Author Archives: ronniegarrison


The Buyout: What it Means for Pro Bass Fishing
Frank Sargeant
from The Fishign Wire

Things continue to happen fast in the world of big league bass fishing, where Major League Fishing (MLF) announced yesterday that they are gobbling up Fishing League Worldwide (FLW) in yet another move that must have the lights burning late at night at B.A.S.S. headquarters in Birmingham.

MLF stunned the tournament industry last year by convincing a majority of the top names in the Bassmaster Elite circuit, arguably the best-known and most financially-successful competitive anglers in freshwater fishing, to jump ship from their long-term relationship with the 50-year old B.A.S.S. and move into a new made-for-television series that so far has pretty much lived up to expectations, delivering very watchable competition where viewers truly get the sense of the moment-by-moment intensity and emotion involved when lots of money is on the line.

To be sure, a few fans (and some in the industry) threw bricks at the pro’s who jumped to the MLF after being made famous (and rich in some cases) by the public relations muscle of B.A.S.S. and the industry connections that brought high-dollar sponsorships. But there were also some on the Elite circuit who felt the tournament organization was making an excessive profit on the backs of those who pay-to-play.

Tournament fishing, unlike other pro sports, depends on the participants to fund themselves,  and it can be very, very expensive, starting with a boat and truck package that will approach $100,000, tens of thousands in entry fees and many more thousands in travel expenses, plus lots of time on the road which makes working a “normal” job impossible and also cuts many off from their families for weeks at a time. A few get rich, but many go broke. It ain’t for sissies, to be sure.

 MLF, co-founded by Boyd Duckett, a highly successful B.A.S.S. Elite pro and businessman in his own right, offered select pros what most viewed as a more equitable and dependable financial package. When a few of the top names agreed to enter the new circuit and abandon B.A.S.S., the rush was suddenly on for those invited in.   MLF also touts a couple of technical advantages over the venerable B.A.S.S. circuit, started by Ray Scott in 1967 and still following basically the same format.

The MLF Bass Pro Tour consists of eight events and a championship streamed live and MOTV. MLF uses the conservation-friendly catch, weigh and immediate-release format where every scorable bass counts, the tally is kept by a marshal in the boat and the winner is the angler with the highest cumulative weight. First, the fact that anglers can score lots of points by getting on a school of relatively small bass in the MLF circuit means there’s a lot more action available on-camera than in the B.A.S.S. format where anglers purposely avoid small fish to catch the 4 to 5 pounders almost always needed to win on quality fisheries.

Anglers routinely catch 50 or more bass per day on camera in MLF events—the action is almost continuous.

Second, since the cameras are in the boats continuously, anglers can’t say they caught their bass on their sponsor’s Hula-Wiggler-Wobbler when in fact they caught it on the lure of a competitor not their sponsor.

And they also can’t fib about where and how they’re fishing—the camera sees it all, and so do the fans. If they’re finesse fishing, we know immediately. Ditto for flippin’, for crankbaiting and for popping the top—and watching them live as they sort through the possibilities that might turn on the $100,000 bite puts the viewer in the boat. It’s a real education for all who love bass angling. 

Last but not least, the immediate release format assures that virtually 100 percent of the bass caught will survive, and since they’re released right back into the same locations from where they were caught, there’s no disruption of the eco-system, as there is sometimes when large numbers of spawners are caught and moved out of a spawning area during the weigh-in process. (B.A.S.S. takes very good care of their fish and loses a tiny percentage of them, but they do have some casualties.) 

All of this said, the buyout is unlikely to have an immediate negative impact on B.A.S.S. A new generation of Elite heroes is being made on the water this season, and with the company’s strong ties in the industry forged over generations, their powerful web presence, increased live streaming and the venerable Bassmaster Magazine reaching their half-million members monthly, the company’s future looks strong.

In fact, we may at some point down the road see a sort of AFC/NFC competition where teams from each league go head to head to determine who, in fact, has bragging rights for the top competitive bass anglers on the planet. It’s an intriguing concept, sure to draw a whole lot of eyeballs to TV and streaming devices should it ever happen. We’ll be watching, and we’ll keep you posted. 

American Hero Speed Stick Rod Review

I won a Fig Rig rod in a Top Six tournament at West Point years ago. That northern company and made muskie rods but decided to get into the bass market.  This six-foot six-inch rod was the most sensitive rod I have ever used for worm and jig fishing.  

    I broke the rod several weeks ago and, unfortunately, the company is no longer in business. So, I went looking for a replacement.  I ordered a St. Croix rod but needed one fast and I went to Berrys Sporting Goods to see what he had.

