Saturday, December 29, 2012

What Makes a Good Shore Fishing Buddy? Part II

In my previous post, we discussed various aspects of what makes a good fishing buddy from the perspective of a boat owner.  Many of the traits you'd look for in a fishing buddy apply in all of those situations, but what this post will cover will be those not discussed that may be important to shore anglers. I'll throw in wading as shore angling also, because there are similarities.  This is part four of a five part series, links to the fishing buddy tips are at the end of this article.
Fishing from shore often offers some great fishing.  Having a fishing buddy to share that with enhances the experience.  The following suggestions may ensure that you and your fishing buddy enjoy the experience even more.  Here, my fishing buddy, Howard Boltz, sports a chunky largemouth from a shore fishing spot that we learned together over the years.
So what specifically would I look for from a shore angler?

I think that one thing all anglers have in common is that they want to catch fish and have fun doing it.  So some of these traits will focus on helping your fishing buddy catch more fish, while others are more ethical in nature, both will earn you respect as a fishing pal.  So, let's get started.

1)  If possible, don't disturb a good fishing hole.  A quiet and stealthy approach to a fishing hole will improve the chance of fishing success for both you and your fishing partner.  If you're wading a river or stream, don't wade through it with reckless abandon.  Keep to the shore as much as possible.  Try not to stir up too much silt.  In some situations, like when fishing a gin clear brook trout stream, being stealthy could mean approaching on your hands and knees, keeping a low profile.  If you spook fish, chances are they won't hit for some time.  If your fishing buddy shows you a new spot, if you go in and spook the fish, it will most likely be the last spot that he shows you.  Wade or walk carefully and quietly to get into casting position and access the spot.  Doing so improves the odds for both of you.
Wading a river or stream is a fun way to catch fish.  Approach fishing holes in a stealthy manner and you both can catch fish like this.  Wading through a hole like a bull in a china shop will spook fish and make for a long day.  Quiet and careful wading is the key.
2)  Share the spots, and don't be a spot hog.  If you're fishing small water, try the leap frogging technique as described in my last post, but from shore or wading.  If you hit the first spot and get the first cast in, then let your fishing pal get first crack at the next spot.  Alternate every other hole.  If you know of especially good spots, work it out so your fishing buddy gets first crack at some of them.  If you are both working a good hole, and there is room to do this, alternate casting positions every now and then so that both of you get the most out of the hole and catch fish.
One of my fishing buddies, Bill May, with a fat shore caught largemouth bass.  Bill and I learned many fishing spots over the years and worked together to find and catch quality fish like this.
3)  Figure out the patterns together.  It's not a competition, unless, of course, you stage the trip that way.  If you're on fish and your fishing buddy isn't, help him out with some suggestions on what is working for you.  Maybe, if you have enough, offer to let him or her use lures that are producing.  That's probably why I carry way more fishing tackle than I actually need on my shore fishing trips, just in case my fishing buddy needs my help!
My fishing buddy Rodger Moran and I worked together to catch fish like this smallmouth bass all day long.  Figuring out a pattern together and sharing information could improve the fishing for both you and your fishing pal.
4)  Don't ruin a good hole with a snag.  If you snag an inexpensive lure, break it off so that you don't ruin the hole.  If it's an expensive lure, wait until you fishing buddy has a chance to work the hole before you wade in and get your snag, or work the water into a froth in your attempt to free your lure.

5)  Swap fishing locations.  If your fishing buddy shows you a good body of water to fish.  Reciprocate by putting your buddy on a good place to fish.  Also, keep the spots between you and your closest friends that you trust that won't put the entire world to it.  Making a secret honey hole public is a good way to ruin that hole for good, and lose a fishing buddy.  Obviously public waters or well known spots don't really apply to that last statement.
I put my friend, Mark McWilliams, on one of my shore fishing holes and put him on some nice bass.  He was kind enough to take me fishing on his boat, sharing this shore spot with him was the least that I could do.  Sharing fishing locations is what fishing buddies do.
6)  Take turns driving and/or offer gas money.  Sharing in  a good fishing experience also means sharing in  the efforts and expenses to get there.

7)  Help land big fish.  Learn how to properly net fish, and offer that skill when needed if doing so applies to the body of water and type of fish that you are fishing.  A helping hand, or net, could help your fishing buddy land the fish of a lifetime.
Being a good net man could make or break a trip.  Here, one of the best anglers and net men that I know, a fishing buddy that taught me how to properly net fish and the importance of being good at it, Jim Cumming, nets a fine steelhead for another fishing buddy of mine, Steve Kelley.  Fishing buddies working together like this make for awesome lifetime memories.
8)  Don't crowd.  If your fishing buddy is on fish in a hole, don't crowd him or her.  If your buddy offers to let you in on the action, that's fine, but still give your friend some elbow room and don't cast into your buddy's spot.  Casting into your buddy's hole without permission, or cutting your buddy's cast off by crossing over the spot are both taboo.  And, never intentionally cross over their line.  If you do that on purpose, you may wonder why your fishing partner is no longer your fishing partner.

9)  Learn together.  One of the great joys of fishing is to discover new fishing holes.  When prospecting for new holes, two people doing the research may allow you both to obtain useful information faster than one person doing the research.  This may be internet research, using Google Maps, or taking the drive to spots on non-fishing days to scope them out.  Also, figuring out how to fish new spots are also a great experiences for the both of you.
Mark Sirko (right) and I posing for a steelhead double.   Mark is one of the best anglers that I know, and put me on some of the best fishing that I've ever had in my life.  You couldn't ask for a better fishing buddy.  All of the qualities of a fishing buddy that I've written about are exemplified by his actions in the most professional manner.  I'm forever thankful.
10)  Stay in touch with each other.  It's nice to share the experience with someone and work together to fish.  Doing a disappearing act, leaving your fishing buddy behind, is not cool.  If you agree to work separately, that's a different story, don't just disappear.  Sometimes splitting up is a good tactic to developing a pattern and is a productive approach.  Just make sure that your fishing buddy knows what is going on and where to find you.  This is also a good practice for safety reasons.  Electronic aids help with this too, cell phones, radios, etc. will allow you to stay in contact with each other.  These aids may help in figuring out where the fish are if you're both working a large body or multiple bodies of water.  One last point on this, staying together also allows you to take pictures of each other fishing and of each others fish.  I wouldn't have many of these nice pictures if it wasn't for my fishing buddies.  If you spread out too much, you may not capture a great fishing memory on film.  Memories last a lifetime, but a picture of one of those memories makes that memory even more special.
My fishing Buddy Bob Barber fishing for steelhead.  Scenery shots like this wouldn't be possible without the help of a fishing buddy.  Being too far apart wouldn't allow for quality fish pictures like this one either.
These ten suggestions will help you and your fishing buddies remain that way, and improve your fishing success as well.   Working together is a great way to discover new fishing waters, fishing techniques, and new fishing patterns.  Working well together when your fishing with someone the first time may expand your overall fishing horizons and get you a new fishing buddy.  Being considerate of the person that you're fishing with will ensure that you both fish together again in the future.

Also, let's try something different.  Feel free to participate.  Please use the comment function if you have anything related to this topic to add.  Thank you in advance!

