Monday, May 20, 2019

Hot Rod Baits Bass Series Stop #1

The Optimum Baits Opti Shad
brings in a BIG ONE
This year Brian Bowles and I will be participating in this series once again.  It is a three event series, all-in format against 16 other teams.  At each of the three events teams earn points for their finishes to compete for the Team of the Year honors.  With only three events, there is no room for a major slip-up.  The first event of the year seems to always be the most difficult for us in the past few years.  With a full day of practice on Saturday, good May weather and a plan of attack we were pretty sure this wouldn't be the case this year.  Well, that didn't last long, I got a call Friday from my partner saying he had injured his ribs and was hurting pretty bad.  He was going to call me Saturday morning with an update.  I knew this wasn't good news...but went on to practice bright and early on Lake Sugema as I had planned anyway.  A few hours into the day I contacted Brian, and he was hurting pretty bad, trying to loosen things up.  He didn't have a definitive answer, and we left it as I needed to know his plans by noon.  The call...which I almost expected came in, Brian was out for the Sunday tournament.  I immediately started to think about who could come and fish with me for Sunday.  It is a 3-hour trip from Independence, and I really didn't want to trouble someone that much with such short notice.  So I started to think of other friends...Randy.  Randy Ellison has fished the series in the past and I knew he lived within an hour of the lake.  I made the call...and he was able to come and fish Sunday.  Talk about a roller coaster of a practice day...and that doesn't even cover the fishing! 

I made the most of the practice day in between the storms that came and went throughout most of the day.  I only set the hook 2 times that day, one was the fish you see above, a 21+ incher and then a 12-inch bass.  I knew I couldn't set the hook too many times, especially being a man down.  I felt at the end of the day I did eliminate quite a bit of water, and had two different baits that the bass were liking.  One of those baits was the Optimum Baits Opti Shad.  This 6 inch swimbait with a paddle tail fished on an irregular retrieve was getting quite a few bites, as did the Hot Rod Baits Tube rigged Texas-style.  It is always nice to end the day knowing a few bites that the bass were biting on. 

A little about the rigging of these two very different baits; first the Texas-rig.  I like a 3/0 EWG hook for pitching tubes, and a 1/4oz sinker was necessary on this day due to the swirling winds.  The Opti Shad was rigged with no weight and a 5/0 EWG hook.  These baits are very dense, making them easy to throw long distances even without any additional weight.  I do this to provide more natural movement from the bait itself.  It flutters, kicks, wobbles, darts in a variety of patterns that drive fish crazy.  I always throw this bait on a seven foot QuantumPT rod with a SmokePT baitcasting reel.  Between the QuantumPT combo and the high quality Optimum Bait swimbait it makes a dynamic pair...a pair that big fish like!  With these two baits and the trusty Black and Blue Wig's Jig I felt ready for Sunday.

Sundays weather was very much like Saturday, storms in and out, wind direction changes and rain on and off.  Not the best time to hit a lake post-spawn but that is what tournaments are for, testing yourself under Mother Nature's schedule, not your own schedule.  Randy and I started off on the on main lake and hit some keepers right away, the Opti Shad, tube and chatterbait all put keepers in the livewell.  We ended up culling a fish or two by around 10am.  We had our biggest fish in the livewell, a 4.00# caught on the Opti Shad along with two other nicer keepers, but still had 3 fish around that  two pound mark...not what we were hoping for.  We made the move to the west part of the lake and continued to fish main lake and some points.  The old channel breaks were hit and ended up on the west side of the silt dam.  We covered a lot of water, the Minn Kota got quite a workout on this day.  At the end of the day we both knew that we didn't have what it was going to take to win on this "big fish" lake, but we gave it our all and didn't hold anything back. 

The scale tipped us in at 14.46# for our limit of 6 bass.  We did have the 2nd biggest fish of the event with the 4.00# bass.  That weight placed us in 10th, definitely not where we wanted to end up, but almost every team was able to bring in a limit on this day.  It was great fishing with Randy, it had been a couple years since we shared a boat.  I hope it isn't that long in between trips this time.  It is quite obvious he loves the sport and this chance meeting saved my weekend for sure, so thanks to friends and the sport of bass fishing...I love it for so many reasons!

