Fishing Bartletts Ferry with Tyler Morgan

Last Saturday I spent the afternoon on Batletts Ferry Lake just north of Columbus with Tyler Morgan. Tyler is a young tournament fisherman from Columbus and is very good. In the past few years while fishing 33 FLW tournaments like the BFLs as a boater and non-boater, he has finished in the top ten 16 times, an incredible record.

Tyler was showing me how and where he fishes the lake, marking ten good spots for April fishing for the Georgia and Alabama Outdoor News Map of the Month articles. Bigger fish had been up in shallow water getting ready to spawn due to the unusually warm weather, but the cold fronts pushed them back out.

There were still a lot of smaller male bass feeding shallow, waiting on the weather to warm and bring the females in to them. They will start fanning beds to invite the females as soon as conditions are right. We caught 15 to 20 bass but the biggest was about 2.5 pounds.

Tyler impressed me with how he fishes. He covers a lot of water fast, running backs of coves with baits that will draw a strike from hungry bass. He could skip a frog or swim jig far back into cover like overhanging bushes and tree tops, places most fishermen, and I, never get a bait into.

He kept his trolling motor on a fast speed and went down the bank too fast for me to fish a slower moving bait like a jig and pig or shaky head. That is the way I fish. At my age I have to sit down, make a cast and slowly work the bait back out. None of that for him, although I did catch four or five bass that he accidently left for me.

I’m Going To the Bassmasters Classic This Week!

I’m going to the Bassmasters Classic this week on Hartwell – as a press observer. It is most every bass tournament fisherman’s dream to go compete in the Classic, and I missed qualifying for it through the club federations in 1983 by two pounds in a three-day tournament. Now I get to go watch the pros fish.

Is the Classic a big deal? At the last Classic I attended I was on the press bus and made the comment “the Superbowl is the Bassmasters Classic of football,” a play on the usual comment. I guess I was overheard by a writer from Sports Illustrated and that quote appeared under my name in the next issue.

The Bass Anglers Sportsman Society invites 52 off the top fishermen in the US to the Classic, where they compete for a first-place prize of $100,000 and the dead last of the 52 gets $10,000. It is estimated the winner can parlay his win into over $1,000,000 in sponsorships and endorsements the next year.

During the Classic there will be a huge outdoor show at the Greenville, South Carolina 250,000-square-foot TD Convention Center. Thousands of fans will visit booths set up by hundreds of fishing related companies. Some will give out free samples and one company offers to fill up to three of your fishing reels with line if you bring them with you.

Weigh-ins will be held in the Bon Secours Wellness Arena Friday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons. There will be over 10,000 fans watching the weigh-ins each night. Competitors are trailered in from the ramp at Lake Hartwell with their catch in the live well and are pulled directly to the stage, where they will get out of the boat and step onto the stage to the scales.

I will be in Greenville Tuesday through Friday, coming home before weigh-ins start to fish club tournaments on Oconee that weekend. On Wednesday, the last practice day, I am scheduled to ride with Steve Kennedy, one of the competitors, watch him and get information for future articles.

Van Kennedy, Steve’s dad, lives in Fort Valley and is a member of the 26 Bassmasters club, one of the best in the state. Van has made the state team more than 20 times and has qualified for the Classic through the federation. He is arguably the best club fisherman in the state and usually leads his team to a top finish in the state tournament.

For some reason Van will not do an article with me, saying he can’t give away his secretes, except to other fellow club members I guess. He introduced me to Steve a few years go when he came to watch our Top Six weigh-in at West Point and cheer on his dad.

Van taught him well. Steve is one of the top pros in the nation right now, but he won’t do an article with me, either! But I will get to spend the day in the boat on Hartwell with him.

On Thursday, Media Day, I will have lunch with the pros then get to interview ten of them. I will attend the Outdoor Show Friday afternoon before heading home. There will be well over 100,000 attendees of the show during its three days.

Friday afternoon there is a fan appreciation day where everyone can go and meet the pros and get autographs. It would be well worth a trip to Greenville for all the festivities!

Technology Enhances DNR’s Ability to Gather, Share Natural Resources Information

Michigan Technology Enhances DNR’s Ability to Gather, Share Natural Resources Information
By BOB GWIZDZ
Michigan Department of Natural Resources
from The Fishing Wire

With an electric current pulsing through the waters of a secluded stream, brook trout and other fish swirl into view – stunned briefly – before they are captured, measured, counted and released.

The information gathered from these sampling efforts helps fisheries biologists assess stream fish populations.

Meanwhile, the use of electroshocking is one example of how the Michigan Department of Natural Resources employs technology to help produce, retrieve or collect valuable data on a wide range of subjects.

Technology is defined as the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes. From that perspective, the DNR has always been a high-tech agency.

But as technology advances, the DNR continues to adopt new concepts and techniques as it carries out its task of managing the state’s natural resources.

Some technological applications are explicit to the DNR’s various divisions, like those specialized for managing forests, fish or wildlife. Others are wide-ranging and involve the entire department.

Geographical Information Systems (GIS) technology, for example, is used across the DNR. GIS uses maps and aerial photography to display various layers of data, from political boundaries like county lines to forest types, locations of campgrounds or other information.

Maps can be created with GIS displaying specific layers of data the user is interested in, while omitting others.

