Monthly Archives: February 2018

Fishing Lake Seminole with Buddha Baits

On Wednesday, January 31, I went to Lake Seminole and met Jason Smith to get information for the March Georgia and Alabama Outdoor News Map of the Month articles. Since Seminole is a border lake with parts of it in both Georgia and Alabama the article runs in both states.

Jason lives in Albany and fishes Seminole often. He is owner of Buddha Baits and makes and sells fishing tackle. He makes jigs, spinnerbaits, and worms, and also makes rods. He will start selling a line of reels this year and also has a branded fishing line.

Jason fished a local pot tournament on the Seminole Winter Trail at Seminole a couple of weeks ago and weighed in five bass weighing 24 pounds and did not get a check! Seminole has been on fire for big bass this winter, with five pounders common and many bigger fish.

Seminole is different from any lake in our area. It is very shallow, with miles of grass beds, sand bars and stump fields. The dam in in Florida on the Apalachicola River, just past the junction of the Flint and Chattahoochee Rivers. It is so far south that bass often bed there in January, much sooner than lakes around here.

We started as the sun rose, fishing a deep creek channel bend. The cold winter has kept the bass deeper this year, but they are full of eggs and ready to move up and spawn. This creek bend was just off a point that leads back into a spawning flat, a classic setup for pre-spawn bass.

Jason caught a five pound plus largemouth on his Inseine Jig and I missed a bite on my jig. (note – I landed a 4.85 pound largemouth on one of Jason’s spinnerbaits at Lanier in my next club tournament) With a big bass in the livewell for pictures, we started running around the lake, marking spots for the March map and fishing some of them. It was still a few weeks early for the bass to be on these spawning areas, but they were nearby, and we caught several on grassbeds out from the spots we marked.

It was a cold day, especially when fishing in the wind or running down the lake at 60 mph. But sitting in the sun after the wind died was very warm. Warmer weather over the next few weeks will warm the water and move the bass to the places we marked.

Seminole is about four hours from Griffin, but the roads are good, with four lane most of the way. Bainbridge has good motels and restaurants. I stayed at the Days Inn and was impressed with the friendliness of the staff and how helpful they were, filling every request I made quickly and efficiently.

Plan a trip there in the next couple of months and you may catch a limit of five-pound bass, or one so big you want to have it mounted. Just be considerate of other fishermen.

Do’s and Dont’s for Ice Fishing

Top 10 Do’s and Dont’s for Ice Fishing
from The Fishing Wire

Plano, IL — Amidst the focus on jigging and mobility over recent years, some proven strategies have been lost in the icy shuffle. Like tip-up fishing, which has consistently produced fish and forced guys into head-to-head 50-yard dash sprints since day one. It’s forged (and compromised) friendships over the years, served as fun fish story fodder, and even sent a few unlucky lads to the E.R.

picture from The Fishing Wire

The Frabill Pro Thermal Insulated Round Tip-Up is the industry gold standard.

One guy who’s tops on tip-ups is Frabill pro Pat Kalmerton of Sheboygan, Wisconsin based Wolf Pack Adventures. The good-natured guide will be the first to tell you that tip-up fishing is a sure fire way to cover lots of water quickly and ice just about anything that swims.

But Kalmerton stresses that tip-up fishing — like any angling approach — requires attention to detail. Set-it-and-forget is not part of this badger’s program.

“I’ve had the opportunity to learn tip-up secrets from seasoned anglers throughout the Midwest that would take years to figure out by trial and error,” says Kalmerton.

Thus, Like Cliff’s Notes for some class you snoozed through in high school, here’s Kalmerton’s Top 10 Tip-Up Dos and Don’ts to ace this winter semester’s tip-up test.

1) Heavy metal supersizing

Kalmerton says there’s a time and place for big hooks, but when in doubt, go smaller. In the case of walleye warfare, he sizes down to a #16 treble, usually opting for the extra flash of a gold Eagle Claw.

“I load the spool with 30-pound Frabill tip-up line and tie 8- to 10-feet of 8-pound fluorocarbon to a 25-pound InvisaSwivel. Make sure to tie the fluoro side first so you don’t have to run the whole tip-up through the Palomar loop! I slide one Owner glow bead up the fluoro and terminate the #16 gold treble with another Palomar. Then slide the bead down over the knot. I attach a split shot just heavy enough to keep the bait in a small strike window six to 10 inches above the hook and call it a day,” says Kalmerton.

