Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Another Camera?

Yep. I did it again. Another camera for the collection. In a way it seems silly because I often tote backpack full of cameras. The waterproof point-and-shoot cameras are critical to my approach, though, and one of mine is showing quite a bit of age.

B&H Photo advertised a good deal on the Lumix pictured above today, and I bit. Beyond being waterproof and drop-proof and all that good stuff, this one has WiFi, which means I can go straight to the phone with images from it and post or share them on the spot. That should prove pretty valuable this summer when Asher and I are on the Rebel Trout Trek, and I don't want to stop somewhere to load, sort and send photos.

I'll also want a camera around my neck and one around his most of the time. We'll be fishing a lot of places where anything other than a waterproof camera would have to stay stowed away, and I want either of us ready to go to work when the other one catches a fish or just when we see something cool. It also shoots HD video with one touch of a button, so I ordered a great big memory card to go with it.

Looks like I need to get back in a creek some time very soon to learn how it works and put it to the test!


Monday, March 2, 2015

Useful Daydreaming

The line between my work and play has long been more than a little fuzzy, but lately it would be tough to separate daydreaming and doing my job. A few days ago I mentioned the Rebel Trout Trek, which my 10-year-old son Asher and I will be taking together this summer. Because summer lodging fills up early in many of those cool Western mountain places that we'll be visiting, now is the time to make reservations. Because one stop leads to another, I sort of needed stops laid our fairly well in order to start reserving rooms. Therefore I've been doing a lot of gazing at Google maps and reading about places like the Madison River, California's Eastern Sierra and various little lakes in the Colorado Rockies. And being pretty bitten by the trout bug, I can't really read about places like that without finding myself doing more than a little daydreaming.

Although I've been planning this trip for a while, and the whole route has been of my own design (with valuable input from friends who have fished some of the same waters) I don't think it has quite sunk in how many "bucket list" places Asher and I are going to get to sample in a few weeks. The river names are legendary. Madison, Big Hole, North Platte, Deschutes, Sacramento, Owens, Provo... Just to name a few.

Of course, I don't expect my bucket list to get shorter. It'll actually get longer because of the regions we'll see only quick samples of and the waters we'll pass near enough to learn about but not have time to fish. That's not a complaint. In fact it's a good thing. Next time I'll know better what I want to see more of, and I'm guessing it will be a more targeted trip back to one or two of the areas Asher and I will visit this summer.

There I go again. I'm more than four months out from this summer's travel, and I'm already daydreaming about the next trip!


Sunday, March 1, 2015

It All Begins Today

Things have started! FLW Tour Pros have launched or are launching all over the Kissimmee Lakes chain in central Florida to practice for the tour opener, which begins on Thursday. Despite patches of snow that linger outside my window at home, the start of the FLW Tour season suggests that spring really is coming fairly soon.

I haven't looked at Kissimmee weather, but I suspect the pros will be targeting pre-spawn and even spawning fish. And as the tour itself moves north, so will warmer conditions. The excitement isn't just about spring and warmer weather, though. If you read this blog from time to time you know that I don't really mind cold and even go north instead of south through the winter so I can ice-fish. I just look forward to beginning of each new season, as a fishing writer and as a fan of the sport. I'm eager to see which pros figure things out at each tournament and how the fish behave, and to watch the many story lines that unfold through the season.

Even though the Bassmaster Classic was last weekend, that's a season cap for last year, not a fresh start, so it doesn't satisfy my desire to get things started anew.

I don't know which events I'll attend in person this week, but I'm always tracking them from wherever I am, both through the official tour feeds and through social media from various anglers. I suspect that in all the new excitement, a lot of cool Toho photos and notes will get posted today -- even more than normal for practice -- so I'll definitely have my eyes open!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Rebel Trout Trek Prep

I've made passing mention of summer western travel plans -- plans for a trip dubbed as the Rebel Trout Trek. For now, whenever my 10-year-old son Asher and I fish together in a stream, sit to gather fishing gear, do photo work or travel any distance in the car, I consider it part of our preparation.

The Rebel Trout Trek, which will begin July 20, will put Asher and I on the road for three and a half weeks, during which time we'll log more than 8,000 miles and see a seriously big slice of the United States. Preparation is ongoing.

We'll initially drive to Arkansas, where Asher will get to follow his brother's footsteps and fish the trout-filled special regs waters Dry Run Creek. We'll also visit Rebel Lures in Fort Smith while we're in Arkansas, and we'll check out the original Cabela's in Sidney, Nebraska on our way west. Excepting Dry Run, our fishing will take place in the American West, and we'll hit as many of the region's classic trout fishing destinations as we reasonably can in that amount of time. Best I can tell, as of right now, Asher and I will fish together in eight different states.

The starting point for the western fishing will be Deadwood and the Black Hills of South Dakota. Farthest from home will be Olympic National Park, just outside of Seattle. We don't plan to fish with guides or take drift boats or anything like that. Instead, we'll focus on waters where we can just wade in, walk the bank or slip float tubes into the water and start fishing.

I'll be blogging the journey for Rebel Lures, so you'll be able to track our trek though blog posts (mine and Asher's), photos and video clips. I don't know yet exactly what will be posted where, but there will be multiple ways to follow the trip, and I'll definitely keep everyone up-to-date as that gets better defined. I'll also share more about some of the destinations we intend to visit as I work through the planning. I have the entire trek roughed out and know basically where we plan to be each day. However, there's much to fill in related to where we'll stay and which actual waters we'll fish. Of course, I know that no matter how much I try to plan, a fair amount will have to remain flexible because of the unknowns of weather, access that is not what I'd imagined, can't-miss spots I won't discover in my planning and other variables.

