Lake Hartwell Bass Tournament

In the two-day Potato Creek Bassmasters April tournament at Lake Hartwell, 20 members fished for 17.5 hours to land 298 pounds of bass. Lee Hancock won with ten weighing 28.91 pounds and his 5.29 pound largemouth was big fish. His partner Jack Ridgeway came in second with ten weighing 26.38 pounds, Kwong Yu was third with ten at 24.82 and my ten weighing 22.00 placed second.

I had good and bad luck. One day of the tournament I landed a big hybrid and a keeper spotted bass the first few minutes after we started. Then I hooked and landed a 4.6 pound largemouth. So far so good. But then I lost four big fish in various ways, two of them that I saw and were as big or bigger than the 4.6 pounder. A couple got me around stumps and broke me off, one just pulled off and one jumped and threw the topwater plug.

I had a limit the first 90 minutes of the tournament and later in the day had to release four two-pound largemouth since I had five that big or bigger. That day I weighed in five weighing about 12.5 pounds. But Lee and Zero were ahead of me with their great catch that day.

The other day I started by catching a ten pound striper and a four pound hybrid on top, then a keeper spot. A few minutes later on two casts I had two fish weighing between 2.5 and 3 pounds each that came completely out of the water and my topwater plug went sailing. Another five pound plus largemouth ran at my plug in about a foot of water. I could see its back out of the water. I don’t think I set the hook too soon but may have since I never felt it.

I tried another place and filled my limit but then hooked a four-pound largemouth that jumped two feet out of the water and threw my jig head worm. That is rare since that bait is light, unlike a big topwater plug that has enough weight that when the bass shakes its head the hooks pull free.

The last two hours I fished deeper with the jig head worm and landed a 3.22 pound spotted bass and another one that culled my smallest fish, ending up with five weighing just under ten pounds. That was it for the two days. I hooked enough big bass to win but did not get them in the boat.

The Sportsman Club is at Clarks Hill this weekend. I hope my good luck holds and my bad luck gets better!

Fishing Success from Shore

Enjoy All-Season Fishing Success from Shore
Five ways for the shore-bound angler to enjoy more consistent catches

Dr. Jason Halfen
The Technological Angler
from The Fishing Wire

These five tips will help you to enjoy more consistent catches from shore, no matter which species of fish you pursue.

Let’s face the facts: nearly everyone gets their start in fishing by casting a line from shore. These outings find us anxious to tangle with “whatever bites” and happy to steal a few moments near the water to wash away life’s trials and tribulations.

The simplicity of angling from the shore is counterbalanced by the inherent limitations that accompany such trips: fishing locations are restricted to those places where we can legally access the shoreline, and our ability to probe the nooks and crannies of subsurface structure is limited by the distance covered by our longest casts. Even in the face of these obstacles, shore fishing continues to enjoy a special part in the repertoire of many sportsmen, ranging from the relative novice to the most seasoned and experienced angler. Here are five proven tips that will help bring more success to your shoreline fishing experiences.

Near-shore casting obstacles, like tall willows or reeds, can be outmaneuvered by using a long rod, like the St. Croix Legend Tournament Walleye Series (LTWS76MLXF).
Go Long. One of the most important tools for the shore-bound angler is a long rod. Certainly no secret to veterans of the Euro-carp scene, where rods up to 13 feet in length are commonplace, long rods provide significant advantages to multispecies anglers patrolling the shoreline. First, such rods allow anglers to avoid entanglements with imposing shoreline reeds and willows, where the rod’s length can elevate baits above those obstacles during the cast, and can also keep the angler’s line above that same cover during the retrieve. Second, long rods provide the leverage necessary to bring hooked fish quickly to shore, keeping them away from near-shore snags that could lead to loss of the “fish of the day”.