As mentioned in the first post of this series, this is a four part series.  Here are the titles to all four parts.  As each one is published, you'll be able to click on the text and take you to that document:

Part I - What Makes a Good Fishing Buddy (from a boaters perspective in general)
Part II - What Makes a Good Shore Fishing Buddy
Coming soon:
Part III - What Makes a Good Fishing Buddy (from the perspective of a non-boater)
Part IV - What Makes a Good Ice Fishing Buddy

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Check out these Shark Tooth Crafts

We could debate who the number one fan of shark toothin' at Myrtle Beach is for some time.  Obviously, it's me!  Well, then again, maybe not.  I may have found someone who loves it more than I do.  Actually, she found me.

After reading my post, "How to Find Shark Teeth at Myrtle Beach", Stephanie of South Carolina not only posted a comment to the blog, but also found a way to contact me via email about her passion for this wonderful hobby.

Stephanie agrees with my approach to helping other beachcombers or people that ask what we're looking for.  Like me, they never turn down the opportunity to share with children, showing them how to find the teeth, give them information about fossils, and even give them teeth as examples to help them find them on their own.

She shares her shark toothing passion with the love of her life of fourteen years, Joe.  She says that he is the greatest, hard working, kindest man that she knows (other than her Father), and adds that he is her best friend.  Joe prefers to dig deep into the sand, to create a hole, to get down to shell layers that aren't under the eye of your average daily beach combers in hopes of finding larger shark teeth.  Stephanie will also dig, but also prefers just walking the beach, using her eyes to browse the shell beds, along with other techniques.
Fellow shark toothing fanatics Stephanie and the love of her life, Joe, share the passion of fossiling in the beach.  Stephanie also made this frame from her beachcombing finds.  I think this is one of the coolest things that I've seen that incorporate beachcombing finds.  Nice work Stephanie!
Joe shown here digging a hole searching for shark teeth at Myrtle Beach.
Stephanie enjoyed all of the tips that I offered, but also adds one of her own.  For night collecting, Stephanie highly recommends the rechargeable Stanley SL5W09 5 Watt LED Spotlight.  I might have to invest in one myself.  Maybe I should drop a hint to my wife about this potential Christmas gift!

Together, their biggest find was a large beautiful great white shark that Joe found under a pier, after working hard and digging deep for his prize.   And, she also said that about three years ago, they found over 1,300 shark teeth at Myrtle Beach in a fifteen day span.  That is a lot of shark teeth!  Over the years, they've found all kinds of fossils including shark vertebrae, sting ray barbs, and various fossilized shells.
Stephanie and Joe's best Myrtle Beach find.  Check out this awesome great white shark tooth!
Like me, Stephanie and Joe really enjoy the Discovery Channel's Shark Week.  She feels that sharks are one of the most intriguing animals, a passion for these amazing animals that she's had most of her life that inspires her collecting and crafting hobbies.
Stephanie made this pumpkin.  Think she loves sharks or what?  Wow, that is awesome.
In addition to collecting at Myrtle Beach, they enjoy collecting shark teeth and other fossils at Edisto and Folly Beach.
Stephanie and Joe found these teeth at Myrtle Beach.
These shark teeth were found at Folly and Edisto Beaches.
I put my best finds in Riker Mounts and display them, and store the rest in various containers.  What do they do with their finds?  Stephanie enjoys making various crafts out of her shark teeth and other finds.  When she shared the pictures with me, I thought that they were amazing and just had to share them with you, with her permission, of course.  I've posted them below, and I hope that you all like them as much as I do.
Stephanie has some real talent with her beachcombing crafting skills.   Just look at this beautiful frame.
Stephanie made this shadow box to display a megalodon tooth.  Right now a great white shark occupies the space in the box until she finds a meg tooth.  Pretty cool!
Here's another beautiful frame that Stephanie created.  Nice pic of her and Joe too!
Here's a wreath that Stephanie created out of "sharks eye" shells, shark teeth, and other beach finds.  It's not finished yet, but already it's a work of art.   How appropriate for this time of year!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

What Makes a Good Fishing Buddy? Part I

Some of us prefer to fish alone, but many others prefer to fish with a fishing buddy for many reasons.  It could be for companionship and sharing of the experience, or to combine fishing experience to maximize fishing success, for reasons of safety, or perhaps some other reason.  Whatever the reason to fish with someone else, there are qualities that anglers look for in a fishing buddy.

The next five posts will explore many traits that anglers look for in a fishing buddy.  This post, part I, will discuss what boating anglers look for in the perfect fishing buddy.  Part II will expand the discussion from the perspective of musky anglers.  Part III will turn the tables, and explore this topic from the perspective of the non-boater, what they look for in a good fishing buddy that controls the boat.  Part IV will talk about what it takes to be a good shore fishing partner.  And the last Part V will be a timely topic, what it takes to be a good ice fishing buddy.

What makes a good Fishing Buddy?  
Part I, from the perspective of a boat owner.

As a boater, here are traits that I look for in a good fishing buddy.  If you do all of these, chances are you'll get invited back on my boat.  After I display my list, I'll throw a few more based on comments from fellow anglers and fishing guides.  If you don't get invited back to fish on someone's boat again, you might want to see if any of these things apply to your behavior while fishing out of someones boat, and adapt accordingly.  These are not in order of importance, because to me, they're all important.
I've fished with Howard for many years now, too many to count.  We think alike in our approach to fishing, often putting our heads together to develop a fishing pattern.  He's been a guest on my boat many times, and I've been a guest on his too.   Not only is he a close friend, he's a good fishing partner.  Are you a good fishing partner?
Be on time.  In fact, it doesn't hurt to be early.  Sometimes you can help get the boat ready.  There is nothing more annoying than having your boat ready to go and your fishing buddy is nowhere to be seen.  If you are running late, text or contact your friend, apologize, and let him know your anticipated arrival time and why you're running late.  Many of us have limited fishing time and must fish when we can, so don't waste that time.  Wasting fishing time means fewer fish caught.  If time is money, then fishing time is gold.

Offer to pay gas money and expenses.  I may or may not take the money, and to me, the offer is much more valuable to me than the cash.  That said, in this economy, every little bit helps.

Offer to help with getting the boat ready to launch, launching the boat, taking out the boat, and getting the boat ready to trailer it home.  Again, I may or may not use your help, but the offer is much appreciated.  Even a simple reminder before launching the boat into the water questioning if the drain plug is in, or if the trailer lights are disconnected, really helps.  If you are an experienced boater, I probably will use your help.  If not, more than likely as my guest I'll handle everything.  Still, I appreciate the offer.

Don't leave me hanging.  When planning a trip, I often make tentative plans with full intention of going through with them, but working out the final trip details as the trip nears.  When it’s time to finalize plans, don’t leave me hanging by not answering the phone, emails or texts. Call and firm up plans, and don’t leave me talking to an answering machine all night. If you can’t go, let me know as soon as possible so I can plan to go myself or give someone else a chance to go. I have plenty of fishing buddies that appreciate the opportunity to fish with me out of my boat.  I understand that things happen, but give me the chance to plan accordingly if you can't make it.

Be willing to break off a snag on a cheap lure at a good spot.  If you snag a plastic worm and it's a hot spot, break it off rather than spooking the fish in a hot hole.  Plastic worms are cheap and easy to come by, big fish are not.

