Monthly Archives: January 2017

Cold Weather Fishing

Two trips last week indicated this winter is not going to be a warm one. I went to Jordan lake near Montgomery Alabama on Wednesday to get information for an Alabama Outdoor News article then went to Jackson on Friday for information for a Georgia Outdoor News article.

Wednesday was not terrible. I met Nate Johnson at 8:00 AM and, while waiting at the dock, debated if I needed my heaviest clothing. I was fairly comfortable standing on the dock in my jacket, but the wind was growing stronger so I decided to put my Cabellas Guidewear suit on. The weather guessers said the wind would be calm by 10:00 AM but I know better than trust their predictions.

The wind never calmed down, it just got stronger. And blowing across the 51-degree water made it feel even colder. And the fish did not bite. Nate has won several January tournaments there in the past with five bass weighing over 20 pounds total, but neither of us hooked a fish that day.

Our excuse was the water had come up over a foot and gone from very clear to stained almost overnight due to the heavy rains. And the water temperature dropped a couple of degrees due to the cold nights and wind. All those things can make fishing tough this time of year.

Friday I met Willie McMullen at Jackson at 7:30 and had no doubt I needed my Guidewear. Willie grew up on Jackson Lake and his father Wayne and uncle Ronnie McMullen were well known for their great catches on Jackson. Before he died a few years ago Wayne taught Willie everything he knew, starting him tournament fishing over 30 years ago when Willie was only nine years old.

Last weekend on New Years Eve Willie won a tournament at Jackson with five bass weighing almost 15 pounds. But once again the changing weather and lake level changed the fishing. He landed four bass in the seven hours we fished but I never had a bite. I was too busy taking notes and pictures to fish – that is my excuse and I am sticking with it.

To anyone other than a diehard bass fisherman, we were crazy to fish on a day when the high temperature was in the mid-30, it was cloudy and rainy and snow was in the forecast. But to me it was the perfect kind of day to fish this time of year. Low pressure and clouds often mean the bass bait good in the winter.

One Christmas this was proved to me at Clarks Hill. I got up that morning to find my boat parked at my mobile home at Raysville Boat Club covered with six inches of snow. I raked enough off the front deck to get to my trolling motor foot control and to stand without slipping down.

After putting the boat in I idled out to a point where I have caught fish in the past in January. The wind was howling as a cold front move in and the air temperature was in the low 30s. The water temperature was about 50 degrees.

For two hours, every time I dropped a spoon down it never got to the bottom. I landed hybrids, stripers, largemouth bass, white bass, white perch and crappie from that point. Since my live wells were frozen shut I just threw the fish in the snow in the bottom of the boat. When I went in I had to climb over the windshield to get to the drivers seat.

I quit fishing because as soon as the wind blew the cloud cover away and the pressure jumped up the fish stopped biting. I kept trying for about 30 minutes after the last bite but they were just gone.

Another Christmas the wind was blowing sleet sideways one morning. I tried to fish some points but it was just too cold and rough, so I idled behind an island where the bank dropped off fast into deep water and was covered with rocks. And best of all I was out of the wind.

Within a few minutes, I hooked and landed a bass weighing just over eight pounds on a Deep Wee R. After landing it I decided I had used up my luck and headed to the ramp and a warm mobile home.

Don’t let cold, windy, cloudy weather keep you home this winter.

What Is Kayaking for Fitness?

Kayaking for Fitness
By the West Advisor Staff
from The Fishing Wire

If you have resolved to get into shape in the coming New Year, consider paddling your way to fitness on a kayak. The physical benefits of kayaking include core conditioning, increased aerobic capacity and weight loss. The psychological and social benefits include stress reduction and the enjoyment of making new friends among the world’s growing armada of paddling fanatics. And if you’re an angler, these lightweight, launch-anywhere vessels can open up a whole new world of fishing opportunities.

Core Conditioning

Paddling a kayak helps to strengthen your “core” muscle groups, which are the major muscles of your trunk that move, support and stabilize your spine. The small, but constant muscle movements required to balance in a kayak, along with the rotational movement of paddling work together to build core strength.

With repeated paddling excursions, your core muscle groups will progressively strengthen—along with your abilities as a kayaker. Core conditioning also offers off-the-water benefits. For example, lifting a heavy object, reaching down or reaching up to a shelf all become easier when your core muscle groups are strong.