    After looking at several rods Jim showed me an American Hero Speed Stick rod.  It felt good even though it is a seven-foot rod and I really wanted a shorter rod for skipping baits under docks.  The medium heavy, fast action was right, though, and I got it.

    After using it several times and catching a few fish on it, I am very happy with it.  It cast half ounce jigs and Texas rigs with a three sixteenths ounce sinker well, exactly what I wanted it for.  I can skip ok with it and it has good sensitivity for feeling bites on those baits.  The seven-foot length gives me good leverage when setting the hook.

    The rod weighs more than my St. Croix rods but cost less than $100, about half the cost of my St. Croix rods. Usually the more expensive the rod the less it weighs. 

    It serves my needs well and I am very happy with it.

Acorns for Fishing Bait?

Fishing for Squirrels
By Frank Sargeant, Editor
from the Fishing Wire

This is the time of year when, for an abrupt change of pace, some anglers might choose to go squirrel fishing.At least, that’s what some neighbors have accused me of recently as I baited up with acorns to fool the resident grass carp in our North Alabama neighborhood lake. (I would never actually fish for squirrels, of course, though in my youth I did briefly try to fool robins into pecking at plastic worms crawled slowly across the lawn—until Mom caught me.)

Every year in October the giant carp, which are put in the lake to keep down aquatic weeds, turn from eating vegetation to gulping down acorns that fall into the water from overhanging oaks. The specialized feeding lasts for about a month, until the acorns stop falling, but while it’s on, the carp present a very interesting an unusual target for freshwater anglers not used to catching fish that frequently weigh 15 to 20 pounds.

There’s probably a lake near you where the same species is doing the same thing—grass carp are now found in at least 45 states.And while common carp have a generally poor reputation among anglers in the U.S. (they’re venerated in Europe) grass carp are a whole other critter. Bringing one in is very similar to battling a redfish of similar size—they’re strong and have far more endurance than most freshwater fish, and they occasional boil on top or even jump partway out of the water. Caught on anything short of 15-pound-test gear, they’re a real handful.

They’re also a whole lot more wary than common carp. They have very good vision, and are quick to spook if a boat or a bank-walking angler approaches too close. Getting a successful cast to them requires a slow and stealthy approach, and the bait has to come down just right, not close enough to scare them but close enough that they can hear it “plop” into the water.It’s the sort of angling challenge that can add a bit of interest to anglers burned out on the slow action for late summer and early fall largemouths.  And for the charge that carp are inedible—more or less true—very few anglers kill and eat bass these days, either.

Handling these bruisers is not a light tackle game—I gear up with a spinning rod suitable for bull reds or king mackerel, a 4000-sized spinning reel and 20-pound-test braided line, which actually probably tests closer to 30. A couple feet of 25-pound-test monofilament acts as a leader, running to a size 1/0 octopus type hook in short shank. The hook has to be fairly heavy wire—the fish quickly straighten crappie-weight hooks.The bait is a green acorn, without the cap. They like most types, but an acorn from a red oak is hard to beat. White oak acorns are often too large for them to eat, and they don’t like overcup oak acorns either.

Getting the hook through an acorn can take some doing—if you get into “squirrel fishing”, as I admit that I have, you’ll probably want to gather several acorns in advance, drill a tiny hole through the center and then push the hook eye through so that it’s just exposed—the thing looks like a fat bass bug without hackles. Otherwise, you have to force the hook point through the acorn, not an easy matter, though do-able. Use no weight—the acorn will sink slowly on its own.

Find an overhanging tree where the carp are feeding, slip up silently and make a cast. Free-line the bait all the way to bottom. Many times, the carp grab it on the way down. If not, let it sit on bottom for a few minutes.When a fish takes, there’s no doubt about it—they gulp it down and take off like a shot. Set the hook and you’re in for maybe the most impressive battle you’ll run into in southern freshwater, with the possible exception of a monster blue or flathead catfish.

This is a pump-and-reel fight—you can’t just reel them in like you can most bass. It’s more akin to fighting a saltwater fish or a big landlocked striper. They also act a bit like cobia when you bring them to shore or into the boat, going bonkers for a time—best to stand back and let them run out of energy before removing the hook.

When the battle is over, grab a few quick photos and let the fish go back to doing what it was put into the lake to do, patrolling for excess weed growth. The stocked fish are sterilized and not capable of reproducing, a measure to make sure they don’t become invasive problems as their cousin silver carp have in many waterways.Catching fall grass carp is an interesting diversion and a new challenge for many anglers. It’s assuredly unlikely ever to replace chasing largemouths, and I don’t see a million-dollar payout U.S. Carpmasters Classic on the horizon any time soon, (though there actually is a carp classic in France) but it’s a lot of fun while it lasts.
Acorns for fishing bait?