For pike, he swaps out the 8-pound fluoro for 12-pound and sizes up to a #12 treble. “More often than not, 12-pound fluoro will handle any scissors beaks,” says Kalmerton.

When fishing 10-inch-plus suckers in trophy pike fisheries Kalmerton rigs 50-pound fluoro, five beads, a #6 Northland Real-Baitfish Image Colorado blade and clevis and a single 1/O hook tied with a snell knot.

“The thing I like about the snell knot is it pivots the hook when I really reef the hookset. I learned this from bass fishermen who fish punch baits — definitely ups hookset percentages.”

2) Not doing your homework

Kalmerton recommends studying LakeMaster GPS maps and PC software like Contour Elite ahead of time to surgically locate high-probability “spot-on-the-spot” locations.

“Take the time to study the body of water you’re going to fish and set out a gameplan,” says Kalmerton.

3) Setting up too close or too far from fish-holding structure

“One of the biggest reasons people get turned off to tip-ups is they spend all day in no-man’s land,” says Kalmerton. “Or setting tip-ups right on top of weeds, which can result in a tangled mess that fish will pass up 9 times out 10.”

He searches out ambush locations like green weeds, breaks, river currents, bottom transitions, and other structure where baitfish hide, instead of directly on top or too far away.

4) Fishing dead weeds

If you pull up your auger and the water’s full of plant matter that stinks, those are dying weeds. Baitfish and predators are drawn to vegetation that’s still producing oxygen, especially as winter progresses.

“Gotta get to the buffet with the freshest salad and best baitfish,” laughs Kalmerton.

5) Setting tip-ups too close together

Where you’re allowed more than one tip-up by law, fish different locations along any given structure, spreading them out as far as your state regs allow. Imagine the ice as a grid, and position your tip-ups out from your base location along a break at different depths.

6) Fishing too small of window in the water column

“A lot of anglers put a depth bomb on, come up six to eight inches for walleyes and two feet for pike,” says Kalmerton.

He suggests using your electronics to find the thermocline and baitfish to pinpoint where in the water column fish are feeding. For example, in late winter you may find that fish are up high, close to the ice, looking for water with more oxygen.

7) Mouse hunting with an elephant gun — and vice versa

Kalmerton chooses the right tip-up for your given species — or something versatile.

“The Frabill Dawg Bone can be used for both predators and panfish. For scouting panfish, simply adjust the shaft higher on the tip-up arm to release flag spring compression, which then results in sensitivity to very light bites. When hunting larger predators, just make sure you push that shaft back down.“

8) Tip-up neglect

“Walk around and make sure your tip-ups aren’t frozen in, there’s bait on your line, and it’s free of weeds,” says Kalmerton.

He adds that if you’re setting tip-ups for the evening “power hour,” think about using a Frabill Thermal to keep your holes ice-free.

9) Poor visibility

Kalmerton orients his tip-ups in the same direction, so at a mere glance he can see when one flag in a series trips. Like his fellow ice fishing authority, Steve Pennaz, Kalmerton loves the pre-lubed Frabill Artic Fire Rail tip-up for many situations. That said, when faced with deep snow on the hardwater, he’ll choose a Frabill wooden classic tip-up with a long spool arm to reach the hole and ride the flag above the snow. And for fishing in low visibility situations, he’ll affix a Frabill tip-up light to the flag shaft for easy detection.

10) Weak hooksets

Knowing when to set the hook on a fish — especially when you’re not sure when the tip-up flag tripped — can be difficult.

“Here’s the beauty of downsizing hooks. Most of the time the fish doesn’t spit the bait because it doesn’t feel the metal. As soon as I know the fish is running away from me and I feel weight, I reef on ‘em hard. Chances are you’re going to get a good gullet or corner-of-the-mouth hookset because that fish is committed to your bait!”

Cold Water Bass Fishing

I always thought bass fishing was a warm weather activity until I moved to Griffin and joined a bass club. The third tournament I fished was in January 1975. That day on Jackson was cold with rain and sleet. I caught only one bass but at weigh-in there were six weighing more than six pounds each. I was shocked!

Over the next few years I found out how good bass fishing in cold water could be. I landed my first two bass weighing more than eight pounds each in January tournaments on Jackson. And I learned how to jig a Little George at Clarks Hill to land dozens of bass a day.

On a Wednesday in early January I went to Logan Martin Lake near Birmingham to get information for my February Alabama Outdoor News article. It was cold, windy and cloudy but we caught fish. Logan Martin is on the Coosa River and is known for its big spotted bass. They bite better than largemouth in cold water, but we managed to land several largemouth as well as some spotted bass.

