Tuesday, June 30, 2009

FROM THE WATER - Tru-Tungsten Mad Maxx Frog

Is it the anticipation or the calm before the storm? Is it the abruptly violent eruption from under the water? Is it the closeness of powerful hooksets and gut-wrenching fights through matted vegetation? I found myself asking these questions about the appeal of frog fishing. My best guess is all of the above.

Thousands of strikes later, my heart still skips a beat when a big fish blows up on a frog. It just takes you back for a second and you struggle to get coherent again and take up your slack for a jarring hookset. You know the one I’m talking about. Where it hurts your rib cage and your wrist so bad because the fish you set on didn’t budge.

Do I have your attention yet? Okay let’s talk about the newest player to the hollow-bodied frog market, the Tru-Tungsten Mad Maxx frog. Its design is not revolutionary, but it’s easy to tell a lot of thought went into the frog. Armed with a super sharp Mihatchi double hook, TT designed the frog with a sleek profile and angry 3D eyes. The frog is shaped so that it sits in the water low enough to get a good nose slap but can still walk the dog well. I do recommend a loop knot or split ring on the frog to help with walking the frog in smaller moves. If straight slapping is frog fishing to you, then connect directly to the line-tie and snap the wrist.

The stand out feature on the frog is the pro drain hole. This unique aspect allows water to escape out the back of the frog when it’s pulled from the water and cast again. No more squeezing the frog to get the water out (an annoying habit with other frogs on the market). With this design you never have to touch the frog until a bruiser bass gets a hold of it.

The plastic is more rigid than the rest of the hollow bodied frogs on the market. It appears it will withstand a lot of abuse. But time will tell with that as the “frog bite” isn’t the hot bite in most parts of the country yet so not a lot of feedback has come in yet on the durability aspect. But it does appear it will handle some abuse.

The frogs come equipped with tungsten rattles, a great feature for those of us that insert rattles into our frogs for added enticement.

The designers at Tru-Tungsten applied some phenomenal paint schemes to the frogs including the bottoms of the frogs, a spot often overlooked by frog makers.

Ridges and grooves are carved all along the frog giving it unique body and depth in design.
The pricing seems a little more competitive than other frogs of this quality. If you’re a serious frog fisherman, they are worth the price to check them out for yourself.

I took the frogs to Kentucky Lake the last week in June. Our grass was slow to start growing this year due to high waters this spring, so there isn’t much matted grass to throw the frogs around yet. However, I saw a nice opening under two overhanging bushes and skipped my frog way up underneath the limbs. On about the third nose slap of the frog, the water erupted and a nice bass rolled up on the frog.

Of course, as is common with frog fishing, I couldn’t control my reflexes on the first strike and jerked the frog away before the bass loaded up. In all honesty, I didn’t believe a bass would be up that shallow in 93-degree water without more grass or substantial cover there. So the blame on that missed opportunity is on my shoulders, not the Mad Maxx.

So far my favorite color is Gremlin. The frogs were introduced in seven colors. However, I’ve begged and pleaded for more colors, and apparently a few other professional anglers have as well. TT sources told me last week there are a few new colors coming as well including white and/or maybe yellow.

Seriously, get some of these frogs and go to your best matted vegetation lake and let me know how you do. I want to know and see some pictures of your results.

Good Fishing,

Jason Sealock

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A Fresh and Useful Application for iPhone Anglers

In the 80s, we lived in a material world. Now we live in the micro-technical world. It seems more applications hit the market by the hour for our smart phones, PDAs and other micro personal gadgets. While social networking has exploded in the last six months, none of the hot new items have seemed particularly appealing to anglers.

However, I finally found an application for the smart phone specifically geared towards anglers. Navionics has become synonymous with finding fish offshore and improving the overall functionality of the best electronic GPS units. Now they’ve brought their expertise to personal devices with the first mobile application, currently only available for the iPhone, for charting contour maps of your favorite fisheries.

