Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Gearing up for the Ice Season with Vexilar

I have had the opportunity to speak with many anglers around the state about the upcoming ice fishing season.  Most conversations centering around the Vexilar units.  Clear Lake Bait and Tackle hosted the first "Ice Show" in Iowa for the year and Kevan Paul knew customers were wanting more information on how to get the most out of their flasher for the upcoming season.  Pictured above is the seminar session and the many interested participants.  It amazes me each year as I make the rounds at seminars that I see some of the same anglers from time to time.  Most want a refresher, because there is a lot to know about your flasher if you know what to look for.
Vexilar units were flying out the door that day and I know customers have a better grasp on what their units can tell them on their time out on the ice.

Next stop for seminars was Hank's Live Bait and Tackle in Waterloo, IA.  Again, anglers filled the store to talk and learn about ice fishing from the seminars and the friendly conversations around the store.  If you are in the market for any ice fishing gear, give these two bait shops try, if they don't have probably don't need it!

Here is a small section of my seminar that gets a lot of attention from those attending.  Just how much of the water below the ice do we see using our Vexilars?  What does the "cone" show us?  The answer always surprises anglers, and it is one thing that we must remember when searching for specific structures or school of fish.  Drill, Drill, Drill!

Be safe out there anglers...the ice is slowly freezing!

Fish Chowder

The Iowa Sportsman Magazine often highlights recipes for wild game.  With plenty of fillets in the freezer and wanting something different than another fried meal, I decided to give one a try. 

The featured recipe I tried was "Walleye Chowder".   I couldn't find any walleyes, but did find a bag of 10 bluegills, they filled in just fine.  The recipe was simple and had all the ingredients on hand except the red pepper.  I am not one to enjoy really "hot" food anyway so I left it out of the recipe. 

The chowder was great, and you could still get that hint of fish taste.  It makes quite a large helping, probably about 12 bowls.  So if you will not be sharing with many, you may want to cut hings in half.  Another thing, that red pepper that I left out, I am glad I did.  The cayenne pepper was plenty to give it a zip.  This is a great recipe to try, so if you have some fillets around give it a won't be disappointed. 

Monday, November 13, 2017

New Lineup from VEXILAR

Vexilar has once again upped the anti in the game of ice fishing.  This year the FL-12 and FL-20 got facelifts as well as new features added to them.  The FLX-12 and FLX-20 are the new generation of Vexilars.  I have had the new FLX-12 for a few months now and have tested it on the boat several times.  It is crisp, clean and has a very easy display to read and understand.  The features and specifications of the FLX-12 and FLX-20 are improved over the previous models...and the price barely moved.  All new Vexilar units come with a standard 2-year warranty, top-notch customer service and a product that will last many, many years.  Vexilar, a company that continues to put out products that will help you FIND and CATCH more fish.

Below you will see the comparisons for the FL models and how the FLX models are refined and improved.  Don't be afraid to give me a shout with any questions as to which Vexilar may be the best for you.  Or check out VEXILAR.COM for additional info and videos.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Fall is all but gone

The leaves are down, frost is a regular morning sight and there is no doubt of crispness in the air.  Fall seemed to disappear very quickly this year, and winter is just about here.
This time of year always tears at me, one part me wants to be floating on the river chasing smallmouth and largemouth, while the other side of me wants a few days of solid 20-degree weather so that same river will freeze.  This past weekend I put my big boat away, but still holding out on my river boat...just in case.  The main channel water was 37-degrees...all I could think about was "just 5 more degrees".
However, I have found myself tinkering with my ice fishing gear this past week, mostly due to the big Clear Lake Bait and Tackle ice show that occurred last weekend.
I was asked to give a seminar on using the Vexilars on the ice.  Events like these seem to get my mind always gravitating towards ice fishing, but I am still holding out for a few more bass in the boat!  Choices...Choices...Choices!