Aerobic fitness

Paddling against wind and waves is a sure-fire way to “increase the burn”.

The constant exertion required to paddle a kayak increases a paddler’s respiration rate, which over time can help improve the ability of his or her lungs, heart and vascular system to deliver oxygen to muscles via the blood. The benefits of being aerobically fit include improved endurance, decision-making capability, concentration and mental alertness.

Lose weight

Will paddling a kayak help you to lose weight? The answer is yes. According to Men’s Fitness, paddling a kayak burns about 205 calories per hour, depending on conditions. And according to the Mayo Clinic, one pound of body weight equals about 3,500 calories—so provided you adhere to a regular program of paddling exercise and watch your caloric intake, you will slowly but surely burn away those pounds! To increase the burn, paddle against the wind and current.

Stress less

Legions of paddlers have discovered that shoving off in a kayak onto their favorite lake or river is a great way to break with the stress of daily life and enjoy our natural world. Evidence of this can be seen in a random sampling of quotes posted by kayakers at “If in doubt, paddle out”, “A day on the lake restores the soul” and “I don’t need therapy, I just need to go kayaking”.

Friends and family

Due to the tremendous popularity of kayaking, most areas near the water have some sort of paddling club—so you can get healthy and fit while making new friends. And of course, kayaking is a sport that the whole family can enjoy.

Gear requirements

If you don’t have a kayak already, there are plenty from which to choose. Choices include sit-on-top kayaks, sit-inside kayaks, and inflatable kayaks, each with its own unique set of features. For help in selecting a kayak, see our Kayak Finder. Along with a kayak, you will also need a paddle. For help in selecting a paddle, see Selecting the Right Kayak Paddle.

Besides your kayak, you will also need to gear up for a safe time on the water. First and foremost, you will need a paddlesports life jacket, one that’s designed for paddling and that won’t hinder your paddling range of motion. And if you think you might be paddling out of shouting distance from shore, we suggest you equip yourself with a handheld VHF radio.

For some kayakers, the most difficult part of the sport is raising their kayak on to a vehicle’s kayak rack or carrying the kayak from their car to the beach. The kayak accessories that we offer include special carts and hoisting systems to make loading or manually transporting your kayak easier.

Other items to consider are a small set of pyrotechnic signals (flares) and a basic first aid kit, which should include lip balm and a topically applied sun shield. The first aid kit and other odds and ends should be kept in a dry bag.

For more information on the gear you will need, and/or if you are new to the sport, see our Beginner’s Guide to Kayaking.

Know your limits

If you are new to kayaking, we suggest that you gently ease into the sport, being careful not to exceed your physical limits. If you have a medical condition that might limit your ability to participate in kayaking, check with your doctor. Beyond the exercise and physical conditioning that paddling a kayak affords, the basics can be learned in a day or two. After that, you can continue to improve as you paddle on into the years.

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Global Cooling Becomes Global Warming Becomes Global Climate Change

I guess if the unusually warm weather on Christmas Day proves global warming, the weather this past weekend proves global cooling. Weather and climate change. Always have, always will.

In 1975 I was working on my first Masters Degree at West Georgia College and took a course titled “Environmental Science.” I had to write a report on the coming ice age. All the scientific “evidence” proved that half of the US would be covered by glaciers within the next 25 years.

To prevent this catastrophe US taxpayers had to ante up billions of dollars for changes. And we had to change our lifestyles to keep polar bears out of downtown Chicago. Just like the Italian scientists of his time told Christopher Columbus, the science was settled and they would not fund his trip because he would fall off the side of the flat earth.

I fish year-round and some winters water temperatures stay in the 50s. Other years lakes around here drop into the low 40s and I have seen Jackson lake with solid ice sheets in some covers and a thin layer of ice on parts of the main lake. I have also seen years when there were few days when fishing with only a light jacket was not enough.

I enjoy warm winters, it is much more fun fishing when you can actually feel your fingers holding a rod and reel, and when you don’t have to dip your rod into the water every cast to melt ice out of the guides. That was the way it was during the winter three years ago. I hope it does not get that cold this winter.

Offshore In A Pontoon Boat

Offshore is No Where for Pontoon Boats
By Frank Sargeant, Editor
from The Fishing Wire

The Coast Guard assisted a sinking pontoon boat off Holmes Beach, Florida, this past weekend, bringing to the fore the boom in these popular and very family-friendly watercraft, but also their limitations. The boat was 12 miles offshore and taking on water. Twelve miles offshore, in a pontoon boat!