I'm pretty sure neither of us can comprehend just how many hours we'll spend sitting in a car or just how weary we'll get at times. And I prefer to not think about practical stuff like laundry and vehicle service needs partway through such a journey. At the same time, I know cannot begin to comprehend the grandness of the scenery, the uniqueness of the places, the quality of the fishing, or the value of experiencing it all together. For now, we can only anticipate, and I hope that in some way, you'll share in our anticipation.


Monday, February 23, 2015

Carolina Favorite Prevails Again

Casey Ashley, 2015Bassmaster Classic Champion
Yesterday seemed familiar. As local favorite Casey Ashley hoisted the 2015 Bassmaster Classic trophy, I couldn't help but think about a similar scene, seven months ago, when Anthony Gagliardi won the Forrest Wood Cup on his home waters of Lake Murray. The sport's two championship events, both held on South Carolina waters, were both won not only by in-state anglers but by legitimate local anglers.

If you follow pro bass fishing at all, you already know all about Ashley's win, and you likely know the details of his pattern and quite a bit about his road to victory. Having gotten to watch it unfold and to be close to all that was happening, though, I have to offer a few impressions.

One of the coolest aspects, in my mind, is the fact that Ashley's preparation for this event has been going on since 2008. In a way it goes back even further, because he has fished tournaments with his dad since he was 8 years old and he can't even remember the first time he ever fished Lake Hartwell. However, in 2008, when the Bassmaster Classic was first held on Lake Hartwell, Ashley took note of the event's enormous success and became convinced it would return to Hartwell at some point. Since that time, he has been a student of the lake, and he was quick to point out that he's learned an enormous amount about it from many top local anglers over the past several years.

Ashley also talked about learning so much from his dad, who began handing over boat control and decisions for team tournaments when Ashley was in his early teens and who would question decisions to force Ashley to think about them and to learn. Ashley's dad also put also put together the locally popular spinner heads Ashley used to win the Classic.

I also enjoyed seeing Ashley's calm confidence and his patience in answering the same questions again and again throughout the tournament. It seemed everyone wanted him to feel the weight of being the local favorite, but he didn't allow that. He wanted to win and did all he could to prepare himself to win, but he never accepted the weighty notion that he was supposed to win. He said that it was only after he put his boat on the trailer on day three, when everything was taken out of his hands, that he got nervous.

Going back to those similarities with Anthony Gagliardi, Casey Ashley will be an outstanding champion who will represent the sport exceptionally well.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Upcountry Embraces Classic

I'm no more a fan of sitting in a traffic line waiting to park than is anyone else. That said, I like what it tells me about bass fishing fans in the South Carolina Upcountry, and it illustrates one of the reasons the Bassmaster Classic was back to Greenville and Lake Hartwell this year. I got within a mile of the TD Convention Center about five minutes before the expo was supposed to begin this morning, and traffic was lined onto the road. Some lots were already filled and others were filling quickly. By the time I got in the expo, at a little after 10:00 a.m., it looked like the show had been going full stream for half a day, with every aisle packed and all the booths hopping.

Every industry friend I've spoken with in the expo has been thrilled by the crowds. And not just by numbers. The South Carolina Upcountry crowd visits booths to talk fishing, check out stuff and buy stuff. They are fishermen and fishing fans.

In 2008, the only other time the Classic has been in this area, the Expo was similarly full (in fact, I'm pretty sure the fire marshal had to close entry for a while on Saturday), and the crowd excitement in the arena was some of the best I've witnessed at a Classic. I expect the same level of tonight. In fact, it might be more, with South Carolina's own Casey Ashley in legitimate contention. If he wins, they'll blow the roof off the place!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

5 Who Should Win

It ought to be fun tomorrow.

With one day remaining in the 2015 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro, the top five anglers in the standings are separated by less than 2 pounds. Making things even more interesting, every angler in the top 5 is someone who you could say "should win" and make an excellent case for that assertion.

Leader Takahiro Omori is a past Classic champion, and his 2004 Classic victory came in the Carolinas (Lake Wylie, which straddles the NC/SC border). He likes to crank shallow, so the warmer temps and rain in tomorrow's forecast seem like they should play into his hand.

Dean Rojas, only 2 ounces back, hasn't won a Classic, but he has four B.A.S.S. wins and has proven repeatedly that he can get it done. He brought in a huge bag on day one and backed it with a limit today, but failed to get the same quality. Interestingly, his best previous Classic was fourth place in 2004 at Lake Wylie.

Mike Iaconelli has eight B.AS.S. wins, including victory in the 2003 Bassmaster Classic on the Louisiana Delta, and when he's on something, he is tough to stop. He's brought in two good bags, with toady's a little larger than yesterday's.

Randy Howell is the reigning Bassmaster Classic champion, so the sweet taste of victory is fresh, and of the three former Classic champs in the top five, he's the only one who won a February event. And apparently some live footage of him fishing shows that he's spending at least part of the time cranking bridges, which was how he won last year at Lake Guntersville.

Rounding out the Top 5 is Casey Ashley of Donalds, South Carolina, which is only about 1/2 hour from Lake Hartwell. Ashley was virtually everyone's pick going into the event, so it would be hard to discount him when he's less then two pounds out going into the final day.

Making things even more exciting, the super close weights don't end with the fifth spot. Bret Hite is only 7 ounces behind Ashley, and Coby Carden is only 7 ounces behind Hite. In fact, Skeet Reece, who is in 10th place, is only 4 1/2 pounds off the lead.

So what does all that say? You'd better be watching tomorrow when they bring the fish to the scales because pretty much anything could happen!