I should have caught more than I did. I was fishing a jig head worm and jig and pig while Tim Ward, a local expert, fished a chatterbait and crankbait. We landed bass on all four baits. But I stupidly broke my line setting the hook on one fish.

We were fishing rocky banks and points and I know to check my line often when bumping a bait over rocks. But my hands were so cold I did not, and paid the price in a lost fish. Another time I thought I was pulling my jig over a rock but, when it pulled back, I knew it was a bass. Again, I blame my lack of touch on cold hands.

Logan Martin is about 145 miles and three hours away but it is a fun lake to fish, even in the winter.

Trolling in Fresh Water

The Science of Trolling in Fresh Water
How-to tips from Florida’s Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission
from the Fishing Wire

In Florida, trolling is one of the standard bluewater techniques for offshore fishing. Many northern anglers also employ trolling in lakes routinely. So why isn’t this method of fishing more popular in Florida’s fresh waters? First, it’s an illegal method for tournaments—which should tell you something about how effective trolling can be! Also, our fresh waters simply aren’t deep enough for trolling techniques like downriggers or diving planes. Finally, the abundant vegetation in Florida lakes and ponds can interfere with traditional trolling methods. However, under the right conditions and with proper selection of lure or bait, trolling can be practical here. Whether you’re on a first visit to a new lake or returning to your favorite pond for the hundredth time, trolling is an effective way to find and catch fish.

Trolling motors — They’re actually called “trolling” motors, so why not use them as such? The heart of a trolling system is indeed going to be the motor. Anglers today enjoy a broad selection of electric motors that are more convenient and more powerful than their predecessors, with a number of available options to make trolling that much simpler. Make sure that you choose a motor adequate to the size and weight of the boat; a careful choice will allow you to maintain a steady troll in the face of diverting winds or currents. Both bow and transom mount styles are available. A trolling motor will last for years if properly cared for. Remove the prop and check for fishing line after each trip; if line works past the seals into the electric motor itself it can ruin it. When the prop is removed, hit any exposed lower unit bolts with a shot of WD-40 to prevent corrosion during storage. When on the water, remember to raise the trolling motor before jetting off to the next spot, because the forced turning of the prop can burn out the electric motor.

Trolling gear — Most spinning or casting outfits are suitable for trolling (even flyfishing gear). For most trolling, anglers will want to keep their hands on the rod rather than place it in a rod holder. Longer rods have the advantage for more precisely controlling the path of bait or lure as you troll past an enticing looking stump or patch of lily pads. They also provide for more distance between baits when running two lines off one boat. If you’re a light tackle angler you might wish to switch up a couple pounds in line test, as the forward momentum of the boat coupled with a fish’s strike may lead to more breakoffs than you are accustomed to.

A depth finder is a tremendous aid in trolling. It will help you monitor the bottom to ensure that you are maintaining the ideal depth for your lure of choice. It will also reveal bottom structure (and even fish) so that you can prepare for a couple of bumps (or a strike) on the line. Depending on the lure or bait, it will also give you enough warning to lift your rod tip and raise your bait clear of an obstruction. Some trolling motors even come with depth finders built in.

A speedometer can also be very helpful to track your actual trolling speed (relative to the water itself) when wind and current are either speeding or slowing your boat. It also allows you to maintain the best speed for a given lure (which of course you tested beside the boat before beginning your troll).

Batteries — A few thoughts on batteries are in order . . . first of all, you should have a dedicated trolling motor battery. Hooking those alligator clips up to your starting battery might leave you furiously hand-cranking that 90 HP outboard as the sun sets with you still ten miles from the ramp. Only buy a deep cycle battery engineered to handle a steady drain (the reason starting batteries don’t perform well for trolling is because they are designed to provide only short bursts of power). Modern technology has created a number of advancements in the type and efficiency of trolling batteries, but pay attention to the manufacturer’s instructions for charging and depleting your battery in order to maximize its longevity.

Trolling for bass — Bass are one of the easiest Florida fish to troll for. There are already a variety of weedless lures available, which help offset one of the primary hurdles to trolling in Florida’s fresh waters. A Carolina-rigged plastic worm is possibly the most weedless trolling lure there is, able to bump and slither its way over and around a broad array of obstacles. When trolling with plastic worms, run dead slow with frequent stops. Hold the rod tip forward of your sitting position; when the familiar tap-tap-tap of a strike occurs, you can instantly drop the rod tip back and give the fish some slack as you stop the motor and prepare to set the hook. Other weedless bass lures to try include spinnerbaits, Johnson Silver Minnows, curly-tail grubs, and weedless spinners like a Snagless Sally (be sure to use ball bearing swivels with the latter).

