Monthly Archives: May 2016

Glowing Crappie?

Glowing crappie may help Arkansas GFC evaluate stocking success

PINE BLUFF – Black lights and phosphorescent fish – throw in your standard mod Peter Max poster, some Hendrix on the turntable and maybe a lava lamp, and it would seem like someone’s living room circa 1970. However, more than four decades later, black lights are less a living room showpiece and more useful in the hands of biologists looking for “glowing” crappie to determine how effective a pond-stocking program can be.

As part of a grant administered by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, Greyson Farris, a master’s student in the aquaculture program at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, is studying the AGFC’s crappie stocking program using fingerlings from two hatcheries: the Joe Hogan hatchery at Lonoke and the William H. Donham hatchery in Corning. Late in the fall of the past two years, about 180,000 fingerlings – half of them white crappie from Lonoke and the other half black crappie from Corning – were treated with chemicals that allow researchers to track the fish after stocking in eight Arkansas lakes, according to JJ Gladden, a biologist at the Lonoke facility.

During the first year, the fish were marked with the U.S. Department of Agriculture-approved oxytetracycline, or OTC, in which the fingerlings absorb in a six-hour bath. The chemical is absorbed in bony areas such as the ear bone. Last fall, the fish were also treated with OTC, but Farris then used another marking agent, calcein, a phosphorescent dye, in another, shorter treatment before the fingerlings were taken for stocking.

The key difference between using calcein over OTC is that fish tested for the presence of the marker do not have to be sacrificed in the process.

“As far as I know, nobody has ever done the calcein marking with crappie,” Farris said. “They’ve done it with largemouth bass, perch, walleye.”

Fish captured for testing that were marked with only OTC have to be cut open for their ear bone, or otolith, to be examined under special light. The nature of calcein, Farris says, is that it’s absorbed not only in the bones but in the fins, around the eyes and mouths, and it offers a vivid green appearance when seen under black light and with specific glasses. Using the calcein as a marker required the AGFC to request a special license from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, but the process for marking the fish was far easier, Farris said. Instead of a six-hour soak in OTC, the fingerlings were hit with a 30-second bath of salinized water (about 40 parts per 1,000, he said), a fresh water rinse, then a seven-minute soak in the calcein-water mixture. The salt water bath drew out most of the water from the fingerlings – making them “sponge-like,” Farris said – which then soaked up the calcein.

OTC is a proven method in marking fish, in use for more than 40 years, Farris said. The question is, how long will the calcein last in a crappie? Farris said calcein in fish has been shown to degrade over time in sunlight. However, crappie tend to stay deeper in lakes and the fish’s nature is to not turn on its side; the underbelly of the crappie should be least likely to see much if any photodegradation, Farris said. And in fish he’s tested both at UAPB and in pond nettings, he’s found calcein.

All this is to show how effective a stocking program can be for a lake such as Lake Saracen in Pine Bluff, one of the eight lakes in Farris’ study. Other lakes in the study are Lake Des Arc, Lake Charles, Lake Poinsett, Calion Lake, Irons Fork Reservoir, Sugarloaf Lake and Beaverfork Lake. So far, he has found growing crappie that were AGFC-stocked in six of the lakes. “It’s great to see how many fish are surviving on a month-to-month scale,” Farris said. “Most of the time when you stock ponds or lakes, you don’t know if you’re having a benefit to the Commission unless you have a creel survey or stocked fish come up into your nets. You have to kill the OTC fish, and that’s not beneficial in the long term. Also, every OTC-marked fish will take 15 minutes of lab time, at least, to check. You can tell immediately if you have a calcein-marked fish. Fisheries biologists are better off in the long run, getting it cheaper, faster and easier.”

Calcein marking costs more, about $5,000 to mark 90,000 fish compared to $1,000 for OTC. But the tested fish live. And, “any measure of a stocking program is a measure of success,” Farris notes.

Because of warmer autumns the past two years, the fingerlings weren’t ready for the treatment and stocking until November. Farris tested the lakes through the winter and said he will resume through the summer and fall, netting about 250 crappie per lake to find if they were part of the stockings.

“The objective was to find a way to look at these fish without having to kill them, stock them, see them in the nets with [black lights] and see if they were the fish we stocked,” Farris said.

Leading Conservationists to Shape Immersive Conservation Attraction

Johnny Morris Convenes Leading Conservationists to Shape Immersive Conservation Attraction

Noted conservationist and Bass Pro shops founder Johnny Morris addresses conservation
Springfield, Mo. – More than 25 of the country’s leading conservation organizations are contributing to the creation of one of the largest, most immersive conservation attractions in the world. Scheduled to open in Springfield, Missouri in 2016, Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium will celebrate the critical role responsible hunting and fishing play in conserving the great outdoors.

A vision of leading conservationist and Bass Pro Shops founder/CEO Johnny Morris, the 315,000-square-foot experience is intended to inspire future generations to enjoy, love and conserve the great outdoors. To help shape the attraction’s educational message and story, Morris convened a “who’s who” of conservation leaders in America. With expertise ranging from wetlands and waterfowl to coastal waters and international wildlife efforts, leading national conservation groups are collaborating to help tell the untold stories of the conservation movement in the United States and showcasing their worldwide impact.

Consisting of leaders from both nonprofit and government entities, the nationwide collaboration hopes to establish a new conservation capital that highlights past successes and shares important conservation messages with a national audience.

