Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Hope you all get to relax with your families, have a good one.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Still Alive

Sorry for the lack of posting.  There's been a lack of fishing.

Had a hard time finishing up the semester and now that Finals are over, I'm sitting here wishing I was able to go out fishing with all the free time I have now.  Sadly, there is an abundance of snow on the ground, the temperature has been below freezing for the past couple weeks, and I'm too large of a man to comfortably go ice fishing.

So I'm counting down the days to spring.  Here's to a quick winter, hope you all have a good holiday season!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

First trout on the fly!

First off, I want to apologize for the lack of posting lately. Full time work + full time school = not much time for fishing.

Fortunately, after stumbling across an event on Clif's blog,  I decided the drought needed to be over.  So after my test (yes, an algebra class on a Saturday morning. blech.) I headed over to Nate's Hooked on Fishing trout pond to get some instruction in the way of fly fishing.

Right after I walked into the complex, Jonn headed me off and started me off with some fly-less casting lessons.  Turns out my self-taught casting method was too long of a cast and didn't come to enough of an abrupt stop to shoot the line out.  After a few casts, Jonn realized that something was wrong with my line.  After some examination, he figured out that my fly line doesn't have a taper, which is not very conducive to beginning fly fishing.  He went to get one of his rods for me to use, and while he was over there, I helped Clif land a nice trout and snapped a pic for him, which will probably be up on Lunker Hunt later on I imagine.

After lunch (absolutely amazing fresh grilled trout and a burger), Clif and I headed to the other side of the pond where there was a little inlet streaming in.  After a bunch of casting and a couple missed hooksets, I hooked into this guy:



(Thanks to Clif for the net and camera work)

We continued to fish that section next to the inlet with good success.  I caught 5 more, roughly the same size or bigger than the one above.  I tried to get some good pictures but it was becoming apparent that I was putting too much stress on the fish so the only other good picture of a trout I have is of this one, which I think is my third or fourth of the day:


I think he was about the same length as the first one, just a bit skinnier.

Clif had to leave for a bit so I was on my own for awhile for netting fish.  Caught two while he was gone, of course, my largest of the day was one of them.  It was awesome to fight him out on the flyrod, let him tire himself out and then lead him into the net.  He was so big that I had a hard time with it.  It was very difficult to get him unhooked and I had to let him recuperate in the net for a bit before he swam off but off he went eventually.

A little bit later, Jonn let me try out his Sage Largemouth rod.  It has a really heavy line on it and shoots out line like a rocket.  It made me, a total novice, feel like I was casting like a pro.  While casting the Sage, I didn't have many bites but I did hook up one time.  When I was stripping it in, it wasn't fighting like the rest of the trout I'd caught all day.   Turns out it wasn't:


A bass!  Woo!  Great way to end the outing.  It started raining and the event was coming to a close.  I chatted with Jonn a bit about line and rod options, said thanks for the lessons and headed home.

Overall an awesome reinvigorating day on the fly.  Thanks to Clif for helping me land fish and snap pics, to Jonn for the lessons and letting me use his awesome equipment, and to Nate for putting on such a great get-together.

I would suggest my readers (all four of you) to follow Nate's blog (linked above) and support his Hooked on Fishing ponds in any possible.  From what I've read and heard, they do some great things for kids and handicapped individuals in the Peoria area.  I'll definitely be looking out for ways to help out.

UPDATE:  Nate has updated his blog with pics of the event here.  Most of them were taken before I got there.  You can see the inlet that Clif and I were fishing four pics from the bottom.

UPDATE DOS: Clif has his version of events along with a really cool video showing how good the fishing was here.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Charter Oak North - 8/15/10

After about a week of heat advisory inducing weather, it finally cooled off a bit.  I took advantage by heading out this morning to try to wet a line.  I got down to the lake to find a guy on one of the piers casting a fly rod with a popper.  I asked him if he was having any luck and he said that he hadn't but he sure was tearing up his poppers on the pier.  Been there, done that brother.  (Same pier even.)  
I headed down to another pier and tied on a 7" Powerworm in Blue Fleck.  (The second to last in a package that I bought back in March and have caught at least a dozen fish on.  Not bad for $3.50.)  Second cast, I hooked into a little 7-8 inch largemouth.  I would've taken a pic but I hooked him in the jaw and it took awhile to get him loose, didn't wanna keep him out of the water long.
It was a nice change of pace to catch a fish so easily/quickly, compared to my recent bass outings.  Got the monkey off my back early.
I cast a few more times on both sides of the pier and took a walk down one side of the water.  The lillypads that had taken over about half of the lake are now wilting and dying, leaving more patches of open water and making casting a little easier.
My uncle recently passed a bag full of older bass equipment to me so I decided to try out a red/purple 10" Bass Assassin worm for a bit.  Something was off while throwing it.  Probably just that I'm used to 7" worms.  I also don't think I had a big enough hook on to have hooked a fish (3/0).  I wasn't comfortable messing around with it so I switched to an older looking "Neonz" purple 7" Powerworm and went back to my original pier and quickly picked up fish #2:
Another 7-8" Largemouth.  (Note to self, don't take pics at this angle, makes fish look even smaller than he already is.)

Tossed a few more casts down the bank, working towards the exit.  No more bites.

The guy flycasting didn't catch anything while I was there (which makes me always feel proud, when I outfish someone around me.  It's probably wrong to think that way but I think its a Man instinct.), but there were 3 kids who came down the path loudly and started asking him questions about the fish and flyfishing. Although he could have been offended and given them the cold shoulder, he was explaining what he was doing and pointed out a big carp cruising along the shore.  (Oh wow! It's huuuuge!  Why don't you catch that one?!?)  I think that's one thing that makes angling/outdoor sports so awesome, there is so little elitism.   People just want to share their passion and get others involved.  (Although he did tell me one of the kids knocked over his flybox and he lost a bunch of his flies. After that he told them about another pond down a path that they should check out.)  :)

All in all, a good outing, especially for just an hour and fifteen minutes.  Got my fishing fix that's been missing for awhile.  Hopefully it keeps cooling down so I get out a little more often.

Alright, I'm off to go practice with my bow, hope you all had a good weekend.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

My first firearm.

I find myself in a peculiar position.  I am still very interested in fishing, but my near-fanatical obsession of months passed has diminished slightly.  I mostly blame the sweltering heat.  I expect my obsession to pick back up once it cools off a bit and it's a little easier to fish from shore.

In the meantime, I've been doing some other outdoorsmanly things, mainly getting ready for hunting season by getting the bow my father passed on to me restrung and getting a FOID card so I can get a shotgun and do some hunting with that.   (BTW, if you're planning on buying a gun in Illinois anytime in the next six months or so, send in your FOID application now, you don't know how much you hate being restricted on buying a firearm until you're ready to buy one and can't.)

For my first firearm, to get some practice and shake off the rust, I picked up a Ruger 10/22.  Here's a pic:



I don't know why its showing as upside-down, I'll try to fix it when I have the time.

I got the chance to go out to the Chillicothe Sportsmen's Club to shoot it, and they have a nice lake on the property that they stock with bass, panfish and trout that I'd love to fish.  I'll be picking up an application as soon as I can afford the first year's fee's.  ($125 for the first year, not too bad for unlimited range/lake access.)

