Monthly Archives: January 2016

Acquisition of Cabela’s by Bass Pro Shops

Industry Rumbling: Cabela’s

Here’s the latest on the Cabela’s situation, from our publisher and editor of The Outdoor Wire, Jim Shepherd.
from The Fishing Wire

With SHOT Show barely ended, there are plenty of interesting reports filtering out regarding the industry. More, in fact, than those we were hearing when we arrived in Las Vegas, Nevada for the nearly-impossible task of covering a trade show that has grown more than a quarter-million square feet over the past five years.

Not all the reports we’re hearing are about new products or services, despite the fact we have been fixated on the latest and greatest offerings from the more than 1,200 exhibitors. In fact, most of the questions being asked concern rumors that had begun circulating prior to SHOT.

When a rumors of an acquisition of Cabela’s by Bass Pro Shops died shortly before Christmas, speculation began to spread (on Wall Street) that Cabela’s (NYSE: CAB) was one of those companies that was ripe for change.

That change, according to Wall Street sources, wasn’t necessarily something the company was seeking.

On November 23, Bloomberg Business reported that speculative investors were in favor of seeking a suitor, but would not accept an acquisition price than something “in excess of $60/per share.” Other reports had a target price of nearly $72/share. Those prices, according to sources on Wall Street, were the primary reason BPS quietly disappeared from the picture.

At that time, Bloomberg reported that Hirzel Capital Management, owners of 2 percent of the company, were the activist investor. Bloomberg reported Hirzel was pushing the retailer to consider “strategic alternatives, including selling its credit-card unit and property.” Hirzel’s suggestion was reportedly rejected by Cabela’s CEO Tommy Millner who advocated for spending more than $500 million in a share buyback to boost value.

At that point, Cabela’s rumors quieted.

In today’s news section, you’ll see that Cabela’s is again back in the investment news.

With the fourth quarter and full-year 2015 earnings release set for just before the market opens on February 18, the New York Post is now reporting that the company plans to divest itself of its credit card unit. Nothing from Cabela’s on those reports as of the close of business last night. Meanwhile, the company’s activist investors continue to push for the company to sell- either the credit card division or the entire company.

Cabela’s shares gained eleven cents yesterday, closing at $41.49.

As the rumors continue across the New York and Chicago investment communities, both officials and residents of Sidney, Nebraska remain on edge. Of the approximately 7,000 residents of Sidney, nearly 2,000 work for Cabela’s.

We’ll keep you posted.

Potato Creek Bassmasters January Tournament at Lake Sinclair

On a fun note, I finally joined the Potato Creek Bassmasters. I had been thinking about it for years but fishing three tournaments a month seemed to be too much. But now I seem to only get the energy to go fishing when I have a tournament or an article to do, so I joined to make myself go more.

There is an old saying “even a blind hog will find an acorn every now and then.” I got real lucky in my first tournament with the club at Sinclair last Saturday and felt more like a pro than a Joe. Days like that make me wonder why I can’t do it more often.

In the Potato Creek Bassmasters January tournament at Lake Sinclair, 16 fishermen brought in 25 bass weighing 58.59 pounds. There were two five-fish limits and four people didn’t land a 12 inch bass in the seven hours we fished.

I won with five weighing 17.98 pounds and had a 5.59 pound largemouth for big fish. Niles Murray came in second with a limit weighing 11.39 pounds, Raymond English had three at 7.24 for third and Buddy Laster was fourth with2 at 5.76 pounds.

I had the kind of day I usually only dream of having. We started at 9:00 and at 9:15 I landed a four pound bass on a DT 6 crankbait off a dock post. Then at 10:15 I caught the five pounder on the same crankbait off a boat ramp.

For the next four hours I fished docks and rocks and landed two more keepers off dock post and lost two.

Then at 3:30 I caught another four pound bass on a clay point, again on the same crawfish colored crankbait.

The Sportsman Club is at Sinclair today for our February tournament. I probably used up all my luck last week and won’t catch a keeper today!

