Sunday, May 29, 2011

Gary, Doing It Right

I wanted to write this post a few weeks ago but Gary kept sending me pics so I kept waiting. While this is a bit about my lures in that they are seen in some of the pics, it is really about Gary who has the stripers and bass on Logan Martin scared. I have known a lot of people that fish for stripers but he catches more quality fish than anyone I know.

Gary does more than fish, he is an electrician, amazing gardener, founded a program to get kids fishing and on and on. On top of that he is a good friend and just a good person. Not a couch sitter that’s for sure. Like I said in the Pro Staff post he also helps in designing shapes and colors for some of the lures I make and doesn’t mind telling me what doesn’t work. But I wanted to show everyone what he does on the water and why the fish are scared.

He sent me some shots from his last few trips on Logan Martin which just makes me wish I could get there to fish with him. Remember he does all of this out of a canoe in a part of the country ruled by high powered bass rigs. I won’t spend a bunch of time telling about each fish the pics do it better than I can, but can you imagine getting these just about every trip? He told me he had 9 a few days ago before switching baits to go after spotted bass. I couldn’t do that in a month of fishing here especially on topwater.

If you are on Twitter you would be hard pressed to find a better person to talk to about fishing or just talk with, period. He takes time every day to study what is going on in the sport then pass it along to others. Unlike some people or companies using social media, Gary talks. Need to ask a question or just talk for a bit, he will gladly do both.

So thanks to Gary I don’t need to write a lot to get this one done. He provided some cool shots that saved me from thinking and on that note here we go……

In no particular order, a photo essay on a few of Gary’s trips to his honey hole in Alabama.


 Photo Credits: Gary Hanson

This is the kind of fishing I wish I got to do as often as Gary does. I can promise it wouldn’t be hard to find me if my truck wasn't in the driveway.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Nickajack Cats

Friday I got to the lake for some bluegill, Monday rolls around and I am headed to Nickajack for cats. I have a neighbor that feels better having someone go with him when he heads to the river. At 86 he is still going and doing but likes some help now. I told him a few days ago, as I was helping thin pigeons out of his barn, I would go if he ever needed someone to fish with. Monday was the day.

We planned on leaving at 4:30, when it arrived so did rain and wind. I checked the weather, it looked fine in South Pittsburg so we headed out. The weather improved and was about perfect when we got to the ramp. The only bad part was not enough water being released from the generators to get the biggest cats feeding.

I had never fished this part of the river before, I knew the technique but not the area. We ran all of 100 yards, shut down and got started. Our rigging for drift fishing is simple, we used 3 way swivels to drop a 1 ounce sinker to the bottom and hold a short leader about a foot up. I kept the hook leader to about 6-7 inches long to keep the bait off the bottom and keep tangles with the sinker to a minimum. I was using my 9’ 6” casting rod, BPS Catmaxx reel loaded with 20 lb Firewire. For hooks I started with a 4/0 circle hook but changed to a 4/0 Kahle because of the way the cats were hitting. For a vertical presentation a Kahle hook is hard to beat. Bait was rooster and turkey livers.

 As I was getting rigged and baited up Kaiser had already put a bait in the water. Just as I dropped mine down he set back hooking a good fish. With a big smile he told me this was a big one so I grabbed the net. A few minutes later he had it beside the boat and it was big, turns out the biggest of the day. Just over 25 pounds of blue cat which he calls white cats for some reason. We got it wedged into the live well and dropped back in for another try. Just a few minutes later he puts a good 10 lb blue in the boat.

Right out of the gate.

And a couple of minutes later.

Since this was my first trip he really wanted me to hook a big blue but all I managed was a 2-3 lb channel cat. He thought I was crazy for wanting to keep (A) a channel cat and (2) one that size. To him if it doesn’t weigh 20+ it really isn’t much of a fish. To me, I am filling my freezer along with some other folks that want fish. A 2 lber eats good. He just gave me that I’ll tolerate it look and kept fishing.

 A 22" channel he considers a trash fish.

We drifted along waiting for more water to be released getting a few hits but I just couldn’t hook up. He managed one or two more smaller fish. The whole time cats were rolling on top all around us. Blues do this every morning which helped us figure out which runs they were using consisting of rock piles and small channels providing them cover. When we would hit rocks with our sinkers we knew a strike was coming. The cats were stacking up just downstream, grabbing bait just as it dropped off the deep side.