“It’s all about data,” explained David Forstat, who runs the DNR’s Resource Assessment Section (RAS). “We work with all divisions within the department.”

The Resource Assessment Section has 20 employees. Most of these workers are headquartered in Lansing, but several employees are situated in the northern Lower Peninsula with plans to add a person in the Upper Peninsula.

“We use the data to answer questions,” Forstat said. “We know where the deer are, where the wolves are, we keep track of the trees – we have tools to go out in the woods and map where the trees are.

“We know how old the trees are, we know where we have diseased trees and healthy trees, which trees need to be cut, whether they’re a certain age or a certain size. We know where young trees are that need to be thinned out.”

Forstat said the DNR’s Forest Resources Division supplies 50 percent of the RAS budget and is its biggest beneficiary.

“If a chip board company wants to come into Michigan, they need to know where the trees are, a certain age of trees, a certain size of tree, a certain kind of tree,” Forstat said. “They want to know about the transportation system, where there’s a big highway or railroad so they can haul the lumber in, process it and ship it out. They may need to know they have a source of electricity or water.”

Michigan has been working on GIS since the late 1970s, but the data collection just continues to get more sophisticated.

“We’ve got 1,000-plus different data layers,” Forstat said. “We’ve been flying the state every year or every other year to get high-resolution aerial imagery.”

Forstat points to a popular DNR program – Mi-HUNT – as an example of how the DNR’s Wildlife Division provides information to hunters across the nation from data provided by the Resource Assessment Section.

The online mapping application directs hunters to the nearly 10 million acres of land open to public hunting in the state.

Wildlife biologist Mike Donovan, who heads up Mi-HUNT, said hunters can find all the places – state game areas, state and national forest land, state park land open to hunting, even private land available to hunters through the Commercial Forest Act or Hunter Access Program – they can go for their next hunt.

“It’s an interactive map that shows you where the land is and provides aerial photos – leaf-on and leaf-off – topographical maps and vegetative cover types,” Donovan said. “It’ll tell you the size density and the age of the trees.

“And it’s really the best place to go for HAP information because that stuff can change so quickly.”

The public has access to all the RAS data.

“People who recreate outdoors are probably our biggest users,” Forstat said. “Most DNR field staff use GIS, but the public – people who use trails or camp or hunt – use it more than our folks.

“We even have an app to find morels, to look for a place where we had a forest fire or a controlled burn, because morels like to grow where there’s been a fire.”

Forstat said the DNR uses GIS data in its conservation officer vehicles, on its boats when collecting fisheries data and in state forests in a variety of ways.

“When you have things that come up quickly, like a forest fire, you want all that data at your fingertips,” he said.

The DNR is also using geographic data to keep track of the state’s cultural resources.

“The Resource Assessment Section is working on a project for the Michigan History Center to assist with cataloguing all the historical markers with GPS coordinates,” Forstat said. “And we developed an application that can be used on smart phone devices. Staffers used the application to verify marker locations, condition, and for the collection of photographs of the markers around the state.”

Now travelers and others interested in Michigan history can easily find historical markers with a quick search at www.michigan.gov/markers.

Forstat, who studied geology, began his DNR career inspecting oil and gas wells.

“You had to take all of your books, all of your maps out there with you. I figured there had to be an easier way to capture the locations of all the wells in the state, their conditions and any pollution problems associated with them,” he said.

DNR staffers developed a program to track them from the office.

“After that, GIS just exploded,” he said. “Computers were the way to go.”

Forstat said that the big push to digitize this data came in the 1980s, when the DNR converted paper maps to digital maps.

“I remember we had one computer and you had to sign up to use it,” Forstat said. “Now we have more data on our cell phones than we had on that computer.”

Gary Whelan, the DNR Fisheries Division’s program manager for research and fish health, said acoustic tags – transmitters implanted in the body cavities of the fish – are giving fisheries managers access to information that seemed like science fiction just a few short years ago.

The DNR has set up a series of dozens of receivers that pick up the tags’ signals.

“We have them in walleye, sturgeon, whitefish – anything we want to know when and where the fish are using habitats – what spawning habitat, which prey resources they’re using,” Whelan said.

“An example is Saginaw Bay walleye – we can find out when a fish leaves the inner bay and we have receivers all the way up Lake Huron and all the way to the bridge. They produce an ungodly amount of data.”

Another fish-tagging program involves using pop-up tags, that attach to a specimen’s back and eventually release, to record temperature and depth data. The tags send a signal to a satellite, so fisheries researchers can locate and recover them.

“It tells us a lot about what habitat the fish are using day by day,” Whelan said.

Other high-tech fisheries projects involve using remotely operated vehicles, towed by fisheries research vessels, that can carry video cameras, hydro-acoustic units to estimate prey abundance and water-quality monitors.

“We’re using a lot of GoPro cameras too,” Whelan said. “We use them to count gobies – drop a GoPro on a tripod on a reef, for instance – and we’re using GoPros on our research nets, to see how they’re fishing and whether fish are avoiding them.”

The DNR has been using modern communications media, such as Facebook and YouTube, to communicate to the public for years. But it’s also developing communication tools for department’s website that give the public more information than ever before.

