Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Tuning Into the HydroWave

Every morning I awake to the sound of my coffee machine brewing a fresh pot of joe. Like clockwork I roll out of bed, pour a fresh cup and off to the lake I go.

This daily habit got me thinking. If I'm self-programmed to respond and react to the sound of fresh coffee being brewed, will lethargic bass become active off the sounds of other bass feeding?

This very question got me looking into the effectiveness of the feeding emulator known as the HydroWave. As a professional bass fisherman, I'm always looking for ways to up my game and give me that needed edge over my competition. The HydroWave is an electronic devise that omits prerecorded sounds of feeding bass underwater and as their slogan reads, creates a feeding frenzy.

Despite powerhouse bass anglers such as Kevin Van Dam, Jeff Kriet and Gene Eisenmann proudly sporting them, I still found myself a bit skeptical on the whole idea. Even when Paul Elias caught that mega sack every day of competition on a very tough fall bite at Alabama's Lake Guntersville, I still wasn't quick to chalk that win up to much more than a great presentation on a few great areas. It wasn't until looking into the actual physical science behind HydroWave that I started to believe in the product.

Tactile Sound Transmission (TST) is the primary output of the HydroWave's speaker system and uses finely tuned amplifiers to deliver the sound. Tactile sound is much different than ordinary sounds because it delivers a noise that you can actually feel. As described on HydroWave’s website, if you have earplugs in you will not be able to hear a sub-woofer but you will be able to feel it. Fish hear on that same frequency, the same frequency and sound produced by the HydroWave.

To continue to break it down one step further, HydroWave incorporates both Lateral Reactive Technology (LRT) as well as Vibration Reactive Technology (VRT) to elicit predatory feeding responses.

LRT is a vibration wave technology that operates at a frequency level that stimulates a predatory response through a fish's lateral line. The lateral line is naturally tuned to detect low frequency vibrations created by small prey such as shad, herring, bluegills and crayfish. The LRT of the HydroWave, produces these exact vibrations and creates a natural predatory response.

VRT is a vibration wave that operates at a frequency that stimulates a predatory response from the fish through their inner ear. It's well known that a fish's ear is nothing like a humans, a fish's ear consists of dense bones under the skin that detect and translate vibrations. This vibration detection is so accurate that a bass is able to differentiate between vibrations of various preys. This explains how a fish can be so visually impaired but still be able to feed and know what it's feeding on before it attacks it.

Alright, enough with the science mumbo jumbo, let's take it to the water. After looking into the hype that is the HydroWave, I decided to borrow a buddy’s unit for a Bassmaster Open event on Lake Lewisville, in north Texas. I used much of my practice time playing with the different settings and options trying to quickly familiarize myself with the contraption. For those of you who don't know, the Lewisville Open broke a record for the toughest tournament in B.A.S.S. history with only 3 anglers catching a limit in technically 4 days of competition. My first realization of the potential of the HydroWave actually came as a surprise. While struggling to find more than a bite or two in the first couple days of practice I decided I better start probing a bit of deep water. I recall idling out of a creek and as I was idling out through the mouth over the creek channel I noticed my Lowrance unit "light up" with what looked like bass and enormous schools of shad on the bottom in 20 feet. I quickly got on the deck of my Ranger and started making casts with heavy spinnerbaits, a deep running Biovex crankbait, and an Outkast football jig. After a solid 25 casts with not a bite and zero activity around me, I remembered I had the HydroWave on my deck. I turned it on and within a minute fish started blowing up all around me. Unfortunately for me they were not largemouth they were stripers that had started blowing up on shad. I had literally sat there for 15 minutes with not a ripple on the water and less than a minute after turning on the HydroWave all pandemonium broke out around me and in that moment my confidence quickly started growing.

My next tournament was just a couple weeks ago on legendary Table Rock Lake. In practice I had found a couple fairly deep rock piles that were the size of my boat and sat on the ends of some long tapered points in 35 feet of water which I located by slowly scanning the points with my Lowrance StructureScan. On my very first cast I caught a 4 pound smallmouth on a 3/4 oz. Outkast Touch Down Jig. The fish instantly coughed up crayfish all over my boat so I saw no need to make another cast, I knew what they were eating and where, so I saved a waypoint and left.

