Monday, September 28, 2009

The little ones count, too

My quest to remove the 2009 Smallmouth Bass Skunk has come to its conclusion - I actually caught a few smallies on Sunday evening. 4, to be exact. I went down to the Fox River - only a couple of miles from my house - and started wading with a light action spinning rod and a couple of lures in my shirt pocket. Pretty basic assortment of lures - Rebel Teeny Craw, 1/16 oz. jigheads, 2" grub bodies. I started fishing with the craw - it usually is good for something on any shallow river.

Little smallmouth on a Rebel Wee Craw

The Fox, in my area, is relatively featureless. A noticeable riffle, or change in current, may be a series of rocks that goes from 2' deep to 1-1/2' deep. After a fruitless 1/2 hour, I got 2 hits in a "riffle" - hooked one and lost it on the jump, and missed the other hit. Both on the craw. Over the next hour, I landed my 4 smallies, the largest going a whopping 10"!!

Smallmouth on a little grub

Sometimes, the small fish are just as rewarding as the big ones. I look at the small fish, and see a healthy population, and possibly future big ones. They can't all be big!

A future river trophy??

It seems like all my posts have a "story within a story", and this one is no exception. This was a very short, unplanned trip, so I grabbed a rod/ reel from the garage and drove down to the river. Half way through my little excursion, I noticed the tip-top of the rod was not aligned with the rest of the guides. I immediately knew what I had done - grabbed a broken-tipped rod. Months ago, I had tried to glue the tip back on the rod (I had broken a tip earlier in the spring) but didn't really succeed. Now, after 3 small bass, the tip was spinning around the rod. I got one more fish before the tip came completely off on a cast. This really isn't a big deal, except when you stop to consider that, at last count, I have 52 spinning and/or baitcast rods in my rod racks in the garage - St. Croix, Loomis, Kistler, Fenwick, Falcon, ...

Why in the world I even had this broken-tipped rod at all is beyond me.

It was thrown out last nite, with the rest of the garbage.

Friday, September 25, 2009

National Hunting and Fishing Day

I should have made this post earlier in the week, but work has seriously overloaded me recently.

This Saturday - September 26 - is National Hunting and Fishing Day. It is a day to celebrate our love of the outdoors and all the associated goodness that comes from our passion. It is a great time to introduce a friend or neighbor to all that is the outdoors. In some areas, there are celebratory events. Near to me, at Silver Springs State Park in Yorkville, IL, is then largest NHAF Day event in Illinois. Tents filled with exhibits relating to hunting and fishing (and trapping) are on display for all to see and participate in. Rods and reels are available for kids to fish. Canoes, too. The trap range is open. It is a very well attended, very well run event. Even if you don't have a local event to participate in, be sure to pass along the good word.

Albert Rasch over at The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles (clck the link on the Bloglist on the right) posted a pdf that gave great examples of the impact of the American Outdoorsmen (and women) - with his permission, I've included that URL below:

Also, the National Hunting and Fishing Day website:

Celebrate being a Hunter and/ or Fisherman tomorrow! (Actually, we should celebrate that fact every day, with tomorrow being the Annual Holiday!)

Meanwhile, I'm still trying to catch a smallmouth bass. Of course, I haven't wet a line since posting that I WILL catch one, either. Makes the actual catching sort of tough when you don't fish. Maybe on NHAF Day???


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

More on the "Followers" widget

I just went to the other blogs I follow - looks like the FOLLOWERS widget has imploded - everyone has a blank area un der their Followers.


What happened to my "Followers"??

I just logged on and checked my blog site, as I do every day. The section on the right side of the posts - my FOLLOWERS - is gone! It says "Followers", but there is nothing there. At least on my monitor.

Now I wish I actually had some inkling about how this thing works. I've been subscribing to the "Ignorance is Bliss" school of thought re: how this whole thing actually works, but now I am pissed off!

Anyone know what might have happened? Any ideas on how to recover / relist the Followers piece? Maybe it was just some temporary thing and it will pop back on.

Any help is appreciated

And, if you happen to be on this blogsite and see that it is indeed there, I SWEAR it was gone today at noon!