Outdoors Folks Fighting With Ourselves

 Pogo famously said “We have met the enemy and he is us.” All too often hunters and gun owners are our own worst enemy. Going all the way back to Aesop and his fables, the statement “United we stand, divided we fall,” applies to us and our rights.

    I am constantly amazed at the infighting among groups that have similar goals and beliefs.  Hunters look down and condemn other hunters for not holding the same ideals as they do.  Gun owners think their guns are going to be safe and support banning the kinds they don’t use.

    One of the worst examples was a recent article/news story in Georgia Outdoor News magazine.  When some Georgia deer hunters went to their deer camp this year, they found a nest of rattlesnakes ten feet from their bunkhouse in the middle of camp.  They killed them.

    Other hunters, and many tree huggers, condemned them for killing the snakes.  Even other hunters called them names and hated on them. Not only did they give nonhunters a bad image of hunters, they caused hard feelings among groups that should support ourselves.

    Get real.  I have never enjoyed killing just for the fun of killing.  I do not kill snakes when
I see them in the wild. Nonpoisonous snakes in my yard are left alone.  But I recently killed a copperhead
I uncovered when moving some tin. I would not leave it to bite me or my dogs.

    There has long been a “war” between bow and gun hunters.  Gun hunters do not like bow hunters having an early season just for them, and bow hunters say the activity of gun hunters make getting close to deer more difficult for them.

    When cross bows were first legalized, traditional bow hunters hated anyone using a cross bow. They are right that it takes a lot more skill to kill a deer with a traditional bow, but why condemn those that use crossbows?  It gets more folks in the woods to find the joy of the outdoors and hunting, and we should support each other.

    The same thing happened when compound bows first came on the market.  Recurve bow hunters condemned them. They are easier to use and more accurate, so folks using them were not really bow hunters. 

    If you don’t want to use a crossbow or compound bow, fine, but do not condemn fellow hunters if they do.  Many of us are too old to pull back and hold a compound bow, much less a traditional recurve bow, but we can get in the woods and enjoy hunting with a crossbow.  The same applies to young hunters and those with disabilities that prevent use of a traditional bow.

    Georgia legalized baiting for deer last year, based on the desires of the majority of hunters attending hearings on it. I don’t like baiting, there are many problems with it, from spreading disease to making it easier for predators other than us to kill deer. And baiting removes the need to learn hunting skills.  You can shoot deer over bait, but you are not really hunting.

    Since baiting is legal, many will do it, including me. But I am not really a deer hunter, I just want to harvest a few does for my freezer.  And I can not shoot a rifle due to a port in my right shoulder, but I can get close enough to does on bait to harvest some with my crossbow.

    If you don’t like baiting, don’t bait. But don’t condemn others for using legal methods.

    Trophy hunting is similar.  I will get condemned if I shoot a small buck, even though it is legal.  I have seen folks whine about a young hunter killing their first deer when it was a small buck. They want it to grow bigger, hoping to kill it themselves when it reaches trophy size, I guess.

    Bass fishermen are just as bad. The catch and release of bass has helped bass populations, but too many fishermen have adopted it almost as a religion, even when removing small bass may help a lake.  There is nothing wrong with keeping a few bass to eat, especially in cases of spotted bass where this invasive species has hurt the lake.

    There is a movement to ban and confiscate ugly guns that many don’t like.  The AR-15 shoots a legal bullet for deer hunting, and millions use them for a variety of reasons. But too many hunters that don’t use them for hunting see no reason to not ban and confiscate them.  When the gun banners realize many bolt action and lever action rifles shoot bigger, more powerful bullets, you can bet they will come after them, calling them sniper rifles.

    Its similar for shotguns.  A semiautomatic shotgun is the choice of many hunters, and a ban on semiautomatic guns would include them. Should hunters that use double barrel shotguns be ok with the ban?

    Its easy to accept things that don’t affect you, until they do.

    Too many people have lost touch with nature. 
They live in cities and suburbs where they seldom contact nature, even if they go hunting a few times a year. They are happy in their own little world and see no problem condemning those that don’t hold their views.

    Our whole society seems to have gone this way.
A big part of this is social media.  It is far too common to sit safely behind a computer and rant and rave about your favorite prejudice, from hunting and fishing to politics and religion, without ever considering the other side.

    And you are likely to never even hear the other side.  The echo chamber of Facebook and Twitter assure you will hear and be heard only by those with the same prejudices.

    Consider those with differing views and maybe, just maybe, they will consider your views.  You may be surprised both sides have legitimate concerns.