Don’t leave your trash in my boat.  Either keep it clean while on the water, clean up your mess after pulling the boat out at the ramp, or clean up after arriving "home" from your trip.

Watch your back cast. I don’t like lures stuck in the back of my head or neck.  I recently fished with Bob Franko of Blackjack Guide Service and his only rule when fishing out of his boat was to not hook him.  Hook the fish, not your buddy.  Nobody likes to deal with that kind of pain on a fishing trip.

Protect my fishing spots.  If I take you to a hot fishing spot, please don't run out and share it with everyone you know or post it on the internet.  If the spot is a publicly well known spot, it's no big deal.  But if I found a good spot that is relatively unknown, I'd rather you not share it with anyone but me.  If you'd like to take someone else, ask me first how I feel about it.  I may or may not approve.  Do I own the water?  Absolutely not.  But I do own my boat and the back seat is loaned to who I choose.  If it's you, it would be wise to honor my wishes.

Share a fishing spot.  If someone takes you on their boat and shows you a new hot fishing hole. Return the favor some day and show them a hot fishing spot.  Sharing spots and information is what fishing buddies do.  It's what friends do.  Trading trips is also another form of this.  Sometimes it's nice to be able to fish and not worry about boat control.
My good friend Steve Kelley with a nice fat Maryland striper was kind enough to invite me fishing out of his new boat this year.  As a fishing partner, I do what the Captain asks me to do.  In return, I receive future invitations.
Listening to Captain Kelley paid off in a future invitation, resulting in one of the biggest largemouth bass of the year!  You can bet Captain Steve will find room on my boat to fish with me some day.  Trading trips is a good way to keep fishing buddies.
Don’t fall asleep on the way home.  This is especially true on a long ride home.  If you feel that you must sleep, ask me first if I’m OK to drive.  I may be tired too and need help to stay awake.  Offering to drive is also a nice thing to do.  The vast majority of the time I'm OK to drive, so more than likely I'd be fine with you taking a cat nap.

Be appreciative and don't take your trip for granted.  Say thank you.  Kind gestures, like offering to pay for dinner, to offer some lunch or food while on board, to offer free tackle, often are well received.  I may or may not accept the offer, but you can bet anything like that makes me feel appreciated.
Bob Barber with his number one fishing buddy, his eight year old Son Carson.  Carson is learning quick about how to be a good fishing buddy.  His Dad is a good teacher.
Be a good friend away from the water too.  I hate being used.  There's more to life than fishing, and being a friend is being there when I need you both on and off the water.  Likewise, as a friend, I'll be there for you.

Most of these things are common sense, about being courteous, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t understand this stuff. Also, everyone makes mistakes now and then. I understand that. It's the guys that make the same mistakes over and over that don't get invited back for another trip.

When I take someone that is new to fishing and boating, I'm a much more tolerant person than many people.  I'm very patient and I will speak my mind to educate you. But I expect you to remember what I've taught you and not make the same mistakes over and over.  If every trip results in me losing fishing time to baby sit you, then I'm wasting my fishing time and you won't be invited back.  Fishing time is like gold, remember?

Mike Schiffbauer, an experienced river angler, can't stand people dropping stuff in the boat and making a lot of noise.  He says that it drives him nuts, and I don't blame him.  I also prefer a stealthy approach.  As a boater, you are doing your best to put the boat in a position for both of you to catch fish.  The last thing that either of you need is to get there only to unnecessarily spook fish because of thoughtless behavior.

Rocky Droneburg, another excellent angler for all species, agreed with many of the things shared above, but added, "I hate being told how to run my boat."  He basically said, if you're catching bass from the back deck, don't sit there and complain that the trolling motor setting is to high.
Rocky Droneburg fishing with his buddy, Anthony Ashby.  These guys are on the same page when they hit the water, and team up to put big fish in the boat.
Almost everyone that I interviewed on this topic agreed that a new fishing partner must be personable, engage in lighthearted conversation, and keep things loose.  Nobody likes tension on a fishing trip.  Most of us are out for fun, so keep it fun.

Another fishing fanatic, Ed Lewandoski, shared his thoughts about this, and they really hit home with me.  "One nice thing at the end of the first time out with someone is if or when they invite you back.  That at least tells you something."

"On the other hand, when someone does complain or ends up being human in some other way, it's good of the boat partner to be understanding. We all might do something wrong, like maybe not a perfect net job, or accidentally dropping something in the boat, or overboard!"

That brings up a good point.  If you break something or lose something, offer to replace or pay for what you broke or lost.  Another professional angler related a story to me how one of his guests stepped on and broke one of his brand new St. Croix fishing rods.  Then, rather than offer to make restitution, he laughed because he felt that all his equipment was sent to him free of charge.  That wasn't the case at all.  If that was me, I'd be sick to my stomach about it and that angler would not be invited back.

I'd like to add to that by saying that forgiveness is a good thing.  If you're a close friend of mine, I can overlook a few of these things as long as I know that next time, you'll be more considerate and not make the same mistake again.  We're all human, we all make mistakes, and we all have the ability to forgive too.
Mark McWilliams took me out on his boat a couple years ago.  That trip snapped me out of a non-fishing funk (I know! Can you believe that?)  I'll never forget that.  I owe him a few trips from my new boat and will put him on some fish for sure.  Here he sports a nice fat bass caught  last spring.  
In summary, if you take the above advice, chances are that if you're invited to fish out of someone else's boat, you'll be invited again and again.

Also, let's try something different.  Feel free to participate.  Please use the comment function if you have anything related to this topic to add.  Thank you in advance!

As mentioned earlier in this post, this is a four part series.  Here are the titles to all four parts.  As each one is published, you'll be able to click on the text and take you to that document for easy reference:

Part I - What Makes a Good Fishing Buddy (from a boaters perspective in general)
Part II - What Makes a Good Shore Fishing Buddy 
Part III - What Makes a Good Fishing Buddy (from the perspective of a non-boater)
Part IV - What Makes a Good Ice Fishing Buddy (coming soon)

Bob Franko guides on the North and West Branches of the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania.  If you're interested in booking a trip, his website is Blackjack Guide Service.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

It's a Small World to Fish In, Isn't It?

Last week I put my boat into the Upper Tidal Potomac and took my buddy to a spot that has been producing for me.  Now, I could give you a fishing report, but really something more interesting to me happened, although the fishing was also pretty doggone good.  We ran into Gene Mueller’s long time buddies, Andy Andrzejewski and Marty Magone as they were also targeting any fish that was willing to bite that day.
Pictured are Gene Mueller's buddies,  Andy Andrzejewski (left) and Marty Magone that we met for the first time on the water.
I had never met either of them before, but because of Gene’s blog titled, “Gene Mueller’s World of Fishing & Hunting”, I felt as if I’ve known them for some time.  That said, when I recognized them, I was a bit apprehensive about introducing myself at first.  But, being the fishing social butterfly that I am, I blurted out a less than subtle, “Are you Andy?”

Andy’s reply was, “Yeah”.  The tone sort of sounded kind of like a, "what about it?", or  "who the hell are you?", or "what’s it to ya?" type of thing.  For the record, he didn’t say any of those things, and he probably wasn’t thinking any of them either.  That was my own insecure alter ego speaking to me.  But he asked if the reason that I knew of him was because of Gene’s blog.  I replied, “Yes, and also because I’m a fellow outdoors blogger and internet friend of Gene's… Fat Boy’s Outdoors?”