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Man on a Mission

Some missions in life take years to accomplish - some can never be accomplished in a lifetime. And others, like this one, are ridiculously simple and easy.

I just realized, after perusing some notes in my fishing diary from this year, that I have not caught a smallmouth bass this year. I haven't even tried (I DO realize that it's sort of tough to catch a fish that you haven't even tried to catch). I have NEVER gone a year without catching a smallmouth bass, and I can't let it happen this year. I don't care how small, it is now a matter of pride. I WILL get this done this Fall.

The smallmouth is a matter of personal pride for me. It's the fish I grew up catching, and the fish I used to Guide for in the mid 80's. I've fished for them from TN to Quebec. I have a local river that has smallmouth in it and I have not wet a line in the river this year. Shame on me.

So, now I've put it out there for all to see. I WILL get my smallmouth this year - I have to! I'll let you know when this event occurs. [Actually, there s a decent chance that I'll get to fish the Mississippi River in MN with my friend Gregg in October, and that is always a smallmouth bonanza. But it's not a 100% done deal that I'll be able to make it]

I'll keep you posted


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Why I blog

Over at Outdoor Blogger Summit, Kristine posed a question to us last week. A very simple question - at least on the surface. "Why do you write a blog"? Obviously, it is different for every blogger out there. My reasoning, as well as I am able to put it into words, is as follows: [BTW - you would think that, if you write a blog, you'd be able to put things into words - right??]

First and foremost, I love the language - all of it. I love to read, to write, and to orate. Yes, I even enjoy speaking to crowds and groups. I think I have a keen appreciation of a well constructed sentence, as well a disdain for those who mutilate these same sentences. Overly pompous and verbose writers are in many ways worse offenders than those who refuse to use correct grammar or spellcheck. (Can you tell I grew up before the age of texting?) I believe you find your comfort zone as a reader and a writer by reading a wide variety of writing styles. You'll find your center by doing this. I enjoy and appreciate the most simple of writing styles. They may also be the most difficult to emulate (IMHO). Think Hemmingway, or Robert Ruark. You won't need a dictionary to read their works. But there is depth in the relative simplicity of their style. I always liked that style, and always wanted to write it myself.

Back in the pre-cell phone and computer days, when I went to college, my major was English Writing - this after a long, circuitous route that went from school to school, from Chemical Engineering to Economics to English. Hardly the straight and narrow path. Simply put, I wanted to be an Outdoor Writer, where I would be paid to go on hunts and fishing trips, see the most beautiful places on earth, and write poetic lyrics about them.

Then I realized that , if I wanted to earn a living writing for Outdoor magazines, I would probably live in my car, or my parents basement, for the rest of my life.

I had to get a real job, but still fostered the idea of writing. I actually did a few columns for a fledgling Outdoor newspaper when I got an opportunity to change career paths from the one I was on and enter into the world of outdoor sporting goods sales as a rep. I took the leap, and never looked back. I've spent the last 21 years in the Sporting industry in various positions, but I got to work in the Industry I have a passion for, an Industry that is also my hobby.

The dreams of being a writer went on hold, but never left completely.

Before blogging, the writing bug was still eating away at me. I have a lot of contacts in the Industry, so I talked to one of the guys who owns and operates his own website, and asked him if he'd be interested in reading an article I had written about a pike trip to Athabasca. He read it , and ran it on his web site. I've since done 2 more articles for him - one on bonefishing in the Bahamas, and one on a trip to Panama for saltwater big game. (If you feel like reading them, the links are located at the end of this post) Whether the articles / stories are good or not, they resurrected the urge to continue writing.

I researched blogging for about 4 months before I finally decided to take the plunge and do my own. I read A LOT of outdoor related blogs. A few were outstanding, most were good, and some were awful. Most disappointing, to me, were the ones that were good reads, had interesting perspectives, and then just ceased to put up anything new for months at a time. I vowed that, if I did this "blogging thing", I wouldn't fall into that trap. I also dislike the blogs that are nothing more than links to someone else's news, or nothing but YouTube links. I knew how I wanted to write, and I knew what I DIDN'T want the site to look like. In September 08, I jumped in. I told NO ONE that I was doing this blog. I was curious to see if anyone would ever find it in the vastness that is the Web. I had no delusions about readership - I was doing it because I like to write, and I thought I might have something worth reading.