Sunday, November 5, 2017

New Rod Series from Quantum

QuantumPT Vapor Reel and the
7'0" Med/Hvy GForce Rod
This past week I had the chance to use one of the latest new rods from Quantum.  The G-Force Series from QuantumPT is a $99 rod that outperformed that price tag before I even used it.  Some of the main features when it arrived included:  Graphite blank, 7 foot in length with a med/hvy action, PT Guide system (a hybrid between a stand and a micro guide), 10 guides and the tip, cork handles and a no-snag hook keeper.  This series of rods comes in many difffernet sizes and actions from 6'9" to 7'6", ranging from medium action to Extra Heavy action. The weight of the rod is also very comparable to rods priced over $200.  All in all I was excited to get thing lined up and get some casts on it.

I decided to pair this rod (7ft Med/Hvy) with a newer reel by Quantum also, the VAPOR.  I chose the 7.0:1 gear ratio for this combo because it will primarily be a pitching or swinghead rod in my arsenal.  I hit the local river to give this combo a try.  I was throwing a 3/8 oz swinghead jig on some shore line covered with river rock.  The rod, stout, but I could feel the rocks as I bumped the bait along.  Great sensitivity and castability, once I fine tuned the Vapor.  Long casts were made easy by the large rounded butt knob, I wasn't fond of this until I gave it several long casts, and it proved to be of great value.

It wasn't long and I had my first bite, or I should say line movement.  Fall water temperatures on this day were just about 43 degrees, there was no "bite", yet the rod did allow me to see the line load up and set the hook on the smallmouth.  No giant by any means, but the scrappy smallie gave me a hint as to what this rod is all about.  This combo will be one I turn to often this month and into the 2018 bass season.  A great combo, with a pricetag under $250 for both.  PT quality at a great price!

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Time spent with the IOWA DNR

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to help DNR fisheries biologists in the Guttenburg area with research on walleyes and saugers.  It was a shocking research project where fish are shocked, kept in a tank, measurements taken and fish released back in the Mississippi River.  The Department of Natural Resources spend countless hours researching, collecting data, and managing the wildlife in the state.  Without this department, our trips to the outdoors would look very different.

I have some personal friends that work in the department and they have taught me many things that the department does "behind the scenes" to ensure good hunting and fishing opportunities.  For example, the testing I was involved with takes place for 2 weeks in October during the evening hours.  The biologists commented that it was difficult to change their family schedules they had from 1st shift to 2nd shift for a couple of weeks, all for the betterment of the Mississippi River.  However, the study is key to monitor the growth of the species, so it was just another day for the employees.

The biggest of the  night,
just under 7#
The actual research that night included shocking walleye and saugers to gather data on length, weight and testing dorsal fins for aging.  Dorsal fin samples of all sizes of fish were taken that night to be studied at another time to ensure proper growth rates of the walleyes and saugers.  This helps the DNR make sure fish populations are healthy and growing at the correct weights.  The study also helps the DNR set daily limits on fish catches as well, which is something they do not plan on changing anytime soon.  The big river is very healthy, and so is the walleye/sauger population.  A huge thanks to the DNR and the many different ways they help us outdoors people enjoy nature and all the creatures that swim, fly and walk in our nature.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Iowa BASS NATION State High School Bass Tournament

Zach and Vaughn
High School bass fishing has been around for about a decade.  However, it has only taken a steady stand in Iowa for the past 3 or 4 years.  The past winter the kids of Independence showed enough interest and the Indee High School Bass Club was formed.  The club is a Bass Nation club, which links them to the largest organization of bass anglers in the world, which naturally is call BASS.  Simple and to the point.  The organization as well as the Indee Bass Club is all about bass, where they live, how to catch them and what to throw at them.  It is a constant search that has consumed me since a very early age.

The high school bass club was started because I saw the a similar need for knowledge and experiences in the sport of bass fishing.  Students have learned the basic types of casting, different models of rods and reels and overall knowledge of bass habitat and the baits to chase after them. With those things coming pretty easy for
Brodi, Peyton, and Dave Wilson
myself, being in the field of education, I had no idea that in such a short time we could put together teams to compete at a state level and do well.