After an hour or so I had a hit that bent my rod to the handle. Finally I had hooked a decent fish. Blues tend to stick their nose down and hug the bottom which this one did so I knew what I had, channels like to twist and thrash about. Over 9 feet of heavy rod made it change its’ mind pretty quick and I had my first 10+ blue of the day. Now it was on. After catching this one things clicked. Sometimes you just need to break the ice.

On the board. This one was 11+.

We made drift after drift which is boring to write about and worse to read but that was the formula for the day. Each drift usually produced a fish or five with, what to me, were some good cats running 6 to 11 lbs. The day got hot but if we found the right drift fish would hit. All along the way he would tell me stories of past trips and where to fish this stretch all the while apologizing for it being a bad day. Funny since I catfish a lot and we were catching more big cats than I ever do, I tend to target channel cats in the 2-5 lb range on Percy Priest.

We fished for about 7 hours before running out of bait. The wind had gotten up and without much current the boat wouldn’t go downstream or up. Weird to sit in a wind and current but not move. I put one last 6 lber in the boat and we wrapped it up with a total of 14 fish in the boat. The cooler was full, 3 more good fish were in the live well, I had too much sun and was tired. Time to go.

A full cooler makes happy fishermen.

I'll take this any day. Good times.

What a day. 85-90 lbs of cats on ice, some great memories along with enough knowledge about a new stretch of water to go back on my own. Can’t get that sitting on the couch. I am ready to head back as soon as I can. For such a fun day it is hard to get into words for some reason. Sorry about that. I hope the pics will add a bit to where words fell down.

One final thought, if you have a neighbor that needs a little help with something it might be a good idea to give them a hand. Because I did I got to fish with a cool guy that had some great stories plus got invited to hunt his place again after 2 years. He is 86, a veteran that served in the Philippines after entering the Army in 1943, lived here all his life and just knows stuff. A great guy to spend time with.

 Not bad for just helping get rid of pigeons.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Lunch Time 'Gills

After a wait that was far too long I finally got to head to the lake. Friday morning and I went to teach a class only to find out it was changed to next week. From there I went to a meeting where the lady looked at me with glazed eyes when I told her some pricing. Guess she thought working all day plus buying material wasn’t worth $25.00. So, I went fishing.

I had planned on going anyway but after all that I had to get away for a few minutes. I stopped off long enough at Big Charlie’s Bait shop and Fried Pie Emporium to grab a tube of crickets and an apple pie. Driving the last few miles munching on fried dough and apples, hoping the recent floods hadn’t done too much damage I was happy to just get out. As I pulled into one of my favorite spots to fish for bluegill I saw signs of the flood laying in the parking lot far from the lake. Logs and smaller debris were everywhere.

I grabbed my gear and started picking my way through a big drift line littering the picnic area. Twigs to logs, it was everywhere along with mosquitoes approximately the size of sparrows. Seems flood waters make for a great skeeter breeding ground.  But I was going fishing.

I got to my spot which is the top of a bluff that is just at water level. The river channel runs against the bank and drops off to 85 feet just a few feet off the bank. Schools of bluegill cruise along just a short cast away, I usually find them down 3-4 feet. I rigged up with a Thill slip float with a bobber stop, enough split shot to pull it upright and a #8 long shank light wire hook. I put on a worm from my backyard worm ranch, threw my first cast and within a few seconds had a nice ‘gill on. The next 6 casts produced fish on worms and crickets.

Just right of my rod tip past the submerged rock is the spot.

Keeping it simple. Crickets, worms, hooks, sinkers, floats and a couple of spinning rods.

As I stopped to string what I had the guy fishing beside me asked what I was doing to catch them. He was fishing just a few feet away and couldn’t get a hit. He had been there for awhile without a fish. I told him the depth, rigging and even said throw where I was casting. He still couldn’t get it right, don’t know what he was doing wrong. I baited up and threw back and they started again. I love it when bluegill are doing this which in this spot is pretty much any day from spring to fall.

Didn't get this guy's name. Note the classic black socks with shorts. Logs are from flood.

This is about halfway through the trip.

I spent the next couple of hours repeating the process. Cricket or worm, change depth a few inches at times, swat skeeters and reel in fish. Every 5-6 I would stop to add them to my stringer. Near the end of my trip 5 guys on a party barge came trolling by just as I lifted the stringer and I heard,
“Man, look at that stringer of bluegill.”  come from the guy on the back of the boat.
They all turned to look so I’m guessing it looked good to them not just me.