When chasing walleyes, bass and panfish, my favorite shorefishing rod is the 7-foot, 6-inch St. Croix Legend Tournament Walleye Series (LTWS76MLXF). This rod provides the length needed to avoid shoreline cover and to make long casts; the sensitivity I to detect subtle bites from wary walleyes; and the right balance of power to dominate larger fish, while still allowing scrappy battles with crappies and perch.

When whiskered fish, like catfish or sturgeon, are on the menu, I select a beefy St. Croix Mojo Cat (MCS80MF2). This 8-foot rod features a unique, powerful blend of SCII graphite and linear S-glass that can easily muscle the orneriest cat to shore.

Watch your line. Productive shoreline fishing areas don’t often occur as a sugar-sand beach, where barefoot anglers might frolic between bites. Rather, prime areas to target lunkers from shore are often tough to reach, and tougher to fish from, because of hazardous rocks, thick brush or downed trees, or manmade cover like docks or boathouses assembled from wood and metal. Casting, retrieving, and fighting fish near these abrasive objects can have dramatic, negative impacts on your line, often leading to line failure and the loss of a prize catch.

To avoid this heartbreak, choose a line that is tough enough for any shoreline application, like Seaguar AbrazX. A 100% fluorocarbon line fortified with advanced abrasion resistance, Seaguar AbrazX is designed to defeat the line-weakening effects of heavy cover, while remaining extremely soft for long casts and ease of handling. Perfect for walleyes hiding in the rocks and catfish tucked into timber, Seaguar AbrazX was also the line of choice for Jordan Lee, who relied on this abrasion-resistant fluorocarbon on his way to the 2017 Bassmaster Classic Championship.

Check your jig. One of the simplest, yet most effective ways to target fish from shore is with a jig. By selecting jigs of different weights, we can present a wide variety of both live and artificial baits through any portion in the water column. Indeed, a light jig can be dangled beneath a bobber or retrieved close to the surface. Choose a heavier jig to work the mid-range depths or to bounce a bait along the bottom.

The Fiskas XL Walleye Series Jig is an excellent choice for presenting live baits in moving waters.

Tackle shops are replete with jigs in a dizzying array of designs, shapes and sizes. One refinement that makes a big difference, especially when fishing in current, is the use of tungsten jigs. Well established in the ice fishing scene, tungsten is a non-toxic substitute for the traditional leadhead, and because of tungsten’s high density, tungsten jigs will be smaller than lead jigs of the same weight. In current, a small-profile tungsten jig allows the angler to probe the depths of moving water while offering less resistance to current, which keeps the tungsten jig within the strike zone longer. Fiskas XL Walleye Series jigs are hand-painted tungsten jigs designed specifically for open water use, and are excellent choices when chasing spring walleyes from shore, particularly when tipped with live bait. When presenting bulkier soft plastics, choose a premium lead jig with a wider-gap hook and a wire plastic-keeper, like the B-Fish-N Tackle Precision Jig.

Keep fish nearby. While shore-bound anglers generally have limited mobility, the fish they are chasing enjoy complete freedom of movement. Active fish patrolling a stretch of shoreline, or hopping among pieces of near-shore cover, might be within reach of an angler casting from shore for only a small fraction of that angler’s total fishing time. Where legal, BaitCloud is a unique product that will help to bring the fish to your location, and keep them there while you present baits to them. BaitCloud works by combining scent, sound, and visual attractants into a single, easy-to-use, biodegradable product that is proven to attract fish. Available in a variety of formulations, including specific recipes for bass, walleye, or panfish, BaitCloud can tip the scales in the shoreline angler’s favor, especially when used in a lake or other area with minimal current.

Travel light. One way to enhance your mobility when fishing from shore is to carry only a minimalistic set of equipment. The less stuff that you have to pack and move, the more often you will switch spots; just like fishing from a boat or through the ice, angler mobility is truly the key to success.

Featuring abundant space and a durable, weatherproof coating, the Plano Zipperless Z-Series Tackle Bag is the perfect storage solution for the shore-bound angler.

