A frayed knot

Dec. 17, 2010
A frayed knot

I just finished reading the new B.A.S.S. Times. There is an article titled "The Whys and Why Nots of Line Knots." I liked the article and thought it was very informative. I agree with all of the information, with the exception of two things.

I have a very good friend of mine who is a saltwater guide. Mark Armstrong and his brother Troy fish for redfish using braid as their main line and splicing fluorocarbon as a leader. The knot they turned me on to is awesome. It's a hybrid of the Albright knot, called an Alberto knot. You can look this knot up online. I like it better than an Albright for splicing, and have had no issues with it.

As I read the article, I agreed with all of the info, and surely could not dispute the findings on breaking strength since I do not own that type of machine. However, I totally agree with Hackney: I use the Palomar knot for all of my hook-to-line applications and experience no issues. The article states many of the pros were having trouble with the Palomar knot at the Erie event. I know that 90 percent of the issues were not the knot. Wow! Say that 10 times fast!

Here is the deal with drop shotting and worm hooks in general. The biggest problem is the knot will slip into the eye groove. If you look at the gap between the eye and the hook shank, you will see a small divot where the end of the shank is. Plus, the small gap will be rough and sharp.

The machine that forms the eye creates the divot. The knot slides onto this area and, when pressure is added, it snaps or cuts, and the party is over. I have been using a method to combat this problem for many years. It is so simple and it will stop break-offs almost 100 percent. I discovered this while fly fishing a long time ago.

When streamer fishing, we often use a loop knot so the fly has better movement. What I noticed was what I said earlier: the line breaks if it gets in the eye groove. To eliminate this, simply take your fly tying thread and wrap the thread above and below the eye groove, whip finish and Zap-A-Gap or Super glue the wraps. Problem solved.

I do this on every hook I use and have virtually eliminated break-offs. If you're not handy with a fly-tying vise, there is an easier solution. Just tie a Palomar knot on the hook and cut both tag ends off and slide the knot stub into the eye groove. Then tie the hook as you would normally do, and you are in business.

This is my holiday fishing gift to you. So don't say I didn't get you anything for Christmas!

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas!


Dec. 8, 2010
Sports is sports

Well, the Miami Heat came to Cleveland and took care of the Cavs. For my son, Noah, and me, it was a hard game to watch. LeBron scored 38 points, and the Cavs lost by 28.

What I saw during that game that really stood my hair up was James laughing and clowning with our bench. I'm not sure that was so fun for the Cavs. They were getting their butts kicked. I would not have been so nice during the game. I would have been not so nice! That's the only way I can put it. It would not be printed otherwise.

When I am competing on tour and another angler encroaches on my water, the first thing I do is apologize to my co-angler for what he is about to hear. Then I let the other angler have it. Friend or not, we are competing. It's not that I own the water; it's the fact that I was there first and therefore deserve the right to fish it alone. If I am running to an area where I had fish in practice and another angler is on it, I simply go to another spot. That's the way it's supposed to be done.

This is just my half-baked attempt to compare the killer instinct in different sports. My family is into Cleveland sports. And I believe Charles Barkley said it best. In his day, they would not be caught dead playing with the enemy. Anyhow, I swore I would not watch another Cavs game again ... and I meant it. Until the next game, of course. It's not that I'm weak; I just love the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Cleveland Browns — who, by the way, just took care of the Miami Dolphins in Sunday's game. Go Browns!

The other day I had two hours to kill, so I threw on my waders and went steelheading for an hour. As I was walking into the river, a guide and his four clients were leaving. I understood why; the river was high and off-colored, and it was getting late. We exchanged pleasantries, and he graciously informed me they did not catch any and I would probably not either.

I noticed they all had strike indicators (bobbers) and egg and nymph rigs. I was swinging a streamer. I would rather catch them on a streamer than anything. Some people don't think a steelhead will hit a streamer in the winter. Anyhow, I tied on my winter white and pink intruder and started to swing the current seam. My newfound friends watched for about 10 casts, then went over the ridge to their car. I heard the car door open when my rod bowed over.

The fight was on!

I have to admit I was hoping one of those other anglers would pop his head over the ridge and see me doing battle. I have no clicker on my fly reels. I remove them so I can be as quiet as possible. I don't want a crowd.

