Monday, June 26, 2017

Product Review for Ardent Flipping Reel

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As you may recall, I have been pleasantly surprised with Ardent's reels. First, I purchased a couple on a group deal about two years ago. We received a hefty discount which made it worth trying a new brand. I have tried a lot of different brands, but Shimano was the only brand that really lived up to my expectations for a baitcaster. 

Even though I bought the Ardents for the price point, they have ranked just below Shimano for quality. I liked them enough to join their prostaff this year. 

I was really excited about this new flipping reel which was designed by the king if flipping, Denny Brauer. You can go directly to Ardent's site and see the product for yourself here

Here is the description and the stats:

"The Apex Flipping Reel is the only reel specifically engineered for flipping. Designed by #2 all-time B.A.S.S. Elite money winner and King of Flipping Denny Brauer, its ergonomic frame shape minimizes hand discomfort and maximizes efficiency. Its total reel weight of 5.9 ounces reduces arm and shoulder fatigue, and its thin arbor spool and nose design improve flipping accuracy and eliminate the need for a level wind mechanism. The aluminum frame and carbon fiber handle provide strength with reduced weight. 11 lbs. of drag combined with 10 plus 1 ball bearings and 6.5:1 gearing deliver strong close range retrieves."

High Strength Aluminum frame
Helical Aircraft Aluminum Gear
Carbon Fiber swept back handle
EVA grip knobs on handle
11 lb. Strike Saver Drag System
10+1 High Precision Ball Bearings
Swept back forge aluminum star drag
Weight: 5.9 oz


True to its description, the reel IS very ergonomic. It fits fantastically into your hand and you do no get fatigue. 

The handle design gives you a lot of no-slip, high weight wrenching power. 

I really like the spool design, as it limits just how much line you have to put on the reel. That will save some money, in the end. Additionally, while this reel is the same weight as every other Ardent (a surprise, given that the goal of this reel is to limit weight), having less line on the reel will save SOME weight.

Getting rid of the level wind setup and the smaller "eye" does create a very, very smooth cast. 

It's nice just to have a dedicated flipping reel ready to go. 


Not available left-handed. That is a major, major disappointment. As most know, a left handed reel saves valuable time and missed hits during the transfer from right to left hand with a right handed reel. This was a major oversight. 

I really don't understand going with the 6.5:1 ratio. I do understand that the lower ratio provides some durability for the gears and it allows better leverage and wrenching power, but it drastically limits retrieval speed. Retrieval speed is all important in both number of flips and getting the fish out of the cover that you are flipping. Most everyone is using as high as ratio as possible, up to 8:1. Why not just step up the quality of the gears in the reel to deal with the stress of a high ratio?

The reel gets rid of the typical level wind setup and makes way for a smaller spool and larger "eye." Yes, it saves weight (supposedly) but it sacrifices accuracy, even though it is supposed to be more accurate. Because it doesn't have a level wind system, you are forced to "tape off" the line. That is, measure out a cast length and add tape down on the spool. It prevents birds nests, of course, but also the lack of a level wind causes line to pile up. 


This is the first iteration and I hope it isn't the last. The approach is the right approach. Limit the mechanisms, limit the weight, make it as ergonomic as possible. But, Ardent really missed the boat on the truly important things that fishermen will look for: retrieval speed, accuracy, and a left-handed model. I wouldn't pay the MSRP of $169.99 again but I have no problem with the discounted price. Hopefully, the next iteration will fix these oversights. 

Fishing Report for Wheeler/Ditto Landing 6/22/2017

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The struggle.....continues. Man, I guess we are just out of touch with Ditto. Seems like fishing the river has gotten tougher and tougher the last few years. But, to be honest, I only fish it during the Thursday night tournaments and typically ONLY during the hot months of the year. That sure stacks the cards against. Still, back in the day when we ONLY fished the river (for the most part), fishing never seemed that hard. Heck, seemed like we cashed a check every other tournament. 

Maybe I just remember things wrong. Anyway, we had a lot of rain, as you surely know, but the river hadn't quite flooded....yet. That wouldn't happen until Friday. So, Josh and I threw our money on the barrel head (so to speak) and headed down river.

A few weeks ago, we fished the Wildcat and we decided to hit the dam since there was good current (50,000 CFS, if I recall). 

We caught a great fish on the first few casts but were unable to really add to it. We weighed in three fish for around seven pounds. It was just enough for 3rd, but 3rd didn't pay that day.