I remember distinctly when I got my first comment on my Blog. It was October 11, 2008, and the comment was from Mel in Idaho. I couldn't believe someone had found my blog and commented on it (positively, I might add) after only 2 weeks. I really didn't expect to hear from anyone for months. Mel and I still follow each other's blogs and comment to each other frequently.

So, that's the evolution of the blog site, and a little background. Why do I blog? Because I love to write. I chose to blog about the Outdoors because it's my passion. And I think I write well enough to make people want to return and read the next installment of the journey. [NOTE - the previous sentence wasn't put in there lightly, nor was it intended to come across as being cocky. Everyone who publishes something for others to read and enjoy should think they are capable writers.] I'd love to someday make some money via the blog. If that ever happens, I plan to put every cent earned into a "Fishing Trip Fund", go somewhere chasing fish, and write about the experience, bringing it full circle.

The unforeseen benefit of blogging is that I've developed a relationship with people I've "met" through the blog. The small group of us who follow each other's blogs have gone from random people to friends. I am sure that I'll eventually fish with some of you, and I really look forward to that. I've already spoken to a couple of you on the phone and exchanged baits in the mail. I had no idea it would ever come to that, but I'm very glad it did.

To wrap this up, I hope I don't succumb to "Permanent Writers Block", or run out of things to write about. I hope my blog doesn't become repetitious - if it does, please let me know. I'd like to become a much better photographer, as that would make my blog better. And I hope to meet more really great outdoor bloggers and grow our circle of kindred spirits. Keep on letting me know about the mushrooms, the day on the lake, the birds, and the fact that your husband likes to eat sandwiches! We all look forward to reading these posts more than you'll ever know.


Links to articles

Pike Primer

Bahama Bonefishing

Panama 2008

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Pike Lures revisted, Part 2

A selection of hardbodied swimbaits


The swimbait revolution has taken over the bass market. There are a plethora of huge, expensive hardbodied swimbaits used by trophy hunting bass anglers, particularly in So. California. While I am by no means an expert of any kind on these baits or their histories, I believe they evolved (at least on the national level) when AC Plugs started catching huge largemouth in California. The AC Bait is a hard body with a soft plastic tail section. Most of these baits started as rainbow trout imitators. The stocked rainbows were like fish-food to the giant CAL largemouths.

The baits evolved into what I now call the hard swimbaits. While the original baits are still around, I like, and fish, the lipless, or very small lipped baits with 1, 2, or 3 joints. They have a hypnotic side to side swimming action on a straight retrieve. How aggressively they swim is determined by the angles of the joints. The Sebile has a very straight track with a tight wobble. The Lucky Craft has 1 joint and a much wider swimming track. Both are effective.

To be quite honest with you, using these baits on pike is probably overkill. They are expensive baits, and I don't think pike are that selective - if they see something even remotely edible, they eat it. Still, I like to try new stuff, so I threw them for at least a while on this trip. They all caught some fish for me, with the Lucky Craft probably drawing more hits than the others. You can't go wrong with them, but I believe you will catch just as many fish with other, more affordable jerkbaits. The one advantage they DO have is that they are generally big baits, since they are designed as trophy baits.


I rely on Rattletraps a LOT when pike fishing. One of my most beaten-up, tooth scarred baits is a 1 oz. Rattletrap that used to be chartreuse. I rely on 3 models of these baits when pike fishing. I usually have at least 8 of them along with me on any given pike trip. The 1 oz. Rattletrap is my go-to bait. There is just something about these baits that drives pike crazy. I believe I have had the most vicious hits I've ever gotten with these 'traps. I rely on Chartreuse, Fire Tiger, and Honey Bee colors. Before this trip, I found some 1-1/2oz. SW Rattletraps, and I liked them a lot. they've found a place in my arsenal.

My favorite 'trap-type baits for pike

I also use Lucky Craft LVR 15. They cast a mile, give of a very loud rattle, and have terrific hooks on them. Finally, Strike King Redeye Shad in 3/4 oz. round out my selection. You must add these baits to your pike trips. You will shake your head in amazement when a relatively small - 30-35" - pike nearly tears your rod out of your hands when they attack these baits.