My current work schedule (11:30-8) isn't very conducive to fishing during the week.  My dream is to get everything organized to the point where I have work (and school starting in two weeks) through the week, a day just to spend with my wifey and a day just to spend with myself.  Right now, that isn't working out, and when I do get a day, the 90+ degree temps aren't making fishing a preferable option so there may be some more posts about the range and hunting preparations over the next couple months than fishing.  At least until it cools down a bit and I get the upcoming "Full-time employee, full time student, full time husband, part time angler, part time new hunter" schedule down pat.  Who knows, maybe I'll change the name of the blog to Intro to the Outdoors.  :)

As far as actual fishing, my dad and I are entered in a Carp tournament up on the Rock River the last weekend of this month.  Since my dad's nickname is King Carp, look forward to a recap and some pics of that.  (Hopefully it doesn't turn out like our father's day outing, with a big old skunk.)

Thats about it, hope you all have been able to get out a little more than I have.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Berkley 7" Powerworm Review

There is one lure that every beginning bass fisherman should become familiar with: the plastic worm.  The plastic worm is a very forgiving lure, one that is very hard to "mess up" or use incorrectly.  As long as you're casting it out and bringing it back along the bottom, you're doing it right.

That said, not all worms are created equal.  The plastic worm is my fallback or confidence lure.  I may try something else when I start out but 9 times out of time I end up with a plastic worm on my baitcaster when I leave the lake.  Because I use worms so often, I've bought and tried several different types of worms.  My preference is the Berkley 7" Powerworm.  The reason is simple:  It catches fish.  Even when nothing else will.  

Seven inches may seem really long and you may question if fish will be scared off by the worm or if smaller fish will even be able to get the whole worm in their mouth.  Let me assure you, the seven inch model of Powerworm is the perfect size.  The tail is curved and twisted to "swim" and create action when you move it through the water.  Most of the body of the worm is ribbed.  I believe this creates vibration when the worm is pulled/jerked through the water.  

I've only really use the Powerworm in two colors: Blue Fleck and Tequila Sunrise.  The bass around my area absolutely love the Blue Fleck, especially in the spring.  I don't know why but when I first started bass fishing this year I didn't have much more than a pack of Blue Fleck Powerworms, hooks and bullet sinkers.  The first couple times out I would honestly be getting hits on almost every cast dragged past a bed of weeds.  

As far as durability, I've had a day where I caught seven fish on one worm!  Five bass and two huge sunfish.  (Told you its not too big)  All on the one worm.  I haven't caught enough fish in one session with any other worm to compare but I've heard horror stories of some soft plastics breaking down after two or three decent fish.

Powerworms are part of a line called Powerbait which all share the Powerbait scent.  You'll know when you open a bag of Powerbait.  I don't know if the scent is the secret to it's success or if it is the action or what.  I just know that they work.  I can honestly say that I don't think there has been a time that I've fished a Powerworm and not had at least one knock or nibble on my line.

And before you think I'm just kissing Berkley's big-name butt or that they gave me the worms for free to talk up, let me add that I paid for every single pack of Powerworms I've used.  Just like I've paid for the several other brands that I've tried.  I may have originally bought them because I saw them on Hank Parker, but I continue to buy them because they catch me fish.  I highly recommend them to anyone either just starting out, wanting to change up their tactics, or get someone new into the sport.  They run about $4 for a pack of 10 and you can get them just about anywhere tackle is sold.

As far as fishing plastic worms, a majority of the time my worm is texas-rigged.  (For anyone who doesn't know how to texas-rig a worm, here you go.  If any of my blogger buddies have a post on it that explains it in a different way, feel free to link it in a comment, might help people put it in a different light.)   I'd say 95% of the bass I've caught on Powerworms have been texas-rigged with a loose weight.  The loose weight makes the worm sink fast enough to showcase it's action, but lets it go at it's own speed so it doesn't zoom past the fish.  The other 5% (one, maybe two fish) has been texas-rigged without a weight.  

Once you have it all rigged up, toss it out near some cover (weeds/fallen trees/lily pads) and let it sink.  Try to keep the line taut but don't move the bait for at least 20-30 seconds.  This is when I get most of my hits, after the initial fall.  After waiting a bit, start to bring in the worm by slightly jerking your rod, just a couple inches.  Reel up the slack, wait about 20 secs, repeat.  Eventually you'll feel a tick on your line and usually the line will start moving.  Drop your rod tip a bit, reel up the slack and yank straight up to set the hook.  You've got yourself a fish. :)

To sum it up, let me reiterate:  Powerworms catch fish.  They are one of the easiest lures out there if you're a beginner or just introducing someone to the sport.  They are well worth the $4 you'll spend on them.

Hope that helps a few beginners out.  If you guys have any questions on the Powerworm, feel free to ask.  I may not know the answer but I'll do my best to find it out for you.


Disclaimer: I am not associated with Berkley in any way and received nothing in way of compensation or equipment for this review.  I spent my own hard earned cash on these Powerworms and will continue to do so as long as they catch me fish.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Gnarly

Went out fishing with my buddy Matt this morning, trying to bring in some catfish to fry up for dinner.

Anticipation was in the air as we walked down the levee, rods in hand.  You could almost hear it buzzing.

Oh wait... That was the thousands of flies, feeding on the damp muck left behind after the lake dried up enough to let the levee emerge.  It was kind of unnerving, like the background noise in a horror flick, getting slowly louder as time passes and we get closer.

We went out to Anderson Lake, which is by Manito, IL.  We started out with Matt's homemade stink bait.  It sure stunk.  The problem was it was the first time he made it so it wasn't thick enough to stick well to the catfish worms.  We fished it for awhile with just a few disinterested bites.  While watching my pole, I rigged up the Firebird with a jighead and 3" Ripple Shad and tossed it around to no avail.

The whole time we were there, a group (pod?) of about 15-20 carp were cruising about 3 feet from shore.  I tied on a big bushy fly on my flyrod and tried to put it out a few feet in front of them.  I had one come up and "sniff" it but he turned around and booked it away.  I think I would like to get some weighted flies that would sink to the bottom and go out there again, I'm confident that with the correct bait, you could  clean up on carp on that levee.  Matt also gave me some advice on flycasting, so I don't look quite so developmentally disabled.

After about two hours with no fish, I rigged up my baitcaster with a hook and sinker and threaded a nightcrawler on.  A couple casts later, I finally had a hit and set the hook into my first fish in about a month.  Little did I know it'd be this little monster:


Yea, he had a bad day.  My first Bullhead ever.


All in all, he had is back fin missing, his front fin was messed up (Finding Nemo style), he was missing a whisker, that scarring on his side, and had deep gashes on the top of his head.  Matt reckons he had a run-in with a flathead.


I wasn't about to eat him in that condition so we let him go.  Sadly we saw him float up to the top about ten feet away a little bit later.  Luckily, something came up and snatched him so he didn't go to waste.

A little bit later, I got another bite and reeled in this:


I believe they're technically White Perch.  My dad always called them Sheephead.  Matt calls them bait.  He caught two more and kept all three to use for cutbait when he goes back tonight.

Matt also had a piece of nightcrawler under a bobber.  Something dragged it under super sloooowly.  Matt set the hook and the drag on his ultra-light went apesh*t.  I  moved his other rod out of way and watched him fight a fish up towards the bank.  It ended up being a 2 1/2 to 3 foot gar that snapped off the line right at shore.  Wish we could have landed it so I could get a pic for you guys.

All in all, not the day I hoped for but I still had a good time.  Matt swears the fishing is a hundred times better at night so I'll have to go out with him some night soon and hopefully pull in one of the 10-15 pound cats he raves about.  :)

I have a couple more pics of the shoreline to share with you, its a really beautiful lake.