I was hoping that would break the ice, and that they’d recognize my blog name since Gene graciously added my link to his site, and often points folks to my blog.  But it dawned on me that maybe they didn’t know of it, or if they did, what if they didn’t like it?  I think that if that was true, then I’d have fired up the motor and scooted on outta there faster than leaving the house on a fishing trip with chores to be done!

Fortunately, after a pause, Andy blurted out, “Oh yeah!  I’ve heard of you and your blog!”  And Marty added something to the effect of, “ Funny, you’re not as fat as I thought you’d be!”  (although that wasn’t exactly what he said, it was the gist of it).

All I could do is laugh at that point.  The ice was broken, and all of a sudden, it was obvious that I wasn’t a fishing threat to them.  You know, the kind of threat like, why the heck are you moving in on my honey hole?  Still, we kept our distance so as to not disturb their fishing and give them appropriate elbow room, fishing the outskirts of the hole.

Andy then opened up and told us that the crappie bite up to that point hadn’t been all that hot, but they had boated over a dozen bass already.  But it didn’t take long for both Andy and Marty to start nailing the slab crappie, one after another.  Meanwhile, Rodger and I were getting a few hits and misses every now and then, and finally started catching a few.

Rodger had never fished there before, and in fact, had never fished for crappie before.  He may have been getting bites and not recognizing them.  We were jigging for them, and the bites were subtle.  Just a twitch of your line could be a fish, and you may or may not feel the tap of the bite.  Sometimes, you saw or felt nothing other than perhaps a little weight at the end of your line, like a spongy feeling like when you have a large leaf stuck to your lure.  I told Rodg to set the hook on anything.  He still struggled.

Finally, I pulled out the secret weapon…Smelly Jelly.  I smeared his lure with it and the very next cast he caught his first slab crappie.  Then, it was one after another.
Smelly Jelly was the ticket to get Rodger into slab crappie like this one.  Later, the Kalin's grub pictured above took one crappie after another all day long.
Andy wanted to get a picture of each of us holding one, but the problem was that we weren’t getting doubles.  He said to put one in the livewell, but my boat doesn’t have a live well, so we had to hope for a double.  Eventually, we gave up on that because, even when we caught doubles, one of the fish wouldn’t be large enough for a good photo.

We chatted about various things, from fishing, about Gene, about boats, about musky fishing.  In fact, my mouth ran so much that maybe I was distracting their fishing!  But, it was fun and cool for me, adding to my good time.

But Rodger and I wanted to improve our bite, so we moved to another area of the hole out of view of those guys.  We immediately got into some good fish, and some good sized ones.  I found out that the crappie were a bit finickier than the last time we were out, preferring a down sized lure.  The Kalin’s two inch Triple Threat Grub in the lemon meringue color was the ticket.  I was dropping it over the side of the boat and they were nailing it.  Later, using it under a float caught crappie every cast.  Rodger was catching them also using a three inch Bass Pro Shops Tripple Ripple Grub in the pumpkin/chartreuse color.
Rodger showing off a slab crappie that fell for a Bass Pro Shops Tripple Ripple Grub smeared with Smelly Jelly.
Andy and Marty moved over to us and mentioned that they were heading out to try some other spots in search of bigger bass.  Before leaving they tried again to get some better pictures, but we couldn’t seem to produce a double with two quality crappie.  By quality, the smaller ones that we were catching were a mere twelve inches long, big by most standards in lakes in our area, but not ones fit for this fishing hole.

While we fished and talked, they took a lunch break before leaving.  Marty pulled out one of his famous egg splatter sandwiches and asked if I had heard of them.  I told him that I’ve read it about it in Gene’s blog many times, but this had been the first time I had seen one.  It was a Dagwood sandwich if I had ever seen one.  It looks like you almost need a tire jack to open your jaw wide enough to take that first bite!  Andy also noted that Gene makes a mighty three meat sandwich too.  They asked what we had to eat.  I, in an embarrassing tone, replied, “Seven Eleven hot dogs with no bun”.

Andy replied, “Cold Seven Eleven hot dogs???”  I know, it doesn’t sound very appetizing.  And once again, I’m doing the low carb thing, trying to get my weight down.  I explained to them it was so I could keep the boat on a plane in the upper river and allow me to tote along more tackle.  Andy said that I might have to change my blog name to Skinny Boy’s Outdoors if I lost as much weight as I wanted to!

After chatting/fishing a little while longer, those guys left to find that lunker.  Wouldn’t you know it?  Right after leaving we started picking up doubles of lunker sized crappie?  That’s how it goes sometimes.
After those guys left, we nailed crappie like this all day long!
After they left, the fishing improved as the tide changed, as it always seems to do on tidal water.  Slack tide is always tougher fishing, but when the water moves, so does the bait, and so do the predators.  Find ambush points on the edges of the current and you’ll find the predators.  It’s not different in the late fall or winter, except the deeper holes tend to concentrate the fish a little bit.  As Gene noted in his blog post, Rodger and I caught a lot of crappie and bass.  The slabs had shoulders, and even a few of the bass were decent sized.  My biggest largemouth bass was a respectable 18 ½ inches long.
I did catch a bunch of bass that day, with this one being the biggest at 18 1/2 inches long.  Most were on the small side, but I'd say that about a dozen and a half of them were "keeper" sized.
I really had a great time fishing with my buddy Rodger that day, and meeting Andy and Marty made it even better.   They both have a great sense of humor, and it’s always a special treat to talk fishing with people that have that vast fishing knowledge that they do.  I can certainly see why Gene enjoys fishing with those two good friends of his.

If you ever want to read more about them along with Gene’s fishing adventures, make sure that you visit Gene Mueller’s blog, “Gene Mueller’s World of Fishing & Hunting”.  Not only will you enjoy the many fishing and hunting stories that he shares with his readers, you’ll also learn a thing or two.  Throughout his posts are some great fishing tips that I’m sure would apply to many parts of the country, not just our corner of the world.
Gene Mueller with a slab Tidal Potomac crappie caught on a bobber and jig.   Gene provides some great fishing tips on his website, "Gene Mueller's World of Fishing & Hunting".
You can also read an interesting interview that I had with Gene a while back on this blog on a post titled, "Interview with Gene Mueller, Outdoor Writer Celebrity".

And finally, after meeting Andy, a licensed fishing guide that works the Upper Tidal Potomac River, I’m convinced that anyone hiring him would have a great time with him and also catch a boat load of fish.  You can book a trip by calling (301) 932-1509.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Joy of Crappie Fishing

My Zebco spincast reel was not in very good shape.  The line was old and full of memory.  Turning the reel handle was a chore, and casting was even worse.  Our tackle selection was pitiful, with a handful of rusty spoons and spinners, a few split shot, and some snelled Eagle Claw hooks.  The hooks were about the only items in my rusty tackle box that were in any decent shape at all.  At least they were sharp.

After tying a hook on to my fishing line, my Dad threaded an angleworm on my hook. He spent an hour looking for them in our back yard before we left for our fishing adventure.  I didn't have a bobber in my box, so my Dad improvised by tying a thick piece of a stick on my line to use as a float.  We were ready to fish.

