Monday, August 31, 2009

I think Grandma might have been with me...

In June of 2008 I lost my grandmother while fishing an FLW Tour event at Ft. Loudoun / Tellico lakes in east Tennessee. Every year that I have competed, my Grandmother knew what lake I was at, and always cheered me on. She was a great christian woman, she was my best ever fan.

For years my Grandma would give each of her grandchildren a $20 bill every year for Christmas, despite our urging not to, she insisted, twenty dollars it was. So a few years ago, not fully knowing what to do with twenty dollars, or at least not knowing how to use it in a manner that was repsectful to whom gave it to me, I started buying fishing baits, hard baits, you know, like crankbaits, topwaters, and jerkbaits. Two weeks ago on the Mississippi river during practice for a tournament, I needed a crankbait, one I felt the fish could see in the dingy water, one with a square bill that would deflect off of objects in the water, without getting hung up. So I dug in one of my crankbait boxes and found the perfect one. I didn't pay a lot of attention to the bait except it had a lot of white on it, perfect, just like a shad in dirty water, they too are very white.

After catching several fish on it in practice, and nearly a limit on the first morning of the tournament, I made a discovery about that bait that made it even more special, check out the
picture below...

You see, when I used Grandma's Christmas money to buy a bait, I put a "G" on the bottom of it, somewhere I thought it wouldn't get rubbed off.

Much to my surprise, when I went to re-tie my bait on the first day of the tourney, and found the "G", I had the overwhelming sense that I had a little help in the boat that day, someone rooting me on, from a far better place.

Grandma, Thanks, I owe you yet another one!

Fort Madison Stren Series: Baits, Patterns and Equipment

As promised, here's a run down of the baits, patterns and equipment that got me a 5th place finish in the Stren Series Central Division Tournament on the Mississippi River at Fort Madison, Iowa.

The baits, in order of importance, and how they were used:
1. Again the Dunn's Big Bite Baits "Honey Bug" comes through catching five of the eleven keepers I weighed in a week ago. I alternated fishing this bait on a 3/16th ounce Penetrater Tungsten weight and a 5/16th ounce weight. Ultimately for the tournament I used the 5/16th weight. I paired this bait with a G Loomis BCFR 894 flipping stick, 20lb Maxima Fluorocarbon line and a 4/0 Straight shank hook. I used this set up when fishing main river laydowns and scattered main river wood. I just can't say enough about the Honey Bug, it flat out catches them!

2. The second best bait in my arsenal was a Lucky Craft 1.5, I caught 3 keepers the first morning on this bait in 30 minutes! I had to change locations for day two due to muddy water in my primary area from day one, my day two efforts did not include any crankbaiting. But I was able to land a nice keeper smallmouth during the finals with this bait. I threw this bait on 15lb Maxima monofilament line on a G Loomis crankbait rod model # cbr847. The RC 1.5 was my go to bait when I fished sections of rock banks on the main river.

3. Bait number three is a bait that I had never thrown during a tournament, I had only used one during practice for a previous event three years ago on the Mississippi River in Wisconsin, and even then I only used this bait a little bit. The bait is a Brovarney swim jig. Specifically designed for a moving presentation. I used this bait in areas of the river that had lily pads. I would slow roll this bait through the shallowest sections of the pads that I could get my boat into, and repeatedly I found fish willing to eat this jig. I threw this bait on 15lb Maxima fluorocarbon line on a G Loomis rod model # bcr854

I have two things to mention before you see the picture of this bait, number one: a huge thank you goes out to Ben Kurtz who loaned me several jigs during the week, and another thank you goes to Tim Domaille who offered more and Casey Hewes (president of Brovarney Baits) for doing his level best to get me some baits before the tournament started. number two: For all you swim jig faithfuls, I know the trailer of choice is a grub. When I first tried the jig in practice, I wanted an electric blue trailer, all I had in that color was one bag of Zoom 6" lizards. After a little "doctoring" I came up with what you are about to see. After getting bit regularly on this bait during practice, I was scared to change anything, even after I got some electric blue grubs. So, go easy one me, it was a confidence thing!

The last two baits did more in practice, than during the tournament. However, with that said, they helped me find two of my most productive areas. I did manage to catch my first keeper on the final day with the Spro frog, and on the second day of practice I found several areas holding fish with the 3/8th ounce black Lunker Lure buzzbait pictured below. Both baits were thrown on a G Loomis Rod model #bcr854

This tournament was a tough one, I was very fortunate to catch a limit on Day one, and to advance to the finals with just three keepers on day two. Regardless of how tough it was, the Lord blessed me immensely, I needed a good tournament to move up in the points standings, and that is exactly what I received, a great tournament finish.

Hopefully, I've shed a little light on how I caught them on the Mississippi River two weeks ago.

Until then, here's a group photo of the baits I used either in practice or the tournament

God Bless,


Sunday, August 23, 2009

Stren Series Central Division - Fort Madison, Iowa

This week has been an incredible blessing, it is extremely humbling to know the Lord blesses you with success, when you're doing something that you love to do. That is exactly what happened at the Stren Series event on Pool 19 this week at Fort Madison, IA. I finished in 5th place, cashed a nice check and gained a bunch of ground in the points race, what a neat deal.

