Something Fishy

Something Fishy
t Doesn't Get Much Better

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Crappie pro Whitey Outlaw talks hunting fish, then catching them

        With a name like Whitey Outlaw, he might be suited to be a country-western star, or maybe a World Wrestling fighter, but those who know the name, know he is one of the top crappie fishing pros in the country.
Whitey has been fishing crappie tournaments since he was 15, when he won his first tournament on his home lake, Santee Cooper in South Carolina.
He has fished every CrappieMasters major tourney since, and he and his partner, Mike Parrott won the organization’s Classic three years ago.
At the recent CrappieMasters Florida Championship on the Harris Chain of Lakes, fished from Taveres, I had the opportunity to fish with Whitey in a media event on Thursday before competition began the next day. I’ve been fortunate to fish with a number of tourney anglers and appreciate the opportunity. Most of the anglers are great people and I always learn from them.
Fishing with Whitey didn’t produce many large fish. A cold front had slowed fishing. I would have thought it was just the Phil Junker jinx, but most other anglers also found fishing tough.
However, I was able to pickup a number of pointers from Whitey:
--”I ‘push’ everything (meaning he uses poles in front of the boat while trolling),” said Whitey. “I find I get better quality fish out front of the boat,rather then trolling long lines out the back.”
-- He also is a believer in live bait. He usually uses tandem hooks. On top is a hook only and on the bottom is a jig. He places minnows on both. “Using live bait helps take the color factor out of it. The fish will bite the minnow.”
-- He enjoys hunting and finding the fish as much as he likes catching them. He also is a avid hunter from deer to birds. When he is “hunting” fish he uses poles set a multiple depths until he has  success at a certain depth and then he sets the other poles to the depth where he is finding the action
-- White crappie tend to stay put. Black crappie use vegetation as structure, while white crappie prefer wood structure...The two things that tend to move the fish are temperature and the moon.
-- Some people have the misconception that crappie only spawn on shore, but in reality they will spawn in eight-to-10 feet of water.
-- On cold mornings fish tend to not bite, especially down here (Florida) when cold fronts roll through. It is bad for fishing...Fish hit better in the afternoon when the water warms up some.
-- Among Whitey’s sponsors is Bn’M poles. He has helped the company design crappie gear. He uses 16-foot poles and reels when he is spidder-rig fishing from his boat. Yamaha trucks and Bobby Garland lures are also among his sponsors.
-- In tournament fishing, time is money. He says he can’t waste time not fishing while he is re-rigging his line and poles. He keeps two-hook (one hook and one jig) made up and wrapped on a cylinder, so all he has to do to re-rig a pole is tie and new tandem on and bait.
-- There has been a lot of new technology to change fishing. There are new electronics, better poles and line and other equipment. But one thing hasn’t changed. That’s the fish...Fishing is the same as it was 100 years ago, you still have to find them.
-- Whitey would like to see a minimum 10-inch size limit across the nation. He is confident it would improve the fish quality nationally.
-- Whitey loves to hunt as well as fish. In the off-fishing season he hunts nearly every day except Sunday.
“I hunt six days a week, but not on Sunday. The Good Lord game me six days a week to hunt, so I don’t need to hunt on Sunday.”
Having the opportunity to fish with different anglers always is a neat experience, even if I don’t catch fish. And frequently, I don’t. I spend most of my time with a notebook and camera. That’s my excuse, and I’m sticking with it. 

      Crappie pro Whitey Outlaw shows how he prepares tandem fishing rigs in advance so he spends as little time as possible re-rigging his poles.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Once it was the Big O, now its the Alabama rig for bass anglers