Lake Guntersville Weekly Fishing Report from Captain Mike Gerry

Fishing Report, Lake Guntersville 10/19/19

There is no doubt the fall has been an up and down season some days they bite real well and then you struggle for a couple of days doing a lot of searching and moving to get a bite. It has also been a fall of different presentations that are producing bites; its like a moving target and you just must keep adjusting until you find the right bait for that day!

The constant is that the bass are still buried in the grass and finding a way to get them to feed is not easy. We concentrated in 4 to 7 ft. of water. This week we concentrated on top water bites and the Picasso buzz bait was the best choice as the bass were blasting through the grass and exploding up on the bait well at certain times during each day.

We also fished SPRP frogs, Missile bait ‘48” stick baits weighted lightly and worked in scattered grass. We also worked Tight-Line swim jigs around the grassy areas of the dying areas.

Come fish with me I have guides and days available to fish with you; its looking like November will once again be the height of the fall bite. We fish with great sponsor products, Lowrance Electronics, Ranger boats, Boat Logix mounts, Mercury Motors, Vicious Fishing, Duckett Fishing, Navionics mapping, Power Pole and more. shing Report, Lake Guntersville 10/5/19

Guntersville Keeper Bass

Locate and Catch More Fall and Early Winter Bass

Late-Season Bass: Search and Destroy
LIVETARGET bass pro Stephen Browning discusses surefire ways to locate and catch more fall and early winter bass

Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON – Fall weather can spread bass out in many waterways, making for difficult bites. Given a refined approach, however, fall can provide some of the best fishing of year – especially for big bass.

Noted professional angler Stephen Browning, a seasoned veteran of the FLW Tour, MLF, and the Bassmaster Elite Series, has amassed knowledge of late-season bass behavior that can up any angler’s game right now. Aside from decades of experience on tournament trails, Browning’s degree in Fish and Wildlife Management hasn’t hurt his ability to pick apart various waters, either.

The first tip? Cover lots water. And for Browning, that means crankbaits.“For me, fall is all about chunk and winding and covering water, whether that’s main lake stuff or hitting the back of pockets, coves, and creeks. Crankbaits are definitely key in fall and into early winter,” says Browning.For Browning, the biggest factor for finding fall bass to crank is water temperature. “I’m trying to search out water temperatures that are 70 degrees or less, because experience proves that’s the point at which fish get fired up for a super fall bite.”

Winning in the Wind Secondly, he’s monitoring wind. “Besides cooler water, I’m looking for spots where the wind is blowing a little bit. There’s still a lot of fish out on the main lake and not necessarily deep into the pockets. So, I’m going to look at the wind—see where it’s hitting the banks the best. Bass will utilize the wind to kind of break things up. You can burn down a pea gravel bank or a chunk rock bank and still have the ability to catch fish. And they aren’t always target oriented. In my opinion, they don’t like to hold tight to cover when the wind’s blowing, because it’s going to beat them around. So, I think they do more roaming in the wind—if it’s windy I’m going to chunk and wind,” says Browning.For such windy scenarios and main lake fishing,

Browning turns to the LIVETARGET Rainbow Smelt suspending jerkbait—specifically the RS91S, which is 3-5/8 inches long and dives three to four feet, typically in the (201) Silver/Blue pattern, although Browning has been experimenting with the host of new colors LIVETARGET now offers in this highly effective bait.“It’s kind of a shallower-diving jerkbait, which I utilize for cranking points, rock outcrops, rip-rap, etc. when the wind is blowing. When fishing it, I’m looking for a little bit of visibility… not a lot of stain. I fish it a lot in main lake and main creek areas using the wind and water clarity as kind of a one-two punch. It’s definitely a go-to bait for these situations,” offers Browning.Browning throws the LIVETARGET Rainbow Smelt on a 6’8” medium-heavy St. Croix Legend X casting rod, Lew’s 7.5:1 Pro TI baitcasting reel, and 10-pound Gamma fluorocarbon.

Another bait Browning utilizes for windy main lake and main creek scenarios is the LIVETARGET HFC (Hunt-For-Center) Craw. “It has a very aggressive action and deflects off of cover, so I can utilize it on steeper rocky banks and really cover a lot of water. In terms of color, it depends on the water clarity and temperature. If the water is stained, a lot of times I’ll use LIVETARGET’s Red (362) or Copper Root Beer (361). The latter has a really nice copper hue to it and kind of a whitish-style belly. When the water temperature plummets into the 50s,

Browning also reaches for the LIVETARGET HFC (Hunt-For-Center) Craw, especially in the Red (362) and Copper Root Beer (361) colors. “The HFC has an aggressive action but is not overpowering. It was designed to randomly dart left and right, mimicking a fleeing craw. In late fall when the water gets really cold it can be a fantastic bait for target fishing for the resident fish that live in the very back ends of creeks and pockets.”