Since my rod and reel combo wouldn't cast but a few feet, my Dad peeled off about thirty feet of line, and swung the stick, bait and hook in a circular motion, like David winding up a sling to defeat Goliath.  With a skilled release, my Dad launched the stick and bait out into the lake.  My stick bobber and worm splashed down just far enough to reach the drop off to deeper water about twenty feet away.

My Dad reeled up the coiled slack line as much as possible and handed the rod back to me.  It didn't take long for my stick to twitch and slowly submerge.  My Dad yelled, "Kevin, give the rod a big yank", to set the hook, of course.  I listened to his advice and set the hook into a fish.  After a short fight, I landed my first largemouth bass at the young age of eight years old.

My Dad wasn't much of an outdoorsman, not caring for hunting and fishing at all, preferring golf and bowling as his hobbies.  But one thing that I'll never forget was him taking the time to take me fishing, not only that day, but many other days.  And for him, that was a labor of love.  We didn't know what we were doing and lacked good fishing tackle.  But, he fished the only way that he knew how, as he did as a youngster from a family with very little money in rural Colorado fishing for trout and bluegills.

After catching that twelve inch bass, it took the rest of the year for that smile to wear off my face.  My Dad was my hero.

So when I took my good friend Bob and his Son, Carson, to a tidal river crappie honey hole last weekend, the thought of helping to put a smile on Carson's face brought back that memory of my Dad.
Bob and Carson fishing out of their Riverpro LoPro inboard jet boat.  Bob's equipment, boat and tackle and lures are much more advanced than anything my Dad had, but both he and my Dad were successful in the same way, putting a smile on their son's face and memories that would last a lifetime.
When the crappie bite is on, there aren't many kinds of fishing that can be as fun as landing a mess of fat slab crappie.  And this day would live up to our hopes because the bite was on.  At first, we tossed jigs rigged with Mann's Stingray Grubs, dabbed with a bit of Smelly Jelly, as crappie hit them on the fall.  And, if that didn't work, they'd hit a slowly hopped jig right off the bottom worked back to the boat.
Slab crappie like these fell for the Mann's Stingray Grub teamed with a 1/8 ounce jighead, smeared with Smelly Jelly fish attractant, a pattern and tip provided by Gene Mueller.  Click here to check out Gene's website: "Gene Mueller's World of Fishing & Hunting".
When that bite slowed, Bob figured out that a jig with more of an action tail might pick up more of the suspended crappie, and his hunch proved correct.  Swimming a curly tail Bass Pro Shops Tripple Ripple Grub with a slow straight retrieve provoked one strike after another.  Bob had the hot hand, landing well over 120 crappie that day, and Carson wasn't far behind in his numbers.
Carson, with Dad looking on, posing with a monster crappie that fell for a Tripple Ripple Grub.  The smile on Carson's face says it all...The joy of crappie fishing with Dad.
I don't know what occurred more, comments like, "Got another one" and "Look how fat this slab is," or the giddy giggles of an eight year old child fishing prodigy, or similar child like giggles from his Dad, as they boated one slab papermouth after another.  I'm convinced that God put crappie on this earth for the sole purpose of bonding with your boy.
I'm sure that God, in his master plan, gave us crappie with the sole purpose of making father/son memories like these.
I personally have had countless good crappie fishing days over the years.  It's so fun that even experienced adult anglers often act like giddy kids when the bite is on.  This day was no different.  But Bob hadn't had much experience with crappie in the past.  He had been intrigued by them and, after reading my last crappie blog post (Fall Slab Crappie), had asked me to put him and his boy on some crappie.  After two hours, Bob had already caught more crappie than he had his entire life.  So, who had the most fun, the Son or the Dad?
After catching crappie after crappie all day long, it was harder to tell who had the most fun, Carson or his Daddy!
Not only did they have fun, but so did I.  I caught a mess of fish too including a bunch of crappie and eighteen largemouth bass (although they could have been bigger), which is fun enough.  But even more fun was seeing my friend and his boy with smiles so large and often that they might stick on their face for some time.  I really enjoyed that.  Like my Dad was to me, Bob is Carson's hero.
Just look at the smile on this boys face, and you can see the positive effect that slab crappie fishing can have on a youngster.  And that's a fine crappie for anyone to catch, much less an eight your old boy.
So really, for a fall fishing trip, if you want to make someone happy, take them out for some slab crappie.  And if you have a child that might have the slightest interest in fishing, be a hero like my Dad or Bob is to Carson, and take your kid crappie fishing.  You might wind up with just as big a smile on your face when all is said and done.  Ahhhh...The joy of crappie fishing!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Fall Slab Crappie

It was the day after Thanksgiving.  The air temperatures hovered at just above freezing with the afternoon forecast to hit nearly sixty degrees, and the water temperatures were in the upper to mid forties.  My buddy Howard and I decided to launch my boat and head out for some mixed bag tidal river freshwater fishing in search of bass and crappie, and anything else that wanted to bite.

I could barely zip up my personal flotation device (PFD) because belly remained stuffed from my Thanksgiving turkey the night before.  In fact, I was wearing my backup PFD, because Howard was complaining about the same thing, and my PFD was the only one that would fit him.  He said it was because he had so many clothes on...Hmmmm.  Yeah, right...  Finally he admitted it was also due in part to massive eating syndrome the night before.

The moon was full, and a Southwest wind backed the tidal waters up to create an unusually high tide.  A wet dock greeted us at the launch, making it a little too slippery for my liking, so care had to be taken when boarding the boat. On our run to our fishing hole, logs, leaves and debris littered the river making navigation difficult, even clogging my jet drive outboard half way to our destination, leaving my hand soaked and freezing cold for the remainder of the trip.  But it was worth it.

We reached our destination, a spot along the river where the river depths chanced from about five feet to a deep hole that was about twenty feet deep.  When the tides change, currents can be strong, so we also had to find an area that was somewhat sheltered from the strong tidal currents, where predators could wait in ambush of baitfish.  I started out in search of largemouth bass using a four inch finesse plastic worm.  It didn't take long for that first bite.

I was stoked to get bit so early, and really looked forward to a nice battle with a tidal bass.  I set the hook and had a decent fight, but it wasn't a big bass.  As it turned out, it was a fat slab crappie.  This fish had shoulders too, a saying that anglers often say when they refer to a muscular healthy fish.
I was after largemouth bass, but when crappie like these inhale your bass baits in an area that could have them bunched up, you could have a heck of a fun fishing day.  We had a crappie day after all!
Meanwhile, my buddy Howard listened to the advice of a friend of ours, Gene Mueller, to try a lure that, quite frankly, doesn't look like much.  Please visit his outdoor blog for some fine articles on fishing, hunting and other outdoor news at Gene Mueller's World of Fishing and Hunting.  Howard tied on a three inch Mann's Stingray Grub in the avocado color rigged on a one eight ounce jighead, and, per Gene's advice, smothered it in Smelly Jelly.  I kept after the bass, but Howard started slaying the crappie, one after another.
Gene's Stingray Grub/Smelly Jelly combo recommendation paid off time and again, yielding slab crappie like these all day long.  You can't ask for a more fun fishing day catching good numbers of fish like this.
With this lure, you really don't know what you're going to catch next.  These deep tidal holes attract predatory fish of all kinds.  While thumping the slabs, Howard tied into a decent fat but not especially large bass.  But that bass was spunky, peeling drag off his spinning reel before finally being landed.  Not an hour into our trip, we knew we'd had fun, and found a spot that gave up one fish after another.  
Howard with a chunky two pounder, a bass that inhaled his Stingray Grub.
I hadn't tied the Stingray on yet, and was itching to do so, but the action was hot, so I went with what I had, a small two inch chartreuse grub tied onto my panfish rod.  While he was catching slab crappie and bass, I was catching smaller crappie and bluegills on that set up.
While Howard was catching big fish on his Stingray Grub, I was getting bluegills and smaller crappie on my panfish set up.  It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that I needed to change tactics.
The truth is, while spending the hour drive down to the ramp from my house, I talked up the Stingray Grub and couldn't wait to tie one on.  Howard must have been plotting to beat me to the punch.  He knows my habits, my lazy habits, of starting out with the lures that I had tied on from my previous trip.