“This will be one of the foremost conservation attractions in the world,” said Dan Ashe, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “There is a significant opportunity to reach millions of visitors about the importance of conserving, protecting and enhancing wildlife habitats.”

Convening Inspired by Historic Summit

Participants of the first North American Wildlife Conference in 1936
Morris first convened the leaders at a National Conservation Summit held in Springfield in late 2015. The gathering brought together more than 40 national conservation leaders to discuss fun and engaging ways to inspire the public to appreciate and protect wildlife and natural habitats.

The Summit was inspired by and paid homage to the nation’s first North American Wildlife Conference held in Washington D.C. in 1936. The original gathering, convened by Ding Darling, founder of The National Wildlife Federation, and President Theodore Roosevelt, brought together more than 2,000 hunters, anglers and conservationists from across the country to discuss conservation issues.

The original conference helped unify the nation’s conservation voices and shaped a national platform to advocate on behalf of the outdoors. Instilling the spirit of that gathering, Morris’ modern summit served as a forum to collectively discuss opportunities to educate and engage today’s public in conservation efforts centered at the new museum and aquarium. The group also shared thoughts on impactful educational programming for visitors of all ages, particularly children and families.

National Leaders Contributing to World-Class Attraction

National conservation leaders convene in Springfield, Missouri
Primarily funded and operated by the nonprofit Johnny Morris Foundation, Wonders of Wildlife consists of an all-new 1.3-million-gallon aquarium adventure showcasing 35,000 live fish, mammals, reptiles and birds and an immersive wildlife museum that highlights diverse habitats and wildlife from around the world.

Each of the 25 participating partner organizations is represented throughout the experience in a variety of ways. The groups are contributing historical photos, videos, multimedia content and artifacts to provide a widespread and engaging look into wildlife conservation practices. Experts from the groups are also assisting with the museum’s interpretive messaging and sharing their conservation success stories.

For example, the museum will become the new permanent home for The Boone and Crockett Club’s world-famous National Collection of Heads and Horns. The exhibit gives visitors a chance to see more than 40 historically significant North American game animals that helped spark America’s conservation movement when it debuted at New York’s Bronx Zoo in 1922. Additionally, The International Game Fish Association’s interactive Fishing Hall of Fame is relocating to the aquarium from the IGFA’s headquarters in Florida. The exhibit tells the stories of some of the sport’s most accomplished men and women.

Nearby, The National Archery Hall of Fame seeks to preserve the sport’s history and tradition with more than 1,500 artifacts including a handmade bow made by the Native American Apache leader Geronimo. By honoring the outstanding men and women in the sport, the experience sends a message that anyone can enjoy archery as a gateway to appreciating the outdoors. The NRA National Sporting Arms Museum showcases the development and evolution of hunting arms in America from colonial times to today. This educational gallery is one of the premier sporting arms museums in the world. Home to nearly one thousand artifacts the gallery tells the story of American icons such as Lewis and Clark and Theodore Roosevelt.

The result of these collaborations is a bold new attraction that leaves visitors with a powerful conservation message.

“We are honored to have the support and input from America’s leading conservation voices as we establish one of the most comprehensive conservation attractions in the world,” said Johnny Morris. “By highlighting the important roles these organizations play in conserving wildlife and sharing their accomplishments with our visitors, we hope to raise awareness of their work and recruit new members to engage in ongoing conservation efforts.”

America’s Conservation Capital

One of the aquarium’s immersive exhibits simulates an artificially created reef to underscore the importance of healthy habitats for fish and wildlife
Wonders of Wildlife is envisioned to be unlike anything else in the world. Inside the immersive aquarium adventure, visitors will encounter sharks, rays, jellyfish, eel, otters, turtles, sport fish and countless game fish such as largemouth bass and catfish as they travel through an elaborate trail system of distinct aquatic habitats, discovering hands-on activities that celebrate the diversity of all aquatic life, including incredible sport fish. The entire aquarium experience highlights the need to conserve these beautiful ecosystems and the animals that live there.

Completely immersive wildlife galleries transport visitors to the wildest places on earth through meticulously recreated 4D dioramas that include the realistic sights, sounds and smells of awe-inspiring habitats from North America, Africa and the Arctic.

The experience will celebrate the vital contributions of sportsmen and women to wildlife conservation and engages leading conservation partners to showcase important success stories and ongoing efforts.

The new experience is located adjacent to Bass Pro Shops’ iconic flagship store in Springfield, Missouri’s number one tourist destination that already welcomes four million visitors per year and further establishes Johnny Morris’ vision of creating America’s Conservation Capital and a new must-see destination for everyone who loves the outdoors.

