Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve Fishing

"We have to be crazy!", said Don as he came to pick me up to head out ice fishing today.  It was around noon and Don and I had planned to hit a private pond.  The temperature was -7 and that was without the windchill.  We quickly loaded my things in Don's truck and we were off.
Cloudy conditions, and snow in the forecast, along with the frigid temperatures, but an open day to ice fish is something I don't pass up on.  We set up in deeper part of the pond, about 15 feet of water and found fish immediately using the area.  There is a brushpile in this deep water area, but the fish were not using it today.  They were roaming the area and there were a lot of them, mostly bluegills.  The Vexilars made short work of catching them as they came in our area at all different depths. 
Don and I caught a few from each and every school that roamed through the area, making for a very fun day.   The bluegills were ranging from 5 inches to
just over 10 inches.  The crappies ranged from 4-inches to a couple giants at 13-inches. We caught dozens of fish through the ice, but the quality of bluegills we saw today is above anything I have ever seen before, perhaps Santa was looking down on us today...we must have been good boys this year!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Quick Trip to Hickory Grove Lake

I had a few hours yesterday and just couldn't pass up the chance to check out a nearby lake.  A quick call to a fellow ice fishing friend, Chad Pietig, and we were headed west to Hickory Grove Lake.  We went to one of my "stompin" grounds, very deep water, brush in the area.  After carefully checking the ice as we ventured out on the ice, we found 4-6 inches of nice clear ice everywhere.  (we were on the far west side of the lake)  I popped ten holes to begin with, as Chad checked the holes behind me for depth, structure and fish with a Vexilar.  Well, I didn't cut anymore holes the next 2 hours.  We had plenty of action to keep us going. 
School after school came through the 22+ feet of water and picked the off as they did.  We ended with around 20 gills and 20 crappies for our two hours of fishing.  Most of the gills were 7-9 inches and the same for the crappies.  I haven't seen that many crappie out of that lake for years, so perhaps this was a wave of a new year class for them...either way I, and Chad had a great two hours.  Just goes to show even a short trip can "pan" out for some great panfish action! 

The Vexilar FLX-28 on the "Bucket" has been a fantastic

upgrade for the ice season.

Monday, December 9, 2013

First ICE trip

One of the first fish of the day, a nice crappie that fell to the VEXILAR FLX-28
Yesterday was the first real trip on the ice of the year for me.  I did make it out on the ice the day after Thanksgiving, but that was a shallow, small pond.  It was fun to get out on that pond, but my buddy Kevin and I didn't stay long as the ice was melting/bending quickly.

David Bowles with a BIG gill
December brought in some awesome cold temperatures, and the ice is growing quickly here in Central Iowa.  This has me especially excited because VEXILAR has introduced a new flasher unit this year.  I have used it several times in the boat, but this was the first real test.  One word...FANTASTIC!  I can't wait to get it out on some public lakes with varied structures and depths.  Either way, it is a great unit.
 Three of my ice fishing buddies made it out on a local farm pond this past Sunday.  Mark, David, Brian and I made it out on this pond and were pleasantly surprised to see 5+ inches of clear, solid ice.  Holes were popped very quickly in the deep basin and it didn't take long for the first fish to come above the ice.

Brian with a "foot-long" crappie
  One crappie after another came out of the water to see the falling snow this day.  When the crappies weren't roaming in the deep basin at about 10 feet deep (18-feet of water), then we could catch a few bluegills roaming or coax a few off the bottom to bite.  It was a great first day on the ice with friends.  We have fished a few times before, and it was like a bunch of brothers getting together after a few years apart.  Which, in the end, after the fish are caught and released...isn't it all about good times had with friends?

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Hank's Bait and Tackle Ice Fishing Seminar

I was called a month or so ago by Vexilar to do a presentation at this event.  I have always heard of this bait shop, but hadn't visited it for over ten years.  I kept hearing about all the selection they had for open water fishing and ice fishing.  But how good of a selection could they have, they aren't a "big-box" store.  Either way, I had an opportunity to speak to some ice anglers, which is something I always like to do.
I had decided to talk about ice-ducers and what they actually tell us while ice fishing.  I had a few pictures to aid my presentation and help the viewers understand.  I was looking forward to this opportunity.
As I pulled up the address, I thought my GPS was wrong...this can't be the area???  However, it was, I couldn't believe that I had to park about 2 blocks away from the store, I was shocked.  This was only the beginning, as I walked closer to the store front...I realized that this was no little bait shop.  This place was huge.  I walked into the store and realized I was one of about 150 people.  I was once again blown away.  I immediately started to look around and once again...WOW, the selection at this place is better than any "big-box" store I have ever been to for ice equipment.  The amazement didn't stop there.

A FULL spread of ice shacks at Hank's Bait and Tackle, don't guess
which brand you will like, go see them all at HANK'S.
I was directed to Mike Everett, the store manager.  I have crossed paths with Mike for a few years at some bass tournaments, always a nice person to chat with.  I'm not sure where Mike found his staff for his store, but I'm not sure there is another store that has more knowledge about fishing anywhere.  So, if you are looking for any fishing equipment, especially ice equipment, this is the place to check out.  The selection is better, and the sales staff is more knowledgeable than anywhere to will ever find.  A real gem for this part of the state.  If you haven't visited it lately, or ever, put it on your list.
Hank's has every model of Vexilar out to see,
so you can make a choice on which model is best for you.