Red Snapper Management in the Gulf of Mexico

Thank You, Shelby, Graves and Scott

Editor’s Note: Today’s feature comes to us from Jeff Angers at the Center for Coastal Conservation.
from The Fishing Wire

Recreational anglers got an early Christmas present this year, and if you live in Alabama, Georgia or Louisiana, you have a Member of your state’s Congressional delegation to thank for it.

Alabama’s senior Senator, Richard T. Shelby and U.S. Representatives Garrett Graves (R-La.) and Austin Scott (R-Ga.) spearheaded a series of provisions in the year-end spending bill that are very important for red snapper management in the Gulf of Mexico.

Mindful of the federal government’s bungling of the fishery and obviously aware of the impact recreational anglers have on the economy of the Gulf coast, the provisions require the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to fund and incorporate agency-independent stock assessments for Gulf reef fish, including the red snapper.

Unlike previous surveys, this one will actually include the many artificial reefs (including offshore oil-and-gas structures) where the red snapper actually are!

Best of all, recreational anglers will get an increased allocation from any increases in the red snapper population that are discovered in the new assessment.

The three legislators should also be congratulated for giving state fisheries managers a greater role in managing the fishery; the measure also includes an extension of the state fishery management boundaries from three to nine miles from shore in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

We all owe a debt of gratitude to these legislators, but if you live in Alabama, Georgia or Louisiana, please take a moment to personally thank Sen. Shelby, Rep. Scott or Rep. Graves.

Let them know their work is appreciated by recreational anglers like us – but also by hotels, restaurants, tackle shops and marine dealers all across the Gulf. They are the real winners whenever recreational anglers go out on the water.

Social Media and Fishing

Social Media and Fishing

Since you are reading this on-line there is a good chance you have a Facebook page, a Twitter account or are active on some other form of social media. Social media and fishing go together in a lot of ways.

I have a Facebook page and a Twitter account and spend way too much time on Facebook. But I am learning that you have to be discriminating on what you click on. Just because something has an interesting title, or a picture of a fish does not mean it is worth looking at on Facebook.

Some things are an instant turn off to me and keep me from clicking on the post. Anytime a fisherman is shown in a picture holding up a bass or any other fish, and the fisherman has his mouth open wide, I instantly wonder if he is so surprised he actually caught a fish his open mouth shows his shock, or if he is trying to catch flies.

If there is just a picture of a fisherman smiling or grinning like he is happy to be holding up a big fish it gets my attention, but if there is no caption, no information about the picture it is a turn off and I know if I click on it I still won’t get any information. If you post a picture of you and a fish at least tell where you were fishing. A little about what you were using and how you caught it helps, unless you make your post an advertisement. Saying you could not have made the catch without using one of your sponsor’s products is just plain silly. That bass would not have hit your crankbait unless you were using a certain brand of rod? Sure thing.

Even worse than no information is the current trend of posting a dozen or so hashtags for sponsors or something -again, no info, just a string of words with a “#” in front of them that tell you absolutely nothing about the picture – worth nothing but a fast scroll on to something informative.

Even worse than a mouth open gaping pose with a fish are some buzz words. If they are in the title or caption I will not look at them. Thankfully, they are usually not used with fishing posts.
“Life changing” is another buzz comment I refuse to look at on social media. If my life is so miserable a Facebook post can change it, I am beyond hope. Better to just go fishing! And if something is “epic’ why do I have to hear about it on Facebook? According to the “Urban dictionary” epic is the most over-used word on the internet, followed by ‘’fail,” another buzz word I ignore. And if it is an “”epic fail” you better watch out!

“Game Changer” in a heading makes me change to another topic so I guess it really is a game changer. “Life Changer” is even worse. For some reason I kinda doubt a picture on the internet is going to change my life! Arnold said “Make My Day” and it became iconic, but no web page is going to make my day. I have a life.

Social media is fun but there are definitely some things I don’t like. How about you?

Dangerous Gun Control Laws

I would laugh if it wasn’t so dangerous. The gun ban flakes think they have used up the lie “gun show loophole” since President Obama said he is illegally taking action to put into effect a law the representatives of the people have refused to pass three different times. So now those gun banners are calling for action on the “Charleston loophole.” Their gun control laws are dangerous and silly.