Participating conservation and wildlife management organizations include:
Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies – Ron Regan, Executive Director
Boone and Crockett Club – Tony Schoonen, Chief of Staff
Center for Coastal Conservation – Jeff Angers, President
Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation – Gary Kania, Vice President
Dallas Safari Club – Ben Carter, Executive Director
Ducks Unlimited – Dale Hall, President
International Game Fish Association – Rob Kramer, President
James River Basin Partnership – Joe Pitts, Executive Director
Missouri Department of Conservation – Bob Ziehmer, Director
Missouri Department of Natural Resources – Sara Parker-Pauley, Director
National Geographic – Crista Gibbons, Senior Director, Global Corporate Partnerships
Native American Fish and Wildlife Society – Fred Matt, Executive Director
National Audubon Society – Glenn Olson, Donal O’Brien Chair in Bird Conservation through Advocacy & Public Policy
National Rifle Association – Wayne LaPierre, Executive Vice President & CEO
National Wild Turkey Federation – George Thornton, CEO
Ozark Water Watch – David Casaletto, President & Executive Director
Quality Deer Management Association – Brian Murphy, CEO
Southwest Tribal Fisheries Commission – Stuart Leon, Executive Director
Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership – Whit Fosburgh, President & CEO
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service – Dan Ashe, Director
Watershed Committee of the Ozarks – Mike Kromrey, Executive Director
Wildlife Management Institute – Steve Williams, President & CEO
Wild Sheep Foundation – Buddy DuVall, Executive VP Development

About Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium
Scheduled to open in 2016, the all-new Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium will be one of the largest, most immersive conservation attractions in the world. Primarily funded and operated by the nonprofit Johnny Morris Foundation, Wonders of Wildlife consists of an all-new 1.3-million-gallon aquarium adventure showcasing 35,000 live fish, mammals, reptiles and birds, and an immersive wildlife museum that brings visitors eye-to-eye with the greatest collection of record-setting game animals ever assembled. The 315,000-square foot experience celebrates the critical role responsible hunting and fishing plays in wildlife conservation and inspires visitors to enjoy, love and conserve the great outdoors. Located on the campus of Bass Pro Shops’ iconic flagship store in Springfield, Missouri, Wonders of Wildlife further establishes the site as America’s Conservation Capital. For more information visit

Frustrating Bass Tournament at Lake Hartwell

Last week 14 members of the Potato Creek Bassmasters fished our May tournament at Lake Hartwell. During the tournament fished on Friday and Saturday, 93 keeper bass weighing about 150 pounds were brought to the scales.

Kwong Yu won with ten weighing 21.85, Niles Murry was second with ten at 19.46 and his 5.50 pound largemouth was big fish, Lee Hancock had nine at 18.36 for third and Ryan Edge’s ten weighing 16.92 pounds for fourth.

It was a very frustrating bass tournament at Lake Hartwell for me. I went to Hartwell on Tuesday and got a campsite at the local KOA and set up for the next few nights. Wednesday morning I was on the water before daylight. I knew the best pattern this time of year on Hartwell was to make long casts with a big topwater plug over shallow points and humps to catch bass feeding on blueback herring.

The first point I fished made me know I would not be able to fish that pattern. I cast a Gunfish, a topwater plug that imitates a bass feeding on herring that you have to twitch constantly. Within 15 minutes my wrist and shoulder ached so badly I had to quit. Its tough when you get too old to fish the way you want, but I always said I would rather wear out that rust out.

I spent that whole day trying to catch fish on a slow moving bait that would not hurt so much to fish. After ten hours I had landed exactly one keeper and half dozen bass shorter than the 12 inch size limit. I couldn’t even catch fish off docks, usually a good pattern in a clear lake like Hartwell.

Wednesday I had spent a lot of time looking for bedding bream or bass bedding late in the year, but found none. So Thursday I changed tactics. I started out on a bridge where herring and shad usually spawn, and those baitfish were all over the rocks and pilings, and I could see nice three to four pound bass cruising under them in the shade around the pilings, but I could not get then to hit. So I went looking for stained water, going way back in some creeks where rain had made the water less clear. Some places looked great.

In one I had to go through a culvert just high enough for my boat seats and windshield to get under it. Just as I started under it I remembered my back running light was still plugged in and I looked back just in time to see it hit and bend over, breaking it. Fortunately, a local store had a replacement that afternoon. That stupid mistake cost me only $40!

Back in that creek I thought I had found the perfect place. I knew a lot of bass fishermen would not try to get back there through the culvert and the water had a good color. I could see my spinnerbait down only a foot or so. And there was grass, button bushes, docks and brush piles all around the big area above the culvert.

I spent several hours in there fishing different but never caught a keeper. So Friday morning I ran to the bridge, hoping some of those bass I had seen would bite at first light, and one good keeper did hit a topwater plug. After three hours I gave up and tried to fish topwater but gave up from the pain.

My only hope left was a small creek where I have caught fish in the past. I ran to it and managed to catch two more keepers to give me three for the day. Friday I went straight to that creek and stayed in it all day and did manage to catch a limit, but the five weighed only 6.1 pounds, not nearly enough to do any good!

California Marine Life Protection Act

California Marine Life Protection Act: The Ultimate Bait and Switch
from The Fishing Wire

There is no question that the passage of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) has been the most controversial environmental issue California’s angling community has ever faced. It signaled the state’s shift from a shared philosophy of conserving California’s natural resources to outright protectionism, with little regard to the interests of outdoor recreation, tourism and all of their economic benefits.

As the MLPA established the framework for Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), the state promised California anglers that areas designated as off-limits to commercial and recreational fishing may one day be open to fishing. In fact, they were very specific in their promises. Scientific assessments would be conducted every five years, and as fish populations were assessed as sustainably viable, the restrictions would be lifted.

Over time, the state established many MPAs along California’s coastline, totaling over 850 square miles. As new MPAs were introduced, the angling community not only challenged the merits of closing some prime fishing spots, but the process by which they were selected. The locations and boundaries were not set by a presumably objective government agency, rather, a private organization who’s funding was fueled by environmental groups, many of which shared an anti-fishing agenda.