Because pontoons are no longer necessarily sub-20-mph vessels thanks to triple pontoon designs, larger tubes, planing strakes and beefed up transoms that can handle 300 horses and more, a portion of the thousands who are buying them these days come to think of them as potential open water and even offshore fishing machines/cruisers.

And while the larger models–some are 30 feet long and 12 feet wide these days–are definitely far more seaworthy than the classic 22-footer with an 8-foot beam and two small pontoons, they are definitely not capable of dealing with rough inlets, nor with the big rollers that sometimes build rapidly offshore in storm conditions.

And they can’t run home rapidly when things start to go south–most of the time, before a pontoon can get back, seas will have built to the point that running at speed is impossible. This is true even in deep-vee monohulls designed for offshore travel–in a pontoon boat–even one capable of 50 mph in flat water–it happens very fast.

Pontoons are incredibly stable in flat water, which tends to give us (I’m a long time ‘tooner) a sense that they will be that way in rough water. But, while pontoons do great in little 1 to 2 footers, when the seas get tall enough and steep enough to start slopping over the bow and up on the deck, you’re already in trouble.

The front of a pontoon boat is vertical and flat, just exactly what you don’t want to have to stick into an on-coming roller–that’s why real offshore boats have a “pointy end”, a bow with what designers call a sharp “entry” designed to split the waves and lift the bow over them.

While the pontoons provide lots of lift and will ride over some considerable seas at low speeds, they will simply stuff the nose of the boat into a wall of water at some point where seas too tall and speed too great converge. The front “fence” or railing likely will be swept back into the boat, and several tons of water will come surging in on the deck. Fortunately, it will run back out pretty rapidly on most designs, but if a second wave hits before the deck has cleared, the boat may very well decide to roll, or may at least squat so far aft as the weight shifts that the motor sucks in water. Without power in rough seas, most boats don’t last long.

Even big inland lakes can overcome a pontoon in some conditions, though ‘toons are pretty much as seaworthy as most boats designed for inland use. The idea there is just to be aware that some weather is simply too much for most recreational boats, and that if you have any doubt whatsoever about how safe your boat will be in the conditions you’re likely to face, you don’t venture into open water.

To be sure, I’m not saying that larger pontoons should never venture outside an inlet–those riding on large triple pontoons can handle riding through passes and down the beach or crossing big open bays without problem in good weather. (Be aware, though, that wakes from large yachts and commercial boats can give everybody aboard wet feet or worse if you hit their wake wrong.) But heading 10 miles or more offshore in a recreational pontoon of any design is never a good idea.

Fortunately, these days in most areas, there’s no reason to let the weather catch you by surprise–just ask Siri or Cortana anytime you have doubts, and check the weather radar on your phone or your GPS, if properly equipped, regularly, particularly if you see clouds approaching.

Pontoons are wonderful family fishing and boating platforms, probably safer than most other types of boats, and certainly more comfortable–they have converted tens of thousands of non-boating families to boat lovers in recent years. But knowing their limitations before you leave the dock for the first time, or the hundredth, is a must.

November Sinclair Club Bass Tournament

Last Sunday 13 members of the Flint River Bass Club tried to catch keeper bass at Lake Sinclair in our November tournament. After eight hours of casting we brought 29 fish over the 12 inch limit, most of them just barely, weighing 37 pounds. There were three limits and two zeros.

Chuck Croft won with five weighing 6.70 pounds, Niles Murray placed second with five at 5.87 pounds and my limit of five fish weighed a whopping 4.36 pounds was fourth. JJ Polak, fishing with Chuck, caught only one fish but it was the right one, weighing 4.34 pounds and giving him big fish and fourth place.

Wes Delay fished with me and we had high hopes. After an hour of casting topwater, crankbaits, spinnerbaits, worms and jigs to cover in the creek where I won the last Sportsman Club tournament we had missed two bites. They may have been bream.

We went out to a rocky point with a brush pile on it and I could see fish around the brush. Wes caught a keeper there but that was the only bite we got. That was very frustrating but it got even worse. At noon Wes had caught one throw back and that was the only bite either of us had in those three hours.

At noon in desperation I went to a creek where I fish a lot. I have spent enough time there to know where the little brush piles and rocks are located and which docks usually produce fish. In the next hour I caught six keepers and a throw backs on a jig head worm.

