Monday, March 30, 2015

Believing the Bass

FLW Tour Smith Lake winner Dave Lefebre. FLW photo.
I enjoyed reading the account of Dave Lefebre's FLW Tour win at Smith Lake. He finished day one in the 20s, worked his way higher each day, began the final day in 7th place and brought in nearly 20 pounds of fish on the final day to win by about 2 pounds. He did so by being keenly observant, seeing what the bass were doing, and trusting what they were doing, not what they should be doing.

I wasn't there and haven't talked with Dave, so I won't try to report details. Rob Newell does a great job of that in the final story about the win on the FLW website. Basically, though, Dave found some very specific spots where blueback herring were spawning first thing in the morning, and he caught his best fish from those exact spots later in the day. Strange thing was that the bass were nowhere to be found early, when the herring they love to eat were everywhere, but they were in the exact same spots thick and feeding aggressively later in the day, when the herring were nowhere to be found.

It didn't make sense to Dave, but that is the very thing that impresses me. Bass pros have to understand normal bass behavior and use that as a starting point. However, the best ones know how to observe and figure out what IS going on, whether or not it SHOULD BE going on. Dave Lefebre chose to trust the bass and to build his pattern based on that trust, and the result was victory in the second tour event of the season and a check for $125,000.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Pond Bass Playing Hard to Get

The bass in our favorite ponds around home showed themselves early this spring, sunning in shallow water and seeming like they were ready to move up and get active. That was a few weeks ago, and we've had quite a bit of spring-like weather since that time. The fish have largely remained hidden and tough to catch, though.

Nathaniel, Asher and I hit two of the ponds for a couple of hours today and only managed three small bass. We tried a variety of approaches -- stuff that normally works this time of year -- mostly to no avail. All three fish we did catch took shallow crankbaits. I caught two on a Rebel Bluegill. Nathaniel caught one on an XCalibur Square Lip. Beyond not catching many, we're not really seeing them. We only saw one bass that we did not catch today, and that has been more the norm than the exception since that one sunny early-spring day when fish were cruising shallow all over the place in the same two ponds.

It's not all bad. Trying to figure them out is part of the fun, and the boys and I always enjoy just going out to the ponds and riding around in the johnboat and/or walking the banks. It's just a bit baffling.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Georgia Trout Opener

Limit catches will be plentiful this weekend in North Georgia. Trout season opens Saturday morning, and you can count on streams being well stocked. Georgia trout fishermen don't have to quit fishing through the winter. Many of the state's trout waters stay open year round. In fact, some of the state's best opportunities occur during the cold months. Many streams are designated as seasonal, though, closing in November and reopening the last Saturday in March.

That's this Saturday, and they officially open 1/2 hour before sunrise.

Many of Georgia's most popular stocked streams are seasonal, so opening day is heavily anticipated by many fishermen. Popular streams will be crowded on Saturday, but it is one day that most folks don't seem to mind the crowds. It's part of the tradition, and many anglers likely share their favorite opening day stream with many of the same fishermen year after year. Tradition often also includes camping or staying in cabin in the mountains and/or cooking up a fresh limit of trout on Saturday night.

Whether trout are kept for dinner or released for someone else to catch, the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division will make sure there are plenty of fish in the rivers. Hatchery workers have been busy all week stocking streams all over the northern third of the state to make certain they are ready for opening day. Of course, fish are still fish, and you still have to get them to bite. They'll be there, though!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Double Slam Finisher

The brown trout I'd just landed was neither strikingly colorful nor large. It was a definite stocker, and had no noteworthy traits like a hooked jaw. Still, I had to get a quick picture before I let it go. It was my first brown trout of the day and completed my species slam. Asher had already caught all three species, so with that fish he and I had managed a double slam of the trout species available in that section of river.

Some fish are noteworthy because of their size or something distinctive about their markings. In other cases it's a an especially hard strike, a challenging fight in current (had a couple of those on the same day!) or something else about the catch. At times, a fish is noteworthy because it's the only one caught in a day. Occasionally, as was the case with this fish, a fish stands out based on little more than the species it happens to be.

They're all fun to catch, from my perspective anyway. Some just stand out for one reason or another. I wonder which fish will stand out the most this summer when Asher I head west on the Rebel Trout Trek!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Stream Pull-Off or Crowded Mall Parking?

With only an hour or so remaining before dark, Asher and I thought we would hit one more pool before we started toward home. Plenty of other folks had been enjoying the river that day, so we'd not yet been able to sample one particular normally productive pool that had a pull-off beside it. We figured we'd finish with that one, if it was open.

As we approached from upstream, with the river and the pull-off to our left, we were happy to see that the spot was unoccupied. Two vehicles were just leaving another pull-off, a couple of hundred feet downstream and facing us. I turned on my left turn signal, stopped and waited for them to pass before we pulled into the pull-off.

To my shock, the driver of the front vehicle then turned on his right signal and both cars turned into the very spot I was waiting to turn into -- which was only footsteps from where they had just left. I felt like I was at the mall the week before Christmas, when everyone was frantic to find somewhere to park.

I resisted pulling in anyway and hopping out, just to make sure they knew they'd just cut off a 10-year-old. Instead we moved downstream a little farther and finished in a pool we'd already fished.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Trip Planning Treasures

No guides, exclusive private waters or drift boats are part of summer's Rebel Trout Trek. By intent, Asher and I are sticking with places where any father and son or group of buddies who want to drive west can park the car and step into the stream or launch a float tube. Also, while I'm certainly seeking advice from friends who have traveled out West to fish for trout or live out that way, no one is mapping out the stream stretches we need to visit. I'm learning all I can from a host of sources and continually adapting a working plan document. The general route is planned and quite a few lodging reservations are made. Now I'm filling in details and thinking more specifically about stream sections.

The internet, of course, is an astounding resource and loaded with information. Given the choice, though, I like flipping through real pages for the more specific stuff. I also like the insights found in guidebooks written by folks who have spent countless hours fishing in a particular area. For example, I know that Gary Lewis lives in the heart of Mount Hood Country and that he's as stream-bitten as I am. Having Fishing in Mount Hood Country, the book that he and Robert H. Campbell just released, in my hands is not too much different from sitting down with them and getting advice about where Asher and I should fish when we pass through their neck of the woods.

I haven't dug too deep into the books yet, but I'll be doing so soon, and I'm confident that some of what I find in those pages will me make our days more efficient and help us catch more fish!


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Catch & Keep Requirement

I've been researching fishing regulations in various places, both in preparation for the summer's Rebel Trout Trek and as part of a writing project, and one type of regulation I've found in a few places seems so odd to me. In some waters where introduced game species compete with native species or where some specific species make-up is desired by game managers, it is illegal to release the less desired species. I'd seen this with species like the northern snakehead, but it wasn't until I started looking more closely at the rules in various places that I realized there were places where you had to kill species like smallmouth bass, northern pike and walleyes (Utah's Green River), brown trout (parts of Shenandoah National Park), and brook trout and rainbow trout (part of Yellowstone National Park).

I understand the regulations' intent, and in truth using normal angling activity as a tool is probably a really good way to remove an introduced species and allow the native fish to thrive. It just seems so weird to think that if Asher and I fish the Lamar River in Yellowstone this summer, we'll have to keep any rainbow or brook trout we catch. I have to admit that I'd be cheering for all cutthroats. I'm not a huge fan of trout as food, and cooking fish wouldn't be super practical, but I sure wouldn't let anything go to waste.