Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Fishing Etiquette for the Non-Boater

As long as I can remember, fishing trips with my Dad have always instilled in me a set of unsung rules that every fisherman should abide by.  The setting and type of fishing may change slightly from day to day, but the basics should always be followed to create mutual respect between yourself and others you may come in contact with.  This doesn't just include a friendly wave as you pass by another fisherman...or moving to a different spot if your favorite spot is already taken...there is a lot more to it when fishing competitively.

Competitive fishing from the back of the boat is not something to take lightly.  In most instances, like in my case, you will get paired randomly with a new boater each tournament.  Other competitions are team based tournaments where you fish with the same guy every time, but again etiquette is not exactly treated the same in both instances.  

First and foremost, when you get paired up with a boater at the beginning of the tournament ALWAYS get ground rules squared away before you even hit the water.  Let him know how much equipment you are bringing and never put anything into their boat until they tell you where you can put it.  Treat their things as your own! Find out what their fishing game plan is beforehand so you can leave any gear at the dock that you won't be needing.  It is not the non-boaters privilege to dictate where and how you will be fishing for the day in most instances, so just be cautious of this before you take off.  But in the same respect, let him know what you found during practice because it will help both of you solidify a game plan before you even leave the launch. After you get all of your equipment and a game plan set then it is time to get the boat in the water ready for launch!

If you have never backed up a boat before...you need to learn!  Learning to back up a boat and park a boat and trailer is one of the biggest things that you can do to help out your boater.  I had no idea how to back up a boat the correct way the first tournament I was in, so find a buddy that you know that can back up a boat or kindly ask the boater to get you close to the water so you can back in the rest of the way.  Don't be shy to tell your boater if you don't know how to do it...and if they know you have a hard time with it...some will actually allow you to take the driver's seat and guide you so you do learn.  Trial by fire is sometimes the best way to learn in a pinch.  When pulling the trailer away from the boat always wait until your boater gives you a go ahead signal...the last thing you would ever want to do is take off too soon and damage their boat.  If you aren't comfortable parking a boat and trailer always park in a farther spot away from others...and always take wide turns when swinging in a trailer!  A lot of this is probably not new to most of you...but you would be surprised how many people just can't figure it out.

^^^ Great how-to video to get you started ^^^

When you finally park the trailer and truck, always follow the boater's request as to where to put the keys.  Some leave it behind the flap of the gas tank, and some might want to have them back on the boat....irregardless DO NOT lose them!  You wouldn't believe the stories I have heard of non-boaters forgetting they had the keys...went down to mess with their tackle box and had the keys fall out of their pocket and into the water...DOH!  So always give them back to the boater or put them in a safe compartment...so at least if the boater drops them in the water it doesn't come back on you.  

After getting in the boat take some time before the launch to spark up some conversation.  It will make the day a lot more enjoyable if you can establish some common ground with your boater, and it might even allow you the opportunity to eventually have more free reign of their boat.  Once you come up to your first fishing spot there are some things that you need to abide by and be aware of to keep the peace at first between you and your boater.

1) Never put a line in the water until your boater puts his line in the water.
2) If you are flipping or fishing perpendicular to the shore you should not cast any further then the center of the boat.  If you are paralleling the shore with a crankbait or spinnerbait you should never cast in front of the boaters last cast.
3) Never fish off the front of the boat unless the boater invites you to the front of the boat...same goes for working the trolling motor.
4) If a boater misses a hook set on a fish abide by rule 2...
5) If you get hung up or snagged it isn't the responsibility of the boater to get you unstuck, but 9 times out of 10 they will give you a chance to get your bait back...but don't expect them to drop everything that they are doing and do it right away.
6) If a fish is hooked and a net is on the boat, always be prepared to net the fish for your boater...the courtesy should be reciprocated then back to you if you catch a fish.
7) Make sure all of your gear and tackle remains out of the aisle and is put away before the boater even sits down at the steering wheel so you can leave quickly from a spot to go elsewhere
8) Realize the fact that the boater is not your fishing guide, they are not required to put you on fish...you need to learn to adapt and fish the most effective way according to how they position their boat.