So, after falling behind in the bigger fish numbers, I made the change, tying on a Stingray Grub.  After a cast or two,  the crappie let me know how they wanted it.  I'd let it sink, and they'd either hit it on the fall, and if that didn't work, I'd slowly drag it across the bottom with an occasional slight jigging action.

Gene says that the Stingray Grub is a special bait in our tidal waters because it's a good imitation of local forage, a bull minnow.  Actually, these minnows live in many of the Mid-Atlantic tidal rivers, so this pattern should hold for just about any of those waters.
Howard shows off a fourteen inch slab crappie that fell victim to a Mann's Stingray Grub.
For several hours, the action seemed non-stop.  We caught one crappie after another, and then, when the tide became slack the bite slowed.  It didn't stop, but we had to work harder for them.  We still picked up the occasional fish.  I took some time to go back to my plastic worm, and proceeded to catch a mixed bag of smaller largemouth bass and crappie.  I was after the bass, but the bigger crappie seemed to like the bigger bait too.  I wasn't all that dissapointed!
I moved back into largemouth fishing, tossing a finesse plastic worm.  I managed to catch some small bass, but slabs like this didn't mind engulfing my offering.  Howard, meanwhile, stuck to Stingray fishing.
At the end of the day, we finished with so many crappie boated that we lost count.  We had many many doubles (both of us landing fish at the same time).  I managed to catch four species of fish, bluegill sunfish, black crappie, largemouth bass, and even a yellow perch.  Just about anything will bite that Stingray Grub, and when fishing tidal water wintering holes, you really never know what's on the end of your line when you set the hook.  But who cares, right?  Catching fish and having fun is what it's all about.
This yellow perch rounded out the mixed bag of fish, four different species boated.
So if you want to catch fish this winter, visit Gene's blog and read the many posts on this subject, take his advice, and you'll catch plenty of fish.  Better yet, if you can do it, take his advice and hire a guide to show you how to do it.  His buddy, Andy Andrzejewski, a licensed guide on the Upper Tidal Potomac River, would be a great choice.  You can reach him to book an outing at (301) 932-1509.

So, while others are out there hunting, it's a great time to get out on the water and catch lot's of fish.  Dress warmly in layers to stay comfortable and enjoy the late fall and winter bounty that your tidal waters offer, including big slab crappie like the ones that we caught yesterday.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Dream Bowhunt

Do I have all of my tackle packed in my boat?  I wondered what I had forgotten.  Last time out, I forgot my polarized sunglasses that would have helped spot sunken timber where we knew bass where waiting in ambush of unsuspecting shad.  Hey, there's my laptop on the boat deck displaying a spreadsheet that I had been working on the other day.



My body lurched upright as my instincts prevented me from falling over.  I nearly dropped my bow and almost snorted out loud.

I climbed into my Lone Wolf climbing treestand an hour earlier, pulled up my bow and set up for my hunt about twenty five feet up in the tree, but it was still too dark to legally shoot.  I must have dozed off.  That's never happened to me for this long before.  Usually I only doze for a matter of seconds or less than a minute at most.  I guess that's inevitable after staying up most of the night preparing for this hunt.
I wasn't in my boat after all!  I awoke to a bright forest in fall colors.  What a beautiful morning.
Whew, I'm glad that my safety harness was secured to the tree.  I always climb with it, and wear it.  In fact, I would feel naked hunting from a treestand without it.  The woods was quiet.  I know that if a deer had approached during that time, I would have heard it coming.  With a thick layer of fallen leaves displaying brown, red and yellow hues blanketing the forest floor, there would be no way even the smallest mammal could move across it without me hearing it.  Fresh Doritos would have been quieter to walk on.

Not much was moving, even now.  I hadn't seen nor heard even a squirrel.  It was seven thirty in the morning.  But, I was optimistic.  Yet, my mind wandered as I tried to stay alert for any movement in the distance.

I visualized my last fishing trip, where big largemouth bass and big chain pickerel pounced on my crankbaits. I can't get those images out of my head.  As if the experience the other day, having one of my best bass fishing days of the year, wasn't enough, the anticipation of my next trip the day after tomorrow to the same lake is an overwhelming distraction to the task at hand today.  Will I have another banner day of fishing?

"Snap out of it, Kevin!!!!", I thought as I tried to focus on the gaps between the trees in the distance. I scanned for movement, for anything white, for horizontal shapes that might be the backs of standing whitetails.  I need to pay attention.

It's late November, and in my neck of the woods (no pun intended...well, OK, maybe), the whitetail deer are well into the rut.  A couple weeks ago, bucks everywhere were competing for the attention of does in heat.  They chased each other.  They chased the does.  They chased the does from each other.  Live was hectic in whitetail world.

Now things have settled a bit.  The bucks are spending more and more time just hanging out with the loves of their life.  By now, the smaller bucks are hanging around for sloppy seconds.  Most of the young bucks know better now than to mess with the dominant buck in their territory.  They've lost battles, yet their hormones compel them to keep up the chase that they might sneak one opportunity in to mate.
In my younger days, this buck followed a doe to my tree stand grunting all the way.  It was his last mistake.  It was early December.  Certainly that could happen today.
It's still a great time to be in the woods.  I'm bowhunting today, only a few days away from the opening day of our gun season.  Maybe I'll get lucky like I've done before and kill a nice buck before the gunners have a shot at them.  There's still a great chance that the dominant buck will chase the younger ones off.  And, at the least, I might still have a chance at a decent buck trying to invade the dominant ones action.

I daydreamed about the day my brother, Kyle, shot a nice buck with his bow during late November on public land not far from my home.  I helped him drag it out of the woods.  I'll never forget the phone call from him asking for my help.  At first, it was like, "What the heck does he want now?".  All I heard at first was "Blah blah blah, blah blah blah", like the television cartoon, Peanuts, were the adults had that muffled sound.  But then I hear, "Kevin, I got a deer, a big buck!"  I jumped up, dressed, and met him at his truck as fast as you could read the last paragraph!
My brother Kyle shot this nice buck with his bow during late November.  I daydreamed about the experience afterwards, how much joy he had, how much joy I had being part of that evening.
Kyle was elated.  And who wouldn't be with a big bodied big rack buck like that?  I was elated!  Kyle was a heck of a bowhunter, killing many big bucks over the years with his bow, all on public land.  I learned a lot from him, how to do things right, to pay attention to detail.  To not stink and make sure to be scent free.  To practice and be a good shot.  You can read about Kyle, who passed away in 2007, in a tribute that I wrote not long after I began this blog.  Here's the link in case you missed it:  Tribute to My Brother Kyle

Again, my body lurched as I snapped out of my daydream.  I suddenly heard the cracking sound of a stick breaking behind me.  That sound in the woods can be good or bad.  It's either a hunter, a dog, or a deer.  I hope it's a deer.

