Saturday, March 30, 2013

Monday, March 25, 2013

Planning a Sucessful Trip

I have been finding myself traveling more and more in order to chase tail (fish tails that is).  Many of these areas I fish have equated to great success due to a number of factors.  Of the two major factors (Luck and Planning), there is only one within my control.  Growing up, I used to fish a lake rain or shine without regard to all of the other factors that can equate to a successful day on the water.  While I caught fish, and some good ones at that, I never had consistent success, and rarely had success while fishing new water.  Now that I have grown up, I still fish whenever the bug hits.  The difference is how I approach these trips.  A little bit of planning utilizing some free (or low cost) resources can turn a normal fishing trip into a fishing trip that will stick with you your entire life!

Planning a trip utilizing the USMC 5-Paragraph Order
My time in the Corps taught me a number of different techniques to cope with challenges that may come my way.  When it comes to planning SMEAC is the way for me.  It is simple and helps me identify all of the different things that I need to consider when planning a trip.  SMEAC is the same technique that is used to attack the enemy with shock and awe, so it would reason that it would work just fine on the finned friends.SMEAC is: Situation, Mission, Execution, Admin & Logistics, and Command & Control.  Let’s look at this process for a recent trip.

Situation- A weekend where 3 of my fishing buddies got their kitchen pass.  The fishing in the salt has been slow, and the bug to chase smallies on a river growing each day.  River conditions were not great, but considering wind, temperature, tides, flows, distance, and availability of time and resources to fish together, we had a common location in mind.

Mission - To meet up and catch Smallmouth Bass on a section of river that was new to us.

Execution - Planned meeting time, location, and tackle needed to accomplish the mission.  Adherence to these factors is key to success.

Admin & Logistics - This includes listing the items needed, verifying their availability, and packing nothing more, nothing less.  Identifying how you are going to get where you need to go, and how you are going to get there (in this case, Alex and Seth carpooled, as well as Tommy and myself).

Command & Control - In a group, this means having a central decision maker.  The decision maker identifies the location, collects intel, conducts recon, and managing the flow of information to others.

On our smallie trip, we all had input and decision influence, but there was one person who made the decision.  For us, on a new body of water, we all caught nice fish, and worked together to make it happen.

Looking further, to identify the specific mission, the gathering of information was paramount in the success of the trip.  In order to protect the location and not hotspot, I will not go into specifics, but give you an idea of what I look at.
  1. FInd a reliable weather source.  I utilize a combination of FishWeather, Intellicast, and while I am on the water, I monitor the weather through my WeatherUnderground app.
  2. Use online forums.  If I can, I review any information posted on a body of water I want to fish.  I dont necessarily take the information I read as truthful if I only see one report, but I am focused on pictures or condition reports to help me learn about the spot.  If I see multiple reports, I try to make a pattern for success.  I look for fishing forums that cover the area I plan on fishing.  I feel that if I cant pre-fish, I can take advantage of the trends I see to help guide me to spots (i.e. oyster beds, drop offs, etc...) and determine the baits I want to start with.
  3. Do location recon.  Search the net for launch spots to determine security, fees, effects of tides and weather conditions, etc.  Google Earth helps me identify landmarks, and determine those areas I want to travel to.  One thing to remember is not to limit yourself to this information.  If you find something on the water you didn't see from the imagery, stay flexible.  Another tool I use is my Navionics Apps for my iPad and iPhone.  This gives me tide information and a map of the underwater layout.  For $15, it not only helps me plan trips and identify fishing sports to further recon, but it helps me identify those locations while im on the water.
  4. Collect human intelligence.  Befriend those who you admire.   Be honest and truthful in your interactions.  Know when someone dosent want you to fish a spot and respect that.  If you want to fish such a spot, dont be sneaky, but ask them for information.  Who knows, they might pass on intel they receive, or invite you to fish with them.
All of this helps me determine where im going to fish, and greatly enhances my chances for success.  Just look at the results of our most recent trip.  Without planning, we still may have caught fish, but not of this caliber.
One of three fish between 17.25" and 19"
Photo by William Ragulsky
Alex's smallie just under 20"
Photo by Tommy Dewitt
Seth's fish @ 18.25"
Photo By Tommy Dewitt
Tommy's VA Citation Smallmouth at 21"
Photo by Seth Goodrich
For a solid trip report, go over to Bent Rod Chronicles, and check out Seth's report for the day.

Good luck, and we'll see you on the water!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Product Review - Engel 13 Qt. Live Bait Cooler

Normally I prefer to fish with artificial lures, but there are certain situations when I fish with , or like to have fresh bait.   During those times, I would tote around a Frabill troll tank, but that had some issues.  During tournaments, if I spend the time to catch bait, if I decide to use it, I want it to be fresh and lively.  Unfortunately, during the summer to keep baits such as shrimp and mullet lively, that tank is in the water the whole day.  This slows me down, and makes me susceptible to the current and other factors.  To mitigate this, I decided to turn to Engel Coolers.  

Baitwell (between the seat and green box) rigged on the Skimmer 128

After hearing great things about their products, I figured that if the livewell didn't work out the way I wanted, at least I would have a quality cooler to take out on the water.  With a few trips under its belt, I have been pleasantly surprised by the results.  I went with the 13 Quart Cooler and noticed a few things before I even got it.
  1. When purchasing items on line, I appreciate it when the process my order quickly.  I placed my      order on a Saturday, and by 0900 on the following Monday my order was purchased.
     2.  It was shipped the same day it was processed, and I didn't have to pay anything extra.