Do well is exactly what the Indee Bass Club did this past Sunday at the Iowa BASS NATION State tournament.  Indee had 3 different teams compete, which includes two club members and a boat captain each.  Students are not allowed to drive the gas engines during tournaments, but do control the electric trolling motors to maneuver into fishing and casting zones.  All three teams impressed their boat captains and all caught a few dozen bass each.  However, at the end of the day the scales never lie and a team had to be crowned the state champs.  Twenty teams from all over the state competed in the tournament, including schools like; West Delaware, Johnston, Janesville, North Scott and several Cedar Rapids teams.

The Independence team of Cyrus Butters and Parker Sweeney, captained by Kevin Christensen, came out on top of the leaderboard when all was said and done.  They had 5 keeper bass that weighed 14.43 pounds to take the title.  Brodi Wilson and Peyton Lolwing, captained by Dave Wilson, took 7th place with 5 keeper bass that weighed 9.45 pounds.  Vaughn Nabholz and Zach Davis, captained by Todd Reed, used every minute of the day catching bass, but none made the 14 inch mark, allowing them to keep them.  It was an unbelievable day for the kids, as each and everyone of them learned so much about fishing, and the Mighty Mississippi River.  Kids reported catching their bass on a variety of baits.  The champs boasted that Hot Rod Baits Jigs (Wig's Jigs) worked the best, hot Rod Baits tubes, spinnerbaits and Strike King lipless baits all caught bass and helped the kids reel in bass all day long.  Congrats to the group of 6 boys and 3 captains that made this day possible.  Also a huge thanks to the Iowa Bass Nation Youth director Joe Bagsby and Shanda Heath for putting the tournament on each year for the high school teams.

The competitive season is over for the Indee Bass Club, but students will continue to learn through club meetings held each month before regular school hours.  It is amazing how many kids will go to school EARLY to talk and learn about bass fishing!
Parker Stoner/Kevin Christensen/ Cyrus Butters

Monday, October 2, 2017

Independence High School Bass Club Fall Tournament

The Independence High School Bass Club has been around since February of this year, however we have been able to host a few memorable events for the kids.  Being the team coach, I work and listen to students and the things that they consider important to leaning more about the sport.

I reported on the May tournament on the Wapsi, simply put the bass did not cooperate that day.  However, when this event rolled around, I knew the bass of the Wapsi wouldn't resist the lures the boys had to offer.  Water temperatures on the Wapsi have dropped considerably in the last ten days, and when this occurs it typically means that river bass will start to eat once they have adjusted.  The bass in the Wapsi did just that, EAT!
2nd Place: Tayt and Brennan

Thirty-one students signed up to fish the tournament this day and all were paired up with a boat captain from the area.  I want to thank those men right now: Rick Wendling, Dan Sweeney, Randy Toale, Keith Donnelly (also an adviser of the club), Paul Schmadeke, Dave Wilson, Sean Stephenson, Ryan Roth, Keith Corkery, David Gissell, Corey Evans, Chuck Kayser, Chad Postel, and Bob Baldwin.  Without these volunteers the boys would not be able to enjoy an event of this caliber.  THANK YOU ALL!

The day was an awesome day to fish, cool to start the day but ended up in the 70's by the noon weigh-in.  Perfect for the last day of September.  Of the 16 boats, 9 teams were able to find and catch at least one keeper to bring to the weigh-in.  Very impressive for these young anglers, with many of them using basic tackle to try to trick the bass. It was nice to see some brand new Quantum Rods and Reels at the tournament, thanks to them for being the official rod/reel of the club!

Congrats to all anglers catching fish!  Complete Standings:

1st- ParkerS/DrewE                 3 bass   6.84#
2nd- TaytF/BrennanC              5 bass   6.00#
3rd- RileyS/JustinS                  3 bass  4.29#
4th- CliffordB/GarrettB            2 bass  3.23#
5th- JacksonT/DaltonH            2 bass  2.32#
6th- CalebW/DylanK                 1 bass  2.18#
7th- VaughnN/DrewE                1 bass  1.22#
8th- ZaneF/HunterP                  1 bass  1.04#
9th- BrodiW/PeytonL               1 bass   0.98#
Big Bass: ParkerS= 3.60# smallmouth

The Fall Champs: Drew and Parker with boat captain Dan Sweeney
Parker also caught the big bass of the event, a 3.60# Smallmouth

This event was free to all individuals that participated thanks to our event sponsors:
OHL/Iowa Realty provided monetary support, PROW (Preserving Recreation On the Wapsi) provided each angler with a snacks and lures to get them through the day.  NAPA also provided a hat for anglers at the weigh-in too, a nice surprise from another local business.  Hot Rod Baits Bass Series provided the weigh-in materials once again for the live weigh-in.  A HUGE thanks to all the sponsors.  

