Thursday, March 31, 2011

Fishing Rising Water

Most of the Central U.S. has been hammered over the last several weeks by massive spring rains, and almost every lake I've fished lately has been on the rise and much muddier than normal. That being said, under those conditions, I have had some of my best spring fishing in recent memory!
Never let rising water keep you from heading to your favorite lake. Always remember that rising water (within reason) usually means new cover, an influx of food and stained water. Stain can be a big help in lakes that are typically clear. It brings fish to that new shoreline cover and makes them, well... stupid and easy to catch! You still need to avoid major creeks or drains that have super muddy or cold runoff though. Always remember to, "Rise with the water". The fish will as well.
Baits like Spinnerbaits and Chatterbaits that send off vibration are my personal favorites under these conditions. If the water is below 55 degrees, a jig with a big trailer tail can be very effective as well around that new cover, but if that water is 56 to lets say 64 degrees, it should be "game on" with the Spinner and Chatter. I like those better because I can cover lots more water...

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Eating Like a Pro

One of the toughest things for me to battle as I spend 200 or so nights on the road is what to eat. Try getting a healthy meal traveling down I-75 or in a Super-8 or Red Roof Inn.  It's just not going to happen unless you prepare! For me, that means always packing packing essential food items for life on the road. I figure, if you can cover a healthy breakfast, lunch and snacks, you can almost always find the time and the place for a decent evening meal. 

When I head out on a trip, at minimum I always carry with me, tea bags and sweetener, low sugar instant oatmeal, cream of wheat, protein and /or meal replacement bars, almonds or peanuts and microwavable Healthy Choice soups. It is also a good idea to pack an inexpensive electric boiler pot in case you don't have access to a microwave. My little food bin assures me that I will never go hungry while I'm traveling and can eat healthy throughout at least 75% of my day!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Seeing Spots

Well, I didn't get the 6 pound Spotted Bass I was looking for, but we did catch another 15 or so beautiful Spots and wrapped up what should be another great episode of Stihl's Reel in the Outdoors! The water in the main feeder arm of Carters Lake was very stained due to all the recent rainfall and the bass were right on the bank and crushing a spinnerbait like only a Cooosa River Chain Spot can. All I have to do now is drive my rig seven hours to the house. Should be home before midnight and the end of this 13 day road trip. No problem!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Fishing for a Giant Spot

Today was a long one for me. I packed up my gear and left my hotel room this morning at 7 AM, drove four hours to Calhoun, Georgia where I met my producer, Jim Kramer, and checked into another hotel room! I threw my bag in the room, changed into some warm clothes (it was 43 degrees and drilling rain) and headed on over to meet Louie Bartenfield on Carters Lake.

Our goal was to cash in on some of this little known lake's incredible spotted bass fishing for Stihls's Reel in the Outdoors. And cash in we did! In a little over 5 hours we caught 20 or so beautiful Coosa River Spots between 2 and 3 pounds. Tomorrow we plan to hit a different area of the Lake where Louie believes we could catch one of the 5 or 6 pound Spots he is famous for. Even after 11 days on the road and anxious to get home, I'm excited about the possibility at a true giant for our show.

A Perk of the Job: Great Fans

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Pattern on the FLW-Lake Hartwell

I was blown away by the size of the crowd at the final days weigh in at the 
Coliseum here in Greenville. It was a real grind on the water for me, only getting six bites all day, but my 11-15 limit was enough to move me from 10th to 7th place in the final standing on Lake Hartwell. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't extremely happy! I felt like I maximized what I had to work with, only losing one fish the whole event! 

 For those wondering my pattern, here goes: I was fishing a 1/2 oz.
Chatterbait on 17lb fluorocarbon line, which I was slow rolling in the back of stained water pockets up in the Tugaloo River. The key for me was targeting shallow pockets off the main river with shallow flooded shoreline grass. The key, though, was that they had to have a ditch with a little deep water running into them. A pretty basic pre-spawn pattern, but for me it was with $16,500 and a smile on my face!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Day 3 - FLW Lake Hartwell

It was a squeaker, but I made the Top Ten Cut! I finished the day in 10th place with 11 pounds 4 ounces. Had it not been for an unfortunate mechanical failure causing Jimmy Houston to be late and ultimately disqualified, I would have finished 11th and sent packing.

The weigh in was held at the Convention Center in Greenville
 and the fans really came out in force.