Sunday, May 12, 2019

The Iowa High School State Team Bass Championship

One simple thought...turned into quite an event.  That thought was, "What if any student in the state would be able to sign up to fish a bass tournament to represent their school?  How many would attend?"  That thought cam to fruition when the Hot Rod Baits Bass Series created the first annual Team Bass Championship that took place Saturday at Pleasant Creek Lake near Palo, IA.  I have enjoyed seeing the Indee Bass Club take off, but I knew there was much more interest around the state to fish bass tournaments, but schools didn't have a bass club.  This event would allow any student in the state to join the event and fish a tournament with a huge prize pot.  SCHEELS in Cedar Falls stepped up as the Title Sponsor for this event, allowing us to create beautiful trophies for the kids to enjoy for years down the road.  Quantum Rods and Reels made the large prize purse a reality, Cliff Keen Athletic Wear provided high quality dri-fit shirts for purchase, Hot Rod Baits, Wig's Jigs, and The Rod Glove all gave items for the students as well.  Without the generosity of these companies, this event would have not been possible.  Also a big shout-out to tournament directors Todd Reed and Keith Donnelly, tournament staff Rick Wendling, Dave Dost and Darrin Isaacson for making things run smoothly.
Over $1,500 in merchandise given away, including AWESOME trophies from CJ's Trophies in Oelwein, IA

Pleasant Creek Lake was chosen for the event.  This lake recently had a make-over and according to DNR fish surveys has plenty of bass to go around.  The lake is beautiful, clear water, rocky shorelines, brushpiles, rockpiles and plenty of shallow weeds.  This is certainly going to be a good lake for years to come.

So how many students did show up for this event...56 students from ten different school districts signed up for the event.  Independence, Alburnett, Starmont, North Linn, MLF/MarMac, West Des Moines Valley, West Delaware, Washington, Sumner/Fredricksburg, and Center Point-Urbana all were excited to get things going.  Four students make up a team along with two captains manning the
two boat teams.  Each team could work together to find the bass, catch them and bring them to the live weigh-in.  The weather was not a typical May Saturday, temperatures were in the fifties, and drizzle fell throughout much of the tournament.  Spring here in Iowa this year has been like no other.  The environment dictates every move of fish and on this day the bass were not very cooperative.  Only three teams were able to bring in a bass over the 12-inch length limit.  Those three teams and many random drawing teams took home over $1,500 worth of prizes and trophies.  Dispite the bad weather and the poor fishing, kids were leaving with smiles on their faces.  I hope to see many of them back for the 2020 event.



Here are the results:

1st Place and Big Bass: Washington High School- 3.14#
Caleb/Brock/Evan/Brady
2nd Place: MFL/MarMac- 2.92#
Maccoy/Braden/Brittney/Logan

3rd Place: Center Point-Urbana
Dylan/Dakota/Jacob/Bryston

1st Place: QuantumPT Accurist Combos

Big Bass Winner also received numerous items from The Rod Glove, Hot Rod Baits and Wig's Jigs.

2nd Place: Quantum Throttle Combos

3rd Place: Quantum Drive and Pulse Reels

The Next Generation

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I once again had the opportunity to speak at Fish Iowa this year in the Independence community.  Each year 5th graders at the local schools learn about fishing, the environment and how they can preserve it and protect it for years to come.  The kids get treated to an all-day field trip to the outdoors to see various programs from the Iowa DNR.  It is an awesome program and am proud to be a part of it.  I was asked once again to be the "fishing instructor".  I help the kids learn more about rods, reels, types of casting and the many different lures you can use.  It was great to field the many questions kids had about fishing and the local Wapsi River.  Throughout the day about 120 kids made their way to my station to pick up a few facts about fishing and how it can be much more than just a worm and bobber.  The more kids are involved in outdoor activities the better, and I hope I shared my passion with a few up and coming bass anglers on this day! 

Tools of the trade: Old and New school
Quantum, IMA Crankbaits,
and Hot Rod Baits