Conditions were very similar except that the water temp was bit higher than it had been. We decided we would go the opposite route. Instead of fishing current on the river, we would ease way back into Cotaco creek and flip grass. It seemed like the perfect idea, with rising water levels and all. Josh even boated a couple of decent fish flipping while I alternated between a frog and flipping. The bite never turned on and the lone bite I had on the frog came as I was watching white bass school behind me. 

With about 45 minutes to go, we decided we would try our best to fish a couple of old spots on the river channel that had been good to us, especially in high current. These included the pumphouse below Triana creek, the pumphouse by the army docks, as well as the Army/NASA barge area. 

Both of us boated multiple fish from the pump house, but none of them were over 10 inches long. Between buzzbaits, a mixture of cranks, and shakey heads, we could have caught a boat load of short fish, but that's not what we needed.

We ran up to the small pump house. In heavy current, only one fisherman can fish at a time. Josh flipped a shakey head in the eddy and immediately pulled out a solid two pounder. As he wrestled with the fish and the livewell, I made a few casts and pulled out a couple of short fish. Between the low weight shakey head, the wind, and the current, I missed a lot of bites I really shouldn't have missed.

We moved up 100 yards to the cove that houses the docks. We pulled out another keeper and many more shorts. 

In the end, we still didn't have a limit and we were 4th out of the money.

Sad thing is, we weren't that far off the pace. The winning boat was a father and son pair who caught the big fish of the tournament at the docks 5 minutes before weigh in!

At least we caught some fish. Like I said, we could have caught all the 10 inchers we wanted! I joked with the guys that whatever I think we should do....perhaps we should do the opposite. Hopefully we will find out soon. 

Water was really clean in Cotaco, which was interesting. The river was flowing a solid 3 MPH with the 60,000 CFS flow and had a little stain to it. Water temps had dipped to the high 70s. 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

College Fantasy Football's Best Teammate Double-Ups for 2017

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It's almost time, yall. Fantasy football is about to gear up. Wait. That's not right. It's already here and if you haven't started your pre-draft work, then you are behind. 

It's cool. I got you. 

Up first is one of my favorite fantasy football topics: Teammate Double Ups. 

What is a Teammate Double Up? It's when you draft and play a QB and a WR (or TE, RB, etc). Why would you do that? Well, there is certainly some risk involved. Obviously staking your future on teammates can backfire on you. A struggle by one is a struggle by both. But, there are undeniable upsides. 

Take a look at just what one play can do for you. Let's say you had Clemson's Watson/Leggett combo, which is one of my top picks from last year. Clemson and Leggett formed perhaps the best QB/TE pair in the country. On just one play, the two hooked up for a 56 yard bomb. 

Let's do some math. 56 passing yards is 2.8 points for Watson, the touchdown is 4 points for Watson. Leggett cashes in for a point for the reception, 5.6 points in receiving yards and another 6 for the TD. All together, that play is worth 19.4 points, and that's on the low end of scoring systems. In other systems, that could have been worth almost 25 points. More importantly, these two teamed up for a combined 226.4 points over the course of the season. That's solid numbers for anyone, but amazing production for a QB/TE combination. 

Now, imagine the production between, say, MTSU's Stockstill and James. Try a combined 493 points. That's right. You could expect a weekly 9- 125-1 performance between the two or an astounding 38 combined points per week. Considering that it takes around 120 points (depending on your league layout) to be competitive, two players have a guaranteed third of your needed production to win week to week.

So, take a look at my picks from last year.I hit some very, very good combos. And the Stockstill/James combo is one I held back for myself. 

It's 2017. Let's talk turkey. 

Believe it or not, the SEC has three very legitimate combos. 

Brent Stockstill/Richie James- We talked about what they did last year. It is highly unlikely they could repeat this performance of 105-1625-12. Keep in mind that the two chipped in 580 rushing yards and 4 more rushing TDs. The Blue Raiders have to break in three new offensive linemen and they do it against Vandy in week one. That isn't exactly the defense you'd want to face the first week. But, hey, it's gonna happen in Conference USA. 

Drew Locke/J'Mon Moore- This is an easy one, really. Locke threw for over 250 yards in all but three contest last season including five performances of over 300 yards. In all, Locke threw for 3400 yards, though his touchdown to INT ratio wasn't great. Still, 62 passes and over 1,000 of those yards went to Moore, who put  8 of those passes into the endzone. The Tigers from Columbia have one of the easier SEC schedules and also play Missouri State, Idaho, Purdue, and UConn. Auburn and UGA are the only legitimate threats to slow down the Tigers. Most importantly, the offensive line that allowed just one sack per game is completely back.

