Author Archives: ronniegarrison

Lake Guntersville Weekly Fishing Report from Captain Mike Gerry

Guntersville Winter Bass

Fishing Report, Lake Guntersville 2/27/21


Warming temperatures really helped improve some consistency into the bite this past week;
we had a couple of days of 70 degrees warming the water into the low 50’s improving
conditions considerably. We should see improvement again this up-coming week and
Guntersville should benefit from it.


The bite is still being one of reaction bites as SPRO rattle baits, Picasso Chatter baits and
Picasso spinnerbaits for me have been the key to catching fish. We should see some
improvement in the soft plastic bite with Missile bait 48 stick baits leading the way as a bait
that should produce as we approach the spawn.


Come fish with me I have guides and days available to fish with you, the best is near and
getting yourself set up will be important as we head to the best time of the year. We fish with
great sponsor products, Ranger Boats, Mercury Motors, Boat Logix mounts, Duckett fishing,
Lews fishing, Vicious fishing, Power pole and more!

Fish Lake Guntersville Guide Service
www.fishlakeguntersvilleguideservice.com
www.facebook.com/FishGuntersville
Email: bassguide@comcast.net
Call: 256 759 2270
Capt. Mike Gerry

New Laws Will Make Me A Gun Outlaw

      The old saying “if guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns” seems to be coming true.  If passed, proposed federal laws will make outlaws of me and millions of law-abiding citizens who were doing nothing wrong under current law.

          According to national new media, which we must take with a block of salt, Biden’s proposed laws would “Require individuals to register and mandate a tax fee in order for one to keep the guns and magazines they already possess.”   Gun owners would be given two choices, you could either sell your guns to the government, or register them and pay $200 each for every gun and magazine that holds ten round or more.

          Since the 1986 Firearm Owners Protection Act prohibits the federal government from creating a national gun registry, Biden would be violating federal law by creating one.

          The laws would also “ban the manufacture and sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines,” whatever those are.   It depends on definition, some proposals would classify my .22 semiautomatic Remington, the one I got for Christmas when I was 12 in 1962, as an “assault weapon” based on it being semiautomatic and having a magazine that will hold more than ten rounds. 

The Foundation for Economic Education reports: “However, such shootings are extremely rare, and a look at the FBI data informs us that homicide with these types of rifles represents an extremely small fraction of overall homicide violence. Banning or confiscating such firearms from the civilian population would likely produce little to no reduction in violent crime rates in America.”  Hey liberal gun banners – follow the science!

          According to the Small Arms Survey, there are more than 393 million guns in the U.S.   Its going to be interesting to see how many are called “assault rifles” buy the gun banners.  Some have said they want to ban or confiscate every gun in the US. This is a start, mandatory buy-back programs are nothing but confiscation with a little sugar on top.

          According to the FBI background check information, there were over 12,000,000 guns bought in the first seven months last year. After the election in November, gun sales have skyrocketed.  An estimated 5,000,000 citizens became new gun owners last year. Are they now going to become new criminals?

“Last year, around 30 percent of Americans told Gallup they owned a firearm, while 43 percent said they lived in a gun household.” According to National Review.  Those percentages equal 99,000,000 million individuals owning a gun and guns are in 141,900,000 households.    Will the gun gestapo be knocking on 141 million doors this year?  And National Review says “these numbers are probably low” since many gun owners like me are not willing to share information with strangers taking polls.

I wonder who will be sent out by the Biden administration to confiscate guns?  There are not enough federal agents to do it, so will local law enforcement be required to take guns from law-abiding citizens in their home areas?   And what will be done with the gun owners that refuse to turn in guns or pay taxes on them? 

This may not worry you if you don’t own a gun. But if it can be done with guns and gun ownership, protected by a Civil Right in the Bill of Rights, it can be done with anything.  What if folks decide it is wrong for people to own pets?  Will they be confiscated if you don’t let the government destroy them or pay a high tax?  People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals would be happy to support this. 

How about cars?  There is already an effort to make gas so expensive car ownership it not feasible, but at least it is being done slowly and through making fuel prices go up, not the threat of prison. 

What else will the all-powerful federal government decide you and I don’t deserve to own?