Some boaters are different then others so you just have to feel them out, but the rules above are always a necessary starting point.  Don't be shy to ask questions on what he is using or how to do what he is doing if he is catching fish...most guys are more than happy to teach you a thing or two.  If your boater though constantly positions you poorly let him know about it, you have just as much right to get a clear shot of water as they do even though they are running the show.  The main thing though as a non-boater is to learn, once you get a few tournaments under your belt these types of things will become routine...so soak in as much as you can!

At the end of the day it is always good practice to have the the non-boater go and get the boat and trailer.  After you get everything settled in the parking lot always offer to help clean up the boat and wipe it down...especially cleaning up your own mess.  You really don't realize how much extra time it takes to take care of a boat, so a little help on your part can go a long way.  Always talk about your day afterwards and re-cap what you did right or wrong...it always helps to keep yourself informed for next time.

The last thing you always want to do is give your boater some money.  The minimum amount of money should always be half of the gas used up during the tournament...but I usually give them a couple extra bucks in case we burned up oil or used any of his lures or ate any of his food.  Always make the effort to give them at least that...some guys won't take your money but it is better to offer it instead of not at all.

Being respectful of your boater will only do good things for you. Word travels fast in those small groups of fishermen so the last thing you need is to be pegged as an a**hole...it will save you a lot of grief in the long run.

That's all I got so if you want to read more on the topic and some other pointers to keep in mind here is where I found most of my information beforehand...

Thanks for reading, and tight lines!


Monday, May 7, 2012

Clinton Lake: ABA Tournament #2

Last week I got a call from one of the club members of my bass club that wanted to head down to the Clinton Lake ABA tournament on Sunday.  Couldn't pass up an opportunity to get my feet wet on another new lake so we planned on leaving early Sunday morning to head down Clinton, IL.  What is nice about Clinton Lake is that it is very similar to Lake Shelbyville as far as cover, water depth, and lake contours go.  The only added twist to this was that Clinton Lake is a cooling lake.  So water temperatures are always higher than other local lakes and ponds especially during the cooler months of the year.  I had no idea about water clarity and water temperature so it was kind of crap shoot what to expect.  Knowing that this body of water was similar to Shelbyville I went to Bass Pro the night before to stock up on a few things.  The first being some deeper running crankbaits.  I wanted these to be on hand because I had a suspicion that the bass were already moving into a post spawn pattern.  I knew the week prior from other sources that fish were on beds already...and considering it was a cooling lake the water temperature would probably accelerate this process and push them into post spawn relatively quickly.  From what I understand in most cases after the spawn bass retreat to deeper water off of the shallow bedding areas to recuperate.  So deep diving crankbaits as well as weighted texas rigged plastics and big spinnerbaits would probably produce the most.

I have a couple 7' crankbait rods that are great for shallow-medium divers but in order to get the full effect of a deeper diving crankbait I decided to pick up a longer crankbait rod in order to get more casting distance.  I had a Shimano Compre deep diving crankbait rod previously, but it was way too tip heavy and awkward for what I needed...so I sold it and now needed to find a new one.  I decided to pick up a 7' 6" MH Boyd Duckett Crankbait rod.  I took a chance on some of the Ducketts last year and really liked how light and durable they were...but I really couldn't find any application that they really shined on.  This ended up not being the case with the crankbait rod.  I ended up throwing that  setup 70% of the day and it worked out perfect!