Now for the actual event. Hank's Bait and Tackle managed to get Professional Angler Tommy Skarlis (www.fishtommy.com), Shawn Knodt of Striker fishing (www.strikerbrands.com), and Scott Reed from Berkley (www.berkley-fishing.com).  This will most likely be the best group of reps at any ice fishing show in Iowa this year.  Again, I was amazed, and honored to be in this select group.  Seminars ran every 20-30 minutes, and anglers were able to ask questions and demo products.  Have I mentioned that Hank's B&T has everything ice fishing???  Just so you have an idea, here is a list of some things I noticed; at least 3 different brands of augers, numerous brands of ice shacks, every single model of Vexilar and all the accessories you will ever need for them.  Selection which is second to NONE in this state.  Hot food, and cold drinks were served, and it was a good thing, as some anglers stayed the entire time, from 4pm-9pm.  This event was huge, and immediately following the event, Mike was already talking about how to make it even next year. 
Enjoy your time on the ice, and if you have an open day, visit Hank's Bait and Tackle for all your fishing needs.  www.fishhanks.com

Sunday, November 10, 2013

November Bass Fishing

Hot Rod Baits Tubes, hard to beat in the fall.
Every year in October, and November my mind and body are at a tug-a-war.  On one end of the rope I have the need to keep fishing from the boat for bass.  The other end of the rope is preparing the ice fishing gear, and watching the 20-day forecast to see how many nights are below freezing.  You might say that no matter what day of the year it is, I want to be catching fish.
The days are numbered for fishing in the boat, so I try to make every one count as much as I can.  This past weekend, November 9th, my friend Ken Lunsford and I made plans for a quick one-day trip to Pool 9 of the Mississippi River.  Ken, might love fishing as much as I do, I know he loves bass fishing as much as I do, which is pretty rare.  He is always up for a trip to chase bass at any time of the year.  The weather was predicting wind, up to 30mph, but temperatures right around 50 degrees.  We just "had" to go one last time.
Ken Lunsford showing a nice largemouth
 that hit a crankbait
We left Friday evening for an over night stay in Prairie Du Chein.  We were up early on Saturday morning to head north to Pool 9.  The weather was spot on, except the wind was suppose to blow from the west, which set up perfect for the areas I wanted to cover.  However, most of the day the wind swirled from every direction.  We made the best of it, and covered as much water as we could.  We ended up fishing a lot of the time in the Desoto area of Wisconsin, but spent awhile near Lansing also.  We caught between 40 and 50 bass, all largemouth.  Three baits did the damage on the day, a medium diving crankbait (bright colors), a small jig and chunk, and a Hot Rod Baits Green Pumpkin/Blue tube.  Most bass were in the 13-17 inch range, topping out at about 2.75#.
A great little trip, most likely the last time in the boat for me... but I always have ICE FISHING to look forward to.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Cedar Valley Anglers of the Year

It is official, by one little point, or one place in a tournament, we (Trent Beier and I) won the Cedar Valley Anglers of the Year award.  At the beginning of the year, it was our goal.  We wanted to fish every tournament together and see where things fell into place.  We did it, and are very happy with our results.  In the five tournaments that counted towards the standings, we got a 4th place, a 3rd place, a 2nd place and finished 1st, two times.  It was great to get the final confirmation that the numbers were in our favor...a job well done!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Last tournament of the 2013 year

The last event of the year took us north to Pool 8 on the Mississippi River in Lacrosse, Wisconsin.  Neither one of us had ever fished this stretch of the river in the fall of the year.  We did some homework, and had some areas that we wanted to focus on.  A few areas were a complete bust, but some panned out to pretty good.  We found some bass close to the main river, and we found some bass back in the backwaters too.  We had some variety and we were feeling pretty good about things that night. 
Saturday night brought in the first big cold-front of the fall.  In fact, frost covered the boat in the morning, and we knew that would change things. 
Sunday brought cold temperatures, and a lot less fish biting.  We caught a few fish in several areas, and managed 3 keepers.  Crankbaits, spinnerbaits, and Hot Rod Baits tubes caught the keepers.  We finished in the middle of pack, and were disappointed. We fished six Cedar Valley Bassmaster club tournaments throughout the year, and the last one ended up being the worst one.  Not what we had planned.  We were also in the running for Anglers of the Year too.  With the standings so close, Jason Eastman, and the team of Andy Sommerfelt and Mike Everett had great seasons too.  We left the event and no one knew who would end up on top of the standings. The long drive home only stirred the emotions and thoughts for the entire year.  Tournament fishing can really test you physically and this drive was testing me mentally too!  Not just about the mediocre tournament finish, or the close angler of the year race, but one again, a good friend and I were going in opposite directions once again.
My partner, Trent Beier and I entered the weekend of October 12th knowing that this would be the last time we would see each other for quite a while.  Trent lives just outside of Chicago, that puts him over 300 miles away, and 5 hours of road time.  Although we might act like brothers when we are together, we rarely see each other away from the Mississippi River.  Fishing is not only a fun thing to do, but it brings a couple high school friends together that would probably only talk on the phone a few times a year without the quest of chasing bass.
This picture was at the first tournament of the year, the first step of a year-long journey.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

October Kid FUN

Yesterday, I took my two kids out in the boat.  It will probably be the last day for a boat trip, considering the future forecast and one more weekend full with tournament action for me.  I figured it was now or next spring...I just had to make it happen on this day.
I'm Sure glad things worked out. We went to a private lake to try and catch some gills and crappies.  It was a bit windy, and with a 5 year old and 3 year old slinging bobbers around, we didn't catch a whole lot.  However, when our time was up, we probably caught about 15 or so, both crappies and bass.  The kids were happy, and that is all that matters.  We kept 4 crappies for a meal, and it added entertainment watching them swim around in the livewell all afternoon too.  They will be tasty, the crappies were running 11-13inches.