Monday, September 18, 2017

Bass World Sports Season Finale

This past Saturday was the finale of a year-long season on the Mississippi River.  Bass World Sports is a tournament organization based in Missouri and holds tournaments all over the Midwest.  This year I had the opportunity to fish three of these events with my long time friend, Kevin Christensen.  He is the definition of a "river rat" and has taught me so much in the past couple of decades.  We have had some great days of fishing in the past, and some I' have tried to forget.  This past Saturday is one that neither one of us will forget anytime soon.

The tournament previous to this one we placed 5th, and left a bad taste in both of our mouths.  Preparation is so important with catching bass and we decided we needed a different plan.  We both took a day off of work on Friday and put in a full day of practice.  We covered a lot of water in Pool 9 throwing a lot of different baits at the bass to see just where they were living.  We found several areas where the bass were feeding and we felt comfortable with our plan.

Saturday morning came and we locked up to Pool 9 from Harpers Ferry which was the plan for over half the boats in the tournament.  Our first area along the main channel gave us two keepers for the livewell and we were off to the our next area.  A side slough with plenty of current was our next stop and we finished out our 5-bass limit quickly.  While the first two fish came on an Optimum Baits frog and a Wig's Jig.  The second area was all about pitching Hot Rod Baits Tubes and Wig's Jigs on the QuantumPT flippin' rods and reels.  We continued the rest of day pitching jigs and tubes to weeds and wood to upgrade up until the last few moments of fishable time.  We headed back to Pool 10 feeling good about what we had accomplished and were eager for the weigh-in to see how we compared to our competition.

We ended up weighing 16.93#, good enough for first place, a weekend we will not soon forget.  Proper preparation, time on the water and finding the quality of fish to put us towards to the top is a feeling that never gets old!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Prepping the High School Bass Club

This past week I gathered the Indee Bass Club together for some seminars on Wednesday night.  Fellow team coach, Keith Donnelly was there to assist with the seminars as well.  21 students from the Junior and Senior High showed up to learn all about rods and reels, casting, flipping, and pitching techniques, as well as fine tuning baitcasting reels.  I have a feeling if these kids pay attention in school as well as they did this night, they will all be "A" students.

Since starting this club I have noticed the hunger in many of these kids, something that I had when I was a teenager as well.  It is my pleasure and honor to help these kids out and look forward to their next adventure later this month, a partner bass tournament on our home waters of the Wapsipinicon River.

If you are a student or have a student interested please check out the club Facebook page or website.

Thanks to all my supporters and their great products, please click their link on the right side of the website to see their various products and services!

Hot Rod Baits~QuantumPT~Optimum Baits~Vexilar~The Iowa Sportsman~State Farm Insurance~Bill's Pizza in Independence

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Mississippi River- Bass World Sports Tournament

Hard to beat the River Minnow
from Hot Rod Baits
Yesterday, Kevin Christensen and I entered the Labor Day Weekend Bass World Sports tournament out of Harpers Ferry, Iowa.  As usual Pool 9 tempted us from previous successes, so we locked once again in this event.  The day started out on an area that a friend and I did very well on the previous week.  We caught numerous 2.50# fish and a couple at the 3# mark, all within an area the size of a house.  Deep water, weeds near by, plenty of baitfish, and of course current were all present, so the bass had to stick around for a while...WRONG.  Not one keeper off this "magical" area, so off to explore other areas.  We kept our heads high and fished hard all day long in the lower part of Pool 9 where we spent most of the day.  We bounced around to all the bass hangouts, points, drop-offs, weeds, current, slack water, which all seemed to hold bass.  We couldn't really put our finger on a particular pattern for the fish as we picked them up in all locations.  We continued to upgrade ounces at a time pitching Wig's Jigs and Hot Rod Baits tubes.  We both use only QuantumPT flippin' rods and reels for this job.  High speed reels were important today as some bass were tucked in the thickest of laydown logs, you only have a split second to get the bass coming your way before they snag you up.  It was a good day of fishing and we knew we had around 14#, which is a good day anytime on the Mighty Miss'.  This day it was good enough to place 5th our of about 20 boats, however we were a few ounces away from bringing home some cash.  Maybe next time that "magical" area will yield some quality fish an bump us up in the to 3!  Until then, I will be on the search for that net magical place on the Mississippi River.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Hot Rod Baits Bass Series Stop #3