St Croix Victory Rods

VOICES OF VICTORY:
“Among the Tools in Your Toolchest, This Thing is One of the Hammers”
Bass Fishing Ironman, Stephen Browning, on the NEW St. Croix Victory Series
PARK FALLS, Wisc. (February 24, 2021) – Since turning pro in 1996, St. Croix Pro Stephen Browning of Hot Springs, Arkansas has competed in over 250 professional-level tournaments across the United States, qualified for ten Bassmaster Classics, and become a member of the exclusive BASS Million Dollar Winnings Club. Of all the victories he’s earned throughout his 25-year professional career, the current MLF pro says the most significant came in Pine Bluff, Arkansas in 1996.
“Without a doubt, my greatest victory in fishing to-date was winning the BFL All-American,” says Browning. “Trying to get where you need to get in competitive fishing, you have to have a break. Winning that event gave me confidence to compete, but it also gave me the money I needed to go to the next level. Victory to me is when hard work, determination, your passion, and your preparation all come together and you actually win. Even when there’s no competition, it’s that feeling and that little grin you get on your face when you’re driving away from a body of water and you know you won that day; you figured out a little something and you had fun doing it.”
St. Croix’s all-new made-in-the-USA Victory Series rods were conceived and designed to deliver bass anglers more victories on the water – no matter how they’re defined. Featuring technique-specific lengths, powers and actions that yield lightweight performance with extreme sensitivity, durability and balance via an all-new SCIII+ material, eight new Victory rods will be available to anglers at select St. Croix dealers and online beginning March 19. Angler-friendly retail prices for these new, American-crafted Victory rods range from $180 to $200. #stcroixvoicesofvictory
#CROIXGEARLike the rods? You’ll love our lifestyle apparel.
#STCROIXRODS
About St. Croix RodHeadquartered in Park Falls, Wisconsin, St. Croix has been proudly producing the “Best Rods on Earth” for over 70 years. Combining state-of-the-art manufacturing processes with skilled craftsmanship, St. Croix is the only major producer to still build rods entirely from design through manufacturing. The company remains family-owned and operates duplicate manufacturing facilities in Park Falls and Fresnillo, Mexico. With popular trademarked series such as Legend®, Legend Xtreme®, Avid®, Premier®, Imperial®, Triumph® and Mojo, St. Croix is revered by all types of anglers from around the world.

My First Deer Kill

When I was 18 years old I killed my first deer.  Way back when I was in high school deer were very uncommon.  If anybody even saw one while driving we would talk about it for days. The season back then lasted one month, the month of November, and the last day of season was the only doe day.

    I was on my climbing stand, one of the first most hunters had ever seen. Ed Henderson, manager of the brand new McDuffie Public Fishing Area, had seen a picture of one in a magazine and made several for my friends and me.  It was very basic compared to what is available now, just a platform with a bracket to go around a tree, but it worked.

    I had hunted for several years with a bow, the only kind of hunting my parents allowed when I was 16 and 17, but they had given me a Marlin 30-30 for my 18th birthday.  I had seen some does in the pine thicket beside an oak ridge where I hunted and thought I had glimpsed a buck but was not sure.

    That morning what looked like a monster buck came out of the oaks and started walking slowly through the pines.  It had eight points. I know now it was probably just a year and a half old but at that time I didn’t care.  When it was broad side to me about 60 yards away I slowly raised my gun, aimed with the iron sights and pulled the trigger.  The deer fell, but got back up and started running.

    I shot four more times as it ran and thought I saw it fall, but was not sure. I tried to wait but buck fever got me and I wrapped my arms around the tree and raised my feet, and slid down the pine trunk until the stand bit into the trunk again, then jump the last eight feet to the ground.

    The buck was lying just over a small rise. I had hit it three times.  I think the first shot was too far back so it was able to get up again, but one of my shots had hit it in the hip and another went through its heart, stopping it.

    For years after that I did not make a bad shot on a deer, partly because I put a Weaver scope on the 30-30 and could aim better. But 30 years later, after killing many deer, I missed one that should have been an easy shot.

    I missed a few more during the next 15 years but not many.  I always try to shoot a deer through the lower chest, avoiding the shoulder and backbone to preserver meat since I hunt only for venison to eat.  Some of my shots were too low and too far back, but not many.

    A few years ago I missed several deer in one season. I now hunt with a 7 mm Mag with a variable scope, and carefully zero my gun before season every year.  One year after missing an easy shot I put up a target where the deer was standing in the field about 80 yards from me, placed my rifle in a rest, and hit the bullseye every shot.  So, it was not my gun.

    I finally realized I had, at some point, forgotten how to shoot. I was jerking the trigger, not squeezing it.  The right way to pull a trigger is to squeeze it so slowly you don’t really know when the gun will fire. Jerking or pulling too fast will pull the gun enough to result in a bad shot. I have not missed a deer in the last four years since re-learning something I should have never forgotten!

    I say all this to point out how important it is to zero your gun perfectly before hunting.  Shoot at a target enough until you are sure the gun is hitting where you aim. Don’t be like the guy that realized his gun was shooting to the left so he moved his target to the left.  Adjust your sights until, if you miss, you know it was you, not your gun, that was off, then figure out what you did wrong and correct it.

Endangered Sawfish Slowly Return to Tampa Bay

by Tonya Wiley, Havenworth Coastal Conservation

from The Fishing Wire

Smalltooth sawfish — a nearly iconic subject of fishing photos over the last two centuries — may be making a comeback in Tampa Bay. Five have been reported in recent months in locations ranging from Anna Maria north to Honeymoon and in the Manatee River.