Mason Rudolph/James Washington- This is an absolute no-brainer. 71-1380-10 on the year between the two. Soft defensive conference. The issue? These are likely early first round and early third round picks. 

Jalen Hurts/Calvin Ridley- There is a lot of talk about Hurts retaining his status as the Tide's starting QB, an astounding statement to the Bama program considering this is the SEC Offensive Player of the Year. First, I am going to say that I don't believe he was THAT good as a game winning QB. But, I am willing to say that, not only will he be the Tide's starter in 2017, he will be a great fantasy QB. Calvin Ridley was a bit of a disappointment last year. I do believe in the sophomore slump, which is why I exercised SOME caution. Still, he was 72-77-7, which were solid WR2 numbers, despite having a lot of production stolen by Hurts' running and All-World OJ Howard at TE. Ridley will easily be the dominate playmaker outside of Hurts and I say that because of the crowded (and talented) backfield. Bama is stacked on the offensive line and, outside of the opener against FSU (Saban is 100% in these openers and is winning BIG, BTW), Alabama will sleep walk into November. I'm not saying these two will win you the league. I am saying these are two pieces to get you to the playoff.  

Nick Fitzgerald/Donald Gray-Fitzgerald was an amazing out-of-nowhere surprise as he put up 105 rushing yards per game. When he wasn't scampering for the 3rd best QB rushing numbers, he was hitting Gray to the tune of 41-709-5. Now, I recognize those numbers aren't astounding, but bear with me. First, Fitzgerald is a run-first QB (though he will undoubtedly come along this year as a passer under Mullen). You get double the points from Fitz rushing, as it is. Mississippi State losses Fred Ross, who was Fitz's Go-To guy. Listing these guys is a projection of Fitz's rushing and Gray stepping up as a pass catcher. There are going to be games that are scary, pretty much every SEC West game and even the contest at UGA. State also losses the entire offensive line. So, let's not be too Bull-ish on these guys. 

Lamar Jackson/Jaylen Smith- Like the above combo, this is less about combined production and more about piggybacking. Lamar Jackson was unstoppable...until the playoffs. That's a story for another day. Obviously Jackson was a complete threat to score points at will. Someone has to catch some of those and Smith is coming off a 27-600-6 campaign where he was the team leader (and a national leader) in yards per catch despite playing behind two NFL talents of Quick/Hikutini. Could a surprise WR step up? Sure. But this is a combo where you are going to get Jackson in the first round and you can draft Smith much, much later as a flyer that could pay big dividends. One other thing I am projecting is that the offensive line couldn't be worse and Jackson undoubtedly wants to progress as a passer for his NFL legitimacy. 

Trace McSorely/Mike Gesicki/Saquon Barkley/DaeSean Hamilton- Own The Team? Maybe. It's been an interesting ride for DaeSean Hamilton. He has seen his targets drop each and every year after 82-900-2 as a freshman. His numbers were nearly cut in half in 2015 and he saw even last last season as he went 34-506-1. However, that doesn't tell the whole story. Chris Godwin exploded for the Nittany Lions with the rise of McSorely before Godwin went to Tampa Bay. Gesicki also exploded on the scene for 48-680-5 as a tight end and Barkley kicked in 28-400-4. Under it all, Hamilton's pass catching efficiency went up significantly, though he is far from an elite fantasy talent. Penn State returns four of five linemen who allowed 1.7 sacks per game. That number should be better, especially since Iowa represents the sole challenge for them until a tough four game stretch against Northwestern, Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State. Now, I'm not telling you to draft all Penn State players, but at least consider it. Both McSorely and Barkley are obvious targets. Gesicki is a top returning tight end and Hamilton could be a great late round flyer. 

Logan Woodside/Cody Thompson/Jon'Vea Johnson-104-2,000-20 . What else do you need to know? How about three of five linemen from a unit that allowed a little over one sack per game and Miami as the only Power Five team on the schedule? The only worry is that Kareem Hunt and his 1400 yards are gone and that may cause defenses to game plan around the passing game. In the end, this was the 7th ranked offense in the country. It's fair to say these guys are must-owns, especially considering their value as a package instead of individual value. 