I heard Hillary use that term a couple of times in the democrat debate this past week and another liberal use it on a talk show. What do they want? No time limit on an answer on the “Instant” background check. So the government can delay your purchase of a gun for an unlimited time.

Right now, if the government can not return an answer on a check on the instant background check within three days the sale can go through. The reason the law was worded that way was to prevent the government from stalling and preventing law-abiding citizens from getting guns. The check is supposed to be instant but they have three days to do it. Gun banners want unlimited, meaning never ending, time.

Think that won’t happen? Many places delay and delay issuing carry permits because they can delay, without giving any reason for the delay. The most famous case of this happening is Carol Brown in New Jersey. She had a restraining order against her violent ex-husband but applied for a gun permit since she knew she could not defend herself with a piece of paper. He stabbed her to death. Her having a gun could have saved her life.

The New Jersey law says the local police are supposed to rule on permits within 30 days, a ridiculously long time to wait to defend yourself. But Browne had applied for her permit on April 21 and was killed in June, well over the 30 day delay. And waiting over 30 days is the norm for police departments in New Jersey that have no legal reason for denying permits, so they just sit on them and illegally deny the permit.

Gun banners whine that I, and fellow NRA members like me, won’t compromise for “common sense” gun laws. But what they propose have nothing to do with common sense, and they are never satisfied, as the “Charleston loophole” mantra shows. Compromise to them means do what I want today so I can demand further ridiculous restriction tomorrow.

These same folks are still lying about the law on suing gun sellers and manufacturers and also on the law on gun research. These folks want to sue gun manufacturers and sellers if a gun is used in a crime. That is like suing Texaco and the local gas station because an arsonists bought gas from them to burn down a house.

It is legal to sue if a gun malfunctions – just like with any other product. But the gun haters want to be able to sue if the gun works but the user commits a crime with it. That is just not rational.

And gun research is legal. A law bans government funding of research that starts with the goal of banning guns. Anyone can prove anything with research if they start with a bias and control the things they look at in their research. The gun banners want you and me to pay folks like Arthur Kellerman to research with the goal of banning guns.

In 1986 Kellerman published a “study” showing you are 43 times more likely to die from your own gun than you are to use it to protect yourself. To show how stupid such studies can be, you can look at protecting yourself only if you kill your attacker. Never mind that most times a bad guy just seeing a gun will run. Kellerman thinks that is not protecting yourself. And he includes suicides on the opposite side.

Kellerman’s numbers have been shown to be ridiculously inaccurate time and time again but the gun haters still parrot them almost daily. Don’t bother them with facts.

Why Reclassify West Indian Manatee from Endangered to Threatened?

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to Reclassify West Indian Manatee from Endangered to Threatened

(Editor’s Note: Not to say “we told you so”, but here’s the latest on the status of the manatee, from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service)
from The Fishing Wire

Endangered Species Act Protections Helped Rescue Beloved Southeastern Sea Cow from Brink of Extinction; Service will Continue to Lead Conservation Actions to Increase Species Population, Reduce Threats & Improve Habitat Conditions

MIAMI, Fla. – As a result of significant improvements in its population and habitat conditions and reductions in direct threats, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced today that the West Indian manatee is proposed to be downlisted from endangered to threatened status under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The proposal to downlist the manatee to threatened will not affect federal protections currently afforded by the ESA, and the Service remains committed to conservation actions to fully recover manatee populations.

The ESA defines an endangered species as one currently in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range, and a threatened species as one that is likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future. Given its review of the best scientific and commercial data available, including analyses of threats and populations, the Service proposes that the West Indian manatee no longer falls within the ESA’s definition of endangered and should be reclassified as threatened. The Service will publish its proposal in the Federal Register tomorrow, beginning a 90-day comment period during which the public is invited to submit scientific or technical information that will aid the agency in reaching its final decision.

“The manatee is one of the most charismatic and instantly recognizable species,” said Michael Bean, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks at the Department of the Interior. “It’s hard to imagine the waters of Florida without them, but that was the reality we were facing before manatees were listed under the Endangered Species Act. While there is still more work to be done to fully recover manatee populations, their numbers are climbing and the threats to the species’ survival are being reduced. Today’s proposal is a positive step that recognizes the progress citizens, conservation groups, the State of Florida, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and our own Service employees have made working together.”