I'm not sure where he learned how to hold fish like that!  :-)

Some BIG excitement came when we netted a few bass that we caught on accident.

Friday, October 4, 2013

September Club tournament #5

Last weekend I made my way up to Pool 9 for the next-to-last tournament of the 2013 fishing season.  Trent Beier and I were once again going to tussle with the boys from the Cedar Valley Bass Club.
The water has been pretty normal on Pool 9 all year long, but we knew the water temperatures were unusually high.  Our practice day on Saturday showed us water in the mid-sixties all day long.  Things were NOT normal for the last weekend of September, so the hunt was on for some keeper bass.  I spent about 10 hours on the water probing every area that I could think of that would help us get a limit, which we knew would be like gold on this weekend.  We had found one area early in the morning, and while we dissected it we started to get ideas on what the fish were doing.  I continued the hunt in the northern part of Pool 9 and found numerous fish holding in current and weeds.  While the fish were biting, so was Mother Nature, I was stuck in the rain for about 5 hours on this day.  Not a lot of fun, but at least I was catching bass.  It was important to learn as much as I could about the conditions and placement of the bass.  Current was key for us on this weekend, not too much, and not too little, the bass were definitely holding in specific areas.
With our pre-fishing day behind us, we had a plan to hit the major two areas and haul as much as we could from them.  I had located a few other spots that had some keepers too, but much more scarce than our two primary areas.  At the end of the day, we were feeling pretty good about things.
Tournament morning was foggy...to say the least.
The "WALL" that you see is the fog as we moved into our first fishing area

Weeds were once again key to our success
We were let go about 7am, and had until 3pm to find 5 keeper bass.  The talk from other anglers before loading the boats knew that we had something going, as many anglers were not very confident in what they found the previous day.  The first area turned out great, the water was still clean, and the bass were biting.  We had a limit and culled a keeper or two in the first 3 hours.  We decided to head north and try the second area.  I knew fairly quickly that things were about to turn sour, and they did.  The water was much dirtier than the day before, and the bait that was jumping were simply gone.  I don't know for sure, but I am thinking the rainstorm and 40-degree temperatures had the bait scattered and the bass too.  We didn't stay long, and we headed back to our first area.  We upgraded a couple more times and ended up with 11.17#, good enough for 2nd Place.  Between the two of us, hundreds of casts were made covering vast areas of weed beds.  Not once did our Quantum Rods/Reels let us down.  We caught our keepers on swimjigs, Optimum Baits Swim Baits, and when things slowed down we turned to Hot Rod Baits.  Big Craws and tubes caught their fair share too.  It was a great weekend of bass fishing, and spending time with a good friend. Our top finish has us tied for 1st place for Team of the Year, with one event left to go, in LaCrosse, Wisconsin later this month.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Early September at the River

The Tri-County Bass Club hosted a buddy format tournament this past weekend out of Pool 10.  My buddy Brian Bowles and I had the weekend open, so we decided to give it a try.  We both knew it would be a challenge, as we didn't want to take any time off of work on Friday to go scout around.  This was a two-day event, so when we showed up at the river on Friday night, it was all about "gut feelings" on where the bass might be.
I knew the water temps were still high, and the current was not flowing into many backwater areas.  This told us to stay close to the main channel, and major backwater cuts that always have current.  This was a wise decision and we were able to catch 5 keepers on that first day.  We both knew that weight would put us in the hunt, depending on what we could do on Sunday.  We caught fish on crankbaits, swimjigs, spinnerbaits, topwater, Hot Rod Baits Tubes, and Big Craws, so the fish weren't acting fussy, it was just hard to locate a 14inch+ bass.
We knew we could probably duplicate another 5 fish on Sunday in Pool 10, but we decided to go for broke, we locked up to pool 9 after only hitting two areas in Pool 10 on Sunday.  The current was better in Pool 9, but the fishing was as tough.  We tried main channel rocks and current breaks with NO results.  I figured it was time to put our heads down and hit the weeds for the remainder of the day.  This was a good move, and we collected our 5 fish again for the weigh-in.  On this day though, Optimum Baits Furbit Frogs, and Hot Rod Baits Big Craws were the ticket.  One of us would work the heavy weeds with a frog, while the other would pitch the weed edge.  The action was slow, but when we were bit, it was normally a solid keeper.
We weighed in a 5-fish limit both days and had just under 20# for the two day event.  It was good enough for 2nd place.  The winners of the event; caught all their keepers after seeing some seagulls crashing the surface on shad, they followed over and caught limits both days in the same area.  Good for them for using all the clues of Mother Nature, bad for us as we weren't quite that fortunate to see such signals!
Another great weekend on the Mighty Mississippi River, sad to say, but the weekends are winding down, so every trip to the big river is cherished by me!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

