Author Archives: ronniegarrison

Where and How To Catch September Lanier Bass with Rob Jordan

September 2013 Lanier Bass

 with Rob Jordan

    Tired of summer doldrums fishing for bass in deep water and not catching much? There is light at the end of September, when water starts cooling and bass get more shallow and active on our lakes. But why wait several more weeks?  You can catch some big spots at Lanier right now.

    Lanier is a big lake at 40,000 acres and since it is just northeast of Atlanta it gets heavy pleasure boat traffic, especially on weekends. And it gets a lot of fishing pressure.  The lake is known for its big spotted bass that took advantage of the introduction of blueback herring.  Five pound spots are caught often and most tournaments are won on spotted bass, with five-fish limits weighing 15 pounds common.

    Rob Jordan grew up fishing Lanier and now lives in Swanee.  His cousin Jim Murray, Jr. got him started tournament fishing and taught him a lot about catching bass.  Rob also worked with Jim painting custom lures and Rob has a business making realistic looking baits.  He also guides on Lanier and fishes tournaments.  Next year Rob plans on fishing the FLW Everstart and BASS Opens.

    This year Rob fished the Savannah River BFL trail and is right on the qualifying point to fish the Regional at Lanier with one tournament to go.  He hopes to do well in the Regional on his home lake.

    Rob’s best five spots in a tournament on Lanier weighed 21.5 pounds. This summer he has had big fish in two night tournaments.  Two years ago he placed third in the Weekend Series on Lanier and was in the top ten in the BFL there that year.  He knows the lake and how to catch good spots.

    “Lanier is a fantastic lake but you have to understand the waters and when the bass bite to do well,” Rob said.  It is a unique lake and you won’t catch the big spots by fishing like you do on other lakes.

    “The biggest spots are hard to catch since they roam the lake, living in water 50 to 60 feet deep,” Rob told me.  Weather and moon phases are keys to figuring out the bite. And you have to fish in the right places to catch the quality spotted bass.

    September is a transition month for spots on Lanier and you can catch some really big fish, especially late in the month.  Last year Rob got a six pound, six ounce spot toward the end of September on a guide trip.  But you can catch quality fish starting right now.

      A wide variety of baits will catch spots on Lanier this month. Rob will have a drop shot worm and a shaky head worm ready for slower fishing.  When the bite is good he likes a swim bait or a top water plug. All these baits are fished in deep water, with his boat often sitting in 80 plus feet of water and fishing water that is 30 feet deep.

    Rob will try a variety of depths and lures until he finds where the bass are feeding, and that depth will usually be consistent all over the lower lake.  The key is a long point or hump that drops off into very deep water. Standing timber in the deep water and brush or rocks on the humps and points make those places much better.

    Rob took me to the following ten spots in early August and we caught fish on most of them.  They are good right now and will get even better as the month progresses.

    1.  N 34 10.029 – W 84 02.492 – Green channel marker 3SC in Shoal Creek sits on a rocky hump right by the channel.  There is also a danger marker on it and one small bush stuck out of the water when we were there.  The hump is right off an island, too.  It always holds bass, according to Rob, and it typical of the type place he fishes this month.

    There is brush all over and around it as well as the natural rocks to hold feeding fish. Rob says it is important to locate the brush piles and fish them, so ride it with your electronics and mark the brush. Good electronics will even show the fish in the brush and how they are setting up on it.

    Start on the upstream end and work the whole area, keeping your boat out in the channel.  Wind rippling the surface of the water is critical here and on other spots to make the fish active, and overcast days help, too.

    If there is some wind and some clouds try a big swim bait like the Bucca Bull Herring hard swim bait or a Zman Grass KickerZ over the brush. Topwater plugs like a big Spook or Sammy will draw the bass up to the top from the brush.

    If the water is slick or it is sunny Rob will fish a Zman StreakZ on a drop shot or a Big Bass Baits jig head with a worm on it in the brush.  It is important to get the baits right on the fish so work each brush pile carefully, especially if you see fish in or around it.

    2.  N 34 11.681 – W 83 03.607 – Run over to Young Deer Creek and right in the mouth of it on the left side going upstream marker 1YD sits on a hump with a danger marker and some bushes on top.  Again, it is right on the channel where deep water is very close to shallow water. 

    Your boat should be in about 100 feet of water and you want to fish brush around 30 feet deep. Rob says 30 foot deep water is usually a good depth in September but they may feed a little shallower later in the month. If you are not catching fish in the deeper brush, or if you see them in more shallow brush, try it.

    Rob says bass are caught here every day. There are a lot of brush piles and big rocks on the hump to cover.  Try all your baits around them.

    A big swim bait is Rob’s go-to bait if he wants quality fish. In a tournament where five bites from big fish is all you want, try the Bull Herring worked slowly over the brush.  Rob’s custom painted versions are best since the spots on Lanier see so many swim baits but all will catch bass.

    3.  N 34 11.766 – W 84 03.499 – Across the mouth of Young Deer Creek channel marker 2YD sits on a deep rocky point that is excellent.  Rob fishes the downstream end of the point where it runs out parallel to the channel.  You will be sitting in 70 to 100 feet of water when fishing the end of the point.