This past Saturday was the third and final stop of the Hot Rod Baits Bass Series at 12-Mile Lake near Creston, Iowa.  12-Mile lake is a 635-acre lake that was created by flooding a valley around Afton, Iowa.  It is a typical Central Iowa man-made lake, a lot of standing trees, rock piles, roadbeds, brushpiles and plenty of deeper water, the maximum at this lake being just over 40 feet.  The water quality is always pretty good at this lake, which has allowed the bass population to flourish.  The lake did not disappoint, and my partner Brian Bowles and myself had a great time figuring out these bass.
Friday was a long day on the water, covering as much water as possible.  Shallow, deep, weeds, wood we gave it all a good look with a variety of baits.  We ended the day with about a dozen Quantum Rods/Reels on the deck of the boat, we threw everything at them!

We decided to bet our tournament finish on two areas that we found during the Friday practice day.  We felt pretty confident we could get a limit of 6 bass, but really didn't know if they would weigh 12 pounds or 15 pounds at the end of the day.  The day was a great one to fish, light winds, temps ranging from 55-80, a great day on the lake for August.  We were able to capitalize on the two main areas quickly that morning, and were culling fish within the first two hours of the tournament.  We continued to work the areas over and expanded our casts in those areas.  We were feeling pretty good and there were only 4 rods/reels on the deck at this time.  We were going to finish the day throwing and dragging craw baits.  Color didn't seem to matter on this day, as we caught fish on every color we tried.  The highlight of the tournament was when Brian went back to back with 3.50 pounders.  He set the hook on the second fish before I had the first fish tagged and in the livewell, it was awesome and we had things going our way.  We continued to work over our areas, our baits were working and we were going to really focus in on the technique.  On the way back to the weigh-in we always seem to talk about what we did and how we think we might end up, a top 5 was our goal coming into this event, and we figured that we did enough to achieve that.  It was time to get the weigh-in started and see just how much our best 6 keepers weighed.  We ended up with 16.68# and ended up in 4th place.  We were pleased with our efforts and our finish.  The prize money was a nice bonus to a great weekend of fishing.

Thanks to all my supporters and their great products, please click their link on the right side of the website to see their various products and services!
Hot Rod Baits~QuantumPT~Optimum Baits~Vexilar~The Iowa Sportsman~State Farm Insurance~Bill's Pizza in Independence

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Fishing Hacks You Should Know

I have been fishing for over 25 years, and many of those being a student of the game.  I have read countless articles in various magazines, watched A LOT of fishing shows, and fished with dozens and dozens of anglers from around the state.  Each and every time I fish, my goal is to learn something about this great sport.  Whether it be about tackle, fish locations or even a helpful tip.  I recently was published in the August edition of The Iowa Sportsman Magazine with an article that highlights "Hacks Every Angler Should Know".  Here are three tips from that article, to read about all 15 of them, get your hands on the latest edition of  The Iowa Sportsman Magazine.  You can subscribe for 3 years for under $30 (36 issues), a fantastic value.

#1- No matter what kind of reel you have, it was designed to have a certain amount of line on it.  The spool should be full at all times.  An easy way to save time and money is to line your spool with cheap 15# line until it it is half full.  Then take a marker and color 3 feet of that line.  From here tie on your choice of line and fill ‘er up!  When you start to see your marker color, it’s time to get some more line on your reel.
#2- Crankbaits are awesome baits, however they are a nightmare to keep in a tackle box.  To help with this common problem, get the disposable hair bands that girls use to tie up their hair.  Wrap these small bands around the treble hooks a few times, it will keep them together and keep your baits more organized.  
Wrapping the small rubber bands around the
 hooks will keep them more organized.  You will
also find that you can fit more baits into your tackle boxes.

