Thursday, October 22, 2009

Bass Fishing on the Today Show

Bass Fishing doesn't get a lot of mainstream media coverage. Usually I'm okay with that because fishing is a source. It's much like surfing in the way it provides a lot of people with motivation and desire that would not otherwise have it. And trying to force that on people is somewhat counter-productive to helping balance and enrich lives.

But occasionally bass fishing gets thrust into the limelight for a moment or two. We can only hope that it's for positive reasons. So I was happy to see FLW Outdoors, the National Guard, Ranger, Evinrude and other companies as well as personalities like Justin Lucas, David Dudley, and more shown positively on the TODAY Show on NBC this morning (Oct 22, 8 a.m. hour).

While several of the facts and mentions were inaccurate, the gist of the piece was about how much bass fishing has grown from the days of our grandfathers and how much the sport of professional competitive fishing has grown. I thought Lucas did a great job in the piece and it was a lot of fun to watch I thought.

See what you think

Monday, October 19, 2009

Cull-or Me Impressed

In the perfect tournament, an angler would make five casts, catch five 8-pounders, slip all of them in the livewell and practice his winning smile the rest of the day. In other words, there would be no need to ever worry about culling fish.

Reality, however, means an angler will ideally have to cull early and often throughout a tournament. This lends itself to the possibility of an angler culling the wrong fish or forgetting to cull and having too many fish in the livewell – neither of which is a winning strategy. Plus, there is the wasted time of trying to find the smallest fish in the livewell so it can be replaced.

Luckily, a handful of manufacturers have devised products to aid anglers in keeping their best five bass in a day. Here’s a look at a limit’s worth of those products tournaments anglers have to choose from.

Ardent SmartCull Professional Culling System

Along with reels, Ardent makes a host of accessories for anglers, one of which being the SmartCull Professional Culling System. Basically, Ardent has taken a set of clips and attached a floating, colored ball to them – nothing new there. However, each ball has a set of numbered dials that allow the angler to show the pounds and ounces of each individual fish up to 15 pounds, 15 ounces. It’s a simple, “why didn’t I think of that” feature that ends the hassle of digging through fish to find the smallest one. The system comes with six clips and retails for $39.99. (


The beauty of the Cull-Buddy system is storage. The six colored buoys neatly hang in a holder, which can be mounted on any livewell or storage lid larger than 9 inches by 9 inches. The holder is made from a durable PVC-like material, and it’s easily installed with the included mounting hardware. Aside from convenience, the system also means no more loose clips rattling and tangling in storage compartments. The system retails for $34.99. (

Berkley Tournament Culling System with 15lb Scale

For the technology buffs, the Tournament Culling System with 15lb Scale is as cutting edge as it gets when it comes to culling. Along with eight color-coded culling clips, the system includes a digital scale that stores and sorts fish as an angler weighs them. Not only does this help with quickly culling the smallest bass, it will also add up the weight so the angler knows roughly where they stand. Batteries are included for this system, which retails for $44.95. (

Accu-Cull Culling System

Similarly to the Ardent SmartCull, the Accu-Cull system utilizes dials to note the weight of each individual fish up to 9.99 pounds. Yes, you can actually note the hundredths of an ounce, which is great for tournaments where small fish rule the system. The system itself doesn’t actually come with clips, but it mounts to the lid of the livewell and works with clips you may already own thanks to both numbered and color-coded dials. The retail price is $35.99. (

XTools xCull Manual Cull Kit

Most buoys use a flexible cord, which can get tangled both in storage and when hooked to a fish. The floating xCull buoys are solid plastic, minimizing the problem. The xClips are also easy to use as they don’t have to be run through the gills. While a grease board and pencil do come in the kit, the system is perfectly complimented by the Accu-Cull system. xTools also make the gripNweigh Pro Series Automatic Culling System similar to the Berkley model. The retail price for the manual kit is $18.99. (

-- Sean Ostruszka

Friday, October 9, 2009

Learning Concentration through Skeet Shooting

When I was growing up, I spent a lot of time in my grandmother’s backyard shooting trap with my dad. We used a simple thrower like is available from Walmart and shot only for fun. I did the same thing in high school with my friends, and eventually graduated to an actual trap range in college. After about a two-year hiatus, I recently got back into the shooting sports by joining a local skeet club. Most of the members compete across the state and even the country, and they are all talented and more experienced than me. But from them, my love of the shooting sports has fired back up to the point that I can’t keep clay pigeons and double-barrel shotguns out of my easily distracted head.

If you are not familiar with skeet, visit for way more information than you need and to introduce you to the complexities of what should be a simple game.

Skeet has helped me tremendously with developing mental strengths that I can apply to fishing or any task. In my writing, it is often difficult to relay the mental aspects of fishing that so many pros have mastered. While I can explain how to rig a weedless lure, skills like concentration, confidence, determination and discipline are best learned through experience. Those experiences, however, can come from any part of life, like I have learned through skeet.
For example, when I step up to the first and second stations on a skeet field to begin a round, I am focused on the steps I need to take to break the target and can usually hold the focus through the shot. By the time I reach stations three and four, however, I often find myself thinking about a missed shot, admiring another shooter’s shotgun or wondering if the clouds are going to bring rain. When I step up to shoot, lack of concentration causes me to miss as much as, if not more than, poor form and fundamentals.

The same is true in fishing. When I start out a day flipping, I am totally in tune with my casts and lure through the first hour or so. But as the day progresses, my mind starts to wander. I may begin making poor pitches and hang the lure or splash too much. I may miss a subtle bite that I should have felt. Or I end up overfishing each cast and wasting time.