    First try the swimbaits and topwater. Always keep a topwater plug ready to cast immediately to surfacing fish.  We caught a couple the day we fished when they came up near us. They may not stay up long so be ready.  If the spots are consistently schooling on top but not staying long, Rob will stand in the front of the boat with a topwater bait ready to cast, waiting on them to come up again.

    4.  N 34 12.494 – W 84 01.432 – An island sits in the mouth of Six Mile Creek and marker 4SM sits just off it. The creek channel is on one side and the river channel on the other.  Rob says this is one of the best big spot holes on the lake and he caught a six pounder here. 

    There are stumps and brush piles on the point on the downstream side of the island where the big spots live. Rob says a big swim bait or topwater is the way to go here for the big ones.  Work both baits all around the point, concentrating on brush piles and stump beds you find with your electronics.

    Rob fishes both hard and soft swimbaits with a steady retrieve and keeps them near the surface is there is cloud cover or wind on the water.  When a fish hits he sets the hook with a sweep of his rod, not a hard set, and does not drop the rod tip. 

    If there is little wind or if the spots just don’t seem to eat the big bait, Rob will drop down to the smaller size Zman SwimmerZ soft swim bait.  He fishes the soft baits on a three sixteenths to three quarter ounce jig head depending on how the fish set up. The lighter head is better for running the bait shallow but the bigger head will allow you to fish it a little faster and deeper.

    5.  N 34 13.464 – W 84 01.406 – Further up Six Mile Creek it narrows way down right at channel marker 7SM.  There are several good humps and points in this area. The left side going upstream, between the last cove on that side to the point where the creek narrows way down, have the better ones.

    The danger marker on the left sits between two long points that are excellent. Sit out in 45 feet of water and cast up into 25 to 30 feet of water.  There are a couple of road beds, an old house foundation and brush piles on the points.  Fish them all.

    The pinch point where the creek narrows way down funnels fish into this area as they move up the creek in the fall. Rob says when the water temperature drops into the 70s it is like a switch turns on and the bass get into action chasing bait. Swim baits and topwater are even better when it cools down.

    6.  N 34 14.772 – W 83 56.843 – Run up the river to the mouth of Flat Creek. A big island sits in the mouth of it and red channel marker 26 is on a point where the river channel swings in toward it. Rob says bass live here year round and it is always good, but in September even more bass get on the point while moving into the creek.

    Sit out in 40 feet of water and cast up on the point with all your baits, starting shallow and working deeper. There are rocks and brush piles here that hold the fish. If you can’t find the brush with your electronics, drag a jig head worm along the bottom until you hit rocks or brush and work it.                                                                           

    7.  N 34 13.602 – W 83 55.772 – For a change of pace run into Mud Creek all the way to the narrow creek channel in the back.  Rob fishes docks back in places like this. Spots and some big largemouth can be found back around docks in creeks as the water cools.  Fish all the docks from the ones on the left past the big rocky point where it narrows down all the way around the creek.

    Try a one eighth to three sixteenths ounce jig head with a Zman finesse worm on it.  Fish all of each dock, from the deepest water in front of it to the back under the walkway.  The bass may be feeding anywhere around the docks. 

    The bass will be on the outside deeper docks early in the month but move further back as the water cools. Since the weather this summer has been fairly cool and the rain and cool weather in the middle of August kept the water temperatures down, they may move further back sooner this year.

    8.  N 34 13.967 – W 83 56.271 – Going out of Mud Creek Old Federal day use park with a boat ramp is on your left.  Past it a long point runs out toward the main lake and there is an island off the bank, with danger markers between it and the main point. 

    Stop about even with the island in Mud Creek and idle over the ridge that runs out on that side toward the Mud Creek channel.  This ridge runs way out and has rock and brush on it, and bass stack up on it all summer long. Even more move to it as they follow shad back into the creek in the fall.

    Sit in about 40 feet of water and cast up on top of the ridge to 20 to 30 feet of water.  Try all your baits.  When using a drop shot in the brush Rob likes to pitch it ahead of the boat a little rather than fishing it straight under the boat. He will let the lead hit bottom, raise his rod tip to keep the bait up off the bottom and twitch it in one place, moving the lead very slowly as he works it around the brush.

    9.  N 34 13.447 – W 83 57.774 – Out off the end of the point with Old Federal Campground there is a big flat point with a danger marker off a small island with bushes on top.  There are brush piles all over it but Rob’s favorite area of this big point is downstream of the island and danger marker. 

    As in other places, start with topwater and swim baits over the brush piles you locate with your electronics, then try the dropshot and shaky head.  Rob likes a light one sidxteenths to one eight head, as light as conditions will allow, since the slow fall will often draw a strike.

    Rob lets the shaky head hit bottom then slowly drags it along with an occasional snap of the rod tip to make it wiggle and jump. Many people shake it in one place, as the name implies, but Rob moves it slowly along the bottom without constant shaking.