Water Clarity and Target Cranking Browning’s advice for those days when there isn’t much wind is to monitor water clarity. “On calmer days water clarity is a big factor. I’m going to go and try to find some stained water someplace within the fishery. The biggest thing about stained water is fish don’t tend to roam as much on you, and they’re going to be more target related—an outcrop of rocks, a laydown, a series of stumps, etc. that will give those fish a place to ambush their prey.”On those calmer days, Browning will vacate the main lake and main creek areas he fishes when windy and concentrate on the back third of pockets where they have a tendency to flatten out. There, he looks for isolated cover.“I’m looking for that isolated stump, maybe a log, lay-downs, isolated grass patches, or a lot of times people will put out crappie stakes. Especially when the water’s low, bass will utilize crappie stakes.

One of the baits I like for target fishing in the back of pockets is the LIVETARGET David Walker Signature Tennessee Craw. I’ll crank it on 12- or 14-pound fluorocarbon and only get it down to six feet so I can bang it around, which is key to getting good target bites. I’ll make multiple casts to the isolated cover from various angles giving the fish the most opportunities to ambush my presentation. That’s really key—working cover from multiple angles and making sure you spend ample time on each spot,” offers Browning.When target fishing, Browning is also a fan of the shallow-diving LIVETARGET Sunfish Crankbait—specifically the BG57M (bluegill pattern) and PS57M (pumpkinseed pattern). “The Sunfish Crankbait has a rounded bill, so it has a nice, tight wiggle to it. For me, especially when the water temperature gets cooler, it becomes another go-to bait for target fishing. I think it kind of gets overlooked by anglers who tend to concentrate on shad patterns, but bluegills are a major forage source in fall and year ‘round that bass will really home in on

.”Water clarity dictates whether Browning will choose the Pumpkinseed or Bluegill pattern, as well as the choice between LIVETARGET’s available matte and gloss finishes. “I use the Bluegill if the water is a bit clearer and the brighter Pumpkinseed in stained water. I like using the gloss finish if the sky is cloudy and the matte finish if it’s sunny. So, you’ve got two different colors and two different finishes for a variety of fishing situations.”In terms of equipment for cranking the LIVETARGET HFC (Hunt-For-Center) Craw, David Walker Tennessee Craw, or Sunfish Crankbait, he sticks to the same set-up of a St. Croix 7’4” medium-heavy, moderate action Legend Glass rod, a Lew’s Custom Pro baitcasting reel with 8:1 gear ratio and either 12- or 14-pound Gamma Fluorocarbon line. “If I’m concentrating on shallow areas, I’m going to use the heavier line – but if I need the bait to get down six feet or more, I’m going to use the 12-pound line,” Browning adds.

Topwaters Too When targeting the backs of pockets and creeks with grass, Browning urges anglers not to overlook the efficacy of employing a chunk-and-wind topwater routine.“The LIVETARGET Commotion Shad is a hollow-body shad style topwater bait that has a Colorado blade on the back end. It’s a real player in the kind of broken-up grass you find way back in pocket flats. During the fall, adding this bait to the chunk-and-wind crankbait program can really pay off. It comes in a couple of sizes, but I like the 3-½ inch in Pearl Ghost (154) and Pearl Blue Shad (158). The spinner makes a gurgling sound when you retrieve it like you would a hollow body frog, and it’s great for working over grassy areas,” offers Browning.For gear, Browning throws the Commotion Shad on a 7’6” medium-heavy, moderate action St. Croix Legend X with a Lew’s Tournament reel geared 8.3:1, and 50-pound Gamma Torque braided line.

Parting AdviceWhile monitoring water temperature, wind conditions, water clarity, and the amount of visible sunlight are all huge factors for finding fall bass in main lakes and creeks as well as pockets and coves, Browning suggests anglers stay tuned to another of nature’s cues: bird behavior.“Watch for the migration of shad, which have the tendency to move to the very back ends of the pockets in fall, but also know, as mentioned, that bass are feeding on bluegills and craws in lots of other locations. You can really eliminate a lot of water and fish more productively by keying in on bird behavior. They’re going to tell you where the baitfish are. Could be a blue heron sitting on the bank eating bluegills or picking around on crawfish, gulls, or all sorts of other birds either on the main lake or back farther in coves. Really pay attention to where the birds are. It’s definitely one of the small details that gets overlooked by a lot of anglers.”ABOUT LIVETARGETSince its launch in 2008, LIVETARGET has grown into a full family of life-like fishing lures that Match-the-Hatch® to specific game fish forage, with an expansive library of lure styles and colors for both fresh and saltwater fishing. The lures feature industry-leading designs in realism and workmanship that closely mimic nature’s different prey species. Headquartered in Ontario, Canada, LIVETARGET won ICAST Best of Show awards in the hard and soft lure categories in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2017, 2018 and 2019.

