Monday, April 25, 2011

An Easter Sunday Catfish Bonanza - April 24, 2011

I wasn't planning on hitting the water this past Sunday, but Mary May convinced me otherwise. Not long after we got up, she mentioned wanting to do some catfishing. I had a couple small tubs of chicken livers in the freezer, so I figured why not. After all, it was Easter, and what better way to spend it than in the great outdoors.

After getting our rods set-up we hit the lake. I am by no means a catfish expert, but I will tell you the rig I like to use. I typically use a 1/2 oz to 1 1/2 oz sinker (either barrel or bullet shaped) above a swivel, just like a carolina rig. Then I leave 18"-24" of line and tie on a decent size hook - somewhere in the 2/0 to 4/0 range. I tend to use circle hooks to help prevent the fish from swallowing the hook. Unless I am chasing really big cats, I just rig everything on bass gear with 8lb to 16 lb test.

We hit the lake and found the wind to be swirling. It wasn't as strong as our last trip, but it kept changing directions, which made it difficult to set-up drifts. In our first spot I caught a decent 2-3 lb mud cat. But the wind was getting on our nerves, so we headed across the lake to a small cove with a wind swept point nearby.

We got set-up in the cove and threw toward the wind blown point. Within minutes - bam - fish on. It was a solid channel cat. On my next cast I thought I saw a small bite and all of a sudden saw my line scream sideways. It was a big cat who was pulling drag. After a great fight that gave me a mini-sleigh ride I got him to the boat. Honestly, I am not 100% sure what type of catfish it was, although I believe it was a blue cat, but he was a beast!

For the next few hours we caught catfish after catfish. Some were small, but most were at least decent size. A mix of channels and mud cats, they kept us busy. We had quite a few "doubles" and a few "triples". And although we were releasing a lot of fish, we put a few on the stringer as well. Finally, I got another good strike. This fish absolutely clobbered my liver and took off - pulling my Coosa with it. I brought her to boatside and saw her monster head. After a brief struggle to lip her, I got her in the boat. Her jaw force was amazing as she clamped down on my already sore thumb. Thankfully I held onto her and got a few pictures.

Next, Mary May set-up on a point and saw her line take off. It seems like the big cats were hitting and running. He rod was doubled over and drag was peeling. Then the fish turned and ran hard under the boat. In an effort to stop it, she cranked down hard on the reel. With little line out the line rubbed on the kayak and in a frantic effort to land the fish her line snapped. The fish lie there for a few seconds, obviously tired, and she got a quick grab of his tail. Unfortunately, that was all he needed to return to the depths. We estimated the fish in the 12-15 lb class. It was an absolutely heart breaking moment as it would have been her biggest fish ever. It also marked the second time this year that she lost a giant fish.

At the point we were pretty much out of livers and were about as sunburnt as we cared to be. So, we headed for the shore with thoughts of the one that got away, but also the nice fish on our stringers.

It was a great Easter and the fish made for a tasty Easter dinner, albeit a very southern Easter dinner. Mary May also got a lesson in filleting and cleaning fish - a skill that she picked up pretty quickly.

I know we are both eager to get out on the lake and chase down some more cats - and maybe a giant or two. I think I may do some reading on how to catch bigger catfish, because I suspect some larger ones live in this lake. Not to mention I am sure most experienced catfishermen reading this blog are laughing at my definition of "big catfish" right now. Next time some cut bait and baby bream may be along for the ride! Until then, tight lines!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

An Awesome Mixed Bag on the Lake (with video!) - April 18, 2011

I had the itch! Everyone was giving reports of females starting to move shallow and fish biting like crazy. I knew I could only read so many reports on internet message boards before cabin fever would set in. Mary May was equally stir-crazy since she has been studying like a mad-woman for her nursing exams. So, yesterday afternoon we decided to hit the lake and enjoy the beautiful weather.

I have been scoping this lake out lately and was eager to try it. We got our gear set-up and hit the water running...err...paddling around 1:45 PM. The wind was whipping pretty good, with some gusts pushing 20 MPH. It made fishing plastics, which were our primary baits, rather difficult. We both started with Deep Creek Lures Sink & Catch worms in green/brown colors. I also had a Deep Creek Flutter Worm, R&S Baits Spinnerbaits, and Strike King Red Eye Shad tied on.