We signed lots of autographs and met some great fans!

Regardless, I'm in and proud of it. My only concern now is that the massive amount of rain we are getting will blow out the backs of the shallow pockets I'm fishing. I'll just have to wait till tomorrow to see if I'll need to go to Plan "B". Oh yeah, I just remembered, I have no plan "B"!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Made the Cut

I made the 20 cut! It wasn't pretty, but I hung in there. The cold, bright, calm conditions were really not conducive to the shallow water fishing I'm doing. I got just enough bites on the Chatterbait I've been using exclusively to get the job done. I weighed five fish for 11 pounds 4 ounces.

I'm hoping the forecast of rain will help me tomorrow. Either way, I'm in the top 20 cut and very, very happy!

Thursday, March 24, 2011


Oh yeah! Sometimes you get the chicken and sometimes you get the feathers!  For me it was definitely chicken today. What the heck! After all my whining about my tough practice, the wind blew hard today and I absolutely whacked them.

I had a 19 lbs. 10 oz. stringer, anchored by the Big Bass of the Day, a 6 lb. 10 oz. giant. I am so stoked! I'm sitting in 4th place. I  know the conditions played a big part in my success today, but I made an adjustment and it worked. Tomorrow I'm just going to keep my head down an push for the top twenty cut.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Before the Big Day

I slept in 'til 9 A.M. today. I love the FLW off day between practice and competition. It gives me a chance to catch up on emails and phone calls, work out, and prep my tackle. 

We had to drive 30 miles to Greenville for the pre-tournament meeting. The facility was very nice and they provided us all with a great complimentary meal of traditional southern barbecue. Tomorrow is a big day. Hope it goes better than practice!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Good Company

Today I continued to struggle in my practice round for the Lake Hartwell FLW, but at least I wasn't bored today!

Steve Redwine from Ohio

Steve, a co-angler in the tournament, fished with me today and kept me company. I caught seven keepers on various baits,  but still fairly small fish and I've found no area that I feel comfortable fishing the tournament  in.  I did see some big fish cruising shallow today which is a sure sign there are fish starting to spawn. Tomorrow is the off day. Can you say, "Sleep in!"

Monday, March 21, 2011

Think Positive

When the most exciting things you have to take pictures of on a practice day are waterfalls and a nice crappie, you know things are slow! I cannot believe fishing is so tough with the water temps near 60 degrees.  If I had to guess, I would say the surface temp came up so fast with the near 80 degree days last week that the fish just haven't moved up like you would expect.

It makes for some very long days when you are not catching much, and yes, even though you try to stay focused your mind has a tendency to wander. Fishing alone doesn't help either. My biggest goal is to think positive no matter what. If you don't, you'll begin to have thoughts like, "What the heck am I doing here?" My silent  answer to that question has to always be, "Doing my job!"

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Practice on Hartwell

When you have eight rods with eight different baits on the deck of your boat, it is a pretty good sign you are struggling to figure things out! Hartwell was tough on me today.

I caught only 10 keepers in my 12 hour practice day. Most of them were only about 13 inches. My plan is to keep moving around and changing things up 'til I figure it out. Water temp is 58 degrees. It should not be that hard!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Staying Connected

Today was an easy one for me.  The drive to Lake Hartwell from my brother Doug's home in Atlanta only took me about an hour and a half. I had not made a room reservation so I wanted to get there fairly early to scope out the hotels before the bulk of the other competitors came rolling in.

At tournaments you pick hotels based on availability of truck and boat parking above all else. I hate having to unhook and try to find a place to keep connected if at all possible. Oh yeah, you gotta have electric outlets available too. I found a decent place fairly quickly within 10 minutes of our host marina for the tournament. I found my room to be plenty nice with the bonus of a micro / frig which is always nice when you are staying for a week.

I spent most of the afternoon studying my map to formulate a practice strategy and watching some of the NCAA tourney on TV. Weather forecast looks very nice for the week. Fishing should be good. Looking forward to getting out tomorrow!

Hot Bait

Today was a great day on Dale Hollow! I shot an episode of Stihl's Reel in the Outdoors today with my buddy Ronnie Grant who is a Dale Hollow Lake expert! He and the Smallies were both on their game today. The hot bait was a vintage Lucky Craft flat CB MR in a chartreuse and red craw pattern. 