I carry a limited selection of basic tools and tackle, jigs and baits, extra line and maybe even an old-school stringer, all packed within a Plano Zipperless Z-Series Tackle Bag. Featuring plenty of room for my shore-fishing equipment and a convenient shoulder strap for ease of transport, my Plano Z-Series Tackle Bag has a durable, water-resistant coating and splash-resistant openings to keep my tools and tackle dry, no matter where my shoreline travels take me, or how rainy (or snowy!) a fishing day might become.

Fishing from shore is a great way to reconnect with your angling roots, and to introduce a youngster to our sport. These five tips will help keep smiles on faces and rods bent with consistency, no matter which species of fish you pursue from the shoreline.

About the author: Dr. Jason Halfen owns and operates The Technological Angler, a company dedicated to teaching anglers to leverage modern technology to find and catch more and bigger fish. Learn more at www.technologicalangler.com .

Roughing It At A KOA Campground

I just got back from “camping” for four nights at the KOA campground near Lake Hartwell. Camping isn’t what it used to be!

When growing up camping meant a pup tent or canvas stretched between two trees, a sleeping bag on the hard ground or if fancy, a lounge chair with a bar that hurt your back all night. We cooked on an open fire and food was either somewhat raw or burned. The only sounds were those of nature and our voices.

Now, folks pull in to a campground and park their motor home or trailer, usually about as big as a small house, on a concrete pad. They get out and hook up the power cord, water hose and cable TV cord, go back inside and turn on the air conditioner or heat. After two nights and three days of “camping” they reappear, unhook everything and drive off into the sunset.

Some, especially with kids, do rough it. Rather than disappear inside they get set up then pull out an awning, set up their big screen TV under it, and sit and watch it until time to go to bed at night. They even get the “nature” experience by putting a microwave on the picnic table and cook and eat outside.

One family pulled up beside me, did the above but also set up a small portable fence about three feet high around the table and door so their little yapping dog would not run off. The KOA had a small fenced in pet exercise area where they could walk their dog on a lease 100 feet to it so it could run free.

I started to go to the office and tell them they forgot to issue me my little yapping dog when I checked in. I thought one must be required since it seemed everyone had one but me!

A few folks ventured so far into nature they built a campfire. That consisted of trying to find enough twigs to put in a metal fire pit and dosing it with lighter food to start their bundle of bought fire wood. The KOA office sold firewood, ice and other necessities like shampoo, KOA tee shirts and toys for kids.

There was a nice shower room and I was almost always using it alone since most of the big campers were self-contained. As the folks left after their experience with nature they stopped at the dump station and emptied their sewage.

Sitting outside there were few natural sounds. Only air conditioners running, little dogs yapping and highway traffic. But I was there to fish so it was convenient to sleep in my van and drive the few miles to the ramp. I did not have to worry about my boat and tackle like I would at a motel and could cook my own food and go to bed as soon as the sun set!

Lake Guntersville Fishing Report from Captain Mike Gerry

Lake Guntersville Fishing Report

Check out these weekly updated reports for selected lakes in Georgia and Alabama Lakes Fishing Report. If any guides or fishermen do weekly reports and would like them published on my site please contact me: ronnie@fishing-about.com

Captain Mike with nice Guntersville bass

Captain Mike with nice Guntersville bass

Fishing Report, Lake Guntersville 4/22/17

I am pleasantly pleased to say the fishing has been great we are catching good size and good
numbers of post spawn fish and the fun has just begun. The fish are active they have moved
to the typical post spawn locations in 10 ft. or less of water and it won’t be long before the
ledge bite should follow. Guntersville all though extremely tournament heavy the fish are
responding and the fun part of the year is upon us.

The week for me was all about fast moving baits, Tight-Line swim jigs, rigged with Missile Bait
Swim baits, Punisher Hail Mary’s rigged with Missile bait D-Bombs and Punisher Spinner
baits; it has been fun and I expect we will see it continue for a couple of months. I think we
will see this pattern for a few weeks then the fish will move to the ledges and the SPRO deep
crank bait bite should be on. I for one can’t wait.