Eric Hilliard, a digital media and web resources specialist with the DNR’s Wildlife Division for the last five years, has recently completed an online waterfowl count “dashboard” that shows hunters how many and which species are using the state’s managed waterfowl areas. It’s available at www.michigan.gov/wetlandwonders.

“Last year it had 30,000 views,” Hilliard said.

Even the technology used to collect that sort of information has changed.

David Luukkonen, a wildlife research biologist, said that DNR staffers who fly over the state to survey waterfowl have always made notes as they flew. Now they use voice recorders with an app that applies a GPS pin as it records, so the DNR knows exactly where the birds are.

This is coming in especially handy, Luukkonen said, as the DNR is conducting a survey of diving ducks and other pelagic (open-water) birds. As energy companies push to build off-shore wind facilities, the DNR data will show which areas of the lakes the birds use to help avoid conflicts.

Meanwhile, Luukkonen is working with a graduate student at Michigan State University on a mute swan study. Forty-five GPS-collared swans transmit data to cellular towers whenever they are within range of a tower, which is practically all the time.

“The idea is to develop a population model of mute swans, so we can effectively manage them,” Luukkonen said. “We’re finding out all kinds of things about them we didn’t know. We thought they were fairly residential birds, but we’ve found that they travel a lot more than we knew. And we’ve even found them feeding in fields, something we never suspected.”

As technology continues to advance, one thing is clear – improving the DNR’s ability to collect and share information benefits both Michigan’s natural resources and the people who enjoy them.

Check out previous Showcasing the DNR stories and subscribe to upcoming articles at www.michigan.gov/dnrstories.

Reaction to Businesses Breaking Ties with the NRA

Last Friday I mailed my Kroger Plus Card to their headquarters office and mailed the crying towel and face shield with their name on them to Dicks Sporting Goods. Dicks had given me those two things at a Bassmasters Classic a few years ago. I will not visit their booth at this year’s Classic. I also sent an email to Simplisafe about why i would not use their product for my rental houses.

Both packages had the explanation that I wanted nothing to do with businesses that support restricting law-abiding citizens due to the actions of a madman and the failure of law enforcement.

Facts about the Modern Fish Act

Fishing for the Facts about the Modern Fish Act
By Chris Horton, Fisheries Program Director, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation
from The Fishing Wire

Mark Twain once said, “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.” Some in the environmental community have taken that saying to heart in their efforts to discredit the Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Management Act (S. 1520 and H.R. 2023). Their story – passing a Magnuson-Steven’s Act (MSA) reauthorization bill with the provisions of the Modern Fish Act would gut federal fisheries management and lead to widespread overfishing. The truth – either they have not read the bills at all, or more likely, they want to maintain status quo of an outdated commercial fisheries management law and continue to receive significant funding from large foundations who want to further privatize our fisheries through catch shares. My money is on the latter.

The fact is, anglers were the first and only stakeholders to step up to bear the burden of funding science-based management and on-the-ground habitat restoration to sustainably manage fisheries more than six decades ago – not the Environmental Defense Fund, the Ocean Conservancy, restaurant associations, commercial fishermen or any other organization. From 1951 to 2017, our license fees and the excise taxes we’ve paid on things like fishing tackle, rods, reels, marine electronics, trolling motors and motorboat fuels have resulted in more than $28 billion for fisheries management across the country – both for marine and freshwater fisheries.

Unfortunately, the significance of our contributions to all fisheries management, including federal, is misunderstood or dismissed by many Members of Congress and the environmental community. A good example of that misunderstanding can be found in my response to a “Questions for the Record” request from the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmospheres, Fisheries and Coast Guard following my testimony last September, where they stated the Trust Fund, “does not, however, have very much impact on fisheries conservation conducted under the Magnuson-Stevens Act.” You can find the full list of questions and my responses here, but suffice it to say after consultation with several states in the Gulf of Mexico, I was able to provide plenty of examples where anglers fund federal fisheries management under MSA.

As anglers, we would never support a bill that would lead to widespread overfishing and fewer fish to catch. After all, we advocated for, and funded, the foundation of science-based, sustainable fisheries management. Yet that doesn’t make for a good story when your funding model depends on maintaining the status quo and a clear path to privatizing public trust resources.

Let’s look at some of the key provisions of the Modern Fish Act from both the fiction being told and the facts of the matter.

Alternative management measures for recreational fisheries

FICTION – S. 1520 would, “Inappropriately exempt the recreational sector from the necessary management discipline imposed by annual catch limits and accountability measures.”
FACT – This provision simply frees the Councils to consider more appropriate recreational fisheries management measures when hard-poundage annual catch limits (ACL’s) are not effective. It does not exempt the recreational fisheries from adhering to annual harvest constraints. In fact, in a report from the Gulf Council’s Science and Statistical Committee on the feasibility of these alternative management measures proposed in the Modern Fish Act – “They noted that extraction rates, fishing mortality targets and harvest control rules could easily be implemented as catch limits…”

Flexibility in rebuilding timelines

FICTION – “Injects too much flexibility and ambiguity into the rebuilding timeline for overfished stocks.”
FACT – Both H.R. 2023 and S. 1520 eliminate arbitrary rebuilding timelines and replaces with a biologically-based timeline relative to individual species. It’s interesting to see organizations that claim to support science-based decision making opposing an effort to ensure that rebuilding plans are based on science, not an arbitrary 10-year requirement that has no scientific basis.
Temporary Moratorium on Limited Access Privilege Programs (catch shares)