I used all my skill on my second and third fish. The first one hit under a dock where I have caught lot of fish. After we started moving down the bank to the next dock I cast my jig head worm ahead of the boat, put the rod under my arm, and got rid of some used coffee.

As the boat slowly drifted forward I realized my line was not getting slack like it should. About the time I got the rod back into my hands a bass took off and I landed it. Wes said he now saw the pattern to use!

As we moved up the bank I kept an eye on my depthfinder as I always do. We were in about ten feet of water a good cast off the bank. I saw something on my front sonar and as the back of the boat went over it I could tell on my downscan it was some brush with fish around it.

I told Wes we went over some fish and turned and cast to it. I felt my jig head hit the brush then a thump, and I landed a keeper. Throwing right back produced a throwback.

I caught my fourth keeper, one that some call a line burner since it just barely touched the 12 inch line, in some brush in front of dock then caught my fifth one under the next dock we fished. Fortunately I was able to cull the line burner when I caught one 12.1 inches long on a seawall.

We fished hard the rest of the day but neither of us caught even a throwback in the last two hours.

Advances in Sonar

Advances in Sonar: ‘Instant Fishing Feedback’ with New Garmin Tech
Lake Commandos host Steve Pennaz discusses real-world applications for Garmin Panoptix LiveVü Down

By Steve Pennaz
from The Fishing Wire

When Garmin introduced Panoptix a few years back, I viewed the potential of this new technology through the eyes of both an angler and a television producer.

Garmin calls Panoptix “all-seeing sonar” as it allows you to view what’s below and to the side of the boat in three dimensions and in real time.

What fascinated me about Panoptix was the opportunity to not only locate fish, but actually watch—and digitally capture—their reaction to a presentation like a swimming crankbait, jig or live bait beneath the boat.

For decades, anglers have been using traditional 2D sonar to vertically present baits to fish visible on their sonar screen. The difference is, and it’s huge, Panoptix allows you to do this not only in the vertical water column directly below the boat, but also to the front, side and rear!

I have used both Panoptic Forward and Panoptix Down for the past two years on a variety of waters while targeting largemouth, crappie, walleye, smallmouth and other species.

I’ll focus on Panoptix Down here and save the discussion on Panoptix Forward for a future date.

The Technology

Panoptix starts with Garmin’s Panoptix Down transducer, which delivers three views: LiveVü Down, RealVü 3D Historical and RealVü 3D Down, even when the boat is stationary.

LiveVü Down—Although I’ve been using all three Panoptix down-looking technologies, LiveVü Down is the game-changer I’m using on nearly every single fishing trip.

With a push of a button I can adjust the angle of sonar to look forward or back. This allows me to tweak view for boat movement and desired presentation.

With LiveVü Down I can not only tell when fish are beneath the boat, but how far they are off the bottom and even what side of the boat they are on! The practical value of this is incredible as it allows me to drop or pull baits directly in front of the fish… and then watch their reaction to it in real time.

The video clips provided show actual fish response to presentations as viewed on Panoptix.

RealVü 3D Historical scrolls through data as the boat moves to show a history of the entire water column, from the bottom to the surface and all of the fish in between. Bottom contours and fish pop in vivid color and three dimensions.

3D Historical views are incredibly detailed and I use to gain a true understanding of the structure I am fishing.

RealVü 3D Down digitally scans the area below the boat from front to back and side to side. A full 3D view of the area under the boat is constructed, showing bottom contour changes, fish and structure, even while stationary.

Value of Real-Time Viewing

I am not new to real-time viewing… it’s been part of the ice fishing scene for a couple decades now. But to have a system that works so well in open-water situations is a major improvement.

One of the biggest revelations with LiveVü Down has been learning about how active fish really are, and how far they will chase a bait.

After decades of watching static, half-moons scroll across a sonar screen, I had the impression fish basically stayed pretty motionless until moving to strike a bait. I was stunned to learn just how active fish often are. Schools seem to be in constant motion, especially if not tied to cover, and I witnessed a variety of species chase my bait 10 feet or even more.

Those that reject my presentation often rise quickly to the bait, then slam to a halt just below it. Some then slowly drift back to the bottom, while others scurry away as if spooked by the lure.

This feedback is valuable as it helps me quickly tweak jig strokes, and other things like speed and color more efficiently than ever before.