Come fish with me no one will treat you better or work harder to see you have a great time
on the water. I have the most experienced team of guides on the lake; they fish day in and
day out and can help you have some fun, find some tournament fish or just go fishing. We
fish with great sponsor products; Ranger Boats, Lowrance Electronics, Duckett rods and reels,
Vicious Line and more. We teach the use of electronics and we will be glad to help you.

Fish Lake Guntersville Guide Service

Email: bassguide@comcast.net
Phone: 256 759 2270
Captain Mike Gerry

Red Snapper Fishing

Alabama State Waters Open for Red Snapper Fishing Memorial Day Weekend through July
By Major Scott Bannon
from The Fishing Wire

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Marine Resources Division (MRD) has announced that Alabama’s waters will open for the recreational harvest of red snapper from 12:01 a.m. Friday, May 26, through 11:59 p.m. Monday, July 31, 2017. Alabama state waters extend 9 nautical miles from shore. The daily bag limit will be two red snapper per person, and the minimum size will be 16 inches in total length.

The federal red snapper season has not been set by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries. For information concerning the federal red snapper season, call (727) 824-5305. NOAA Fisheries Southeast Regional Office also indicated that they will send out a fishery bulletin once the federal season is established.

Fishermen are reminded that they are still required to report their red snapper harvest through Snapper Check to the MRD during this period as well as any other time red snapper are landed in Alabama. Only one report is required per vessel trip, and anglers can provide details via a smartphone app available under “Outdoor Alabama” in the iTunes or Google Play app stores; online at www.outdooralabama.com; or by paper forms available at select coastal public boat launches. The telephone reporting method is no longer available.

“We received positive feedback last year from the fishing public for the extension of state waters to 9 miles and the state red snapper season in 2016. The public felt that having the fishery open for Memorial Day weekend as well as the prime months of June and July allowed them to spread out their effort and have great family fishing days when the weather was most favorable,” said Conservation Commissioner N. Gunter Guy, Jr. “We feel that setting a similar season for 2017 will give people ample opportunities to access the red snapper fishery in Alabama waters.

“We will continue to work with the federal government and the other Gulf States to responsibly manage this great fishery in federal waters while also allowing proper management in Alabama waters. However, the incredibly short federal red snapper seasons are uncalled for. We have support from our Congressional delegation to make changes in federal fisheries management legislation and we hope to make progress on that front this year,” Guy said.

“The federal red snapper season this year has not been announced but it is anticipated to be very short,” said Deputy Conservation Commissioner Chris Blankenship “Alabama will use the landings from the Snapper Check program as well as other fisheries information before making any decision on a possible additional red snapper season later in the year.”

A list of public artificial and natural reefs located in Alabama state waters as well as recent reef-building activity by MRD can be found at www.outdooralabama.com/artificial-reefs.

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through four divisions: Marine Resources, State Lands, State Parks, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR, visit www.outdooralabama.com.

Fishing West Point Lake and Lake Lanier

Maybe fishing is good from Alabama to South Carolina with the exception of the middle of Georgia, for me anyway. A tournament at Lanier last Sunday was very frustrating but a trip to West Point on the Alabama line was more rewarding.

Tuesday I took my 2004 Skeeter I am trying to sell to West Point to run it some. It had not been cranked since last November, the longest time it has gone without going fishing since I bought it. I had taken everything out of it so I had to remember to take a life jacket, kill switch, and the boat key!

Although I planned to run the motor some and look at water color and temperature in preparation for a Potato Creek tournament Saturday, I did put in a couple of rods and reels, one with a spinnerbait and one with a crankbait. I took no spare tackle.

I was pleased when the motor cranked right up and ran without any problem. And the water from the Mega Ramp at Pyne Park up to Whitewater was a good color for fishing, a little stained but not muddy, and with temperatures in the low 60s I knew the fish should be active.