I've been fortunate enough to fish Pool 19 of the Mississippi river a few times over the last three years. Unfortunately, this week I wasn't able to use a whole lot of that experience to help me. Since most of my experience revovled around the abundance of aquatic vegetation in this pool, the grass is now gone, and the mighty Mississp' doesn't fish like she used to! I was able to find several areas on or near the main river where there was a combination of rock and wood, both of which the bass were relating to. The weather did it's best to keep me from making it to my fishing areas, but thankfully we arrived safe and sound. I'll post more about patterns and techniques later.

The Stren Series Central Division is headed to Lake of the Ozarks for the final event of the 2009 Season. Lord willing it will be a good one.

To all of those who were praying for me and cheering me on, Thank you!

I'll leave you with a picture of the event, me and my good friend Ron Lappin (the tournament director for the Stren Series) and also some links to pictures taken by FLWoutdoors photographer Gary Mortenson

(Nothing beats standing in the check line on Saturday!)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Scene of the crime...

Tomorrow is it, the start of the Stren Series event at Ft. Madison, IA. After 4 days of practice, it's highly apparent that this is going to be a tough tournament. I took today off to get tackle together, straighten up the boat and check a few things out.

I got the boat and tackle ready by about noon, and took a little ride in my truck to the scene of the crime...the area that took the most pressure during the 2006 Stren event. I finished 37th in that tournament, and I too was in the middle of the group of anglers who absolutely mauled the area in the picture below.

This one of the biggest lily pad fields I've ever fished, and definitely the biggest on this pool of the river. In 2006 the majority if the anglers who made the top 10 came from this area. It doesn't look like this area is nearly as good as it once was, but, that was then and this is now. So tomorrow will be telltale story.

5am tomorrow will be another day of the usual grind on the mighty Mississippi just as it has been for the last four days. So, to quote the Dunkin' Donuts man, tomorrow morning it will be "Time to make the Donuts".

Monday, August 17, 2009

Wow, what a difference a flood can make...

I'm in Fort Madison, Iowa for the third stop of the FLW Outdoors Stren Series Central Division. All I can say, is wow, what a difference a flood can make. In 2008 there was a flood on this part of the Mississippi River. You may actually remeber CBS and NBC national news covering a break in a levee on the Mississippi River near Burlington, IA last year. The break occurred on Pool 19, which is where we are this week. Besides wiping out a levee, the flood wiped out almost all of the vegetation in this pool. I have found very few patches of eel grass and even less milfoil. The one form of vegetation that did seem to survive are the lily pads. This has caused the fishing on this pool of the river to be very tough. I can only think back to June of 2007, the last time I fished a tournament here and all of the grass that used to be here. Oh well, so much for wishful thinking.

I can say that practice has been pretty tough. I fished 12.5 hours the first day, and only managed to catch a single keeper. Sunday and Monday were better, I got a lot more bites, but I am very hesitant to try and catch any of them. I'd hate to catch any or very many quality fish in practice and not have them bite during the tournament. I've got 2 more days to look around, Lord willing I can expand on the ways I have figured out how to catch them, and do well in the tournament. I'keep you posted on how it goes.
God Bless,

Monday, August 3, 2009

I think I have a new hobby...

Well, this is a little bit off of the fishing subject, but I have a new hobby, well, not really new, but definitely improved! I like to cook, make that grill, just about anything. So a month ago I purchased what quite possibly is the best thing I have ever bought (non-fishing related items of course). I purchased a Big Green Egg! Yep, you read it correctly, a Big Green Egg. Never seen one? Want to?

Here ya go:

(pretty cool huh?)

I have a friend who lives in Murray, KY, on the shores of Kentucky Lake, who has shamed me unmercifully for several years about not having a Big Green Egg. So, I finally bought one, and all I can say is WOW! This thing is one bad to the bone cooking machine. I think you could cook a worn out flip-flop on this thing and it would taste good (with proper marination of course).

I got to use my egg a few times over the 4th of July weekend and a few times before I left for the Detroit Stren tournament, nothing serious, just your usual suspects: pork steaks, boneless butterfly pork chops, burgers, that's about it. But since I returned from Detroit, I have gotten completely mad at the Egg. This week alone I've went through 4 racks of ribs, last week it was a 10lb pork butt (I made pulled pork with it when it was done). The ribs were fantastic and the pork butt made some of the best pulled pork I've ever had.

I have to believe it's all because of the egg, this thing is near fool-proof, and extremely easy to use. I'll leave you with a picture of one of the finished products, just prior to removing them from the grill:

(oh man were they good! )

That's it for now, I've got to get outside and check on Egg. It's pork steaks tonight, smothered in some Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ Sauce! Oh, if you're in the neighborhood, swing by, chances are the Egg is cooking something, and there will always be plenty!

God Bless,