By species, here are some of the things I’ve learned.

Walleye Fishing

When it comes to walleye fishing, these machines have really changed the bottom-bouncing and live bait rigging game. When fish are located on the screen it tells you three things: 1) which side of the boat the fish are on; 2) distance of the fish from the boat; and, 3) location of fish relative to bottom.

When I or a fishing partner sees fish on screen while working structure, we say simply “left” or “right,” so we’re presenting two different baits to the fish.

It doesn’t matter if you are a weekend angler or a pro, this information is deadly effective. On numerous occasions I’ve had my fishing partners move their ‘bouncers or live bait rigs from one side of the boat to the other—then quickly hook up on fish.


Another great application for LiveVü Down is targeting suspended crappies or bluegills. Once located, what makes machines like this so powerful is the “instant fishing feedback.”

There is a noticeable difference between this technology and standard 2D sonar, which you quickly realize is slow by comparison and leaves out a lot of vital information.

In LiveVü Down, you actually see a real-time “trail” as the fish moves and reacts to your bait. Schools of crappies do not appear as Christmas tree-like forms; instead, you see each and every fish and can watch their individual movements in real-time.

A lot of times, several fish in the school will come up to your bait at the same time. I’ve always viewed fish as static, because when you go over them with traditional 2D Sonar, they’re always drawn with a half-moon arch. With this unit, I’m seeing fish do things I never imagined them doing. They’re chasing the bait, they’re coming way up… if you do something wrong they spook and slide back down.

By watching the fish react to presentations in real-time, you can tweak jigging cadence, bait style, size, color, depth, etc., as necessary. Sometimes simply changing colors makes a big difference. 


This summer, on a lake I fish often, I located several deep rock piles that often hold large schools of bass, as well as crappie, perch and walleye. On other lakes, I’ve located a bunch of big smallmouth by looking for larger boulders or fish cribs, and then fishing vertically on them.

Panoptix is so sensitive that I can see both my sinker and my bait when dropshotting. I can also tell you that very few things are more exciting than seeing a five-plus-pound smallmouth slide up to your bait, and then watch at least of a portion of the fight on screen as the fish bulldogs against a heavy drag!

I’ve noticed on several occasions that individual members of schools are often very active, while others are less likely to move any distance to take a bait. I’ve also found the “chasers” are typically smaller fish and by getting them to rise to the bait and then dropping it back to the school I catch larger fish on average.

One of the attached video clips shows this.

Parting Thoughts

No matter the species, the ‘instant fishing feedback’ that Garmin Panoptix LiveVü Down provides is a true gamechanger. It allows you to monitor fish response in real-time and quickly respond with changes in presentation. That’s translated to maximizing my time on the water… and a whole lot more fish.

Panoptix Forward and Down are currently compatible with Garmin’s GPSMAP 8000 Series, GPSMAP 7600 Series, GPSMAP 1040xs/840xs, GPSMAP 741xs, and echoMAP CHIRP Series. Each requires you to purchase specific transducer.

About Steve Pennaz

Steve Pennaz is a Hall of Fame angler who excels at finding and catching fish on new waters, a skill developed over 30 years of extensive travel in search of giant fish. His television series, Lake Commandos, Man vs. Lake vs. Man, helps anglers understand the steps to building successful patterns on the water.

Funny Fishing Terms

I have spent all my life training to be grumpy old man, and I think I have achieved my goal! More and more I get irritated at things I consider silly or stupid. One of my pet peeves are the crazy names some fishermen call big bass and other terms they use.

Recently I made another fisherman mad because of my response to him. He said they “slayed” them while bass fishing. I responded that most bass fisherman let bass go, especially the bigger ones. He got all upset saying they let everything they caught that day go. When I pointed out “slaying” means killing, he quit talking to me.

Other terms seem totally silly when taking about big bass. When someone says they caught a “donkey” I wonder if they were using carrots for bait. When they say they landed a “slob” or “slobber knocker” I think they are going to need a box of Kleenex. And I could only shake my head in amazement when a fisherman recently claimed he caught a “panda.”

Some terms have been around so long I guess I have gotten used to them. Calling a big bass a “gorilla,” usually pronounced “go-rilla,” has been common for years. And terms like “pig” or “hawg” make me think of bacon rather than bass, but I hear them all the time.

When I talk about big bass I usually use the term “the one that got away.” There have been several times when I fought a bass for long time and called it a catfish when I landed it. I have also called big bass “sticks,” “logs,” and “rocks” soon after setting the hook.