After riding around a little I could not stand it so I fished into a cove with the crankbait, casting it to rocks and wood cover, without a bite. Then as I approached a tree in the water I picked up the spinnerbait and caught a four pound largemouth on the first cast with it. That was exciting.

After riding around a little more I decided to fish the crankbait on a point and quickly caught two pound spotted bass. At that point I realized I didn’t want to catch any more fish, preferring to save them for the tournament, so I ran back to the ramp and took the boat out. I was on the water less than three hours total. I hope those two fish were waiting on me yesterday.

At Lake Lanier last Sunday 15 members of the Flint River Bass Club fished our first tournament of the year. We landed 21 keeper bass weighing about 45 pounds. There was one five-fish limit and five people did not have a keeper. Six of us had just one keeper after eight hours of casting. There was one largemouth weighed in, all the rest were spots.

Travis Weatherly had four keepers weighing 13.01 pounds and won and his 4.6-pound spot was big fish. Chuck Croft had five weighing 8.59 pounds for second, Niles Murray had four at 7.54 pounds for third and Dan Phillips had one spot weighing 3.7 pounds for fourth.

It was a very frustrating day for me. I had been seeing picture on Facebook of big spotted bass being caught on crankbaits and spinnerbaits. Folks were catching them on rocky points and clay banks, a pattern I like to fish. Others were catching numbers of spots by fishing a Fish Head Spin in ditches, a common pattern there this time of year but one I have never learned.

Travis and Chuck both said they caught their fish on the Fish Head Spin pattern. I tried it some without any luck. Nile said he caught his fish on a crankbait, something I tried a lot without a bite. My one keeper came out of a tree top and hit a jig head worm, on the sixth or seventh cast into it. It was no bigger than a bath tub. My partner Wes DeLay had also cast to that wood cover before the fish finally hit.

The weather is supposed to be unseasonably warm all this week and the fish should react to it by moving shallow and feeding. I remember a February in the mid-1970s with similar weather. It was very warm all month. Linda and I took our bass boat to Clarks Hill the last weekend of February to bass fish.

I had ordered two brand new plugs, called Deep Wee R’s, that had just come on the market. They were not in stores yet, I had to order them from a magazine. I tied on a chartreuse one and Linda used the crawfish one. We went out and found the water stained but not muddy.

About mid-morning we had caught a couple of bass but nothing exciting, and were enjoying the warm sunny day. We stopped on a clay point on an island and seemed to catch a bass on every cast for a few minutes. When they quit biting we moved to the next point in the creek and repeated the action. When it stopped there, we went to the next one with the same results.

The rest of that day and most of the day Sunday we rotated around those three points that we named Points 1, 2 and 3. Real imaginative, I know. Anyway, we landed 78 keeper bass in two days, most of them from those three points. My biggest was 6.5 pounds and Linda had one weighing 4.5 pounds.

I have never found the fish feeding like that on those points since then. Conditions were exactly right for them that year. But that is what keeps me fishing, expecting to find fish feeding like that again some day. Maybe this is the year!

Plan a fishing trip this week. You may find a bunch of bass, or catch the biggest one of your life. Conditions are right, just like they were one year back in the 1970s!

Spring Trout Strategies

Surefire Spring Trout Strategies
Tips from trout expert Bernie Keefe that will improve your action anywhere trout are found.
from The Fishing Wire

Late winter is a time of transition for trout and the anglers who pursue them. Admittedly, figuring out productive patterns while shifting from ice fishing to open-water mode can be intimidating, but those who know where and how to tackle spring trout can enjoy some of the year’s best fishing.

“Rainbow trout are a great example,” says veteran trout guide Bernie Keefe. “They’re active, hungry and willing to bite.”

Keefe targets tributaries and lakes in the Colorado high country a short cast west of Denver, but his spring rainbow strategies produce results in systems across the continent.