As I progress as a shooter and an angler, I have learned that when distractions work their way into the scene, I can overcome them by slowing down and reviewing the fundamentals. I think about my lure scraping every rock and about the exact place where I want the cast to land. I don’t do it as well as the pros, but those skills come with time. Concentration at least makes my execution better and my reaction time faster.

Another lesson I have learned is one of confidence. When I step to the line to shoot skeet, I know that I will break the target. Of course, I don’t break every target, but before I shoot, I tell myself I will. I believe that I will. In fishing, I have to rely on my experiences and gut instincts and tell myself that if it feels right, it will be right, and I will catch fish.

If I miss a shot in skeet, I don’t dwell on it and take a hit to my confidence. I study the situation and try to determine what I did wrong. Back to fishing, if a lure or area doesn’t work, I think about why, but I don’t criticize myself, which would rob me of trust in my instincts. I try to grow my confidence by analyzing the situation and making a change. I have to believe that every move I make is the right one.

Don’t be afraid to look to other aspects of life to strengthen your mental skills and competitive abilities for fishing. You’ll be surprised where they show up.

-- Curt Niedermier

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

An Awful First Rule

It was told to me by a friend and longtime musky guide, and I wish he never mentioned it.

Probably five years ago, I was fishing with Tony Grant when I hooked a giant. I'm talking 40-plus pounds of behemoth musky. And the best part about it: I had her hooked good. Then it happened. I felt her move beneath the water to attempt to jump, I leaned my rod a little to try and stop her, and then nothing. No weight, no jump, no anything. She was just gone. I will never forget that awful feeling, or what followed it.

After crumbling to my knees on the deck, I looked to Grant in hopes he would inform me of what went wrong. He just looked back and said, "Nothing. The first rule of musky fishing is muskies get off."

I wish he was wrong, but he's absolutely accurate. I have no idea how they are able to dislodge massive hooks like surgeons, but they do. And they were in rare form this past weekend.

Having scored pretty well on a fall trip to Kinkaid last November, and hearing of a hot bite, my co-worker, Alan, his friend and I again made the trek into southern Illinois to chase some slime. And just like last fall, we got the net wet. Little after 2 p.m. I had a 45 1/2-incher rush a nickel-and-black Shumway Flasher and get just enough of the hook to allow us to get some pictures.

A trophy like that should have made the trip an incredible success, and don't get me wrong, it was a successful trip. But the four other muskies we didn't get pictures of sure left us with sour tastes in our mouths.

For some reason – and I don't know a single person who knows why – muskies will sometimes get in the habit of nipping at lures. They will launch up to lures like hook-seeking torpedoes, looking like they're about to not just eat, but destroy what they see. Then right before they close their mouths, they slow down and daintily nip the back. On the frustration scale, it ranks right up there with the popcorn kernel stuck between your back two molars. Again, why they do this is unknown, but when they get in that mood there is little an angler can do to get them out of it. I have recently been told burning smaller lures will sometimes get them to commit, but that is the first I have heard of any remedy.

If you couldn't guess, the muskies at Kinkaid were severely in the nipping funk, and unfortunately it cost Alan the trophy of a lifetime. Prior to the giant, we had three muskies between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. that all hit our lures, but didn't grab hooks. Regardless, the action had us pretty optimistic. Then just before 2 p.m. we motored into a small cut I had fished previously and had success. Sure enough, about midway into it Alan made a cast back to an area with an orange-and-black Musky Mayhem Tackle Double Cowgirl and had a 50-plus-inch musky eat the lure no more than 10 feet from the boat. Unfortunately, like the previous three, she only got a taste. She thrashed her head one time and the Cowgirl was air born, with the fish sinking back to the depths, surely with a smirk.

Just thinking back on those two seconds still makes me sick. Luckily, I know where she lives, and maybe, just maybe, later this year we might get to see her again to break the rule.

Slam the hooks!

- Sean Ostruszka

Monday, October 5, 2009

Getting Schooled on the Wacky Rig

By Sean Ostruszka

Up until last Saturday, a wacky rig ranked down there with 12-inch swimbaits and dough balls as a viable option for me to catch bass. To be fair, I'd never really given it a time to shine. Then again, I never really had a situation to use it. In fact, it was so low on my list of productive techniques that when one of the other editors here asked if he could have any packs of a particular brand of worm, I obliged.

Then Brian Lindberg, FLW Outdoors Magazine's creative director, went about whupping me Saturday with the same worms rigged wacky-style. Needless to say, I wish I had my worms back.

How he rigged the worm and other techniques regarding the wacky rig will be covered in-depth in some of the upcoming issues of FLW Outdoors Magazine, so I won't expound on them here. However, I did want to talk about one thing I found interesting while Brain went about throttling me.

Wacky rigs usually utilize a soft-plastic stick bait, and most stick baits have predominantly the same pen-like shape. However, the shape and flexibility of the worm can be much more important to the success of the rig than many may give credit. We both were using the same color, but different worms. Brian caught fish; I didn't. The second I switched to the other type of worm, my line started getting tugged on too. This wasn't just a fluke occurrence either. A few days after our trip, Brian went out again with a co-worker and experienced the same thing. What we noticed was how the different shapes produced different fluttering actions and different rates of fall. On a rig that doesn't have much action to begin with, those two aspects are very key. Remember that the next time you're not getting bit on a wacky rig. A simple switch to a different worm may be all that's necessary.

Slam the hooks!