Well thats it for now.  I have a Peoria Chiefs (Cubbies farm team) game to go to tonight and I need a nap beforehand. :)

I've been waiting on my FOID card for a month now.  Whenever the state police get it to me, I'll be following up with my experiences on getting licensed to own a firearm in IL and purchasing my first rifle and handgun.  I know this has nothing to do with fishing but I know alot of fisherman are also into hunting/shooting so I figure someone may enjoy reading it.

Hope you all have a good weekend.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Still Alive...

Just haven't caught anything at all since my last post.  I've been out fishing three times over the past couple weeks with no success.

I attribute this to a couple things:


  1. I haven't gotten in a "full" fishing session in that time.  By "full" I mean 4ish hours of dedicated fishing time to explore an area and really find the fish.  I've been limited to between one and two hours each time.
  2. The bass forum I belong to (www.thebassholes.com) has an awesome contest going on right now called a Bait Bash.  Minda Lures sent out a package of their Craws to 100 anglers (myself included) to try out and the angler who catches the most and biggest bass wins a prize package.  It's an absolutely awesome promotion and a great way to spread the word about the craws.  That said, I really have no idea how to fish a plastic crawdad.  I've been texas-rigging them and bouncing them off the bottom but haven't had a hit.  I attribute this to my inexperience as the craws seem to have pretty awesome action.  However, I've been using them almost exclusively and haven't had time to really fall back on the stuff I know.
When you add in the holiday and family events, it just hasn't been conducive to catching fish.  

Luckily, this weekend we have absolutely nothing planned so I called up my buddy Matt.  I met Matt in Speech class and we got to talking about fishing and traded numbers so we could go out and tear 'em up sometime.  Since I've been skunked lately on my own, I figure it'll be good to head out with someone who grew up in the area, knows some honeyholes and has been catching fish.  

I have no idea where we're going but he said they've been getting good amounts of channel cats and bass so hopefully I'll have some pics of some delicious ugly cats and some big beautiful bass.

Sorry for the lack of action, hope you all are having more luck than I have lately.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Charter Oak North - 6/27/10

Had a family wedding reception all day yesterday and I'm planning (weather willing) to go out and do some plinking to check out some rifles with my uncle today so I got up at the crack of dawn to try and catch a couple fish today.

Ok, thats a stretch.  What really happened is I fell asleep at 9pm last night, exhausted from the reception.  I woke up at 3:30 this morning, wide awake.  So I figured I might as well squeeze in some fishing.

Headed out to Charter Oak North at 5:00AM.  I picked up a couple Ribbit frogs awhile back and since Charter Oak has excessive vegetation, I decided to tie that on and see if I could get a couple explosions on it.  It makes alot of noise when reeled through open water and is really easy to bounce on the lilly pads but I had no takers.  (Despite having hits on my Senko lookalikes the past two times I was there.)

Eventually I snagged up my frog on a tree.  Had to break it off so I decided to go to what is becoming my old standby: a 7 inch Powerworm, this time in Tequila sunrise.

A few casts with the Powerworm got me a tick from this guy:



As you can see, not a lunker by any means but its much better than getting skunked.

There's a commercial that shows about every 37 seconds on Versus with Larry Dahlberg saying:
"There are four stages of angling: You just wanna catch a fish.  You wanna catch a limit.  You wanna catch a really big one.  Finally, you wanna catch them the way YOU wanna catch 'em."
I was thinking about it and I definitely still fall into the first category.  As long as I'm able to take a fish off the hook, ANY fish, it validates my day.  Especially if it's a bass.  Even if he's about the size of the bait I'm using.

Anyway, I cast out the Powerworm a few more times with no takers.  Then, as is becoming a trend, I started hearing thunder roll up behind me.  I stuck it out until I saw a flash of lightning, then headed home.  Only got to fish for about an hour and a half total but it made my morning.

Hopefully it dries up before noon, as I'd really like to go try out some rifles before my FOID card comes in.  If anyone has any suggestions on a nice, fairly inexpensive .22 rifle, please let me know.

Hope you all have a good weekend and get to wet a line.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Big old skunkeroonie.

Went out with my dad to Lake Carlton to try to track down some bass.  After hiking as far as we could on overgrown back trails and trying everything from a spinnerbait to a fluke with no success, we eventually just sat on the edge of a dock and tossed Powerworms along the shore, reminiscing and exaggerating old fishing memories.

It was frustrating from a fishing standpoint but at the same time, I knew I had to keep patient and try to make the most of it since Dad and I don't get many opportunities to go fish or really hang out in general anymore.

About 11, we made the drive to the Coleta Trout Ponds so I could try to  pick up my first trout on the fly.  Apparently there have to be trout in the pond to catch.  I walked all the way around the pond with crystal clear water and polarized glasses and didn't see a single sign of trout-y life.  Oh well, I guess that's what I get for going to a stocked trout pond a couple months after its stocked.  It was worth a try.  I'll have to try again when they restock in October.

I apologize for the lack of fishing action on here lately, you'll have to trust me when I say its not for lack of trying.  I guess thats part of being new to something, success doesn't just happen.  I'm putting in the hours though.  Hopefully things start turning around soon.

Happy Father's day to all you dads, hope you all get to take your kids out and catch a few this weekend!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Banner Marsh 6/13



So between 85 degree weather and storms every other day, the weather has been pretty miserable here in Central IL the past couple weeks. I braved the humidity and oncoming storm briefly this morning and headed back out to Banner Marsh to do some more exploring.

I headed past the entry points I previously checked out in search of something a little more remote and less pressured than before.  I ended up driving down a road with lakes on both sides and a crossroad in the middle, with two more lakes on the other side.  I cruised really slowly and could see literally hundreds of bluegill splashing in the shallows of the first lake I drove past, it was probably the most fish I'd seen in one spot, it was pretty awesome.  Past the crossroads and towards the end of the second lake, I got out of the Explorer with my Shakespeare baitcaster combo texas-rigged with a Culprit worm.  I tossed a few casts towards some promising looking weeds and along the shore without any bites when I started hearing thunder way back behind me. 

I decided to give up on bass fishing for the day.  I knew it was going to be a learning experience trying to find the fish and a remote spot that would take longer than Mother Nature was going to give me.  I really feel like I need a majority of a day to really explore and find a "honeyhole."  Also, I had some new flies/floatant that my buddy Rhett from Central Ohio Fishing tied and sent along to me to get me started until I get my own kit.  So, I figured I'd head back to the first lake and try to salvage the day while I still had a chance.

I tied on what I think is a little mosquito fly and let her rip.  The bluegill started rising to my fly as soon as it hit.  I learned that when a fish comes up close to inspect your fly, you shouldn't twitch it or strip in line to try to entice it to bite unless you're planning on scaring the hell out of every fish interested. 

It wasn't long before I hooked this guy:
2010-06-13 11.58.47.jpg

























Followed by this guy on the next cast:
2010-06-13 12.03.13.jpg

 A little bigger.  Then I realized that I was taking more time taking pictures of little bluegill than I was catching little bluegill, with time at a premium due to the storm clouds and thunder rolling closer.  So I decided to just try to catch as many as possible before having to take off.  I ended up catching 4 more bluegill, the largest being about the size of half of my hand ( the technical measurement).   

As soon as the thunder got overhead, the fish stopped biting.  I kept trying for the next ten minutes or so and the fish would come up and look at the fly but they wouldn't touch it.  I stuck it out until I saw lightning and then headed home just a few minutes before the heavens opened up for yet another heavy rain.  I really hope the weather settles down before next weekend so I can have a good trip with my dad. 