August Club Tournament

This past weekend it was time for the next club tournament out of Pool 10 on the Mississippi River.  Trent and I spent about 5 hours on Friday looking around Pool 10 and another 8 on Saturday.  We also went to Pool 11 for a couple hours late in the afternoon on Saturday.  We were not happy with what we saw in Pool 10, and knew we would need more than 10 pounds to do well in this tournament.  Pool 11 was a last ditch effort, but it was our saving grace in the end. 
Trent Beier and I hit some areas and saw some potential.  We did not hit an old-time favorite that night though, in an attempt to save it for the tournament day.  That was a wise decision. 
We caught 4 of our 5 bass that we weighed in at "the old standby" area in Pool 11.  A lot of current mixed with rocky bank and plenty of minnows created a feeding area for fish to gather.  Four nice fish fell to a Pop-R bait, three of them being nice smallmouth bass.  We filed our limit and culled a few times using slow baits, like tubes and big craws from Hot Rod Baits.
We had a great time fishing, although the river wasn't the nicest to us on this weekend, we once again made some good decisions and that led us to another top three finish...well actually another win on the season!  Our limit was 12.90#, besting second place by over a pound.
I got home late Sunday evening, but I am counting down the days until I can once again be on the Mighty Mississippi River!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

July KID fun

Pretty simple blog this week:


Pond fishing with little friends, their faces say it all.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Revenge on the RIVER

The title says it all for the last two weekends of fishing for me.  The weekend of July 13/14th was a good weekend of fishing on Pools 9 and 10, but the tournament I was in left me and teammate Ken Lunsford in the middle of the pack.  We had some good things going in practice, but with the water dropping quickly, the bass quickly relocated.  We still found enough fish on Sunday to put together a limit of 6 bass and then some, but middle of the pack is not what we expected.  However, in the end on our 3-hour trip back home, we had many laughs about the fishing, and enjoyed our time on the water.
This weekend, the 20/21st of July was "revenge" time.  This time it was with partner Trent Beier, and the Cedar Valley Bass Club event.  I spent practice day with my mentor and long-time friend, Kevin Christensen.  It is always a privilege to fish with Kevin, as we don't get to very much.  Looking back, we probably tried to cover too much water when fishing on Saturday, but we were on a mission to locate some schools of fish in Pool 9.  We did find one good area, and then it was off to Pool 10 to look around. I did find a couple areas with a lot of current that the fish were using to feed in.  It was a start for the tournament on Sunday.
Sunday rolls around and with a game plan in mind for Trent and I.  We hit the two current areas, but after 10 or so minutes in each area, we both knew that it was not going to cut it.  We quickly decided to go to pool 9.  That was the best decision we made all day, as it turned out we didn't waste too much time on fish that were not cooperating.  Something that we tend to do from time to time. We hit some more main channel areas in Pool 9, but things were not what we expected, one keeper smallmouth is all we had after a couple hours into the 7.5 hour tournament.  Time to hit the scramble button.  We basically, "punted" and just went fishing that were easy to drive to quickly, and hit as much variety that the river had to offer.  In July, however, CURRENT was always in our conversations.  We knew we had to be close to it.  We decided to hit an area in Pool 9 around the middle of the pool.  This place offers current, weeds, and some logs to throw at.  We both knew the area well as we have been fishing there for years. 
As we entered the shoot off the main river, I spotted a few weeds, FROG time.  I picked it up and on my second cast, BOOM, a nice 2.5# keeper. Things were looking up, but we knew we had a long way to go.  We continued to follow the current and the weedlines.  This was another good decision we made.  It wasn't much longer and I picked up another good keeper on an Optimum Baits Furbit Frog.  Trent was working the edges with swimjigs, but as time went on, it was all about getting back into the plethora of weeds available.  We both were slinging the Furbit Frogs for the majority of the rest of the day.  A decision that once again turned the weekend around, and made for an awesome fishing day.  After securing a limit in this area, we decided to give some other water a look.  It was about 10 more miles north, but we were willing to spend the time to get to an area that was similar to the weedlines we were catching them on. 

Optimum Baits Furbit Frogs

This was another good decision we made on this day.  We hit a few more weed lines similar to the first area, and the action picked up once again, and again, it was all about the frog.  We moved quickly from one weed line to another.  The more weeds the better, and when we saw something that looked good, we stopped and fished it for awhile.  Things were going great, but time was running out, we were a long way from the weigh-in, and we had to go through a lock and dam too.  One more area and we had to go, well that turned out to be a good decision too, 3.10# in the last bit of weeds and we were on our way back to the weigh-in. What a way to finish the day!  We ended up with about 13.40# and got 3rd place. 
All our fish that were headed with us to the weigh-in were caught on Optimum Baits frogs.  As Trent brought up during this day, frog-fishing has a lot to do with your equipment, and that is so true.  A medium-heavy action 7-foot rod is perfect for this presentation, and a high speed reel with braided line completes the setup.  I was throwing a medium-heavy 7-foot Quantum Smoke rod, and a high speed Quantum Smoke reel with 60# braid. This is the perfect setup for slinging frogs all day and getting them out of that heavy weed cover. Tie on a Furbit Frog...the bass have no chance!
An awesome day on the water with a good friend, and in the end, that is what it is all about.

