Something Fishy

Something Fishy
t Doesn't Get Much Better

Monday, January 18, 2016

Pro angler Todd Faircloth doesn't always select a heavy-duty bass rod

Yamaha bass pro doesn't always go for a heavy-duty rod.

Most anglers think it takes a heavy-duty rod to land a big bass, especially if you are a tournament fisherperson. Todd Faircloth has a different take.
Faircloth, a Yamaha sponsored pro angler and six-time Bassmaster Elite tournament winner, isn’t always looking for a sturdy rod to quickly host his catch into the boat.
Yamaha’s media relations folks recently shared interview thoughts with Faircloth, who hails from Texas, and his thoughts may be useful to the everyday bass angler as well as those who fish the tournament trail.
Among his contemporaries in professional bass fishing, Todd rates as one of the most consistent anglers in the sport, regularly finishing well. He has a simple answer for his consistency: he doesn’t lose very many fish.
“It’s not an easy lesson to learn, and believe me, I’ve lost my share of fish that ended up costing me some high finishes and definitely a lot of money,” smiles Faircloth, who will be fishing his 14th Bassmaster Classic® in March, “but I have also spent a lot of time studying why I lost those fish, and have made some serious adjustments in my fishing style to keep fish losses at a minimum.”
The first adjustment Faircloth made was to change to softer action rods when he fishes treble hook lures such as crankbaits and jerkbaits. One of the main reasons anglers lose bass is because their rods are too stiff and hooks simply pull free. Instead of using a heavy action rod, Faircloth has changed to slightly more limber medium action rods that flex evenly and with less pressure. 
In winning a Bassmaster® Elite tournament at Lake Amistad several years ago, for example, Faircloth used a medium-action, 7-foot 6-inch flipping stick while fishing a heavy swimbait lure. Most want the heaviest action rod they can find with these types of lures, but Faircloth boated bass over eight pounds with the more limber rod and won with a total of 76 pounds, 15 ounces. Just as importantly, he never lost a fish.
“On swimbaits, crankbaits, and jerkbaits especially, you’re not really setting the hooks on the fish itself,” explains the Yamaha Pro. “Instead, the bass is grabbing the lure and you’re just pulling the hooks into it. A stiffer, heavy action rod simply does not flex to absorb the shock when you do this, and the hooks never grab the fish. 
“This doesn’t happen nearly as often with a single-hook lure like a jig or plastic worm because you’re just driving the one hook into the fish’s mouth, and a stiffer rod can do this.
“At the same time,” adds Faircloth, “treble hook lures often tend to be larger lures, and bass use the weight of the lure itself as leverage to help them ‘throw’ the lure free.” That led to Faircloth’s second major fishing adjustment, which is to change all the treble hooks on his lures to short-shank models.
“The majority of factory-made lures today are fitted with long-shank treble hooks that swing more freely when a bass jumps and shakes its head,” he adds. “Every time a fish does that, chances increase the lure will come loose.”
Faircloth’s third fishing adjustment was to change how he played bass as he was bringing them to the boat. He stopped depending on the drag systems in his baitcasting reels to control the fish and began relying entirely on spool pressure he applied himself.
“I don’t use the drag system on baitcasters at all,” the Yamaha Pro emphasizes. “Instead, I disengage the reel and thumb my spool. I feel like this gives me quicker and more complete control, especially on a larger bass.
“These are just three changes I’ve made in my fishing over the years, and now I hardly think twice about them,” concludes Faircloth. “I still lose a bass occasionally, as does every fisherman, but certainly not as many as I did a few years ago.” 

Monday, January 11, 2016

Is it a black bass? Well, probably

Is it a black bass? Well, yes, probably.