I’ve had time to experiment with and learn the application on the water for about three weeks now. I used it while chasing pros on Kentucky Lake during the Walmart FLW Tour to understand exactly what type of spot or area they were fishing. It gave me a visual cue as to what was beneath the surface as well.

The applications (basically the same maps you buy for your GPS units) are large, some more than 500 MB, and take a few seconds to load initially. But the great thing about the iPhone that some people forget is that no cell signal does NOT mean no GPS signal. I found the application to be very responsive on the water, even in the remote no-cell areas of the lake.
Basically the application offers six functions and some general settings.

GPS is the first function. By pressing this button, you are whisked through your map to your current location – invaluable when running from spot to spot without leaving the iPhone out and active the whole time.

The powerful application next offers a Search function. This function enables you to find specific elements on a map, including your saved favorite fishing spots. Things like marinas, boat dealers, outdoor shops, etc. are searchable. I found that most places I consider a marina are not listed in the search categories. However it was nice to be able to search for one of my saved spots and go right to it on the map.

That brings up the next function – Favorites. This function isn’t listed on the bottom bar, but is probably the most invaluable function of the application. By merely touching a spot on your map, a menu will load that allows you to name and store your fishing location for future use. This is the function most depth finder/GPS units on a boat would call waypoint. However on this application the waypoint function is actually for planning a route on your phone.

But the favorites accept more characters than you’re probably used to with your GPS unit. And the GPS coordinates are easily displayed as well. You even have the option to email your Favorite to your fishing partner if necessary.

One thing I found useful was to come up with a good naming scheme for your favorites. I’ve already got 20 or 30 in my phone and it’s hard to figure out which ones I should use. So I’ve gone back and dated when I found schools on those spots or denoted when I found a big fish on a spot. For example, I might mark a big fish spot with 6LB-0609. If I find multiples I might do Sch-0609a. Something I can search easily by date, whether it was a school, or maybe even by a piece of cover like grassbed, stump, brushpile or some other feature.
Also keep in mind you can only save 99 spots, photos and markers collectively at this time. Hopefully that number will increase, although each map section is its own application so you’ll have 99 with each. But I’ve marked more than 100 beds for a tournament before so more will be necessary for serious anglers.
The next function is Track. This function is similar to a trail so you can follow where you’ve been. I haven’t used this as much because I don’t like to leave my phone out and on while I’m running down the lake.

Following that, the Distance function allows you to plot how far in a straight line it is from your current location to another location. Again I haven’t used this much either as most lakes aren’t shaped in a straight line. But that leads to the final function, WP (or Waypoint).

With WP, anglers can plot the distance and route from one location on a map to another. This can be invaluable, if you want to hit one spot way down the lake and make it back before weigh-in. Figure out how far it is by tracking points along the way that you will take by water. Most people who are familiar with GPS units on their boats will mistake WP for Favorites. WP is a routing function, while Favorites is a fishing spot logging function.

One recent advance with the 2.1 upgrade is a Camera option. Now you can snap a photo at a location from your map program and use it in conjunction with your spots. This could be invaluable if you go to locations and shoot photos of them at low water where you can see the cover and structure. Then come back and fish them later at full pool. You be able to pull the photo up and look at it for reference to remember what is under the water there. Very slick!

The best part of this application is that you can get the maps for $4.99 right now if you hurry. Just go to your Apple iTunes store or your iPhone App Store and search for Navionics. Then download the maps for your area. Simple as that. Other smart phone owners will have to wait for versions to be released for their phone. Navionics website can help with more details (navionics.com\mobile.asp).

Good Fishing!

Jason Sealock

Monday, June 15, 2009

"I'm Freaking Out!"

Forget all the “wows,” “unreals,” and “best place in the world to fish” quotes. No quote from last weekend’s Walmart FLW Tour event on Kentucky and Barkley lakes summed up the event like the one in the title.