         10.  N 34 11.424 – W 83 58.442 – In Flowery Branch across from the Van Pugh ramp a long underwater point runs off the upstream side of the danger marker between the small island and the main point.  This point actually runs off Van Pugh park out to the island then on out toward the creek channel.

         Stay out on the creek end of the point and work it with all your baits.  Resident fish live here and more move in during the fall.  If you are fishing a tournament use big baits for a few quality bites. Use smaller topwater baits like the Sammy 100 early in the fall but go bigger later. For numbers the shaky head or drop shot will get more bites.

         All these places hold bass right now and will get better as the month progresses and the water gets cooler. Give them a try and you can find many more just like them.

         For a guide trip with Rod to see first hand how he fishes Lanier call him at 770-873-7135 and check his web site at http://robjordanfishing.com  Also check out his custom painted baits at http://www.xtremelurecreations.com

Keep Your Fish Fresh!!

From Alabama Gulf Seafood

from The Fishing Wire

Note – i always keep my fish on ice overnight before fileting them!
Ronnie

Ask anyone about their top priority when it comes to seafood and you’re likely to get the same answer: Freshness matters most.

But what about your own kitchen? When it comes to seafood caught or bought at markets and stored in your fridge or freezer, how can you make sure you’re cooking and eating it while it’s still fresh?

These are important questions to ask. After all, the freshness of your seafood isn’t just a health and safety precaution—freshness affects the flavor of your product as well as the nutritional value you’ll get from it.

Here are a few ways you can make sure you’re buying, storing, and cooking only fresh seafood in your own home.

Use Your Senses When Buying Product
It might be tough to eyeball a fish and know when it was caught if you didn’t land it yourself, but there are a number of ways you can check the available product at your local market to make sure it’s fresh.

For whole fish, make sure the eyes are clear and bulging, and look for bright red gills and shiny flesh. Make sure individual filets aren’t dark or dry around the edges, and watch out for green or yellow discoloration. Make sure the product is not dry or mushy. Avoid any product that smells fishy and not mild. Check the packaging to make sure it’s not torn open or above the frost line. And for peak freshness, make sure the product is being kept on a thick bed of unmelted ice.

As for blue crabs and oysters, make sure you’re buying this product live! Both of these species will spoil very quickly, so make sure the crabs are still moving and the oyster shells are still closed.

Ask Your Seafood Dealer About the Product
Many seafood dealers will identify their product by country, or state if it’s domestic. But if the product is unlabeled, you know what to do: Always ask, never settle.

Some seafood markets even work with traceability programs that can pinpoint when and where the product was caught, but don’t get too hung up on those details. Location matters, of course, but how the fish was caught and handled has more of an effect on the freshness than how long it’s been out of the water. In fact, fresh-caught fish need 12-24 hours before they can be cooked and eaten because of stiff muscles due to rigor mortis. Additionally, some smaller fishing boats will be gone for a few days at a time, and they may flash-freeze their catches (which isn’t actually a bad thing in terms of freshness).

Properly Refrigerate and Freeze Your Product
Once you’ve determined that you’re buying fresh product at your local market, it’s up to you to properly store it at home until it’s time to cook and eat.If you’ve picked up Gulf fish and shrimp, you’ve got about a 48-hour window to keep them in your refrigerator before they start to lose freshness. At that point, you’ll need to store them properly and keep them in the freezer until you’re almost ready to cook. (For tips on storing and stocking Alabama Gulf Seafood, check out our six tips for freezing your product.)

Remember, your filets and your shrimp will need time to dethaw before you can cook ‘em. Thaw your product overnight in the fridge, or if you’re short on time, run your product in cold water. (Don’t leave your product out to thaw at room temperature.)

Properly Store Your Deep Sea Catches
If you’re catching your own seafood to cook and eat, we salute you. We would also recommend properly storing those catches so you can keep them fresh.

As soon as you reel in a species worth eating, make sure you immediately transfer it to a cooler packed with ice. And if you’re able to, store that cooler in the shade to keep the ice from melting, and drain the melted ice periodically so the texture of the fish isn’t affected. You’ll want to fillet and clean your catches sooner rather than later as well; in fact, if you’ve got a vacuum sealer, bring it with you and clean and pack them at the docks, then ice them down for the trip home. (For tips on proper maintenance, check out our tips for freezing your deep-sea catches.)

And remember, if you catch a fish in the morning, make sure you give it at least 12 hours before you cook it so the muscles can relax. It’ll be just as fresh tomorrow if you store it properly!

I Love Water – and Clarks Hill Is My Heaven

I have always loved water. From Dearing Branch, where I could jump across most sections, to 72,000-acre Clarks Hill, everything from branches, ponds, rivers and lakes have drawn me. 

    Clarks Hill was my “heaven on earth,” from the earliest camping trip there with the RA church group to my many fishing trips there as an adult. I fished my first tournament there in April, 1974 and the Sportsman Club has been back every year since then, including this year.  When I found out the dam was started in 1950, my birthyear, I just knew it was built just for me!