“They’re still very rare, but it’s promising that we’re hearing about them more and more often,” notes Adam Brame, who heads sawfish recovery efforts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in St. Petersburg. “A lot of the problems that have killed them in the past — particularly gillnets– aren’t allowed in the bay so we’re hopeful that we’ll see more.”

The fish seen locally have been mostly young adults or larger juveniles, indicating that the bay is not yet supporting a breeding population of smalltooth sawfish, he adds. “We’re asking fishermen who see or inadvertently catch a sawfish to report it, so we can monitor sawfish presence within the Bay.” (More information on how to release an endangered sawfish is available at the end of the article.)

A research project is currently underway to tag sawfish in Tampa Bay, gather information on historical and current catches, collect small samples from historical sawfish rostra (saws) in public and private collections for genetic analysis, and give public presentations about sawfish in the United States.

Their odd appearance and awesome size once made them a prized catch for recreational fishermen.  Their unique elongated, blade-like snouts, studded with teeth on both sides– scientifically known as a rostrum — were often kept as trophies.  Net fishermen, on the other hand, considered them a serious nuisance because of the damage they could cause to their gear.

Two species of sawfish were once found in the U.S.:  the largetooth sawfish, Pristis pristis, and the smalltooth sawfish, Pristis pectinata.  The largetooth sawfish was found throughout the Gulf of Mexico but was more common in western Gulf waters of Texas and Mexico.  The smalltooth sawfish ranged from Texas to New York and was most plentiful in the eastern Gulf waters of Florida, including Tampa Bay.  Both sawfish species were considered “abundant” and “common” in the early 1900s.  Numerous postcards, photographs, and newspaper articles from that era document fishermen hauling countless sawfish to boats, docks, and beaches across the country.

Unfortunately, the largetooth sawfish has not been seen in the U.S. since 1961.  The smalltooth sawfish has fared better and still remains in U.S. waters, though at greatly reduced numbers and geographic range.  Today, the smalltooth sawfish is found predominantly in southwest Florida from Charlotte Harbor to the Keys, including Everglades National Park.  The vast expanse of natural habitat within the park and limited fishing pressure likely served as a refuge for sawfish.

Like many aquatic animals, smalltooth sawfish declined because of overfishing, habitat loss and low reproductive potential. Born live at about two feet long, juvenile sawfish rely on very shallow, coastal and estuarine waters close to shore for safety from predators, such as sharks, during the first years of their lives. They take many years to reach sexual maturity, and produce very few offspring per reproductive cycle, making it difficult for them to maintain their populations.

Due to the dramatic decline of the sawfish populations, the smalltooth sawfish was classified as endangered in 2003, making it the first fully marine fish and first elasmobranch (sharks, skates, and rays) protected by the Endangered Species Act. The largetooth sawfish was listed as endangered in 2011.

Will sawfish in the United States recover?  Unfortunately, the largetooth sawfish is probably locally extinct and gone for good from U.S. waters. Researchers are hopeful that education — particularly on safely releasing sawfish — protection from fishing and minimizing habitat loss will help the smalltooth sawfish return to its natural range.

Tonya Wiley is a fisheries biologist who conducted research on smalltooth sawfish for Mote Marine Laboratory and then established Havenworth Coastal Conservation in Palmetto to protect imperiled marine species through research, outreach and education and is leading the project to study the sawfish of Tampa Bay. She is a member of the National Marine Fisheries Service’s Smalltooth Recovery Implementation team, a multi-institutional panel of experts working to protect the remaining sawfish population in the US and prevent the species from going extinct.  You can follow Havenworth Coastal Conservation on Facebook and Twitter for updates from the field. She also is available for presentations on sawfish to groups and organizations. She can be reached at Tonya@havenworth.org or 941-201-2685.

For information on smalltooth sawfish recovery planning or to report rostrum for genetic sampling, please visit https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/species/smalltooth-sawfish

Educating fishermen to protect smalltooth sawfish

With sawfish protected under the Endangered Species Act, it’s illegal for anyone to possess one. However, they’re occasionally caught on a hook by a fisherman targeting other species.

Unlike the recommendations for releasing most fish, fishermen should not try to remove the hook, Brame said. Sawfish mouths are located under their sharp-toothed rostrum and removing the hook could cause serious damage to both the fish and the fishermen.

If you catch or see a smalltooth sawfish, take a quick photograph of it, estimate its size, note your location, and share the information.  The details of your sightings or catches help scientists studying the endangered species track recovery progress and target their field surveys.  You can share your information by calling 1-844-4-SAWFISH (1-844-472-9347).

A Week Makes A Big Difference Fishing West Point Lake

    What a difference a week makes, for me at least.  West Point was good to me last week in the Potato Creek Bassmasters tournament, not so much this past Sunday.

          Sunday, 11 members of the Spalding County Sportsman Club fished eight hours in our February tournament. We landed 15 bass weighing about 29 pounds. There were no limits and four people didn’t catch a fish.