Immediately, we both noticed that the shoreline was loaded with panfish. The small bream were attempting to eat our plastic worms - with little luck. Finally, I got a slightly better bite, albeit very slight. It was about a 10" bass that I hauled from under a dock. He made it about half way to the boat before spitting the hook. It wasn't much of a start, but it was a start. We let the wind continue to blow us down the bank, but gusts were blowing us very fast, making fishing quite difficult. Just before we ducked for cover into a cove I decided to throw one last cast to some shoreline cover. I moved the bait a few times and then it got hammered. I saw what looked like a pale colored bass hit the bait and run hard sideways. But, after I stood I realized the fish was actually a big crappie. I brought her to boatside and put her on the stringer. At 14.5", she would make a fine meal, even if she wasn't the target species.

After paddling across the lake, and getting wind blasted along the way, we pulled up to a shoreline and started casting. It looked like a great spawning area, but I wasn't spotting any fish on beds. After about 10-15 minutes I heard splashing and looked over to see Mary May hooked up with a nice bass. She wrangled him into the boat and I paddled over to get some pictures. He was incredibly thick and weighed a solid 3 lbs....her new personal best largemouth!

We kept fishing and getting blown around before finally coming to another cove where we were semi-sheltered from the wind. I lost a small bass near a rock pile and was getting a lot of bites from bream. Finally, I skipped my bait under a large dock and it got hit hard. The fish nailed the Sink & Catch worm and headed for deep water. He fought like a truck and I eventually got him to the Coosa. He weighed in at 4.5 lbs and was a gorgeous fish...for a largemouth anyway.

I ended up with two more nice bass - 4 lbs and 3.5 lbs - and lost another in the 3.5 lb range. All were caught in the same general area on Deep Creek worms. After fishing a little longer we were getting absolutely blasted across the lake. So, we headed across the lake to a small cove tucked out of the wind. I threw my worm out near a rocky area. I felt a "tap, tap, tap" and knew it felt a little different. At first I assumed it was another bluegill, but then it started pulling hard. I set the hook and a short time later saw the blueish tint of a channel cat surface near my yak. He looked as if he had swallowed a baseball and what he lacked in length he made up for in girth. Not two minutes later I looked over to see Mary May's rod doubled over. She had hooked her own channel cat, which hammered her spinnerbait on the fall. Her fish was a little longer and also quite fat. Both cats were welcome additions to the stringer.

Check out the video I put together, shot with the GoPro Hero HD:

At that point we had to call it a day. After 4 hours we had managed an awesome mixed bag on a lake that was new to us both in some pretty tough conditions. I can't wait to go back on a calmer day. Later that night we breaded and fried the is fried catfish tasty (my mouth is watering right now)! I hope everyone is out there enjoying the weather as much as possible and putting fish in the boat to boot! Until next time, tight lines!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Deep Creek Lures Flutter Worm Review on Falls Lake, NC - April 2011

Today I met up with good friend Danny "DANNYBOY" Morales. Danny is one of those guys who you can tell loves kayak fishing. He is constantly smiling, laughing, joking, and just having a ball on the water. We have been trying to hook up to fish and I was excited when an opportunity arose to head down to one of his favorite areas of Falls Lake.

I knew going in that the males were shallow and very aggresive, so I decided that I wanted to work on two things for the day - fishing a shakey head and a jig. It turns out I didn't fish the jig all that much, but did land 2 fish on a Strike King Bitsy Flip with a trimmed Deep Creek Lures Floating Flippin Crawdad trailer. I also fished with the Deep Creek Sink & Catch worm.

Deep Creek Lures - the best way to have your house or car smelling like super secret garlic sauce!

After trying an R&S Baits Chatterbuzz buzzbait with no luck (because who doesn't love an early morning topwater strike), I went to work with the Sink & Catch worm and the new Deep Creek Flutter Worm rigged on a shakey head. The Sink & Catch style of bait was recommended in this part of the lake and sure enough, it produced a few fish early. Then my bite seemed to die down, so I picked up the Flutter Worm and started meticulously fishing it around laydowns, rocks, and drop-offs. It didn't take long before I landed my first bass off of a large boulder. I spotted the underwater boulder while standing in my Coosa - man I love that boat!