Good decisions and teamwork led to a great day

 of fishing and another Top 3 event

Monday, July 1, 2013

Just for FUN

Just one of the many 15 inch bass we caught
Saturday morning, friend Ken Lunsford and I headed toward Hawthorn Lake.  There was no upcoming tournament there, this trip was purely for fun.  The lake was recently renovated by the IOWA DNR.  Fish were stocked 4-5 years ago, and the fish are plentiful and numerous.
We knew going to the lake that we wouldn't catch any big bass, but again, this was simply a fun fishing trip. 
Ken and I were able to use multiple lures to catch bass throughout the day.  Crankbaits, swimjigs, and slower baits like plastics and jigs worked very well.  The weed growth in the lake is taking off, but we could not convince the bass to come up and hit frogs or swimbaits. 

Ken reeled in a rare feet, one cast,
one crankbait, 2 BASS!!!
There were a few key areas that held a lot of fish.  Windy points seemed to be great, as well as any bank that fell into about 10 feet of water.  On these areas, the coontail weed was starting to grow off-shore, and the fish were there.  Moving slower baits through and around this coontail certainly was a pattern we picked up on.  Every time we found this coontail growing off shore, we were able to catch a few bass off of it.  When this key area was on a windy bank...WOW, just hold on tight to your rod, because the fish were really piled up with both of these key features present.
It was a great day, we never caught any bass over 16 inches, but the number of bass we did catch topped the 100 mark for sure.  If you are looking for a little F-U-N, Hawthorn is the place to go!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Hanging with BASSMASTER Pros

This past week I had a rare opportunity to spend two days in the boat with a professional bass angler.  It has been my dream since junior high to be a "pro bass fisherman", and although that dream is out of reach, I was able to live that dream for a couple of days. 
I signed up to spend two days in a boat with a pro angler.  Each day was a different chance to learn from one of the best in the world.  The first day I drew Charlie Hartley.  CLICK for more info on Charlie  The second day I was paired with Skeet Reese.  CLICK here for more info on Skeet

Pro angler Charlie Hartley and some beautiful
 Mississippi River scenery.
Both anglers were in an event where the winner would take home $100,000, and if you get 50th our of 100, you get $10,000...pretty serious money.  They were competing in the Bassmasters Elite Series, which has seven major tournaments scattered out all over the eastern part of the United States.  This week, the stop was LaCrosse, Wisconsin on the Mississippi River.  I love the river, it is my favorite place to fish, and throw in the chance to be a part of a professional tournament, you bet I had to go!

The opportunity was to ride along with these anglers while fish in the tournament.  In a nut shell, we were in the boat to make sure they were safe, and they didn't break any rules.  Being a "Marshal" as they call it has many advantages.  As a Marshall you were able to be around all the pros, talk with them, ask them questions and most importantly ride along with 2 pros for a full day.  Both anglers were very generous with information and they both taught me a lot about fishing, and how they approached the river in LaCrosse.  It was truly amazing to ride along with them, and to see other pros like, Kevin VanDam, Tommy Biffle, Ish Monroe, Gerald Swindle, Rick Clunn, Mike Iaconelli, Dean Rojas, and the list goes on and on.  It was like a dream!  I also found myself talking to Tommy Biffle for about 15 minutes on Friday night, and he eventually became the tournament champion, pretty neat, and I am glad he came away with the win.

Professional Bass Angler Skeet Reese

As for riding the in boat for two days with Skeet and Charlie, it was an honor, and very educational.  Both days, we were laughing at jokes, and Skeet and I have the same kind of sense of humor, so we were going back and forth all day long laughing like old fishing buddies.  I never made one cast, never caught one fish, but it was two days that I will not soon forget, and hopefully in the long run, it helps me to be a better angler.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Father's Day Fun

As usual, my family found ourselves back in Independence for Father's Day.  After a nice Sunday breakfast, asked my boy if he wanted to go to a pond.  Of course, he said yes, and we were off to town to borrow a couple fishing poles from my dad and grab some worms.  I didn't think I would do any fishing at all this particular weekend, so with an extra hour in the morning, we were off to the pond. 
Bullheads, or "little Catfish" were the catch of the day
My boy and I have fished numerous times this year, and he has caught bass, crappie, bluegills and plenty of each of those species.  One species of fish that he has never caught, but always talks about is a catfish.  I just don't fish for them, but this day was different.  A good friend of mine, Kevin, has an acre pond that is full of bullheads from a recent flood.  Simply put, he wants them out of there.  So, I told my boy we were off to catch some "little catfish".  Bullheads are probably on the bottom of my list of fish to catch, but they are just like a catfish, and I knew Ranger would enjoy catching a few of these fish.
He was thrilled to catch a couple dozen of these of fish, and although they were all about 6-8 inches long, it didn't matter.  He was curious about there slimy skin, their "whiskers" and how they stung people.  He learned all about them, including breaking the myth, that bullheads/catfish sting people.  By the end of the hour he was picking them up safely and playing with them like any other bluegill or crappie we have caught this year.  It just goes to prove, that any fishing trip can be a great one, no matter how short, or no matter what you are catching.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Club Tournament #2

This past weekend was my second club tournament up on Pool 9 of the Mississippi River.  Trent Beier and I were able to hit the water on Saturday for some practice.  We spent about 11 hours on the pool looking at different types of cover and structure trying to figure out where the bass may be hiding during these flooded conditions.  To say the least, the Quantum Rods and Reels were getting a work out!
After a few hours we pretty much decided that the bass were located near the newly growing weeds.  Coontail, and eelgrass seemed to be the key for us to getting bites.  We had several good areas and felt pretty good about the event the following day.

