Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Hot Rod Baits Bass Series: Tourney #1

The Hot Rod Baits Bass Series started this past Sunday.  It was bittersweet for me, as I spent all day Saturday at a grad class in Des Moines, but I guess that "real job" of mine is pretty important.  Either way, all the prep for the tournament as the director and an angler was ready to be put to the test at Hawthorn Lake.

First, a little about the series.  This was a brainstorm of mine several years ago. I wanted to create a bass-club-like feeling but elevate the competition to a state level.  This also elevated the entry fees and payouts too.  I wanted the series to be able to still use the many lakes of Iowa as well as the Mississippi River.  Each year the series visits 2 lakes and a pool on the Upper Mississippi River.  The series has visited areas such as: Rock Creek Lake, Little River, 12-Mile Lake, Lake MacBride, Pool 10, Pool 9, Belva Deer Lake, Brushy Creek, and West Lake in Osceola.  Each year 3 events are chosen and a maximum of 20 teams are allowed to enter the series.  The unique part about the series is an "all or nothing" entry fee.  One payment is good for all three events, big bass and Team of the Year prize money.  It was a first of its kind and members of the series have really enjoyed it.  This year the series capped out at 20 teams and a few were turned away.  I feel that this number is a good limit at this time with the support staff I have to lean on.  Things have run smoothly and participation each year has steadily gained.  A big draw for that is the over 90% payback that this series offers, another first for bass tournaments.  All entry fees paid upfront, no jackpot anglers at specific bodies of water, over 90% payback, and a club atmosphere mixed in with some extreme doesn't get any better than that!

Hawthorn Lake Champions
Lake Hawthorn is a smaller lake for the state, around 200 acres is all it is, however it is full of largemouth bass.  Well, that was the plan and reason for choosing a lake on the smaller side of the scale.  With so many bass and so many good areas for fish to be, 20 boats won't be a problem at all.  Now that the event is over, 20 boats wasn't the problem, it was the bass.  For one reason, or many the bass didn't show up for this tournament like many had hoped.  The bass seemed to be scattered all over the lake, and even when the fish bit, it was a half-attempt many times.  Cluing anglers in that something was amiss with the ecosystem.  Either way, someone always finds them, and they sure did on this day.  Holst and Brown came away with the victory easily with the only limit of the day weighing in at 16.68 pounds.  2nd place was Heim and Elm who also had the big bass for the day.  They caught three keepers weighing in at 8.52 pounds.  The tournament went off without a hitch, as for my partner and me...we were one of the many teams that couldn't put the pieces together on this day.  Full results HERE
2nd Place and Big Bass

Congrats to all the anglers who toughed it out at Lake Hawthorn.  Spring bass fishing really hasn't taken off for the most part around the state, but May is just around the corner, what I believe to be the best month for bass in the entire year!

Thanks to all my sponsors that make it possible for me to enjoy time on the water, teach others about my passion and share the best fishing tools on the market with others.  QuantumPT, Optimum Baits, Hot Rod Baits, Vexilar, State Farm Insurance, Bill's Pizza, The Iowa Sportsman.  Please click the links provided to learn about these great companies, or better yet, get a hold of me with any questions you may have about what these companies offer.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

First time on the open water

Today marked the first time on the water for me in 2017.  It seems very late, and I only have one person to blame...Mother Nature.  It seems as though the weekdays are nice and then comes the cold fronts/wind on the weekends.  Anyone that knows me would never call me a fair-weather fisherman, but lately it has been just nasty on the weekends.  Just two days ago, temperatures were in the 60's, and today, around 40 and cloudy.  Either way, I had to the river boat in the water to test some of the off-season updates we have made.  To my surprise, everything worked!  I just happened to bring along a few poles, as did Keith Donnelly so we might as well make a few casts!
We ended up with a few largemouth and smallmouth bass, and a smaller pike.  For the 90 minutes we were on the water, it was awesome.  Casting, retrieving, it just felt awesome!

