Thursday, December 13, 2012

Part 3 - Lowrance DSI & Battery Installation

As many of you are aware, I had installed the Lowrance Scupper Kit awhile back and had also configured my power solution to utilize the rear hatch on my Revolution.  After some heavy usage over the course of four months in both fresh and salt water, my transducer bracket snapped into two pieces forcing me to contemplate my options.  Option 1 - contact Lowrance and advise them of the issue.  This approach would have more than likely resulted in a new bracket assembly sent as a replacement.  While this option was viable, it realistically would have resulted in an identical end result.  Option 2 - use a different mounting solution with a more sturdy design.

After some thought and countless trips to the local home improvement store for parts and hand drawn designs, I ended up returning all of them and opting for a "ready-to-install" solution produced by RAM Mounts - so I ordered the RAM Transducer ARM Kit from HOOK1 and installed it today.  My new goal for this install was to have a setup that was completely removable to prevent corrosion of the connections over time and also to afford the chance to use the setup on another kayak (in the near future hopefully). 

When the kit arrives, the first thing you will notice is that there are no instructions; however, simply laying the few pieces out on the table will quickly reveal how they are pieced together.  The installation kit includes: three phillips head bolts, three nylon insert lock nuts, a RAM connector (one RAM female end and one hexagon end), two end pieces (one for the transducer and one hex mount for RAM connector).  Also included in the package is an aluminum rod and a black plastic protective cover.

NOTE: I ordered my kit without any mounting base, because I already had an extra 1" Screwball.  Your situation may differ and may require selecting a mounting option at the time of your order.

INSTALL NOTE: You will need the following tools to complete this install - a #2 phillips screwdriver, zip ties and a pair of wire cutters

First, you take RAM connector and loosen the RAM wing nut completely in order to insert the end piece with the hexagon mount end.  If you are using the screwball option, this is the perfect time to install it, otherwise, you will need to loosen the RAM connector again when it is time to install it on the kayak.
Next, install your transducer onto the other end piece using the longest bolt and the larger locking nut and securing it with a #2 phillips screwdriver.  In order to ensure the proper fit, you will need additional hardware (most likely from your existing transducer or from the installation kit in the new fish finder package) - namely a metal washer and the rubber spacer.
Place the rubber spacer closest to the head of the bolt, then the metal washer, then slide the bolt through the transducer mounting bracket opening.  With the large lock nut inserted into the end mount, slide the whole assembly and transducer onto the end mount and secure it.  If done properly, the final assembly should look like this.
Now, insert the aluminum rod into the provided black plastic sleeve and insert one end of the rod into one end connector.  Each connector has one end pre-cut with a hexagon opening to ensure the end mount is secured properly to the rod assembly.  You will use one of the shorter threaded bolts and locking nut on each connector assembly.  The end mount has a recessed area that houses the lock nut, so you will only need a #2 phillips head screwdriver to secure it.  Now you can install the complete assembly onto your kayak.  For me, I have the original YakAttack GearTracs installed, so I mounted mine on the port side in front of me.
The last part of the install is deciding how you are going to route your transducer cable.  For me, the goal was a completely removable install, so your routing of the cable may differ slightly.

NOTE: Remember, no zip ties are provided in the kit, so you will need to provide your own.  I only had colored ones for now, so I used a hi-vis yellow set until I can purchase some black ones.  When securing the cable, allow a little play in the cable until you get it positioned correctly before you tighten down the zip ties.  Once you have it positioned correctly, tighten them down snugly but not too far otherwise you will risk cutting into the cable.  Once you are completed, the final product should look similar to this:
For most of you with existing fishfinders installed, your installation may be completed at this point.  For me, I had decided to downsize my power source from the standard 12a/7-9ah or "deer feeder" style battery.  I opted for a 5ah version - half the weight, half the size and a smaller profile battery storage container is needed.   So, I used a watertight container I already had on hand, and I routed all electrical connections inside the container, such that only the one power lead was outside the container that led directly to my new depth finder.

I rigged up the container with a couple of one-hole lashing hooks.   I used a countersink drill bit to recess the lashing hook openings to accommodate a couple of the extra 1" stainless mounting bolts I had lying around.  I paired the bolts up with a well nut on the inside of the container thus creating a lashing point for the bungee I was going to use to hold the container in place while on the water.  The end result was this.....
Some other key points to note on the install are:

1. The install routed all cabling without drilling any openings in the kayak.
2. The cabling is secured by the front hatch lanyard to keep it out of my way while pedaling.
3. The extra cabling is held up using a series of zip ties to ensure the cables don't rest in water.
4. The battery box rests snugly in front of the mast post inside the front hatch.
5. I sold my Elite 5 DSI and replaced it with the new Elite-4x DSI for a smaller profile.

