Friday, April 29, 2011

Match Five

Match 5 of Ultimate Match Fishing on Lake Lanier is now in the history books! Elite Series Anglers David Walker and Tim Horton put on quite a show. The water temps on Lanier continue to rise and the bass are quickly vacating the spawning beds, but fishing is still very good. One more match tomorrow and then I get to head home!

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Ok, I know I'm sounding like a broken record but yesterday was another great UMF Match! Our competitors were Scott Suggs from the FLW Tour vs. Dustin Wilkes from the Bassmaster Elite Series. It came down to the wire and was super exciting to watch.

FLW announced today they have re-scheduled our canceled event for late July. Unfortunately for me, it falls right smack in the middle of my "High Places" hunting show shot in Africa.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

UMF: Another Great Match

We had another great UMF Match on Lanier today between Anthony Gagliardi and Gerald SwindleG-man kept my crew laughing all day with his one liners and "Swindlisms".

Shooting Plano Tackle Segment

UMF Referee Mark Randolph

We also got word today that the FLW Tournament on Table Rock Lake was canceled due to record high water. Looks like I will get a much needed week at home!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Big Fish

Today's UMF Match between Bryan Thrift and Aaron Martins was awesome! Lots of big fish caught! Should make an outstanding episode. 

My zany UMF co-host Fish Fishburne

Got word today that the FLW Event on Table Rock might be canceled, due to the Noah's Ark flood they are having in the Midwest.  I almost hope they cancel the tournament since I don't really look forward to fishing picnic tables and parking lots!

Monday, April 25, 2011

UMF: The Winner Is....

Today was the first day of Ultimate Match Fishing. Our competitors, Tom Mann Jr. and Dan Moorehead, slugged it out on Lake Lanier until the very end. The bass here are in a transition stage just coming off the spawn. Our match was very close but in the end...... Oh, you didn't think I would actually let that out, did ya?


The shoot ran very late though due to a severe storm we had to wait out before the weigh-in. All in all, a great match that will make a super episode of UMF.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

UMF Boat Prep

I started my day in Chattanooga meeting with the owners of Chattanooga Sun and Fun Marine. They are taking care of our UMF boats, so I wanted to stop in and day hello and make sure the boats were in order and ready for my guys to pick up later in the afternoon to transport the to Lake Lanier.

Once I finished there, I cruised on down to Lanier (about 3 hours) where I met up with my brother who lives near the lake, along with my nephew and a couple of his friends for a few hours of fishing. The boys had a great time and we even caught a few nice spotted bass. Tomorrow will be all about prepping the boats and our production meetings.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Packed with Meaning

There are two things that I really hate about my job. One is the packing for extended road trips and the other is saying good-bye to my wife and daughters. Today, I got to do both!

It is especially tough when it is an long trip like this one, causing me to be gone over Easter! The first week of this roadtrip is to shoot the first round of UMF 2011 in Georgia on Lake Lanier, and the second is my 4th FLW Tour Event on Table Rock Lake in Missouri. Right before I left, my seven year old, Gracelyn, handed me a picture she drew of herself waving bye to me through the laundry room window.

Ouch, that hurt! Funny how you never read that stuff in the "Bass Pro" job description. 

Happy Easter, everybody! 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Banner Day!

Ohio turkey season opened yesterday! Every year, I try to take one day during the Ohio season to go out to Brown County to hunt with my good friend, Mike Hopkins. Most years, I miss opening day due to my fishing schedule but this year, I was in town so we took advantage of it! You can't imagine how much I look forward to that one day each year when I blow off my work responsibilities and just go chase birds with Mike.

Mike pretty much taught me how to hunt them and actually called in the first one I ever shot. In spite of the windy, cloudy conditions that made calling the birds tough, (would have been a great fishing day I bet), we had a banner day taking two big toms! My 24 pound 11 ounce gobbler was my largest to date. All in all a great day and some much needed R&R after last weeks frustrating tournament.

Monday, April 18, 2011


I had so much to catch up on after last week's tournament that turkey hunting was the furthest thing from my mind when I got up right after daybreak. I was buried, trying to get a million things done for next week's UMF shoot on Lake Lanier in Georgia.

I did know, though, that Ohio's youth turkey season was open this weekend and the word around the Thomas house was that the birds had been "gobblin' their heads off" around the yard! Anyway, so I'm  headed into my office (shoulda been headed to Church really) when I detoured and walked out on the back patio just in time to here a distant gobble over the hill! Enough said! Thirty minutes later I had my daughter, Reanna, staring at a big tom down the barrel of my 12 gauge. Well, all things considered, I guess I do have my priorities straight. Okay, except for missing Church. I'll work on that one!