          Raymond English won with four keepers weighing 6.23 pounds and my two weighing 5.15 pounds was second, including a 3.46 pound largemouth that was big fish. My partner Chris Davies placed third with two at 3.94 pounds and Glynn Anderson, fishing with Raymond, placed fourth with two at 3.45 pounds.

          It was a much nicer day than last weekend, but cold at 7:30 when we took off. Docks and boats were covered with heavy frost, and the first few casts I made water from the line being retrieved froze in the rod guides.  The parking lot was filling fast when we left and I heard the West Georgia Bass Club, which is really a tournament trail, had a tournament taking off about 8:00. They were expecting over 100 boats.

          To show fish feed somewhere every day and someone can catch them, it took five bass weighing just over 17 pounds to win that tournament, and big fish was over five pounds. It took over 13 pounds to finish seventh place!

          Chris and I went to the small creek where I caught my limit last week and he quickly caught a keeper largemouth on a jig and pig.  About 30 minutes later I caught my biggest fish on a shaky head worm.  The water was 47 degrees, just like last weekend, but the sun quickly got bright and at least warmed us up even if it didn’t warm the bass.

          Chris caught his second fish on the jig, then we both missed bites.  After fishing the whole creek we tried several other places.  With a couple of hours left to fish we went back to the little creek and I caught my second fish on a jig.  It was slow fishing.

          Raymond said he caught his fourth fish just a few minutes before weigh-in, giving him enough weight to win. Just shows it pays to never give up!

Bull Redfish: Extreme Fish Living in Extreme Places

A Midwesterner’s perspective on the King of the Marsh

By Dr. Jason Halfen

from The Fishing Wire

Anglers grow by stepping out of their comfort zone, venturing to destinations that feature extraordinary, albeit unfamiliar, fishing opportunities. As a child of the upper Midwest, I cut my fishing teeth on walleyes and crappies, accented by the occasional brook trout or musky. However, as my fishing enthusiasm evolved into a career, I quickly realized that my own background represented an extraordinarily small piece of the global fishing puzzle. It was time to step out of my own comfort zone and explore more of what the fishing world has to offer.

My favorite adventure so far – the Louisiana gulf coast, where the Mississippi River meets the Gulf of Mexico.

This is an account of my first trip to the Mississippi River Delta in pursuit of bull redfish: The King of the Marsh. As I landed in New Orleans, I wondered if my lifetime of Midwestern fishing experiences had prepared me for my first casts into these fish-infested marshes.

For this first trip to the Bayou, I placed my trust in the hands of professionals: experienced guides seasoned by years spent in the marshes in pursuit of fish and game. My Captain for this redfish hunt was Terry Lambert from Cajun Fishing Adventures, a guide who embodied every characteristic I associate with the best anglers – a true instructor who taught me, pushed me, reveled in our joint accomplishments and more than once, made me laugh so hard that I had to put the rod down and simply enjoy the moment. For a beginner in the marsh, an experienced Captain is priceless.

We’re not in Kansas anymore!

As Captain Terry backed his boat into the churning waters of the Mississippi River near Buras Louisiana, I quickly realized that the Mississippi of the south is not the same animal that I frequently fish in the north. The swirling currents and minimal water clarity found near the Delta stand in stark contrast to the well defined current seams that attract gamefish back home in Wisconsin, where a “chocolate milk” river would send us hunting for clean water before we ever cast a line. Down in the marshes, this is just another day at the office, a workplace where bull redfish are on the agenda.

We idled to our first location, a saddle between two marsh islands that was swarming with nervous baitfish, diving pelicans, breaching porpoises and an occasional whirlpool caused by a feeding bull red. Feeling the impact of the current, Captain Terry dropped tandem shallow water anchors to lock us in place against the incoming tide; class was now in session.

Our rigs would be deceptively simple: popping corks to create a surface commotion and support a suspended soft plastic offering beneath. We primarily tossed LIVETARGET Rigged Shrimp, incredibly realistic imitations of one of the preferred forage items for marsh bulls. We selected attention-grabbing colors like Hot Pink to help our finned targets find our offerings in the turbid waters, a process further facilitated by the subtle internal rattle in our LIVETARGET shrimp imitations.

Soft plastic minnows, like the Z-Man MinnowZ, were also responsible for a considerable number of redfish catches. Constructed from proprietary materials, ElaZtech baits resist cuts, nicks and tears, and boasts one of the highest fish-per-bait ratios among all soft plastic baits on the market.

We used Seaguar Pink Label 100% fluorocarbon leaders, selected not because of fluorocarbon’s near-invisibility under water, but because of its remarkable abrasion resistance – a necessity in this demanding environment. These leaders were linked to our Seaguar Smackdown braided main line using a double Uni knot, a compact union that passes smoothly through the rod guides on the cast and is more than tough enough for chasing bull reds in the Louisiana marshes.

