Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Ah, Spring

Ask what's on the mind of a fan of the outdoors today and he or she will likely say something about gobbling birds or biting fish. It happens every year when spring arrives, and this year is setting up to be one of my favorites. Balmy weather in western Kentucky has found me on the water pretty often lately. And I've caught a few bass on jerkbaits, jigs, crankbaits and lipless crankbaits, which are all mighty fun to throw. Crappie anglers are spread across the lake, and although I haven't taken much time to fish for them, I've watched many boats pull up slabs for the cooler.

I love crappie fishing and got started fishing by chasing specs, but my focus this spring seems to be on bass. I'm not sure why, but I am more excited about this season than any in the past. And I am ready to pound away at them the next few months. With that in mind, here is a list of what I want to accomplish, experiment with and learn more about this season while fishing on Kentucky Lake:

1. Big Spoons: I want to get on a bite with big spoons and toss one into a school of aggressive, competitive bass so they can thrash it a few times.

2. Frogs: I threw frogs quite a bit last summer but never really got into any big-uns. This year I am setting a goal to catch a 6-pounder on a frog.

3. Deep Cranking: This year I want to go off David Fritts style on Kentucky Lake. I want to find a ledge full of bass and ignite them with a crankbait and, hopefully, catch a few fish back-to-back-to-back-to...you get the point.

4. Swimming Jigs: This is a two-part goal: shallow and deep. I want to catch fish burning a swimming jig over submerged grass beds sometime this year on Kentucky Lake just to experience it. I also want to learn more about swimming or slow-rolling a jig on offshore structure. I think it's a technique that isn't far too common and could get hot.

5. Shaky Head: I will throw a shaky head this year. Not just once. I will throw it all season.

6. Skipping: I want to learn to skip docks with a baitcaster. I also want to get better at roll casting under and around docks with crankbaits, spinnerbaits and other lures. Essentially, I want to strenghten my casting accuracy.

7. 25 Pounds: I want to catch a 25-pound limit. I don't care how. I don't care when. I just want to catch a 25-pound limit on Kentucky Lake.

- Curt Niedermier

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Checklists and Border Crossings

Anyone who knows me knows I’m a checklist guy. I make checklists for everything from life-experience goals to “honey-dos” for the weekend. In the magazine business, editorial checklists drive the timeliness of magazines going to print and to your mailboxes and newsstands. It’s the same approach we take to provide you with all the great information from our pros to help you reach your own fishing goals.

Having most of my checklist done early last December, an offer to go to Mexico came. For someone who lives in a climate where snow and ice was common that month, a trip to Mexico sounded like heaven on earth. And quite frankly, a trip to El Salto had been on my “bass fishing goals checklist” for a while.

I was offered an opportunity to participate in product demonstrations with my friends at Tru-Tungsten (Fish Harder Companies), Shimano, Wave Worms, Rat-L-Trap, Biosonix and Laser Lure. Many other outdoor journalists were in attendance as well. Writers I respect greatly, like Ed Harp, whose articles I’ve read with great interest and who probably influenced my own style, couldn’t pass up this unique opportunity.

The trip was booked through Ron Speed’s Adventures (ronspeedadventures.com). A short flight from Houston to Mazatlan, Mexico had us loading gear in the back of shuttles before 1 p.m. The scenery on the drive was awesome with coastal washes out one window and arid, rugged landscapes and jagged mountains out the other. We ate a fine meal our first evening at the lodge, got to meet and visit with some great folks and began preparations for the next morning’s battle.

I shared a boat with professional angler Marty Stone that first morning. He and I stumbled onto a deeper-than-usual pattern revolving around deep rock and Carolina rigs and Zoom Mag Finesse Worms, Zoom 8-inch lizards and Berkley Power Worms. We managed to communicate with broken Spanish to our guide that we wanted to fish some deep rocks. He took us to a spot that fit our weak translation, and to say it was the right choice was a horrendous understatement. We boated 50 bass between 4 and 7 pounds in very short order.