An average size Falls Lake bass for the day - around 13"-14"

Then I stopped to shed a few layers and got a good look at the Flutter Worm in shallow water. It looked dangerously good and sure enough, it caught 3 more fish by the time I left that cove. I then returned to the main lake and fished some blow downs. I didn't get a bite there, so I headed back to a cove with a creek feeding it. It didn't take long before I had 3 more fish on the Flutter Worm - two of which crushed it on the fall. I had to re-tie, so I tried texas-rigging the Flutter Worm. Like clockwork, fish were crushing it around logs and stumps and I quickly racked up another 8 fish.

Looks good enough to eat!

At that point, it was time to call it a day and I managed one more fish on a Sink & Catch before heading for home. It was a great day - landing 18 bass in total (although no pigs). Danny and his friend Joey also put quite a few bass in their yaks.

The Flutter Worm is certainly going to be a mainstay in my arsenal of soft plastics. Half lizard-half worm, it looks great in the water no matter how you rig it. In fact, I think it would be very effective rigged with a small peg weight inserted into the upper section. It is also very durable - I only used one all day! Next, it may have to be put through it's paces hunting hawgs at Shearon Harris.

Check out the Deep Creek Lures website for all of their products - I personally recommend anything and everything they make. I actually don't think the Flutter Worm is on there yet, but you can call them and they will hook you up! Until next time, tight lines!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Video Blog: Spinnerbait Yak Bassin' at Falls Lake - April 7, 2011

I have been working a lot lately trying to both finish up my degree and work toward attaining a substantial grant for future funding. However, I was able to get away for a few hours last Thursday and chase some bass from the Coosa. I was still riding pretty high after my RiverBassin finish and thoughts of giants were haunting me.

Falls Lake had been calling my name for a while and I finally made it happen. I fished from about 9 AM to 12:15 PM and had some nice results - including a healthy 4 lb fish. I guess the true giants will have to wait until next time!

Also, as I mention below, I found out that my nephew Asher out in Wyoming is one of my biggest YouTube fans. Unfortunatley, I couldn't find a way to fit "The Wheels on the Bus" or "There's a Hole in the Bottom of the Sea" into the video blog, but Asher, I hope you enjoy it anyway!

I spent a lot of my day exploring even though I knew 2 areas where the fish would be concentrated. Sure enough, the exploring didn't really pay off and all my fish came from those two areas. Oh well...that's fishin'! I also wanted to get better at bass fishing out of the Coosa, so I was trying some different things that I don't always do. After all, I got the boat in December and haven't been able to do a ton of bass fishing from it. All in all, it was a successful trip and I am liking the boat more and more!

Until next time....tight lines!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

RiverBassin Tournament Trail: 2nd Place - A Great Way to Start the Season - Charlotte, NC - April 2, 2011

Saturday kicked off the 2011 RiverBassin Tournament Trail in Charlotte, NC. As the name suggests, the RiverBassin trail is all about catching black bass species in rivers and creeks. This year there are 10 stops in the Bedrock Series, with locations in NC, GA, AL, KY, TN, WI, AR, and VA. There is also an Everglades series and Texas Hill Country series for 2011. Last year I fished the Charlotte RiverBassin stop and ended up in 6th place. It was a frustrating day for me in which I couldn't catch a break. However, I did hold on for a respectable finish in a field of very talented anglers. That tournament was on a hot day in late June.

Now fast forward to last Monday. I signed up for the tournament and fellow RippinLip Outdoors pro-staffer Bill Kohls agreed to partner up to fish the team division. However, the weather looked bleak. Temperatures were supposed to be in the 40's with overnight lows in the 30's. On top of that, heavy rain was expected. Now, I am not always inclined to believe weather forecasters, but this week they were right on. By Thursday a lot of the local flows looked like chocolate milk and had very strong currents. I knew that my first few choices of rivers would be out of the picture. On Friday, April Fool's Day, I headed to Charlotte for the captain's meeting, but took some extra time so that I could detour and scout a few rivers along the way. I found one river that looked appealing and knew it may be a good stretch. However, I just wasn't sold and was trying to run all the scenarios through my head - especially because I knew that a few stretches of water out west would be fishing pretty well and have a lot of big fish.