Bull reds from start to finish

The redfish hunters’ most important fish-finding tools are their eyes. In the boat with Captain Terry, traveling to our destination or idling around a likely area, everyone’s eyes were trained on the water’s surface, searching for the telltale sign of bait in distress. Once positioned near a pod of bait being dissected by a saltwater apex predator, anglers cast their popping corks and tethered soft plastics into the killing zone. Often, a couple of quick “chugs” of the cork were all that was necessary to elicit a strike and that first powerful run characteristic of a hooked bull redfish. After a strong, sweeping hookset, the fight was on.

This is the realm of stout spinning gear, with rods typically 7 feet in length or longer to deliver relatively light baits on long casts, and to provide effective hooksets into bony mouths. The Legend Tournament Inshore series from St. Croix Rods are engineered to withstand the rigors of a wide range of inshore species, from speckled trout and snook to redfish and amberjack. The 7-foot, medium-heavy power, fast action LTIS70MHF spinning rod is an outstanding choice when pursuing bull reds. Pair this rod with a reel featuring a smooth drag system to counter the redfish’s characteristic line-peeling runs, and you will be well-equipped for many years of trips to the marsh.

Once a tired bull red and the equally-winded angler converge, the fish is brought topside for a quick photo-op and subsequent release. Bringing a headstrong, 20-30 lb redfish aboard is a task reserved only for the most robust of nets. In Captain Terry’s boat, Conservation Series landing nets from Frabill are the net of choice. Not only do these nets have the strength and longevity needed to handle season-after-season of bull redfish, but their knotless mesh netting eliminates damage to the fish caused by knots. Trophy bull redfish are too precious of a resource to damage during the landing and release process.

A perspective on the bull reds’ future

After subduing an uncountable number of bull reds under the watchful gaze of Captain Terry, I decided that my forearms, shoulders and back had been sufficiently abused by the King of the Marsh for this day. As we navigated through the tangle of canals and bayous that separate the redfish grounds from the launch, Captain Terry lamented the loss of marsh habitat that occurs on a daily basis, caused in part by the capture of freshwater sediments in reservoirs far upstream, sediments that are desperately needed to replace marshland that is being washed out to sea. This is an unsustainable trend, with implications far beyond the redfish, or any of the millions of finned or feathered creatures that call the marshes home.

Get informed about this critical habitat issue, through an organization like Vanishing Paradise, and do something to help, so that the marshes’ unique fishing opportunities will be here, and be better, for the generations that follow us.

Fishing, Farming and Cold Weather

   “Baby its cold outside!”  For some reason that song keeps going through my mind.  Temperatures in the low 20s are not usual here, thank goodness! But when they hit, unusual problems pop up.

    The pressure switch on my well will freeze if the temperature stays in the low 20s overnight.  A heat lamp on it solves the problem, if I remember to turn it on!  Outside faucets will freeze.  I have “freeze proof” faucets on the outside of my house, but I found out a couple of years ago they will freeze if you leave a hose attached!

    Many houses are like mine, with heat pumps to warm them.  But a heat pump can’t get enough heat out of air in the low 20s, so they switch to either gas or electric strip to produce heat.  Problem is, the relay that tells it to switch over can go out, and you won’t know it is bad until it doesn’t work on a cold night!

    Farmers have an especially tough time in bad weather like Texas had this week.  Taking care of livestock and other farm animals is miserable for the farmer but can be deadly for the animals if not done.

    Every winter when I was growing up seemed to produce a few days when the temperatures didn’t get above freezing.  Our 11,000 laying hens didn’t stop eating, drinking or laying eggs. 

    We had seven chicken houses.  The older four were wide, open structures with shavings on the floor.  Nests were attached to the inside of the walls and filled with shavings.  Food troughs had to be filled with five-gallon buckets of food brought from the big bin twice a day 

A trough ran the length of each house.  Water ran very slowly into one end. At the other a drain kept it from overflowing. The pipe nipple had to be pulled from the drain and the trough flushed out every day, chickens don’t know not to poop where they drink!

That water trough would sometimes freeze overnight so we would have to break the ice out by hand so fresh water would be available to the birds.  I hated that wet, messy job.

The other three houses were modern, with cages along the inside walls of narrow houses.  A small trough for water ran the length of the house, and it had to be cleaned, too.  A bigger trough was filled with a motorized cart that augured it into the trough, much easier than carrying buckets!

On very cold days and nights, we had to gather the eggs every hour to keep them from freezing.  The caged chickens’ eggs rolled out onto a wire shelf, so they froze fast. Even the ones in the old houses nests would freeze since the chickens didn’t stay on them after laying them.

With that many chickens, gathering the eggs hourly was never-ending. By the time we made a circuit of all the houses, it was time to start over!

Now, the only time I have to go out in miserable weather is to go fishing. But for some reason, eight hours in a boat is not unbearable, no matter how bad it gets!