The boat wasn't the only thing I wanted to test out today, next on the list was the new QuantumPT Special Issue rods.  I threw a jerkbait on the 7-foot Medium action model as well as a spinnerbait.  There is tremendous sensitivity on these rods, which didn't surprise me a bit.  After all they were fine-tuned by the Quantum Pros themselves much of last year.  As I use them more I will surely update you on their performance, but for this quick trip, one word sums it up...WOW.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Last day on the ice for 2017

Yellow Bass are a tasty fish that inhabit
a few waters in Iowa.  These fish are an
invasive species and there is no limit
on them.  Clear Lake has a huge population
of these fish making it a top destination
year-round to catch these fish.
Mother Nature ended ice fishing around the state much too early this year.  With most lakes thawed completely, only the largest in the state still were partially frozen.  Mother Nature did do us a favor by a recent cold front last week, which sent temps in Norther Iowa into the teens at night.  This was just enough to save the ice, and in reality even strengthen the ice for one last time of the year.  Portions of Clear Lake was still frozen over and shoreline access was still pretty good.  I had no choice but to travel north to take one last look at the ice conditions and see if they were reliable.  I was in for one last day on the ice, but in the back of mind I knew that it could just be a long truck ride for no reason...either way, I had to give it a look.  Mark Anderson was headed to the lake Friday afternoon, and I was so glad to get the text from him saying that the ice was in good condition.  In my mind it was Christmas Eve...I really was going to get one more day on the ice chasing the hard fighting Yellow Bass.
I was totally shocked when I got to the lake a little before 8am around the Farmers Beach area.  The ice was solid to the shore and several anglers were already out on the ice.  Mark Anderson, Jacy Large and Scott Fischer were going to join all together today to team up against the yellows.  Mark reported a very good bite in the main basin of the lake the afternoon before, so we were all very excited to get there.  Well, Mother Nature was kind to make the ice very solid, however the strong winds out of the east sent the yellow bass into shock.  For over two hours we drilled and drilled with no luck at all.  In a few areas the Vexilar FLX-28's showed some fish, but no bites, to say the least we were in shock.  Instead of staying in the larger group, we decided to split up.  Mark and I kept drilling across the lake to no avail, not a mark (ice was consistently around 10 inches).  We settled in to some shallow weeds and caught a few perch.  At this time it was time for plan Q.  Mark hopped over to the little lake and found the ice just as good, 8-10 of good ice.  I stayed and poked around the weeds where the ice was not great, honeycombed but yet still sturdy.  I found some crappies and a few more perch, but then Mark found the yellows.  There were about a dozen or so anglers already on the little lake, and the fish were biting.  All of us joined him soon after that the bite was fantastic for the next 4 hours.  Yellow after yellow came topside the ice and we were all wearing smiles and having a blast, the day was saved and we all went out on top at the end of the ice season.  Working together as a group really paid off, as we could find the school as it moved around.  Quickly drilling holes to area where fish were seen on Vexilars.  It was an awesome way to end the year, well, besides walking all the way across Clear Lake!
~~~Please use extreme caution if you venture on the ice, the top of the ice was deteriorating quickly in the afternoon with the sun high and wind howling.  The ice that we fished on Saturday, March 4th will change by the hour with the warm temperatures.  Use every safety precaution if you venture out anywhere.

Monday, February 20, 2017

KCRG-TV Channel 9 In the Great Outdoors: January Ice Fishing

John Campbell caught up with me and friend Keith Donnelly a month or so ago and did some filming.  A short 2-minute version played on KCRG TV-9 news, and then he made this extended version.  I hope you enjoy.

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Monday, February 13, 2017

Clear Lake Yellow Bass Bonanza

The Clear Lake Yellow Bass Bonanza has quickly become the ice fishing outing of the year here in Iowa.  Each February hundreds of ice fishing anglers swarm to Clear Lake, Iowa to take part in the event.  The event kicks off with a banquet Saturday night, a full dinner is provided to all tournament anglers and hundreds of dollars of prizes are given out.  A quick meeting of how to be safe on the ice and the event rules concludes the night.  I have participated in national bass tournaments not quite the size of this event, and they do not come close to the organization and pre-planning.  It is a fantastic event that is run absolutely amazing for the amount of anglers present.