Immediately in the morning my boater, Matt Bennett, and I started shaking down some rip rap (shore with multiple types of cover) near one of the main brides.  I tried plastics...didn't work, I tried a spinnerbait...nada, and I tried a crankbait...ended up losing it.  What to do now???  The water temperature was around the 72 degree mark and the water clarity was about 1.5-2 feet (similar to Shelbyville) and had a green tinge to it.  My boater didn't get a bite at our first spot either so we moved.  It took a few spots until we finally started getting into them by one of the other boat launches.  There was a rocky ledge next to the launch so we started working that first.  Most ledges on Clinton and Shelbyville have really steep drop offs...transitioning from 5 to 15-20 feet relatively quickly.   I picked out one of my Strike King 5XD crankbaits (diving depth of 15') and threw it close to shore.  A couple turns of the handle and I could already feel my bait come in contact with the rock on the bottom...exactly what I wanted!  I had to be careful not to continue cranking after the crankbait dug into the bottom because I could easily get snagged on rocks and other debris.  I would pause as soon as I hit bottom, raised the rod tip up to get it out of the rocks and put my rod tip back down and use the rod tip to pull the crankbait along.  As soon as I would hit rock, I would pause every time...then reel in the slack and use my rod tip to pull the crankbait forward again.  It took about three casts and BAM first fish nailed it on the pause!  It was a nice fat largemouth...but after throwing him on to the bump board he was just a hair under 16".  For this Lake, like many others, there are different slot limits.  Clinton lake allowed you to keep 3 fish at a minimum of 16"...so anything smaller had to be thrown back.  

It was a good sign to finally land a fish so I primarily fished the crankbait the rest of the day.  I tried throwing plastics and spinnerbaits for awhile but it was pointless considering that the bass were no longer on beds and the carp in the lake were spawning on the shore and muddying up most of the water.  A few spots later around 10:30 we got onto a small point.  I threw the 5XD crankbait a couple times and finally got bit again after banging against the rocky bottom.  I felt the "bump, bump" of a fish...I paused a short 1 count to allow the fish to inhale the crankbait and I set the hook on him pretty hard.  Next thing I know my first 3+ pound keeper comes sky rocketing out of the water! Luckily that Duckett rod had a lot of play to it and it kept those trebles pinned well inside it's mouth.  First keeper was in the boat!

We continued to build upon this pattern and my boater eventually switched to a deep diving crankbait like I was doing.   We caught a decent amount of short fish but it seemed like every area we would pull up to we would only catch 2-3 fish and then the action would go dead.  We pulled into a cove around 12 and my boater got his first 16" keeper of the day in a little pocket with a green pumpkin creature bait.

It was about 1:30 and we only had an hour and a half to come up with some more fish.  After asking around it seemed like most of the people in our tournament only had 1 keeper in the boat.  We still had a chance but we needed to find at least one more keeper a piece to still be in the game.  We pulled up to a steep shoreline that had a bunch of lay downs in the water.  We worked the area over well and we only had another 20-30 feet of shoreline before we were going to move again.  I threw my crankbait right up along side of one of the lay downs next to the shore...a few turns of the handle and I paused the bait.  I went to go turn the handle again and I just felt a weight on the end of the line.  I thought I got snagged again because I had lost several crankbaits to rock and wood during the day.  Then I saw the tip of my rod bend...I had a fish!  I set it hard and she took off straight towards the boat.  I reeled in fast as she darted towards me and then she dove down quickly as my pole doubled over.  I got her to finally swing up towards the surface...she was a TOAD!  Then I saw how she was hooked and she barely had two of the back treble hooks in her mouth...CRAP!  My boater dropped everything and got the net.  A couple more good runs and we finally got her in the net.  I just stood there in disbelief after seeing how big the fish was...legs were shaking, hands were shaking...holy cow!  I thought my first fish was decent but after putting this pig in the livewell I was afraid she was going to eat my other one.

Unfortunately right after I caught my last fish we had a dead battery on the boat and had to improvise to get the motor cranked over.  We counted our blessings after finally getting the motor started and decided just to head in early to the weigh in since it was getting close to 3 o'clock.

I weighed my big bass...she tipped the scales at 5.32 lbs and with my other fish I had a total of 8.74 lbs...just could not believe it!  My boater weighed his one fish for a total of 2.52 lbs.  Most of the field weighed in 0 or 1 fish for an average of 2-3 lbs...even had an 18" smallmouth weighed in that was 2.56 lbs.  A few people besides myself had 2 fish and averaged 5-5.5 lbs.  I thought I had big bass until my boater's friend came in with a huge female...5.75 lbs which was enough to get him big bass of the day and 3rd place!  Mike Pappas, another ABA regular, came in with the only limit...we knew he had a good sack of fish when he showed up. He weighed in a little more than 13 lbs...caught all of them on a Zara Spook early in the morning.  My weight was good enough to put me right behind him in second place.  If that other short fish I caught would have went I probably would have had around 11.2 lbs...still not enough though to get first.