So I tire the steelhead out and am trying to land him. I didn't bring a net — I was traveling light. With high, fast water, there was no place I could slide him ashore, so I stuck my arm up to my elbow into the frozen water and tailed the beautiful silver 31-incher. I was going to take a photo of him but thought it would be best to get him back into the water.

I worked the current seam to the tail-out for another 20 minutes but had no takers, so off I went into the warm truck and on my way home to decorate a Christmas tree.

Happy Holidays!

Nov. 23, 2010
Learning a new technique

When a bass angler hears of a new fishing technique — loaded with the promise of unbelievable catches — he or she can't wait to experience the newfound secret. It has been my experience that the best way to learn a new fishing technique is to designate time for only that specific type of fishing. Leave all other fishing methods at home! You are on a mission to learn and master. Gaining confidence is the only way you will become proficient at a new technique.

When I was in my late teens, there was this new fishing method called Carolina rigging. Not many had heard of such a thing, let alone ever fished one. Since I was honing my skills offshore, this was perfect timing. I emptied my boat of all tackle except for what I needed for rigging. This would dismiss any possibility of falling back to a comfort zone. Off I went, and soon I fell in love with this fish-producing machine. It was unstoppable, and in my early days of local tournaments, rigging accounted for many wins and many checks.

If I hadn't donated all that time to become efficient at Carolina rigging, the technique would have slipped to the side and would have been a second thought. Now, with trying new fishing methods you must apply them when they're applicable. It will do you no good to fish deep structure during the spawn or fish for spawners during the summer. I know that statement is obvious; however, it was just to illustrate a point. In order to be successful and experience reward in a new technique, you must be applying it in the proper circumstances.

Recently I have been privy to a cold-water technique, one which I am desperately trying to master. I don't know the name of it, and I am not the inventor, so I can take no credit for it. I will, however, call it the "Mangus slide."

A very good friend of mine, Greg Mangus, taught a mutually good friend of ours, Ray Halter (owner of the Rod Makers Shop), the Mangus slide. For three years or longer I have been hearing stories of untold numbers of big winter bass being caught with this system, so naturally I am obsessed with mastering it.

What is the Mangus slide? First the tools: (1) a 7- to 7 1/2-foot medium action spinning rod, (2) 6-, 8- or 10-pound test fluorocarbon line, (3) 3/16- and 1/4-ounce Sparkie jigheads with the 60-degree bend eye and — the most important ingredient — (4) Poor Boys Craw Daddy and Erie Darter.

I am very familiar with the Darter. I won a Bassmaster event on it in 2004. The Craw Daddy is honestly something I thought was very ugly and would not throw ... until now!

The technique sounds simple. Just cast to a weed edge, let the open hook jig rigged with a Craw Daddy sink to the bottom. Then, with a slack line, shake the rod tip and pick up the slack while slowly dragging the Craw Daddy 18 to 24 inches. When you contact some grass, slowly pull the bait (horizontally) until it puffs through the grass.

Bam! Fish on!

OK, it sounds easy enough. With our tournament season finally over and being in the early stages of winter where I live, my son Frankie and I decided to go fishing last week and master the Mangus slide. We went to a local grass lake but did not master the slide.

Did we do it wrong? Well, we fished all the proper winter locations. Steep breaks with inside and outside grass turns. What was I missing? I called Greg and told him what I did. Basically, I caught bass flipping a jig in the shallow grass.

He asked why I was flipping a jig in the grass if I was trying to learn the slide. I told him the grass was still green shallow and the lake had been drawn down a couple of feet and the water temp was between 50 and 52. He laughed and said that's not winter. (He fishes Michigan waters.)

Now I was putting the pieces of the puzzle together. A week later, I called Ray and said, "Let's go fishing." We went yesterday. The water temp was in the mid to upper 40s, and the slide was on!

We fished inside and outside grass edges in 7 to 12 feet of water with sharp breaks. The day was sick; we caught 86 bass and had numerous 5-pounders as well as some sixes. Our best five went 28 and change!

When we arrived at the lake, I had all of my sexy craw imitators rigged with Sparkie heads, while Ray had the "ugly" Craw Daddy. After he had me by a dozen bass, I was begging him for a Poor Boys Craw Daddy. Then I started mashing them right with Ray. This craw was king. I also rigged a flipping jig as a backup. I used every craw trailer I had on the jig but still did not catch them. Ray tossed me a Craw Daddy and said, "Put this on your jig."