FICTION – “Both the moratorium and the study are unnecessary and unwise”.
FACT – Of course this would be considered “unwise”, coming from the primary environmental organization that has received millions from foundations like the Walker Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation to push catch shares on both commercial and recreational fisheries. What they are concerned about is that the study by the National Academy of Sciences required by this provision might find that catch share programs may not be such a good idea in mixed-use fisheries.
Process for allocation review

FICTION – “Such reviews would divert significant resources from compelling management issues without significantly improving recreational fishermen satisfaction.”
FACT – Reallocation of quota between sectors is a difficult, exceedingly contentious process, much of which is caused by the ambiguity of what metrics the Council should weigh in making those decisions. To make periodic reallocation reviews more efficient, this provision simply requires the National Academy of Science to provide some clear criteria to consider. In the case of red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico, the allocation between the commercial and recreational sectors was set more than 20-years ago, using data 10-years prior. Fisheries change over time, and with today’s technologies, families have an opportunity to catch their fish themselves, rather than just purchasing from someone who profits from the resource like a restaurant or seafood market.
It is sad that some environmental organizations have now enlisted the help of New Orleans chefs to tell their “story” as it relates to red snapper when it is clear they have no idea what the Modern Fish Act actually does, nor do they know anything about recreational fishing. In a recent E&E News article, one such restaurant owner/operator is quoted as saying, “It’d be nice to have $150,000 boats to get 30, 40 miles offshore, but most people can’t do that.” Most people don’t have to. I’ve caught red snapper within five miles of Pensacola Beach, Florida in a 10-year old 20-foot, single-engine bay boat, and was surrounded by similar boats all landing snapper. Likewise, we easily catch red snapper out of small boats within 8 miles of Orange Beach, Alabama and 10 miles of Grand Isle, Louisiana. This is not a rich man’s game (although the average $25/pound cost of red snapper at a seafood market might lead you to think otherwise), but a public trust resource available to tens of thousands of anglers from all walks of life.

As the original fisheries conservationists, anglers demand that our fisheries be managed sustainably. Nothing in the Modern Fish Acts undermines the fisheries conservation or sustainability tenants of MSA. It simply looks to strengthen MSA by bringing parity for millions of recreational anglers to a federal management model designed primarily for commercial fisheries.

Potato Creek Bassmasters Tournament at West

Last Sunday in our February tournament at West Point, 22 members of the Potato Creek Bassmaster fished for eight hours to land 89 keeper bass weighing 164 pounds. There were 11 limits and one person did not weigh in a fish.

Doug Acree won with five weighing 14.82 pounds, anchored by a nice 6.63 pound largemouth. Mike Cox had five weighing 14.75 pounds and his 6.70 pound largemouth was big fish. Tom Tanner drove up from Florida to catch five weighing 11.56 for third, and Niles Murray placed fourth with five at 9.40 pounds.

William Scott fished with me and quickly caught two small spots on a spinnerbait while I was throwing a crankbait. I’m hardheaded, but not stupid, so I picked up a spinnerbait and a few minutes before 8:00 I hooked and landed a 4.79 pound largemouth, a good start I thought.

We fished the next seven hours and had a very frustrating day. Time after time we would get a bite on a worm or jig, set the hook and nothing would be there. I missed more bites than in any one day I can remember!

On one point, after we had both missed several bites, I let one pick up my worm and swim with it a few feet before setting the hook and landed a 12.5-inch spot. We had tried setting the hook immediately and missed fish, and tried letting them run and then missing them, but that time it worked, for the last time that day. I think a lot of the bites we missed were from small spots.

We ended up with three keepers each. Even with my good kicker fish I had only seven pounds and finished ninth. That made for a very frustrating day.

The Sportsman Club is at West Point today. I wonder how many bites I am missing right now.

Top Reasons To Visit the Bassmasters Classic

Top 15 Reasons To Attend The Bassmaster Classic

GREENVILLE, S.C. — Two weeks from now, thousands of fishing fans will be converging in Greenville and Anderson, S.C., to take part in the biggest event in sportfishing, the GEICO Bassmaster Classic.

What makes the Classic more than just a bass fishing tournament?

As fans from across the country have discovered, there’s so much to do on and off the water.

Of course, the main event is the crowning of the 2018 world champion of bass fishing — the angler among the 52-man field who catches the heaviest limits of bass from Lake Hartwell during the three competition days, March 16-18.

The attraction for many, though, is the Classic Outdoors Expo presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods at the TD Convention Center (1 Exposition Drive in Greenville) — the largest of its kind. Many manufacturers will be introducing new products during the expo.

Expo hours are Friday, March 16, noon-8 p.m.; Saturday, March 17, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; and Sunday, March 18, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. All events are free to attend. To help schedule their day, visitors can use the online floor plan to find out which booths you want to visit and what new product introductions you don’t want to miss — available at Bassmaster.com/expoattend.