Zach's Sneaky Picks

Will Grier/Ka'Raun White- There is nothing. Nothing. I LOVE more than a Dana Holgorsen Team Mate Double-Up. While the Mountaineers are known to choke in crunch time, they are also deadly when they are favored.West Virginia didn't score a ton of points last year (50th), but they were still 17th in total offense behind Skylar Howard. Will Grier SHOULD be eligible week one and I truly believe he will be a perfect match with Holgorsen. Grier was 1200-10-3 in his short stint at Florida before being suspended for PEDs. He also took a whooping 13 sacks in those games while adding 2 rushing TDs. He was on the cusp of being very, very good. White is entering the fall as the WR1, by default, after going 48-580-5 last year as WVU's No. 3 man. If one were smart, one could get RB Justin Crawford early and sit back for these two guys. 

Baker Mayfield/Mark Andrews- Mayfield isn't going passed pick 10. Get used to that idea. While the Sooners are absolutely loaded on the offensive line, there was a mass exodus of skill positions. In fact, tight end Andrews is the leading returning receiver after a 31-490-7 year. Someone will surely step up for new head coach Lincoln Riley, but can you afford to draft them? Andrews is a solid late pick as a TE1. The two of them together will have some great success on the field. You might as well cash in. 

Quinton Flowers/D'Ernest Johnson- Flowers is another one that isn't sneaking anywhere, but Johnson may. Gone is Marlon Mack and Johnson is in line to take over the lead back role, though Flowers led the team in rushing yards (1,500). Flowers is another QB who may be eyeing the NFL, making Johnson the beneficiary of a lot more touches. Johnson as a RB1 or RB2 may be a stretch, but his utility as a pass catcher make him very, very valuable FLEX play at the very least. He put up solid reception totals of 28-300-5 last season which expands his career totals to 62-750-10. He is a major threat in the passing game as it is and he added 550 yards and 8 TDs on the ground as a backup runner. The Bulls have to replace two linemen but play a joke of a schedule. They are poised to repeat as one of the very best offenses in the country. 

Arion Worthman/Tim McVey- This one is a BIT of a stretch, but hear me out. Not everyone can get studs at all positions. Sometimes you have to settle. Let me give you one rock-solid way to settle. Worthman played about a third of the year last season for Air Force. He passed for 546 yards and 4 TDs while tossing 2 INTs. He also added 670 yards and 6 more TDs on the ground. Again, keep in mind that was as a part time starter. McVey is an established runner who had 708 yards and 10 TDs. The amazing thing is, he averaged a whopping 7 yards per carry despite not having a long over 40 yards. That's stunning. It means this guy is as rock solid a runner as you are going to find. He did it behind Nate Romine, who led a balanced attack and three other departed runners who had more carries. Both of these guys could have stellar years and are terrific late options. If they are used strategically, they could be excellent, especially against lesser opponents. 

Nick Stevens/Michael Gallup- Few QBs finished the year as solid as Stevens. Despite missing the first half of the season riding the pine after being 2nd Team All-Mountain in 2015, Stevens responded in a big way. He threw at least two touchdowns in every game to end the season including an astounding NINE in the last two games of the season. So take that Fair-to-Midland 1936-19-5 stat and flush it cause that was HALF a season. Gallup finished with 76-1200-14, an elite season. Check this, though. Until Stevens entered the lineup against Boise State in week 7, Gallup had 25 total catches and just three TDs with just one game over 100 yards. Gallup erupted down the stretch with Stevens commanding the offense. 51 catches and 11 TDs later, it is fair to say the combo became elite. The lowest output for the tandem? 4-91-1. That's 28 points....on their bad day. The Rams do have to retool the offensive line a bit and they have Alabama on September 16th. Still, Mike Bobo has this program on the rise. 

Monday, June 5, 2017

Report for Guntersville 6/1 and 6/3 2017

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If you've followed me, you know my spiel about being open and honest. Being honest in fishing is one of the most played out jokes, ever. I've done my best not to be a stereotype and it has certainly earned me equal parts admiration and ire. Sometimes it is just easier to keep things to myself, believe it or not. But, I am going to stick to my game plan and continue to be me. That's an easy thing to say and do, especially when you are cashing checks. It's not so easy when things are tough and you are getting humbled. 

So, here we go.

I haven't been on Guntersville for 9 months. That's right. Nine months. Here is the report for that. Why would I avoid the best bass fishing lake in America? Well, go read this other post. Over 5,000 people have read it already. The lake sucks, or I suck, or we both suck. Any and everything is possible and I admit that. Regardless of how I do, there are plenty of guys out there still catching 20+ pound bags and after this weekend, I really admire those guys. Just wish I could figure it out myself. 