    The RAs camped a couple of times a year at “The Cliffs,” a ditch that ran back a couple hundred feet from the lake.  The edges were ten feet above the water, and we could never touch bottom when swimming in it. After I got a depthfinder I found out it was about 18 feet deep.

    We would pitch our tents on the bank along the ditch, build fires and cook our meals. After dark we would put out our lines for catfish.  I will never forget the time I took a quart jar of chicken livers and gizzards and left it out in the sun.  I was sure the smell that almost made me sick would attract catfish, but apparently, they though it was as awful as I did.

    We boys would stay up as late as we could, but invariably we would go to sleep, only to awake to the adults still talking quietly by the fire, watching their rods.  And after waking it was time to fry bacon, scramble eggs and toast bread on the open fire.

    Daddy joined Raysville Boat Club when I was 16.  Five years earlier, Mr. Hugh took me water skiing for the first time and I fell in love with it.  About three years later Harold’s family bought a ski boat and I got to drive it. I will never forget the feeling freedom that went over me that day.

    When daddy joined the boat club, he also bought a 17-foot Larson with a 120 HP Mercruiser outdrive motor.  It was a great ski boat and I spend untold hours both driving it pulling skiers and behind it skiing. I got pretty good slaloming and even skiing on trick skis and foot skis. But as hard as I tried, I never could ski barefoot.

    We also fished from that boat for bass, crappie, catfish and bream.  Daddy and I ran baskets for a few years and kept our freezer full of fish. Then we discovered spring crappie fishing and I spent hundreds of hours in that boat with mama and daddy, pulling in fish after fish and filling out limits.

    Linda and I met on a blind date at a fraternity party and, although we didn’t really hit it off, I invited her to go to the lake with me and go skiing. She turned me down. But a few weeks later we happened to have dinner together and really clicked. I again asked her to go skiing and she accepted.

    We did ski that weekend, but we also fished some.  I think that is what convinced me she was the right one. It has worked out pretty good, our 49 anniversary is this month!

    At the end of our first year of marriage we spent the month of August at the trailer at the boat club.  I would get up early and go out in the Larson, trying to cast for bass but mostly trolling. I would come in for lunch, stay in the cool trailer until late afternoon then Linda would go out with me in the more comfortable afternoon.

    One day at lunch when my parents joined us, I said I wanted to catch a 12-pound bass to have mounted. Daddy kinda laughed and said if I did he would have it mounted for me.  Linda said how about her, and daddy said if you catch an eight pounder I will have it mounted.

I found a long, shallow point where I caught a three-pound bass on a Hellbender one morning, one of the only deep diving “plugs” back then.  We had no depthfinder but I could tell how the point came up shallow and then dropped off by the action of the plug bumping bottom.

That afternoon Linda went out with me. I was trolling a chrome Hellbender and Linda a blue one.  We went over the point and Linda’s rod bowed up. At first I thought she was hung, then a huge bass jumped.  It jumped three more times before she landed it.

On my hand-held scales it weighed eight pounds, ten ounces and we confirmed that at the marina!  When daddy saw it I am not sure who beamed more, Linda, him or me.  And daddy had it mounted, I am looking at it right now, hanging on the wall with that blue Hellbender in its mouth.

I still have not caught that 12 pounder!

I have so many more memories from Clarks Hill they almost overwhelm me when reminiscing.   

Great American Outdoors Act Going to the President

President Trump signed it after this was posted.
Jim Shepherd
from The Fishing Wire

“We’re pretty confident we easily have the votes,” one outdoor organization’s CEO told me, adding, “it’s curious that it’s mostly western Republicans who don’t like the LWCF. Gulf States members – again primarily R’s- don’t think they get enough of a local deal since the money comes from offshore oil and gas, the fiscal conservatives will all vote no.”

To me that conversation didn’t sound negative, but it was a realistic view of what should and did happen. Shortly after our conversation, the U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly (310 to 107) to finally approve the Great American Outdoors Act.

Passage means that after ten years of work, President Trump’s signature is all that lies between the continued decline of our national public lands and the allocation of sufficient federal funds to repair most of the critically shaky infrastructure that supports those precious public lands.

Technically, H.R. 7092 “establishes the National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund to support deferred maintenance projects on federal lands.”It also makes funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) permanent. The net/net is that the National Park Service, the Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Indian Education will get the funding for projects that have been deferred due to a shortage of funds.

As I’ve written before, it required ten years of legislative work by conservation groups, and represents a huge step toward taking care of our public lands going forward.In fact, I’ve learned that before some pretty strong lobbying President Trump was set to strip virtually all funding from the LWCF. That was before he met with conservation leaders and Congressional proponents.

They were successful in showing him the measure wasn’t just important, it was crucial.

In response, the President tweeted this on March 3: “I am calling on Congress to send me a Bill that fully and permanently funds the LWCF and restores our National Parks. When I sign it into law it will be HISTORIC for all our beautiful public lands.”He’s not the slightest bit disinclined to sign the bill. And that is one tweet that’s not any overstatement. Permanent funding means managers can finally create workable budgets, based on the assumption that the monies will be there.