One part of his game plan hinges on the spring spawning run. “Lake-run rainbows migrate into tributary streams, and resident river fish may also move upstream and even into smaller tributaries,” he explains. “They run up rivers and streams until they find suitable spawning sites, which usually offer the right mix of gravel and riffles.”

Clam Caviar Drop Jig
Keefe doesn’t disturb spawning fish, preferring to let them focus on their efforts to continue the species. Instead, he keys on areas just below spawning sites. “With a good pair of polarized glasses, you can often see the spots where trout have cleaned mud or silt off the gravel for their spawning beds,” he says. “When you spot a bedding area, watch for dark shadows moving around just downstream. These trout are feeding on eggs and ripe for the catching.”

Small, egg-imitating jigs like the Clam Caviar Drop Jig are a top pick for such situations. “Because you’re sight-fishing trout in shallow water, often only 10 feet away from the bank, swinging the bait gently out to the fish with a lob-style cast is key,” he adds.

To execute such maneuvers, he gears up with a medium-light power, 7-foot, moderately fast action Fenwick HMX spinning rod spooled with 6-pound-test Berkley 100% Fluorocarbon line. “A long rod allows you to swing the jig out for a quiet splashdown just upstream of the fish,” he says. “Let the jig fall to bottom, then, holding the rodtip high, bounce the jig downstream. When the jig stops or you feel a bite, set the hook.”

While the rainbow’s wariness is legendary, Keefe says the smorgasbord of eggs drifting down from the beds often overrides such caution. “There’s so much food coming down to the fish, they get so caught up in feeding you can often catch five or six fish from one spot,” he says.

Keefe also bounces egg-imitating jigs in deeper holes, where trout hold en route to feeding and spawning areas. “Doll flies, tubes and marabou jigs also work in the holes,” he adds. “These resting fish aren’t moving much, so methodically work each hole before pulling the plug on it. The good news is, if you get bit, chances are there’s more than one fish down there.”

To cap off a perfect day on the tributaries, Keefe often heads for the lake in late afternoon. “Whether the ice is off or just starting to pull away from the bank, shorecasting open water off points, along dark shorelines and near incoming streams is a great way to pick up a few more fish before calling it a day,” he says. “Low-light conditions toward evening are great, but the fish may bite all day long if it’s overcast. Small jerkbaits like Berkley Flicker Shads and Flicker Minnows work great.”

Keefe also throws 3- to 4-inch softbaits such as a Berkley Gulp! Jerk Shad or PowerBait Minnow on a 1/8- to 3/8-ounce jig head, directing long casts toward deep water offshore. “Let the jig fall to bottom and swim it back by raising your rodtip, then reeling in slack
as you lower the rod back toward the water,” he says.

Together with the tributary tactics, Keefe’s lakeshore tricks offer the means to enjoy great rainbow trout fishing during the dreaded seasonal transition as winter fades away. Use them to make this your best spring yet.

For more information or to book a trip with Keefe, visit: www.fishingwithbernie.com or call (970) 531-2318.

Boat Safety

There was another boating accident in early Februry, this one on Allatoona a little over a week ago. From the information I can get two boats were going in opposite directions through a big “S” bend and almost hit. When one of the boats made a sharp turn to avoid the other, the three men in the boat were thrown out. None of them were wearing life jackets and two of them drowned, if the information I read is correct.

This is a terrible example of what can happen if folks do not know the “rules of the road” for driving a boat. For some reason boat drivers do not think it is important to keep right. If they drove a car like they drive a boat they would be running up I-75 driving north in the south bound lanes.

Going around a bend in the lake or river, where you cannot see very far, it is critical to stay right. Many boat drivers make the stupid mistake of cutting around a point close to the bank on their left to save time or distance. This is the correct thing if the point is on your right. It is the opposite of what you should do if the point is on your left.