With that said, we had a club tournament coming up on Guntersville and Guntersville is the only lake that I have not been competitive upon and I was determined to fix that. Two years ago, I hired a certain guide to help me figure out the lake. I don't believe in throwing people under the proverbial bus, so I won't go into it other than to say that we didn't catch anything nor did it put me on fish. Predictably, we finished about where we normally do on the Big G: mid pack. And, we were a lot lighter in the pocket due to that. 

About nine months ago, I made another small investment in my future. As many of you know, I cover fantasy football and I do rather well playing it. I joined Basswhacker Guide Service's fantasy league. The winner would get a free trip. Guess who won? 

So, I scheduled this trip right before our tournament. On Thursday, Brad and I got out mid morning and fished by ourselves in Allreds. We didn't have a sniff fishing the typical stuff: ledges, grasslines, grass mats. Not a hit. 

In desperation, we moved onto some deep water bluffs. I was burning a Strike King 6XD as fast I could go on my Ardent Elite 5.3:1 reel and my AKRods custom cranking rod when a fish unloaded on the crank. I fully expected a catfish or drum. Then this slob jumped and I started yelling for the net. Big momma got tired and we easily netted her. She went 5.75 on the hand-held scale.

Minutes later, we picked up Jon Henry, FLW Pro and owner of Basswhacker guide service. He spent the rest of the day giving us a in-depth tutorial of locating fish. You may recall that Jon and I have teamed up before. You can see our video here and read the report here. We idled for several hours, marking fish and waypoints. He encouraged us to go back on our own and figure the fish out. When we dropped him back off, we did just that. We found active fish on two spots and were able to catch fish on the first cast or two before leaving them.

So, we felt pretty good about Saturday. He had warned us that this was Guntersville and that we better choose our starting point wisely because we wouldn't be first anywhere else. Additionally, he told us we would have to play defense if we did find fish.

Boy, was he right. 

We launched out of Browns Creek and we were boat No. 20. Imagine my surprise when we found ourselves first on the spot we wanted to fish! Of course, that didn't last very long. We had three boats come in behind us in a matter of minutes. Some left. Some stayed. Luckily, all of them stayed off the spot we were fishing, specifically freeing up our casts. We idled around and found the fish were grouped up super dense. 

We eased up on the spot, which was about the size of a picnic table, and began casting a mixture of baits, specifically a PowerTeam Lures Bull Nose Jig backed with the PTL Craw D and a PowerTeam Lures 7" Tickler on a magnum shaky head

In four casts, we had four keepers. What was more exciting was that as we netted each other's fish, both of us would pick up our rods to find that ANOTHER fish had taken our trailers. That's right, six straight casts resulted in four keepers and two misses. 

Wouldn't you know it, someone saw this and decided that it looked fun. Look, right now, snapping pictures and bashing guys moving in on you, or spot stealing, or bent pole pattern, is the latest thing. I'm not going to post pictures of these guys but I am going to say this:

This boat came within 15 yards of us on plane and set down ahead of us, exactly the spot we were casting. We had lines in the water and he parked on top of them. It couldn't be more clear that we were fishing this exact spot and casting to something the size of a garbage can. 

The bite died. Even after these guys left, we never found the fish grouped again. Instead of 100 fish in 10 yards, we were finding a fish every five yards. We fished two spots all day, never making it to any places we wanted to fish because there were fishermen on them and we didn't want to be "those guys." If we saw a waypoint and a boat was near it, we kept going.

Of course, this is Guntersville, so that meant that we never fished any good spots. Desperate for bites, we moved to the bluffs where I caught several measuring spotted bass. While a limit was a start, it wasn't enough so we went back to our honey hole. 

We were never able to get back on the "sweet spot" and it probably didn't matter. We did manage to cull twice but our biggest fish wasn't even four pounds. 

Still, you never know how everyone else did so we went to weigh in anyway, despite not having over 12 pounds and not having a bite for over four hours. 

We finished third in the club with 12 pounds. The winning bag was short of 19 and second was over 16. Big fish was over six, but it was one of only two or three fish over five pounds. Out of the 20 plus boats, there were only five limits weighed in. 

We caught a total of three short largemouth, three spots, and seven measuring largemouth. 

So, in summation, the lake was tough and I don't say that just because I struggled. That isn't a surprise, after all. It is a surprise that a club with some good fishermen struggled so. But, the story was the same for us all. You never fished alone, especially when you were in a good spot, nor were you ever fished to fish a spot. And, the fish seemed to know we were after them. But, hey, that's the Big G. 

Of course, I have to give a shout out to Basswhacker. Dude knows his stuff and he is an absolute delight to fish with. He is honest and he genuinely wants to help you get better, not just put you on fish.