This is what got the comment from the guy in the boat. 40 nice 'gills headed to the house.

After 2 hours they had slowed down since it was past noon with no wind or clouds. I had plenty to clean plus was tired of mosquitoes and biting flies, so, I packed it in. After close to a year I finally got to go spend a little time at the lake. Hopefully it won’t be that long till my next trip to Priest and my standing on the bank bluegill spot.

Well, not much of an epic tale of outdoors adventure or conquest but for anyone that has gone any length of time without getting to the lake or woods you can understand this was a big deal. This was a great couple of hours even with heat and bugs. I would happily brave both tomorrow and do it all again just to watch that float disappear.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Turning Freedom

Sorry for the gap in posts but I was down for over a week with an attack of vertigo. Good times. Like being on carnival rides without leaving home. Wobbling, falling, tripping on stuff and with throwing up optional.

As I sat around trying to get my eyes to focus and get a few lures painted and shipped I really didn’t feel much like writing. Since I was stuck in the house I didn’t have much to write about anyway. Then I went to the Post Office and while trying to figure out the most cost effective way to send something the man helping me asked what I was sending, when I said fishing lures that was all it took. Now I had my story to pass along, one worth telling, that means something and one everyone should find a small way to help with. Please, indulge me while I climb on my soapbox for a bit which I try not to do.

  As we tried to get my stuff shipped, David, who works at the PO, mentioned he was a woodworker, too. When he found out I turned my lures on a lathe he invited me to his shop only a few minutes from me. As we talked about what we made he said he was involved, along with many  others, in the Freedom Pen project. If you have never heard of this here is the short version, wood turners across the states donate time, money and materials to turn custom ink pens that are then shipped to our combat troops stationed around the world. This is an organization that has been around for 7 years now and many people have never heard of. As soon as I heard what they did and had the chance to go learn to make pens so that I could help I couldn’t wait. I told David that I would be over in a couple of days to see how they were made thinking the whole time that I needed to pass this along.

When I got to his shop there was one other turner there. This was Keith who had driven an hour and a half bringing pen blanks along with him. Later Lewis joined us with even more blanks and an amazing collection of pens he had turned. These guys are just a few that have taken this to heart, to send a small bit of home and a thank you to our troops.

We talked for awhile about what we turned, different materials, shows and sales then they started teaching me how to make pens. I love to turn but never claim to be all that good, I know how to do what I do but love to learn new techniques. We picked out some blanks then went through the process of getting everything set up, turned, finished and finally assembled. This is the results of my first attempt.

We didn’t get much turning done since they were spending more time explaining things to me but the results of some of David’s work was there waiting to head home with Keith to be added to the pens being sent to the troops.  In this shipment were 20 pens he had ready in a variety of materials mainly turned in one style. The people turning think about the people using these and make them to fit inside the narrow sleeve pockets many use on their uniforms. Just another bit of care these folks put into what they are making.

Mini Jet Lathe loaded with Osage Orange blanks.

Assembly area.

Well, enough about our day in the shop, this is about what these folks are doing and more importantly, who is getting the pens they make. We have troops stationed in combat areas all over the world. They do a dangerous job under hard conditions with no where near enough contact with home. Simple things that they receive means a lot to them from cards sent by school kids to packages from family, these are things that let them know we care and they aren’t forgotten. This is the idea behind the Freedom Pens project. People from across the nation provide materials, time, talent and yes, money, to send what is a simple thing to us to our people in the field. While it is a pen and some people think, ”So what?”, it is much more. When you are out where they are and receive something hand made from home it tells them we are thinking about them, hoping they are safe and come home that way. Then add the fact that it comes from someone you never heard of, may never meet but thought enough of you and your job to make it for you just to say thanks.

So here is the organization that started it Freedom Pens if you would like more information and history. This is one of those ideas that you can help with if you never walked into a wood shop in your life. Almost every one of us has family or friends that serves or has served and they deserve our support. Pen kits used in making these aren’t terribly expensive but have to be paid for as do packing materials and shipping. If you can give a few dollars to help a group in your area, please, do. These people are doing all they can and many don’t have much money to give away. What they do have is everything else in their shops it takes to make the pens and small donations can provide enough kits for this project to keep moving forward.