I got to Bass Pro Shops and talked with Terry, an angler from Kentucky who has a yellow Coosa. I then met Bill and we wandered the aisles of BPS to pick up a few odds and ends. I saw a lot of familiar faces and a few guys who really know the rivers of North and South Carolina. I also got to talk with Drew Gregory for a bit before he got things started. After the meeting Bill and I dropped his car at a a friend's place in Charlotte so that he could pick it up after the tournament. Then we headed back to his place in Winston-Salem. We were discussing all of our options and finally, with the help of friend Chris Ferguson, we decided on a stretch of river that we thought would hold some fish. I am not going to disclose the name of the river, but it is located in central NC, right in the heart of the Piedmont.

Sporting my new GOPC Kayak Fishing Team member shirt at the weigh-in (Photo by Brian Cope)

We got back to Bill's and realized that he had forgotten his garage door opener. My initial reaction was - "so what". But then he explained to me that it could only be operated electrically and all of his fishing gear was inisde. I had agreed to let Bill use some of my gear, but he ended up asking Chris as well. Thankfully, Chris came through again and let Bill borrow some gear for the tourney. After that we spent a few hours night working on our RippinLip Outdoors video & drinking Bill's top secret bloody marys before finally crashing around 2 AM. I wasn't really tired before that anyway, as I rarely sleep more than 3 hours before tournaments - much like a kid at Christmas. We were up bright and early at 4:15 AM and on the road shortly after. The air temperature was 36 degrees and I was beginning to wonder if we would get a bite all day. We pulled up to our launch, unpacked the gear, and hit the water a little after 7 AM.

Ready to launch!

The water had a misty steam over it and looked beautiful. It was stained and visibly higher than normal, but it was fishable. I was armed with the usual suspects - Deep Creek Lures soft plastics, R&S Pro Assassinator Chatterbuzz spinnerbaits, a crankbait and a jig tied to Carolina Custom Rods. Finally, we got to a rocky area and rocks typically hold more heat than any other river feature. So we started throwing jigs, crankbaits, plastics, and just about everything else at that stretch without a bite - although I had something hit a crank that may have been a bass, but I am pretty sure was a stick or tree limb. Then I spotted an area with a large eddy. We both looked at each other and knew it should hold fish.

We beached the yaks and set-up to fish it. I waded out toward the middle and Bill stayed on shore. No sooner did he start casting then I look over and see Bill land a fish - a chunky bass on a crankbait. I came over to help him land it and get a few pics - after all this was his first kayak fishing tournament and first Catch-Photo-Release (CPR) tournament as well. He didn't really need my help as he was pretty much a natural. I waded back out and no sooner did I get to the middle he landed another. This time I gave a thumbs up and kept fishing.

I was excited that we now had half of our team limit and was ready to get a bite. I eventually tied on a Lucky Craft Pointer 78SP jerkbait and started slowly working it through the eddy. About 10 minutes later I got a good strike. I fought and landed a solid fish - 15 1/4". I was on the board and feeling good. After getting a few photos I waded back out and 15 minutes later I landed another solid fish - a 14 1/2" chunk that crushed the jerkbait right behind a rock ledge. The fish gave us a limit as a team and I was now only 1 fish away from an individual limit...and it was only 10 AM.

I started exploring the area a little more and fishing other eddies without any luck. Neither Bill, nor I were getting bit so we moved to other areas and let the large eddy rest. I was fishing a plastic around some logs when again I look over and see Bill with a fish. It was another crankbait fish for him and it gave us both a little more energy. We headed back down to the big eddy, but this time we couldn't garner a bite. So, we decided to paddle up-river to another rocky area we had seen on a map. We made the 1/3 mile paddle to find an incredibly windy section of river. I attempted to fish it for about 10 minutes before giving up as I was getting blasted. I turned the Coosa and started paddling like crazy to get back down river. I knew time was running out and I kept saying "never give up, never give up" as I went. After all, during my last outing with Bill I didn't catch a fish until we were about to put the boat on the trailer (see my last blog).

I got there, beached the yak, and started throwing the same jerkbait. On my second cast I nearly had the bait to the bank when - wham - I felt the strike of a good fish. She hit the bait on the move and headed straight for cover. I was able to fight her to shore and land her. The bass measured slightly over 17" and both gave me a limit and upgraded our total team limit. We fished a little longer and Bill landed one last crankbait fish - another just short of 14".