As the plans came before the California Fish and Game Commission, the science or lack thereof was challenged, but to no avail. Even with considerable restrictions on the amount and manner of take already in place, commissioners simply assured anglers that timely assessments would be conducted and such drastic action would only lead to more plentiful fishing in the years to come.

That was then and not now. Deadlines to conduct these assessments have come and gone, and so apparently have assurances that the state can keep its word. This was evident at the April 13 California Fish and Game Commission, where some commissioners echoed the view of environmentalists that no promises were ever made. In fact, the president of commission stated that he didn’t expect fishing to be restored during his lifetime.

In retrospect, this stunning pronouncement was not surprising. At the April meeting, the commission was functioning with only three commissioners and two vacancies after several longstanding commissioners resigned out of frustration. Defending hunters and anglers had become too tiresome. Ironically, it was the two recently appointed commissioners who challenged the assertion that promises were made, as if they had an institutional knowledge of the all the public hearings and stakeholder meetings.

The bottom line is the state did not recruit recreational anglers to serve on stakeholder groups to seek their advice on how best to deny them access to some of California’s finest fishing, permanently. That would have been a none-starter. Rather, stakeholders were assured that environmental mitigation was required to protect the ocean’s natural resources, and their participation aimed to balance the interests of responsible environmental stewardship and outdoor recreation.

The commission would be wise to abandon their current course of action of denying the truth, thereby enshrining the Marine Life Protection Act’s legacy as the greatest bait and switch act ever. It will only further damage their relationship with those who were once their partners in conserving our state’s natural resources. What’s more, their actions have economic consequences. Recreational fishing contributes over $4.9 billion in economic activity each year, and its economic value will only decrease as the state continues to deny access to some of the nation’s finest fishing.

Marko Mlikotin is the executive director of the California Sportfishing League, California’s leading advocate for anglers and businesses dependent on outdoor recreation.

Fishing Lake Weiss

Last Thursday I drove to Lake Weiss near Rome, Georgia to get information for my July Georgia and Alabama Outdoor News magazine article. Since this is a border lake, with most of the lake in Alabama but some in Georgia, and many Georgia bass fishermen go there, it will be in both issues. You do have to have an Alabama fishing license to fish the lake.

I met Wayne Boyd, a tournament fisherman from Rome that knows the lake well, at the boat ramp at 9:00 AM. We fished grass beds for two hours and he caught two nice largemouth about five pounds each on a chatterbait. This pattern will not work well in July so we then spent two hours looking at spots that will be good in July, although bass have not really moved to them yet.

Weiss is a very pretty 30,200 acre lake on the Coosa, Chattooga and Little Rivers that has an average depth of only ten feet. That surprised me when I first went there years ago. The lake is surrounded by low mountains and I thought it would be deep and clear like most mountain lakes, but it is shallow, stained most of the year, and full of grass beds and wood cover to fish.

Since Weiss is on the Coosa River it has a good population of those hard fighting Alabama or Coosa spotted bass. It also has a good population of largemouth bass but the lake is known as “The Crappie Capital” of the world. There is a ten inch size limit on crappie there but fishermen still fill their limits, even with those nice fish.

If you want a good trip to catch bass or crappie, a trip to Weiss in June would be a good choice.

Randall Tharp in First Elite Title

Confidence, Past History Led Randall Tharp in First Elite Title

Earlier Success on Other Ozark Lakes Gave Yamaha Pro Lure Choice, Location
from The Fishing Wire

Whenever you’re fishing a lake you’ve never been on before, look for cover or structure that lets you fish your favorite lure and technique and gives you confidence. That’s the advice of Yamaha Pro Randall Tharp, who followed it without hesitation in winning his first Bassmaster® Elite tournament on not one but two lakes he’d never fished before.

“The biggest factor in my win was that I just had a lot of confidence in the technique I was using and the area I was fishing,” explains Tharp in describing his victory at Bull Shoals and Norfolk Lakes in Arkansas where he weighed in 61 pounds, 10 ounces of bass while competing two days on each body of water.

“I had fished other Ozark lakes over the years,” the Yamaha Pro continues, “and they’re all somewhat similar in the way they look and the way they fish. I also studied how another fisherman had won an FLW® Tour tournament on Beaver Lake (another Ozark lake in northern Arkansas) immediately before ours, so that gave me some additional insight on how to fish.

“That tournament was won fishing a jig in less than 10 feet of water, which is my favorite technique, so all I did was find areas where I could do that.”

Tharp chose to fish structure known as “channel swings,” where a creek or river channel makes a turn, either near a shoreline or across a shallow flat. They’re always good starting points to fish on practically any lake because they offer bass both shallow and deep water adjacent to each other. Tharp chose channel swings in the backs of several creeks where he believed bass were moving in to spawn. These were pre-spawn bass that were also feeding heavily on both shad and crayfish.

“Almost all my fish came from water less than five feet deep,” he noted, “and my largest fish were actually less than two feet deep. I kept my boat in eight to 12 feet and pitched my jig very close to the bank, then worked it down the slope of the channel. The bass were around boulders or small flat areas where they could feed easily.”