The manatee protection measures currently in place would remain in force if the species is downlisted from endangered to threatened. These measures by the Service, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, other state and federal agencies, and industries resulted in the establishment of over 50 manatee protection areas and have played a key role in reversing the species’ decline. Retrofitted water control structures have resulted in significant decreases in manatee fatalities, and power companies are working cooperatively with federal and state conservation managers to address warm water outflows at wintering manatee congregation sites. Florida counties have made significant progress in developing and implementing manatee protection plans and siting boat facilities to reduce boater impacts on manatees.

The Service works with the Coast Guard to enforce manatee protection areas and minimize collisions with high-speed boats. Significant advances have also been made in reducing the threat from entanglement in fishing gear. Additionally, manatee rescue, rehabilitation and release organizations help save dozens of manatees yearly, with a majority successfully released back into the wild.

Today, the range-wide minimum known population is estimated to be at least 13,000 manatees, with more than 6,300 in Florida. When aerial surveys began in 1991, there were only an estimated 1,267 manatees in Florida, meaning that over the last 25 years there’s been a 500 percent increase in the species population in that state.

“The manatee’s recovery is incredibly encouraging and a great testament to the conservation actions of many,” said Cindy Dohner, the Service’s Southeast Regional Director, in conjunction with an event at the Miami Seaquarium to announce the Service’s proposal. “Today’s proposal is not only about recognizing this progress, but it’s also about recommitting ourselves to ensuring the manatee’s long-term success and recovery.

“As part of its balanced approach to the recovery of the manatee, the Service recognizes that even as it proposes to update the manatee’s status under the ESA with this proposal, it may at times need to strengthen protection for the species in specific local areas,” Dohner added. “For example, the Service is reviewing comments on a proposal to establish greater protection for manatees at Three Sisters Springs, which is part of the agency’s Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge north of Tampa, Florida.”

The manatee also remains protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Today’s action follows an extensive review of the threats the species faces, and the conservation actions put into place to help recover the manatee. The proposal relies on the most recent science and recommendations from a 2007 West Indian Manatee Five-Year Status Review. It also serves as a 12-month finding in response to a petition filed by the Pacific Legal Foundation and Save Crystal River, Inc. In its review, the Service considered the status of the West Indian manatee throughout its range. West Indian manatees are found in the southeastern United States, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Central America, South America, and Greater and Lesser Antilles.

The finding and additional information is available online at the Federal eRulemaking Portal: In the Keyword box, enter Docket Number FWS-R4-ES-2015-0178. Background information on the Florida and Antillean sub-species is available at

To ensure the Service’s review is complete and based on the best available scientific and commercial information, the Service is requesting information concerning the status of the West Indian manatee throughout its entire range (see range map). Specifically, the Service seeks information on the manatee’s biology, distribution, abundance, population trends, demographics and genetics; habitat conditions; the threat posed by climate change; past and ongoing conservation measures that have been implemented for the species, its habitat or both; threat status and trends within the geographical range; and a wide variety of other information.

Public comments on this proposal can be made until April 7, 2016. To learn more about how to submit comments as well as locations for future public hearings on the proposal, see Frequently Asked Questions.

The ESA plays a critical role in conserving and recovering our most at-risk wildlife, and has prevented the extinction of 99 percent of the species originally listed as threatened or endangered. Listing a species such as the manatee brings worldwide attention to its plight and drives coordinated conservation efforts across a range of potential partners. The ESA also provides crucial conservation funding for recovery efforts to reduce threats, protect and restore habitats, and increase populations.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information on our work and the people who can make it happen, visit

Costa Galveston Sunglasses Review

I like my Costa Galveston sunglasses and they work well for fishing. They are very comfortable, even after an eight hour tournament.

Costa Del Mar Galveston sunglasses are good fishing sunglasses. The Galveston model sunglasses are polarized with very clear lenses. Their light weight helps when wearing them a long time. They are fairly expensive sunglasses, but worth it.

An old saying states: “You get what you pay for,” meaning if you buy cheap products you get poor results. That is often true in fishing and some expensive equipment does not give good results. But there are lures, rods, reels and even boats that are not expensive but give good results. For years I felt that way about sunglasses. Cheap ones were just as good as more expensive sunglasses.