All sports have terms specific to them. But I’m not sure most have as many as fishing.

Cabellas and BPS

Cabela’s Says BPS Deal Not In Danger
from The Fishing Wire

When Cabela’s made some mandatory regulator filings last Friday, they kicked off another round of conversations as to the likelihood of the proposed $4.5 Billion buyout of the retailer by Bass Pro Shops.

As expected, Cabela’s (NYSE:CAB) stock took an immediate hit, but closed trading yesterday at $58.83/share, gaining back another 28 cents of that drop. That’s still well below the $65.50/share deal price offered by Bass Pro Shops’ Johnny Morris.

So what’s up?

Regulators are covering their own flanks by looking more closely at the deal that would create a mega-outdoor chain with more than 180 stores and 40,000-plus workers. The combination Cabela’s/BPS could control as much as twenty percent of the $50 billion U.S. camping, fishing, hunting and shooting market. That merits some closer examination.

As I reported before the end of the year, it’s not unusual for regulators to look at the impact to the competitive marketplace when big mergers and acquisitions happen. When individual retail markets are impacted- and there are many locations where BPS and Cabela’s both have stores, there are repercussions from this kind of deal. It’s not unusual for regulators to ask that the combined entities consider modifications in their store configurations to account for reduced competition.

The concern at this point, however, might lie in the financial arm of the deal.

Capital One Financial Corporation, the buyer of Cabela’s credit card business, says that while the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (which regulates the financial transaction) has indicated it will likely approve the deal -but that approval “probably” won’t come before mid-October.

That could pose a problem as the walk-away date for the primary deal falls on October 3, 2017. And the Capital One portion is contingent on the acquisition completing first.

We hear through Wall Street that all parties and their representatives are working to get the deal completed, but Cabela’s has said it was exploring “alternative structures” for the deal to allow for a closing before the October deadline.

What’s the alternative? No one’s talking to us from either side of the deal, but analysts say the alternatives could range from a voluntary extension of the deadlines to price concessions should the approval not come as expected.

With the spread between the current stock’s trading range and the $65.50/share offered by BPS ranging from $6-$7/share, the other side of the deal might also be considering an “adjustment” as a possible bargaining chip should regulators elongate the process.

Time To Join A Bass Club

The tournament year ended in December for the three bass clubs in Griffin but our new year starts now. If you are interested in joining a club and fishing tournaments, this is the perfect time to join. And with three clubs you have a variety of choices.

In the Flint River Bass Club, for the first time ever, we had a tie for first place in the point standings for last year. Niles Murray and I tied with the same number of points for the year after 12 tournaments. Since that club awards points for the place you finish in a tournament as well as meeting attendance points, it is amazing we tied. And Niles did better in tournaments that I did but he missed several meetings I attended. If he had attended just one that he missed, he would have won for the year!

Chuck Croft placed third, Don Gober was fourth, John Smith was fifth and Travis Weatherly rounded out the top six for the year.

The Flint River club meets the first Tuesday each month and fishes the Sunday following the meeting, so our first meeting is this week and our first tournament is proposed for next Sunday at Jackson. We have two two-day tournaments during the year. Club dues are $20 per year but you must also pay BASS Federation Nation State and National dues of $40 and be a member of BASS. Tournament fees are $20 with additional optional $5 daily big fish, cumulative big fish and points pot.

In this club you can fish with anyone you want or fish alone. We also designate each one day club tournament as a youth tournament, so a club member can bring a youth 17 years old or younger. The youth fishes for prizes and there is no entry fee. You must be 16 to join the club so 16 and 17 year olds can pay the entry fee and fish in the club tournaments if they prefer.

Adult non-club members can also bring a youth to fish the youth tournament but the adult can not enter the club tournament.

We allow a club member to bring a guest to fish so if you just want to try it one time, let me know and I will find someone for you to fish with, probably me, in the tournament. And if you don’t have a boat don’t worry, many of us fish alone and you can start fishing with me or I will help find someone for you to fish with if you want to join.

The club tries to send a team to the BASS Federation Nation each year but struggles to get six members to go.

In the Potato Creek Bassmasters Raymond English placed first, I was second, Niles Murray was third Ryan Edge placed fourth, Lee Hancock came in fifth and Michael Cox was sixth in the point standings for the year.