Here are more reasons you’ll not want to miss this year’s Super Bowl of Bass Fishing:

Killer Photo Ops. When you walk around the expo, you never know who or what you’ll see. Drop by the GEICO booth to take a selfie with the Gecko and the Miss GEICO racing boat. Swing over to the Carhartt booth for a shot with Jordan Lee’s Classic trophy from last year. Hall of Fame pitcher Phil Niekro will be in the Skeeter booth on Friday, and the first 100 fans will get a signed baseball. Yamaha will give you the chance to be on the cover of Bassmaster Magazine! And fishing legends Bill Dance, Roland Martin, Jimmy Houston and Hank Parker will be booth jumping every day to shake hands with as many fans as possible!

Play To Win. There will be scads of opportunities to play fun games and win free fishing stuff. For example, the Toyota booth will feature the Highlander Cargo Challenge, where the fastest bass fans will win prizes. Plus, a spin of the Tundra prize wheel will make everyone a winner. If you can shoot a basketball, dribble over to the Humminbird/Minn Kota booth to play a quick game of “Triple Threat” to win prizes. Be sure to try your hand at Skeet Reese’s and Edwin Evers’ “Office Fishing Game” at the General Tire booth to reel in fun prizes. Oh, and enjoy the Carhartt experience in their booth … everybody wins something!

Learn From The Best.

Go There And Get The T-Shirt To Prove It! Memorializing your trip to the 2018 Classic is easy if you swing by the B.A.S.S. apparel booth, with exclusive Classic shirts and hats available. Some are even in green to cover you for St. Patrick’s Day. And HUK Performance Fishing clothing will be selling their newest offerings, including a new women’s clothing line.

Help Cheer On Your Favorite Competitor At Morning Takeoffs. Come to the world class Green Pond Landing and Event Center at Lake Hartwell (470 Green Pond Road) in Anderson at 7:30 a.m. ET each competition and help send off some of the world’s best bass anglers.

Get Into The Drama Of Daily Weigh-Ins. The doors of Bon Secours Wellness Arena (650 N. Academy Street) in Greenville will open each day at 3 p.m. for B.A.S.S. Life and Nation members and at 3:15 p.m. for the general public, Friday-Sunday. Find a seat, then sit back, relax and enjoy the slate of pre-weigh-in entertainment.

Get Hooked On Fishing.
Bring your kids to check out the Bassmaster Get Hooked On Fishing presented by Toyota and Shakespeare area from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Friday to Sunday. Activities include casting lessons, a kid’s fishing pond, a long-jump dog competition, lure decorating, live animals and more. It’s free!

Experience LIVE Coverage. Watch the tournament leaders catch bass in real time on the exclusive Classic LIVE program on Bassmaster.com and on WatchESPN. Watch hosts Tommy Sanders, Mark Zona and Davy Hite as they provide insightful commentary and analysis of the competition as well. The program will also include LIVE cut-ins with Dave Mercer, Classic and Elite Series emcee, along with guest anglers from the GEICO Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods.

Get To Know A Pro. Come by the TD Convention Center on Thursday, March 15, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. for Fan Appreciation Day. Anglers will be available for meet-and-greet and photo sessions.

Ride Like The Wind.
Want to know what it feels like to ride like the wind? Come to the takeoff site at Green Pond Landing to test out the latest boats and engines from Mercury, Nitro, Skeeter, Triton and Yamaha.

Fish With A Pro. The Abu Garcia booth will have a signup to win daily prizes and the winners from there will go on stage during Sunday’s weigh-in for a grand prize fishing trip with Bassmaster Elite Series pro Justin Lucas.

Crazy Sweeps. There are amazing sweepstakes opportunities at the expo this year. Toyota has the RAV4 Adventure Sweepstakes where bass fans can enter to win a prize package including an Ascend Kayak, Bass Pro Gift Card, and gear from Quantum and Carhartt. Humminbird and Minn Kota are offering a “Triple Threat Giveaway,” where one winner will receive a prize package consisting of a Humminbird SOLIX, Minn Kota Ultrex and Minn Kota Talon. The winner can then outfit their boat with the same technology that the pros use to find fish, get to fish, and stay on fish — a triple threat. Yamaha will be offering four grand prizes from their booth, including an all-expense-paid trip to fish with one of the following anglers: Jeff Kriet in his 47-foot Freeman offshore boat; a Texas lunker hunt with Justin Lucas; Guntersville with Jordan Lee; and Brandon Palaniuk on the St. Lawrence River. General Tire is giving you a chance to swap day jobs with Edwin Evers and Skeet Reese with their Reel Job Sweepstakes. Winners will spend a day “working” with the Elite Series pros.

Bring Your Reel For Free Fill-Ups. With 12 line-spooling stations in its booth, Berkley plans to spool approximately 1.5 million yards of line during the three days of the show. Any attendee can bring up to three reels to be spooled with the premium line of their choice across the Berkley, SpiderWire and Stren brands.

The Latest And Greatest.
Visit the Power-Pole Shallow Water Anchors booth to see their new and current products that the pros are using on the Bassmaster Elite Series. They will also be selling their latest apparel, hats and accessories.

See The Rising Stars. See the fifth annual Mossy Oak Fishing Bassmaster High School Classic Saturday, March 17, at nearby Lake Keowee, with the weigh-in at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena. And don’t miss the ninth annual College Classic Sunday, March 18, at the same locations.

Participate In History.
B.A.S.S. was founded in 1968, forever changing the sport of bass fishing. Help celebrate the 50th birthday of B.A.S.S. throughout Classic Week.