Normally, I try and stand to get a shot long before the deer near my stand.  My form is better standing, and the trick is to see the deer first, and get into shooting position before they have a chance to see you.  I slowly stood up and looked over my shoulder.

Immediately a small button buck looks right up at me.  Holy cow, the deer were much closer than I thought! I froze praying that they'd ignore me.  The sun was at my back, maybe they didn't see me.  Obviously my movement, from standing, got his attention.  Miraculously, the little button buck thought I wasn't a threat and went back to feeding mode.  Right behind him was Mom, and two more does.

They all walked into my shooting lane.  At one point, not at the same time, each of them paused long enough broadside at ten, fifteen, and twenty yards for me to put them down.  I passed on the shot, wondering if I'd made a mistake since I have yet to put any venison in the freezer.  What little I had left went bad after losing power from hurricane Sandy.
I passed on the does hoping for a beast like this one.
Out of the corner of my left eye, over my left shoulder, I caught some more movement.  Two deer approached, not thirty yards behind the first four.  First, a doe followed by another button buck.  The doe moved into my shooting lane giving me another easy broadside shot.  Then, she turned and looked right up at me.

What?  I was scent free, I know it.  I was meticulous in my preparation, from my clothes, my shower, spraying down my equipment.  And, the wind was blowing in my favor. There's no way she winded me.  She's had experience with hunters in treestands before.  She recognized my silhouette.

She stomped several times, moved, then stomped some more trying to get me to move.  I stood as still as the oak I was sitting in.  She bobbed and weaved her head like a boxer ducking punches in defense, trying to get a better look at me.  She lifted her nose in the air, trying to smell me, as she marched around my tree.  Meanwhile, her son, presumably, fed unaware and unfettered by my presence.

The large doe all of a sudden lost interest in me and began feeding.

Whew!  I thought I had blown it.  Now I'm in a good situation.  All I need for them to do is to move far enough away without leaving the area entirely and bed down.  But they all lingered, feeding, and moving away ever so slowly.  I had within a forty yard shot at almost any of them for about a half hour.

I stood motionless for almost the entire time.  My arms and legs were cramping, but I knew if I moved, it would be all over.  I nearly prayed that they'd move off.  Finally, they did.  I saw them bed down about sixty yards away.

This was great!  Now I have the best bait there is for a big buck, a bunch of does!  All of a sudden, a small yearling comes hightailing it through the woods from whence the others came.  Not seconds later, it ran by at top speed right back where it came from behind a thicket behind me.  I heard it crashing through the woods. Not seconds later, here she came again, bounding full speed right through my shooting lane and toward the bedded does where she stopped, and bed down.

I quietly laughed inside.  I was wide awake now.  No more daydreaming or nodding off.  No more thoughts of fishing.  I was focused.  I was ready for the big buck to walk through at any moment.
While hunting in Ohio, this buck came walking in grunting, looking for a doe.  I put him down with my muzzleloader.  Would I have a chance today at a buck like this one?
Well, I stayed ready for two hours.  The does and button bucks that were bedded sixty yards away all stood up, as if their alarm clock went off, and walked away from me.  It was eleven in the morning, and I had to be home by one in the afternoon for a doctor's appointment.  I climbed down, and the big buck never showed.  Again, I wondered if I made a mistake by not putting a deer down for my freezer.

There will be other days, but not many more chances at a big buck.  I did the right thing.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Experience+Luck=Good Fall Bassin'

My wife loves those crisp cool sunny fall days, but bass anglers either love 'em or hate 'em.  Why? Bass anglers love those days when the feeding bell seems to ring all day long as bass binge on any active bait that they can find, or hate those same kind of fall weather days where cold front bluebird skies can cause bass to hunker down and not bite, appearing to have lock jaw.
Windy sunny days with bluebird skies can be hot or tough, who knows why or when.  Either way, they make for beautiful scenic photographs.
Yesterday, my buddy Howard and I hit one of our favorite small lakes in search of a mixed bag of bass, chain pickerel and crappie.  My buddy Bob, who I purchased my boat from, wanted to tag along with his boat, and bring a special guest, his eight year old Son, Carson.  Howard and I have a history of hitting lakes like this in the fall, and every year we seem to learn something new.
Bob and Carson fishing out of Bob's new dream boat, the Riverpro LoPro.
Experience... One of the elements in my equation titling this post.  Last year we hit this spot and had a really tough day most of the day.  We had an early morning start and by noon, not even a bite, fishing for bass or pickerel.  We hit all of the woody and weedy cover and nothing.

Not two weeks earlier did we have a banner day, all day, boating many chainsides and chunky bass that were hammering our chatterbaits and soft plastics.  The upper end of the lake that week was loaded with predators, and massive schools of bait to keep predatory fish happy.  Golden shiners and schools of shad were on the upper lake menu that day.
Last year, prior to the cool down, we caught bass like this and chain pickerel all day long on woody and weedy cover.  They were chasing baitfish in the upper end of the lake.
So where were the predators?  Where they just suffering from lockjaw due to the weather and cold temperatures?  Or did they move?  Not only did we not catch anything in the upper end of the lake or on any of the cover, but we didn't see any baitfish either.

It was so tough we resorted to fishing for crappie and bluegills.  Not that panfishing is bad.  Not at all, they can save a trip and turn a bad day into a good one.  In fact, when the crappie bite is on, fishing days are far from crappy.  They can be as fun as any fishing day of the year.  But, we were spoiled.  Chunky bass and big toothy pickerel were still on our minds.

On that day last November, we had Northeast winds blowing down the lake all day.  The forecast called for wind speeds in the five to ten miles per hour range, but they turned out to be more like ten to twenty.  It made for tough fishing and tough boat control.

While we were drifting from one crappie spot to the next, we remarked how the wind was piling up on the Southern shore.  Of course, warmer temps would be there, it was the deepest part of the lake, and that might be where the bait went.  So, we opted to try for predators once again.

My mind couldn't shake the sight of bass and chain pickerel chasing baitfish two weeks earlier, so I opted to tie on a gold half ounce Rat-L-Trap to imitate the golden shiners that are prevalent in this lake.  Neither Howard nor I had ever fished rattling lipless crankbaits in this lake.  Normally, these lures are hot during the spring, so it wouldn't previously have been my top choice in the fall.  But they do cover water quickly, and do resemble the forage for this lake.

My first cast toward the deep end resulted in too deep of a retrieve and hooks full of snot grass (bottom scum like algae). So, I tried another cast keeping my rod tip up and cranking medium speed, and wham, nice fish on.  After a nice fight, I landed a chunky four and a half pound bass (weighed four pounds seven ounces and went twenty inches long).
Matching the hatch, a gold Rat-L-Trap imitating a golden shiner, proved the ticket to land this fat bass, combined with finding the right location.
The pattern held all afternoon after that.  The rattling lipless crankbait boated several nice fat bass in the three pound range the rest of the day.  In addition, we landed some large chain pickerel in the same area.  As evening approached, we fished the crankbaits on the way back to the ramp around wood, like you might do with a chatterbait or spinnerbait, and that too produced some fine bass and pickerel.