In more open waters, a shallow-running Rapala or Rebel minnow is hard to beat (though you can use any of the lures listed above); Rat-L-Traps are another great choice. Speed-trolling these lures as fast as they will go without rolling will sometimes produce fish when other tactics fail. For deeper locales, use crankbaits to get down to the fish. Choose crankbaits based on the desired depth, but keep in mind that a trolled lure will run deeper than its rated running depth (which is usually based on cast-and-retrieve). For any lure except plastic worms, keep your rod tip back instead of forward and set the hook instantly when you feel a strike.

Trolling with bait can be very effective. Shiners and shad are the temptations of choice. Always hook the bait through the lips. Troll slowly enough so that the minnow can swim naturally and isn’t being dragged through the water. If a bait begins to roll on the surface, you’re going too fast. In weedier waters, use a hook with a weedguard. If you need to get your bait deeper, add split shot a foot or two up the line; if the bait keeps diving into vegetation, a tiny streamlined float will keep it near the surface. As with worm trolling, keep your rod tip forward so that you can yield some slack and allow the fish to take the bait before you set the hook.

Trolling for sunfish — Most of what was said about bass trolling applies equally to bream, but on a smaller scale. (You might pick up an occasional crappie too, but they are usually too deep and too closely associated with cover to troll for easily.) Fewer appropriately-sized weedless lures are available. However, Beetle Spins are excellent and weedless curlytail grubs in the smaller sizes also do well. For hard baits, the selection is also more limited. Tiny crankbaits draw strikes, as do small spoons and spinners. However, trolling speeds need to be slower and you must pay more attention to make sure the lures are not rolling. One trick with spinners is to tie a foot or two of line to the treble hook and then put a small nymph or wet fly on the end; fish leery of the spinner will often pick up the fly. You must use a swivel if trolling a spinner, and will probably have to untwist your line periodically by cutting off the lure and letting the line trail freely behind the boat for a few minutes.

Some Cold Weather Fishing Memories

Some Cold Weather Fishing Memories

For some reason, the song “Baby Its Cold Outside” kept going through my head last week. Putting a heat lamp on my well and my outboard motor lower unit is a common winter job, but it seems I haven’t had to do it for a few years. As always, weather changes from year to year.

Over the years I have had some interesting, experiences in the cold, some fun, others not so much. I seem to remember many very cold winters in my preteen years, but memories are often fallible. But some of the times outdoors over the years stand out.

Dearing Branch ran near our property line through the woods and under a culvert at Iron Hill Road. Where the pipe dumped water on the downstream side of the road there was the biggest hole in the area, about ten feet in diameter. The water was a few feet deep and we caught a lot of small fish there in the summer.

Most of the winters back then were cold enough that the surface of that hole froze solid. I learned to “ice skate” on that ice, sliding and falling across it. More than one time we broke through and had a cold run the quarter mile back to the house in wet pants and boots.

The ice was usually a couple inches thick. Luckily the hole was not deep enough to really be dangerous. If we broke through the ice it would wet us only about thigh deep at worst, and there was no danger of getting trapped under the ice as can happen on bigger waters. But mama fussed a lot, anyway.

Later, after I started bass fishing in the winter, I found out how important good clothes can be. I think I was one of the first people in Georgia to ever own a snowmobile suit and boots. But even with suitable cold weather clothes, there were a few times nothing I had was enough.

One Christmas Linda and I were staying in our little camper beside my parent’s mobile home at Raysville Boat Club. We had an electric heater running and we were comfortable in the bed. During the night our dog Merlin jumped up off her usual place under the bed and got into bed with us, a very unusual happening. She never jumped into the bed.

The next morning we found the reason. Her water bowl on the floor was frozen solid. The little heater produced enough heat to keep it bearable a couple feet above the floor, but on the floor, it was freezing.

That morning the thermometer on the porch showed five degrees, and the wind was blowing hard. I tried to go out fishing anyway. After putting the boat in the water I idled out of the cove and started hitting waves. The splash from the waves hitting the boat froze before they hit me, forming sleet between the boat edge and my snowmobile suit, hit it and fell off.

I turned the boat and went back to the ramp! No fishing that day.