2018 Bassmaster Classic Title Sponsor: GEICO

2018 Bassmaster Classic Platinum Sponsor: Toyota

2018 Bassmaster Classic Premier Sponsors: Humminbird, Mercury, Minn Kota, Nitro Boats, Power-Pole, Skeeter Boats, Triton Boats, Yamaha, Abu Garcia, Berkley, Huk

2018 Bassmaster Classic Local Sponsor: Mountain Dew

Gun Control Laws Do Not Work

I got a shock when I came home from UGA for Christmas Holidays my freshman year. I was 18 years old and looking forward to quail and squirrel hunting and had brought my 22 Remington Semiautomatic rifle with me. I had it with me, in my dorm room, all fall quarter in Athens.

When I walked into Mr. John Harry’s store to get a box of 22 long rifle bullets he told me he could not sell them to me. The recently passed federal Gun Control Act of 1968 made it illegal for anyone younger than 21 to purchase or possess any ammunition that a pistol could fire, so that included 22 bullets.

Mr. John Harry’s store was one of five in Dearing, and he, like the others, sold everything from hoop cheese and saltines to overalls and boots. He had a selection of hunting and fishing supplies, and I had been buying 22 bullets from him since I was eight years old and got my semiautomatic rifle with an 18-cartridge magazine capacity for Christmas.

The Gun Control Act that cause me silly problems and made me start paying attention to the news about guns, was passed mainly in response to the assignation of John Kennedy. It also outlawed mail order gun purchases. Until that time anyone could go to the Sears catalog and order a gun.

Over the past 50 years since then thousands of gun control laws have been passed at the local, state and federal level. Most are a response to the actions of a madman like Lee Harvey Oswald, and all are equally useless and ineffective, affecting only law-abiding gun owners.

Currently there is a push to do something, anything, even if nothing suggested would have had any effect on the school shooting in Florida. These laws pit law-abiding gun owners like me against those wanting to control me and you and create dissent and bad feelings. And according to the New York Times, of all places, Russians use social media to promote these new laws to disrupt our country.

I was a school teacher and administrator in this area for 29 years, the last seven as principal of the Alternative School in Griffin, so I have some person experience. One year while the whole middle school was out on campus I got a call on my radio from a teacher that a student I had suspended was on the elevated railroad tracks across Experiment Street, waving a rifle.

There was an armed resource officer in my building and he went out the back door as I went to the front door. I got my deer rifle out of my truck. Only the resource officer, i and my secretary that had notarized my permission to have a gun on campus knew I had one.

I was ready to shoot the student, trying to decide to wait until he pointed the rifle at the students trying to get inside the building or wait until he fired. I knew I would be criticized no matter what I did, and probably face legal action.

Fortunately, when the student saw the resource officer, he ran. I don’t think he ever saw me aiming at him. I was spared a terrible decision, but I was not going to let anyone open fire on my students.

I see no way to stop school shootings other than having personnel in the building ready to stop them. Doing “something“ about guns in response to the latest tragedy does nothing to solve the problem.

January Club Tournament At Jackson

Sunday, January 7, only five Flint River Bass Club members braved the icy cold to fish our January tournament at Jackson. When we took off at 8:00 AM it was a brisk 24 degrees, the wind was blowing and the water temperature was 45 degrees. At the 3:30 PM weigh-in we had 12 keepers weighing about 23 pounds. There was one limit and one zero. I was surprised there were five largemouth, usually spots are about all that hit in water that cold.

I got lucky and made a good decision or two and landed five weighing 10.97 pounds for first and had a 3.64-pound spot for big fish. Jordan McDonald had three at 5.91 pounds for second, Niles Murray was third with three at 5.18 for third and Doug Acree placed fourth with one at 1.38.

Knowing how cold it was going to be, I decided to set up a “milk run” of rocky points near the ramp. I did not want to ride far in the cold and wind, and rocky points are a good place to fish this time of year. So at blast-off I idled to a point near the ramp and started casting.

On my second cast a keeper spot hit my crankbait and I was thrilled. I knew I would not zero! Then a few minutes later I caught a largemouth on the same crankbait. It weighed almost three pounds so I was really happy. At 8:15 I landed another keeper spot on a jerk bait. That was a really good start, but it got tough after that.

I idled to another point and tried to fish it but the wind was blowing on it and my hands started burning. I missed a bite on a jig head worm. I thought I felt a bite but ice in my rod guides made the line scrape as I reeled it in, and I was not sure.

I dipped my rod into the water to melt the ice and before I could get back in position the fish took off and spit the hook. That was disappointing. A few minutes later I landed a largemouth that was just shorter than the 12-inch line on my keeper board.

After trying to fish some brush on a point in the wind I gave up and went back into a small creek that was somewhat protected from the wind. I would cast out a crankbait, reel it a few feet then have to dip my rod into the water to melt the ice. I just kept working around the creek, casting and dipping, out of the wind.

At 11:00 I got my next bite, the big spot. It hit the crankbait on a shallow rocky point. Four in the livewell with two decent fish. I started hoping I might catch a limit.

At noon I cast a jig and pig to some brush near a dock, got a bite and missed the fish. Knowing sometimes you can get another bite on different bait I picked up my jig head worm and caught another keeper largemouth, filling my limit.