The first day of competition was held at Norfolk Lake, the next two at Bull Shoals, and the final day back on Norfolk. Tharp opened with 15-9, followed with 13-12 and 16-4 during the two days on Bull Shoals, and finished with 16-2 back on Norfolk. Another key to his success started the first day on Bull Shoals when he changed the weight of his jig.

“I had been using a ½-ounce jig, but late in the afternoon there on Bull Shoals I noticed the bass becoming more aggressive,” says Tharp. “I started getting more bites, and when I’d reel in my jig, several fish would follow it. I did not want them to get a good look at the lure because I really wanted more of a reaction strike, so I changed to a 5/8-ounce jig.

“It’s hard to understand how much faster that jig falls, even though it’s only 1/8 ounce heavier, but it does, and what that allowed me to do was to not only work the water faster but also cover more water when they were feeding. It was definitely an afternoon feeding bite, because on the third morning, again at Bull Shoals, I started with the heavier jig but never got a bite, so I had to switch back to the lighter jig.”

Even though Tharp had never fished either of the two impoundments before this tournament, he wasn’t concerned about fishing strange water. Whenever possible, he emphasizes, being able to fish with a favorite lure and technique, such as pitching a jig like he was able to do, provides a huge dose of confidence. He advises other fishermen facing similar situations to try to do the same. If nothing else, it’s just a good way to start fishing.

“I feel very fortunate to have been able to fish my favorite technique for all four days of the tournament and have it work so well,” the Yamaha Pro concludes. “I even caught a four-pounder on my very last cast the final day. That’s how fortunate I was.”

Kevin VanDam

KVD’s Comeback: In His Own Words

How Humminbird pro Kevin VanDam cracked Toledo Bend’s big bass code
from The Fishing Wire

Eufaula, AL – Bass fishing is a lot like any sport. Fall into a slump and critics crawl out of the woodwork. And with today’s multitude of media, there are way too many opinions flying around – most of all the realm of social media, where everyone’s an expert.

But the squawk boxes are it’s a little quieter this week for Kevin VanDam as bass fishing’s icon commanded a wire-to-wire win at the A.R.E. Truck Caps Bassmaster Elite on Louisiana’s Toledo Bend, ending a five-year drought between major wins.

With the world watching, the four-time Bassmaster Classic champion and seven-time AOY weighed a whopping 96-2 four-day total, eclipsing second place by nearly eight pounds. The $100,000 brings VanDam’s career winnings to just shy of $6 million.

For Kevin, this win was personal. It was a long and torturous road filled with late nights, early mornings, miles of travel, and weeks of being away from home. But there was one thing that didn’t change, his Iron-forged perseverance.

We sat down and talked with Kevin about how it all happened and how it feels to be back on top. Here’s a peek inside the boat and the mind of someone who could be angling’s greatest of all-time.

How did you feel going into the event?

KVD: I didn’t know what to expect going into the first day. Practice was really windy, which made it hard to fish offshore, but I got a few bites, so I knew I’d get to fish how I like. I spent a lot of time studying the new Toledo Bend LakeMaster map on my HELIX 10 and just graphing with Side Imaging, Down Imaging and 2D Sonar.

What kind of offshore structure was key?

KVD: Bass were in transition from post-spawn to summer structure, which on Toledo means deeper ledges, humps and spots close to creek channels or the main river channel itself. The water was also really high, so they were pulling some water and the current through the lake moved these bass to outside points. So I tried to find areas like these outside large spawning flats that would hold a large concentration of fish.

What role did mapping play?

KVD: It played a big role. I know the Humminbird LakeMaster guys surveyed Toledo Bend when the water was low and basically destroyed two boats and a bunch of props to get the very best detail possible. That says a lot. So I knew every Humminbird pro was going to have an advantage over the competition. The Toledo Bend map on the new LakeMaster Mid-South States card version 3 is almost overwhelming because there’s so much detail. I fished around Housen in Six Mile, two major creeks in the lower end of the lake, and it was stunning what that map revealed. But it’s the same thing with LakeMaster HD maps everywhere I go, from Kentucky Lake to Guntersville. Sam Rayburn, too. There are no more secrets. For me, it’s actually kind of bittersweet, because now everybody can see the same things that I used to have to work so hard to find. But it’s going to help a lot of anglers become better fishermen.

If you don’t have LakeMaster you’re at a huge disadvantage.

How deep were the bass?

KVD: I had some spots where fish were as shallow as 15′ or as deep as 30′. One of the biggest fish I caught was on a 28′ hump. So, the big thing for me was zooming in and out when I got to these areas. On a 500-foot scale mapping with LakeMaster, you get a great view of everything that’s in the region – how the spot you’re looking at lays out and what’s surrounding it and how fish might funnel to it. But it’s also critical to zoom into the 50-foot scale so you can get the precise line and cast off the ends of these points, especially after I graphed them. Once I had that plot trail I’d use it as a line to make my cast.

Besides mapping, what technologies helped you dial in fish?

KVD: Because there was so much timber and structure, I used a lot of 2D SONAR and Down Imaging in split-screen view. Being able to see both images side-by-side allowed me to discern the different types of fish, was the key. There are so many baitfish, white bass, and yellow bass in Toledo Bend that a critical part is being able to tell what’s what on your electronics.

When they weren’t pulling water, the bass were setting up on or just outside points and ledges and hanging close to the bottom. The white bass were a lot higher up and farther off the drops. The largemouths would be one or two feet off the bottom and I could actually see them on my Humminbird, turn around, make a cast and catch ’em. And that’s what I found in practice and was able to expand on during the tournament.