The first day of the tournament, after spending all morning and early afternoon trying to make something happen shallow, I made my way to my deep rocks and within about 2 to 3 hours I probably caught close to 30 and culled a dozen or so times and put myself in strong contention going into the second day.

Day 2 of competition opened with a day full of extremely high winds and fishing these rock piles efficiently in the middle of the lake was close to impossible. The rocks were so snag filled that I couldn't fish them without breaking off and since the piles were so small, all I was doing was shutting down the school.

A sure thing was turning into a nightmare and my nerves got the best of me so I blew out of there in search of some shallow fish. This was not the best scenario considering I wasted the first few hours and the best morning shallow bite trying to force something to happen out deep. My worst fears became reality when afternoon rolled around and I only had one small keeper in the box, with two hours left before I had to weigh in. I decided I'd leave it all out there on those deep fish. This time though I'd take a different approach, instead of sitting back and trying to fight the wind I'd idle up to the rock pile and jump up on my trolling motor and use my Lowrance HDS 10 Gen-2 to show me a single fish and then try to catch that one fish and just try to put together a limit one bass at a time. The only problem was that I wasn't seeing the bass any more; I knew they had to be there but I couldn't see them. Desperate, I turned on my HydroWave unit and I started seeing fish pop up on my graph and could sit on top of them, flip my 3/4 oz. Outkast Touch Down Jig off the side of the boat and use the wind to drift the bait right past the bass's face and within an hour I filled my limit!

On my ride home to Minnesota, I couldn't help but be disappointed that I didn't put two and two together earlier in the day as I could have easily been right up there in the standings. At the same time, I was so grateful that I did figure it out and was able to prevent a horrible day on the water as well as gain valuable points in the Angler of the Year standings. Even though those bass were on a crayfish bite, the sounds from the HydroWave was just enough to pull them off the rocks by about a foot so I could separate them from the bottom with my Lowrance unit and make fishing those rocks way more efficient without snagging. Like my coffee machine, the HydroWave was just enough to turn those fish from lethargic and sitting on the rocks to active and ready to eat; regardless of what their prey was.

Speaking of Minnesota, anglers from the south regions of the country already understand the importance of the HydroWave as they've been dealing with shad their entire angling lives. Bass anglers from my neck of the woods are slow to connect the dots. For my sake I probably shouldn't be going into this. Like I said before, at the level I fish, I need every advantage a guy can get. Regardless, just because we don't have shad as our main forage here in the upper MidWest, doesn't mean HydroWave's technology isn't just as useful to us, in fact it's better. The prerecorded sounds that the HydroWave omits are actually the sounds of bass actively feeding and the crunching you hear are the shad's swim bladders crunching. The same sounds that are made when bass start putting the smack down on bluegills, it's nature ringing the dinner bell. 

The reason I say that we northerners have it better is for the simple reason that not too many savvy bass fishermen have HydroWave’s equipped on their rigs yet in this part of the country. It's totally new to our bass and like with anything else new, bass aren't at all conditioned to it. It's like showing a bass that's never seen an artificial lure in its entire life a spinnerbait for the first time. Game over.

Also, for those that are still wanting more, the rumor is that the powers that be at HydroWave are in the process of developing bluegill and crayfish sounds that will be available as an update to the already existing units. Let me be the first to tell you, if you think largemouth respond well, wait till you see how smallies react.

There's still so much I need to learn with my HydroWave but I'm eagerly learning one bass at a time.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

North American Bass Circuit

Lake Winnebago Chain, Osh Kosh, WI

I might as well get this write up over with as it's not going to get any easier for me with the passing of the days. Last Saturday my buddy Rich Lindgren and I competed in the first stop of the NABC Team Circuit on east Wisconsin's, Lake Winnebago. Though Rich and I have been friends for years, this would be the first time we didn't compete against each other and instead climbed in the same boat and attempted to make something happen. I was pretty excited to team with Rich as I first learned a lot of my bass fishing skill from him years back when I joined his BASS federation club, Gopher Bassmasters. 