HOBIE BASS OPEN RECORDS AT LAKE SEMINOLE

Hobie Bass Open Records at Lake Seminole

OCEANSIDE, Calif.– With a two-day event that showcased a super-talented field of competitors, the Hobie Bass Open Series (B.O.S.) Anchored by Power-Pole® kicked off its 2021 season at Lake Seminole in Bainbridge, Georgia, last weekend. Doubling down on last year’s success at this 37,500-acre impoundment of the Chattahoochee and Flint rivers, 175 kayak bass anglers from across the country descended on the world-famous bassin’ hole. All were intent on working up big fish and record-breaking totals. Some would get both as an impressive 891 bass hit the measuring boards in the catch, photo and release tournament.

“This was the largest event we’ve had in terms of competitors,” said tournament director, A.J. McWhorter. “With $34,125, paid out through the first 18 places, plus $400 for the Bassin’ Big Bass award, it also had the biggest payout ever for the series. To top things off, the first- and second-place finishers both broke the all-time Hobie B.O.S. two-day event record for total bass limits. What a great way to set the tone for an amazing season ahead.”

To be sure, not every angler was on fire throughout the tournament, as a drop in water temperature between practice fishing and Day 1 competition seemed to chase a lot of pre-spawn fish off the flats. Those anglers who stayed shallow tended to have a tough time, while those who pulled back to deeper staging areas pushed their way up the leaderboard. When all the drags had stopped screaming, Bryan Howell, 28, of Dallas, Texas stood alone atop the field, the proud holder of a new Hobie B.O.S. two-day event total haul record with a whopping 205.5” of bigmouth bass.

Also breaking the former record was second-place finisher Joey Vanyo, 29, of Northfield, Minnesota, with a tally of 201.5”. Finishing third with a very respectable 184.5” was Zack Hall, 30, from Birch Run, Michigan. Reigning Angler of the Year (A.Y.O), Drew Gregory, of Ravenna, Ohio, took fourth with a 178.5” total. The 2021 A.O.Y. award is presented by Farwide, the Outdoor Access app. The previous all-time Hobie Bass Open Series (B.O.S.) Anchored by Power-Pole® two-day record was 194.5”, set at the 2019 Lake Fork, Texas, event in June, 2019.

Howell noticed a change in the bite from practice to game day immediately upon setting out on Day 1. “I was feeling good because I had found a little stretch of shallow water where I drew quick hits from several quality fish during practice,” he revealed. “To reach it, I had to launch my Hobie Pro Angler 14 360 through about 20 feet of reeds. I headed straight for that spot once the competition began and drew a big zero – not even a bite! Luckily, I had found a couple of back-up spots, so I made a move after about an hour and started connecting immediately along a 100-yard stretch of bank. I pulled a limit in an hour on a white Z-Man JackHammer® ChatterBait and began to cull. Everything I was catching was a quality fish. At 99”, I decided to let that spot rest and headed over to another where I quickly drilled a 19.75” fish to end the day with 101.75” – my personal best for a single day of competition.”

Day 2 found Howell heading back to the same spot with the same bait and plenty of confidence. Two hours later, he hadn’t had a touch. “At that point I tried a red lipless crankbait and drilled two good fish, so I knew the bass were still in the area.”

Switching to a green pumpkin Strike King Thunder Cricket with a little tighter action, he quickly connected with a 20.5” bass and decided to grind with that lure the rest of the way.

“That fish told me all I needed to know,” said Howell. “For the rest of the day I had tons of bites. I was casting around lily edges and grass with some timber mixed in and 2 feet of water above. I would rip my lure through the vegetation and as soon as it came free those bass would wallop it. I knew Joey was having a tremendous tournament, too, so I just kept working. He was breathing down my neck the whole way. I had 200” of bass over two days and I was still looking over my shoulder until the very end. That’s wild. I’m so glad my spots held up through Day 2.”

Indeed, Vanyo was enjoying his most productive tournament ever. During practice, he had found a stretch of water where every fish he hooked topped 20”. On Day 1, he tallied a limit there on just five casts before he started culling.

“I’ve believe strongly in looking for patterns rather than blind casting,” Vanyo explained. “I tried flipping shallow waters and looking for beds in pre-fishing but didn’t have much luck, so I figured the fish weren’t ready yet to move shallow and spawn. That prompted me to look deeper to find where they were staging. I found them in 15 feet of water, holding tight in some grass along the outside edge of a small depression in an old creek bed. On Day 1 I had to yo-yo those fish by ripping a ½-ounce Z-Man ChatterBait through the weeds. As soon as it emerged into open water, the bass would attack – but only as the lure fell. Day 2 saw the fish follow the same basic pattern, except they moved out of the weeds and into the middle of the depression, so it was actually easier fishing.”