        Remember the craze about the Big O bass lure?. There were tales of them being rented on a day-to-day basis.
Everybody wanted one back in 1967. Founder Fred Young couldn’t build them fast enough. They were handcrafted from balsa wood.
Eventually, Cotton Cordell’s company obtained the rights to the lure and began mass producing the lure, which caught lots of big fish.
There have been other lure crazes, but that was the biggest I recall until maybe now. Now, it’s the Alabama rig. It’s a bass catching sensation.
The lure (or lures, there are multiple baits and hooks) appears to be loosely based upon the “umbrella rig”, which has been used to catch strippers. The first one I saw was a few years back at Lake Cumberland. They were trolled behind the boat and were meant to resemble a school of bait fish.
My friend Gerald Savage is an avid bass fisherman, who pursues the largemouth most every day. And he has spent considerable time studying the Alabama rig. He stopped by to show me a couple of rigs and explain their use.
Andy Poss was the inventor/developer of the Alabama rig, and it burst onto the fishing scene last November at the FLW bass tour event on Lake Guntersville.
Pro angler Paul Elias started throwing one in practice and began landing big and multiple fish. The word of Elias’ success spread like wildfire. He won the tournament with a four-day total of 102 pounds of fish. Eight of the top 10 anglers in the tournament used the rig. From that point on, it was difficult to obtain one. They quickly became scarce.
According to Gerald, the Alabama rig will catch fish anytime of the year, but appears to be especially effective in the fall and early winter when bait fish are schooled or “balled up”. The rig with multiple baits is designed to look like the schooling baitfish.
The rig doesn’t work in all conditions. It is best used in open water and doesn’t work well--at least for most anglers--in vegetation. 
The rig itself is light and has five arms or wires which hold five baits, which can vary in size and weight. For most anglers, it requires somewhat of a sidearm cast. It requires a seven-foot plus stiff rod, and a reel loaded with 50-60-pound braided line.
An Alabama rig costs around $25 from a retail store or on-line, plus then there is the cost of the baits or hooks added to the rig. Lures vary from jigs and swimming baits to larger lures. Most success comes from matching the lures to the bait fish in the area, often translucent colors. However, brighter colors work well in stained water.
The bait can cast and worked either deep or shallow during the retrieve, and one rig can land multiple fish. There have been reports of five bass being caught on a single rig.
“They are not a cure all,” says Gerald Savage, who not only makes his own rigs, but adds, “they will catch fish. I really don’t know how it will work in the spring and the summer, because they really haven’t been extensively fished then.”
Gerald is experimenting with a crappie lure, which would pull three jigs, and the Alabama rig folks (Mann Bait Company) reportedly also are working on a crappie rig.
Some states limit the number of hooks which can be legally fished by an angler, so it is wise to check local regulations. Most bass tournaments are permitting their use, however they have been banned by the BASS Elite tournament trail.


     PHOTO AT TOP  -- Gerald Savage of Winchester, TN, hold an Alabama rig. one of the hottest devices to catch largemouth bass.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Rambos fish Florida Crappiemasters tourney, head to Indiana for Boat, Sports & Travel Show

At the 2012 Bass Pro Shops Crappiemaster Florida State Championship, I had a time to chat with Phil and Eva Rambo from Bloomington, IN. Phil and Eva were the 2008 Crappiemaster Sportsmen of the Year.
Phil is a former school administrator at Ellettsville and Eva is a retired teacher. The two now team to travel the country fishing major crappie tournaments, representing a number of sponsors, including Quick Fillets, a company specializing fish cleaning equipment.
Phil and Eva were featured during an evening session at the Florida championship when they provided a fish cleaning demonstration to a seminar audience.
A few years back when Phil decided he wanted to hit the crappie tournament trail, Eva announced, “Your not leaving me at home.” And, the couple have been fishing as a team ever since.
The couple is known as one of the most helpful to others fishing the trail, especially to new anglers.
Phil and Eva Rambo fish the Harris Chain of Lakes
As soon as the Florida tourney was over, the couple headed their motorhome and boat back home to Indiana where they planned to again be exhibitors at the Indianapolis Boat, Sport and Travel Show starting Feb/ 17 and running through Feb. 26. They plan to have three booths at the show, which is one of the top outdoor sports shows in the country.
OTHER CHAMPIONSHIP NOTES -- As usual the tournament was well run by the Crappiemaster folks under the leadership of Paul Alpers, president. 
However, the economy seems to be impacting the tournament trails, not just Crappiemasters. In particular, the price of gasoline is discouraging travel by some teams, or at least make them selective on the number or tourneys they enter and the locations they fish.
Also spent time with my friend T.J. Stallings, marketing guru for TTI - Blakemore fishing group, who plays a key role in supporting anglers at the tournament.
T.J. says despite the weak economy his company is continuing to develop new products for most all types of fishing.
He also passed along a couple of crappie items I’m anxious to try as soon as the weather warms a bit and the wind settles. One was a package of Crappie Thunder  “electric chicken” color jig bodies by Mr. Crappie, and a Road Runner Marabou jig. Both look like excellent lures, now the old man has to catch the crappie.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Snow brings ice cream memories