Tell us about your winning crankbait program.

KVD: I like to fish crankbaits during post-spawn because I can be very efficient—not only can I cover a lot of water, I can tell the difference between hard and soft bottom. If I’m in 15′ to 20′, I’m going to throw a Strike King 6XD; if I’m in that 19′ to 24′, I like the 8XD; if I’m anywhere from 20′ to 30′ zone, the 10XD is the way to go, especially if you’re trying to target big fish on Toledo. The whole family of baits allows me to cover the 15′ to 30′ zone really well.

I have a cranking system that I worked with Quantum to develop that includes 7′ 10″ or 7′ 11″ medium-heavy or heavy- action composite cranking rods and my signature 5.3:1 gear ratio reel for power. Depending on the crankbait, I use 12- to 17 lb. fluorocarbon.

Speaking of big fish, tell us about your 8-11 from Day 3.

KVD: I reeled my crankbait down over a hump that topped out at 28′, and I got hung up in brush. As soon as I popped it free that fish bit it. I set the hook, loaded up, and I knew it was a big one. It immediately swam into a tree top, so I just kept pressure on it, eventually getting it to swim out of the tree. Once the fish was inside the boat I was so excited that I jerked the hook out of the fish and into my hand! I had the fish in one hand and had to cull a little pound and half fish and put that big one in the live well with a Strike King 10XD 2/O Mustad treble stuck in my hand. Fortunately, I had a camera guy pretty close and walked him through the procedure for the painless hook removal and it worked like a charm.

Following your win, how do you feel about the rest of the season?

KVD: I’ve had an up and down season to this point. I had a couple good events to start off and was in good shape, but I’ve had a couple really bad days, too, the last at Wheeler. To have a great event here at Toledo Bend, unarguably the best bass lake in the country, really makes it special. I could not have done it without my Humminbird units and LakeMaster mapping. It’s a one-two punch with the Side Imaging, Down Imaging, and the LakeMaster map that is second to none. I’m proud to be with a company that understands the importance of investing in accurate mapping.

About Johnson Outdoors Marine Electronics, Inc.
Johnson Outdoors Marine Electronics, Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of Johnson Outdoors and consists of the Humminbird®, Minn Kota® and Cannon® brands. Humminbird® is a leading global innovator and manufacturer of marine electronics products including fishfinders, multifunction displays, autopilots, ice flashers, and premium cartography products. Minn Kota® is the world’s leading manufacturer of electric trolling motors, as well as offers a complete line of shallow water anchors, battery chargers and marine accessories. Cannon® is the leader in controlled-depth fishing and includes a full line of downrigger products and accessories.

How Does Clark Wendlandt Breaks Down Tournament Waters?

Cabela’s Pro Clark Wendlandt Breaks Down Tournament Waters

By Cody Levy
from The Fishing Wire

Tournament angling at its core is all about finding the biggest fish throughout the tournament waters to bring into the scales. Whether the tournament winning fish are two miles from takeoff or 40 miles from takeoff, there will always be anglers tracking them down and making the run to try and fill their livewells, no matter the risk.

Anglers competing in the 2016 BoatUS Collegiate Bass Fishing Championship Presented by Cabela’s now have the opportunity to compete on over 70 miles of fishable tournament waters, stretching between Wilson and Pickwick Lakes. Just recently, Cabela’s and Garmin Pro, Clark Wendlandt, competed on this exact stretch and has some words of wisdom to offer the BoatUS Collegiate Bass Fishing Championship Presented by Cabela’s field of competitors.

During the FLW event, Wendlandt chose to lock up to Wilson Lake during the tournament, but was unable to make it back to weigh in along with many other competitors, due to a barge taking precedent in the lock schedule at that time. In Wendlandt’s 28 year professional fishing career, not once has the angler been late or missed a weigh in, but on the Tennessee River, barges are the main priority, making the decision to lock up to Wilson Lake a risk.

“Bass tournament fishing has always been such that you always have to get back to the takeoff at a certain time or else you will be counted late and that’s always been an inherent part of bass fishing,” said Wendlandt. “When you lock to Wilson, you are taking a risk with going through a mechanical structure. In the recent FLW event I fished on Pickwick, they did give us lock times, but a barge came through the lock which needed to be taken apart which caused the lock to basically be shut down to all anglers for about six hours, and there’s nothing you can do.”

Wendlandt added that “in my opinion, you can find the fish to actually win the tournament on in Wilson, but it is a risk and you may not get back. In 28 years of my competitive fishing career, I’ve never been late and I’ve been through many locks, but being late can happen and it happened to me just this past week.”

Choosing to lock to Wilson Lake is simply a risk versus reward scenario. Wendlandt was able to break down both lakes and explain the differences between the two to better provide anglers with information to make the decision to lock or not.

“I think there will be potential for quality shallow and deep fish. The past four years at this event has been dominated deep. This year, even though a deep pattern might dominate again, shallow will play a bigger role because there is a lot more hydrilla on Pickwick Lake this year,” said Wendlandt. “Grass is growing from four feet out to around eight or ten feet, which I still consider shallow on this lake. I think it will be a lot easier for guys to come in and find a good pattern with that grass.”