They were really on the Mangus slide, so why fight it? We killed them! He said just put the trailer on the jig and fish it for a while to see. Oh, my gosh! I caught some giants on that jig. What is it about that craw? The day was awesome! I learned a new technique and now will work on perfecting my skills until ice up.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Oct. 27, 2010
Defense is the best offense

In driving, it's said that defense is the best offense. It's true, too.

I was coming home from Lake Texoma and decided to leave very early in the morning. I don't like to drive tired. Driving groggy is one of my least favorite adventures.

Three hours into my trip, the sun was finally rising. I needed my caffeine level to do the same, so I stopped at a McDonald's to java up. The lady inside said it would be four minutes because they needed to make more coffee. If I had been in my usual state of mind, I probably would have gotten irritated, but I just sat and waited.

Anticipating the rich, dark brown nectar from the gods was all I needed at that moment. So, with coffee in hand, it was back to the races. With only 16 more hours to go, I felt as though I could drive until 1:30 a.m., the ETA for my driveway.

Mere minutes later, about 30 miles east of Fort Smith, Ark., things went awry. I was traveling in the passing lane at a high rate of speed with a car approximately 40 to 50 yards in front of me, moving at the same rate of speed. To my right was another vehicle traveling at the same speed, but in the right lane. Behind us was a small pack of cars also traveling at the same speed. No one was gaining ground; no one was losing ground.

It was a typical morning on the freeway. As we came up to the top of this slow, sloping hill, you could see for several miles. All was clear with the exception of a car parked on the right shoulder. No big deal, right? But in an instant I saw the brake lights of that parked car go on, and I knew something bad was about to happen.

The guy to my right noticed, too. Then the parked car meandered onto the freeway — perpendicular to the traffic flow! I have no idea what the driver was thinking!

The poor guy in front of me could do nothing, and the two cars T-boned. The air conditioning on my truck was broken, so my windows were down. The impact sounded like a bomb went off. Just then, amidst the flying shrapnel, I looked to my right and saw a small opening made by the man to my right as he pulled off the highway. I shot through the gap while the accident was still taking place to my left.

In what must have been less than a second, but what seemed like an eternity, I pulled through unscathed and then called 911. As I looked into my rearview mirror, I saw the small pack of cars careening in every direction. Luckily, none of them seemed to wreck.

The 911 operator said someone was calling about that same accident. I couldn't stop in time to be close enough to lend a hand, but I saw several cars stop and knew that help was on the way, so I kept traveling.

Adrenaline surging through my veins, I thought about that accident for many miles and was incredibly grateful not to have been a part of it. I said some prayers for those who weren't so fortunate. I know it was very bad.

Defensive driving saved me that day, just as it saved the driver to my right. Having such a long, clear sight line, we were able to see what was about to take place and stay safe.

That same need for safety exists on the water. Unfortunately, there are no clear driving lanes on a lake, making boating, in my opinion, even more unpredictable. Nevertheless, there are boating rules just like there are rules of the road.

Did you know two bass boats 100 yards apart from center (that is 200 yards from boat to boat) traveling towards each other at 60 miles per hour will impact in less than three seconds?

This means you have about one second to make a decision. Think about it!

In such a situation, both boats should turn to their starboard (or right) side to avoid a collision. If you're not sure what to do, slow down and make an evasive maneuver. Our lives could depend on it.

Bass boating can be as much fun as fishing. Let's keep it safe for everyone.

Remember, the life you save may be your own.

Sept. 21, 2010
Finding the stars

Since my last blog, a lot has changed. My wife Rachel constantly says, "Don't worry, we always find the stars."

Last month I was finding that statement a little hard to swallow. In retrospect, I owe her some thanks for the positive vibes.

You know I was not at the Detroit River event, and, as some might conclude based upon my performance, I was not fishing on the Chesapeake Bay either. That tournament was a disaster for me. I always follow my instincts, and most of the time they are right on. This time I seemed to fight them every step of the way. The tournament was won on the exact location I had predicted. Not only that, I put a waypoint there to remind me to practice there at low tide. Instead, I became sidetracked and never got to it!

Never got to it?! What a dumb ass! Never in a hundred years should I have made a mistake like that, but I did. Fortunately, I learned some valuable lessons that I'll share with you here.