A nice largemouth during practice that showed the bass were in the GRASS!
Sunday rolls around and as forecasted the wind came up and was pushing from the south and east.  This made several areas that we counted on very muddy, and in turn the bass were not in the feeding mode as well as the previous day.  We adjusted well, and headed towards our areas that were more protected with two solid keepers in the boat.
Our more protected areas were as good as the day before, even though it rained most of the day.  Saturday was gorgeous, sunny, light wind, what is the saying....if you don't like the weather in Iowa, just wait a minute!  We caught several other keepers that day fishing in and around the grass.  We had probably 10-12 keepers on the day and ended up weighing just under 11 pounds.  This was good enough for a 4th place finish.  Anytime you can fish against the Cedar Valley Bassmaster Club and notch a top 5, you know you are doing something right.  We won the first event of the year, and now we have another top 5.  We were pleased, considering the wind knocked out a few of our key areas.  Key baits for the weekend were swim jigs, chatterbaits,  spinnerbaits, and  Hot Rod Baits tubes.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The FLOOD of 2013

Central Iowa has been blasted with rain for the past 2 weeks.  This caused every stream, creek and river in the area to overflow and caused mass chaos.  Roads were closed, basements flooded, and farm fields looked more lake farm ponds.  We escaped the worse parts, all but a few detours on trips back home, but I cannot stop thinking about people who are still reeling from water in basements, and those farm fields, hopefully the crop will still be good for them. 
I have been asked countless times the last two weeks the same two questions; Did you survive the flood? and What does this do to fishing?

A close-up view of the muddy water while
releasing a bass.
I was very happy to answer the first question with, everything is just fine at our house.  The second question was a bit harder.  The flood of 2013 has affected every body of water in this region.  All of the Marshalltown area lakes were flooded, and over their banks too.  Pine Lakes,
Rock Creek, Union Grove Lake, and Hickory Grove Lake all experienced flooding that I have never seen in the past 14 years of living in Marshalltown.  What does this do to the fish?  Well Fish still need to eat to live, but feeding is very difficult when the fish can't see.  All fish use several different ways tracking prey, hearing, smell, vibrations through their lateral lines, and sight.  The first three are very keen senses, but without the last one, the sense of sight, it is hard to track down their next meal.  So, long story made short, fishing when the water is high and muddy, can and is always very hard to be successful.

The best fish of the day, a pale, Pine Lake 14-incher.
With this in mind, and about 10 days of no fishing, I had had enough.  A quick call to friend Don Henry, and we were off to Upper Pine Lake last Sunday to see what it looked like.  Not to our surprise, it was muddy, well, that was an understatement.  Visibility throughout the lake was about 2 inches.  That translates to terrible fishing conditions.  We gave it try for a few hours, throwing numerous baits at them.  We did manage 3 bass.  Don caught his on a spinnerbait, and both of mine came on a black and blue chatterbait.  The flash and vibration of the spinnerbait and chatterbait no doubt helped those fish find our baits and made the impossible happen, catching bass in those conditions.
Fishing is on a halt here for awhile due to the floods.  Most lakes in Central Iowa are just too muddy to have a very productive day fishing for any species. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

First River Tournament of the Year

3.00# Smallmouth on Pool 9

The Cedar Valley Bass Club held their first event of the year this past Sunday, and I was so glad to be back on the Mississippi River and away from the lakes of Iowa.  I just can't fish the big river enough, and it was too long of a wait.  The river has been high for quite some time, and reports were saying the bite was tough. We knew that coming in, the big ones just haven't shown up yet with any consistency. We figured 10-11# would put us in the top 5. My partner (who had enough of Pool 10 this year)practiced on Friday and found a few fish in one area above the marina in Lansing. My plan on Saturday was to find some other areas in the bottom 1/3 of Lansing. Brian Bowles was in the area for the weekend and joined me, we covered a lot of water in 10 hours.
We found a few fish here an there, and had one area full of bass, and then several different little spots patterned out in Harpers Slough. I was feeling good, knowing we could get 11# or so in the areas I fished.

Tournament day:
We locked up to my partner's spot above the marina. no keepers in the first hour, then it starts to rain. I grab a buzzbait from him, and get a keeper smallie in the boat. no more keepers for the next 1.5hours...yep, 2.5 hours and 1 little keeper to show. I was chomping to get out of there after about 30 minutes, but he was confident we could get them up there. After he finally gave up, we headed off to hit some areas I fished the day before. Went to the rock box and immediately caught a 3.00 smallie on a
Hot Rod Baits Big Craw! A lot of current there, but no other fish. We left in 15minutes or so. 
Off to the "village", that is what I call it anyway. Totally different area, 3 foot of no current and some weeds starting to grow. We caught about 40 fish in here the next few hours. Swim jigs, and chatterbaits were the winning ticket. Filled out a limit of 5 with 2#-2.25# ers and culled a few too. We were having a blast!
In the meantime the river was getting pretty rough. We rolled towards the lock at about 12:30. (2:30 weigh-in) Big rollers greeted us, and the ride was nothing but rough. My partner wanted to try one more area. The river was dropping fast and we discussed how a main channel spot which I checked out the previous day might be just "perfect" today. Well, it was far from perfect, but one bite and one fish later, my partner put a 2.75# in the boat, a nice 1/2 pound upgrade before locking through. We couldn't run to my areas down in Harpers Slough, we just ran out of time.  We didn't throw too many baits at the fish today, but each time on the water during tournament action, I am sure glad I have my Quantum Rods and Reels working for me.  They are smoothest, lightest and most dependable fishing gear out there.
We made it through the lock, stopped at a few other Pool 10 areas with no bites and back to the weigh-in.
We ended up with 12.00# to win, second was about 11.6#, third was 11.4# and then went down pretty fast. Most teams did not get a limit. This was the Cedar Valley Bass Club out of Waterloo/Cedar Falls.
A great weekend, which reminded me that choices and decisions on the tournament day often count for your successes and failures. 
Myself and Trent Beier with two of our biggest for the day.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Hot Rod Baits Bass Series