In praising the passage, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said “In March, President Trump called on Congress to stop kicking the can down the road, fix the aging infrastructure at our national parks and permanently fund conservation projects through the Land and Water Conservation Fund. He accomplished what previous Presidents have failed to do for decades, despite their lip service commitment to funding public land improvements.”

It is truly one of the most non-partisan measures to pass Congress in some time.

Last year, the National Park Service had 327 million visitors. They generated an economic impact estimated at $41 billion dollars. That supported 340,000 jobs. Granted, COVID-19 severely reduced visitation for the past few months, but as we all realize, the outdoors remains one of the safest options for everything from recreation to solitude.

Soon, the more than 5,500 miles of paved roads, 17,000 miles of trails and 24,000 buildings that comprise our National Parks can get some much-needed repair, making them even more alluring -and safe- for visitors.

And as the National Park traffic increases, businesses nearby see increases in traffic as well. It’s an economic engine that benefits everyone.

But we all know being outside cures a lot of the problems with our insides, don’t we?

We’ll keep you posted.

Growing Up Wild On Dearing Branch

    Dearing Branch was one of the great joys of my youth.  From the fence on the north side of our farm where it entered to the pipe under Iron Hill Road where it left our property, it ran about three quarters of mile.

    I explored, played, hunted and fished the branch on our neighbor’s property on either side, too, but the section on our farm was my special heaven.  I knew every foot of it, from the shallow sandy area where we built a swimming hole to the deep cut bank with an overhanging stump where I caught bream.

    Near the north fence line, the ground was sandy and the branch wide and shallow. It narrowed to go between two trees, a perfect place for a dam. And we dammed it every summer, filling croker sacks with sand dug from the bottom and placed between the two trees and on either side of them. 

    By digging out a lot of sand and making a good dam, we created a swimming hole about chest deep on a ten-year-old.  We skinny dipped there on hot summer days, then stood around on the bank in the sun until we dried enough to put on our clothes. Shoes were not problem; we never wore them in the summer.

    The swimming hole lasted until the first good thunderstorm, when rushing water washed away our best efforts. One summer we got the bright idea that an old crosstie placed in front of the trees, then filled in with sandbags, would stop it from washing away.

    Three boys never labored as hard to do anything as we did dragging that crosstie a few hundred yards. Those things are heavy.  And it worked great, for a short time. Even though they are very heavy, we found out rushing water can turn a crosstie sideways and wash away the sandbags.

    I fished for many hours on the branch. I read outdoor magazines, and thought I could tie flies to catch branch fish like the folks I read about tied them to catch stream trout.

    My flies were tied on small bream hooks with mama’s sewing thread. I used chicken feathers, we had plenty.  But my creations looked nothing like what was in the magazine. They were way too big, bulky and a wadded mess.

    But when tied to a short length of fishing line on a stick from the branch bank, and dabbled on top of the water just right, a bream or what I called horny heads would hit them.  The horny heads were long and skinny, and had knots on their heads.

    When I say long, I mean three inches long. And bream were about the same size.  We knew there were small mud cats in the branch, we caught them by hand during dry summers when the branch dried up except for a few deep holes. Every fish in the area went to those holes, where they quickly used up so much oxygen the fish would swim on top and we could scoop them up.

    I hunted squirrels and rabbits up and down the branch, and one time jumped a duck.  I spent many hours the next few years trying to find another one without any success. I also hunted snipe and killed a couple. Yes, there really are such a bird and they are related to their northern cousins the woodcock.

    One winter the pool right at the Iron Hill Road pipe froze over, and I “ice skated” on its ten foot by ten-foot surface until I broke though.  Luckily, the water was only two feet deep, but my feet in my boots were freezing by the time I ran back to the house!

    Branches create great memories.

Old Lures Copied To Catch Bass

By Frank Sargeant, Editor

What’s old is new again with a couple of true classic lures reincarnated by PRADCO and released as part of the July virtual ICAST.

The Jitterbug from Arbogast, with the identifying metal cup on the nose, has been around since the early 1940’s, while the company says the equally odd-looking Heddon Slopenose originated in about 1902—it was the first commercially-produced lure developed by legendary lure designer James Heddon, according to the company.Of course the modern versions of the lures have some significant upgrades, including durable synthetic bodies, complex multi-coat paint-jobs and upgraded ultra-sharp treble hooks. But the original action and shape are still there in each.

The Slopenose is designed to perform as something between a popper and a stickbait. The weird-looking collar acts to catch water and make a satisfying splash when jerked, a plus for aggressive schooling bass, and it can be bobbed up and down in place to fool more cautious bass in flat water situations.

This is not a lure that pops easily like a Rebel Pop-R, however. It takes a bit of a touch, but with just a little practice it’s possible to make it dance in place while fluttering and splashing—the bass in my Alabama home lake loved it. Best action came from three short hard twitches, followed by a 10 second rest, then three more, etc.

This lure also looks like it has some serious saltwater possibilities for lunker trout and snook in the surf, and big redfish around the jetties–I’ll be trying that this fall if all goes well.

