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.