The originator of the line was Kellogg’s Rice Krispies Treats pro Jim Tutt of Longview, Texas, about an hour into the first morning. He told us he had been catching them in practice, so we decided to follow him to try and get some good photos. Yeah, “catching them” was a ridiculous understatement! By the time we had the camera gear ready he already had two keepers in the livewell and his co-angler was landing a 4-pounder. It seemed like every cast the two made ended with a net job. I can still picture him hunched over his livewell, his body trembling with excitement as he raised his head at our camera boat and stammered, “I’m freaking out.” All we could do was laugh and yell back, “This is what fishing is supposed to be like.”
Yes, last weekend, mere minutes from the FLW Outdoors office, we watched exactly what every angler dreams about. We watched pros catch bass almost nonstop on crankbaits, worms, jigs, spoons and swimbaits. I’m pretty sure most the pros had the fish so dialed in they could have tossed rocks with hooks on them and still landed fish. There are so many 10- to 14-inch bass in the lakes right now it almost got boring watching pros set the hook. But there are plenty of giants, which is why most pros’ hands looked like they’d gotten into accidents with 10-grit belt sanders.

I’ve seen some pretty impressive lakes throughout my life, but Kentucky and Barkley lakes are some of the most bass-infested waters I’ve been around. And after watching the pros for a couple days, I can’t wait till it’s my turn to “freak out.”
Here are a few shots from my days on the water:

Jim Tutt's day-one co-angler Lynn Baciuska Jr. of Afton, N.Y., battles a giant during Tutt's "freaking out" morning.

Day two, Tutt continued to share the wealth with his new co-angler. However, his spot didn't produce like it did the first day.

Keebler pro Dave Lefebre of Union City, Pa., swings in a keeper that began schooling behind his boat.

IAMS pro Koby Kreiger of Okeechobee, Fla., wrenching on the fish. If I had a nickle for every time I watched this happen last weekend I could pay someone to write this blog for me. But what fun would that be.

Kevin Snider of Elizabethtown, Ky., gave us almost as good a show on day two as Tutt did on day one.

Slam the Hooks!

Sean Ostruszka

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Tackle Shelf - ARDENT XS 1000.5

wish I could tell you the reason my blog hasn’t been updated in a while is because I’ve spent the past two months doing nothing but fishing. Sadly, that would be a blatant lie. However, I have gotten out on the water a fair amount and wanted to start sharing my tales, tips and thoughts (ahh, alliteration). And what better way to get back in gear than with a good, old Lure Shelf product review.

About a month ago, I was able to pair up my favorite e21 Carrot Stix rod with a new Ardent XS1000.5 reel to create (cue cool announcer’s voice) the ultimate cranking setup. While the original XS1000.6 featured a 6.3:1 gear ratio, the new XS1000.5 has a slower 5.0:1 ratio built for tussling with crankbaits. Seeing as, at the time, I was on a great crankbait bite with Rapala DT6s, you could say I was a little excited.

Sure enough, my excitement fit the bill. Spooled with 10-pound Berkley Trilene XL, the reel performed better than I could have hoped that first trip out and every trip since. I can bomb and burn DT6s and middepth crankbaits without any fatigue. Beefing up to a deep-diving, forearm-straining, how-in-the-world-do-guys-throw-these-things-all-day crankbait will make your forearms hate you after an entire day. But they won’t hate you after five casts like with faster reels. That no-nonsense gear ratio also means you have the torque to wrangle in any bass, regardless of size.

However, the drool factor on this reel, like all Ardents, is casting distance. When casting with the wind, there are times when I feel like I’m going to spool the reel. If you’re trying to get a crankbait 15-plus feet deep, being able to cast like John Daly tees off is a wonderful ability. Against the wind, the reel was equally as impressive. Although, I warn you, showing off by casting with the wind with your magnets open and then turning and casting into the wind can result in a nasty bird’s nest and a deflation of ego. If such an instance occurs, simply pick out the backlash, put your back to the wind, let one fly and smile. Your ego will quickly restore itself when you out-cast your buddy by 15 yards. Not feet, yards.
Slam the Hooks!
Sean Ostruszka