Sunday, February 26, 2012

Heaven on Earth

Imagine catching huge bass, one right after the other and catching them in ways you could only dream of. Now snap back to reality, it's February in Minnesota and the chance of catching lunker largemouth on swimbaits or sight fishing 5 pounders on a dropshot would be heavenly.

Well for myself and good friends Ryan Brant and Paul Coffey, heaven opened its beautiful doors on us for just a day. The air temp when we made our first casts was a bone chilling 8 degrees and though it never did get warmer than the mid twenties, I never felt the cold for a second. Something about slow rolling a big old swimbait and having it get jacked up by a giant bass just warms my insides! Honestly it was one of the best fishing days of our lives. So good I couldn't find the words to explain so I'll just let a few of the pictures do the talking.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Bassmaster Classic Preview

**Photo courtesy of James Overstreet and

The top 49 anglers are only hours away from throwing down on Louisiana's rat nest known as the Red River and will be competing for the most coveted title in all of bass fishing, the Bassmasters Classic!

The story lines are plentiful.

Skeet Reese, who won the Classic three years ago on these very waters will not be able to defend his title after having a poor 2011 season, he failed to qualify. A tough pill to swallow given the 2010 season that is arguably the best season ever put together by an angler. The theories of what happened to Skeet in '11 are plentiful but fishing is fishing and things sometimes just don't come together. I'm sure there's multiple explanations for why Skeet is on the outside looking in but I'm confident we'll see him at the top of his game in 2012.

KVD, what can I say? The man's to good to even refer to him by his real name and now is only known as a 3 lettered fishing god who simply toys with mere mortals. Littered with credentials, he's earned 6 Angler of the Year titles and won 4 Bassmaster Classics all while racking up over 5 million in winnings alone. Three times a charm right? KVD won the last two Classics respectively and now will have the chance to win his third in a row. The Jedi Zen Master, Rick Clunn had that exact same reality once in his studded career but after going back to back, he came up just shy by placing second. Impressive to say the least but don't think KVD will finish in second, that spot is usually held for Aaron Martens. You know KVD's eyes are only set on first, a scary thought for the rest of the field.

Speaking of Aaron Martens, the California Kid is one of my favorite anglers and though I poked at the obvious, 4 second place finishes in Classic competition is in my mind the best resume under Clunn and Van Dam's. I think this might be the one where he finally claims the top spot and to be honest, there's no one who deserves it more. My life goal is to qualify for a Classic and Martens is not only a every year contender, he's threatened the throne more than any other. If he's the one to hold the trophy over his head, we'll all get the honor of sharing the emotion with him.

Greg Hackney, the local who's fishing in his fourth hometown Classic has got his hands full or should I say mind full trying to deal with the lost opportunities of the past. Every serious bass angler dreams of competing in a Bassmaster Classic on their home water, yet the Hack Attack has had that opportunity 3 times before and watched them all slip away. I've spoken with him in person about this a couple times and you can't help but notice how bad it bugs him and how ridiculously bad he wants it. Truth is when you know too much about a body of water it's easy to catch yourself chasing your tail instead of staying in one or two spots and grinding it out. This year could be the exception, besides the fact that Hackney's one of the best bass fisherman to ever walk the planet, the word on the water is that the Red River is fishing tough and the clean water is at a minimum. With anglers expecting to be fishing on top of each other and thinning out the fish, Hack's knowledge of the area could come into play when needing a small out of the way spot to produce a few key bites. I wouldn't bet against him.

Mike Iaconelli is always a threat anywhere bass swim and his credentials in the crayfish state is mind boggling. Take Skeet Reese out of the 2009 Classic and Iaconelli would be holding his second Classic title in Louisiana. To bad for him, Skeet was in the 2009 field but won't be now. Will Ike find that same magic? He's been fishing on top of his game and has some added motivation in that he's been so close in numerous other events in the past couple years. When the bite's tough, he's all the better. No matter what, if he's on 'em I'm sure I'll be able to hear it all the way up here in Minnesota! Stay you Ike, we wouldn't want you any other way!

Now that I've talked about the numerous elephants in the room, what about the dark horses? I should be smacked for referring to Denny Brauer as a dark horse as the man's truly a legend but after being a "every year" classic contender through the 80's and 90's, his appearances have been less than spotty over the past decade. What's in the past is in the past and unfortunately for the competition, Denny's there and could be flippin' and pitchin' his way to his second title.

From legendary status to spring chicken. Brandon Palaniuk has earned his name amongst the best by being thrown to the wolves last year on the Delta but ended by making the cut and banging boats with KVD and the rest of the top 10 on the final day. Brandon came up through the Federation but has since proven that there's a smooth transition from amateur to professional. His Federation win on this very body of water has got to give him some added motivation as well.

Someone is going to earn the right to hold the trophy high come Sunday and will have earned it against a stacked field that all deserve it. Good luck to the entire 2012 Bassmaster Classic Field!

Sunday, February 12, 2012


Lake Lewisville, Lewsiville, TX

Lake Looserville, Lake Sewerville and the Mud Hole where just some of the names I heard when people where referencing Lake Lewisville just north of Dallas, Texas. In fact, during my week and a half stay down there I heard many other choice names given to the lakes from the locals but I should probably keep this a family site.

Regardless of it's reputation, I was more than thrilled to be there competing in my first nationally recognized professional event. I knew the bite would be tough well before I signed up but also knew that when dealing with Texas everything is bigger and the bass in Lewisville is no exception. The facts be told, Lewisville is a tough fishery that sees its fair share of pressure but I don't think anyone could foresee just how rough and tough it was going to treat us while we were throwing everything on the line for the second spot in the 2013 Bassmaster Classic.