Fishing Lake Sinclair in September

 Although bass fishing is tough, its getting better and some big fish are being caught in big lakes.  At the September Spalding County Sportsman Club tournament at Sinclair, 12 members caught 35 bass weighing about 55 pounds. There were three five-fish limits and no one zeroed.

    Raymond English showed us all how to do it with five weighing 14.88 pounds and his 7.43 pounder was big fish.  George Roberts had limit weighing 8.39 pounds and had a 4.08 pounder.  Zane Fleck’s limit at 5.92 pounds was third and Randall Sharpton had four weighing 5.71 pounds for fourth.

    I had a frustrating day, catching only three keepers, and I landed every fish that I hooked.  I wrongly thought everyone was having a tough day and felt pretty good with a 2.42 pound largemouth until George weighed his four pounder then Raymond shocked us all with the seven pounder.

    Mayflies were hatching in many places and formed clouds in some of the spots I fished, but oddly I never saw any bream eating them, a bad sign.  I guess I was in the wrong places.

    After fishing a buzzbait without a bite for thirty minutes, my first cast to a dock post with a shaky head produced my first keeper. I stuck with that pattern for a while and caught some short fish, then tried some deeper brush. I caught nothing but short fish even there.

    At 9:30 I cast behind a dock and a bass grabbed my shaky head and went under the dock. Somehow, I pulled it around the dock post and landed the two pounder.  It was one of those bass just meant to be caught.  After retying my line, cutting out the frayed part from the dock post, I fished several more docks and finally got my third keeper, a bare 12-inch fish that grabbed my worm and ran back under the boat before I could set the hook. Another one just meant to be caught.

    Although I fished to the bitter end and tried everything I could think of, that was it for me.

Rod Holder for Easier Kayak Angling

Turn Your Rod Holder Around for Easier Kayak Angling
by YakGear President Bill Bragman
from The Fishing Wire

It’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks. Through the combination of kayak fishing for most of my adult life and working in the paddlesports industry during this period of incredible growth, this old dog thought he knew most of the tricks.I was wrong.

Recently I had the pleasure of traveling to New Zealand to meet with our friends from RAILBLAZA. While the usual work, product development and distribution talks were very exciting, I was most excited for the opportunity to get out on the water with these kayak fishing experts!

With few to no inland waterways, most kayak fishing trips are done in 40 to 100 feet of water. My dependable 6-foot YakStick Mud Anchor wasn’t going to cut it. Jason Milne, better known in the industry as Paddle Guy, picked me up at 5:30 a.m. and we were off.We hauled our kayaks out to the water on C-Tugs and began to load up the kayaks for a surf launch.

Just as I have always done, I put the RAILBLAZA Rod Holder II in a StarPort facing the bow of the kayak. Jason laughed.“Sit down in the paddling position,” he told me. As I got comfortable, Jason used the slide-locking mechanism on the RAILBLAZA base to pop the rod holder out, turned it around and raised it to an almost vertical position.

The light bulb popped on inside my head before he even finished setting the rod holders into place. It was the first time I did not have to scoot forward to reach past my knees to grab my rod out of the front-mounted rod holder. The paradigm of a forward-facing rod holder was so embedded in my brain that I forgot to consider just how impractical the setup was!

The once impractical and time-consuming process of either scooting forward or stretching like a gymnast – because kayak anglers are super flexible, right? – was finally comfortable and quick!

The benefits of turning my rod holder around became clearer than the beautiful blue New Zealand water. Think about how different aspects of kayak fishing could be made much easier with this added quickness and comfort.

Changing Lures In the past, if I wanted to change my lure I would either have to scoot or stretch to get the rod and lay it in my lap. Leashes and all, having a rod unsecured in your lap is always risky. The more unsecured the rod is, the higher the chances of a mistake happening are. You never know when the rod will slip, you will lose balance or the hook will catch some unsuspecting piece of flesh.By having the rod holder mounted almost vertically and facing me, the lure literally dropped into my lap and I was able to easily apply my bait or change my lure.