Matching the hatch along with figuring out where the predatory fish liked to be this time of year were keys to our success.  The Northeast winds piled up warm water along the deeper section of the lake.  The baitfish were there, and so where the predators.  As the temperatures warmed during the day, some of the bass and pickerel moved into the cover that seemed devoid of life just hours earlier.
We actually accidentally snagged some of these baitfish yesterday with our crankbaits.  At first, I kept thinking that fish were bumping my lure, or perhaps I was ticking the tops of weeds or cover.  Well, I finally snagged one, and it turned out to be this little critter, a gizzard shad.  Bob and Howard also hooked a couple of them.  When you find these, predatory fish are close by.
So yesterday, we all made it to the ramp.  Temperatures were below freezing, with ice on the dock next to the ramp, and frost covering all of the cut soy bean and corn fields everywhere on the ride to the lake.  The surface water temperature was a chilly 44.3 degrees according to my depthfinder.

After an hour of trying the lily pads and woody cover with just a couple bites and no fish landed, we pondered crappie fishing again.  But wait, remember last year?  Howard and I made the change early and headed right for the deeper water where the wind once again piled up warmer water.  The water temperature there was 46 degrees, nearly two degrees warmer.  And, my depthfinder marked schools of baitfish everywhere.

I had my gold Rat-L-Trap already tied on for just such an occasion.  My first cast was with the wind as the boat drifted in the same direction.  With the rod tip held high like last year to keep the snot grass off the hooks, I didn't crank five times when, wham, a nice hit.  I was pumped up as my first cast in that area resulted in a 19 1/2 inch largemouth with a big head and not much of a belly, but it was a good fish, and my first fish of the day.
My first cast with my gold lipless crankbait golden shiner imitation resulted in this long probably older bass.  But it couldn't have been more beautiful to me after a tough start. 
Howard snapped a couple photos with my camera and my phone.  We then took some measurements and released the fish.  I quickly texted Bob about what we found with a picture of my new fish telling him to bring him and his boy down to our location.

After we drifted several yards , I picked up my rod and made my second cast, again, with the wind and the drift.  About eight cranks, rod tip high, and wham!  After another good fight.  This time I landed another chunky bass that measured a nice 17 inches.  More pics, the release, texting Bob again, and back to fishing.  Things seemed to be working in our favor, the tide had turned, and what seemed like a tough fall day was looking up.
My very next cast resulted in a much fatter but slightly shorter 17 inch largemouth bass.
Not long after that last fish, I landed this 18 inch largemouth.  What was a tough day for me was turning to a banner day quickly.
Like last year, the fall pattern was holding.  My gold Rat-L-Trap fished with the rod tip high in the deeper water was producing.  Bass were gobbling it up.  Even the pickerel where there, as Howard found out.  His Rat-L-Trap was bitten off and taken from him.  That had to be a huge chainside.

Soon, Bob and Carson made their way to our spot.  I told them of the pattern, and soon they were both working the deeper water with the rattling crankbaits.  It didn't take long for Carson, an eight year old quick learning heck of an angler (watch out KVD), to hook up and expertly fight and, with some help of his Dad, land the biggest chain pickerel of his life.
Bob holding Carson's chain pickerel, his personal best.  Watch out KVD, here comes Carson on the angling scene!  Don't worry Mr. Van Dam, Carson still is a bit nervous about holding his fish, so you have some time.
About ten minutes later, Carson proceeded to land his personal best largemouth, a fat 19 incher!  Bob joked about how his fishing karma had rubbed off on Carson, leaving him to start over again.  We also pointed out how his six year old boy had been putting a thumpin' on his Dad!  But Dad didn't take long to show his stuff, landing a nice chainside too.
Carson smiling proudly over his catch, a personal best 19 inch nearly four pound largemouth as his Dad proudly displays if for him.
Bob with a nice chain pickerel caught on a chrome Rat-L-Trap.
We had a very early start, and although Carson was excited to fish and about as happy as he could be over his catches, he ran out of gas around two in the afternoon.  Bob and his tuckered out child angling prodigy headed home, leaving the rest of the pickerel and bass for us.

Howard and I continued to work the area hard.  Fishing wasn't easy, but it was consistently giving up quality fish.  Not only did the rattling lipless crankbait work, but I also did well on a shallow diving shad like chrome crankbait, the Luhr-Jensen Speed Trap.  I also managed to catch four keepers, but also my smallest fish on my trusty plastic worm after finding some deeper water cover.

Like the past year, as the day neared the end, we fished our way back to the ramp hitting the woody cover that was fishless just hours earlier.  By this time, the water temperature had warmed to nearly 50 degrees.  I suspected that once the water warmed enough, some predators would move back into the woody cover.  I fished my Rat-L-Trap again, like a spinnerbait, and hooked and lost two nice chain pickerel, but landed one smaller pickerel and a few more fat bass, including a 17 3/4 inch and 18 inch largemouth.
Another fat crankbait bass, this one on a Luhr-Jensen chrome Speed Trap, again, fished with the rod tip high.
Howard connecting with a quality toothy predator, Esox niger, the chain pickerel.  This beauty inhaled a white chatterbait.
Luck... Experience plays a huge role, but when fishing open water, making that right cast is a combination of luck and experience.  But confidence in what you are doing, based on experience, improves your odds and brings you luck.  You caught fish there last year, doing the same thing, consistently.  Chances are, under the same conditions, your odds are pretty good that it will happen again.  Why one guy catches bass under these conditions and another angler doesn't, seemingly doing the exact same thing with identical lures, well more than likely it's luck.  Or, it could be subtle differences in tackle or technique.

Good Fall Bassin'...Now, another key component with finding bass in the fall is to use lures that can cover a lot of water quickly.  These search baits, like spinnerbaits, crankbaits, and chatterbaits, can really rack up the numbers for you, but may take a lot of casts when bass are in open water.  Rattling lipless crankbaits and diving crankbaits are good choices for locating schools of fish that feed on shad.

My day seemed tough at first, but turned out to be a great fall bassing day.  I finished with eighteen fat largemouth bass, with my biggest seven bass ranging from 17 inches to 19 3/4 inches.  The other ten fish were between 13 and 15 inches.  I managed a nice pickerel too, along with a crappie that inhaled a plastic worm.  Apparently, the crappie thought he was a largemouth.  Eight bass were on the Rat-L-Trap, four fell for the plastic worm, and six quality bass engulfed my Luhr-Jensen Speed Trap.

So there you have it folks.  Experience combined with a little luck, could turn a chilly fall day into one of your best bassin' days of the year.

By the way, I want to thank everyone who keeps checking my blog for updates, and at the same time apologize for keeping you waiting for my next post.  I'll do a much better job in the future with updates.  Stay tuned with more fishing, hunting, and shark toothing articles.  I have a special shark tooth article nearly completed, highlighting some adventures of some internet friends from South Carolina.  Have a happy Thanksgiving!