A hefty 3rd fish that would finish my limit

At this point it was about 1:15 PM. We both had limits and decided to head back to the car, stow the gear, and fish from shore until we had to leave. I paddled back to the launch area and ran to the car. I turned the key and...nothing. Again....nothing. The battery was dead and I am still not sure exactly why, although it may have been a GPS. Thankfully, Chris came through again for us and his wife made the drive to give us a much needed jump. All I could think about was how lucky we were, because had it been 2:30, we may not have made the weigh-in. We got the car started and packed our gear. A short time later, we were off to BPS-Charlotte. I got a text from the Carolina Yakfish guys on the way there. They had a tough day, but had managed one nice fish. I knew that meant others probably had rough days as well.

We got to Charlotte, checked in, and had our lengths confirmed. I had an individual total of 46 3/4" and Bill had an individual total of 40+". Our team total was 59 3/4". At that point, we just had to wait and see. We knew some guys got onto some fish and heard of quite a few nice fish being caught.

Bill and I with local pro Will Petty working on some video for RLO (Photo by RiverBassin Trail)

After eating some delicious BBQ and meatballs, taking some pictures, and visiting with other contestants it was time for the awards presentation to start. Drew G did a little trivia and then it was time to announce the team division winners. Bill and I were called to the stage along with two other teams. After 3 fish we were in 2nd place. They announced the last fish of the third place team, then our final fish. We were in 1st place and the last team needed about 10" to beat us. They had a brute, 21" bass that easily gave them 1st place and the victory. They both live in the Charlotte area and are good river bassers, so I wasn't too suprised to see their nice stringer - have to give them a big congrats. Coincidentally, they had fished a section of river I had strongly considered, but didn't want to make the long drive from Winston-Salem to fish. Bill and I were both really happy to have brought home the 2nd place finish for Team RippinLip Outdoors!

The top 3 teams, including Bill rocking his RippinLip Outdoors jersey (Photo by RiverBassin Trail)

Then came the individual competition and I was hoping to be in the top 8. It turns out, I saw my name and the name of two others listed on the screen to come up on stage. After 2 fish (of the 3 fish total) there was a three way tie. Drew G announced the 3rd fish of Brian Cope (turns out he does a lot of writing and has a new blog) - a healthy 15.75" bass. Next came my final fish - the 17 incher that gave me the lead. But, the last fish trumped them all. Eric Boyd's final fish was a 19 1/4" bass, giving him the victory by 2 inches. After saying some thank you's, he gave his grand prize - a new Jackson Coosa Elite, to his fishing partner and mentor Caja...awesome! Coincidentally, a few months ago I asked Eric if he wanted to partner up for this tourney, but he had already agreed to partner with Caja. He is a great guy and deserves a huge congrats! I hope to take him up on his recent invitation to chase smallies down in his neck of the woods.

Eric, Brian, and myself after announcing the top 3 (Photo by RiverBassin Trail)

The full results can be seen here, recap here, and media gallery here.

The Great Outdoor Provision Company was well represented as well. Kayak fishing team member Bo Anders (out of Charlotte) landed the big bass for the day, a giant 23 1/4" river bass. He also added a 21" fish, but couldn't catch a third for his limit. His partner Tim (Stu) Stewart is also a GOPC kayak fishing team member (and Hardcore Kayak Fishing headman) and they finished 3rd in the team division (although there was a mix up at the presentation so their 3rd place finish was not confirmed until later). I also got to meet Charlotte GOPC watersports guy Gwen Crabtree, who had a solid day on the water himself. Overall, GOPC members took 2nd and 5th place in the individual division and 2nd and 3rd place in the team division!

Drew Gregory posing with the GOPC crew (Photo by RiverBassin Trail)

A huge thanks to Bill for agreeing to partner up with me, to Chris for helping us in multiple ways (we seriously owe you one!), for the support of Mary May and many of my friends & family, to Brett Hinson at Carolina Custom Rods, and to Drew Gregory and company for putting the tournament together. It was an awesome time and one of the most fun tournaments I have ever fished in. The team aspect was a blast! I also couldn't believe how extremely accurate the 7'6" casting rod Brett built me is. Long rods like that are known for distance, which it definitely has, but his innovative spiral wrapping with micro-guides is super accurate too!

Since the shoulder felt just fine on Saturday that means it is time to get back in the kayak and start fishing hard again. Hopefully I can get out on the water later this week and catch some big old pre-spawn largemouths! Until next time, tight lines!