Friday, April 15, 2011

That's Part of the Game

I almost pulled it off today. Going out this morning, I figured I would need about 15 lbs. to have a chance of sliding into the top 50 and making ten grand. My five fish limit today weighed 14 lbs. 8oz., leaving me a little short, coming in 66th place.  Looking back, I can't feel too bad about this one. I executed pretty well, catching every fish that bit except one in the two days of competition.

I really just didn't have enough going on. The areas I found in practice didn't have the quality of fish I needed to do well. The majority of my fish in the tournament came casting a black lizard and flipping a 5.5" black tube into shallow laydown trees. When the water began dropping, a lot of the fish that were trying to spawn pulled out into the tips of those trees in three to four feet of water. If the tree had less than three feet of water on the tips, I couldn't get a bite and as the lake continued to fall, those trees became harder and harder to find. I have to admit it really stings when you get that close after all that work and go home empty handed but that's part of the game... the part that I don't like!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Looking to Tomorrow


Tough day today! I caught pretty much the same number of fish today as I did on my practice days, about 12 or so, but I just didn't have quite the average size. The water continues to fall, leaving a lot of the cover I'm fishing too shallow to be productive now. My 12 pounds 14 ounces has me right in the middle of the pack in 77th place. I am disappointed, but the weights are tight and a good day tomorrow could put me back in $10,000 territory!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


Tomorrow, we fish when it counts. I always get pretty stressed the day before competition. I guess I've always been that way even way back in high school. I would get so tweaked up before a football game or wrestling match. At the pre-tournament meeting today, we had the opportunity to hear a few words from a National Guardsman who did two combat tours. His accounts of service men's sacrifices really helped me to put things into perspective. I guess in the overall scheme of things, bass tournaments, even high dollar ones like we fish, are not worth losing sleep over.

Cold Front

Today I was back to a sweatshirt and rain gear! We had a pretty substantial cold front come through, and even though it hit 60 degrees in the afternoon, I was cold all day. The water on Lake Chickamauga has dropped over 2 feet in the three days of practice, but I am still catching them pretty steady. My only fear is that the size I am catching won't be good enough. My best 5 fish each day have averaged about 13 to 14 pounds. Tomorrow is a much needed off day!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Putting It Together

During the past two days while practicing for the FLW Event on Chickamauga, the weather has been awesome! It has been so nice to fish in shorts and a t-shirt. The water level has fallen two feet though, which is making fishing a little tougher than it should be. Regardless, my son, Ryan, and I are catching some nice fish and starting to put together a pattern. Tomorrow is the final day of practice.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Headed to FLW Lake Chickamauga

My son, Ryan, and I left Cincinnati at 5 AM this morning, headed for Lake Chickamauga in Tennessee for my third FLW Tournament of the season.

After a short six hour drive down I-75, we were settled into our beautiful Red Roof Inn.  I worked on tackle for couple of hours and then headed over to the grocery store to get drinks and lunch stuff for the week. The only time I ever grocery shop is at tournaments. I was totally lost and it took three times longer than it should have.

I am anxious to see how the fishing goes this week. It should be real good. Anytime the water temps hit 60 degrees on any of the  Tennessee River Lakes it is usually awesome! Either way, it looks like the weather will be warm and fairly dry this week.  
It will be nice to fish without wearing my long underwear and rainsuit for a change.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Made of Stihl

Today, I took my rig to Springboro, Ohio for the Grand Opening of Moe's Ace Hardware. Moe's is one of our newest and largest STIHL dealers in Ohio. I had a chance to meet a lot of the customers, sign autographs and just talk fishing! Once that wrapped up, I headed home to pack my gear and work on my tackle. Tomorrow, I head down to Chatanooga to start practice for my third FLW Event of the season.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Calling Him Out

Today was my day to be a dad and hang with my girls. My 7 year old, Gracelyn, all of a sudden is fired up on turkeys since her big sis whacked the big gobbler the other day in Kentucky.

Reanna's Gobbler

We were out working in the yard when my wife, Diane, said she heard a turkey gobbling in the hollow. Well, that was all Gracie needed to hear. She was in her camo in a flash begging me to call in so she could see it up close.

"I've never seen one up close," she said. You can legally call them before season in Ohio, so off we went.  Fifteen minutes and a few sexy hen calls later, I had a giant gobblers strutting in front of us at 10 yards! It gets better:  Gracie eyes were big as saucers as that bird strutted and gobbled loud enough to shake the trees! I guess all the hen calls and returned gobbler calls attracted a hen that was in the area. That hen came sauntering right up to the big boy and he, well, he began having his way with her right in front of me and my innocent baby girl. I was paralyzed!