Bass will bite even when it is extremely cold. One Sportsman Club tournament proved that. When I went through town on the way to Sinclair, the First National Bank thermometer read 11 degrees. We had problems at the ramp, when a boat was launched the water running off the trailer as it was pulled up the ramp froze

It was a scary feeling backing down the ramp and feeling your truck slide toward the water. As soon as the back tires got to the water the ice ended and the truck would stop. But trying to go back up the icy ramp was trouble. You had to spin your tires and basically melt the ice as you went up the hill.

We didn’t catch a lot of fish, but I managed to win with seven keepers by fishing a crankbait so slow it barely moved. And every cast we had to dip our rods into the water to melt the ice in the guides. On the way home that afternoon the bank thermometer read 17 degrees, the high for the day.

My pond has frozen over several times in past years but not recently. I caught my only “ice fishing” fish one year by knocking a hole in the ice at the end of the dock and dropping a bait through it. The small bream that I landed was enough to say I caught one, so I left.

Skipping a rock across a frozen pond makes an interesting sound. I found that out years ago when I threw one out to see if it would break through the ice. It didn’t but as it skittered over the ice it made a strange ringing sound. Several more proved it was the norm. I have seen videos on Facebook that showed the same sound.

Newer boat motors crank fairly well in cold weather, but old ones used to be very hard to start. But a worse problem is frozen steering cables. At more than one tournament we have launched boats, got the motor cranked only to find they could not be steered. Several tournaments have been won by people forced to fish around the ramp using their trolling motor because of that problem.

I got a scare a few years ago at a tournament at Jackson. It had been very cold, but my motor cranked. As I ran up the lake right at daylight suddenly a loud crunching sound made me think my motor had blown up. I stopped but the motor seemed to idle fine. Then I looked around and realized there was a sheet of quarter inch ice all the way across the lake. The sound was my boat acting as an ice breaker.

I hope I don’t make any more extremely cold memories this winter!

What Are Some Rattlebait Tactics for Winter Bass

Rattlebait Tactics for Winter Bass
By Frank Sargeant
from The Fishing Wire

Stirring bass out of their lethargy when water temperature is in the low 40’s, as it is now across much of open-water territory in the south and west, can be a challenge, no doubt about it. But making use of the fast-sinking lures known as lipless crankbaits or sometimes as “rattle-baits” because all have some sort of metallic beads inside to produce noise is one proven tactic that consistently produces.

Rattlebaits Picture from The Fishing Wire

The lures sink as fast as jigs or weighted plastic worms, but can be fished considerably faster, and the noise they generate seems to wake up the fish in a way that others do not in cold water.

Among the many versions is the Cordell Spot, perhaps the original, and the Bill Lewis Rat-L-Trap, now the most widely-known and used. Other good ones include the Strike King Redeye Shad, Rapala Rippin Rap, Yo-Zuri Vibe, X-Calibur Xr 50 and many more.

The lures suitable for bass fishing weigh anywhere from 1/4 to 1 ounce, with the heavier ones usually preferred for winter fishing because they stay deeper when activated.

The lipless lures go through the scattered grass left by winter’s cold easily in most cases despite their treble hooks. In fact, the favored fishing tactic at this time of year is to find scattered grass in 8 to 12 feet of water and fish the lures with a sort of lift-and-drop retrieve that is somewhat similar to fishing a jig.

The lure is allowed to sink to bottom, then pulled upward with the rod 2 to 3 feet, which causes it to vibrate and activate the rattles inside. It’s then allowed to flutter back toward bottom. The strike often comes on this drop, much like in vertical jigging. (It requires a finger on the line and a sensitive rod to sense the bite many times, since it’s only a light tap.)

Experts in the tactic say it simulates a cold stunned shad trying to maintain equilibrium. When the bite comes, the hooks are set and it’s game on.

To be sure, the lures frequently pick up dead grass, but this can often be felt as the action of the lure stops, and can sometimes be cleared by “ripping” the lure upward very hard for a pull or two before going back to the lift and drop retrieve.

Best locations are often on the edge of submerged creek channels, where the dead grass stands on the shoulder of a deeper drop. Old road beds with ditches a few feet deeper than the roadway can also hold fish, as do shell bars off the larger channels. Use of a big-screen sonar and GPS mapping system makes it easy to scout out likely areas. Creek channels coming out of shallow flats that are spawning areas in late March and April can be particularly productive. As in all bass fishing, it’s a matter of doing a lot of scouting before the serious casting begins.