If all goes well I should have some pics of my first trout on the fly as well as a bunch of bass.  We'll see how it goes.  Even if we get skunked it should be a good father-son trip.

Till then I'm gonna go chill and watch some more of my new favorite show: Expedition Great White.  For anyone who hasn't seen it, its like if you took Jaws and made it a Discovery-esque educational show.  They use giant circle hooks and bouys to tire the shark out, tag it and release.  It's pretty awesome, I highly recommend it.

Well have a good one ladies and gentlemen, hopefully I'll have a little more exciting post for you all next week.  Thanks to Rhett for the flies/floatant, they saved the day!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Fellow anglers, I need your help!

Hey everybody, hope all is going well.

Last post I mentioned my uncle briefly, well he fell into some bad luck and had someone steal about 15 rod/reel combos, a tackle bag and several boxes of crankbaits.  :(

I know alot of guys who have fishing blogs also frequent forums/trading sites/are on the lookout for good deals, if you hear of anyone selling/trading huge amounts of custom painted Rapalas, two GLoomis rods with Stradic reels, two St. Croix rods w/ Stradic reels, or an assortment of these (there were other assorted rods/reels/lures but those are the ones that really stick out), please let me know.  He said it looks like the guy knew what he was looking for so he's probably not stupid enough to sell/swap it online but if you hear of anything suspicious, please pass it on.  It would probably be out of the WI/MI area.

He's hoping insurance will cover everything and he still has enough gear to compete in his upcoming tourneys but it'd be nice to track down the guy who did it and make sure he gets what's coming to him.

Anyone who would like to help spread the word is very appreciated.

Thanks guys.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Fishing Goals!

Hola mi amigos.

After a few days of thought, I've come up with a quite a few different goals to meet as far as fishing goes.  I tried to keep these realistic so that its possible to meet all of them this year.  When a goal is met I will reassess and "kick it up a notch." 

I realized that some of the goals I have in mind have absolutely nothing to do with bass fishing.  Hopefully nobody minds that I include other species in a blog entitled "Intro to Bass Fishing".  I've just been bitten by the fishing bug in general, a day that I catch any fish is a good day fishing.

However, I did go ahead and break these up into bass/non-bass goals, as bass fishing far outweighs every other goal I have in mind.  So without further ado, here we go:

Bass Goals:
  • Catch a Smallmouth:  My dad tells me I caught a 2.5 pound smallie when I was 5 years old while fishing for bluegill with a nightcrawler but for the life of me I can't remember a single thing about it.  I read/see such great things about smallmouth bass, I really want to target them as the summer goes on and turns into fall.
  • Catch a bass over 3lbs/document it:  Those of you who remember my night adventure awhile back may remember that I think I caught a bass over 3 lbs but I had no scale and no tape measure to accurately document it.  I'm now armed with a nifty Berkley scale/tape measure AND a camera with a flash, so bring on the 3+ pounders!
  • Catch more than 5 bass in one outing:  I had one day this spring where I caught 5 bass (the largest being the one I'm holding in my profile pic at 14").  Time to do better.
  • Catch a bass on a fly/popper I made myself:  I really look forward to this one.  I can't imagine the feeling of fooling a bass into eating a lure I made myself, I'm stoked.  I'm hoping to get a fly tying kit soon, then this one will really take off.  I actually made a popper the other night out of cheap craft materials from walmart, a spare hook and my mini-multi-tool (without a vise, bobbin, or any other traditional tools I might add).  It's god-awful ugly and I accidentally painted the feathers but maybe by some miracle it'll catch a fish.  Behold:
(Told you it was god-awful ugly.  Sorry bout the "Just Married" balloons in the background, this was the only shot with a decent focus.)
  • Catch a bass on a jig, crankbait, and carolina rig:  All of which I've failed to do.  I think the carolina rig will be the easiest, as it seems to be just adding sound to a texas rig and moving the weight away from the plastic.  I've caught almost all my bass on a texas-rigged worm this year so hopefully carolina rigging comes naturally to me.  I'll count each of these as a separate goal on the official list I'll make up, just lumped them together to save space and not be redundant on this post.
  • Catch a bass with my dad:  This one is probably most important to me.  As I've mentioned on here before, my dad is really big into fishing but he's a panfish/catfish/walleye kind of guy.  He's caught quite a few bass, but has never really targeted them.  Well, he takes his girlfriend out fishing for bluegill about once a week and my recent obsession with bass fishing has convinced him to buy a cheap kit of plastic worms, dust off his ancient baitcaster and give bass fishing a serious try.  I'll be sure to mention if he pulls in a monster in the next couple trips.  Also, he and I are planning on going fishing Father's Day weekend, which gives me a pretty good segue into:
Non-bass related goals:
  • Catch a trout on the fly:  This is probably the most logistically difficult goal I have, since I don't think trout can naturally live in Illinois waters.  However, the DNR stocks trout twice a year at different sites across the state.  Dad and I are going to hit up the Coleta Trout Ponds near Rock Falls, IL first thing on our daytrip and try to catch some trout.  This may prove impossible since it was stocked in March and won't be again until October.  However, all the flyfishing blogs I follow have got me stoked to give it a try.  If it doesn't work out there, we're planning on heading to Lake Carlton in Morrison and chasing some bass.
  • Catch a carp on the fly:  I follow a ridiculous amount of blogs.  Two of these are roughfisher.com and Carp on the Fly.  These guys make carp fishing on the fly look easy.   I remember fishing for carp on the Rock River with canned corn, that was a blast!  (We had one take off with my dad's pole because he was busy baiting my sister's pole when I was probably 9 years old.  That day was not a blast.)  If its that much fun on standard tackle, it's gotta be a hell of a fight on a fly rod.
  • Catch a walleye/sauger/saugeye:  My uncle Roy Vivian started fishing professionally in MWC and FLW tourneys last year.  He spends most of his time up north but he said the next time he has a tourney on the Illinois River, I can pre-fish with him.  Should be a good time, not just fishing but catching up with my favorite uncle.  I don't get to see him that often.  As long as that trip happens, I should accomplish this one.
  • Try cooking each of the species of fish that catch:  Obviously only if its a legal fish.  I never liked fish when I was little so I've avoided it most of my life.  However, I recently had fried catfish and grilled salmon and they were both delicious so I'm going to seek out different recipes and try them out.  If I find any good ones I'll be sure to share them with you guys.  I don't know that this can be fully accomplished because it seems like there's ALWAYS another species out there, so it may not get added to an official list of goals.  Nevertheless, it's one of my objectives in fishing.
So there they are, the things I'd really like to accomplish by year's-end.  Like I said earlier, some of them will have the ante upped after they're met.  Is there anything you've accomplished that you think every angler should also?  Do you have any goals for the coming year or just as a fisherman in general?

Monday, May 31, 2010

Veni, Vidi, Vici



I got a chance to go out fishing for the first time since leaving for Vegas last week.  Went out early this morning to Charter Oak North, only to find every pier already taken at 6:30 AM.  I threw a Gander Mountain Trick Stick wherever I could from shore.  Had a couple hits but couldn't set the hook.  I got the fly rod out with the same result: missing hooksets.  This continued for a little over an hour and a half when a storm rolled in and the thunder started so I went home to get a nap and spend some time with my new wifey.

A little after 3:00 PM (after the sun came back out), feeling very inspired by Clif's post from yesterday, I put aside my recent fishing frustration and headed out for Banner Marsh, a local  hotspot that I've heard alot about but hadn't experienced yet.  I followed my Google Maps app to the general area and turned into the first access point I came across.  I ended up at a part of the Marsh called Wheel Lake, parked and got all rigged up.  I hooked up a 7" Powerworm texas style with no weight.

