MudHole MHX MB843 7'MHF blankThe MHX series incorporates innovative designs of both traditional and progressive actions. The multi modulus materials allow us to utilize the correct material in each portion of the blank. An advanced production process that is second to none creates a series of blanks unparalleled in today's market place. The MHX series are as much as 40% lighter than comparable standard graphite models and incredibly more sensitive.

These lightweight, yet powerful rod blanks provide the professional custom builder and hobbyist a dependable rod blank they can rely on for years to come. 
AKRods used the following high-end components:
  • Carbon grips
  • 11 3/4" trigger to butt
  • Fuji ECS reel seat
  • Fuji Alconite micro guides
  • Kigan hook keeper 

Monday, April 3, 2017

Fishing Report for Wilson 3/31/17

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First of, let me thank each of you for reading this blog. It's a lot of work for something that doesn't earn me a red cent. This past month, the blog went over 200,000 hits. Sure, that's a trifle for some bloggers, but it's a massive accomplishment for me. Consider that the viewership has done exceedingly well the last six months. I don't know why or how I am getting new viewers, but I suspect it is because you guys that read the articles and pass it to your friends. So, thanks! 

In case you missed it, the streak of cashing checks on Wilson came to an abrupt end two weeks ago. We never found fish, or at least couldn't get them to bite. Occasionally we could catch some good ones, but finding five good ones wasn't in the cards. You can read the report by clicking the link below.

I was able to have a "get right" day with my wife last week when we put in two hours on Wheeler and sacked up a ton of fish. Sure, none of them were big but it was still a lot of fun. You can also read about that trip below. 

Fishing Report for Wheeler 3/28/17

So, the NASA fishing club had a tournament on Wilson. I wasn't sure I wanted to fish it because we have a lot going on right now with all three kids playing ball. Additionally, the lack of bites just made the thought of fishing another day cringeworthy.

But then a funny thing happened. During the draw process, me and Brad, one of my regular fishing partners were paired together. That certainly changed something things, and not just because I had faith we could catch them. No, my daughter had a softball tournament in Muscle Shoals and fishing out his boat meant I could both fish AND watch her play without dragging Big Booty Judy all over the Florence area. 

After a very rough week at work, Brad and I decided to fish Friday and see if we could find some fish for the tournament. Well, that didn't happen. We spent the vast majority of the day at Wheeler dam hoping to find the magnum smallmouth that we have done so well at catching in the past. Catching fish wasn't an issue. We caught a ton of stripers and drum, just no bass. 

The next morning, we tried to formulate our game plan. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) had been pulling decent current Friday (40,000 CFS) and the right generators had been running, but no fish. According to the TVA app, only about 19,000 CFS was planned on Saturday. We assumed that was a bad thing and decided that we would try to fish for largemouth bass in the few spots that held grass, specifically in Shoals Creek. 

Now, wouldn't you know it that there was a boat sitting in the five yard stretch we wanted to start upon. We had forgo that spot and move deeper into Shoals creek to another spot we have had a lot of success upon. Fishing this spot ended up not being nearly as much an issue. Throwing a combination of C-rigs, cranks, and Alabama Rigs, we were struggling to get bit. That's when we noticed that bass were running bait in the grass. I picked up my buzzbait, which I had tied on as mostly a joke, and worked it in the grass. After seeing a swirl in the grass, I shot the buzzbait in and a fish turned the water into a toilet bowl. We netted a solid three pounder.

Moving on, I boated another keeper on the buzzbait and Brad added two keepers on the Alabama rig. It was 8:20 and we had a decent start. We spent the next hour trying find that number five. Wilson is such a small lake that it is very hard for us not to fish the same stuff we have always fished. Even telling ourselves we wouldn't do that, we still overlapped a good bit. But, there was one particular main river point we wanted fish, which Brad had located some fish on the previous week. Luckily, the wind was keeping everyone in the pockets and we could fish all the main river points we wanted to, but it meant dealing with waves like this:

I had decided on Friday evening that I would throw a Carolina Rig that day simply because we knew fish were around and our typical power fishing approach just wasn't working. Using a PowerTeam Lures 6" Gator and a half ounce weight, I drug the C-rig on the bottom. The one bite left no question in my mind what I had on as a four pounder slammed the lizard bait. Brad netted the toad and we had a solid limit for about 10 pounds. While we knew that even 10 pounds was a decent sack on a day like that, we wanted to leave no doubt.

So, we did the one thing we knew to do when looking for a kicker: we went to the dam. That was a tough decision to make, considering the dam hadn't produced much in the past few trips. Still, we knew that it was a matter of time at the dam. If you fish there enough and you throw the right bait, you will get bit and chances are, it will be a big one. A quick look at the TVA showed that they had far exceeded the 19,000 CFS expectation and were pushing over 40,000 CFS.

10 minutes later, we were in line with five other boats who were also fishing the eddy line. We ranged back and forth, checking the eddy, checking the current, checking the slack water but never could find the green or brown bass. Again, white bass and drum were easy to come by as we threw a combination of crankbaits, scrounger headed swimbaits, and A-rigs. One by one, all but one other boat left and we were looking to do the same.

That's when the other boat swung aboard a six pounder. Minutes later, they swung another toad. What were they doing differently? They were certainly fishing the same things we were, but I noticed they were throwing a standard lead-head swimbait just like every other boat I had seen. No scrounger head. No underspin. Certainly not an A-Rig or a crank. We pulled up and talked to the two, who were also fishing a tournament. Eventually it came out that they had about 25 pounds, but had just five bites all day.

Both of us sat down and retied. I went with a PowerTeam Lures Swinging Hammer in green pumpkin with blue swirl while Brad went with a standard sexy shad.

It took the better part of an hour, but Brad finally had that big bite that didn't turn into a drum. I netted his five plus pounder. Another hour later and Brad had another bite and, again, I netted a solid four. We culled up about seven pounds and knew we probably just won this tournament.

It turned out that the fish wanted a combination of a specific weight, color, and retrieval speed and I just didn't offer that, much to my dismay.

We weighed in 16.24 pounds, beating second place by double. Brad's toad went over five and a half pounds. While the two of us are always happy with a win, we both wonder "what might have been" had we not been so stubborn the past few days by throwing what we wanted to throw and not what the fish wanted. For me, it was tough to throw the same thing everyone else was throwing, especially as I watched others call it quits and leave.

That's tough for the average "fruit jar" competitor to do, especially compared to "big money" tournament guys. The latter accept that they may not cash a check in two, three, or four tournaments. But, when they sack them, they are going to win. The former aren't willing to spend $500 to make $100.  I guess it's the old 'Vegas mantra of "scared money makes no money."