As things turned out, Vanyo may have had the fish he needed to get over the top hooked-up on Day 1. “I had one that looked to be at least 24” long,” he lamented, “but it came unbuttoned about halfway to the ‘yak. That fish would have bumped an 18-incher. Wouldn’t that have made things interesting? Either way, congrats to Bryan. He earned this win. It’s a bummer that I lost with 200” but I gave it all I had. There wasn’t a fish left in my spot when I finally packed it in.”

Hall, meanwhile, was also having his most productive kayak tournament ever. “I actually had some slow practice sessions, although I did stick a few quality fish,” he stated. “Despite the strong winds, I decided to concentrate on the main lake and work Jackall Rerange 130 and 110 jerkbaits both days. I was covering an area the size of a football field in 10’ of water with standing timber and two feet of hydrilla rising up from the bottom. I just kept rotating through different retrieves and the bites added up. I have a lot of confidence in jerkbaits, and I’ve caught some really big fish on them. Still, there was no catching Bryan and Joey. They were just on another level this weekend, so hats off to them both. What an awesome performance.”

For his efforts, Howell took home $9,600 for first place plus the Bassin’ Big Bass honors he earned with a 23.5” brute decked on Sunday. Vanyo pocketed a cool $4,800, Hall walked away with $3,000, and Gregory collected $2275. The first three finishers automatically qualified for the 50-angler Hobie Tournament of Champions on Lake Eufaula in Eufaula, Alabama, this November. Both Vanyo and Hall were fishing in their first Hobie event and visiting Lake Seminole for the first time in their careers.

“This really is the best-run kayak series in the country,” said Howell, who has several Hobie B.O.S. Anchored by Power Pole® events to his credit. “It has the highest payouts, runs smoothly, and has clear rules so you know everyone gets a fair shake. It draws the best kayak fishing anglers in the country, too – and we all have a great time even while competing. If you win here, you know you are on top of your game. You have to be. Nobody gets a free pass on this trail.”

For more information on the Hobie B.O.S. Anchored by Power-Pole®, or to register for an event, visit: Hobie Bass Open Series (hobiebos.com).

How To Catch April Crappie on Lake Weiss

Crappie fishermen know they are headed to the right lake when they get near Lake Weiss and start seeing signs proclaiming it is the “Crappie Fishing Capital of the World.” Those signs on the roads leading to Centre, Alabama give you an idea of the importance of crappie fishing in the area.

Lake Weiss on the Georgia/Alabama state line is an Alabama Power lake on the Coosa River. Its vast stump filled flats on the river and in major creeks offer crappie perfect habitat. And the state, local businesses and fishing groups work to make it even better.  Weiss and Logan Martin, the next lake downstream, are the only two lakes in Alabama with a ten inch size limit protecting smaller fish.

The upper Coosa River extends into Georgia but to fish the main lake you will need an Alabama fishing license.  If you are coming in from out of state you can get an annual license online starting at $50.25 with a couple of states a little higher.  A seven day trip license is $28.35 unless you are from Florida.  And you can bring the family and get a family seven day fishing license for $28.35 that is good for you and four immediate family members.

Groups like the Lake Weiss Improvement Association, made up of fishermen, businesses, Alabama Power and the state of Alabama work to improve crappie habitat on the lake by putting out brush piles and insuring size and number limits, 30 per fisherman per day, are observed. They also promote crappie fishing on the lake.

Mark Collins grew up near Weiss and got started fishing the lake for crappie when his parents bought a house on the Weiss when he was young.  He has been guiding full time for crappie, stripers and bass on Weiss for 23 years. He has learned the lake well and knows how to catch crappie year round.

Mark also is a member of the Lake Weiss Improvement Association and helps pick the right locations for the group to put out cane brush piles. The Association also puts on a Crappie Rodeo with tagged fish worth a variety of prizes.  The Rodeo is going on right now until the end of April and you can enter and get a badge from most local fishing businesses.

He is the only guide just about anywhere that guarantees “No fish, no pay.” He will even call clients and postpone trips when the crappie are not biting good. As he says, he wants their money, but wants it more than one time. And it works, most of his clients are repeat business, showing his skill and care for the folks he takes fishing.

When he is not on a guide trip Mark is usually on the water checking conditions and trying to find good schools of fish. He is on the water almost every day of the year. That is what it takes to really keep up with the fish and provide good trips for guide clients.

Right now is a good time to troll for crappie, one of the most efficient ways to catch large numbers of quality fish.  Crappie are suspended over the channels of the river and major feeder arms from October through April and you can find schools of them around baitfish in deeper water.  In the winter there are more fish out on the river but now most of them are headed to the spawning areas.

In late March through April the channels in Little River and Cowan and Spring Creeks are some of the best places to troll.  Near the end of April they will be shallow in those areas and others and Mark catches them “shooting docks,” using his rod like a sling shot to propel the jigs under the docks for fish spawning around them and feeding under them.