We've both come a long way since those club days and I'd be lying if I said that we didn't set very high expectations for ourselves heading into this event. Even though I had never been to this chain of lakes, I was confident because the largemouth bite should fall right into our wheelhouse and Rich has fished a couple pretty big events here over the years. Never this time of year but later and that should help us as we knew where they were going when they were through spawning.

We didn't get much practice time and in hindsight probably tackled practice all wrong from the get go. Basically we drove out together the previous week and got in about a full day on Saturday with the exception of the early morning bite as we were still in route from Minne. Side note, I don't mind driving long distances at all, in fact I like to. I'll drive to the any lake in the country, fish for a day or two and drive back, sounds like fun, but there's something gigantically mind numbing about driving five hours and still being in Wisconsin. I'm just saying.

The next day we awoke to thunderstorms and three inches of rain, we're die hards so there was no stopping us from going out but practicing was tough. You really can't see much and if you don't get bit, it doesn't necessarily mean they're not there. So instead we spent most our time cruising around and finding more productive areas that were working the day before.

 We were also able to get out for one final practice day the Friday before the derby. We checked what we had found the weekend before which for the most part still held up but it was becoming more and more obvious that this was all pretty community. Not always a bad thing but still worrisome none the less. Basically we were targeting spawning largemouth as well as some pre and post cruisers.

With only an hour or so to go, we happened to find an area that looked like what heaven would look like to a fisherman. We found a clear water, off the map area, loaded with fish from pike, slab crappies, bluegills, more gar than I've seen in my whole life and probably around fifty bass anywhere from 2 pounds to 5 pounds. It was crazy! This is exactly what a tournament guy dreams of, stay on the water till the last possible second and then find the holy water just before the event.

Now with mixed emotions running through our head as well as drawing boat number 23, we had some talking to do. The gambling side to us thought maybe it be best if we ran the community stuff early in the morning and caught our 14-16 plus pounds and then sneak over to the juice and really put together a kings sack. What if we don't get prime area in the community with the weak take off number? What if someone else found the juice and will make fresh squeezed lemonade before we ever get there? What if we have a tough day and driving home hate ourselves for not taking advantage of what we found?

You can see where our heads were at and decided we shouldn't take any chances, skip the community and go all out in this area we had found and hopefully have it all to ourselves. When we arrived tourney morning it appeared we were the first in until we spotted some perch jerkers anchored down on one of the better areas. We politely squeezed past them and the noticed there was another tournament boat up the cut, not sure if they creeped in another way or just had an early take off number but none the less, they were ahead of us and we were fishing their seconds. Then wouldn't you know it, out comes KVD wannabe himself blazing through the cut trolling motor on 100 talking about "they were here yesterday" and damn near bumped my boat to get out. What was gin clear water was now turning to chocolate milk fast and this area just couldn't hold up to this kind of pressure, too shallow and too skinny. There was also a lot of people on their docks enjoying the beautiful Saturday morning catching some gills. Just too much pressure, no excuses, we should have considered that from the get go but didn't and now was too late to go back. I did manage one nice keeper out of there but with three hours burned we left that area with just the one. We ran to the community and quickly got the feeling we were not only fishing seconds but more like thirds, fourths and fifths. Still head down and determined we worked at taking what we could get and Rich managed to bag three keepers with time dwindling down. Our hail mary pass came late in the game when we only had 4 in the box and an hour to go, we ran back to our starting spot and I managed to take one buck off a bed to fill our limit. 

At weigh-in we put together 5 for a very disappointing 11.88 pounds only good enough for a 32nd place finish. The most important thing though is we definitely learned something from this event and know what we have to do better ourselves at the next one. It's important in a team tournament to find as much water in practice as possible and fish each others strengths to maximize results. We're not too beat up about our decision to skip community even though that's were a lot of the big bags came from. Tournament bass fishing is about rolling the dice and hats off to those that made the right decision.      

Blog Archive