Most anglers fish the lures on 12- to 15-pound test fluorocarbon, which gives a better feel for the lure than more stretchy monofilament. Some of the lures give better action if an added snap swivel is added above the split ring; otherwise, a turtle-style loop knot is best for allowing maximum movement. Most anglers use a medium action rod, relatively slow, so that the hooks are more likely to stay put–glass composite rods, rather than pure graphite, are favored by serious rattlebait fans.

Favorite colors include silver, white and pearl, which imitate shad, as well as a brownish orange that some anglers believe looks somewhat like crawfish. Whatever the bass might think it is, the lipless crankbaits clearly look like food–they’re one of the best offers you can make until things start to warm a bit towards spring.

Griffin Bass Clubs Annual Results

The fishing year for all three Griffin bass clubs ended with our December tournaments. All year we compete not only each day but get points for each tournament, based on where we place, and the top fishermen each year in the point standings get plaques and bragging rights for the next year. And the top six in two of the clubs qualify for the state federation Top Six tournaments.

In the Flint River Bass Club, I won with 1310 points, weighing in 48 bass weighing 85.9 pounds over the year. Niles Murray was second with 960 points, 35 bass and 65.73 pounds. Don Gober placed third with 780 points, 26 bass and 27.21 pounds. Alex Gober was fourth with 740 points, 21 bass and 27.21 pounds. Chuck Croft was fourth with 620 points, 22 bass and 32.63 pounds. Sixth was John Smith with 450 points, 10 bass and 13.41 pounds. Niles won big fish for the year with a 6.62 pounder caught at Oconee in March.

In the Potato Creek Bassmasters Raymond English won with 1065 points, 67 bass and 113.18 pounds. I was second with 1000 points, 55 bass and 99.05 pounds. Kwong Yu placed third with 770 points, 47 bass and 92.75 pounds. Lee Hancock was fourth with 945 points, 45 bass and 91.24 pounds. Niles Murray placed fifth with 650 points, 41 bass and 73.67 pounds. Sixth place was Donnie Willis with 635 points, 45 bass and 69.62 pounds. Tom Tanner caught an 8.09 pounder in March at Wedowee for big fish.

I won the Spalding County Sportsman Club standings with 313 points, 61 bass and 102.08 pounds. Zane Fleck was second with 279 points, 49 bass and 70.95 pounds. Raymond English placed third with 274 points and 49 bass weighing 94.4 pounds. Fourth was Russell Prevatt with 247 points, 36 bass and 58.87 pounds. Fifth was Billy Roberts with 179 points, 32 bass and 44.48 pounds. Sixth place was Kwong Yu with 177 points, 37 bass and 68.97 pounds. Kwong also had big fish of the year with a 6.4 pounder caught at West Point in February.

In both Flint River and Potato Creek, first place gets 100 points for first, 90 for second down to 10 for tenth place. Bonus points are also awarded for meeting and tournament attendance. In the Sportsman Club first gets 25 points, second 24 down to 1 for 25th place, with bonus points for meeting and tournament attendance as well as big fish and limits in each tournament.

All three clubs start over with our January tournaments. Flint River meets the first Tuesday of each month with a Sunday tournament the following weekend. We also have three two-day tournaments. Potato Creek meets the Monday after the first Tuesday and fished the following Saturday, with three two-day tournaments. Spalding County meets the third Tuesday and fishes the following Sunday with two two-day tournaments.

This is a good time to join and club and compete, not only in each tournament but for the point standings for the year. Both Flint River and Spalding County send their top six to Federation tournaments, but the Potato Creek club has its own special tournament, the Classic, for money taken in over the year.

If you look over the results above and think “I could do better than that,” come on our and join us. Join one club or all three as Niles and I do. Several others are in two of the three clubs.

Dues and tournament fees are not expensive. Annual dues in Flint River are $60 and you also have to join BASS. Potato Creek has $50 dues and is not in a federation. In the Sportsman club the dues are $75 but that includes an annual membership in the FLW.

Entry fees are $20 for each tournament in Flint River. We also have optional daily big fish pots of $5 and two other pots, a cumulative big fish pot of $5 that is taken up at each tournament. The first person to catch one over six pounds wins it all. If no one breaks six pounds, or if it is not broken again after a six pounder is caught, the person with the biggest fish after it is broken wins it. There is also a $5 points pot. The person winning the point standings for the year gets half of it and the other half is drawn for from everyone that has been in it all year.

In Potato Creek entry fee is $30 with a $5 big fish pot and a $5 cumulative pot. Sportsman Club has a $25 entry fee with a $5 cumulative pot.