Just could not get it to sink in....a fourth place finish last week and a second place finish this week...just unbelievable.  Lucky streaks like this are rare, but I am going to work hard to try and keep the momentum going if I can.  My boaters played a huge role in my success the last couple weeks and I am really thankful for all of their help!!!

Here is a picture of the two fish that I weighed in...just amazing the size difference between the 3 and 5 pounder!

I had my 7' 6" Duckett cranking rod paired up with one of my new Daiwa Zillions (6.3 gear ratio)...the setup  worked out just how I wanted it to!  The three colors that produced for me were all of the gizzard shad colors that Strike King makes.  The blue gizzard shad produced the most for me and mimicked the bait fish in the lake the best.  Another lure that caught a couple fish also were the Rapala DT10's in Disco Shad.  The Strike King colors can be seen below.  Just as a side note...I lost 6 crankbaits during the day.  I know most people get leery after losing one lure but you have to remember that running crankbaits into different types of cover is what will get you bit more often than not.

Just another awesome day out on the water.  It was rough waking up at 1:10 in the morning to get down to the lake by 5:30...but it was well worth it!  If any of you have the opportunity to fish an ABA tournament, do it!  A ton of great guys in that bunch and you will get to learn a lot from other people.

Thanks for reading and tight lines!


Thursday, May 3, 2012

Need Some Prayers...

In the last few months my cousin, Matthew Mammosser, has had to face one of the most difficult things any human being has had to endure...cancer.  Back in January of this year he was rushed to the hospital due to flu like symptoms only to find out that he had a mass between the two hemispheres of his brain.  Since then he has had several surgeries to remove the tumor as well as complications with blood clots and infections thereafter.  He has gone through several chemo treatments already so he is heading in the right path to fight this disease head on.  It wasn't until today that I found out that his doctors found more tumors.  I am still in the dark as to the severity of them...but I am hopeful that he still has a long road ahead of him to recovery.

Matt is only 18 years old, but he has made his mark in our community and has made a ton of friends along the way.  He was born deaf but has had a hearing implant for most of his life so he is as normal as any 18 year old can be.  He is currently going to Joliet Catholic Academy highschool and is one of the best defensive players on their football team.  He was able to help them get all the way to the State finals last year but unfortunately came up short.  Next year will be his senior year and the coach of the team already has placed him as the Captain of the Defensive Line.  On top of this he has been competing in weight lifting meets and hopes to one day hold the squatting and benching record for JCA.

It is amazing to me how far this kid has gone from a scrawny freshmen to a 6'2" 245 lb junior.  He has worked his butt off to get where he is at now to only be fighting for his life.  All he wants to do is be on the field next year but unfortunately he has a long road ahead of him to fight this.

I am asking all of my readers and followers to pray for my cousin and our family as he goes through this rough time.  You really don't realize how difficult a situation like this can be until it hits this close to home.  He is too young to have this happen to him and I hope that God is definitely looking out for us as we speak.

I am really lucky that I have the opportunity to live my life in the path that I chose for myself, I just hope and pray that he is given that same opportunity too.  Life has a funny way of smacking you back into reality...but I have faith that things will work the way they are supposed to.

If any of you would like to help my cousin's family there is a link on top of my blog that says "Please Support my Cousin Matthew!"...this will take you to a website that his friends and parents of JCA have put together to raise money for Matthew's surgeries and care.  You can also purchase a T-shirt that has the JCA logo on it and my cousin's football jersey number on the back.  It also will give you updates as to how he is progressing.

Thank you in advance to anyone that sends prayers our way...it is what keeps us glued together and hopeful in this time of need for him...