When we got back to the lodge for lunch, word had spread about our 50-fish morning, when most of the others struggled to boat a few fish. Our guide shared the location of the spot with the other guides, and the rest will be something of future fishing lore.

Over the course of three days, that one spot in 30 feet of water with scattered standing timber and big rocks yielded hundreds upon hundreds of bass. You could catch them on jigs, topwaters, swimbaits, plastics and crankbaits. It didn’t matter. The last morning of fishing there were seven boats with two anglers each fishing the small area. Michael Iaconelli and I whacked them on Picasso jigs, Yamamoto Senkos and Berkley Power Worms with the new Youvella hooks. But the other boats caught a lot of bass too.

There aren’t many places in this or any other country where you and six other boats can sit on a small spot for three days and crank out hundreds of bass averaging 4 pounds. All told, that spot gave up six bass weighing more than 8 pounds and countless quantities between 4 and 8 pounds.

That one spot literally produced a ton of bass.

And now I’m one line item closer to mastering my own bass fishing goals!

Good Fishing!
Jason Sealock
To see more photos from this trip, click here. Expect a full destinations story on the fine fishing on El Salto in an upcoming issue of FLW Outdoors Magazine.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Pounds and Inches

Spring is at the door, and those anglers who took a month or two sabbatical from fishing during the colder months of the year are now chomping at the bit for trophy time. This is the time of year when some of the biggest walleyes and bass are caught. That late season of ice fishing and early ice-out in the North, and migrating bass in the South all make trophies a little more attainable this time of year.

Big fish feed increasingly as the water temperatures rise a degree or two every week. Truth of the matter, they are better about adding and losing pounds and inches when they need to than we are. But that brings up a good point for discussion. Is it inches or pounds that indicates a trophy?

By my standards, it’s pounds and ounces. Inches mean nothing to me. No one cares that I’m 72 inches tall, but for some reason it seems to matter that I’m 250 pounds. Same is true for fishing in the South.

A 10-pound, 1-ounce fish is much larger than a 9-pound, 15-ounce fish. Anglers down South are sticklers about an ounce or 2. Tell your buddy you caught a 5-pounder, and when that fish only pulls the spring on the scale down to 4 pounds, 14 ounces, your buddy will immediately start ribbing you about having a case of the “big eye” (where your eyes seem to see things larger than they really are – somewhat the opposite of a rearview mirror).

However, if you told that same buddy down South you caught a 21-inch smallmouth up North, he’ll say his 20-inch smallmouth was “pretty much the same size.” I think I just heard a few Northerners groan at that remark.

Yet I can’t really tell. So if I tell someone I caught a 20-inch smallmouth, guys up North are patting me on the back. Guys down South are still wondering if that’s a big fish. Then I tell them it weighed 6 pounds and they pat me on the back too.

Fishing is the only language I’ve found that is universal and foreign at the same time. It’s all in the details. If you fish a national tournament trail, you probably speak the universally foreign language fluently. Here at FLW Outdoors, we speak it fluently as well.

Telling someone you can catch bass on lizards in the spring isn’t speaking clearly. But explaining what type of hideouts and feeding areas to seek, and describing some different ways to rig and retrieve lures to entice strikes from pressured fish is where the language becomes clearer.

The separation between great anglers and sporadically good anglers is in the details. We all want to consider ourselves great anglers. The truth is we need to pay more attention to the details to truly become great anglers.

At FLW Outdoors Magazine, we’re focusing on putting more detailed information on locations, retrieves, sizes, colors and more into every article we put in the magazine. We realize our goal is to get anglers speaking a universal language of catching fish. Fishing is fun … but catching is way more fun.

We tried to cover a lot of bases in this issue, from throwback lures, to new crazy finesse rigs, to different approaches for old standbys. If variety is the spice of life, then consider this edition the salsa of early spring fishing.

Good Fishing,

Jason Sealock