While the big bird took his good old time doing the deed. I was wondering what I should say to Grace as this dude continued to put on a show with his new girlfriend. Finally the silence was broken by my daughter whispering in my ear, "Look! They are mating!"
Without thinking, I whispered back, "How do you know?"
She immediately looked me in the eye and said, "Dad, we have 20 chickens. Duh!" Enough said.

Once we got back to the house, she gave me a big kiss and told me it was the coolest thing she ever saw. My hope is that it stays that way for at least the next 15 or 20 years!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Stihl Catching Them!

Man, oh man! I love it when a plan comes together! I will admit I was a little concerned when I hooked up my boat this morning at 5 AM in a pouring rain and the exterior temp gauge on my truck reading 38 degrees. The itinerary for the day was pretty simple:  pick up my camera man, Jim Kramer, and drive 3 hours over to Martinsville, IN to shoot an episode of Stihl's Reel in the Outdoors with my buddy, Nick Teeter of Ranger Nick's Guide Service. Nick had offered to take us out on a large lake in a rural housing development. 

Well, the rain did give way to partly cloudy skies by the time we got on the water but it stayed very cold with winds near 25 MPH. In spite of the cold front conditions and high winds, we absolutely crushed the bass. We used Nick's  homemade spinnerbaits and Lucky Craft Staysee 90's to boat 15 bass between 3 and 6 pounds! That is why I always say in fishing , "You won't know if you don't go!"

Monday, April 4, 2011


I'm always getting asked what it takes to make it as a pro bass angler.  Well there is one thing that it takes that seems always to get overlooked in that "how-to" manual and that's driving:  lots and lots of driving! It really came to mind for me last month when I left my house in Cincinnati at 4 AM with boat in tow in a downpour headed for Nashville to get my Ranger boat wrapped. Had to be there at 8 Central Time. From there, I was off to Arkansas for the FLW Event and then off to another lake to shoot an episode of Still's Reel in the Outdoors. About  1700 miles give or take 50. Trust me, if you can't handle long nighttime drives, pick another vocation! My best friends are definitely my satellite radio and my GPS. And yes, the GPS, she does talk to me... and sometimes I talk back to her...

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Reanna's First Turkey

I could't have scripted a better turkey hunt today! We went to a friends farm in Kentucky for the early youth hunt. My daughter thought it was so cool that we had to drive through a creek with the truck to get to our hunting spot.

I did have something very unusual happen though. Shortly after daylight, we were sneaking along an old logging road, calling every few minutes when I heard a faint rustle in the leaves behind me. I turned just in time to see a big mature coyote running full speed at us at twenty yards. My guess is that it thought we were a turkey breakfast.

I snatched the gun out of Reanna's hand and fired at the big dog as he closed within 15 yards. While the shot missed it was still good enough to scare some sense into him and send him packing down the hill. It shook Reanna and I up a bit, but pretty soon we were back in the hunt. 

Shortly after, I was able to call in two mature gobblers, that came in running.  Reanna made a great shot and her first turkey was a giant with a ten and 3/4 inch beard with 1 inch spurs!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Talking Turkey

I actually had a Saturday at home! Since I rarely am home on the weekends when the kids are not doing school, I decided to spend some time with my oldest daughter, Reanna, while my youngest was taking her Saturday ice skating lesson.

I asked her what she wanted to do, and she said, "Let's go shopping!" My first thought was, "Oh Lord, why me?" Wrong.... She wanted to go to Bass Pro Shops to get a new pair of camo bibs for our turkey hunt tomorrow. (Kentucky Youth Turkey is open this weekend and she knew it.) We found exactly the right pair of bibs along with a matching t-shirt. I will admit that I do posess a great sense of camouflage fashion. Now, all I have to do is find her gobbler tomorrow and we'll be golden!

Reanna in camo

Reanna's first buck

Alaskan Brown Bear

I had a chance to stop in to Bryan Equipment Sales training showroom to see my big Alaskan brown bear mount which was recently delivered. I took the bear with my bow in 2008 while filming a hunting show for Outdoor Channel. It is pretty bad when you have so many mounts that you have to get the area STIHL distributor to house one for you. It looked awesome!  My local taxidermist, Mike Redding, said he put over 80 hours into the mount. It sure brought back great, but terrifying memories. You can see the video clip of the bear hunt on my YouTube hunting channel.
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