Although snow has been scarce this winter, snow still has been on my mind, and snow  brought to mind  something I really enjoyed in my younger years--snow ice cream. The fact is, I still enjoy it.
Sometimes March produces some big snows. They don't last long, but long enough for ice cream.
Growing up, ice cream was a real treat. It was something very special. 
We had no refrigerator. We felt lucky to have an ice box, but the old ice box wouldn’t keep ice cream very long. So, the only time we had ice cream was when we went to town. On Saturday night, we would walk downtown for the band concert at the courthouse square. 
While the band played, popcorn was sold from the popcorn wagon. That was a real treat as well, and it was really special to get ice cream at the drug store. I remember we sat on wire back chairs and ate the ice cream from dishes that had little paper liners. It sure was good.
In winter there were no band concerts and fewer leisurely trips to town, and less chance for an ice cream treat. But there was snow ice cream.
When that first measurable snow came, Mom usually would make a bowl of snow cream. It tasted great, and as I grew older I was able to make the tasty stuff. However, my duties usually related to gathering the white stuff. Someone often chuckled and added, “Don’t get any of the yellow snow.” I may not have been very old, but knew they were telling me to get clean snow and avoid any area the dogs had used as an outdoor restroom.
Later, when we were fortunate enough to have a refrigerator that had a freezer, it still was fun to make snow ice cream.
Most of the recipes for snow ice cream are quite simple, but there are a few variations.
The simplest, and the way I recall making it, requires only four ingredients. That is one cup milk, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, 1/2 cup sugar and four or five cups of clean snow.
Mix together the milk, vanilla, and the sugar. Stir this mixture until the sugar is dissolved. Slowly add the snow to your mixture, stirring constantly, until it is as thick as the ice cream. Enjoy.
Some recipes add one beaten egg. That makes it a bit richer. Some call for separating the white and yellow of the egg, beating, and then adding together. Others even call for cooking the egg mixture a bit. And then some add a dash of salt.
My cousin, Janet wasn’t big on white milk, so she would add other flavorings to the ice cream.
Keeping it simple seemed fine to me. 
One of the good things about freezers these days is you can even save some of your snow ice cream and eat it a bit later.
The EPA or some organization probably today says the snow is full of all sorts of toxins, but go for it. Enjoy it. You won’t be eating that much anyway.
Snow and those old memories also brought back the thought on snow angels. I suspect some kids still make them.
If you have youngsters around, encourage them to make some snow angels and gather snow for ice cream the next time we have a fresh snow. Take out the camera, and record some fun memories.
Guess, I’m still a kid at heart. I like snow, and would love a bowl of snow ice cream, although today it would have to be with artificial sweetener.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Cold nights, mild days good for producing good maple syrup

There still are people who make maple syrup. It’s tasty, a sign of spring, and a lot of work.
Maple syrup time is time when the wonderful aroma of cooking syrup can wafts its way down the valleys from sugar camp hills.
Making maple syrup is almost a lost art.  Most people who make the sweet, tasty syrup in this part of the country do it for the enjoyment and make enough to earn a few bucks and provide a supply for family and friends.
We are in the southern range of maple syrup country. North central Indiana and Ohio produces more syrup than this area, and Vermont claims to be the maple syrup capital of the country. Indiana has am Indiana Maple Syrup Association, and has several syrup festivals and producers. The largest Hoosier festival is in Parke County and is scheduled this year Feb. 25-26, and March 3-4.
Maple syrup is a sure sign spring is just around the corner. It takes freezing night time temperatures, followed by days consistently above freezing to get the maple sap “running”. If the temperature remains below or above freezing, the sap doesn’t run. The current 2012 weather has been questionable for syrup production, but there still is time.
The sap must be collected from hard maple trees. It usually is collected in buckets and then transported to a central cooking location. Some larger commercial operations utilize plastic tubing and let gravity flow the syrup to collection points.
Further north where the temperature differences in late February and early March are more dramatic, it takes less sugar water to make syrup. Either place it is hard work. On average, it takes about 40 gallons of collected water to produce a cooked down gallon of syrup. My friend Doyle Coultas, who used to cook syrup in Perry County of Southern Indiana,, says it usually takes nearly 50 gallons in this area to produce a gallon of syrup. In some northern climates, 30 gallons of water will do the trick.
After the water is collected, it is cooked in a flat pan over a wood fire. It takes a lot  of cooking--hours of cooking, giving syrup makers plenty of time for story swapping. And the warmth of the fire and wonderful maple smell of the bubbling water is a delight, especially on a cold late winter day.
The origin of maple syrup making goes back to the Indians before the white man came here from Europe. According to one legend, it was started by accident by the wife of an Iroquois chief named Woksis.
The chief came in from a hard day hunting in the woods during early March and stuck his tomahawk in a maple tree. The next day, when he went out hunting again, he pulled the tomahawk from the tree, leaving a gash.
Late in the day, his wife needed water to cook the chief’s dinner. When she went out to get a pot for water, she noticed that it was sitting by accident under the gash Woksis left in the tree and had nearly filled with maple water. Rather than making a trip to the creek, she just used the water in the pot.
When Woksis returned home he could smell the pleasant aroma from the water that by that time had cooked down into tasty syrup. He liked what his wife had cooked, and maple syrup became an Indian treat. Well, so goes the Indian tale.
If you haven’t visited a maple camp, it is worth a trip. Some sell their syrup and they might even offer a cup of sassafras tea. You can check with your local county agent or visitor bureau to see if there is one in the area that welcomes visitors.