#3- Rusty hooks are useless, and won’t catch as many fish.  Grab a bunch of toothpicks and break them in small pieces to place in your tackle box along with your hooks.  The wood will help absorb the moisture and keep your hooks fresh.

Just a few little tricks I have picked up over the years, hope they help you be more successful, and save some money too!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Weekend Plan "C"

This past weekend the Tri-County Bass Club had a buddy tournament on Pool 10 of the Mississippi River.  It is the only time during the year where you can pick your partner, so I teamed up with Dave Dost, a member that has never been able to fish a tournament in my boat.  We were both looking forward to it, as the river was receding and the bass were biting.
A few days before the tournament I was notified that my trolling motor was not going to be fixed on my Ranger boat.  I quickly phoned Dave and he was all for using his bass boat.  So off to Plan "B".
I hooked up my river boat (14-ft flat bottom), loaded the QuantumPT rod/reels and headed up to Pool 9 on Friday to look around.  I have spent all of my time fishing Pool 9 this year, so it was a natural that I start there to look for our tournament fish.  Pool 9 did not disappoint, numerous keepers in several different areas, some on rocks, some on weeds and some just relating to current.  It was going to be a fun event, the bass were FEEDING!
As I told Dave we would be locking in the morning to go up to Pool 9 he thought it was great, it was something he has never done before.  Off to sleep for an early morning.
We arrived towing Dave's boat to the boat ramp well before 5am.  Here is where things really took a turn for the worse.  The trim on Dave's boat was not working, so we couldn't get it off the trailer...disappointed for sure.  On to Plan "C".
We drive back to the motel and hook up my jonboat to fish for the day.  The entire time driving back, which is only about 10 minutes I was thinking of any areas in Pool 10 that would be similar to the areas I caught fish on Pool 9.  I came up with a few, but ultimately the bass would tell us what they wanted on this day.
A common rule for river fishing, when in doubt, go to the current.  The first few areas that is exactly what I did.  Needless to say we were a bit limited with a 25HP motor and 14 foot boat, but we made it work.  We kept our baits in the water and fish were coming in the boat.  Dispite our late start, we had our 6-bass limit by 8am.  Things were going well, and we just kept on fishing and upgrading our weight little by little.  We ended the day with exactly 14 pounds.  One keeper was on a spinnerbait, and the rest all came from Hot Rod Baits Tubes.  It was a great day and we were in the lead after day 1.
Day 2 rolls around and we went to our primary area, current and laydown logs were producers as well as points.  The water level was dropping slightly and the bass were definitely relating to points on the outside of backwater areas.  Today however, all the bass seemed to want was a slow bait.  Hot Rod Baits tubes made all the difference once again, as well as a Wig's Jig and Chunk.  It was a great 1-2 punch for these bass.  We ended the day with 13.55 pounds and placed 2nd.  All in all it was a great weekend, even though we had to go with Plan "C", who knows what would have happened if we would have locked to Pool 9, but the great two days of fishing on Pool 10, I won't lose any sleep over it.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Trip to the Atlantic

Flounder was the species of the day
A family trip to Philadelphia was in order this summer, so naturally I just had to find a way to go fishing.  My brother-in-law who has lived his entire life only 60 miles from the Atlantic made all the arrangements.  The bite hadn't been good, as the ocean temperature was at 62 degrees, typically this time of year it is much closer to the the 70 degree mark.  Either way, we headed as far east the the continent could take us and we arrived on the charter boat for the day looking to catch some Flounder.
Cape May was the docking area, which offered numerous different fishing trips on the day.  Tuna, Sea Bass, and Shark to name a few.  The large boat could hold up to 50 fishermen, but today only about 20 boarded for the the day of fishing.  The trip out to the fishing grounds lasted about 80 minutes, a long cruise on the ocean was really relaxing, but I really wanted to feel that tug on the end of the line.
8-oz Drop Shot Rig
When we got there we dropped our drop-shots (8 ounce sinkers) down with chunks of squid or 6 inch Gulp baits.  The very first drop for me, and that tug was there, I couldn't believe it!  This was easy, the first drop and I already had a bite, and landed the first fish of the day for the boat.  It was a Flounder, but ended up 17.5 inches and the limit on this species was 18 inches, so back to the blue waters it went.  It wasn't that easy all day, but there was enough bites and others catching fish to make it interesting.  Both Mike and I had a great time, even though I may have offered some of my breakfast to the ocean.  Several Flounders and a couple Spotted Ling filled our day.  It was quite an interesting trip, especially the rod/reels we were using.  Needless to say, they were no Quantum PTs, which is what I really missed about this trip, who knows how many fish we would have felt with some better equipment!  A great trip, and hope to try it again sometime!