Stay way off the bank when going around a blind point to your left. Stay out where you can see oncoming boats. It can save your life.

I do not know if that is what happened at Allatoona, but that kind of accident or close call happens almost every day in warm weather when people are stupid and don’t drive a boat correctly.

I have even had people driving a boat I was meeting in wide open water go to the wrong side, meeting on the left rather than the right, and look at me like I am wrong. That kind of dumb or uninformed driving can kill.

Fishing Opportunities

Be Ready When Fishing Opportunities Arise
Editor’s Note: Today’s feature comes to us courtesy of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife. Author Kevin Kelly is focused on the Bluegrass State, but his advice works for all of us.
from The Fishing Wire

FRANKFORT, KY– Planning a fishing trip more than a couple days ahead of time can be a gamble in late winter when the weather is a mixed bag and the favorable conditions here today may be gone tomorrow.

With some advance preparation, you can be ready to grab what you need and go when that friend calls at daybreak or the impulse strikes and the schedule allows for a last-minute trip.

Performing regular maintenance on your reels can prevent catastrophic problems or costly repairs down the road.

Over the course of a fishing season, grit and grime accumulate and work into the guts of a reel. A hitch in the retrieve signals a reel in need of immediate maintenance. Keep cotton swabs, rubbing alcohol, an old toothbrush, paper towels, reel oil and reel grease on hand to accomplish this task, but consult the reel owner’s manual or the manufacturer’s website for its recommendations.

Some wait until a reel is almost bare of line before replenishing the spool. Imagine the disappointment to have the biggest fish of your life break off or not have enough line to cast to a desired spot. Go ahead and invest in a new spool of line for the peace of mind.

Monofilament and fluorocarbon lines require more frequent replacement than braided lines. Match the line with the manufacturer’s recommendations for the reel and take care to load the line correctly to avoid line twist, which can lead to those annoying bird’s nests.

Likewise, clean and inspect any rods that were stored over the winter. Check the reel seats and tighten the lock nuts as needed. Repair or replace worn or broken rod guides. Brush the inside of the guides with a cotton swab. The cotton will snag on any sharp edges or burs.

Keeping your tackle organized can be a challenge once spring arrives. Why not start fresh? Stowaway utility boxes are an angler’s friend. These plastic containers come in all shapes and sizes and prove useful for storing baits, weights, jig heads, hooks and more. Organize soft plastics by color and type in separate sealable sandwich bags and store the bags in one of these clear plastic tackle boxes or a binder.

A dull hook decreases the odds of a good hook set, so take a moment while everything is out to sharpen hooks on crankbaits, jerkbaits and spinnerbaits.

Some anglers organize their tackle by species or waterbody type to cut down on time and the hassle of picking and choosing from several boxes the night before or day of a trip.

If you’re running low on an item, look for off-season and pre-season sales to help stretch your dollar.

Aside from equipment maintenance and organization, it is important to carve out some time to review the Kentucky Fishing and Boating Guide. The 2017-18 version is available online at fw.ky.gov and wherever licenses are sold.

The guide points out any changes in regulation. New fishing regulations that will go into effect March 1 include the removal of a statewide daily creel limit for yellow bass. Trammel Creek in Allen County remains under seasonal catch and release regulations from Oct. 1 through March 31 but the daily creel limit for rainbow trout will be five from April 1 through Sept. 30. Lakes and sloughs at Ballard Wildlife Management Area (WMA) and Boatwright WMA in Ballard County will be idle speed only for all boats. Likewise, Beulah Lake in Jackson County will be idle speed only for all boats. Largemouth bass at Pennyrile Lake in Christian County will be under statewide regulations.

Available on the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources’ website, the annual fishing forecast for the state’s major fisheries provides helpful tips for a more productive day on the water. Carpenter Lake in Daviess County for largemouth bass and the upper Barren River for largemouth and spotted bass, bluegill in Fagan Branch Lake in Marion County and crappie at Benjy Kinman Lake in Henry County are noted in this year’s forecast as up-and-coming fisheries.