For the next three hours I cast my crankbait and other baits. It was finally warm enough that ice did not form in my guides. At 2:00 I caught a keeper spot on the crankbait that was slightly bigger than the one in the livewell so I culled.

At 3:00 I went back to the point where the big one hit. With ten minutes to weigh-in Niles and Zero rode by headed to the ramp. Then, as Jordan came by, I caught my last fish with five minutes left. It was a keeper spot that hit my crankbait and culled my smallest fish.

I never got my boat faster than idle speed all day. And it worked!

Sub-Zero Bass by Kayak

‘The Perfect Drift’: Sub-Zero Bass by Kayak

photo by Jason Arnold


How one globe-trotting angler taps winter smallmouth in the Gopher State

By Jim Edlund
from The Fishing Wire

The vast majority of northern bass anglers hang up their open-water gear for the winter. With most lakes under inches (if not feet) of ice by January, most fishing involves an eight-inch hole in the ice.

“You have to look hard in the northern states, but there are places to fish bass during the winter in open water,” says Minnesota-based kayak angler Paul Hansen.

Funny thing about Hansen, he has plenty of access to open-water fish during the worst of Minnesota’s winters. As a commercial airline pilot, he’s often free to explore waters during layovers in southern climes – something he’s been doing in one form or another for almost two decades. In fact, he reluctantly admits fishing was the impetus to learn how to fly.

“After working long hours in fishing retail, I knew there had to be a better way. If I could make it through pilot’s training and build up hours and experience, I could eventually create a business to fly adventure anglers into really cool destinations, which selfishly appealed to me,” says Hansen.

Turns out Hansen took to flying as naturally as he did to fly casting, and in the year 2000, he and legendary fly angler/travel partner Trapper Rudd started an exploratory kayak fishing program.

“We put kayaks on an airplane and brought them to Mexico. We had fished all the popular destinations and set out to find untouched snook, tarpon, and bonefish by kayak. We found some epic fisheries that wouldn’t have been accessible without kayaks. This led to years of great adventures, like the stuff I read about in magazines as a kid,” says Hansen.

These days, Hansen flies fewer angling expeditions into remote locations, having opted for the stability of a commercial airline job. “My kids are involved in a lot of school activities and sports, so naturally, I want to be there for them. I don’t necessarily turn down opportunities, but let’s just say my priorities have changed.”

Still, as a competitive kayak angler who frequently competes in both the Kayak Bass Series (KBS) and Kayak Bass Fishing circuit (KBF) tournaments, there are times when Hansen gets antsy during long Minnesota winters. Having qualified for the KBS Nationals on Lake Guntersville, Alabama, this past September, Hansen says he feels the need to stay at the top of his game despite Minnesota’s harsh winter weather.

“There are warm-water effluent areas throughout the frozen north that offer an open-water alternative to ice fishing. And some of the smallmouth bass fishing is pretty phenomenal,” says Hansen.

Just minutes from his Twin Cities, Minnesota home, the warm-water discharge from power plants on the St. Croix River and Mississippi River offer some legendary winter smallmouth bass fishing opportunities.

“I ran drift boat fly fishing trips on the Mississippi River for over 20 years, so I know the water like the back of my hand. But I always felt like the drift boat had to go away at some point—and I reached that point. It was far more convenient for me to drive over, drop in the my kayak, and hit the areas that I really liked. Some spots I can fish from the kayak, other areas I get out and walk and wade.”

One particular stretch of river—the Mississippi River between St. Cloud to Elk River, Minnesota—is high on Hansen’s list for winter smallmouth. “Although I had fished this stretch for years out of my drift boat, when I started fishing it from the kayak it was like brand-new water to me. Areas I would normally bypass with the drift boat were now fishable. I could get right up onto a sand bar, into the run-outs of an island or small creek, between boulders, or right next to an island and stake out—or get out and walk and wade. It really opened up an entirely new world to me. The kayak allowed me to re-learn my water.”

Depending on the conditions, Hansen employs the use of two specific fishing kayaks, both designed and manufactured in the USA by Maine’s Old Town Canoes & Kayaks, a company with over 100 years in the watercraft business.

“I like the 12-foot Old Town Predator MX because it’s nice and short with a stable 34-inch beam. At 82 pounds, I can grab it and go—and drag it through just about anything to my access points, including deep snow. Now, if I have access to a good landing, then the Predator PDL is my choice, because I then have more boat control on the river via the PDL Drive, which allows me forward and reverse with my feet and one-handed rudder control. With the MX, I’m drifting—and trying to fish on a float—and control the boat at the same time, which can be challenging on some waters. With the Predator PDL, I can back-pedal, I can slow my drift, and I can really fine tune boat control while fishing hands free.”

Despite the frigid air temperature, Hansen says he actually prefers kayak fishing smallmouth bass during the winter. “The fish tend to pod up and the kayak allows you excellent access to them. Winter is the best time to do this, more so than when they’re scattered the rest of the year.”

But Hansen admits that sometimes finding smallmouth pods can be a challenge. And even when you find them, it all comes down to just the right presentation.

Winter Smallmouth Location

The first thing Hansen looks for are areas that retain heat. As cold-blooded creatures, smallmouth bass will only expend as much energy as the water temperature allows. The biological imperative is to conserve energy; when water temperatures are low, bass will move less. As water temperatures climb, bass activity increases.