When friend Charlie Fields sent me a fish picture, it was accompanied by a question. “Is this a black bass?”
My response to Charlie, who lives near Rushville, IN, and spends winters at Anna Marie Island, FL, was, “I really don't know. It appears to be a black bass which often is the same as a largemouth. People use terminology and descriptions sometimes interchangeably. For example, there are more than 40 names for crappie, depending on local terminology.”
For whatever reason, the photo and question did make me first think about what I call crappie, however that is just what I call them.
Crappie also are known by many other names such as specs,  calico bass, speckled perch, strawberry bass, papermouths, sac-a-lait, Oswego bass, and numerous other local and regional names., 
It was my outdoor writer friend Thayne Smith, who a number of years ago, wrote a column about crappie and came up with more than half a hundred names by which these tasty fish are called.
But, back to the question about black bass. There is about as much lack of name and species agreement related to black bass as crappie.
The terms black bass or largemouth often are used interchangeably. And, they aren’t of the same bass strain as those saltwater related bass like stripers and white bass. In fact, largemouth and what most of us call black bass actually are part of the perch family.
The one thing certain is it is uncertain just how many kinds of black bass there are. Many anglers and fishery biologists call the largemouth bass a kind of black bass.
According to information found on a Florida Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources website, “The largemouth bass is the best known and most popular game fish in North America. It is distinguished from other black bass because the upper jaw extends beyond the rear edge of the eye, and the first and second dorsal (back) fins are separated by an obvious deep dip.”
“The Florida largemouth bass is the state freshwater fish. Found statewide in lakes and rivers, they are commonly found along vegetation, or underwater structure, but schooling bass are also found in the middle of lakes.” The habits are not unique to Florida, they are much the same in Kentucky, Indiana or wherever they are found.
There are numerous kinds of black bass. Some are well known and others few anglers know the fish or names. One on-line encyclopedia lists 14 kinds of black bass.
While most black bass anglers are familiar with largemouth and smallmouth bass, and southern bassers know about spotted bass, there are other kinds of black bass few anglers know about.
Some of these types are restricted to a few streams but others are more widespread. Not all are recognized by the International Game Fish Association but biologists say they are distinct species. All are of the genus "Micropterus" and can interbreed, producing hybrids of the two species.
I’ve shared enjoyable time fishing in Alabama for Cousa bass named for a type of bass found in the Cousa River.
Both the largemouth and smallmouth bass records have been around for a longtime.
George Perry caught the U.S. record largemouth in 1932 from Montgomery Lake, Georgia. The huge fish weighed in at 22-pounds, four-ounces. 
David Hayes of Leitchfield, KY, caught the world record smallmouth at Dale Hollow Lake in Tennessee in 1955. It weighed 11-pounds, 15 ounces, and is recognized by the International Game Fish Association.
The second and third place smallmouth also came from Dale Hollow.
So was Charlie’s fish a black bass. Well, yes, I think so.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Looking forward to another new year

We already are heading off into 2016, and are contemplating an uncertain future, especially as the threat of terrorism looms like a low hanging cloud.
However as I sit at the old keyboard, I try to focus thoughts related to the out-of-doors. I can’t control nature either, but I tend to find it more understandable.
As one year ends and another starts, it is a time of reflection and looking forward to the future. Most everyone does it, even if only for a brief moment.
For those who love the outdoors, when we look back we can see some of the harmful things man has done to the outdoors, the environment. For example, habitat for rabbits, quail and grouse has been eliminated in much of the Midwest.
But, we also can see many positives. When I was a kid growing up in West-Central Illinois, there were no deer and turkey. Now, they are abundant throughout most Midwestern states. Elk once again flourish in eastern Kentucky, and bears also are being spotted in Kentucky and Ohio, and a few sighting have been reported in Indiana. Kentucky now has a bear hunt season.
Like hunting, fishing opportunities have changed. Those days when people caught a hundred or more fish up a creek or in a lake are gone, but overall, we have good fishing. We have more stream and lake access than ever. Most streams are much cleaner and have more game fish than 30 years ago.
We have more hiking trails, boat ramps, and campgrounds than ever.
So as we look ahead, we can think about what we can do to make a positive contribution to the future of the outdoors, so our kids and grandkids will have places to fish, hunt, boat, hike or just picnic on a warm summer day.
This New Year thinking reminds me about what several friends do to jump start the year.
“Pickled herring for health,” said Lorraine Webster, who grew up in Maine, as she talked about her family’s New Year’s tradition. “You always eat pickled herring on New Year’s Day.”
She also always places some coins in a window sill. That way, she always knows she has a little money. “it seemed to work. I never had a lot, but I always had some,” she recalled.
At the Junker house, Phyllis always cooks corned beef and cabbage, and inserts a coin in the pot during the cooking. (Probably not healthy, but a tradition.)
Several years back, I researched New Year’s and found while it is the first day of our calendar year, it hasn’t always been the case. Many ancient people started the year with harvest. They performed rituals to blot out the past and purify themselves for the new year. It originally was celebrated March 15 on the old Roman calendar. Today, people in most countries celebrate the start of a new year.
To commemorate the event, some people would put out their fires, which were a crucial part of their lives, and start new ones. In the early days, many people exchanged gifts.
Many American colonists celebrated the new year by firing guns into the air and shouting. They also visited taverns and houses to ask for drinks. Other colonists reportedly attended church services. Some people held open houses, welcoming and feeding friends and relatives. That doesn’t sound too different from today.
Many new year traditions related to food, or maybe those are the ones I relate to best.
Whether  you celebrate with cabbage, black-eyed-peas, or put some change on your window sill, have a Happy New Year!