Known for its miles of ledges, many anglers have found that summertime on Pickwick Lake can be an absolute slugfest. This summer, anglers might come back to an even more versatile Pickwick Lake due to the increase in vegetation.

“Pickwick is considerably different because of that factor right there,” said Wendlandt. “Basically the upper half of that lake has hydrilla flats all over it and it has potential to play into the tournament. To me, it makes the lake a whole lot more dynamic and now there are a lot more ways to catch fish rather than just the few popular ways people have caught them in the past.”

With the addition of Wilson Lake to the tournament waters, anglers will have the opportunity to experience ever more versatility.

“Pickwick Lake has many, many flats and flat areas which constitute the ledges, but Wilson Lake on the other hand, even though it does have some flats, most of that lake comes off a lot deeper and is just more of an impoundment,” said Wendlandt. “Wilson has a lot more potential to have fish closer or more associated with the bank, such as docks or water willow, whereas on Pickwick, fish will be more associated with ledges or rock piles offshore.”

Though Wendlandt only spent one of his tournament days on Wilson Lake and the other on Pickwick, he believes that anglers should fish to what they are confident in, whether that is on Pickwick or Wilson Lake.

“I believe you should spend a day on Wilson during your practice if that is a lake you might like, but know going into the event that there is a possibility that you might not get back,” said Wendlandt. “Sometimes to win a big tournament, you have to have some risk, and if you find the winning fish on Wilson, I don’t see a reason not to fish there.”

Wendlandt’s top three baits for this event are listed as follows:

1. Big Spinnerbait
2. Deep Diving Crankbait
3. Carolina Rig with a Creature Bait

Don’t miss out on your opportunity to compete in the longest running collegiate fishing tournament series championship ever! Sign up today and we’ll see you at the 2016 BoatUS Collegiate Bass Fishing Championship Presented by Cabela’s in Florence, Alabama.

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About the ACA
The Association of Collegiate Anglers, a division of Careco TV, is a sanctioning body developed to facilitate growth, development, and structure within competitive collegiate bass fishing. The ACA provides support to dozens of school operated regional events nationwide and owns the Cabela’s Collegiate Bass Fishing Series, the largest participatory collegiate tournament circuit in the country. With dedicated collegiate fishing programming on several television networks, three nationally televised collegiate bass fishing events, and thousands of members, the ACA is the leader in competitive collegiate bass fishing. For more information on the ACA, or the Cabela’s Collegiate Bass Fishing Series, visit For more information on Cabela’s visit, for more information on CarecoTV, visit

West Point Buddy Tournament and Eating Spotted Bass

Last Saturday nine two-man teams fished a Potato Creek Bassmasters Buddy Tournament at West Point. I should say two-person teams. There were some wives fishing as well as children and grandkids. A club member could bring anyone they wanted as a partner. It was pretty day even if a little cool first thing that morning.

In this tournament each team could weigh in their best five bass, so it was really a per boat limit. I think all nine teams weighed in a limit. We had prizes for the top three places and big fish.

Jordan McDonald fished with me and, thanks to Jordan, we placed second with about 12.5 pounds and had big fish with a 5.87 pound largemouth Jordan landed at 2:00 PM. There were two other largemouth weighing over five pounds each weighed in, both by the first place team. They had five weighing over 14 pounds.

Jordan and I started throwing topwater baits on a point and quickly caught three small spotted bass, big enough to keep but not really what we wanted. Jordan set the pace for the day, catching the biggest of the three.

We fished shady banks until the sun got high and caught some more keeper spots but, again, not what we wanted. At about 10:00 we ran to a deep bank with two blown down trees on it. I caught a keeper largemouth on top over them but Jordan got a bigger one on a jig and pig, and lost two more good size fish.

By noon we had about ten fish and we found some keeper spots on a roadbed but only one of them was big enough to cull one of our best five. I caught it on a jig head worm. With only an hour left to fish, at 2:00 PM, we decided to try the trees one more time. Almost as soon as we stopped Jordan set the hook on a big fish.

I got the net and went to the back of the boat, but the way the fish fought, staying down deep, we thought it might be a catfish. And when it came under the boat down several feet deep I saw it and was sure it was a cat. I went back to the front of the boat to keep it from drifting into the trees.

Suddenly Jordan yelled “its a bass!” The fish had come to the top where he could see it. I managed to get back there and net the 5.87 that was big fish for the day. I think Jordan caught either three or four of the five we weighed in that day.

We had a lot of fun and could have kept over a dozen eating size spotted bass. That is a good plan if you want fish to eat. Go to West Point and catch spots to eat and let the largemouth go. Spots have about overrun the lake, but largemouth seem to be making something of a come-back there. A good many of the fish weighed in Saturday were largemouth.

Spots are not native to Georgia waters and are not good for most of our lakes. Fishermen have “mid-night stocked” them in Jackson and Russell, and they have gotten into West Point, Bartletts Ferry and even Clarks Hill, maybe by illegal stocking but maybe from natural movement from upstream lakes where they were illegally stocked many years ago.

Spots are fun to catch but they don’t grow as fast and don’t get as big as largemouth. Lanier is an exception with its deep clear water, standing timber and blueback herring, also stocked illegally. There they grow to quality size and fishermen think other lakes will be the same.

In Alabama lakes, especially the Coosa River lakes, they are native and do grow to quality size. But conditions there are different. Fishermen may have hurt our lakes over the long term by messing with Mother Nature.