I received a pair of Costa Sunglasses to try out several years ago. Costa released three new styles of sunglasses that year and I was offered a chance to test the Galveston style, the one that seemed most suited for the kind of fishing I do most often. They have large square shaped lenses that let you see better on the water while covering your eyes. The lenses are set “frameless,” which means they have no bottom or side rims.

This makes them lighter, and the pair I tried are very light, something extremely important when wearing them nine hours straight as I did in the tournament the second Saturday in January.

The ear pieces are straight and don’t hook over your ears. I worried a little about that, fearing they would slip off in the boat, but the soft, non slip ear pieces stayed on and were comfortable. The nosepiece was soft and comfortable, too, and it is adjustable to fit your nose.

My pair are polarized with copper colored lenses that work well in the bright sun. The glasses are amazingly clear and everything looks very sharp through them. I could see underwater cover like stumps and rocks better than with other glasses I have tried. In the spring I have been able to see bass on the bed better than in the past, a combination of the lenses and color of these glasses

The glasses cost around $175 so they definitely are not cheap, but if you take care of them and put them in the case that comes with them when you take them off, they should last a very long time. I am definitely happy with mine. You can check them out at and also at authorized Costa retail outlets.

Buying a Family Boat

Buying a Family Boat is not always the same as buying a fishing boat.

By Frank Sargeant
from The Fishing Wire

Attendance looked pretty strong at the boat show in Huntsville, Alabama, Saturday, and being there with my son and his family–who are more or less looking for their first boat–reminded me of how challenging it can be to buy a boat that suits everybody.

Triton Allure

Triton Allure

Fish-n-Ski boats like the Triton Allure are a good compromise between an all-out fishing boat designed to suit hardcore fishermen and a runabout that’s just right for the family.

Brian wants a rig he can do some serious bass fishing in at Lake Guntersville, while Louise wants a roomy runabout that will be a fun ride, stylish and comfortable for her and the four kids–plus maybe sometimes the neighbors with their kids as well.

The boats I tried to steer then towards were what is known as “fish-n-ski” models, which are equipped with all the gear for both sports. For the angler, there’s a bow seat and a bow mount trolling motor, a sonar fish finder and a live well plus a rod box, at the minimum. And for the ski crowd, there’s an aft swim platform with ladder, an aft facing (or swiveling) observer seat so someone can keep an eye on the towline and a tow pylon. There are also usually lounging areas forward and aft for the sun worshippers, and maybe a fold-down Bimini top for when the sun gets to be a bit too hot.

These boats, usually fiberglass, have vee bottoms and are typically powered by outboards from 90 to 225 horses. They give a comfortable ride, and with the max power can exceed 60 mph, though they’re most often going to be run at 25 to 35 mph by most families–white-knuckle speeds do not make most Moms happy. They have some style appeal, a plus for many families. With smaller motors, prices start around $22,000.

A similar solution is the deckboat with some fishing extras. Deck boats have much broader bow areas than fish-n-ski models, which gives them room up front for couch type seating and a portable table. There’s space at the bow for an add-on swivel seat and trolling motor mount, though these are usually options, not standard. For families where a larger passenger capacity is called for–if you boat with another family, for example–this is the way to go. However, the greater bulk of the boat and the blunt bow means a larger motor is required, and the price goes up significantly in most cases, to around $35,000 or more.

A less handsome but more practical solution is a pontoon boat, which combines a ton of deck space with all the amenities of your back porch at home, including sometimes a barbecue grill, sink, shower, changing room, toilet and even a TV. Amazingly, it’s possible to find a 22-footer, big enough to carry two families with ease, for around $25,000.

Pontoons don’t have nearly the eye appeal of more svelte boats, but one ride aboard is often all it takes to convince a family that this is the boat for them–with room for everybody to spread out and all the comforts of home, it’s hard not to love them. And, they perform adequately on a 90 horse motor, running fast enough for most tow-sports. They don’t require much care, and they’re practically bulletproof. There’s even room aboard for the family dog.