When I got the cooler, which was five days after the order was placed, I noticed the quality of the cooler.  I was excited and couldn't wait to get it out on the water.  My next trip I put it in use.  It fit rather nicely in my tankwell with a small box and rod holders.  It kept 5 dozen shiners lively all day.  I decided to test its water tightness, and when turned upside down, there was minimal leaking from the aerator hose port.  This area can be plugged from the inside when the hose is not in use.  The top seals were flawless.  

My for my next trip I decided to see how it would work on the Skimmer 128, with the Yak Attack BlackPak.  I was able to put it between the BlackPak and the seat, but was unable to secure it to the kayak.  I was however able to put the cooler between my legs comfortably without it getting in the way.  Utilizing the BlackPak, or full size crate, it fit nicely behind the crate, while being secured to the kayak.  This is the most likely scenario and option when im tournament fishing.  My fishing buddy commented at the end of the day on the liveliness and quality of the bait and said he would end up purchasing one himself.

As a cooler itself, I tested it with ice in my truck.  It held ice with minimal melt for a week, parked in the sun everyday.  It is extremely quick and easy to remove the aerator and hose (included with the cooler), if you decide to use it as a stand alone cooler.

At around $70 with shipping included, if you are looking for a live bait management solution when fishing, check it out.  Im sure you will be pleased!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Product Review - Shamano Crucial Spinnerbait Rod

So, I have been able to get a few trips on the water, and caught enough fish to write a confident review of one of my newer, more enjoyable purchases.

A few weeks back, I bought a 6'10" Shamano Crucial Spinnerbait rod.  Mainly fishing saltwater, I chose this rod for a simple reason, the exposure of the rod blank below the reel.  This exposure allows me to feel those subtle little ticks of non aggressive fish chomping on the lure.  I have thrown 1/2 oz jigs with trailers, 1/8 oz wacky work rigs, shallow crankbaits, and of course 1/4 oz spinnerbaits with this rod.  Even though it is designed as a technique specific rod, I feel comfortable using it in multiple applications, fresh and salt.

My favorite casting rod is a MH power, Fast or Extra fast action.  The rod that I chose was a MH/XF.  It allows me to wing baits a country mile, but still have enough backbone to get fish to hand as quickly as possible.

It is an IM-10 rod, and built with the same blank construction as my beloved Teramar's.  The rod itself is only 4 or 5 ounces, and paired with a Curado 200, the entire package comes in around a pound.  More than light enough for me.

Even though this unlucky pickerel was a nice test for the rod, I am anxious for my opportunity to chase some specks and reds in the near future.

Now to the money aspect of this rod.  I paid 150 for the rod, and pair that with another 150 for the reel, you would be hard pressed to find a combo that is as light, durable, and preforms as well as this does for 300 bucks.  So go out there, get you some fish, and enjoy!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Time is Coming

I know its not kayak fishing, but this is one of my favorite videos of all time.  It gets me pumped for the salt, and the opportunity to hook back up with some bulls!

Bulls on Top
Courtesy of Shallow Water Expeditions

Monday, March 4, 2013

Simple Hurricane Skimmer 128 Rigging

So, I finally got around to posting some pictures of my Skimmer to the Hurricane Fishing Team's Facebook page.  I thought Id post them up here and go into a little more detail on why I chose the products I did.

Side View
Looking at this view, there are a few areas Id like to point out.  First, I decided to go with a Mighty Mount as the base platform for the VisiPole.  First, the space it was mounted in would be a waste of a perfectly good trac, as it would only allow 1-2" of movable space when rigged.  Also, it was the more fiscally responsible choice without sacrificing product quality.  I go with the VisiCarbon Pro for my light because I could easily add or remove it on the water, and it is a light weight quality product.

Moving back, I have a white Engel Bait well that is used when Im fishing live bait.  I can also use it without the aerator for cool drinks and ice in the summer.  Behind it I have my homemade kayak tackle box.  I can place 3 plano sleeves and plastics in the box.  I also added a rod holder to the back of it.  With the design of the skimmer, I can access both the bait and the tackle/rods in a forward facing seated position. 

Finally I added a SEALS pad on the seat for added comfort during those 8+ hour days on the water.

This picture is the view without the live well.

Full Side View
In this view, if you look at the bow and the stern above the seam, you can see the silver Nitestripe.  This really lights up at night if any light source is shined on it.  Its just another measure to keep me save and visible during low light conditions.  Alos pictured on the right part of the picture are my removable rod holders.

In this picture, you can see the normal Gear Trac under the center scotty mount, and the Gear Trac 90 in which a Ram holder is mounted on.  I love the Gear Trac's because they give me almost infinite options for my fishing needs.  I can remove everything from the tracks and I have a virtually snag free deck for fly casting, or I can put as many rod holders I could fish from on the tracks.  If you dont know about Yak Attack, click the link and check them out! Finally, before you get to the center hatch, I mounted some noise dampening plastic grip tape in the areas that I tend to set rods down on.  I can set my rods down, grab another rod, and cast to a fish quickly without spooking them.

I have a few pending modifications, which include a rudder, trolley, and track enhancement installation.  I will post up pictures once I have completed those modifications.

Also, I hope to put out some reviews this week.  Ill be reviewing the Shamano Crucial bait casting series rods, The Blair Wiggins S-Curve spinning rods, the BPS Jonny Morris Signature Series bait casting reels, and the Engel live wells.  Until next time...