The water temps were 50 to 51 degrees and the bass were holding on bluff secondary points. The key was paralleling tight to the points with our casts. We were wrapped up by 2 p.m.  with 15 bass between 2 and 4 pounds. As soon as we were done on Dale, I drove 7 hours to my brother's house, ( Leah's Bed and Breakfast) in Atlanta to spend the night on my way to the FLW Tournament on Lake Hartwell.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Heading Out

Another full day today! I hit the gym this morning at 6:30 AM for an hour and a half then headed home to pack my clothes and tackle for my ten day road trip which will consist of shooting on Dale Hollow in Tennessee for Stihl's Reel in the Outdoors and then on to the FLW Tournament on Lake Hartwell near the South Carolina - Georgia border. Before I could head out though, we had to shoot a promotional piece for Arkie Jigs for a new Signature Swim Jig we recently designed. As soon as it was in the can, our editor, Larry, headed back to our studio to begin rough cutting it and our producer, Jim, and I headed out on a five hour drive to Dale. The hotel bed will definitely look good tonight.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Getting Ready

Today, I had the opportunity to do a car commercial for Kerry Automotivemy truck sponsor. Man, did I have to pack a lot of info into that 30 seconds! No wonder those guys talk so fast in car commercials!  Later, I spent a couple of hours working on tackle to get ready for my second FLW Event on Lake Hartwell. Not much down time right now. Seems like every day, heck every minute is accounted for.  

I'm going to take my daughter, Reanna, out for her birthday tonight since I will not be home for the actual day due to the tournament. It seems like I average being home for about one birthday out of every three. I'm not proud of that, but it's just the way is when you have to travel as much as I do. Guess I better get her a really nice birthday gift, huh?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


One of the most frequent questions I get from viewers and aspiring professional bass anglers is about how to handle sponsors. The biggest mistake I see a lot of anglers make actually comes after they get the sponsor!

Many times, anglers are willing to put in hours upon hours to get the company on board, yet do not nurture the relationship for the long term. You cannot wait around for them to call you to see what you have been up to in the bassin' world. You have to show them!

Today's digital cameras and email distribution of photos and reports make it easier than ever for anglers to stay on the sponsor's radar screen. I suggest keeping a digital camera with you wherever you go, and capitalize on all photo ops that present themselves. Anything that shows you exposing their products and name to the public is extremely valuable.

I try to collect these photos, articles and other information and submit them to my sponsors quarterly in a brief one to two page quarterly report which can be easily emailed as a pdf. Another nice touch is a year ending summary, sort of your "State of the Union" address to them that outlines the positives of the previous year and you opportunities and outlook for the upcoming year. I've always said, "You keep a sponsor by keeping in touch!"

Monday, March 14, 2011

How to Catch More Fish

Today I took my Ranger over to Dixie Marine today so Kris with Nightfishion could install their rub rail lighting system on my boat. They installed black lights all around as well as a moon glo and docking lights. Now my boat truly has everything! If you have never used black lights for night fishing, you are really missing out. They make fluorescent line glow like a laser beam. The docking lights are also very functional. Even if these lights were not functional, they would still look extremely cool, and everyone knows you catch more fish when you look good...

Sunday, March 13, 2011

A Day at the Office

I'm finally going to get a couple days home! So what does this Bass Pro / TV Host do when he is home? Well, I can tell you I ain't playin golf! A typical day for me when I get in off a road trip usually involves about 8 to 10 hours office time.  On a recent day, I spent much of my time in the office on the phone with our UMF Producers working out details for the next Ultimate Match Fishing shoot. We nailed down our site and our twelve anglers. I would like to tell you where and who but then I'd have to shoot you!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Reel Deal

I spent today at my host boat dealer, Dixie Marine, for day one of their annual Customer Appreciation Weekend. I did seminars along with other pros, Joe Balog and Brent Ehrler. My favorite part of these type of events is meet the kids! Tomorrow's attendance should be huge as they are having a free fish fry for all attendees. I guess I'll have to stray from my diet for one day....

Friday, March 11, 2011

On the Road

The one thing that keeps my job interesting is without a doubt the travel, which for me means driving. Lots of driving. I average about 50,000 miles a year behind the wheel. Unfortunately, that can also get a little boring and borderline lonely. I find myself relying on the people I meet and the things I see to keep it interesting. Sometimes, it can be something as simple as this sign in a small town I recently drove through last month. It made me chuckle, which I am sure was the store owner's goal!