The new Jointed Jitterbug 2.0 not only has a wobbling jointed tail section, but also a large feathered treble as the tail hook. The thing comes across the surface much like a buzzbait, with a classic “bobbling” sound that identifies this iconic lure. However, the Jitterbug has the advantage of being a floater—you can stop and pop it in place now and then, adding to the attraction. The long feathered tail makes a sinuous aft wake behind—the thing looks a bit like a small water snake on the move.

The lure is offered in cool-looking crackle-paint patterns, and has an anodized aluminum headplate—the lure won’t corrode when used in brackish water.I note that keeping the lure bobbling requires positioning the rod tip just above water level—raise it up and the lure loses traction—and fish appeal. Otherwise, it’s a very easy lure to fish, good for the kids to learn topwater fishing. It doesn’t take the line control or the timing of a topwater twitchbait.

You can see more on both these PRADCO brands at www.lurenet.com.While we’re on a topwater roll, check out the new Choppo from Berkley.

This one also qualifies as a weird-looking lure, but it’s a modern invention.

The separate tail has an off-center fin or blade that rotates as the lure is cranked. This causes the whole tail section to rotate, creating a “plop-plop-plop” sound not unlike that produced by the Jitterbug, above, and with similar fish-attracting possibilities.The Choppo shape is more shad-like, so it works well around bass busting bait schools on top as well as over shallow grass and around shoreline cover. It comes in three sizes, with the 90 mm ½ ounce version a favorite for spotted bass and smallmouths, the larger 105 and 120 mm versions usually best for largemouths. The 120 is also a good wake bait for striped bass in cooler weather when the fish go shallow chasing shad.

All three sizes also can function as topwater jerkbaits, with plenty of splash when twitched along steadily. As with all topwaters, the action is brought out best with no-stretch braided line and a fast-action rod.

All of these lures have the new Berkley Fusion 19 trebles, some of the sharpest, “stickiest” hooks on the market. See more at www.berkley-fishing.com.

Club tournament at Guntersville in July

July 25 and 26, seven members of the Spalding County Sportsman Club braved the heat and high school fishermen at Guntersville for our July tournament. We landed 23 15-inch keeper largemouth weighing about 57 pounds in 16 hours of casting.  One person had a five-fish limit – both days – and there were two fishermen without a keeper.

    Raymond English caught ten keepers weighing 26.71 pounds – almost as much as the rest of the club put together, for first place. Kwong Yu had four keepers weighing 12.52 pounds for second and big fish with a 5.74 pounder.

Zane Fleck placed third with three at 7.10 pounds.  Although my gas motor locked up before daylight Saturday and it took me five hours on the trolling motor to get back to the ramp, my three weighing 6.28 pounds was fourth.  Jay Gerson had three at 6.19 pounds for fifth.

New World Record Paddlefish

Cody James Watters of Ochelata, with help from son Stetson, 9, holds his rod-and-reel world-record paddlefish that he snagged July 23 at Keystone Lake. (Photo by Eric Brennan/ODWC
A new world-record paddlefish has again been pulled from Keystone Lake near Tulsa, less than a month after the previous world record was snagged in the same lake by a client of the same fishing guide.

Angler Cody James Watters of Ochelata is the newest owner of the rod-and-reel world-record title, after snagging a 151-pound, 14.4-ounce giant Thursday morning. He and his son Stetson, 9, were fishing as clients of guide Jeremiah Mefford of Reel Good Time Guide Service.

Not only did the fish prove to be the new world record for the species, but it also had a very interesting backstory to tell, said Eric Brennan, Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation Northeast Region Fisheries technician.

Mefford called Fisheries Division staff about 10:20 a.m., saying he believed his client had just broken the current world and state paddlefish record.

Fisheries staff rushed to meet the angler at Keystone Lake. Once there, they began measuring the monster. “It weighed 151.9 pounds, had a total length of 71.5 inches, and eye-to-fork length of 54.75 inches,” Brennan said. (The standard scientific method of measuring a paddlefish’s length is the distance from the eye to the fork of the tail.)

Watters wasted no time sharing his accomplishment on social media.

“I’m excited and blessed to catch a fish this big. Bonus having the son there to witness this day. Thank you ODWC!” Watters wrote.What’s more, the paddlefish had been caught in the past — as part of a research project. The fish had a band on its jaw. Once the fish was officially weighed, Brennan examined the band and “noticed it wasn’t one of our bands. It had an OSU reward tag in it.

”The band, identified as No. 667, was in poor condition and was collected by ODWC, then the fish was released in good shape.

“We only had the fish out of the water for the shortest time possible, about three minutes total. Other than that, we kept the fish moving in the water. It was a perfect release,” Watters wrote.

Brennan confirmed that upon its release, the fish was followed using Live Scope sonar and it appeared to be healthy and swimming well.

Later, a follow-up call to Oklahoma State University turned up information that the paddlefish was indeed part of research efforts by Craig Paukert, then a graduate student and currently a professor at the University of Missouri. Records indicate the fish was caught and banded in the Salt Creek arm of Keystone Lake on Jan. 4, 1997. When banded, this fish was about 2 years old, weighed 7.7 pounds and was about 2 feet long.

