Thursday, January 23, 2014

Pickin' Before the Chill

Knowing the fact that a cold front from
hell (or the polar opposite) was on it's way
to the East coast, I could only think of one thing...
Fish feeding like a "MOFO" before the storm hits!
 Watching the weather like a hawk along with reading the awesome report from Drew Camp at his new blog, "Fish Tails by Drew Camp" , had me all sorts of giddy to get on the water. This time of year I like to focus my attention on freshwater, more specifically bass and pickerel. Not only are they a blast to catch, I grew up catching those fish which makes it that much sweeter.

The particular lake that I chose to fish is one that I know fairly well. I have a handful of spots that have produced in the past on a consistent basis. When I know there is a front approaching (fluctuating barometer), I don't waste time learning new water or trying new spots. I prefer to hit the same handful of spots over and over throughout the day. It's not uncommon for me to fish a spot 5-6 times in a day. I know the fish are there, and chances are I will catch fish almost every time I hit it.
The first spot I hit coughed up a small pickerel followed up by his twin brother. Those fish chomped on a square bill crankbait. Not a short time later at a different spot, I hooked into a good fish on a lipless crankbait. This 24.5" Virginia citation pickerel showed me that they would destroy pretty much anything that I threw that mimicked small baitfish.
I was feeling pretty stoked after landing my first citation of 2014. Now that I knew the pickerel were not "picky", it was time for the lake's studly largemouth to follow suit. I ended up picking up a small 14" bass on a suspending jerkbait within a few casts of releasing the citation pickerel. A few minutes after that I landed the biggest bass of the day, just shy of 18"

It was only a matter of time before the pickerel smashed whatever you were throwing. Even though I was hoping for Grandma Bucketmouth, I didn't complain when another citation pickerel chomped down on my Rapala Husky Jerk. 

Throughout the day the bite would get really hot, then slow down...really hot, then slow down. Even when the bite was slower, it was never dead. Once I realized that I was on the water a few hours longer than I expected, I put the rod down and forced myself to paddle in. Quoting Mr. Ice Cube himself, I just gotta say that, "today was a good day!" I landed 4 bass up to 18" and 7 pickerel, with 2 of those being citations. I lost a few fish and had numerous pickerel just smack the blades of my spinnerbait without eating it.

Well, it looks like this chilly weather is here to stay for a little while. Good thing I have Wisconsin blood running in these veins! I say bring the cold! Those feeding fishys don't stand a chance!

~See ya on the water!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Last Virginia Deer Hunt...Ever

I normally don't write about my hunting adventures too much, but I felt that this one is necessary. If hunting, descriptions about harvesting animals, or the sight of blood or expired animals grosses you out or is not your thing, than please do not read because I don't want you to hold it against me even thought it is my God given right to do it. Otherwise, please enjoy this read. This is one hunt that I will never forget!

Here is the story, TRUE STORY. With Uncle Sam moving my family and I to Florida this coming July, I knew this was going to be my last chance to deer hunt in Virginia since it was also the last day to deer hunt on Fort Eustis. Crazy thing I was even going to go out. It turned out to be a nice day, so around 1:30 I decided to make a last minute decision to head out since my wife Amanda wanted to go do some shopping for a few hours. I figured I would give it one last hoorah!

I arrived to the hunt shack on base and signed out a numbered archery stand. I drove over to the spot and got out of my truck to unload all of my gear like usual. When I was staring into the tree line, I didn't like something about it so I drove back to the hunt shack. I signed back in from that spot and picked a different one that I never hunted before, about a mile away. I got into the woods with around 2.5 hours left of legal shooting time. I normally take my wedding ring off at the truck and put it in a pocket on my pack. I do that because I don't like the metal to metal noise it makes on the frame of my climbing tree stand. So I pick out a tree, attach my pack to my stand, and climb up 20 feet and get settled in. I'm thirsty now so I decided to get the water bottle out of my pack...TING!!!! My damn ring fell out of the pocket and bounced off my platform and vanished into the oblivion of oak leaves and pine needles on the wilderness floor. Not only did I lose my damn ring, it made the loudest sound in the world after it bounced off my platform. I honestly said to myself, "Way to F&*# up your last hunt in Virginia."