    Lesson 1: I will always follow my instincts.

    Lesson 2: Always follow my instincts.

    Lesson 3: If confused, see lessons 1 and 2.

    Lesson 4: If you need a reminder, remember the Chesapeake.

Anyhow, this blog is not about my Chesapeake Bay debacle. It's about finding the stars.

While the Detroit River tournament was underway, I had an appointment with OSI's marketing team. To say I was nervous is a small understatement. Luckily, the meeting was very positive, and to the credit of Matt, Heather and Paula, who see the benefits of this advertising program, OSI and I are on for next season with big things to come.

The demographics of bass fishing and OSI's end user are a perfect fit. With some new marketing ideas and some tweaking, we're going to have a very busy but successful program. We are also working on some things for the Elite Series and the Bassmaster Opens.

That said, I also have some coals in the fire that can truly turn things around. In the competitive bass fishing game, there is no way you can compete without the proper sponsorships. With the exciting new changes coming to our sport in the form of more exposure on every level combined with other logistical changes, bass fishing will continue to be one of the fastest growing sports today. Exciting? You bet! I am very fortunate to have sponsors behind me that know and understand the marketing benefits of the Bassmaster Tournament Trail and the sport of professional bass fishing.

Thank you to all the people who use OSI Sealants and who love to fish and hunt. You're my heroes.

And many thanks to OSI Sealants, Mercury Outboards, Nitro Boats and Powell Rods. Without you, I wouldn't be able to compete.

Somehow, we always find the stars.

Aug. 25, 2010
Down but not out, part 2

For the first part of this story, go back and read my last blog. It's a tale of triumph and heartbreak on the tournament trail.

Well, after Tom told me I'd have to resell my sponsorship program to the OSI marketing group, we talked about who I would be dealing with and a little about their backgrounds. My only concern was that this new marketing team would not know anything about BASS or the sport. I also wondered if they would be spread too thin, based on all of the other brands they had to deal with.

I lost no time in scheduling a meeting with the new team. After the Opens are over, you must come up with your deposits for the Elites. This leaves no time to renegotiate a contract, let alone get a new deal.

We met. I explained everything from the ground up. Everything about our sport, BASS, the demographic advantages — everything I could think of. The marketing team was smart. They knew what the demographics were. They knew the benefits of the program. They just were not prepared to invest that kind of money in the program. I lost. They were only prepared to offer me what I was currently getting. I tried to combine other non-endemics in conjunction with OSI but ran out of time. BASS needed a decision right away. I was sick to my stomach when I told them I would not be competing in the Elites for 2010.

So now I'm back in the 2010 Bassmaster Opens — not because I didn't qualify for the Elites, but because I couldn't firm up the appropriate sponsor dollars.

I had enough for all the entry fees, but that could mean a gigantic loss if I didn't get checks in the tournaments. The break-even sponsorship situation should consist of all entries paid, all travel paid, all your home bills paid. Once you have that in place, it's a break-even deal.

With my Legend boat and Mercury motor in tow, I was off to the Classic. I decided not to fish the Southern Opens because it was too close to the Classic, and I didn't want to focus on anything else. Fishing the Central and Northern Opens seemed to be the answer, at least for me at the time.

The Bassmaster Classic was awesome, as usual. Off I went to start the Central Opens — Lake Amistad and then the Red River. During the Red River event, I had three potential sales on my boat. All of the sales fell through. One guy bought a boat while I was competing; the others could not get financing.

I am now sitting in seventh place in the Centrals and the Northerns haven't even started. I'm feeling pretty good ... until my boat contract came due and I still hadn't sold it. Banking issues, the elimination of deferred-billing programs and contract issues left me looking for a new boat and motor. Now I have to tie this together before the Champlain event. Holy crud! I'm now paying COD for boats and motors!

Nitro came up with the best price and could deliver in the right timeframe. This was a little scary for me for two reasons: (1) I had to come up with a lot of money upfront, and (2) I had to coordinate my new wrap and new shirts and break in the Mercury before the Champlain event.

Suddenly I found myself exhausted and running way over budget. Trips to Arkansas, Missouri, Nashville and Champlain (plus my costs for the new boat and motor) left me needing a check at Champlain.

I practiced my rear end off, but I drove home after the event in worse shape than when I arrived. No problem. The next stop was the Detroit River; and I can make up ground there.