There is a little channel that runs next to the road and leads to the boat ramp that I decided to start with.  It was about 4:00 PM at this point and very sunny so worked down the channel, trying to cast into the areas of the bank that had overhangs from being washed out due to the boats or had downed/overhanging trees.  About fifteen casts in I overshot the water to the other bank and tugged the worm down into the water.  I felt a thunk and the line went slack.  I reeled up and set the hook, finally had one on! I swung him up onto shore just as a couple guys were coming in with their boat.  The Gamakatsu hook (that comes free with every pack of Gander Mountain plastics!) went through the side of his lip, came back and hooked him in the jaw on the outside.  I had to get my pliers out and work the hook out and guide it back through his lip to get him back in the water.  According to the tape on my pole, he was just under 12 inches.  I apologize for not having a pic but I had him out of the water for awhile and didn't want to do any damage while scrounging around for my camera.

The relief that came from that fish is almost indescribable.  Bass fishing is something that I've invested alot of my time into lately and I've come up empty handed more often than not the past half-dozen trips, especially when at a large, unfamiliar body of water.  I know there was some luck involved with tugging the worm off of the bank but I caught that fish by looking for shade and cover and working methodically down the bank.  It gave me a sense of accomplishment that's hard to explain.  It might sound silly but it was just what I needed.

I continued to work my way down around the boat ramp but two boats came out and one put in and they shut down so I jumped in the car and headed back up the road.  There are little channels that run alongside part of the road so I drove a little while down one of the roads, got out and started working down the channel with my Powerworm.  I eventually overshot the bank again, this time I got hung up and had to break the line (something that is much harder/scarier to do with 14 lb fluorocarbon than with 8lb mono, I found out).  I saw a few bluegill rising to the surface so I went back to the Explorer and grabbed my fly rod, which still had a little floating black fly with a red tail on it.

Bluegill love little floating flies.  I think they could honestly care less what it looks like, as long as it's small enough to fit in their mouth and it floats, they'll bite it.  I had a couple takes that I missed the hookset on and then I finally hooked this little guy (I had the camera ready this time):

















I got him back in the water and then couldn't get the fly to float anymore and they lost interest.  Does anyone know of a way to keep flies afloat without floatant or know of a cheap alternative to floatant?  Any ideas are greatly appreciated.

It had sprinkled rain on and off while I worked my way down the road so I was a little damp and about ready to head home but I wanted to try one more spot right by where I came in. This little spot looked promising, with alot of grass and shade, but as I walked up I remember thinking "this path leading down is pretty steep, better be careful"  about three steps before I ended up at the bottom of the path on my butt in the mud.  I dusted myself off, (luckily no one was around to see) and grabbed my poles from where they landed in the grass and tried a few casts with the Powerworm and a silver/blue Rat L Trap knockoff.  After a couple dozen casts with no bites, I was ready to head back up the path and head home... Or so I thought.

Before I go over what happened next, let me explain that I'm a big man.  At 6'5" and pretty top-heavy, I sometimes have trouble keeping my balance while walking down a hallway or up stairs.  Apparently trying to climb up a muddy path just after a storm while holding two baitcasters and wearing 6 year old Nikes is a bad idea.  I got a few steps up, started slipping, did a Scooby Doo run in place for a second and then somehow simultaneously dropped my poles, fell to my knees and slid down into the lake up above my ankles.  Awesome.  At that point I was VERY happy no one was around.

I extricated myself from the muck, checked to make sure my reels weren't crushed or muddy and started up the hill again.  This time I extended my poles handle-first up the hill so my hands were free to grab hold occasionally and made my way up to the Explorer very awkwardly.

I know that sounds completely insane but that was my day.  It may be weird but I still consider it a success.  I may have looked like an idiot and my beautiful wife was quick to point out that I fell down as many times as I caught a fish but I accomplished something I hadn't done before:  I caught a bass in a large, unfamiliar body of water.  As long as I came home with nothing broken it would have been a good day.

Hopefully someday way down the line when I'm a super experienced fisherman and get bummed out because I didn't catch any fish over 4 lbs or something ridiculous, I can look back and remember not to take myself so seriously.

I decided I'm going to work on coming up with a few realistic goals to accomplish before the summer is over and my fishing time is restricted by college again.  Not sure exactly what yet but I'll be working on it over the next few days, I'll let you guys know what I come up with.

Hope you all had a good memorial day and good luck the next time you get to wet a line!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Troutrageous Giveaway!

I wanted to pass on an opportunity to everyone.  Troutrageous has a contest going with Hobie Sunglasses right now to give away some free shades!

Check it out here.

I'm always stoked to find free stuff.  Especially since I've never owned a pair of polarized glasses and I've been in the market, it'd be pretty sweet to win a nice pair.

I had a good week in Vegas (actually came out even!)  and I'm hoping to get out fishing this weekend so be on the lookout for a report and hopefully some pics of monster fish!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Come on Baby, Daddy needs a new pair of waders!!!

Last post before we head off to Vegas to get married!

Not a whole lot to report.  I had two quick fishing trips to Charter Oak North, total of about four hours of fishing.  No bites.  My guess would be that they're spawning, although I couldn't spot any fish on beds.  There have been people there every time I've gone for the past month so maybe the pressure is wearing on the fish in such a small pond.  Whatever it is, I think I need to find a new honeyhole when I get back.

I did get a try a couple things for the first time:  fluorocarbon and Gander Mountain Trick Sticks. (generic Senkos I believe.)  I haven't caught any fish so I don't have many thoughts on them at the moment.  The fluorocarbon lets me feel weeds and the bottom better but I haven't had a hit on them to see if its easier to feel.  The Trick Sticks have pretty awesome action, like a minnow wiggling to the bottom of the lake.  Look for more thoughts once I catch some fish.

Well thats about it.  Wish me luck, hopefully I'll hit the jackpot, pay off my car and be able to buy a boat!  ;)

Hope you all have a good week, "see" you when I get back.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Don't need a frog to keep the skunk away today!

So I decided I'm gonna stay away from big lakes unless I have someone with me who knows the water.  I get too overwhelmed with all the open water and different opportunities and I think I get a little lost.  I definitely get frustrated.


Today I went and checked out Spring Lake (which is actually two lakes) outside of Pekin, IL.  There were alot of weeds so I went with a texas-rigged Powerworm and a Purple/Silver Rat L Trap on my other rod for whenever I got some open water to throw it in.  I worked along the edge of one of the lakes, working the worm and trap all the way down.  Long story short, I got to the end of the lake about two hours later with no bites.  I lost my Rat L Trap on a submerged tree, got pissed off and decided to head back to Peoria.


Just like the other day, I decided to head to Charter Oak North to try to salvage the day.  I pulled out the fly rod with a little orange foam ant tied on and got some more casting practice in.  I got to experience fish "rising" to my fly for the first time today.  It really gets your heart pumping to see even a little fish slowly stalking up to your fly on the surface.  I had a couple little fish come up and nip at the fly and I missed a hookset on the one that actually took it.

I abandoned the fly temporarily, switching to the Powerworm from earlier.  I tossed a few casts to the weeds with no takers down the bank on both sides.  I eventually went back to the fly rod, this time with a little white and pink popper.