Rod Retrieval In New Zealand, trolling is the way to go kayak fishing! Trolling with my rod holder turned around allowed me to easily see when I was getting action on my line. While shortening my reaction time to grabbing my rod is great, the real benefit comes from the how easy the rod is to retrieve. With one quick swoop of my rod, I was fighting the fish quicker than ever before because I eliminated the “scoot” to the front facing rod holder or the “turn and grab” to the rear-mounted rod holder.Think about the importance of a quick rod retrieval to sight casters! How much could simply turning the rod holder around help stalking a redfish in the flats? You’re quicker, more comfortable and thus quieter.

Landing a Fish As easy as it was to retrieve, mounting the rod back into the rod holder was equally easy. You don’t have to go much further than a search for kayak fishing on YouTube to see that, when folks get a fish close to the kayak, they lay their rod across their lap.Wouldn’t this rod be safer in the rod holder? Wouldn’t the process of landing a fish be much easier with two hands on the fish and none on the rod?

But it Looks Funny, Right? It may look funny to some people. You know, it’s not the classic “two back rod holders angled at 45 degrees and one front rod holder facing straight over the bow.” It looked funny to me at first. However, with all the benefits that turning your rod holder around provides, you won’t catch this dog on the water ever again without showing off the new trick he learned!
Turn your rod holder around for easier kayak fishing, even if it looks funny

Ducks, Unlimited, A Conservation Organization for All

If there were no hunters, there would be no wild game animals in the United States. With no Ducks, Unlimited, there would be no wild ducks in the North America.

    Hunters are the original conservationists.  We prize natural areas and the wild animals and birds that inhabit them.  Ducks, Unlimited, founded in 1937 with the goal of preserving natural habitat that ducks require, started a movement of similar groups.

    Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and many organizations have followed Ducks, Unlimited’s lead.  All raise money to preserve habitat and study the habits and needs of their favorite game animal or bird, and all want to increase the habitat needed.

    Ducks, Unlimited holds banquets where money is raised to further those goals.  For the price of a ticket, a good meal is served and there are raffles and auctions of items mostly related to duck hunting. Locally, the Pike County Sportsman’s Night Out will be held Thursday, October 10 from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM at the Strickland Building in Concord.

    It will be a fun night of fellowship with like minded sportsmen and conservationists, and you can go home with a full stomach, happy face and some great equipment.  Plan to attend, some tickets are still available by calling Roy Brooks at 678–858-6482 or Kel Brannon at 770-468-7871 and tickets will be available at the door.  Individual tickets are only $35 and couples are $60.

    Ducks, Unlimited looks at the big picture, working all over North America to accomplish its goal of wetland conservation. More than 14 million acres of waterfowl habitat in North America have been conserved across our continent since its founding, focusing its efforts and resources on habitats that are most beneficial to waterfowl. 

    But it pays attention to smaller details, too.  Here in Georgia, more then 27,000 acres of habitat have been conserved.  Georgia is part of the Atlantic Flyway and some waterfowl hatched in more northern areas of the US and Canada depend on Georgia wetlands for winter habitat.

    Our coastal wetlands provide necessary winter habitat for diving and puddle ducks, from lesser scaups to green wing teal and wigeon.  Interior parts of the state include river bottoms and beaver ponds where thousands of mallards and wood ducks survive the winter.  Reservoirs are important to ring-necked ducks, canvasbacks and wood ducks.  

    Last year in Georgia, 150 events raised 2.1 million dollars to help conserve 27,310 acres in our state. And 97 thousand dollars from our state were used for habitat in Canada, where many of our ducks are produced.  Without those nesting areas, our duck population would be greatly reduced.

    Some of the projects in Georgia include restoration of managed wetlands on the Altamaha Wildlife Management Area, a priority for our coastal area.

    Ducks, Unlimited works with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources on the coast and other places, like the Silver Lake Wildlife Management Area near Lake Seminole. There, an additional 2840 acres of mostly upland habitat that protects the wetlands, a necessary precaution, have been secured. And upland habitat benefits deer, turkey and small game.

    At the Cordele Fish Hatchery in Crisp County a Ducks, Unlimited project helped restore an existing 48-acre lake where the levee was damaged by heavy rains.  Vegetation control helped remove trees and bushes and allow the types of vegetation waterfowl need to grow. This area is a wildlife viewing area where you can see songbirds and ducks and the efforts will increase numbers as well as diversity of those species.

    At the Penholoway Swamp Wildlife Management Area high quality bottom land hardwood forest as well as nearby uplands have been enhanced.  This area has tidal swamp forest as well as other habitats in Wayne County, and is open to many kinds of public recreation as well as hunting.

    At the Blanton Creek Wildlife Management Area on Bartletts Ferry Lake, two water control structures were built near the Chattahoochee River to increase vegetation suitable for ducks and other water birds. It covers 50 acres and Ducks, Unlimited worked with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources as well as the

Georgia Power Company on it.