After all was said and done, I secured everything and powered on the new electronics, and ......SUCCESS!!!
The only minor inconvenience with this type of installation is that removal of the transducer arm from the screwball requires completely unscrewing the RAM locking nut.  When you do this, there is a risk that you could drop the miniscule washers.  Other than that, the only real design concern I have is the longevity of the aluminum rod's sturdiness over time.  We shall see....

Hope you found this installation how-to useful.

Until next time, tight lines and safe passages!

Friday, November 23, 2012

A Trip to the ER isn't always bad....

.....especially when you are hunting for big speckled trout.  The ER in this case is the Elizabeth River, a tributary of the James River and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay.  The water temperatures in this river are warmer than the water downstream due to the water discharge of the local power plant.  Now, before you start planning your outing, you need to take a couple of things into consideration.  First, the area is not a secret, so you are going to have to be cognizant of the other watercraft (both powered and non-powered).  Second, the available launches are crowded and can fill up literally minutes after first light.  Remember, most of the launches open at first light and close at dusk, so plan your trip accordingly.

A common misconception about this area is that you have to sit in one of two spots - aka The Pond and the Hot Ditch - to catch some large speckled trout.  Actually, nothing could be further from the truth.  In fact, my largest trout have come from other areas in the river all together.  Don't get me wrong, you can catch some seriously over sized specks in the locations aforementioned, but the bite can be off and provide you or even worse, your charter, no significant action during your scheduled outing.

I met my buddy Joe at the launch a little after 11:30 and set out in search of some toothy specks to chase our presentations for the day.  It wasn't long before I hooked into a decent 18" trout no more than 10 minutes after launching and on my third cast of the morning and it wasn't even noon yet.  The key for us on the day was moving.  Every time we would get into somewhat of a steady bite, the area would turn cold just as quickly.  The bite ran in 15-20 minute cycles on and off all day for us.

We fished several areas and caught fish all over in every place we stopped.  We caught fish both north and south of the high rise, both in and outside of the "hot ditch", and in both deep and shallow water.  The key was to keep moving.  We saw several other boats and kayakers on the day spend their time hovering over one spot and not catching nearly as many as we caught.

We used two primary lures - soft plastics in white and electric chicken, and a MirrOlure.  My largest specks on the day were 21.5" and 20.5".  I had a citation to the kayak and lost it when the speck turned his head the opposite way and threw the hook.  At least we know they are still there.  You just have to put in the time and be patient.  On the day, we caught over 45 trout an one striper, including Joe's 4th release citation of the week measuring at 26 that was caught as the sun was losing its battle with the onset of dusk.  Here's a quick video of our outing:

Still a great day on the water.  The weather cooperated for the most part, save for a few bouts with the wind at various times during the day.  We ended the day shortly after that and made our way back in the dark to our recovery spot contemplating the fish that were missed and the ones we caught.  A great way to spend a day in the ER.
Tight lines and be safe - remember to dress properly for the colder air and water temperatures.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Pond Around the Corner

On my normal Fridays off, I try and seek out a new challenge whenever possible.  Sometimes, that equates to a trip down to the peninsula to satisfy my longing for the saltwater.  Other times, as is the case recently, I try and stay more local and save some money on gas.  Such was the case this past Friday.  I decided to try my luck at a nearby pond that has produced several 20"+ largemouth bass in the last couple of years, including a couple of citations by another individual that bank fishes there frequently.

I knew the trip would be a short one, so I wasn't too anxious to venture out into the near freezing air temps at first light.  By 8:30am, the sun was over the horizon, and I had made my way to the pond to begin unloading my gear in spite of the temps hovering at 39 degrees.  I launched into a slight breeze and the echoes of red tailed hawks and blue herons squawking amongst the barren trees that encased this little body of water.  The water here is always a little on the murky side and is very shallow.  The deepest hole in the pond is barely over six feet, but there are numerous lay downs and overhanging trees to provide ambush points for the resident bass, as well as a few scattered rocks affording the bank anglers a place to sit and fish from.

I had pre-rigged three rods for the day: one casting rod with a double bladed spinnerbait, one casting rod with a square-billed crankbait, and a spinning rod setup for small profile soft plastics.  I could see some surface activity from small shad busting about, so my original thoughts on using a spinnerbait and crankbait could pan out.  The thought process was to troll the crankbait and spinnerbait back and forth across the pond to try and locate the fish, but when every cast was returned with fouled treble hooks from the leaves that now inhabit the subsurface of the pond, I knew that approach was futile.

I also abandoned the trolling/slow rolling spinnerbait approach when I noticed that the pond was actually down a couple feet leaving even the deepest hole only a couple feet deep.  I switched over to the finesse setup and rigged up a PowerTeam Lures Craw D'oeuvre in Deep Melon Pepper.  I rigged it on a 1/4oz. Confidence Baits Draggin' Head to try and eliminate the chances of the hook getting fouled up on the leaves lurking beneath the surface.