It took me a few casts to get used to the little bit of weight on my fly line and to get the right speed of strip to get a good pop but eventually I got it going.  On my third or fourth cast with the popper, I popped it a couple times, looked at my phone to check the time, heard a splash and felt a tug on my pole and it was my first decent bass on the fly!  I actually reeled up the slack and got the play him a bit on the reel, let him tire himself out.  I swung him up on the dock and snapped a pic for you all:

















Just under 12".  Not huge but my biggest on the fly so far.  I tossed him back, went to cast back to the same spot and smacked the popper into the dock midcast, obliterating it.  D'oh!

Now in a pissy mood, I picked up my baitcaster and tied on a buzzbait, figuring if they hit a popper they might hit something else loud on the surface.  After a couple dozen casts with no bites, I went to a white Walmart spinnerbait.  No dice.

Back to the fly rod.  I still don't know the difference between a dry and wet fly but I picked out a little black one with feathers sticking out all over and a little red tail.  It floated!  And the bluegill loved it, they were sneaking up from underneath, taking shots at it.  I had one on but it got off about halfway back to the dock.  After that, the fly wouldn't float and the fish didn't like it nearly as much.

So I switched to a smallish brown fly with little white wings.  I got it out there and it floated too!  Once again, they love it while it's floating and I actually hooked a little guy:


















The fly stopped floating after that and they stopped hitting it again.  Note to self:  buy fly floatant.

It was about 12:30 by this time and I was getting hungry and tired after being out fishing/driving since 7:00 so I decided to head home, happy to have at least gotten a decent bass and had a bunch of fish rising to my bait.

So a decent day, I wish I would've just gone to Charter Oak first and not wasted time driving to a place I'm not comfortable.  Oh well, lesson learned.  Also, since starting with the fly rod, I've got four fish on it and no fish on conventional tackle...  What the hell?  Is that why people convert?  It just gets impossible to catch anything on anything but a fly? :)  Probably not but it definitely keeps things fresh.

I appreciate everyone checking out my blog lately, hope you all are having better luck than I have been lately. Have a good one.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Skunked? I'll let you decide.

After putting in a couple extra hours at work today, I decided to head out to McMaster Lake at Snakeden Hollow for a change of fishing scenery.  I didn't realize how far away it was, but an hour later I got to the lake to find about a half dozen boats out on the water and another guy walking the banks.  The lake is pretty wide open, not alot of trees so there was alot of wind, kind of throwing my hopes of fly fishing out the window.


I started throwing a 3" Powerbait Ripple Shad, bringing it back very slowly.  After a few minutes of no hits, I switched up to a 7" Blue Fleck Powerworm and tossed it near some weeds along the bank.  I worked along one bank and walked over to the other side of the boat ramp and worked down the other ramp so I could stop fighting the wind.  I switched to a chartreuse Gulp Nightcrawler and worked back along the bank.  I had a couple tiny bites but nothing I could set the hook on.  I really wasn't feeling this lake with all the wind and unfamiliarity so I decided to head back to my familiar water of Charter Oak North back in Peoria.


Charter Oak is down a little trail and has trees all around and wasn't nearly as windy so I was able to get some practice in with the fly rod.  I tied on the same fly as the other night and got to whipping it around.  I focused on keeping my wrist still and am to the point where I can consistently get the fly out about 10 yards, which is pretty exciting.  After a couple dozen casts with no bites, I switched up to the baitcaster with the Gulp crawler still on it.  No bites.  Back to the Powerworm... No bites.  I was getting very frustrated at this point.

I decided to try something new so I tied on a big black/orange jig and tipped it with half a plastic Gander Mountain crawdad in almost the same black/orange.  I tossed it out a few times, bouncing it along the bottom back to me.  Moved along the bank, throwing in all directions and bouncing it off the bottom.  No bites.  But, when I brought it in the last time, something splashed at it and scared the hell out of me about 6 inches from shore.  It was a big ol' bullfrog.  So I did what any frustrated grown man who had failed at fishing all day would do:  I played with the frog.  Every time I would get the jig within about 6 inches of him, he'd pounce on it and kick it. So, I got the idea to take a video for you guys.  Unfortunately, I can't figure out how to get it on here.  While taking the video, he decided to actually bite the jig, which gave me my first and only catch of the day:






































But don't worry, he was ok, I let him go and he went back to sitting grumpily in his patch of the weeds:


















So I'll leave it up to you guys, does that count or did I officially get skunked?  Either way, Mr. Bullfrog salvaged my day from being a frustrating waste to being able to mess around like a little kid again.  Speaking of, I'll hopefully be taking my future niece out fishing soon, be on the lookout for a report and pics.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

My First (and Second) Fish on the Fly!

Had my last final tonight, got finished early and decided I couldn't wait till Friday to try out the fly rod so I snuck out while the fiancĂ©e had her mom over.

I got down to Charter Oak North Lake and set up shop on one of the docks to get out away from all the stuff on the bank I would get caught up on.  Rhett suggested I try out a floating fly and twitch it back slowly so I pulled out my pack of flies and went to grab a floating fly when I realized, I have no idea what the hell a floating fly looks like...   So I just grabbed a brown one with some hair and a couple really small feathers from my pack and tied it on.

My first cast was very awkward and only managed to get the fly out about five feet from the dock.  The fly sunk.  My second cast was equally as awkward but I managed to get the fly out about fifteen feet.  I was super ecstatic about that, and then I remembered I was fishing and stripped in the slack and gave a few small twitches on my line.  One more little twitch and the line started moving!  I snapped the rod up and had my first fish on the fly hooked!

I fumbled with the line for a second because I had a few feet coiled up beneath the rod that didn't get cast. I remembered you can strip line in to bring in little fish so I tried and the line went right back out.  I stripped it again and held it with my rod hand while grabbing another handful of line to strip in.  I finally got him up to the dock and swung him up and over the rail:



A monster, I know.

So I got the fly loose from him, let him go and cleared the gunk off my line.  A third awkward cast produced a distance similar to the second.  I stripped in it in just twice this time before the line started moving!  I snapped up the rod again and had a little bit of a better fighter this time, but I was stripping in line like a pro now. :)  A few seconds later, fish number two was being lipped:



Another little guy but I was so excited to just be making casts into the water and actually catching fish that I could've cared less about the size.  I got him back in the water pretty quickly, ready to keep my streak up.

Thats when it all went downhill.  We had a storm roll in and the winds started picking up randomly.  About three casts later I got my tippet all knotted up to the point where I had to cut it and tie something else on.  So I tied on the only popper I have and gave it a few casts but it was increasingly difficult with the wind.  I decided to put up the fly rod and try to catch a couple more bass before I had to turn in.

I tried a rattling crankbait, buzzbait, and finally resorted to a 7" Powerworm over the next 45 minutes or so with no bites.  I booked it as soon as I saw lightning in the distance.  The storm is currently raging around our house.

So thats it, a very successful first outing with the fly rod, if I do say so myself.  I need to check out some youtube videos or read some books or something on how to cast, because I feel like a total d-bag flailing around so dramatically just to get a fly out 15 feet.  Any suggestions are very welcome.

I'm planning on going fishing again on Friday, weather permitting.  Hopefully I can post some pictures of a couple big bass and quite a few more fish on the fly.

Monday, May 10, 2010

My First Fly Rod

So I went up to Dixon to see my mom Sunday, and while I was in town, I took the opportunity to pick up my fly rod from my dad's basement.

I bought this setup while on a vacation about ten years ago in Wisconsin because there were two of them together for about $30 and I was 12 so I didn't realize not many people cast flies on the Rock River.  My dad messed with the one I gave him for awhile but quickly retreated back to his spinning tackle and my combo has been sitting in the original packaging in his basement for the past ten years.