NOAA Buoys Help Fishermen

NOAA Buoys Help Fishermen Strategize in Real Time
from The Fishing Wire

In this age of open data, a wealth of up-to-date and user-friendly information is just a few clicks away. But what does this digital revolution mean for U.S. fisheries? In the Chesapeake Bay, NOAAFisheries buoys help marine scientists, fishermen, and others to better manage, protect, and enjoy the Bay’s marine resources.

The 10 buoys in the NOAA Chesapeake Bay Interpretive Buoy System (CBIBS) use cell phone and internet technology to share real-time data about the Bay’s weather and water with the public. Many CBIBS users access data from this network of observation buoys through the website or the “NOAA Smart Buoys” free smartphone application available via Google Play and the App Store. These free apps make it easy for Bay users to select a buoy and get information on wind speed, water and air temperature, wave height, and water quality at their location.

A screenshot of the CBIBS app, showing water/air temperature, wind speed and direction, and more.

With these data, commercial and recreational fishermen can plan a safer day by knowing the conditions on the Bay before they leave harbor. CBIBS also offers fishing-friendly data not found in other apps. Past and current readings on barometric pressure, dissolved oxygen, sea nettle probability, salinity, and turbidity, or the level of the water’s murkiness, help anglers like Rich Dennison better prepare for trips and make strategic decisions while on the water.

“CBIBS is a go-to resource for me,” says Dennison, who is store manager at Tochterman’s Fishing Tackle in Baltimore, Maryland, and striped bass trolling enthusiast and teacher. “When I’m planning a fishing trip, I’ll look for patterns in CBIBS’ data history. Is the water temperature increasing? Is the salinity of the water on the rise? What is the level of dissolved oxygen?CBIBS is extremely useful for helping me decide what areas to target or avoid based on the fish’s typical behavior in these different conditions.”

CBIBS’ real-time data is valuable for marine scientists’ work as well. Having access to a well-maintained system with up-to-date information that CBIBS delivers means researchers can provide stakeholders more robust predictions of the Bay’s water quality. For example, John Jacobs, a researcher at the Cooperative Oxford Laboratory—a NOAA National Ocean Service lab in Oxford, Maryland—is studying a certain species of Vibrio bacteria. The bacteria occurs naturally in our coastal waters but can also cause serious wound infections.

Working with state health officials and academia, Jacobs and his team have developed a predictive model based on water and weather conditions to better understand where in the Chesapeake Bay the Vibrio bacteria will occur. They use CBIBS data on the current conditions in the Bay to improve their forecasts. “CBIBS is an essential component of our modeling system and allows us to consistently maintain the accuracy of our predictions,” Jacobs noted. With all the time they spend on the water, fishermen will certainly benefit from this knowledge.

A safer Bay, thanks in part to CBIBS, can only mean good things for this highly valued regional resource. The commercial seafood industry in Maryland and Virginia, which relies on the Chesapeake Bay as well as waters in the Atlantic, contributed $2.8 billion in sales and supported 22,950 jobs in 2014, while their recreational fishing created $551 million in income and supported 12,939 jobs.

To learn more about how these buoys work, check out an interactive graphic.

CBIBS is operated and maintained by the NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office. To learn more about how others use CBIBS, and to see current conditions around the Chesapeake Bay, visit the CBIBS website.

January Tournament at Sinclair

On Sunday, January 21 at Sinclair 13 members of the Spalding County Sportsman Club fished our January tournament. We landed 18 keeper 12 inch bass weighing about 38 pounds in 7.5 hour of casting. There was one limit and four people did not have a fish.

I won with five weighing 12.14 pounds, Wayne Teal placed second with two weighing 7.83 pounds and his 5.91 pound largemouth was big fish, Jay Gerson fished with Wayne and had three at 4.05 for third and Russell Prevatt’s 3.29 pounder placed fourth.

January showed how important a trolling motor is to me. I won two of the three I fished with limits in both and had big fish in one of them but placed eighth in the other one. The two I won my trolling motor worked, in the other one it did not. I had to fish where the wind blew me or sit in one place and cast with the power poles holding the boat in place.

I fished some of the same places at Sinclair but could ease along slowly, making casts, with my trolling motor. The week before I blew past the brush piles with only one bite where I caught all five of the fish I weighed in Sunday. I had three more keepers
I culled, the first from behind a dock I had tried to fish the week before but without a trolling motor could not cast to that specific spot. Two of the other keepers I did not weigh in came while easing around a cove where I could not fish the weekend before because the wind blew me around too much.