“Smallies will congregate in sandy areas, which retain heat. They may pull off and feed, but their metabolism has slowed down and they’re going to spend a lot more time just hanging out, less time actively chasing. So, I’m looking for sand, a log, or a tree that has fallen into the river, all which retain heat. Same with bottom substrate. Anything that’s dark will pick up heat from the sun and attract smallmouth bass—dark rocks and boulders, even mud at times. Same thing for cover that sticks up out of the water.”

Current also plays a big part in locating winter smallmouth bass. Winter smallmouth bass are typically found adjacent to current areas, only moving into fast water to feed when absolutely necessary. More often the case, winter smallmouths relate to slack-water areas just off current seams and eddies. Anywhere that current naturally pushes food is a sure bet. Such areas are visible to the naked eye.

There are areas along the river bottom, too, where current is slower. “You can often find groups of fish in troughs—and sometimes a really small area, stacked up like cordwood. Troughs or channels offer reduced current, warmer water temperature, and provide cover. The areas behind boulders provide something similar. Again, smallmouth avoid exerting too much energy in the winter, reserving it for feeding.”

Presentations

Left to his druthers, Hansen typically reaches for a fly rod, but has found better odds with unique, hybrid techniques that merge his experience with fly and conventional angling.

“Fly fishing works great for many situations — including winter smallmouth — but you don’t have the success rate because any time you build up slack or drag, you’re creating an unnatural presentation. This fish are going to blow it off and eat something that looks more natural. Thing is, there’s probably more food in the river at any given time during the winter than any other time of year. Very few things are physically hatching and flying away. The bottom is often littered with nymphs, leeches, and baitfish are of a size that pack a lot of calories.”

Conventional spinning tactics like a jig and minnow also introduce drag. Go too heavy in jig weight to reduce drag and you’ve got the hassle of snagging in the crevices of river rock.

“A centerpin outfit gives me the perfect drift. Due to the rod length and the entire system, the drift is longer, slower, and more precise. It allows a very natural presentation. You want split-shot placement that’s appropriate for the current and allows the minnow to float along so it slowly rolls in front of the fish and they can’t resist,” says Hansen.

To that end, Hansen uses a St. Croix Avid 13’ ML power, moderate action center-pin rod with a Raven centerpin reel loaded with 10-pound braid. He attaches an 8 lb. Seaguar fluorocarbon leader to the main line, places small split-shots evenly below a steelhead float, and uses a small circle hook to prevent gut-hooking.

In terms of bait, Hansen’s had the best success with small-to-medium sized suckers or creek chubs. “For winter bass fishing, live bait simply produces more fish. Circle hooks make it low impact, with the hook penetrating the corner of the mouth for an easy release.”

Artificial Ways

There are times when Hansen goes artificial-only—like during the classic January thaw when temperatures can rise well above the 32-degree mark.

“Bass activity will definitely spike when the mercury jumps. That’s when tube jigs fished on a slow bottom crawl will keep up with live bait. It might take a few casts to get the right weight tube jig figured out so you’re not snagging or drifting, but once you do, they’re easy to fish. Wacky worms like Z-Man Zinkerz work in winter, too. Same for Fluke-style baits. Even hardbaits like the LIVETARGET Emerald Shiner Baitball jerkbait, twitched with super-long pauses. Just remember to work any baits slower than you would other times of the year.”

For situations like this, Hansen leaves the centerpin rig in the rod holder, and throws baits on a versatile 7’1” medium-power, fast-action St. Croix Legend Bass Tournament spinning rod and Daiwa spinning reel spooled with 8- to 10-pound Seaguar InvisX fluorocarbon.

Winter Bass Safety

Any time you’re fishing in winter—whether on the ice or open water—safety should be your first priority. Navigating rivers in winter can be dangerous. Ice floes are not uncommon, even in areas with warm-water effluent. Shouldn’t impact with an ice floe knock you out of your kayak, a PFD and spare clothes can save you from drowning and hypothermia.

“Because it’s one dump and game over, I always wear a PFD, and keep a dry bag filled with another pair of long underwear, socks, a top, another jacket, hat, gloves, etc. in my Old Town Predator’s bow hatch. I wear Gore-Tex waders, wading boots, a base layer, and fleece pants underneath. The big thing is staying warm and comfortable without too much clothing. You don’t want excessive sweating; neither do you want so much bulk that entering the kayak becomes difficult. I also keep my cell phone in a dry bag, and waterproof matches to start a fire on shore if need be to warm up and change clothing. I’ve yet for something like this to happen. Honestly, part of that is my choice in kayak. You wouldn’t want to fish rivers in winter with a Wal-Mart special. Old Town Predators are incredibly stable kayaks designed to resist tipping and allow anglers to even stand up and fish.”

End Note

Stuck with cabin fever or mid-season ice fishing burnout? In need of an open-water bass adventure? Hansen encourages anglers to investigate local rivers. Find warm-water discharge from a power plant, water treatment facility, or other industry, and you’re in business. Employ a kayak to get beyond the bank, learn to execute a perfect drift, experiment with live and artificial baits, and you might just be amazed by the hot bass bites possible in the dead of winter.