I pedaled about the outer edges of the shallow pond working every lay down, shoreline pocket and overhanging tree I could find.  The shoreline here is covered in various thickets and grassy outcroppings, but the drop off from the bank is a nice holding spot for fish.  Although it is only a couple feet deep, the subtle depth change holds fish and is very unpredictable from day to day.

After an hour of working the pond over, the air temps had crept into the high 40's and actually became comfortable to fish in given that I was layered up fairly well for the cold, but I knew only the tug of a bid ole' bass on the end of the line would be the only real cure to chase the cold away and warm me up.  On my second circuit of the pond, I switched up my casting approach from "dock shooting" or sling shot casts under the overhanging brush, to casting ahead and working parallel to the brush.  That was the ticket, because within 15 minutes, I had landed the best fish on the day - a fat 19.75" largemouth!!
After I calmed down from the massive adrenaline rush of that lunker, I focused on the next set of overhangs ahead of me.   After not feeling another bite for 30 minutes, I was beginning to wonder if any other fish were awake.  My concerns were quickly sated and yet extinguished in a matter of 3 seconds when an even larger bass engulfed my Craw D'oeuvre and started ripping drag instantly but came unbuttoned almost as fast.  Both stunned and torqued at the same time, I knew when the fish hit it that it was going to come unbuttoned.  She had hit the lure directly underneath of me on the port side as I was lifting the bait out of the water and took off to the starboard side of the Hobie catching my line on the bow handle.  Oh well, at least I know she's lurking in the shallow depths and right where I had seen a similar fish caught just a year ago.

The rest of the morning was uneventful save for a brief shoreline stint socializing with a couple of dogs that wanted to check out the Hobie.  Without a bite to be found, I spent several minutes doing some cleanup of various bottles, abandoned corks and bobbers and countless yards of line hung up in the overhanging brush and trees.  At one point, I found a tree that had line strewn throughout with no less than three different soft plastics (a lizard, a twin-tailed grub and a chigger craw) hung up.  I was only able to get to one of the three, but to my surprise I found one strand of line hung up near the shoreline and was quite surprised to find a brand new Blue Fox Vibrax spinner still attached.

It amazes me how inconsiderate folks can be of their surroundings sometimes.  It makes me wonder what their households look like or what other things they simply abandon without care in their daily lives.  The next time you are out in nature, please take a moment to look around and see if you can leave the area a little cleaner than when you arrived.

Here's a quick video of the day's highlights.

Until next time, tight lines and dress appropriately for the cold air and water temps.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Throw the Kitchen Sink at 'em......

This past weekend was Veteran's Day weekend and is always a little bitter sweet for me, having served in the armed forces; fought in a war on foreign soil; and then being RIFed without so much as an option to stay in.  A day doesn't pass that I don't think about my time in the service, eight years to be precise, and where I would be today had I had an opportunity to stay in.  That thought quickly fades when I realize that there is always a plan for your life.  Had it not been for the actions of the RIF initiative almost 15 years ago now, I would have not met my loving wife nor had the pleasure of raising my son.

Fast forward to this past weekend.  You may recall that my Friday was spent with my buddy Darren chasing anything that would bite when we went a did a little November Creekin'.  Saturday was a day reserved for the family, so we spent a good portion of the day in Ashland at the annual Train Day.  When Sunday rolled around, I had committed the better portion of my day to the Central Virginia Heroes On the Water chapter.  We had a table and display setup at Applebee's and spread the good word about HOW on Veteran's Day.

When Monday rolled around, the company I work for observes Veteran's Day on Monday, since it fell on a Sunday this year.  That means, I had the day off, and what better way to spend your day off than on the water!  So I loaded up my gear and set off for Bear Creek Lake with the intention of using some of the new soft plastics I had just received from the good folks at PowerTeam Lures.  I had three rods rigged - one with a Finicky Tickler 5" finesse worm rigged on a Confidence Baits Draggin' Head; another rigged with a Deep Melon Pepper colored Craw D'oeuvre on a shakey head and the same colored Craw D'oeuvre rigged as a trailer on a silicone skirted football jig.

I launched in what many would call ideal conditions - a slight breeze with a slightly falling barometer as a storm front approached, that is until I made my first cast.  That was when Mother Nature woke up and realized I was on the water.  She must have thought I was going to be down on the peninsula chasing Tautog at the bridge tunnel or speckled trout in the river, because she was a little late this morning.  As soon as my first cast hit the water, I could see the approaching wind as it churned the water surface down lake.  I didn't have to wait long before the brunt of the wind slammed me pretty good making any long, perpendicular cast towards the bank basically useless.