We started at 8:00 AM fishing a shallow bank I like. I had heard fish the weekend before were caught shallow on crankbaits but did not get a bite until 9:20 AM when the first small keeper hit my crankbait behind the dock. At 10:00 we had not had another bite, so I decided to try some deep brush.

We pulled up to a brush pile that was in water that dropped from 10 to 30 feet very fast. I had tried to fish it the weekend before, but with the wind all I could do was pull into shallow water behind it, put my power poles down and try to make cast to it. I never got a bite that day but Sunday, while moving a jig and pig very slowly through the brush, I caught two of my biggest fish.

We tried some other places and I caught one keeper on a crankbait and one on a shaky head worm but ended up culling both. When we went back to the deep brush and I caught my biggest of the day, just over three pounds. By then I realized the bright sun and lack of breeze drove the fish to deep water, so we fished it the rest of the day.

I caught two more good keeps on the jig that culled my smaller fish, both out of deep brush where I tried to fish without a trolling motor the week before but could not because of the wind. I had to fish extremely slowly, and the fish did not hit hard, I would just feel my line get “mushy.” That’s when another advancement, quality, light-weight, very sensitive rods, help a lot.

What a difference having a working trolling motor made!

What Are Guadalupe Bass?

Guadalupe Bass – A Conservation Success Story
By Tim Birdsong, Chief of Habitat Conservation, Inland Fisheries – Texas Parks & Wildlife
from The Fishing Wire

The official state fish, Guadalupe Bass, has been restored to the South Llano River. Guadalupe Bass are endemic to the South Llano River and other clear, spring-fed rivers of the Texas Hill Country. They are threatened by loss of habitat and hybridization with non-native, introduced Smallmouth Bass that are native to the Great Lakes of North America and portions of the Ohio, Tennessee, upper Mississippi, and Saint Lawrence rivers. Smallmouth Bass have been introduced throughout North America, Africa, and Eurasia to enhance sport fishing opportunities.

This conservation success story for Guadalupe Bass begins with an ill-fated, experimental introduction of Smallmouth Bass to the South Llano River in 1958-1960. The introduction proved unsuccessful in establishing a self-sustaining Smallmouth Bass fishery, but resulted in an unforeseen and unintended consequence of creating a hybrid population of Guadalupe Bass and Smallmouth Bass. This hybridization went unnoticed in the South Llano River until similar situations resulted from stocking of Smallmouth Bass in other Hill Country rivers.

In 1974-1980, Smallmouth Bass were stocked by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) in the Blanco, Guadalupe, Medina and San Gabriel rivers, and in Cibolo and Onion creeks. Once hybridization was detected and threats to Guadalupe Bass were recognized, TPWD ceased efforts to establish Smallmouth Bass fisheries in Hill Country Rivers and instead began to devise a strategy to prevent the local extirpation and possible extinction of Guadalupe Bass. Initial conservation efforts included establishment of a refuge population of genetically-pure Guadalupe Bass in the Sabinal River in 1988. In 1992, TPWD initiated a Guadalupe Bass hatchery program that has since produced and stocked 2,355,807 Guadalupe Bass in Hill Country Rivers. TPWD also partnered with local landowners, non-governmental organizations, fishing clubs, river authorities, and other partners to restore and preserve habitat conditions for Guadalupe Bass in rivers throughout the Hill Country.

In 2010, TPWD focused its attention on the South Llano River and the hybrid population that resulted from the historic Smallmouth Bass introduction. In partnership with numerous local cooperators, a plan was hatched to restore Guadalupe Bass to the South Llano River. Between spring 2011 and spring 2017, more than 700,000 genetically-pure Guadalupe Bass were stocked in the South Llano River. Today, less than 2 percent of the Guadalupe Bass population now consists of hybrids.

In addition to the South Llano River stocking program, project cooperators organized river conservation workshops attended by approximately 750 landowners and local community partners in the watershed. Over 78,000 acres of ranchlands implemented stewardship practices to help preserve fish habitats. Restoration projects in the watershed restored 7,754 acres of spring, stream and riparian habitats, directly benefiting water quality and habitat conditions for Guadalupe Bass. These and other conservation efforts in the South Llano River watershed have successfully restored Guadalupe Bass populations and helped promote local stewardship practices that will ensure the river is able to sustain Guadalupe Bass populations into the future. Learn more about efforts to conserve Guadalupe Bass in the South Llano River or watch this video produced by TPWD a few years ago featuring former TPWD Angler Education Instructors Guy Harrison and Mike Andrews.