ESPN2: Beating the gas pump blues

  • "BASS Tech" airs each Bass Saturday at 9 a.m. ET on ESPN2. And if you happen to miss this week's episode, be certain to tune in to its Nov. 5 re-air at 9 a.m. ET on ESPN2.

    POTTSBORO, Texas — "How's it going?" queried Susan Dunkle.

    Most days, these are the types of conversations that Dunkle is used to having with customers who visit the "The Tackle Box" gasoline and tackle convenience store that she runs along with her husband Steve near the shores of sprawling Lake Texoma.

    These days however, the answers that Dunkle is receiving are a bit more glum than usual.

    "OK, I guess, except for these high gasoline prices," said Ed Jackson as he paid for supplies before a mid-week fishing trip to the 89,000-acre Texoma.

    As gasoline costs continue to skyrocket after the unwelcome arrival of last week's catastrophic Hurricane Katrina, such are the conversations that are occurring around tackle shops and boat dock gas pumps all across America.

    So common are these "pain-at-the-pump" musings that they serve as the catalyst for this weekend's "BASS Tech" episode scheduled to run this BASS Saturday at 9 a.m. ET on ESPN2.

    But instead of just talking about the high price of fuel, this week's co-hosts Skeet Reese and Gerald Swindle plan on doing something about the situation as they try to help anglers reduce the number of George Washington's being pulled from their wallets as the gas pumps sing their top-dollar tune.

    Just in case you have any doubts that the rising costs of fuel are having any type of deep impact on the nation's angling pastime, think again.

    While the effects may be somewhat less for top-end pros with deep-pocketed sponsors, those struggling to find their way on the CITGO Bassmaster circuit are certainly affected, as are local guides and weekend warriors.

    One such angler is Lake Fork flyfishing guide Rob Woodruff whose namesake "Woodruff Guide Service" is based out of Quitman, Texas.

    While admitting that fuel costs haven't put the hammerlock on his business just yet, the Texas A&M graduate does admit that the effects are starting to creep into his wallet just a little bit.

    While Woodruff's services are much in demand — he and his clients have boated fly-rod bass in excess of 11-pounds on Fork — rising fuel costs are certainly causing the guide to rethink his trip calendar.

    "I rescheduled a couple of trips this week," Woodruff said.

    "In doing so, I was taking into account that the fishing wasn't too good right now and that my clients had to drive from Dallas."

    With Woodruff spending somewhere between $35 to $45 in fuel costs for a half-day round trip, it becomes easy to see why he may have to raise his rates by the first of 2006.

    And while his business is currently strong, such effects could prove disastrous to newer guides trying to carve out their niche in the ultra-competitive angling world.

    "Yeah, this could eventually knock some guides out of business due to these big fuel costs and profit margins going down," Woodruff said.

    That being said, Woodruff believes that there are certainly some things that any angler, boat owner, and/or guide can do to increase fuel efficiency and reduce operating costs.

    First, he says to have your boating equipment in tip-top shape before hitting the water at all.

    "You want to have your motor tuned up, change out your plugs, keep the hull clean, and make sure that your motor has a properly pitched prop," Woodruff said.

    "I've done a lot of tweaking with mine to see which is giving me the best fuel economy," he added, noting that he runs different props on rough and windy days versus sunny and calm ones.

    Next, make sure that the outboard motor is properly trimmed while in use since failure to do so can reduce fuel efficiency.

    Keep in mind that even buying a new motor can prove to be more cost-effective in the long run says Woodruff.

    "Four-stroke engines can save 25 to 35 percent (more fuel) over a two-stroke engine of equal displacement," Woodruff said.

    "The saltwater guides that I know who have switched say that there is a noticeable difference in the money that they're saving."

    But big expensive four-stroke outboard engines aren't the only motors that can save an angler a chunk of change.

    "Trolling motors don't cost anything to run, so I'd suggest that you use your electric motor as much as you can," Woodruff said. "With these high speed ones, you can cover a lot of water."

    Speaking of covering the water, the Lake Fork guide indicates that one of the best ways to conserve fuel, maximize efficiency, and to cut costs is to simply think through a day's outing long before a boat is even launched.

    "I think one of the number one things that I do is to have a game plan for the day," Woodruff said. "I try to stick to it and don't run up and down the lake all day."

    Woodruff's attention to detail even takes into account where he should launch his rig and where and how lunch will be eaten, either by way of a lakeside café or through a packed sack-lunch.

    Should he feel the need to pick up and move a considerable distance during the day, Woodruff isn't bashful about firing up his motor … his truck motor, that is.

    "On big lakes, it is sometimes worth the effort to pick up, trailer your boat, and move by your truck," he said. "There are some runs on Fork that can be as much as 40 miles by water."

    "In a situation like that, no matter what, a pickup will be more fuel efficient than a boat."

    Speaking of trucks, Woodruff admits that he has little experience with turbo-charged chips and aftermarket add-ons that some truck owners swear by.

    What he does know, however, is that simple, old-fashioned automobile maintenance still works like a charm in keeping fuel efficiency up and gasoline costs down.

    Such practices include, but aren't limited too, keeping the oil changed, making sure that air filters are clean or replaced with new ones, changing out worn spark plugs, and keeping tires properly inflated.

    If all of this seems like a little much, keep in mind that gasoline prices remain high with little significant relief in sight.

    With that being the case, every little bit that an angler and a vehicle operator can do helps in keeping the "pain-at-the-pump" down.

    And who isn't for that?

  • "BASS Tech" airs each Bass Saturday at 9 a.m. ET on ESPN2. And if you happen to miss this week's episode, be certain to tune in to its Nov. 5 re-air at 9 a.m. ET on ESPN2.