I spent the better part of the morning hugging the banks and targeting lay downs and submerged brush piles while fighting the wind to establish good casting angles.  But every time I would fire off a good cast, the wind direction would swirl and change on me rendering my kayak position and cast pretty useless.  Even if I had a strike, I would have missed it with the slack in the line the wind was creating.  I changed tactics and sought out coves with deeper cuts and troughs to hopefully negate some of the wind effect on my casting angles.  When the winds consistently played havoc with my casts, I switched the finesse worm out for a Kitchen Sink colored Craw D'oeuvre on the Draggin' Head. The first cove was too exposed and shallow, but the next one surrendered the first fish of the day, a chunky and feisty little 14.25" largemouth that hit the Craw D'oeuvre as I worked it past the base of a large lay down.

The next hour was fairly uneventful save for the clean up I was doing rescuing abandoned bobbers and hooks left snagged on various exposed tree limbs.  Fighting the wind in open water is a bit frustrating, and can make you question why you are even out on the water to begin with.  I found a large sheltered cove and worked it over pretty good for the next hour hitting every nook and cranny I spotted, then worked the deeper holes back towards the shallows until I found my next two fish of the day - another  spunky 12.5" runt largemouth and of all things a 20.5" channel cat.  When the cat hit the craw and took off, I knew it wasn't a largemouth.  The tell tale "catfish death roll" was all I needed to feel to confirm my original thoughts.  It was a decent fight but not what I was targeting to say the least.

A quick drift to the other side of the lake found me positioned parallel to a sheltered bank that had produced on several occasions in the past, so started working the lay downs with no success.  My last cast in the area was made parallel to the bank about 30' in front of me.  A couple of subtle hops and the "double-tap" bite was the feedback I had been searching for all morning.  A quick reel down to gather up the little bit of slack followed by a sharp vertical hook set and the fight was on.  Finally - a fish worth wrestling with.  A short 30 second fight and the best largemouth of the day was boated - a chunky 17.25" largemouth.
I worked a couple more lay downs but the winds picked back up again rendering even the shortest of casts fairly worthless yet again, so I moved back into a real shallow cove knowing that the only fish in there might be either carp or non-preferred size bass (ie: under 15").  I felt a subtle hit in the deepest part of the cove, but no take.  A second cast to same area was met with better success and a spirited 12" largemouth was landed as a Blue Heron voiced his displeasure as he flew past.

While the day wasn't a total loss, it failed to produce quality fish in the numbers I had hoped for given the conditions I was fishing.  Of the three combos I had taken on the water, the only one that was usable given the windy conditions was the spinning combo.  My other two casting combos were useless with the winds that were up and blowing.  Switching out the finesse worm for the Kitchen Sink colored Craw D'oeuvre was the smarted move of the day.  It added just enough weight to the presentation to facilitate longer and more accurate casts while not compromising the action of the lure.

I must have made over 300 casts on the day, because my arms were tired!!  The Craw D'oeuvre was a success in my opinion, and I can truly say that I literally threw the Kitchen Sink at them for a change!

Until next time, tight lines and dress appropriately for the colder air and water temperatures!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

November Creekin' and some good news

The last couple of weekends have been mild to say the least with air temps creeping into the upper 60's at various times.  Last week I had a chance to join fellow WKFA members Darren, Walter, Rick and Jim at a local creek and chase some fish.  While the bite was slow going, there were plenty of fish caught amongst all the anglers.  Walter started us off with a nice little bluegill, then Darren chimed in with a couple of largemouth, including a nice 16".

I was taking my time and lagging back, because I only had a couple hours to fish and didn't want to get too far away from the launch, especially since the creek was tidal and was falling fast.  After everyone but Rick had passed by this one lone tree sticking out into the creek turn, I worked it over for about 15 minutes and was rewarded with two fish, a spunky 14" largemouth and what would turn out to be the big fish on the day, a nice 17.75" largemouth.

After that one, there wasn't much more happening, so I asked Jim and Rick to tell the others I had to leave and headed back in.  During the course of the week, I received some good news.  I had inquired recently about joining a pro staff for a product I had used and liked.  After some preliminary questions from the owners about my fishing, I was afforded the opportunity to join the PowerTeam Lures Pro Staff!!  They are a local VA business and produce some quality soft plastics.  Check them out if you get a chance.
Needless to say, I was more than just a little excited and anxious to get on the water.  When the opportunity to hit the creek again with Darren presented itself, I jumped at the opportunity.  We launched into a slight cool fall breeze and made our way back to a some good spots.  We started off targeting bass, but could only manage a few short strikes and no hook ups.  We decided to switch over to our ultralights and do some dock-shooting.