My Brother-in-law with another Flounder

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Old School

I was born and raised in Independence, IA and lived there for about 22 years.  I then moved to Marshalltown for the next 17 years and finally made it back to Independence with my family last summer.  In the world of fishing, moving to Marshalltown taught me 2 things; first, how to fish lakes/deep water and secondly, I really love river fishing.

Last summer was a blur with moving and adjusting to a new job, so fishing was put on the back burner.  However, this summer things are back to normal.  The past couple of weeks I have had the chance to "go old school" and fish the Wapsi a number of times in my river boat. (a 14-ft flat bottom rigged up much like a bass boat suited for the shallow waters of the Wapsi)  On my latest trip on the Wapsi, it wasn't the fancy Ranger boat, but instead I chose to use the river boat.  Things are just easier and more accessible with this boat.  Mid-way through the morning fishing trip while driving to another area of the river at a top speed of about 20 mph, I thought to myself...this is exactly what I was doing about 25 years ago.  At that time I was in my dads flat bottom boat with no-doubt a spinnerbait and a Texas-rigged plastic.  On this day, my own "fancy" flat bottom boat, a better trolling motor, but the same 2 baits tied on, a spinnerbait and a Texas-rigged plastic.

There was no doubt my mind wondered that morning, back to the good 'ol days of mowing lawns, playing baseball and catching fish out of the Wapsi.  Today wasn't much different, tossing baits around the lay down logs and rocky banks...shoot I'm still in love with the same girl I was back in those good 'ol days.  Thus, to put it simply, the Wapsi has always been home for me and I am once again enjoying the time I have with this beautiful little river.

As for the fishing, it has changed a lot the last 20 years.  The entire river system has changed a lot in the last 20 years.  Some areas that used to be great are now a sandbar, areas I have never fished have become my go=to areas now.  Rivers change daily, and if anglers put in the time to learn the current and where these fish locate any small river in the state will allow you to catch a variety of fish, especially bass!  It has been a great homecoming, and I am loving getting out on the Wapsi once again and getting some "old school" fishing in.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Hot Rod Baits Bass Series Stop #2

This past weekend my partner Brian Bowles and I headed north to figure out the bass on Pool 9 of the Mississippi River.  It was our second tournament of the three tournament series.  The first tournament was a disaster...and we did everything we could not to repeat that.  We put in two days of practice on the water which led us to plenty of fish, both smallmouth and largemouth.  After the two days we decided to focus our efforts on the south end of the pool and if that didn't pan out, we would run north for a backup plan.  Throughout the 3 days of fishing we caught fish on just about every lure we threw; jigs, tubes, sticks, swim jigs, spinnerbaits, craws and crankbaits.   Ounce you found the bass, they didn't seem to be very picky as to what they ate.  As always some baits worked better than others to pick up the larger fish.  The biggest of the weekend came on an Optimum Baits Ima square bill crankbait.  Bouncing this bait off the rocky banks was a great way to fool the bass, this big "brownie" loved it (pic).  We ended up fishing 4 areas Sunday, all of which contained rocks.  The bass were feeding up on crawdads, so most of our baits mimicked them once the tournament day rolled around.
Throwing a Hot Rod Baits Wig's Jig with a Hot Rod Baits chunk was the main bait for me Sunday.  Brian was throwing the craw bait from Hot Rod Baits in various colors.  We were both using 7-foot 6-inch Quantum PT flipping sticks with PT reels.  High speed reels were important today as the fish would take the bait and start swimming, you really had some line to reel in as you set the hook.  The tournament went well for us and we knew as noon rolled around that we were sitting pretty good.  However, we both knew that we needed that "one more big one" to help move up in the standings.  We finished with 17.12# of largemouth bass and ended up in 4th place out of the 20 team field which spans all over Iowa and into Nebraska.  The complete results can be seen HERE.  A big thanks to all competitors at Pool 9, some impressive numbers for the river; 108 bass were weighed in for an average weight of 2.44#.  The best fishery in the state proved itself once again!