So this world-record fish is about 25 years old!

Wildlife Department Paddlefish Coordinator Brandon Brown participated in Paukert’s paddlefish banding efforts in the mid-1990s at Keystone Lake. When Paukert heard the news, he contacted Brown. Paukert told Brown, “It’s possible you may have tagged this fish while working with me way back when!”

The news was exciting to Paukert. “This made my day! So, I guess this means that I caught the world-record paddlefish, but I didn’t realize it until 23 years later!”

On ODWC’s Facebook page, Paukert shared some details with Watters. “I was the last person to handle that fish about 14 years before your son was born! This was part of my grad research at OSU. The fish most likely came from a net we set between the Jellystone Launch and the Keystone Marina north of the (State Highway) 51 bridge. … It was common to set nets across the river channels.

“What made my day is hearing his son was with him today. Great story all the way around in a time when we need great stories. Wish I could have been there so we could have a pic with the last two people to touch that fish — 23 years apart!”

Watters’ paddlefish will become the officially recognized rod-and-reel world record for the species when it is entered in scientific journals by ODWC biologists. This record fish is just the latest in a string of actual or would-be record-setting paddlefish snagged at Keystone this year:

On June 28, James Lukehart of Edmond snagged a world-record-setting 146.7-pound paddlefish, also while fishing with Mefford.
On May 23, Mefford himself hauled in a 143-pound paddlefish at Keystone, setting a new state record but missing the then-world record by just a pound.

On Feb. 14, Justin Hamlin of Kellyville boated a paddlefish that unofficially weighed 157 pounds, but the fish had to be immediately released because it was caught on a “no harvest” day as set in state regulations. 

The largest American paddlefish on record, taken by a spearfisherman in Iowa in 1916, reportedly weighed 198 pounds.

The paddlefish is a primitive species, with a fossil record dating to the age of the dinosaurs about 75 million years ago. Resembling a shark, it has smooth skin and a skeleton mostly of cartilage.

A long paddle-like blade, called a rostrum, extends forward from the fish’s head. The rostrum is covered with tens of thousands of sensory receptors that enable the fish to detect weak electrical fields produced by zooplankton, its primary food. The American paddlefish roams lakes and rivers of the Mississippi and Missouri basins. Paddlefish were once very abundant across their range but have declined in many areas. These fish can live up to 30 years, and they can grow to huge sizes

.Oklahoma’s paddlefish population is seen as among the healthiest in the nation, and the sport of snagging paddlefish draws anglers from many states. The Wildlife Department’s paddlefish management program involves an extensive process of netting, weighing, measuring and marking paddlefish with metal bands on the lower jaw. For several months every year, the Department operates a Paddlefish Research Center near Miami, Okla.

Anglers wanting to experience battling these large fish are required to have a state fishing license (unless exempt) and a free paddlefish permit. Regulations for paddlefish snagging can be found here in the Oklahoma Fishing Regulations Guide.

And anyone wanting to arrange a guided paddlefish trip can find a list of state-licensed fishing guides here on the Wildlife Department’s website.

Shooting Birds and Picking Cotton To Earn Money

    A question popular on “Fazebook” got me thinking about earning money growing up. A couple of weeks ago I started seeing the question “Have you ever picked cotton?” often.

    Yes, I have – one time when I was about 12 years old.  A friend’s family had a big farm and grew cotton.  One weekend while visiting we decided to earn some money by helping pick cotton.  We got our long bags and went out into the hot field early in the morning.

    I admit we played as much as we picked.  And we quit at noon, going in for lunch and deciding that was not a fun way to earn money. I don’t remember how much was paid for picking cotton, I think it was about 25 cents per hundred pounds. If I remember right, I earned a whole dime that half day I “worked.”

    A money earning “job” I had that I really enjoyed for years would probably make bird watchers and animal rights fanatics go crazy now. It was protecting our pecan trees. 

We had five big pecan trees and not only sold the nuts for a little extra farm income; we shelled and ate fresh nuts every way from raw to parched to pies and on cakes. And we froze many pounds for use until the next crop.

    Blue jays and crows liked pecans as much as we did and could eat enough each day to hurt our harvest.  From the time I got my first BB gun at six years old until I went off to college, daddy paid me a dime for every blue jay and a quarter for every crow I could kill.

    Blue jays were fairly easy to kill and on a good Saturday I often earned a dollar.  Crows were not easy.  I would get up at dawn and sit in a bush near one of the pecan trees with my .410, only to miss the crow as it flew off.  They always saw me raise my gun no matter how careful and slowly I tried to sight in on them sitting on a limb. I can remember killing only three in all the years I tried!

    I could get my bounty year-round, and my standard fee for blowing up a nest with eggs was 50 cents since five eggs were average. After killing the adult near the nest, there was no way to count the eggs after shooting up the nest. If there were baby birds in it, I could usually find and count them. I realized later in life daddy trusted me completely to tell him the truth about how many I killed, a small thing but I am sure it helped me realized the importance of being honest.