On the way back to the docks, I managed to snag to fish - a surprise 18.5" chain pickerel and a smallish 6" yellow perch.  Right after that, we get to the docks, and Darren hooks up immediately with the largest crappie on the day - right at 13".  From then on, we worked the docks and landed several crappie between us and even a bluegill at one point by Darren - all on small curly tail grubs and stump jumpers.  I even landed what I will call a "Crass" or a "Bassie", because this bass had the body outline of a crappie but the markings and head of a largemouth.   Sort of a 'frankenbass" looking fish.  Pretty strange.

All in all a great day on the water even though we didn't get into the big largemouth we had hoped for.  Here's a little video from today's day on the creek.  Last week's video was too short and wasn't the best, so it was omitted.

Enjoy this warming trend while you can!  The colder days are fast upon us!

Tight lines and dress correctly for cold water angling!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Fall Bassin' local style

Each year, I always tell myself to take a day or two and try to target largemouth bass during the fall transition.  For many bass anglers, this is considered a right of passage or even a requirement for any experienced angler.  As fate would have it (actually family commitments), the last three years have not afforded me the chance to get on the water during this time period.  Well, I finally was able to make several trips over the course of the last week or so and try to get in on some of this famed fall transition I have always read about.

The first trip was a success and resulted in two of the three largest largemouth I have landed this year at 18.5" and 19.75" last week at the Smithfield HOW Event.  I followed that trip up with a tournament win at the inaugural Hooked for Breast Cancer benefit tournament.  My latest outing was a trip to the local neighborhood pond having not fished it since July and August of this past summer.  The plan was to keep it simple as far as tackle goes - a spinning rod with a small finesse style soft plastic worm, an ultralight spinning rod with a beetle spin for the crappie and bluegills, and a frog rod in case any topwater action was happening.

I launched shortly after lunch and was greeted to a pleasant day in the mid-70's with the slightest hint of a breeze crossing the surface of the pond.  I started off by targeting the now withering lily pads with the frog, then would follow up with a few casts using the finesse worm and ending with the beetle spin.  I worked this pattern for the first half hour until I missed a massive blow up on the frog.  That told me all I needed to know.  The ultralight and finesse worm were stowed for the time being and I focused on the frog.  I eventually coaxed a couple of bass into the Hobie on the frog, but none of them were substantial by any means.
As I made my way out of the main body of lily pads, I started honing in on submerged structure, which for this pond means trees and stumps.  I switched over to the ultralight first to try and coax the aggressive fish on the outer edges of the submerged trees and worked each pocket until I covered the whole target area.  After a few minutes of this tactic, I was rewarded with a feisty little 14" largemouth that slammed the beetle spin hard.

Once I finished that approach, I worked the same target areas from the outer edges back to the inner pockets using the finesse worm.  A key point needs to be clarified here - finesse has different meanings depending upon how you are fishing.  You can use "finesse" tackle or lighter gear with smaller presentations, or you can use "finesse" tactics by keeping your movements and presentations slow and purposeful when the bite is finicky or slow.  I was using the former paired with traditional soft plastic worm presentations having learned that the fish were still aggressive.  For my soft plastic worms, I use the Confidence Baits Draggin' Head almost exclusively now, because the hooks are razor sharp and require almost no "pro-style" hookset.  Just a slight raise of the rod and the fish is hooked.

Back to the fishing.......

In a pond of this size, the depths are not huge but the structure is everywhere.  Some of it is fized like the submerged trees and stumps, while other forms of structure are transitional.  These forms include algae mats, floating clumps of leaves and my favorite - floating logs.  While targeting a submerged tree, I saw what looked like the top of a tree in the middle of the pond.  As I maneuvered closer, I noticed that it actually was a huge floating laydown from where a tree had fallen in the water at some point and had ended up towards the shallow end of the pond.  The top of the tree was just barely afloat and created a prime staging area for a bass in the middle of the pond.

I fired off a cast past the laydown and let the plastic worm drop straight down before beginning my retrieve.  The first cast got hit hard at the kayak but came unbuttoned.  I fired off a second cast and worked it just like before but then paused as it came closer to the kayak.  Even with my finger on the braided line, the pickup was virtually undetectable until I saw the line moving away from me.  A quick vertical snap hookset and the fight was on.  Thirty seconds later and the battle was over - a nice chunky 17.5" largemouth made it's way onto the measuring board!
The rest of the day was just as productive with the plastic worm taking center stage and landing me five more bass, albeit none over 13".  My favorite part of the day was working a huge lily pad field at the back of the pond.  I could see multiple pockets of open areas back in the pads that normally are not accessible.  So I parked the Hobie in a spot that looked appealing and started working the open pockets with long casts and my trusty Stanley Ribbit.  I missed two blow ups - one from the bass not taking the frog completely for a hookset and another from the Ribbit's leg getting hooked and blocking the hook from a good hookset.  I was able to finally capture a frog strike on video even thought the fish wasn't huge.  All in all, it was good day for a short three hour outing.