A huge thank you to these great companies; Quantum Rods/Reels, Hot Rod Baits, Optimum Baits, Vexilar Electronics, TimReed State Farm Insurance/Bank, Bill's Pizza, and The Iowa Sportsman Magazine.  Let me know if you and questions about these fine companies and the products/services they provide or click their link on the side of the page.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Independence High School Bass Fishing Club

This past weekend marked a first for Independence, IA.  I have had the honor to lead and advise the Independence High School Bass Club the last few months, and this past Saturday was the first ever high school bass tournament in this area.  This wasn't the first organization I have helped out, many years ago a few students from the Iowa State University came to me for information and leadership to start that club, which is still going strong.  All my life, when I see someone with a similar passion as I have for fishing, I have tried to help out as much as I can.

So far this year during our bass club meetings the students have learned about water safety, DNR rules, being a steward of our resources, and general tips for choosing the right gear for bass.  However, a day ago it was time to put their gear and knowledge to the test to see if they could trick some local Wapsipinicon River bass.

The tournament was open to any student in grades 7-12, and 19 students showed up to fish out of 10 boats to try their skill on the Wapsi.  The weather was perfect, fish were caught; many northern pike and a few bass.  Like any tournament on any body of water, someone always seems to find the active fish and they rise to the top.  The team of Tayten and Brennan weighed in two keeper bass for 3.45 pounds to take the win.  Congratulations to them and all anglers that made it out to fish this inaugural event!

A huge thanks to the all the boat captains that drove the boats around for the students at this event.  Without them the event would have never been able to take place.  Also, Hot Rod Baits was a monetary sponsor for the event to eliminate all costs for the students, as this event was free for them to participate in.  They also donated many prizes for the kids too.

I write this with much pride that this club has taken off and I hope the future is bright for this student club.  I will do my part to keep things going and I hope many more students will be able to enjoy the the world of fishing and create many friendships as this great sport has done for me over the years.
A huge thanks to my partners too, without them I couldn't do what I do for the sport of fishing; Quantum Rods/Reels, Hot Rod Baits, Optimum Baits, Vexilar, Bill's Pizza, Tim Reed State Farm, and The Iowa Sportsman Magazine.

If you are interested in helping this group grow, please contact me personally via email;   Please "like" the Independence High School Bass Club on Facebook or click over to their website: to keep up with all the action.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Passing it on

I had the opportunity to present to about 125 students this week during their annual Fish Iowa field trip.  Just seeing all those kids walking around nature and enjoying themselves was quite a site, but to be able to teach them about some advanced fishing skills was even better.

First, a little history on the Fish Iowa program.  This is a curriculum designed by the Iowa DNR to bring awareness of fish and the opportunities available here in Iowa.  This program is designed for all ages, but 5th grade really seems like a good fit to fully jump into the program.  This curriculum has many different levels and teachers can cater their instruction to as little or as much as they would like to include.  Here in Independence they conclude their learning a with field experience, some hands on activities, and many experts in the field of fishing.  If you have younger kids in school, you may want to ask if their teachers have ever heard of might just hook them into trying it with your kids.

It was my honor and privilege to be a part of this and pass on some knowledge about the advanced techniques, rods/reels and baits anglers can use to catch fish here in Iowa.  Other stations kids visited were about fish identification/laws, erosion, pond fishing, and water safety.  The kids were great and the many community volunteers and DNR employees made the day very educational for those 125 kids.

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.

 For more information on Vexilar, contact me or click on their logo

To learn more about VEXILAR and their products click on their logo or contact me with any questions.

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#