The big negative, for the fishing family, is that pontoons don’t behave well on trolling motor power, and because they have railings all around, they can make casting awkward in some situations. They’re fine for crappie fishing or for jigging up some stripers or baiting catfish, but as a bass boat used to ease along a shoreline, they are far from the best choice. Most of them are relatively slow, as well–30 mph is about tops with entry level pontoons, which means long runs to distant fishing spots take a lot of time.

Not to say that fast, luxury grade pontoons don’t exist–there’s a whole new class of triple-pontoon planing rigs that run in excess of 50 mph when powered with a 300-hp outboard, and these boats are equipped at a level approaching that of some serious coastal yachts. Unfortunately, the prices go up astronomically, with six figures not out of the question for some.

Bottom line is that boat shopping should be an exercise in compromise for the young family–with some careful study and a close eye on the budget, it should be possible for everybody to get most of what they want in a boat that will provide years of entertainment and family bonding.

What Are Two Good Survival At Sea Books?

Survival at Sea–a Couple of Fascinating Reads

By Frank Sargeant, Editor
The Fishing Wire

438 Days

438 Days

Most of us who spend time at sea like stories of sea survival—you always have it in the back of your mind that it could happen to you, someday, if the stars aligned just so. One of the more intriguing is detailed in the book “438 Days” by Jonathan Franklin, the story of Salvador Alvarenga’s incredible survival while drifting some 9,000 miles across the Pacific, from the coast of Mexico to the Marshall Islands.

The writing is a bit choppy and interspersed with information that’s interesting regarding survival, but that breaks the mood of the story, and yet I found the book a compelling read—I finished it in three nights, which is fast for me. For those who thought, when this story broke in the news in 2014, that it described an impossible feat–that somehow the fix was in–this book and the photos included should allay those suspicions. Here’s the gist of it:

On November 17, 2012, Salvador Alvarenga left the coast of Mexico for a two-day fishing trip. A vicious storm killed his engine and the current dragged his boat out to sea. The storm picked up and blasted him west. When he washed ashore on January 29, 2014, he had arrived in the Marshall Islands, 9,000 miles away—equivalent to traveling from New York to Moscow round trip.

For fourteen months, Alvarenga survived constant shark attacks. He learned to catch fish and birds with his bare hands. He built a fish net from a pair of empty plastic bottles. Taking apart the outboard motor, he fashioned a huge fishhook. Using fish vertebrae as needles, he stitched together his own clothes.

He considered suicide on multiple occasions—including offering himself up to a pack of sharks. But Alvarenga never failed to invent an alternative reality. He developed a method of survival that kept his body and mind intact long enough for the Pacific Ocean to toss him up on a remote palm-studded island, where he was saved by a local couple living alone in their own Pacific Island paradise.

Based on dozens of hours of interviews with Alvarenga and interviews with his colleagues, search and rescue officials, the medical team that saved his life and the remote islanders who nursed him back to health, this epic tale of survival by Jonathan Franklin is a true version of the fictional Life of Pi. With illustrations, maps, and photographs throughout, 438 Days is a study of the resilience, will, ingenuity, and determination required for one man to survive fourteen months, lost at sea. List price is $26.00, from Atria Books, less on

In the Heart of the Sea

In the Heart of the Sea

Also in this vein, I recently read “In the Heart of the Sea” by Nathaniel Philbrick, which has been around for a while, but was recently released as a major motion picture. This is also a story of sea survival, based on the story of the whale ship Essex out of Nantucket in 1819.

The Essex was rammed by a giant sperm whale far off the coast of South America and sank, leaving 20 men in three small whaleboats. (Yes, the tale was the basis for Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, written in 1851.)

Over the next three months, the men sailed all over the South Pacific, frequently driven in the wrong direction by prevailing winds, storms and currents. As their food disappeared, they turned to cannibalism, first of those who died from duress, and later by drawing straws and killing each other so that a few might survive. In the end, only eight were left, including two who were found in one of the surviving boats sucking on the bones of their deceased shipmates.