It's a Shakespeare combo, 8 feet long.  It says #5/6 fly line on bottom, which I think means its a 5-6 weight?  Which is good because I've read thats a good weight for bass/panfish.  It is black but its not apparent whether it is graphite or fiberglass.  It has a foam handle, which is the only time I've seen a fly rod with a foam handle.  (Although, admittedly, most of them I've seen are either on blogs or on TV.)

The reel is a Shakespeare 1094.  I tried to lookup reviews but I can't seem to find any.  Guess I'll just have to get some experience with it and write my own.  I was trying to figure out how to set the drag online and found out it just has a click drag.  The Shakespeare site also said you can "palm" the reel as a form of drag but i'd be pretty afraid to do that, sounds pretty risky with a big fish on..  From what I've seen, you are supposed to strip smaller fish in by hand anyway, so hopefully I won't have any problems with the drag.



















The line and leader came like this:









This led to a giant cluster-eff of a tangle when I tried to unwind the line.  It took me about 20 minutes to untangle.

I wasn't sure what to use for backing so I put about 25 yards of Big Game Trilene 20# test mono on.  I don't think I'll need backing since there was quite a bit of fly line but just in case I suppose.

Tying line to line sucks.  I tried a nail knot a few times to no avail.  I then looked up a blood knot and, after some silent cursing and several attempts, I pulled off a bastardized version that held when I yanked on both the line and "backing."  I tried to do the same for the leader but couldn't get it to hold and I really didn't wanna break the only leader I have, so I just threaded the line through the guides and headed out to try whipping a few casts....

....  Only to find that it started pouring rain since I was last outside.  So I'll have to wait until at least tomorrow to actually cast with some distance.  I'm really good at casting against the inside of the garage door though.  :)

Here's a picture of the rod/reel and the few flies that came with the package:






(Kinda weird to see a foam handle on a fly rod, huh?)



(Sorry thats a little blurry, I was having trouble getting a good focus on those little flies. Ignore the purdy flower wallpaper.)


I have my last final Wednesday so I may be able to get out fishing Friday or Sunday, so hopefully I can get that leader tied on and try it out.  I spent as much time as I could reading blogs and articles on beginning fly fishing but it seems like I just need to get out there and get some experience.

Stay tuned, I'll make sure to share as many of those experiences as I can.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Quick Report - Charter Oak North

Had a slight break between working overtime and classes so I went down the local pond and tried to catch a few fish.  It rained most of the morning so I thought it would be pretty murky and I had a dark crankbait tied on. It ended up being the clearest I've ever seen it there but I figured I'd throw it a couple times anyway.

After a few minutes with no bites, I switched to a texas-rigged Gulp!  nightcrawler in chartreuse.  No bites for a couple casts so I snuck up next to a weedbed and slipped the worm over the edge of the weeds and got a hit from this guy:

Not very big, only ten inches but at least I didn't get skunked.  I got an even smaller one a few minutes later and no other bites.  I scared up something HUGE again in the same spot as last week, tossed my worm in that area but couldn't get anything to hit.  I tied on the same buzzbait as last time to try to relive the magic but no takers.

I saw a couple carp (I think) that were at least two and half feet long.  Don't know how they get so big in such a small pond.

I have Finals next week and then my fiance and I are going to Vegas to tie the knot on the 25th so kind of a busy month ahead but hopefully I'll be able to get some more fishing in in early June.  Also, an added bonus of going up to see my mom Sunday is that I will be able to pick up my fly rod.  Look forward to preview of that rod with pictures and a report of a trip to either Banner Marsh or Snakeden Hollow eventually.

Hope everyone has a good weekend,
-Mark

Sunday, May 2, 2010

I feel very blessed.

Didn't get to go fishing today.  My fiance's grandfather passed away about a week and a half ago and we had to go pickup a few things today at his house.

I was kind of surprised that no one else on his side of the family fishes.  Because of this, the family decided to give me his old tackle, saying that he would have wanted it to go to someone who would use it.  I'm also looking forward to Mark(ette) Jr.  catching a monster bass a few years down the line on a lure his/her great-grandfather passed on to us.  :)

I thought I'd share a couple pictures of some of the things that were given to me.  I'm looking for tips on a couple things and just thought a couple items were really cool.

Bob was really big into going to Canada and fishing for giant toothy monstrosities. I'm guessing that's why he had a bunch of these:

I don't think I've ever used a spoon in my life but I'm looking forward to trying.  Does anyone have any tips/blog posts on how to fish them?   Can the smaller ones be used for bass and/or panfish or should I save them for a trip to a lake with some muskies and pike?

I didn't pick up any rods as they were pretty old and brittle looking.  However, I did get a couple old reels that will probably get some use, most notably my second baitcaster!


This gives me a reason to pickup a new rod!   I was looking into the Amp rods by Berkley, anybody have any good/bad/indifferent experiences with them?  What I've read is that they're a pretty good rod for the $30.  I also think I'm going to pick up some reel oil and try to make sure its working in the best condition possible.  It'll be fun to see how an older Daiwa reel compares to my new (but inexpensive) Shakespeare baitcaster.

Clif (or anybody with fly fishing experience) may appreciate this next picture.  I didn't find any fly rods or reels or anything but I did find these mixed in with some of panfish lures:

I'm curious as to why Bob had these but no other fly fishing gear.  Makes me kinda sad that I didn't know to ask him while he was still around.  Whatever the reason, I'm very grateful to have them passed on to me as I'll be picking up an old fly rod my dad has in his basement.  I'll be giving fly fishing a shot for the first time.  Whenever I can find time to drive up to Northern IL that is.

I was really excited to see some of the different bass lures he had.  A few Rapalas, Mepps Aglia spinners, and some other crankbaits that I have been wanting to try but couldn't have brought myself to spend the money on.  I'll have to remember to silently thank Bob whenever I catch a fish on one.

Finally, I found this in the bottom of one of the tackle boxes:

Some old-school Omni-Flex mono.  Pretty sure it was made before I was born.  The best part is I found this on the back:

87 cents for 700 yards of 10 # test mono!  I just paid $5.97 for 330 yds of 6 # test Stren.  Damn you inflation!!!  :)

Time for another week of work/school.  I have finals coming up (and getting married on the 25th in Vegas!) so I'm not sure how much I'll get to fish over the next couple weeks.  Good thing is I have a lot to experiment with when I do!

Tight lines everybody!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

I'm a Basshole!

At the recommendation of Basspastor, I joined up in thebassholes.com forum to try to learn a thing or two.

I definitely pass on his recommendation, within two threads I had learned some tricks for my upcoming foray into dropshotting!  There's a wealth of knowledge on there that anyone new to bass fishing should check out.  It looks like they also give away free gear just for being a participating member and they have alot of contests to win free stuff.  Always good for the college student wallet!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Just caught the biggest bass of my life!

Got out of Speech class a little early and it was semi-light out after a quick storm so I decided to head down to a little local pond to try to catch a bass or two in the twenty minutes before it got totally dark.

It's a little walk from the car to the pond so I was kinda spooked a couple times walking through the trees in the mostly-dark.

Finally got down to the water, tossed in the 7" Powerworm that's been rigged up since last Friday.  got a couple knocks on it, missed the hookset, reeled in.  I pulled back to cast and smacked the worm/weight off my line on the dock behind me, scaring up something HUGE about ten yards away along the shore.
 