The Potato Creek club meets the Monday after the first Tuesday and fishes a tournament the following Saturday. We have four two-day tournaments during the year. Dues are $50 but this club is not affiliated with either federation so there are no other dues. Tournament entry fees are $30 with additional optional $5 daily and $5 cumulative big fish pots. Guests and youth are not allowed in tournaments.

For last year in the Spalding County Sportsman Cub Sam Smith won for the year Raymond English was second, Niles Murray placed third, I came in fourth, Zane Fleck was fifth and sixth place was Russell Prevatt.

The Sportsman Club meets the third Tuesday of each month and fishes a tournament the following Sunday. We have two two-day tournaments during the year. Dues are $75 per year but that includes club, state and national FLW Federation dues and FLW membership fee for a year. Tournament entry fees are $25 with additional optional $5 daily and cumulative big fish pots.

This club also designates each one day tournament as a youth tournament so the same rules apply that apply for the Flint River club. In addition, if a 16 or 17-year-old wants to join the club and fish, the club will pay their dues for the year. They will have to pay their own entry fees in club tournaments.

This club sends a six-man team to the FLW Federation tournaments each year. We also allow guests and welcome new members with or without a boat. I fish most tournaments by myself so I would like to find someone to fish with me.

Don’t join a club expecting to win a lot of money. There are plenty of pot and trail tournaments you can enter to try to do that. Club fishing is more for the fun, camaraderie and bragging rights. We enjoy swapping fishing tales and some good-natured teasing while we eat at our meetings and at weigh-ins. And you can learn from what others say worked for them to catch fish.

I joined the Sportsman Club in 1974, the Flint River club in 1978 and the Potato Creek club last year and have not missed many tournaments in either club in all those years. I do enjoy the meetings and the tournaments and plan on fishing club tournaments as long as my health will allow.

If interesting in joining a club email me at and I will try to answer any questions you have. Again, we welcome boaters, non-boaters and if you and a friend want to join and fish together that is great, too.

Chesapeake Tournament Regulations

Chesapeake Tournament Regulations
from The Fishing Wire

Editor’s Note: Yesterday, we presented Maryland DNR’s take on reasons for new regulations on tournament bass fishing in the tidal Potomac River and Upper Chesapeake Bay. Today, we’ve got the other side of the coin from tournament angler, guide and outdoor writer Steve Chaconas:

In the first meeting of the MD DNR Black Bass Advisory Subcommittee in August, the BBAS was presented information and justification for 2 options for tournament restrictions on the Tidal Potomac and Upper Chesapeake Bay.

Without discussion or understanding of the waiver conditions or seeking collaborative data, as MD biologist Joe Love couldn’t predict the effect of these changes, the newly formed 13 member BBAS voted to restrict tournament angling by recommending a slot limit possession regulation from June 15 to March 1 affecting all anglers.

At a September meeting, waivers to the new slot limit (4 fish between 12-15 inches and ONLY one fish over 15 inches) were discussed. Beyond standard licensing, livewell inspections, and dead fish penalties, there are numerous fish handling requirements. No fish-piercing culling systems are allowed. Bass will be transported in bags filled with water no longer than two (2) minutes prior to, during, and after weigh-in without supplemental aeration and/or water exchange. Fish must then be placed in mobile holding tanks, not immediately released into the water. The total weight of bass confined shall not exceed one pound per gallon. Tanks shall be equipped with aeration, air injection, or oxygenation systems. Water shall be maintained at the river surface temperature or no more than 7 degrees Fahrenheit below the surface temperature. A release boat, tanks on a trailer or in the bed of a truck, a pre-release tank to hold bass or refresh bass before their release to the water or using bass boats live wells, will allow fish to recuperate before release. MD DNR will provide assistance in redistribution of bass at approved sites. For larger commercial, out of state organizations, compliance to achieve waivers is part of their existing tournament model. It is the smaller, local events that do not have the specialized equipment nor the manpower to carry out the extra weigh in steps.

At the heart of the issue is really whether any action is needed at all. August’s Bassmaster Elite Series tournament winner brought in an astounding 18 pounds a day with many 20+ pound bags weighed in. This year’s event had an average fish weight of 2.94 pounds compared to 2.29 pounds in 2007. Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) biologist John Odenkirk maintains, that in a fishery with a high voluntary release rate (over 99%), and a low total annual mortality rate, restrictive regulations would only inconvenience anglers. “There is no evidence of excessive angling mortality. Recruitment is not density dependent on spawning stock but is linked to environmental variables. The regulation is a poor solution in search of a problem.”