Hot Rod Baits has been holding bass tournaments for a few years now.  This year there are 3 stops on the circuit, Lake MacBride, Rock Creek Lake and Pool 10 of the Mississippi River.  The first event was a disaster, with only 2 bass being weighed in out of 34 anglers, that was April, now on to the second event.

Event #2-
Rock Creek lake, near Grinnell.
CONDITIONS- water temperture dropped about 5 degrees in 1.5 days. Wind was 20-45mph, right down the middle of the lake. Water clarity was really good for this lake (about 10-inches)

My partner and I had a decent game plan, but knowing Rock Creek for the last 15 years, we both knew that things don't always add up at this lake. There is a decent population of bass in the lake, and the average size is better than most lakes in Iowa...IMO. Did I mention that the air temp dropped about 40 degrees in that 1.5 days too? cry

So we thought we better fish off the bank a while to see if the fish up shallow were off a bit. We didn't find much with that hypothesis, so up shallow we went about 10am. Almost immediately we start hooking a few fish. Then BOOM, my partner loads up on a big'un with a black/red Big Craw. We were in 2 foot of water and he had him coming to the boat at the surface. I had the net ready...you know where this is going...and about 5 foot from the net, his line breaks. cry It was 4+ pounds no doubt.  Those things happen to the best in the world, you just keep fishing.

We stayed shallow a while, we went deep again, we fished out of the wind and we fished in the most windy areas of the lake too. The MinnKota 101 Fortrex sure lets you do this easily, as long as you can balance the waves.

We never hooked a fish all day that we put on the board, a dozen of 12-13 inchers is all we could manage, and that big'un, and one more that was coming on a crankbait...but got off. It wasn't our day.

Winners said all their bass came on spinnerbaits, and my buddies got second and big bass with spinnerbaits too (caught about 30 bass all day). We never had a bite on spinnerbaits all day (it was a spinnerbait day, which we kept saying over and over).

Come to find out, my buddies were using a natural color spinnerbaits (bluegill in color). Hmmmm, I guess I should have changed my white spinnerbait, sometimes it can be the smallest of adjustments. We had our minds on the BIG picture of the lake, and didn't really think about a subtle change that we could have made. Live and learn, and that is why I think I love and HATE tournaments at times. You can learn a lot, but you can sure get served humble pie too!

I wish I had a picture to share...maybe my next tournament will be better.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

April 27th- Kid fishing

The spring weather finally got nice enough to take the kids out fishing.  This was their first time out since ice fishing.  They were really excited to say the least. 
We hit up a local farm pond, which is so ideal for kids.  The grass is mowed, the banks are slowly slopped and the pond is full of bluegills and crappies. 
A couple spincast rods, a few dozen red worms and we were off to the pond.  Crappies were the catch of the day, accounting for 3/4 of all the fish caught.  Some gills made it to shore and one little bass which got the kids excited. 
It was a great few hours, but the little ones really got tired, and we had to cut the trip short.  All in all though, it was fun and they got to enjoy the outdoors! 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

First time in the boat- April 4th

It was a long winter, and I had many awesome trips on the ice to chase crappies and bluegills.  As the saying goes...all good things must come to an end, so as the seasons turn here in Central Iowa, the boat had to get out of storage.  I hooked up the boat after work last Thursday night with friend Ken.  We headed out to a private lake not too far from Marshalltown to test the boat and see if we could get a few bass in the boat.  It was only 8 days after my last ice fishing trip in the same area...almost unbelievable!

The boat worked great, all things were functioning right on cue, and the bass were somewhat cooperative too.  We caught about 2 dozen bass in a few hours and got to test out some new equipment for the year too.  Quantum Rods and Reels came out with several updated models and some brand new stuff for the 2013 fishing season.  I will have reviews of those products as I fish them a little bit more, but if first impressions last, I will not forget soon how these new rods and reels performed.

We caught all our bass on shakey head worms, jigs or Hot Rod Baits Big Craws.  I did manage 2 bass on a spinnerbait too, and they really nailed it!  Water tamps varied from 47-51 degrees, as the previous sunny days really warmed the shallow waters.  It was a fun outing, everything worked well, some new equipment was tested, and we boated some bass.

This marked the first time ever, since owning a boat in 1999, that it has not touched water in March, a weird spring, which will hopefully lead to many great days on the water this year.

Friday, March 29, 2013

This time was the last time...PROMISE

The end of the ice fishing season came this past Wednesday (March 27th) for me and a couple of my ice angling friends.  Don Henry, and David Bowles joined me for one last adventure to find solid ice.  A protected pond/lake with trees or located in a valley will hold ice much longer than an area that is out in the middle of nowhere.  I knew of just a pond like this, and communicated with Kent, the land owner.  He didn’t mind at all if we looked around.  As the three of us walked down to the pond we noticed that things looked good, no open water and it appeared solid around the edges.  We came to one side of the pond, and things were not good at all, one step on the ice, and one wet boot as it broke right through.  Time to try the other side…BINGO, walked right out and started testing the ice.  I started to quickly drill holes and measure for thickness and quality.  We were in business for some late afternoon fishing and our smiles were as big as a ten-year olds on Christmas morning!