If you can help with the cost of a trip to grab a hamburger this will provide several kits to a turner. Any amount helps any organization with their project but since, at least locally, I have seen no administration costs of any kind all money donated here pays for materials. I’m sure this is the case wherever this is being done since it is all about the troops not making a penny from it. If you can donate a couple of dollars to this project I hope you will it means a lot to someone you may never meet but deserves our thanks.

And with that I will leave you with a few pictures from David’s shop while stepping down from my soapbox.
This is Lady who lost an eye and has been shot but is one of the sweetest girls around.

L-R David, Lewis in back and Keith.

David with a few of the pens heading overseas.

Pens headed to the troops. Sorry for the flare in the pic.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Worm Hole Equation

This one came about by accident but it is too good to not pass along. If you are a live bait person then here is a quick tip for your very own worm farm that needs no stocking, almost no feeding or tending.

I love fishing live bait, whether it is a cricket, minnow or worm, I sling them for a simple reason, it is hard to beat Ma Nature. Like everyone else that did this as a kid I have spent many an hour digging worms or chasing grasshoppers which saves money but not time. The alternative is a stop at a bait shop for a box of anemic looking red wigglers or over priced night crawlers, quick and useful but not a great option. Then I walked by some of my gardening supplies that I was too lazy to move and there it was , a light switched on and I had my solution.

Here it is, I had been planting a few things using a bag of composted manure I had slit open, used then left lying on the ground since it was out of my way. It laid there for quite awhile until one day I reached down to pull a weed that had taken root. When I did I saw, wait for it, a worm. I dug around and found many a happy lumbricus terrestris eating dookie while growing fat and happy. I quickly gathered up a bunch placing them in my hi tech  reused butter container bait box for an upcoming bluegill trip enjoying my good fortune in not needing to stop at a bait shop.

As I sat around later I thought about a plastic container I had in the shop and it clicked to put the two together in a way that would last longer than the plastic sack cow droppings come packaged in and contain worms in one area for ease of gathering as well as be easy to refill when needed. This is as simple a project as you can do. Minutes of work and maybe $5 at the most in parts for bait that comes to you then waits for you to gather it.

Stealthy critters, these plastic containers. This one hid for years.

Here is what I did. I took a plastic container that had a lid to build my farm. After removing the top I drilled a series of holes in the bottom using a Forstner’s bit. This serves two purposes, one to allow excess water to drain and second to allow worms another way in. I took some scrap wood and made four posts a few inches higher than the container sides to go in the corners. This will allow worms to come in all around the edge of the container but still provide some protection. I drilled holes in the top to allow some rain to get in to keep the soil moist and holes for screws to attach the top to the posts so it wouldn’t blow away.

I found a shaded spot where I could dig a hole then sunk the container into the ground until the top of the container was at ground level. I filled the container with composted manure mixed with shredded news paper, pushed the posts into the corners until they were fully seated, now I'll simply wait for more worms to find it. If it rains within a few days of putting it out they will be there quick.If you slit the bag open then leave it in a shady, damp spot for a week or so, which I did, you will have worms in it when you dump it into your bed. The worms will happily have little ones which adds to your herd if you aren't greedy about using them too fast.

Adding shredded paper to the bottom.

And the top after filling with compost.

Then finished with the top. This is shaded by a red twig dogwood.

If you have a container sitting around you only need a $1.50 bag of composted manure, some shredded newspaper (optional), four pieces of wood, four screws and you have a self populating worm farm. If you don’t have a drill just carefully cut holes with a sharp knife just be sure the edges are smooth. Be sure to keep the soil damp if you aren’t getting enough rain using rain water you can collect and store in a sealed bucket which is good since it has no chemicals. You can also put a lot of your kitchen scraps in, just no citrus, onions, meat or dairy. Vegetable scraps, cardboard and newspaper are all  worm favorites. Do not use newspaper or cardboard with a slick finish and colored inks. The one thing I plan on adding is a burlap cover. Partly to add shade and protection but mainly to hide the blue plastic top.

And there you have it, free bait that is almost completely maintenance free which will refill itself as hungry worms find it that helps you cut down on how much trash you put in a landfill. It will also provide some of the best fertilizer for your plants. Simply empty your container every few months and replace the bedding then put the worms back. To do this you can make a sifter out of a bit of screen and some scrap lumber in a few minutes. The results will make your garden and house plants happy, happy. All this and no trip to the bait shop for under $5.00.
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About Me

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Born and raised in middle Tennessee.I'm a working wildlife and landscape artist specializing in watercolors. Now making cedar lures and custom turkey calls.



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