The new license year starts March 1. Kentucky fishing licenses may be purchased online at fw.ky.gov or by calling 1-877-598-2401. Licenses and permits also can be bought at retail stores, county court clerk offices and outdoor sporting goods stores across the state. License vendor locations are listed on Kentucky Fish and Wildlife’s website.

In the meantime, there is still some time to squeeze even more value out of your 2016-17 fishing licenses. They’re valid through Feb. 28.

While not everybody has the luxury of being able to drop everything and go fishing when the conditions are ideal, you can save precious time by being prepared so you can take advantage when an opportunity does present itself.

Author Kevin Kelly is a staff writer for Kentucky Afield magazine, the official publication of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. Get the latest from Kevin and the entire Kentucky Afield staff by following them on Twitter: @kyafield.

Fishing Demopolis Lake and Lake Russell

Fishing was good from Alabama to South Carolina in late February. Last Friday I went to Demopolis, Alabama and spent the night. The next morning I met Will Ayers, a young local tournament fisherman, and we spent the day on Demopolis Lake, getting information for the March Alabama Outdoor News article. Since Will has a three-year-old son and a daughter on the way, he fishes only two local lakes, but last year he won $26,000 in tournaments.

Demopolis Lake is formed by a dam near the junction of the Black Warrior and Tombigbee Rivers. It is so close to the Mississippi state line you feel like you could throw a rock into the next state. It took me almost five hours to get there.

The weekend before we fished, Will and a friend had gone out and caught a lot of bass, with the biggest five going 17.8 pounds, and had a 5.5 pound kicker. He felt good about us catching fish and, the first place we stopped, the bass were feeding. Will caught about a dozen keepers up to 3.5 pounds on a red Rat-L-Trap, casting it into water about two feet deep. I was busy taking pictures notes and trying to get a video for the on-line issue of the article to fish much, and I was hard headed and kept throwing a DT6 crankbait, but I did manage to catch a couple of fish.

That was how it went for the rest of the day. Will would catch at least two or three everywhere we stopped and I might catch one or two. The last place we fished that afternoon, back in a creek where a point created a protected pocket from the wind, Will caught another dozen on a spinnerbait. I managed to catch two on a Chatterbait.

I love the river lakes in Alabama like Demopolis. The current and nutrient rich waters produce quality bass that fight extremely hard. We really do not have any lakes in Georgia like them. They have stained water, lots of grass along the bank, and miles of small creeks, sloughs and oxbow lakes to fish.

The five-hour drive home was the only bad thing about the trip.

Sunday afternoon I drove 2.5 hours to my mobile home at Clarks Hill to spend the night. The next morning I drove an hour to Calhoun State Park, a South Carolina park on Lake Russell, and met 18-year-old Brody Manley, another good local bass fisherman, to get information for the March Georgia Outdoor News magazine. Russell is a lake between Clarks Hill and Hartwell on the Savannah River.

Brody makes and sells fishing jigs for a living. They are available in local stores in that area and online at https://www.fishmanleycustomtackle.com/. He also guides on a couple of local lakes and fishes tournaments. I am constantly amazed at the skill and knowledge of the young fishermen I meet. Tournament bass fishing did not exist until I was in college, but some of these young folks have been tournament fishing since they were pre-teen! Their experience shows.

Russell is about as opposite a lake as you can have from Demopolis. The water at Russell is deep and clear, with rocks being the most important cover on the lake. It has quality largemouth but is also full of big spotted bass. Rather than fishing big baits on heavy line, Brody fished smaller baits on eight pound test line.

The cold front that came through Sunday night had put the fish in a bad mood, I think. Brody still caught a pretty three pound spotted bass as well as several more keeper size fish. I never had a bite! We quit fishing at noon when I got all the information I needed for the article.

The 3.5 hour drive home from Russell was not quite as bad as the one Friday night!