                We quickly found roaming crappies and bluegills in the deepest water the pond had.  We were sitting in 15-22 feet of water for most of the time.  The fish would come in suspended and we would pick them off as they approved of our baits.  The fish were hungry, they knew spring was coming up, the water temperatures are getting warmer, and the pond water was once again teaming with microscopic life.  Fishing was great, and with every fish we caught we knew to cherish it, as it could be the last one of the year.  Night was approaching, and as the sun started to hide behind the horizon, we knew that time was just about up for the ice fishing season.  We all had a great afternoon/evening of fishing and it will be one to think about until next December.  
The sun has set on another ice fishing season.  December 24th - March 27th, and awesome season on the ice.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

I lied...

My last blog was supposed to be last ice fishing day, and it was.  Well, until this past Saturday.  I had all my rods put away, everything was packed in the back of the utility room and put away.  It really was, but Mother Nature made me get it back out.  It wasn't my fault.

The recent colder temperatures at night kept the ice in check this past week.  I knew the ice would be suitable for fishing, and I just had to do it. 

Hi, I'm Todd, and I am a fishaholic.

I made a few text messages to get at least one person to go with me, safety first.  It didn't take long to get Don Henry's text message back, he had his things all put away too, but out they came.  We made a quick trip to hopefully find some good ice on a local farm pond.  I was very pleased to see the edges locked up solid as we walked down to the pond.  I knew our chances of fishing that day was going up!

We made it out on the ice, it was solid, about 4-6 inches in depth.  I started popping holes, and Don followed up with the Vexilar checking to see if any fish were out and about roaming.  He found some in about 8-9 feet of water and started fishing.  I kept drilling holes making my way to the deepest part of the pond and then all the way across to the north side.  I was in "exploring" mode to find out about this pond, as I have only been there once before. 

We continued to catch crappie and a few bluegills for the next two hours.  They would come through suspended, or be about two feet under the ice, those were very aggressive.  After catching about 40 panfish, I had the itch to catch some bass.  The last time I was here I caught about an 18-inch bass, or three-plus pounds.  I was eager for another battle with one of those specimens.  I tried a Salmo minnow bait, but no takers, so I switched to a jigging spoon, GAME ON!  I did not hook up to another big one like a few weeks earlier, but did get one that went about 2.5#.  In total I caught about 10 bass that day, a very fun way to end the year.

Don had a great day on the ice too, gills, crappies, bass and a lot of laughs.  Always fun to go ice fishing...one last time.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

One last time on the ice

March 10th was my last day on the ice for the year.  David Bowles and I made the trip to Hickory Grove Lake, because I knew that was our best chance to find good ice.  The lake had plenty of ice, but the problem was the melting ice, and recent rains had about 20 feet of water surrounding the good ice.  The only place we could get onto the ice was by using a fishing dock that was left in the water through the winter months. 
A few keeper bluegills for a meal

We carefully checked the ice, and to no surprise the further we got away from shore, the better the ice was.  We tried three different brushpiles and found some bluegills on all of them, but the bite was pretty slow.    The water was very dirty, again due to the recent rains...not to mention if was raining on us almost the entire time.  The Vexilars preformed flawlessly on this rainy day, which has come to be normal with this product.  There is simply no better piece of electronics out there. It wasn't a great way to end the year, but always fun to get out with a friend, battle nature, and catch some fish.
The last few holes of the 2012-2013 ice fishing year

The next fish I catch will probably be from shore as I check a few ponds as they will thaw out first.  I love ice fishing...but am ready to get out the long poles and catch them on the "soft-water" once again.  So good-bye ice fishing...and bring on the warmer weather.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Still on the ice in March

Ranger and his first fish through the ice
This late in the year (last year I had already caught a fish from shore by now) you have to go where the ice is safe.  Saturday found me joining friend Chad Pietig at Hickory Grove Lake.  He wasn't having any luck when I showed up, and after catching a few green sunfish he decided to try his in-laws farm pond.  I was game and we moved out there.  It's a great little pond, and we caught dozens of gills and a few bass.  A nice day on the ice for sure.

Sunday came around and it was time to get the whole family out on the ice.  The ice had a bit of snow on it, so moving around for the kids wouldn't be too hard for them.  Almost all year long the ice has been like glass, and just wasn't safe for kids to be out there.  I figured this weekend might be the last chance this year to get them out there. 

"Fishing" fun
We had a blast at a friends' farm pond, one we frequent in the summertime often too, but I had never fished it in the winter so I didn't know exactly what to expect.  It didn't take long, and the Vexilar was lit up with red marks, or "fish" as Ranger soon found out.  He was using the Vexilar in no time and knew exactly when the suspended fish came into view.  It was a great time, he caught his first fish through the ice, a nice crappie.  My wife caught her first fish through the ice as well.  I wish she was as hooked on ice fishing as Ranger is!  Most of the time Ranger and little sister played with ice scoop and had a blast watching the fish swim back down the hole. 

An 18+ inch bass to end the day
It was an awesome day, and not because the fish were biting, but the whole family was having a great time in the outdoors!