The best action on the day was captured in video form as well, so enjoy the video montage.

The fall transition is in full swing, so get out there and satisfy those fishing urges you have.

Tight lines and be safe!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Getting "Hooked" to beat cancer.....

Today was the inaugural Hooked for Breast Cancer fishing tournament at Sandy River Reservoir to benefit Ms. Nancy McDaniel.  All proceeds from the tournament were donated to help the McDaniel family offset the growing costs of treatment for Nancy.
The day began at O dark thirty....literally.  Participant sign in and registration began at 0530 in the morning.  Safe launch was at 7:15 once thsun has risen far enough to burn off the lingering haze over the water.

After a tournament briefing and the rules by the benefit organizer Robert, we all launched and headed out.  The CPR (Catch, Photo, Release) Division was reserved for the kayak armada that descended upon Sandy River this day.  At last count, there were 10 anglers out and about chasing largemouth bass in hopes of returning to the check-in to register their three largest fish on the day.  The rules were simple: all bass 12" or over were eligible to be entered, with all bass over 16" recorded for DGIF data.

I pedaled out across the lake on a glass-like surface with nary a soul around me, since the power boat portion of the tournament had long since motored out to their preliminary spots.  As I was heading out, I spotted an appealing looking cove with some exposed trees.  Sandy River was approximately three feet below normal, so the normal target areas had changed drastically and forced the anglers on this day to choose their target areas carefully. 

I opted for three presentations today and promised myself to work them thoroughly and have faith in my decision.  I chose: a top water frog, a finesse soft plastic worm and a new bait for me, the Alabama Rig (albeit a small 3 headed casting one not like the monsters seen on the FLW and Elite Series Tournaments).  My first cast was at 7:30am, and I had my first fish in the boat at 7:34am.  Within the next 35 minutes, I would boat a total of 4 fish all on the topwater frog with only one of the fish measurable.  Not a monster at all but a measurable fish is recorded regardless, so the 12" bass was photoed and released.
I moved on to the next cove thinking I may have the start of a pattern for the day.  After two hours of dissecting each cove along the way out to my primary location, I landed four more fish again with only one measurable - another 12" monster!!!
As the morning wore on, the top water frog bit was losing ground to my preferred bait for the day - the finesse soft plastic.  I worked every nook and cranny at each laydown or exposed tree trunk I found - nothing until shortly after lunch when the action heated up for a period of five minutes right at 12:30pm.  I decided I had wasted enough time chasing laydowns, so I moved back into the standing timber and found a spot that looked appealing.
I worked the area around this location first, then turned the Hobie around and faced the now gusting winds.  This is when I landed three fish over the course of the next five minutes with every cast getting hit from the same tree stump.  I had a couple of nice ones come unbuttoned, but of the three landed two were measurable and larger than my previous ones.

One measured in at 13.25".....
And the other measured in at 17.25" one of the day.
By now, the fishing window was closing, and the winds were not relenting, so I headed back in making the long trek back.  I made it back with time to spare, so I took time to capture some of the reasons why we were there for the day.....

Third place in the CPR Division went to Derek with a total length of 37" I believe.  He received a $100 PowerTeam Lures gift certificate and a 6' YakAttack Park-n-Pole
Second place went to Jason (his first tournament by the way) with a total length of 40".  He earned a FishDV8 custom award plaque, a $150 PowerTeam Lures gift certificate and a YakAttack Kayak Starter Pack that had some GearTracs, and a YakAttack VisiCarbon Pro safety flag and light.
In the end, the length of the three fish I entered totaled 42.5" and was good enough to earn 1st Place in the CPR Division.

My prize package included a Fish DV8 custom plaque for 1st Place and $500.  I immediately walked over to Nancy and gave her a hug and told her thanks for being there and handed her the $500.  I had told myself when I entered the tournament a month ago that any proceeds earned would be donated regardless of the amount.  The tournament entries, sponsorships and raffle sales generated over $6000 to donate to the McDaniel family to help them offset some of the costs they are currently burdened with, so the $500 I donated I hope will only help them that much more.

In the end, some might say I was nuts for giving that large of a prize purse away, but I firmly believe that a benefit tournament should be just that - to benefit a worthy cause.  Maybe if we all felt that way, we could all start "getting hooked to beat cancer" and any number of other worthy benefits out there.

Tight lines and safe boating!

Friday, October 19, 2012

A Fresh Approach.....

Having fished saltwater for the past three months fairly consistently, I decided to change things up a bit and target freshwater this week.  My first outing happened to be in support of a scheduled Veterans event in Smithfield, VA.  This event is a large scale outing where members of the VA, Wounded Warriors, Heroes On the Water and other local active and retired military-based groups gather for a day of socialization and recreation.  The activities included: a driving range, a chip shot golf target, walking tours of the facility, a herding dog demo, an archery range, presentations on kayak fishing and fishing.   Fishing options included: fish off the bank, in a boat or a kayak.

