Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Knee Deep For Redeyes

I don't know that I can quite state a certain favorite style of fishing, but it very well might be wading wet in a free-flowing mountain river and casting ultralight lures for either trout or stream bass. Last week, I spent a fun day with a friend from Colorado doing exactly that in the cool, clear waters of the Chattooga National Wild & Scenic River.

We cast for Coosa redeye bass, which are native to the Chattooga and fairly plentiful in the lower river. We didn't catch crazy numbers (five or six, I think), and none were huge. However, we got just enough action to keep things interesting while wading a couple of beautiful sections of river. All the redeyes and one big chub came on Rebel Teeny-Wee Craws.

Both the redeyes and the chub were new catches for me for this year. The 2016 tally is now at 23 species. Of those, six are different black bass species (Guadalupe, Suwannee, largemouth, smallmouth, spotted and Coosa redeye bass) caught this spring on Rebel Crawfish. I still need a shoal bass, but fortunately some of those swim in waters that are close to home.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Ouachita Variety

Last week's travel to the Ouachita Mountains delivered wonderful variety, not only in species caught but in the types of fishing experiences I got to enjoy in short order.

The species variety would be hard to argue. I added green sunfish, spotted bass, smallmouths, walleyes, pumpkinseeds and both black and white crappie to this year's catch list in three days of fishing. Experience-wise, I got to spend an afternoon and a morning on Lake Ouachita bass fishing, an afternoon wading the Ouachita River for stream bass, and a full day on the lake fishing Lindy's new Livebait Jig with crawlers and minnows for walleyes, crappie, bluegills and whatever else bit.

The bass fishing was made extra fun by the fact that I got to spend time in the boat with Alton Jones. That always equates to a lot of learning and great opportunities for gathering photos and story material. Far beyond that, I simply enjoy spending time with Alton and he invariably encourages me in many ways.

The jig/bait fishing was similarly fun because I got to spend a day with longtime Minnesota guide Jeff Sundin. I've spent several days fishing with Jeff, but mostly on the ice. He taught me a new approach, and based on all the fish we caught, you'd sure never know that he'd never been to Lake Ouachita before last week. I look forward to experimenting more with the Lindy Livebait Jig.

The highlight of the river outing had to be standing in a single spot and catching three species of bass (largemouth, smallmouth, spot) on the same Rebel Crawfish. None were big, but all were big fun!

Friday, April 8, 2016

Fish Species Firsts

Twice in this year's travels I've gotten opportunities to target and catch localized black bass species that I had never caught (or seen in person, for that matter) before. In Texas, a couple of months ago, I caught a Guadalupe bass, which looks a lot like the Coosa redeye bass we have in some of the rivers around here. Last week in Florida, I got to add a Suwannee bass to my lifetime list. Both were caught on Rebel Crawfish.

As you can see in the photo above, Suwannee bass look a lot like smallmouth bass, and they act like smallmouths, too. They definitely favor current, they hang out around rock, and they feed heavily on crawfish. Different from smallmouths, Suwannee bass have turquoise coloration on their cheeks and undersides, their eyes tend to be a bit bugged out, and they are notably smaller (record is less than 4 pounds). Oh, and they live in Florida and a couple of rivers in South Georgia.

While in Florida, I also got to catch my first butterfly peacock bass. I'd caught peacocks previously on two different trips to Brazil, but none were butterfly peacocks, which is the kind that lives in the canals of South Florida. The butterflies are beautiful colored and brutally strong, just like their larger cousins.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Footloose Fun

"Be ready at the end of each pump," Pete Ponds told me. "That's when they're hitting it."

The words had barely escaped his mouth when a bass proved him right by walloping my Footloose crankbait just as I finished a rod pump and began reeling to take up line. I leaned into the fish just enough to set the hook and realized quickly that it was a pretty chunky largemouth.

I'd been catching some bass, but Pete had been spanking them on the Footloose, a small Bandit crankbait that swims barely beneath the surface and that I'd never fished. It looked too fun to not try, so he's rigged me one as well.

Some anglers fish a Footloose extra slow so it stays on top, as a wakebait. Others crank it quickly and steadily to draw reaction strikes. Pete works it with sideways pumps so it swims just beneath the surface and hesitates and pops up slightly each time he reels to take up line. That's when the fish most often strike, and that certainly was the case when we fished together.