I was watching squirrels making a nest when I saw what I thought was a doe slowly feeding towards an opening. It wasn't 45 minutes since I dropped my ring. Maybe the deer thought it was the dinner bell. The deer got into the opening and then I saw his rack. "Oh $%it, nice buck!" I ranged him at 40 yards but limbs covered his chest. He started to move away and then he finally turned into and opening and opened up his chest giving me a really strong quartering away shot. I ranged him at 47 yards so I adjusted my sight to 40 yards. The elevation where the deer was standing was lower than my tree, not to mention I was high as hell up an oak tree. I drew back and put the pin just to the left of his hind quarter knowing with that angle that the arrow would come out around the front shoulder. I felt steady and he had no idea that I was there. I slowly squeezed the trigger of my release and watched my red Lumenok (for what seemed like an eternity) arch it's way towards the deer and drop into the small pocket that I aimed for. The loud "crack", broken opposite shoulder, with my Lumenok hanging out of the deer's chest told me that the deer was toast. He ran 50 yards and I heard him crash, DONE!

There was plenty of light left in the woods since I shot him at 4:08pm. I got all my gear together, climbed down, and what do you know...I saw the edge of my ringing glimmering in the light that was left in the woods, laying about 5 feet away from the tree. Only a sliver of the ring was exposed in the bed of leaves. I slid on my ring and went to track the deer. I got to the spot and could see blood from about 10 feet away sprayed EVERYWHERE!  Seriously, anybody could have found this deer, colorblind or not, it was simple.

He died 7 yards from an old railroad bed not far from a paved road. He turned out to be a nice 7 pointer with a 19" spread, my biggest Virginia buck. I basically drove right up to him, loaded it up, and just laughed at the whole thing...REALLY, I could not have drawn up a better way to end my deer hunting chapter in Virginia.

With all that being said, the woods of Virginia will always have a permanent spot in my memory bank. I will always love and cherish the oak ridges, swamps, and pine stands that made up my deer hunting experience during my 4 short hunting seasons in Virginia. I am grateful!

P.S - I did not exaggerate any of this nor did I make any of it up. Thanks for reading!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Impromptu Bassin'

As the calendar flipped over to another year, so did my thought process towards the upcoming months of 2014. My family and I will be going through a huge change since we have to move from Virginia to Florida due to Uncle Sam's needs. With any move, big or small, you know it can pose a lot of headaches and challenges. Before I dwell on the mental checklist that was looming over my head, I decided to make a spur of the moment bass attack at one of my honey holes, a couple of hours of pure solitude...

I find an overwhelming sense of peace and tranquility every time I fish this body of water. I don't know what it is; the wood ducks squeaking in the oaks, whitetail deer feeding near the banks, canada geese honking for a partner, or maybe it's the fact that it's normally just me in God's creation, whatever "it" is, I love it!

Even though this was spur of the moment, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. The plan was to hit a handful of spots that have produced in the winter over the last few years. Crankbaits, jerkbaits, and soft plastics have always produced this time of year, so I was confident in my approach. With the barometric pressure dropping due to an approaching cold front, the bite was on right away. I immediately landed a 15" largemouth on a square bill crankbait. Not 10 minutes later, I hooked into a bigger fish.

This 19.25" largemouth put up a great fight even in cold water. What is nice about cold water is that it doesn't take long to revive the fish. They may be a little spent, but they swim away pretty strong. All of my action so far was on a certain stretch of shoreline so it just made sense to beat that up as best as I could. It paid off with another stud of a bass. This one went 19.5"


My couple of hours of bass action were up and it was time to call it a day. All in all, I landed 6 bass between 15" and 19.5", along with the ever-so-violent chain pickerel that was around 19". I will say that ever since switching out all of my rods to All Pro Rods, the strike feels harder. At first I thought the fish were just hitting it abnormally hard but then I realized that I was feeling every little nuance in my lure action and bottom contact. These rods are incredibly sensitive with a ton of power to match. Give them a look if you're in the market for an amazing fishing rod! 

Lately I have been loving the Old Town PredatorMX as my duck hunting platform. I will be on the water again soon, either fishing or hunting. If it swims or flys, I'm coming after it! I tell ya what, multiple addictions are hard to manage. I'm sure an impromptu duck hunt is in the cards...

~See ya on the water!