    While leaves were on the trees blue jays were harder to see and shoot, but I got pretty good at it.  With bare limbs, it was easy to spot the patch of blue but much harder to get close enough for a shot.  They could see me as well as I could see them.

    I wonder if kids have fun ways to earn money now?

Submerged Aquatic Vegetation

Vegetation in the water makes fish heaven. Will Parson/Chesapeake Bay Program
NOAA Fisheries reminds us that submerged aquatic vegetation is one of the most productive fish habitats on earth.

Imagine this: you’re swimming at your favorite beach and you feel something slide across your foot. You panic, but only for a moment, because you realize that what you were touching was just a long, spindly water plant. Sure, you may have seen such plants washed up on beaches, or maybe you have removed it from a boat as you left the water for the day.

But have you ever stopped to think about what these plants actually do? It turns out, they actually support an entire ecosystem under the water! The term used for a rooted aquatic plant that grows completely under water is submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV). These plants occur in both freshwater and saltwater but in estuaries, where fresh and saltwater mix together, they can be an especially important habitat for fish, crabs, and other aquatic organisms.

SAV is a great habitat for fish, including commercially important species, because it provides them with a place to hide from predators and it hosts a buffet of small invertebrates and other prey. They essentially form a canopy, much like that of a forest but underwater. Burrowing organisms, like clams and worms, live in the sediments among the roots, while fish and crabs hide among the shoots and leaves, and ducks graze from above. It has been estimated that a single acre of SAV can be home to as many as 40,000 fish and 50 million small invertebrates! SAV in the Chesapeake Bay. Credit: Maryland Department of Natural Resources

SAV in the Chesapeake BayOne of the places we work to protect these aquatic plants—and other habitats important for fish)—is in the Chesapeake Bay (Maryland and Virginia). The Bay is home to several different species of SAV. They live in the relatively freshwaters near the head of the Bay and down to its mouth, which is as salty as the ocean. Approximately 90 percent of the historical extent of SAV disappeared around the mid-20th century due to poor water quality, coastal development activities, and disease.

Since then, there have been major efforts to reduce pollution to the bay and help SAV reestablishin areas where it was historically found. We regularly work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to ensure that coastal projects avoid damaging this important habitat. For example, the Corps might propose to issue a permit to a private landowner to build a structure such as a pier or breakwater in SAV. We would then make recommendations to avoid these areas.

If the areas are unavoidable, we advocate for different construction approaches to minimize impacts such as shading or filling.Dead Zones Giving You Heartburn? Have an Antacid!One amazing recent finding is that SAV actually changes the acidity of near-shore waters. A recent study in the journal Naturedescribes this phenomenon in the Chesapeake Bay. SAV located at the head of the bay reduces the acidity of water in areas downstream. Areas of low oxygen form when carbon dioxide gas is released by fish, bacteria, and other aquatic organisms. As they respire, or breathe, they take up oxygen and release carbon dioxide as part of normal biological operation.

These “dead zones” are areas with oxygen levels below what is necessary to support fish, shellfish, and other aquatic life.During the warm summer months in the Chesapeake Bay, there are many aquatic organisms respiring. This results in much of the available oxygen being consumed and leaving an excess of dissolved carbon dioxide. Another effect of all this carbon dioxide is that parts of the Bay become more acidic. This is stressful for many organisms especially those with shells like oysters and mussels. That’s where SAV comes in.

During the growing season, SAV absorbs dissolved carbon dioxide. With help from the sun’s rays, they turn that carbon into leaves, shoots, and roots much like other plants. In the process, oxygen is released into the water, as well as small crystals of calcium carbonate. They essentially behave as antacids as they flow into acidic waters downstream. This is a great example of how conservation of one resource can have cascading effects. SAV carbon filtration benefits commercial fisheries such as oyster aquaculture and, ultimately, the entire Chesapeake Bay ecosystem. SAV growing in shallow water near Havre de Grace, MD. Credit: Will Parson/Chesapeake Bay Program

SAV as a Carbon SpongeIncreasing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere is also a major contributing factor in global climate change. There is a lot of interest in harnessing the power of our natural biological environment to soak up this excess carbon. SAV is an important piece in this puzzle. Aquatic plants are highly productive, which means they absorb a lot of carbon dioxide. The carbon captured by these plants has been termed “blue carbon” since it primarily occurs in the water. 

Blue carbon has been receiving a lot of attention lately as scientists have discovered that aquatic plants are very efficient at storing carbon in sediments. They also keep it there over long periods of time. Studies have estimated that underwater grasses globally can store approximately 10 percent of the carbon in the entire ocean in the form of rich aquatic soils. Ultimately, this means that efforts to protect and restore SAV can also help to reduce the effects of climate change.

Take a Second Look at SAVMaybe next time you feel a spindly plant brush your foot in the water, you won’t run away. Instead, dive down and see what critters may be hiding among the underwater grasses! You might be surprised to find a crab lumbering through the stems or school of young fish cruising through the green leaves.