    In Colquitt County on the Mayhaw Wildlife Management Area 50 acres were restored through the installation of a water control structure and perimeter levees to provide suitable habitat for emergent marsh vegetation.  Some waterfowl foods were also planted there.

     Working with the University of Georgia and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources near Eatonton, Ducks, Unlimited helped construct a series of dikes and water control structures on Indian Creek to form a pond in hardwood habitat.

    Near Gay in Meriwether County, 50 acres of waterfowl habitat on the Joe Kurz Wildlife Management Area on the Flint River was restored with a water controls structure that will help wood ducks and mallards as well as others.

          These and many other projects in our state have already made a difference here and will continue to help wildlife in the future, thanks to Ducks, Unlimited and their partners.

          Ducks, Unlimited’s efforts benefit all wildlife, not just ducks, and provides recreation benefits to everyone to all who value nature.

    If you don’t want to attend a local banquet, join this conservation organization to help their efforts.  Right now, your $35 annual membership fee includes a nice fleece jacket.  Anyone that values natural habitat, from hunters and bird watchers to fishermen and hikers should be proud to be members.

    Go to to join and find out more about this important conservation organization.

Fishing Flatfish for Fall Salmon

Fishing Flatfish for Fall Salmon
by Yakima Pro Cody Herman
from The Fishing Wire

As the nights become cooler and the rains begin to fall, salmon begin their upward migration to the waters where they were born in hopes of creating future generations. These crisp fall days also push anglers off the big open water and into the smaller tributaries in search of kings and coho.

The past several years have introduced many new techniques to salmon fishermen across the country. However, one lure seems to produce year in and year out: the venerable Flatfish -20’s to T-60 sized Flatfish have produced consistent action for anglers for decades. From backtrolling smaller rivers to casting and retrieving, the Flatfish continues to be one of the most versatile lures in a salmon angler’s tackle box.

To be better prepared for the fall salmon season, let’s go through the keys of successfully utilizing Flatfish.

Size: Flatfish are commonly used for Chinook, Coho and Chum Salmon. Chinook especially seem to key in on the heavy thump and action created from this lure. In selecting the proper size, one must first determine how their Flatfish will be rigged:

Flatline, lead dropper or behind a diver. If simply flatlining, knowing the depth each size of Flatfish can dive is important. While MagLips are designed for faster currents and deeper water, the wide action of a Flatfish will dive shallower but give off a heavy vibration. By adding a lead dropper or a diver, an angler can fish deeper holes with smaller sized flatfish if the fish seem to be keying in on a specific size or action. In most cases the M-2 and T-50 sizes seem to be the most popular among fishermen.

Color: Every angler has their favorite color. And, in turn, so do the fish. One color may be lights out on your home river, but may not work as well on a different system. The best line to remember is: “Never argue with the fish!”

Always start your day with a good spread of colors. Figure out which colors the fish seem to be reacting to and lock down your colors for the rest of the day! However, as the sun gets high, cloud cover comes in or the fog rolls through, a salmon’s color preference may change quickly!

Also, on heavily pressured systems, try to use colors the fish have yet to see during the day. If everyone is running red/gold…try green/chrome. Give the fish a different look! As these salmon make their way upstream, the rods and cones in their eyes will change, just like their physical appearance. This means fish will key in on different colors depending on how long they have been in fresh water.

To keep things simple, choose colors with variations of red and green, solid colors and metallics. But…always have a couple colors that you think are “off the wall” and no salmon in their right mind would bite…that color may end up being your hot lure one day!

Scent: The larger Flatfish in M-2 to T-60 have a large enough lip and surface area to allow anglers to “wrap” bait on the bottom of the lure to add a consistent scent trail.Natural bait ranging from tuna to roe, sardines, herring and more have all been used successfully.

One new product that has gained a lot of traction among West Coast fishermen is called “Fish Nip” from Pro-Cure. This Tuna based bait stores easily in tackle boxes and remains fresh for weeks on end. It is a bait that an angler can add their favorite oils to enhance their Flatfish with a scent that lasts for hours. The most important thing to remember regardless of the wrap you use…a little goes a long way! Try not to wrap too much bait onto a Flatfish. These lures have been designed to create a fish-catching action. Adding too much weight can alter the action.

Flatfish have been a staple among salmon anglers not only because they can produce bites in difficult conditions, but because of their consistency. There are many techniques fishermen use to illicit a bite from a fish that can be difficult to catch because of its “one track mind” during the Fall months. Diversifying your approach is always encouraged…but don’t forget about Flatfish!