He will continue to troll, too, but focus on stump beds in more shallow water. Then as the fish move back toward deeper water trolling works until they get on brush piles and stump beds on the river channel, where it is better to sit over them with tight lines almost straight down under the boat.  That works through the summer until they start suspending again in October and trolling picks up again.

On Weiss you are limited to three poles per angler at one time.  Mark does not troll more than ten lines at one time since that many are plenty to catch a lot of crappie and are much less trouble getting tangled and it is easier to manage them. He will take one to four clients at a time in his center console NauticStar boat equipped with a Minkota IPilot trolling motor.

Using B & M rods of six to 14 feet long allows Mark to cover a wide swath of water while trolling. The longer rods are put in rod holders at the front of the boat with shorter rods toward the back. The shortest rods are used to troll straight behind the boat.

A reel with a smooth drag is important when using light line and Mark likes the Dawai spinning reels for his fishing.  They handle the light line well.

Mark keeps it simple when trolling.  He uses one size Jiffy Jig and varies the color based on water color. In clear water he goes with translucent colors but the more stained water he goes to either darker colors or bright colors like yellows and chartreuse.

Jiffy Jigs are made in Valida, Georgia and you can order them for $6 a dozen from their web site: http://www.jiffyjigs.com/. They make a wide variety of colors and sizes to meet any kind of fishing you prefer.

And he uses six pound Ande monofilament line on all his reels. If he wants his jigs to go deeper he adds a split shot to the jig rather than going to lighter line or heavier jigs. Mark says it is much easier to crimp on a split shot or remove it than to retie all his lines with different size jigs.

Monofilament line has some stretch to it, which is important to keep from tearing the hook out of the fish’s mouth. Crappie are called “papermouths” for a reason. And a long limber rods helps with this, too.

Boat speed is critical and with a good depthfinder and GPS you can control it, or do as Mark does and set his IPilot to maintain the right speed.  Mark likes the user friendly Garmin electronics to find fish and bait and to watch his speed. In late March he is trolling about 10 to 14 feet deep in the feeder streams for fish suspended at that depth over deeper water.

When the water hits a consistent 58 to 60 degrees the fish will move to the shallow stump flats, usually in fairly early April.  Then he puts a cork on is line and slowly trolls water four to eight feet deep where they are holding around stumps.  The cork keeps the jig above the stumps.

Keeping your bait above the stumps keeps you from getting hung, but you have to keep your jigs above the fish no matter how deep they are holding.  Crappie will come up to eat a bait, sometimes several feet when they are real aggressive, but won’t go down to hit. That is why it is important to see the fish and what depth they are holding on  your electronics and keep your bait just above them, as close to just above them as possible.

Mark starts trolling at .8 miles per hour then varies it depending on what the fish tell him.  He will vary the speed from that starting point until he starts catching fish, then stays at that speed.  It is hard to keep a constant speed in the wind without a trolling motor that will hold it or constantly watching your GPS.

Often while trolling for crappie you will hook a big striper, catfish or bass. Unlike many guides that instantly break off those fish to keep them from tangling all the other lines, Mark quickly reels in his other lines so his clients can have the fun of fighting a big fish on light line and rods.  And they usually land them. The only exception is when a big gar eats the jig. They will almost always cut the line with their teeth.

Mark says many people plan a multi-day trip to Weiss and go out with him the first day of the trip to find out where and how deep the fish are holding.  That is a good way to get current conditions and information on the lake. 

Be warned you will have a lot of company trolling for crappie.  It is not unusual for over a dozen boats to be trolling a small section of the river or creek. Many folks don’t go looking for fish, they just look for groups of boats and join them. Be considerate of others when trolling.

On his website below Mark has the GPS coordinate for the brush piles put out by the Weiss Lake Improvement Association.  He makes sure they are put in places the fish already use to enhance those places. There are about 17 in Little River and 20 in Spring and Cowan Creeks. Five local high school fishing teams help put out the brush piles and the state of Alabama and Alabama Power help with expenses. They hold fish from late May through the summer.

Mark will show you exactly how he catches crappie year round or stripers and hybrids mostly in June and July by trolling live shad for them.  You can book a trip with him by visiting his website at http://www.markcollinsguideservice.com or call him at 256-779-3387. He charges $300 per day for an eight hour trip for one or two people and $100 each for an additional one or two people, up to four total. A half day trip is @225 for one or two with each additional angler $100 more.

Mark does not clean fish for his clients but there is a cleaning service at Little River Marina and Resort. Mark goes out from there and they are the only full service marina on the lake. They have rooms for out of town fishermen as well as anything you need for fishing.

Bass fishermen will be excited to know the state of Alabama is stocking Florida strain largemouth in the lake.  If you prefer bass fishing Mark can fill you in on current details on them, too.

If you are a crappie fisherman plan a trip to Weiss in the next few weeks.   Hire Mark to show you exactly how to catch crappie.  You can’t go wrong with a trip to Weiss, after all it is the “Crappie Fishing Capital of the World!”