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.

First post! (About me)

I thought I'd start out the blog with a little background on my personal life and fishing experience to give some perspective as to where I'm coming from in future posts.
I currently live in the Peoria, IL, area and have access to a bunch of different ponds/lakes within a 30 minute/hour drive from home. I'm new to the area so I still have a few places to check out and see if they're worth frequenting. I'll put some thoughts on each place with a report after a trip.
Fishing runs in my family. My first fish was a rainbow trout caught on a Snoopy pole when I was two. My dad took me fishing throughout my childhood, mostly focusing on panfish and catfish. I think my dad was under the impression that you need a boat to be a successful bass fisherman. Whatever the reason was, we never really targeted bass when I was kid, so while I have a basic understanding of most things fishing, bass fishing is something fairly new to me.
For whatever reason, I got it in my head in my teenage years that fishing wasn't worth my time so I went through a few years basically without any fishing. After spending too many weekends watching TV and playing Xbox, I rediscovered Roland Martin and Bill Dance on Versus a couple months back so I grabbed a license and my old pole, headed to a local lake and have been bordering on obsession ever since.
As I've said a couple times already, I'm new to bass fishing, especially when using artificials, so I have alot to learn. I'll be posting some reviews as I see them for different lures and setups from the view of someone who hasn't seen and done it all already. Hopefully these will be helpful to anyone else just starting out and maybe bring back some memories for anyone who's been there before. I'm also starting a marriage and (down the line) a family so these reviews may be more budget oriented than some blogs I've seen, as I'm a poor college student and can't afford a $600 rod/reel combo or $10 crankbaits. :)
Please, if you have any questions for me, don't hesitate to ask. Also, any advice is very welcome, just leave a comment.