Swearing, I (very clumsily in the dark) tied on a $1 buzzbait from Walmart and whipped it out along the shoreline.  This was my first time fishing a buzzbait so I retrieved just like I've read to, started reeling right before it hit the water and steadily brought it over the surface.

I couldn't see my bait at this point so my second cast I can hear my bait on the surface, followed by a little splash and silence...  Immediately after I feel a pull on the line so I jerked up and had her.  This is the first time I had a fish really run hard so I let her run a little and reeled in as much as I could.  When I got her up to the shore I couldn't tell how big she was so I swung her up on shore.  She was pretty huge. (by my standards anyway!)  I don't have a measuring tape but she went from the end of my pinky to my elbow and felt like she weighed about 3-3.5lbs.  When I went to get the hook out, I shined my cell phone in her mouth and saw the tip of something's tail sticking out of her throat.  I tried to take a picture but my phone has no flash. :(  I managed to get a blob of my arm and a blob of the fish that I'll put on here.  Not very believable or exciting but at least its evidence... Sort of.


Thats what windows came up with when I hit auto-fix.  you can see my hand at the top holding her by the lip. Like I said, not very exciting but hopefully it lets everyone know I'm not just telling fish stories. :)

I thought about taking her home but it was about 9:20 and I have work in the morning so I didn't wanna stay way up to figure out how to clean her.  (Haven't cleaned a fish in about 10 years.)  I had her out of the water for about a minute at this point and didn't want to run all the way back to the car and streetlamps just to take a picture so I let her go.  I then picked up my rod and realized I didn't have my line run through the end eye on my pole the whole time!  Got pretty lucky I guess.  She messed up the buzzbait, bent it and ripped the skirt down to the bottom of the hook so I took it off, fixed the line, tied on a Rat L Trap lookalike and tossed that a few times with no bites.

I'll probably be going back there again Sunday so hopefully I can get her again and get a decent picture this time,  I'll cross my fingers.  :)

Lessons learned: Buy a cheap digital camera with a flash.  Buy a scale and tape measure so I don't just have a blobby picture as evidence!  Buy more cheap buzzbaits at Walmart!

Tight lines everybody!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Shakespeare Firebird Spinning Combo Review

DISCLAIMER:  I have never received products or compensation from Shakespeare.  The combo you see here was paid for with my own hard earned dollars.




For my first review I wanted to talk about the piece of fishing equipment that I've had the longest. I can't find the Firebird Spinning combo for sale online anymore but I have seen several Shakespeare spinning combos that seem to be of about the same size and price range so hopefully this will give an impression of these types of rods in general.

As I stated in my first post, I was out of the habit of fishing for quite a few years. During this time period I would usually only fish with my dad on or around Father's day as a yearly tradition. About four or five years ago, I decided to buy a cheap rod of my own for these rare occasions. I stopped by Walmart and picked up the Firebird spinning combo for about $25. It has exceeded all expectations so far and has gone a long way in these past few years.

I believe the combo was meant to be marketed towards younger anglers as it is only 5'6" long and is blue in color. I didn't really care as to the color and length because I was planning on only using the rod once or twice a year to catch a few panfish at the time. I haven't found the length to hinder my cast at all. I can still get a smallish jig out about 20 yards, which is all I really need since I fish from shore. If it's really windy out or I need to add a little distance, I might put a splitshot or two on the line.

The Rod is Medium action with a very flexible tip (which I believe helps the distance of your cast by loading more energy into the lure, correct me if I'm wrong). I was brought up on heavier action rods meant to be able to handle the big catfish and carp that we sometimes catch on the Rock River, so Medium action is alot of fun for me, especially when I hook into a nice size bluegill or one of the couple bass I've caught on this combo. You can really feel the fish and on a day that I can't get the bass to bite, a big bluegill smacking my beetlespin has turned a couple days of fishing around for me.

The reel has the ratio of 3:6:1 printed on it. I have no idea what that means. I'm guessing it's not the best speed because I have to crank pretty quickly to keep a couple baits off the bottom. This isn't really an issue other than maybe wearing out my arm after an hour or two of use. Thats what you get for a $25 combo I guess.


The one real complaint I have about the reel is the drag. I was taught to test a drag by holding the rod by the handle in one hand, grabbing the line in the other and pulling smoothly but strongly. It seems when I do this to ether come out way too easy or to come out in little spurts erratically. No matter how small of an adjustment I make, it seems to be one or the other. I can't seem to find a nice smooth motion like I can with my recently purchased baitcaster or my fiance's spincaster. (If anyone knows of a better way to set the drag, please let me know. That way seems kind of imprecise.) I usually set it on the side of more resistance and it's usually not a problem but I'm thinking of using this combo more as I'm getting ready to try drop-shotting and using small jigs for bass and I'm a little worried about a nice sized bass snapping my line because of a faulty drag.

It came spooled with 8# test monofilament. It wasn't clear what brand. The original line stayed on until this past week when I noticed it was holding a curl from the reel when it wasn't taut. I took this as a sign to respool so I picked up some 6# test Stren mono. I'll update with an edit if this makes any big difference in how it casts or fishes.

I've used the Firebird combo for quite a few different fishing techniques. Everything from a bobber and redworm to a nightcrawler on the bottom to my current 1/16th ounce jighead and Powerbait Ripple Shad 3" swimbait (which, I might add, caught two bass just under 12" last weekend):D. It has handled everything pretty well. If this rod were still available, I would recommend it to anyone wanting to fish on a budget or anyone looking to purchase a rod for an older kid or teenager. Because I had such a good experience with this combo, I looked to Shakespeare when I bought my first ever baitcaster (review coming soon) and a spincast combo for my fiance.

Simply put, this combo catches fish without burning a hole in your pocket. If you're looking to start fishing or get a family member into fishing but can't afford a Daiwa Rod or Abu Garcia reel, look to Shakespeare. You won't be disappointed.

P.S. - I'm looking to try a dropshot rig for the first time in the next couple weeks and I'll probably do it on this combo since I've read its good to use spinning tackle. If I have either an awesome or terrible experience, I'll edit. Otherwise, assume it worked pretty well.

EDIT:  About two weeks after I made this post, I switched out the line that originally came spooled on the reel and put on Stren Original 6 lb test.  I don't know if the old line was too old or if the Stren is better but after changing line, my casting distance more than doubled with this pole.  I can whip a jig about 30 yards now with ease.  However, this led to my only other negative that I found:  While "whipping" the top half of the pole can sometimes come off and fly into the lake.  This hasn't been a huge problem so far as it's only gone into about 6 inches of water but it's pretty damn embarrassing.  That said, I am a very large man and I believe this rod was designed with kids in mind so don't let that weigh too heavily into your decision if you're buying for your kids.  I can't see too many kids looking to blast a jig out 30-40 yards out.  Still a great rod and reel and I still highly recommend it.

EDIT DEUCE:  Since this is by far the most visited page on my blog, I thought I'd give people a link to a rod/reel combo that looks to be along the same lines as the Firebird.  I checked out Amazon and the closest thing I can find is this:



The only difference is it's light action instead of medium.  Rather than view this as a downfall, I'd say it's the opposite (an upfall?).  Light action will let kids or people just starting out to really feel a fish fighting, even if it's just a smaller bass (my specialty) or bluegill.  Lighter action also instinctively teaches new anglers to "play" a fish.  That is, not just horse it to the dock/boat but let the fish wear itself out.  It adds alot of enjoyment, especially when you can only get the little guys to bite.  Hope it helps!

Disclaimer:  I am not associated in anyway with Shakespeare.  I received no compensation for this review, either monetary or equipment.  All opinions expressed are my own.