Texas as a whole has been facing a record drought and the lack of rain had Lewsiville marked at over six feet low. Days before we arrived for practice the Dallas/Fort Worth area got pounded with heavy rains that raised the water level to just a foot shy of full pool. Texas, as well as the rest of the United States, has been experiencing an unusually warm winter which changed as Mother Nature got wind of a big tournament getting ready to take place and instead delivered us a wicked cold front. The end result was high, muddy and cold water, not the most ideal situations for an already tough fishery.

Practice started very slow and honestly never really got good as bites were few and far between. As the realization of a possible skunk become more and more a reality, I found myself digging to the depths of my boat to find whatever was going to give me that edge. As a self proclaimed "dragger", I'm often more comfortable locating key areas and slowly milking it for everything it's worth. I soon realized that this was a recipe for disaster as I was having real problems locating more than one fish in a single area and with the water color being the exact same as that of chocolate milk, bass didn't have the visibility to see the bait unless it smacked them directly in the face. I shifted my focus to forcing a reaction bite and was rewarded a bit better, they still weren't jumping into the boat but bites were bites and the ones that were biting had some pretty decent size to them.

My main weapon of choice was a 3/8 oz. Biovex Stangun Spinnerbait (Black), the dark color helped them locate it in the dirty water. I found most of my fish holding in or around small stickups that had grown during the low water period and now had a foot of water on them. Finding these areas around some sort of rock was even better as the rocks retained more heat and warmed the water by maybe a degree but it was just enough to hold these weary bass.

I also practiced around a lot of deep water as I really wanted a few key areas that I could slow down and capitalize on a school of fish. I used the heck out of my Lowrance Units and Navionics Chips looking for that perfect sweet spot and it wasn't until late in the day on Tuesday that I found a point that held an immense amount of baitfish and an awesome rock spine that jetted out into deep water. The coolest thing was I was able to use my Lowrance DownScan and actually see bass school shad. It was absolutely amazing to see but getting these fish to bite was the most impossible thing ever and yes, I even through the Alabama Rig at them with still no result. I instead focused my efforts at the rock cropping as I figured it may hold inactive bass. I caught a short off it relatively quickly which even though wasn't the required 14 inches, it was still a bass. The next morning I wanted to see if I had indeed found anything and on about my third or fourth cast with a carolina rig, I set on a solid 4 pounder! This gave me a little bit of confidence that at least I had a little something that could work out if the shallow fish didn't with the intense cold front that was apparent for the tournament days.

**Bass schooling shad on a deep point with the use of Lowrance DownScan.

I drew boat 10 at registration and though most anglers weren't on anything strong enough to feel as though they needed an early draw, I felt as though the early bite on my point would be very beneficial to my overall success. Unfortunately for me, the point never produced a bite and after burning two hours up I decided to start running shallow. I knew blanking was a real possibility in this event and even when the hours went by without a single bite, I still stayed focused, kept my composure and put my head down knowing this was going to be a grind. With no fish in the boat and only about an hour left in the day, I decided to leave it all out there on my point and go for broke. Fortunately for me I was rewarded with a small spotted bass that measured just over 14 inches. Nothing to write home to Mom about but that lone fish really took the pressure off. If you fail to weigh a fish in the BASSMASTER Opens, you receive zero points for the event, which really hurts in the overall Angler of the Year points race. I weighed in at a mere 1 fish for 1.5 pounds and found myself sitting in 96th place out of 178 boats. I'd naturally think that I had shot myself in the foot with that disappointing showing but 81 anglers blanked and I was a mere 3 or 4 pounds out of the top 12. We were truly in an all time BASS record tournament for the lowest weights ever!

Day two I once again found myself fishing my rock point but with the 30 mile an hour north wind that was pummeling the area I was forced to move on as it was truly unfishable. I went shallow and since my spinnerbait didn't produce the day before I switched up to Chatterbait (Green Pumpkin) and matched it up with a Zoom Speed Craw (Okeechobee Craw) as a trailer. I was able to catch a good keeper right away in the morning which gave me the added drive I really needed on a tough Lake Lewisville. Though my pattern of 5000 casts per 1 bite held up and I again took to the scales with only 1 single largemouth bass. I weighed in at 2.8 pounds for a combined 2 day total of 3 pounds and 13 ounces and finished 68th out of 178. I seriously couldn't believe how tough the fishing was as more anglers blanked on day two than had caught fish. A BASS record for sure.

I had a lot of mixed emotions when it was all said and done regarding my finish. I was so close to the money and was only 5 or 6 pounds away from making the top 12 that I couldn't help but be disappointed. I try to remind myself of my original goal that I had set for the season of making the top 50 in the points race and growing as a professional bass angler on the national level. I got off to an excellent start. I realize to make this my career, I need to crawl before I can walk and it's definitely a marathon not a sprint. I gained much confidence by finishing in the upper 35% and edging out numerous Bassmaster Elite Anglers and FLW Pros. I proved to myself that I can play at this level and now want it even more than ever. I know with hard work and discipline, my future will be bright! Now I'm just chomping at the bit to go out there and do it again! Next up, Table Rock Lake! One of the best fisheries in the nation, bring it on!!

I'd like to thank my boy, Strike King pro Brent Homan for a great week as well as my new friends Carlos and Denise for their hospitality as they truly made me feel right at home. The red beans and rice was to die for man and the brownies and ice cream was the exact thing needed after grueling days on the water. Thanks again!

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