Glide baits are used extensively by musky hunters. They are large wooden baits that have a slow sink rate. Using a rod tip-down technique, the angler jerks the lure in a repetitive motion, causing it to jerk erratically side - to - side under water. The musky baits are very big baits - 4-10 oz. - and require specialized rods to work and fish them effectively.

Rapala glide-style baits - pike love 'em!

Then, 2 years ago, Rapala introduced the Sub Walk. This bait does exactly the same thing, but is small enough to handle on bass gear. And they work for pike. Then, last year, they brought the bait out in a saltwater size. BINGO - perfect trophy pike lure. The same year, they introduced the Glide Rap - a musky type bait that is just a little smaller than a lot of musky baits, making it perfect for pike.

Well, these baits DO work for pike. I had high expectations for the SW Sub Walk on this trip. For some reason, I didn't get around to using it as often as I would have liked. Plus, I had a little difficulty slowing down my rod action - the bait really whipped around on a slack-line twitch, sometimes coming around on the line. Still, Andy and I caught fish on them, and I'll always have some along. The Glide Rap is a big bit and really requires a stout rod to effectively cast and work it. Even if you don't have specialized BIG pike / musky gear, be sure to use the XRSB09 Sub Walk, which is 3-1/2" long and weighs 5/8 oz. - perfect for typical bass gear. (The SW XRSB15 is 6" long, weighs 2 oz)


Finally, the lure category that stole all the honors on my recent trip - jerkbaits. I categorize all crankbaits with lips as jerkbaits. Whether you jerk them in erratically, or do a straight retrieve, they work. They work because they imitate the primary prey species for pike - other fish.

Pike jerkbait assortment

Jerkbaits really make up the 3rd part of the 3 major categories of pike lures - bucktails, spoons, and jerkbaits. Many jerkbaits are easy to cast and retrieve, and can be fished with any bass gear. This includes some fairly large baits - the Rapala F-18 comes to mind. Of course, if you target big pike using big lures, you'll want to use rods and reels appropriately matched up to your lure selection. On our recent trip, 3 individual lures shined through as the stars: A Rapala X-Rap Jointed Shad - XJS13 - in Hot Steel color, a Rapala X-Rap Saltwater size 14 - SXR14 - in GGH (Glass Ghost) color, and a Salmo Pike. You've read about Jim's retrieval technique - a slow, steady retrieve until the Jointed X-Rap hit some cabbage, then a rip through the cabbage. Andy works the SW X-Rap in an aggressive jerking motion, and it calls in fish due the erratic movement and size as well as when it gets popped out of the weeds. Billy relied on straight retrieves with the Salmo.

Again, you will see that the baits we opted for on this trip are, by most accounts, pretty big lures. You need to get the attention of the fish, and the size / flash of the big baits does just that. Also, since we're really targeting big fish, it's our intent that these bigger baits discourage some of the smaller fish from going after them. I don't really think this works at all, since pike will go after baits as long as they are, but we like to think it does. I've included 2 pictures for you. One shows the difference in bait size for a freshwater X-Rap to a SW X-Rap. It is substantial. the next shows a war-torn Jointed X-Rap Shad in Hot Steel. these baits just get better and better the more mauled and chewed up they get.

FW vs. SW X-Raps

A battered X-Rap


Very little has been mentioned (by me) about topwaters for Pike. I always have an assortment of topwaters along with me on these trips, but the last 2 trips I have had very little success with them. In the past, buzzbaits and Super Spooks have been good to me on pike trips, and I always have them along. The other bait I've done OK on is a Woodchopper. I 've gotten very little on Popper style baits (Chug Bug, ...) I would rather catch fish on topwater than anything else, but I won't use them if the fish don't want them. While I'll always have a few along, in recent years they have been falling out of favor with my. I hope that changes in the future, but when you have weight restrictions on what you can carry on your trip, you can't waste precious ounces on baits that have not been productive.

I hope you enjoyed the overview of pike baits. The lists grow and shrink with each passing year, and I love to try new stuff. I'll keep everyone posted on new baits for these toothy predators.