So if you want some bass to eat go to a lake where spots are not native and keep a limit, ten per person, to eat. There is no size limit on them anywhere in Georgia except at Lanier so you can keep those 10 and 11 inch fish. They are a good eating size.

Catch a bunch of spots to eat, have some good meals and fun catching them, and help the lakes at the same time.

Scott Martin

Day Off With A Bass Pro
from The Fishing Wire

Top gun Scott Martin divulges post-tournament therapy

“My fingernails are chewed off, my eyes are about to fall out my head, my back hurts … I feel like I’ve been fighting Mike Tyson all week.” – Scott Martin

Bass pro Scott Martin makes it all look easy.

15 FLW Cup qualifications, six FLW tour wins, 34 Top 10 finishes and 2.3 million in winnings. Statistically speaking, Martin ranks second for all-time winnings and tour wins—and he’s only 40 years old.

And then there’s TV. Since 2005, Scott has hosted the “Scott Martin Challenge,” a fast-paced TV show that pits Scott against some of the world’s best anglers. As far as fishing shows go, it’s one of the very best in terms of entertainment and production value.

But catch Scott in a rare off-stage moment, and he’ll admit that competing on the FLW Tour and hosting a TV show is like having two full-time jobs. And that doesn’t include guiding, promo work, and duties as a husband and father of four.

“I spend more time on water than I do on land,” says Martin. “And the majority of that is spent competing in bass tournaments with high risk, high reward, extreme conditions and stressful moments. It’s pretty hardcore fishing. So, when I’m not competing, I try to relax on the water.”

At the time of this interview, Martin was driving home from a tournament.

“My fingernails are chewed off, my eyes are about to fall out of my head, my back hurts … I feel like I’ve been fighting Mike Tyson all week. I can’t wait to get out in my Old Town and do some fun fishing,” says Martin.

To be specific, he’s referring to the Old Town Predator XL Minn Kota, a fishing machine that bridges the gap between kayak, shallow-water skiff and bass boat, and is powered by 45 pounds of Minn Kota saltwater-grade thrust.

“You can’t get that kind of quiet intimacy on the water in a big bass boat. There’s just something about being in the Predator that allows you to relax on a different level. It’s super comfortable and the fishability is impressive. Obviously, you can fish places where you can’t even get a big boat. But the tranquility of it, the peacefulness of it, that’s what I love. It’s like therapy for me.”

He continues: “You can throw the Predator in the back of the truck, drive down the road, and be on the water in no time. Where I live in Florida there are canals, retention ponds, and other waters that don’t have a boat ramp of any sort. Now, it’s as easy as pull the kayak out of the truck and start fishing.”

A ‘Game-Changer’

Although an experienced paddler, Martin calls the Minn Kota motor in the Old Town Predator XL Minn Kota “a game-changer,” which puts anglers where the action is faster than ever before.

“It’s a great combination. Both Old Town and Minn Kota stand for quality. The Minn Kota trolling motor has always been the most dependable brand out there, bar none. The efficiency of their motors is huge. I was able to drive the motor in the Predator XL Minn Kota through Okeechobee’s grass with ease, and it’s some of the thickest vegetation on the planet. I didn’t get stuck; I didn’t have any problems. The boat performed beautifully in forward and reverse in all situations in the most extreme situations you could imagine. And the motor’s simple to operate. Great design.”

Endless Rig-ability

Another thing that struck Martin’s fancy was the Predator XL Minn Kota’s endless rigging potential.

“Because my boat is my office, it is pretty accessorized with everything I need in my line of work: depth finders, places to put pliers, cup holders, places to secure cameras, etc. That’s what’s cool about the Old Town Predator XL Minn Kota. You can accessorize the boat with all types of products from electronics, to cameras, rod holders, and more. There are endless ways to customize the boat. That’s neat. You can really ‘trick out’ your Predator to exactly the way that suits how and where you fish.”

A ‘Go Anywhere’ Boat

Living in Florida, Martin has opportunities to fish everything from large lakes, farm ponds, canals, marshes, inland waterways, as well inshore and offshore waters. Especially for his locale, he calls the Predator XL Minn Kota a “go-anywhere boat.”

“I wouldn’t be uncomfortable in any way using the Predator in the saltwater environment. It performed well and is very stable. I even stood up in it and fished. Versatile for bass fishing, panfish, inshore, bluewater, you-name-it.”

Family Flotilla

While Martin enjoys fishing solo, using the Predator XL Minn Kota as a vehicle to decompress from hardcore tournament fishing, he also sees real potential in its family-friendly potential.

“What would be neat would be to have four, five or six Predator XL Minn Kota boats so the entire family can go out and attack a lake. I see that all the time now: four or five kayak anglers fishing together at a time … and way up lakes and places where it’s tough to get to.”

He cites a recent experience on Beaver Lake during an FLW tournament.

“I was way up river where there aren’t any boat ramps for miles, and I come around the corner at 7:30 a.m., and there’s a half-dozen kayak anglers out there fishing down the shoreline. Obviously, these folks drove their trucks down the dirt road and loaded them off the shore. How cool is that? You can drive to where you want to fish, boat ramp or not, and launch your Predator from the shore for quick work right to the best fishing!”

Martin pauses. “You know what that means, don’t you? With the Predator XL Minn Kota you end up with a whole lot of secret fishing holes.”