Thursday, March 10, 2011


The rising water conditions were so intense the TVA had the Pickwick Dam wide open with all flood gates rolling.  In spite of this, we had a banner day on the water! Lance Walker and I were able to use the intense current to pinpoint big bass up to 8 pounds in eddies just out off the main river within a few miles of the dam. Our best bait was a 1 oz tandem willow leaf Spinnerbaitslow rolled in 6 to 8 feet of water. It is going to make a great episode of Stihl's Reel in the Outdoors.  

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Early to Rise....

My day began with a 4:45 wake up!  I left my house with my boat in tow at at 5:15 headed south to Pickwick Lake in southwest Tennessee. After meeting up with my producer Jim Kramer, in Northern Kentucky, we set out to shoot another episode on Stihl's Reel in the Outdoors. After a seven hour drive, mostly in a downpour, we met my fishing partner, Lance Walker from Browning Eyewear, at the Pickwick Landing ramp. Lance is an expert on the lake and a good friend of mine.

The afternoon shoot went well despite rising water and windy conditions. We caught several
 nice bass and got a great start on the show as we head into tomorrow. Oh yeah , in case you are wondering, the water temps are hanging around 50 degrees and the majority of the fish are coming on a 1 oz. willow leaf spinner bait and a Lucky Craft Pointer 127 jerk bait. I'd give you the rest of the details, but then you wouldn't watch the show....

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Change-Up

Well one thing is for sure.... when you make fishing and hunting shows for a living, you are at the mercy of the weather. I was scheduled to head down to Pickwick Lake in Tennessee today at noon so that we could begin shooting tomorrow with Lance Walker of Browning Eyewear who is "The Man" on that lake. Well, Mother Nature had some ideas of her own and I had to postpone for 24 hours due to the massive storm system that is set to crush that part of the country with two inches of rain.

Instead of driving all day, I immediately shifted gears and began working on the new JT Signature Series Bait I am helping Arkie Lures developed for their "Platinum" line. Heck, I even went to my local Bass Pro Shop to look at various colors to try to get an idea of exactly what jig and trailer colors I wanted in this new bait. I am very excited about this new venture with Arkie and want to make sure we get it right the first try... Tomorrow I'm meeting my producer of Stihl's Reel in the Outdoors at 5:30 A.M. to head for Pickwick and hopefully clearing weather. I'll keep you posted on the fishing once I get there...

Monday, March 7, 2011

Whistling Dixie

Today was definitely a catch up day for me after being out of town for the FLW Tournament all last week. After my 6 a.m. trip to the gym, I headed straight to my office to catch up on emails and go through my regular mail. After that, I hooked up the Ranger and headed over to my home dealer, Dixie Marine in Fairfield, Ohio to have them try to figure out a problem with my GPS fading in and out. 

I had to get it handled immediately since tomorrow I'm headed to Pickwick to shoot an episode of Stihl's Reel in the Outdoors and will definitely need it for the open water fishing we'll be doing.

As always, Dixie owner. Bill Lewis, got his guys right on it for me and Stevie found the loose wire under the console that was causing the problem. In my situation,  it is so important to have a home dealer who takes care of you right away. My hat's off to those guys at Dixie Marine for all they do to keep my down time to a minimum!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Around Every Corner

On my way home yesterday, I was traveling down the highway when the computer lady in the console of my Ford F-150 informed me that I had "50 miles to empty".

A couple of miles later, I exited into one of those highway oases that lets you fuel, eat, do laundry, shower, and if you got a few minutes, purchase some really cheap country music CD's and 90's B-movies on DVD.

I pulled up to an outer pump since they are always easiest with the boat in tow, put in my credit card, stuck in the fuel nozzle and set the catch to fill 'er up. I was pretty darn hungry too, and real tired of those sawdust bars I've been living on so I went inside to get some real food.

It is nearly impossible to get fast food that is even moderately healthy, but I did my best: I ordered two grilled chicken wraps with no lettuce and no sauce. (I hate lettuce and know ranch dressing is bad for you.) The modestly overweight lady who was pushing 60 years of age keyed in the order and then paused, staring at me for several uncomfortable seconds.