Sunday morning all anglers gather on the ice at MacIntosh State Ramp.  This year the Ventura Fire Department had coffee and breakfast burritos for all to enjoy, I sure filled up!  This years' event was the largest to date, 265 teams participated bringing almost 600 people to Clear Lake for the weekend event.  Everywhere my partner and I went Saturday and Sunday was filled up with anglers taking in all Clear Lake has to offer for anglers around the state as well as Minnesota and Nebraska.
Saturday, my partner Jacy Large and I hit the lake in search of Yellow Bass schools.  They were not easy to come by like many previous trips to the lake, but we kept drilling and kept dropping the Vexilar 28's down the holes waiting for the groups to show up.  Fish were reacting to spoons of many different colors and several different colors of jigs too.  Once we found them in 7-10 feet of water, they seemed to bite well.  We found several places that the Yellows were roaming and felt comfortable as we packed things up for the day to head to the banquet.
The banquet is always a good time, with great food and a chance to catch up to guys that enjoy the sport of ice fishing as much as I do.  Stories are shared and future ice fishing plans talked about.  Each year at the banquet is the listing of prizes to be given away for the various places that Kevan Paul and his crew at Clear Lake Bait and Tackle give out after the weigh-in on Sunday.
Sunday came with nice temperatures but a stiff 20-mph wind that never let down all day long.  It made some bites tough to detect, but we made our way through the day.  We hit 4 different areas, but really settled in to an area around the 9 foot range.  Drilling was a constant as we made smaller moves to stay near the schools.  When the day was done, we had our limit with some really nice fish, the longest was just over 10.75 inches.  We were proud of what we accomplished, a limit of yellows and now it was up to the scales to decide how we fared against the other teams.  When things settled down, we ended up in 16th place overall.  We have fished the event 3 times now, and each year we strive for a top 25 placing, we were very happy to be called out at 16th and collected our Grizzly40 cooler for our prize.  It was an awesome weekend full of fishing, and seeing friends that love this sport like I do.  Thanks to Kevan Paul and his gang once again, they keep making this event bigger and better every year.  If there is room next year, you better plan early to get your place reserved at the best ice fishing event the state has to offer!

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Hickory Grove Lake Tournament

1st Place- Hickory Grove Lake
This weekend marked the annual Iowa State University Fishing Club Ice Tournament at Hickory Grove Lake.  This college organization puts on a few open ice tournaments each year to help raise funds for their organization.  This is an event that I have fished for many years, as I really enjoy fishing that body of water.  The past couple of years have been a bit of a disappointment in terms of finishing high in the standings.  This year, my partner Mark Anderson and I discussed it was time to "swing for the fences".  The previous weekend Mark did the heavy lifting and scouted the lake from a new perspective.  We focused our time before the tournament on trying different locations to try and find the roaming crappies that live in the lake.  The numbers of crappies in the lake is not great, the bluegill population is as strong as it has ever been.  Of course catching a few crappies makes a huge difference when you need to weigh in 10 fish for the tournament.  Don't get me wrong, the bluegills are of nice size in the lake, and plenty of keepers to go around, but when you are after the heaviest weight, crappies are the way to the top of the leaderboard.  We found the crappies and fine tuned the cruising patterns before the the event using the trusty Vexilar FLX-28s,  These units are nice to work with when finding fish.  The cone angle of the Pro-View transducer lets you see a vast amount of water beneath the ice, making our job of finding fish easier. Could we count on the crappies to stay the course?  Tournament day couldn't get here soon enough!

With a bit of surprise the crappies did stay their course, and the size of them were even a little more than we expected.  We were able to come away with dozens of fish on the day, and we did manage to get 10 crappies that took us to the top for the win.  We also weighed in the largest fish of the tournament, a white crappie that weighed 1.14 pounds.  It was a remarkable day, one that will not be forgotten for a long time.  It was once again a great day on the ice with Mark and other ice fishing friends enjoying the wonderful lakes and fish and Iowa.

TOP 5 finishers:
1st- Reed/Anderson           8.56#
2nd- Angell/Sansgaard       6.62#
3rd- Heim/Heim                4.92#
4th- Janiel/Hohaanselt        4.60#
5th- Large/Fischer             4.40#

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Filming with KCRG

Iowa's Great Outdoors took some time to follow my good friend Keith and I to a farm pond in search of some January fish.  It turned out to be a great 2 minute clip.  Once again, John Campbell did a fantastic job of bringing the outdoors to the folks of Iowa.