I couldn't tell you how many bass we caught on the Footloose. I just know it was a bunch and that we had a bundle of fun. I also know that I've discovered a new tool for when the bass are shallow and aggressive but won't quite commit to a topwater lure.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Double-Barrel Tour Action

A big weekend for pro bass fishing kicks off in about an hour. The B.A.S.S. Elite Series begins their season this morning on the St. Johns River while the FLW Tour starts tour stop number two on Lake Hartwell. Each has its own intrigue to me, so I'll be paying attention to both through the weekend, although I'm driving to Louisiana on Sunday, and I can't deny that I'm apt to be distracted by some seriously good Cajun cooking at Bourgeois Fishing Charters that evening! Off topic, I know. I guess I'm distracted already.

Anyway, the St. Johns tourney is more interesting than many both because it's the season opener, where this year's story lines begin being written. Plus, I was just in Florida, fishing the St. Johns, and I know how many big fish are apt to be on the flats. The water was off-colored for the area, and I don't know if it has settled, and I haven't looked at the forecast. Even if conditions turn out to be tough, though, I suspect some seriously big bags will be brought to the scales.

Meanwhile, the FLW event at Hartwell carries extra interest for me because it is so close to home. The launch they are using is about an hour from here, and parts of the lake are much closer. I haven't spent loads of time on Hartwell, but it's still pretty familiar, and it's always fun when a big event is happening so close to home. The weather has been warm, and I've seen photos of a lot of good practice fish posted by pros, so I suspect they are going to catch 'em well. Of course, every FLW Tour event is important to the points story line because there are only six events. By the end of the weekend, the season will be 1/3 over.

Both organizations do a good job of providing live coverage of their events. For FLW, I tend to like their Twitter feed best. For B.A.S.S., I go straight to their website and follow the event's blog and/or BASStrakk results. Look for yourself, though, to see which feeds suit you best.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Florida Fishing

When I spoke with Tim Mann and Chris Holleman about possibly getting together to fish later this spring and they both said they could make something work just a few days later, I couldn't pass on that chance, so a few days later I was in my car and had it pointed south. I fished Lake George one day, sight-fishing for largemouths, and spent two days chasing redfish and speckled trout in the Jacksonville area.

Sight-fishing with Tim is always fun and a learning experienced, and while the wind chased us around some in the afternoon, conditions, plentiful fish on beds and Tim's direction allowed even my untrained eyes to see several fish and catch a few. While we didn't land any real giants, we caught a lot of good fish, and our best limit would have easily weighed more than 20 pounds. Hard to say how big a bag Tim would have caught if he had just been fishing instead of mostly trying to help me! It's not uncommon for he and tournament to bring 30 pounds to the scales this time of year.

The saltwater days were extra fun for me because I haven't done a lot of that recently. In fact, my species list from last year didn't include any saltwater species because I never made it to the coast. This year's list now includes both specks and reds, and I hope to keep adding to that. I was actually supposed to be saltwater fishing in Texas this week, but the weather blew out that trip. However, my next two trips are to Louisiana and Florida, and plans for both include some saltwater fishing.

Naturally, I like the way a redfish crushes a lure and the fight that follows. Beyond that, though, I simply enjoy being out in the marsh, smelling the salt air, and watching the changes brought by rising and falling tides.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Classic Action Begins This Morning

Photo courtesy of B.A.S.S.

Hardly a newsflash that the Bassmaster Classic begins this morning, I know. If you're a bass fishing fan at all, your social media news feeds are likely full of posts from outdoor media sorts, companies and anglers who are in Tulsa right, and that might even include posts from Classic competitors, who are only a few hours from blasting off on day one!

I mention the Classic not in an attempt to deliver news but simply because it's on my mind this morning. I often attend the Classic in some media capacity, and if I was in Tulsa I'd likely be getting ready to drive out to the launch or even on the way. Many of my friends are there this week, either covering the event for some media outlet or working the show for some company. I've been in the boat with about 40 percent of the competitors at some point, so that familiarity certainly adds interest.

I'm content to not be there. Tulsa is a long ways from here, and I travel plenty. Also, while I certainly am a fan of professional bass fishing and enjoy being in the middle of a big event, given the choice, I'd rather spend my days away from home fishing than covering tournaments. Nevertheless, there are aspects I miss, and you can be that I'll be peeking at blogs and will track the results, and while I'll be driving to Florida on Sunday, I may end ups stopping somewhere with internet along the way to watch the final weigh-in on the computer.

If you want to track the action, visit bassmaster.com and you'll find a host of options for following everything going on. Or you could make a last-minute call and drive to Tulsa this weekend!