She finally broke the silence saying, "Young man.." (I was young to her I guess?)  "I'm sure you  are ordering those grilled chicken wraps to be healthy aren't you?"

I replied. "Yes ma'am, I am".

She responded by saying "If you are really trying to eat healthy, you would have me take the cheese off that and put that lettuce back on!"

I just kinda shrugged my shoulders and after another uncomfortable pause, she went ahead and put in my order, muttering, "He might as well have just ordered a Big Mac!"

That definitely proves that there is a critic around every corner!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Pointed Home

Today was not nearly as exciting as the comeback on Beaver Lake yesterday, but it still started very early. I left Rogers, Arkansas and pointed my rig toward Ohio at 5:15 a.m.!  It took a hard 11 hours and 45 minutes of driving, much of it in pouring rain to reach my home in Milford.

I had to push hard to make it home in time to help my son, Ryan, with a video project he had booked this evening. Driving is definitely a big part of doing what I do and I've always been able to make those long forced marches without any problem. By the way, the drive is definitely a lot easier after a money finish!

Friday, March 4, 2011

It Just Shows You......

Well, I don't know if the good luck picture my new found little buddy Jaden drew for me really worked, but today was a much better day for me! I caught four bass that weighed 14 pounds and 3 ounces which moved me from 114th place to 34th and pocketed $10,500! Nice start for the season. I caught all my fish on windblown secondary points with submerged cedar trees.

I used only two baits the entire two days:  a Lucky Craft DD Pounder 100 in chartreuse shad color and a medium diving crawfish colored crankbait. I am happy for a good finish, but even happier to have come from so far back to do it. It just shows you, it ain't over 'til it's over...

Thursday, March 3, 2011

FLW Tournament - Day One

What a lousy way to start off the season! Today was definitely a struggle for me on the water despite prime, warm and windy fishing  conditions.  I had only 5 bites all day... all largemouths.  On Beaver Lake, the size limit for largemouths is 15".  Three were 14 1/2 inchers, one was a solid three pounder that I lost at the net, and finally the one 2 1/2 pounder that I weighed in. 

All my fish came on a crawfish colored crankbait in steep wind blown pockets. The bright spot in my day was getting my picture taken with a couple of young fishing fishing fans. Jaden and his little sister, Joclyn, whose parents are big fans of Ultimate Match Fishing and Stihl's Reel in the Outdoors

With the money cut being about 7 pounds, I'll have to catch at least 10 pounds, tomorrow to make a check.  Stranger things have happened!

Off Day

Today was our off day at the FLW on Beaver Lake with day one of competition beginning tomorrow. So what does a "day off" consist of at a tournament? THE BUSIEST DAY OF THE WEEK FOR ME!

It all started at 7:30 AM... yeah, I slept in a little. Then, I got caught up on emails and voice messages.  (I never answer calls or emails during the practice round, unless of course it is my wife....I know better than to blow her calls off.) After that, I spent several hours servicing my boat, re-spooling reels and tweaking all the tackle I'll need in the first day of the tourney. 

My philosophy is this, even if the fishing is tough, and trust me I just came off the toughest practices I've ever had, you can still address all the controllable variables like new line, hooks, etc.

Next, before heading off to the pre-tournament meeting, I went over to the Arkie Jigs Plant near Rogers and spent some time with the folks there, meeting the employees and looking over the prototypes of my new signature swim jig that I'm very excited about! Finally, it was off to the partner pairing.... whew! I'm ready for the tournament to start so I can rest up!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Final Day of Practice

My final day of practice on Beaver Lake didn't go well. The lake was fogged in until almost 9 a.m. (photo). I fished a total of 11 hours for the one 2 1/2 pound largemouth I caught. One bite... all day! The one thing about tournament fishing is that you do not always go to the best lakes at the best times! Hopefully the tournament will go better. Tomorrow is a much needed off day...

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

FLW Tournament on Beaver Lake

Today was my second day of practice for the FLW Tournament on Beaver Lake in Arkansas. This is our first tour event of the year. Today was one of those days I would have liked to have a desk job.... Yep, that is sleet in my boat! It was windy, rainy and never got above 40 degrees the whole day. The lake level is low and the water temps are in the mid-40's which is making a tough lake fish even tougher. 

I have managed to catch a couple of nice largemouths like the one pictured, but the bites are few and far between. I'm hoping to find out more tomorrow which is my last day of official practice...

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