For these all day outings, volunteers arrive throughout the morning, but we were afforded the opportunity to get on the water and pre-fish in preparation for the outing that began at 11am.  I launched at 7:30am into what I would consider a perfect morning: picture this if you will.....a slight haze over the water as the early fall temperatures begin to assert themselves creating just the slightest fog as the sun creeps slowly towards it's zenith pushing through the clouded barriers on the horizon.  The slightest whisper of a breeze traces a path across the nose on your face bringing with it a virtual bouquet of crisp, clean air..........peaceful and serene......

I decided the best approach today would be two primary presentations - a soft plastic and a small beetle spin.  I started with the beetle spin to try and locate some smaller active fish.  On this body of water, the depths are constantly fluctuating with deep holes up to 14' in some spots and several depth transitions throughout the lake with brush piles and other submerged structure creating prime target areas for the anxious angler in us all..  I was able to locate an aggressive bluegill almost immediately.  A good sign......
The water was crystal clear, so locating the brush piles was fairly easy; however crystal clear water creates a new challenge - trying to avoid spooking the fish.  I quickly changed tactics and started making longer casts to try and not alert the fish to my presence.  A few minutes later while working over the first brush pile, I landed the first of what would be many largemouth bass on the day.  As I worked my watermelon finesse worm across the limbs, I felt each subtle tick until the line stopped.  I waited a second and saw the line start to move to the right.  A quick reel down of the rod and a sharp vertical hook set, and I immediately realized I had on a decent fish.  The water temperatures were a little cool, so when the largemouth didn't put up that much of a fight, I had no clue how big it was.   That is until I boated it......a fat 18.5" to start the day is always a good thing!
With no real fight or disturbance of the area, I went right back to the same brush pile but only managed a bunch of juvenile bass in the 8-10" range.  So I moved on to the next target area and hooked into more bass in the 12-15" class and so began the non-stop action I would experience for the the next two hours.  I landed several fish like this.....
and a bunch of these......
I continued to work the areas 20-30 feet in front of me and was rewarded consistently with good pullage from the hungry bass.  When I didn't find brush piles, I targeted exposed wind-blown points and the primary depth transitions 3-5' off of the banks.  These transitions were everywhere on this lake and consistently held fish all day long.

As I approached this one exposed point, I saw three pockets of exposed grass staggered along the bank.  I fired a cast at the furthermost grass outcropping thinking I would cover all three pockets by passing in front of each one first, then I would go back and work each pocket if need be.  As I worked my soft plastic in front of the first pocket, I felt a solid take and the line started to move quickly away from me.  I reeled down and quickly was rewarded instantly with a drag ripping run straight behind me.  I caught a glimpse of the bass as it raced past me and realized I had a good one on.  Fortunately, she decided to just run back to the portion of the shoreline where there was no structure to get tangled in or possibly break the line.

I turned my Hobie around and leveraged the proper angle on her to turn her and start working her in.  She made a couple more drag ripping runs trying to escape, but I could see the hook was buried good and I knew I had a good chance of getting this beast in.  I finally got her close enough and quickly netted her not wanting to waste any more time.  She ended up being the best fish of the day measuring in at 19.75".
By the time I headed back in to help out with the events planned for the day, I had landed 18 fish - 1 bluegill and 17 bass.  After the initial briefing from the hosts, I recognized a couple of familiar faces had joined us for the day as volunteers - none other than Kevin and Beth from TidalFish!
I made my way over and chatted with them a bit and convinced them to take a stab at kayak fishing.  We made our way over to the other pond and helped them get situated in a couple of extra kayaks.  Our hero participation for the day was a lighter than expected, so some of the volunteers were afforded the chance to get on the water if they wanted to.  I took both of them out and headed straight for a cove that had produced for me in the past.  I talked them through the location and presentation techniques I was using earlier.  As I was showing them how to work the lure, I hooked into a nice 17" largemouth.
At this point, Beth's reel started acting up, so I handed her the reel I was using rigged with the same soft plastic.  A few minutes later, Beth lands her first freshwater largemouth bass, and a good one at that!  She measured in at 16".  It was cool watching her reel it in and land it like she had been bass fishing her whole life.
Then again, being a well respected and veteran angler in this region, I had every confidence that this dynamic duo could handle their own.  The rest of the outing consisted of a lunch break with some good eats - chili, comfort soup, beans & weanies, chicken salad sandwiches and plenty of good desserts.  Although I wasn't able to get Kevin on a fish, I know a little more time on the water that day and it would have happened.  The fish were in a feeding mood, and I was fortunate enough to have figured out the bait of the day early on.