It’s a fascinating look at survival, at the limits of human endurance, and at the historic whaling industry. It’s from Penguin books, and available on

A Slow January Tournament On Lake Sinclair

After an unusually warm, wet December the weather turned normal just in time for the Flint River January tournament, making for a slow January tournament on Lake Sinclair. It was very cold and windy all day last Sunday. But the lake water was still unusually warm. And it was as muddy as I have ever seen it from the December rains. You could almost track a deer across the coves.

Back in the 1970s and 80s Sinclair got muddy every winter. But even when the lake was muddy some of the lower lake creeks like Island and Rocky stayed relatively clear. Not this year. On most of the lake a chartreuse crankbait disappeared when it was about two inches deep. It was not much better anywhere I checked.

The water temperature was in the mid 50s, almost ten degrees warmer than most years. It was 55 at Dennis Station where we launched and I saw water as warm as 58 degrees in a creek near the dam. When I saw the temperature I was just sure I could catch lot of bass, especially after hearing about the Berry’s Tournament on Saturday.

In that tournament about 140 teams competed. It took five bass weighing 24 pounds to win! That is a lot but sometimes a team just gets lucky. But this time the top four teams all had five bass weighing more than 20 pounds, and it took five at almost 14 pounds to finish in 21th place and get a check!

As I talked about last week, our club fishermen are the “Joes” when it comes to fishing and some of the teams in the Berry’s tournaments are the “Pros.” The conditions didn’t change much from Saturday to Sunday so we can’t blame that. And the fish did bite for some on Sunday.

I was meeting Grant Kelly after our weigh-in to get information for my February Georgia Outdoor News Map of the Month article. He lives on the lake and is good friends with guide Matt Henry. Grant had called Matt and asked him to try to catch a big bass for us to use for pictures. Matt showed up at 3:30 with four bass, a five pounder, a three pounder and two more about two pounds each. And he said he had just lost another five pounder that jumped and threw his bait. So bigger fish did bite for some on Sunday.

In the Flint River Tournament eight members and one youth fished for eight hours to land 14 bass weighing about 29 pounds. There was one limit and four people didn’t have a keeper.

Don Gober had the five fish limit and it weighed 9.59 pounds for first. My three at 7.87 pounds was second and I had a 4.43 pound largemouth for big fish. John Smith had three weighing 5.98 for third, Niles Murray’s two at 3.22 pounds was fourth and Jack Ridgeway had one weighing 2.40 pounds for fifth. That was it!

Tyler Gruber fished with me as a youth. All our tournaments are adult and youth tournaments. I was worried since I knew fishing would be tough and I was afraid Tyler would get discouraged, but he fished hard the whole eight hours.

We started on a steep bank with rocks, fishing crankbaits, spinnerbaits and jigs. The wind was already bad, making it cold and hard to control the boat. For over an hour we did not get a bite, then something thumped my crankbait between two docks. I never hooked it and suspect it was a small white bass or hybrid.

After working into a creek we came to some brush off a seawall. I pitched my jig right to the seawall and moved it a foot or so and hit the brush, then a fish grabbed it. When I set the hook I yelled for the net since I could see it was a good fish but it was so close to the boat there was no time for Tyler to get it.

I lifted the four pounder out of the water, it hit the side of the boat, balanced there for a second and then came into the boat – and the hook fell out of its mouth! I came that close to losing it. That is why I hate lifting one over the side.

After spending another half hour fishing up the river we ran down to the dam. One of my favorite banks had wind blowing down it so it was hard to control the boat and cast, but on one of my cast with a crankbait right beside a seawall a keeper bass grabbed it before I could even turn the reel handle. I fought it to the boat and Tyler did a good job netting it. It was barely hooked on one of the back hooks.

An hour later, just after noon, I realized my trolling motor batteries were almost dead from fighting the wind. They are supposed to hold up better than that, they are only 14 months old. So I went to a protected area on a different sea wall to fish.

Some brush just off the seawall caught my eye and a pitch to it with jig and pig brought a thump. When I set the hook a two bass flew out of the water over my head into the water on the other side of the boat. When I got it back over the boat it fell off the hook. That made two of my three I really should have lost!

Not long before we had to head in I felt a thump on my jig and pig in front of a dock and landed a two pound catfish! That was the only other bite we got.

When fishing is tough like it was Sunday all you can do is make a lot of casts and hope.