Often cited as further evidence the Potomac’s demise was the absence for several years on the Bassmaster Top 100 fisheries list. However, this list is an informal survey of fisheries managers, outdoors writers and BASS Nation officials, not a scientific study.

Ten years of tournament data, reflecting results of 12 Potomac events a year, has been compiled from Virginia’s New Horizons Bass Club by Odenkirk for tabulation, who remarked this data is amazingly consistent and similar to electrofishing data showing an improvement this year and getting near average, while still not back to the prime years 2009-2012.

In November, MD DNR gave the BBAS a Potomac data preview. What had been three consecutive years below their Fisheries Management Plan line was now well above their threshold to take action, but not enough for MDDNR nor the BBAS to reconsider small tournament restrictions. The Department is taking the next step in making the slot limit a law, public scoping.

During the August meeting where the BBAS passed the tournament restrictions, the man who literally wrote the book on fish care, fisheries biologist Gene Gilliland was present. With over 30 years fisheries management experience, he recently became B.A.S.S. Conservation Director. Gilliland noted the 13-member BBAS composition where 6 are guides, giving the appearance tournament anglers are not fairly represented. “In my opinion, the process needs to slow down and take a step back…look harder at the makeup of the committee and look even harder at the data and recommendations being made. Ask the committee for solutions rather than offering a suite of options with little room for modification. Moving too fast and alienating a large portion of your constituency is never a good thing for an agency to do.”

In October, the MD Sport Fish Advisory Commission tabled the BBAS slot limit regulation recommendation. The DNR Director was concerned that an opposition letter sent to the SFAC Commissioners and the BBAS subcommittee would delay pubic scoping before heading to the MD General Assembly for the slot limit to become law. A special BBAS meeting in November began with a motion to investigate board members who presented slot limit opposition to the Sport Fish Advisory Commission. The motion was soundly defeated.

Given their opportunity for public comment, speakers voiced strong slot limit opposition. Capt. John Sisson, Potomac guide and tournament angler representing DC anglers, said this recommendation appears to be an attack on tournament anglers. VA Tournament director Lee Blount concurred, adding they do not have the budget to purchase or manpower to operate a professional style weigh in. He also made it clear their events already practice good fish care and have even restricted limits to 4 fish.

Resonating what others presented to the BBAS, the President of Maryland’s largest bass club, Fish On Bass Anglers, said confusing and prohibitive regulations have forced his club to opt out of Potomac fishing. Logan Summers says his 60 members are opposed to the BBAS slot recommendation, saying slot limit waivers can only be achieved by larger commercial tournament entities. He noted an unintended consequence of the restrictive slot limit, with major events being scheduled outside the slot limit calendar, staged during the spawn. Anglers left with the belief that the BBAS has an anti-tournament sentiment.

Worse yet is the impact on local charity tournaments. The Reel American Heroes Foundation (RAHF) has afforded military members a day on the water and supplies for our overseas troops. With uncertainly of whether they would qualify for a waiver, RAHF is pursuing alternative fisheries, at the risk of losing anglers and sponsors. Another charity mainstay unable to qualify for a waiver is the St. Jude Children’s Hospital tournament, raising over $250,000 in 21 years. Anglers surveyed revealed 70% would not fish a slot limit event.

MD DNR has not supplied any impact studies of the recommended slot limit other than pointing to new Florida fishing restrictions. There are enormous differences. FL permits possession of 5 fish with only one over 16. Their stated rationale was to protect Florida’s lunker population and to encourage the harvesting of smaller fish, allowing any size below 16 inches and consolidating numerous fishing regulations across the state for easier compliance and enforcement. Interestingly, waivers for tournaments do NOT require weigh in tubs, recovery tubs or fish relocation to release sites. In other words, there are no comparisons.

Maryland needs to find another way to guide anglers to better fish care.
Bottom line, without MD reaching out to VA and DC Departments and considering the impact on small local angling clubs, it will take a united opposition to keep up the pressure on the MD DNR and up the chain.
Fish care should not be regulated, in this case, but rather educated.

Capt. Steve Chaconas has covered pro bass fishing for more than 20 years. He’s a guide on the Potomac River and a contributing writer for BoatU.S. (