The event was a success yet again with smiles and laughter all around.  I was able to help out some friends experience the kayak fishing lifestyle and help them get on some fish.  A successful day on the water if you ask me.  Sometimes is pays to take a fresh approach.

Here's a video of the highlights of the day - enjoy!!

Tight lines and be safe!!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

A Seussical kind of day.......

Sounds funny and it really is ironic in some ways but my day on the water in Mathews County this past Wednesday was literally.......One fish, two fish, redfish, bluefish!  I landed three fish total over the course of 6 hours of fishing and hitting two different locations with my friend Darren.  We agreed to launch around mid-morning, since the tides and currents were running a little later than we normally launched in the past.

As fate would have it, the stars did not align for us on this day.  The day before, a front began moving in and resulted in a little bit of a cold snap overnight with temperatures creeping down into the upper 40's.  As per usual, the winds were up as well blowing at a steady 10-15 knot clip out of the West, not the forecast of 5-10 as noted on various weather sites for the area.

I arrived a few minutes ahead of time, so I figured I would just ride the outgoing current out to the planned fishing area.  Along the way out, there are plenty of fishy locations to target.  My favorite target areas are the push water spots in front of extended grassy points in tidal creeks.  This is the area immediately in front of the point that creates a lull in the current flow and allows any fleeing bait fish a place for refuge out of the swift current.  It also is a primary ambush location for predators like redfish, stripers and speckled trout who lay and wait on the downstream current seams and eddy pools.
So, I worked each of these locations as I drifted along and only encountered one half-hearted nibble.  When I made it to the inlet, the current was running a little better, so I found an eddy to sit in.  This technique allows kayakers to utilize the natural movement of an eddy to hold your position and still be able to fish without having to anchor.  Positioning myself here allowed my bait to work its way naturally with the current by casting back into the creek and letting it drift out to the bay with only a subtle twitch here and there.  Nothing.

I figured maybe the fish had moved out of the inlet already since the prime window for the outgoing current had already passed, so I headed out and worked the channel edges along the shoals by trolling two different lures.  Darren had made his way out to the inlet and anchored up in the same current seam I had just left.  He finally got some action and landed a smallish 14" striper.  For me, a whole bunch more of nothing.  I did have a gull drift along with me for a bit and watch me with some measure of curiosity as I moved about.
When no bites were found, I moved back to the southern side of the inlet and worked the shoreline grass and parallel cuts and drop offs.  Encountered a few small croaker bites but nothing of any size.  By this time, we were both contemplating other target areas, especially when one of the locals rolled up on Darren in their 18' fibergalss beast and literally dropped their anchor right on top of Darren.  Needless to say, neither of us were pleased, but who are we to argue with a mass of fiberglass and gas?   So we left and made our way back into the tidal creek.

I worked the shoreline along the way where I had previously landed some nice croaker and reds in my past trips to the area. I was rewarded with what would end up being the best fish of the day, a redfish that measured in at a shade over 15" that had a cool dot pattern.  He hit a chartreuse mullet on a Marsh Works short shank jig head.
 We worked a few more of the same target areas as I mentioned before, as well as creek mouths.........
and the small grass islands that you find buried deep inside the creek channels with nothing more than a couple minor hits but no takers........
After little action, we decided to load up and hit another spot that had reports of recent activity in the way of stripers.  We arrived and launched with high hopes of getting on some decent fish before the day was over.  Unfortunately, more of the same.....nothing.  I worked some structure around the bridges and got a few small hits but no takers, so I moved to an adjacent creek that had similar features as before - some current, grassy points and push water creating current seams.  A few minutes of diligent work and patience rewarded me with the second redfish of the day, albeit smaller at only 12" but a little chunky and this one was landed using the same jighead but with a shad colored mullet.
About this time, Darren called over to me on the phone and had decided to bag it for the day and head on in.  I agreed with him and told him I would be right behind him.  As I started to head back in, my line started to jump then stop, jump then stop, jump then stop.......I reeled in the slack to see if there was anything there and felt the head shake of a hooked fish but it didn't put up any fight.  Must be a small one then.  I retrieve all the line and quickly learn my reward was a bait fish sized bluefish.....
Not the best way to end the day, but I still caught a few fish.  In hindsight, I had broken one of my rules when planning a fishing trip.  I had launched with the intent of fishing the day after a front moved in and temperatures dropped.  I traditionally only fish in this situation when the temperatures are rising not falling, and I typically wait at least 48-72 hours to let the weather and water conditions stabilize.  If I had followed my basic rule, I would have targeted Friday as my fishing day versus Wednesday.

Oh well, I still worked my fishing plan for the day, caught some fish, spent some time with a friend on the water, found a new location to fish and returned home safely.  Not too bad of a day, even if allI could think about on the way home was how I had landed........

One fish, two fish, redfish, bluefish!

Tight lines, and be safe!