However, after resting for a few days and going over the husband and dad details, I realized there were some unexpected financial issues that needed immediate attention. This meant that the Detroit River tournament would not happen for me. I had to do the unthinkable. For the first time in my professional career, I'm going to miss a tournament due to finances.

I find incredible irony in this story.

My 2002 season launched my professional bass fishing career. In 2009, I qualified for another Classic and won the Northern Opens points title. This year, I'm again in contention for the Classic and have a chance to re-qualify (yet again) for the Elites, yet I'm floundering.

I will keep fighting, though.

I will be back.

We always find the stars.

Aug. 18, 2010
Down but not out, part 1

This is the most difficult blog I've written to date. If you follow the Bassmaster Opens, you may have already seen that I will not be competing in the Detroit River event. This is a real bummer. I've always done well there, and it was the site of my first pro tournament as well as where I got my first check in the big leagues.

None of that matters at this point.

I'm not sure exactly where or how to start this blog. I want to make one thing very clear, though. I am not whining or blaming. I'm just telling it like it is.

When I started my professional bass fishing career in 2001, I new it wouldn't be easy. In my first season as a pro, I came out of the gate shooting. I qualified for the Bassmaster Classic and things were going really well. In 2003, I landed my first non-endemic sponsor, OSI Sealants & Adhesives. (OSI makes sealants, caulking, glues, replacement window systems — everything a contractor needs for building.) The guys I had to work with back then were truly into the marketing game. I flew all over the United States to all of their vendors. I worked for them for quite some time. They understood the whole bass fishing game and the demographic that it encompassed. Which, by the by, was their total target market. Things were great!

Another company purchased OSI two years ago, and we managed to save and continue our program. Thank God!

My industry sponsorship blossomed in 2003. I added PRADCO (Bomber, Silverthread line, Rebel, Cotton Cordell, Smithwick, Excalibur and Yum) to my list of sponsors. That was great!

Then Yamaha came to the plate in a big way. At that time, I was running a Triton — until Mercury purchased Triton. Yamaha presented a dilemma. I could go with them or go with Triton. I had to choose. At the time, it was easy. Yamaha was doing more for me, so I went where they told me they wanted me — Stratos. Everything was good, but the very next season Stratos let us all go. So, I went to Legend. Then Yamaha let me go, and I went to Mercury. The motor was great, but the deal wasn't. Still, I felt I could work my way up the ladder.

Powell Rods came aboard. I was making a living doing exactly what I loved to do. I had good seasons and not so good. It's just part of the game — unless you're KVD.

I was fortunate to have an advertising and design background. That's helped me more than you could imagine. I designed many things for our industry, most of which will never bear my name. That's OK, though. I don't want the credit, just the money.

In 2004, my wife, Rachel, and our four children, Frankie, Noah, Rosie and Josh, were outgrowing our small house on Lake Erie and had to find a larger home. Along with the new house came a bigger mortgage, higher insurance premiums and other expenses, but we managed to stay afloat.

All of this happened because I qualified for the Classic in 2002 and made a name for myself as a bass pro.

A couple of seasons ago, I fell out of the Elites. My sponsors stuck by my side. We had a good relationship, both professionally and personally. The next year in the Opens, I was trying to fight my way back to the Elites, but Murphy's Law hit me every step of the way. The end of that season killed me. I was guiding some clients for steelhead just before Thanksgiving when I received a phone call from PRADCO telling me there was no room in the budget to continue my sponsorship. My heart sank, even as I was netting a giant trout for my client.

About three steelhead later, I got a call from OSI telling me they had to cut back and that my sponsorship would be half of what it had been. I ran down the river to net yet another steelhead, took some photos for my customer and then plopped down in the snow and started to shake. I was in big trouble. In a matter of minutes, I'd lost 70 percent of my income.

I came home from the river that evening and had to tell my wife the bad news. My task was made much harder by her usual greeting: "Did you catch them? Were your clients thrilled? I missed you. Are you hungry? Do you want a beer?"

I replied yes to all except the beer part. I said I need six and that she might need a bottle of wine. She took the news like a champ — only one or two tears and her usual positive response. "We're going to make it. We always find the stars."

Holding back my tears and fears, I told her I'd make it back come hell or high water. If it was high water we were OK, I decided. We have a boat! We both started to laugh, if not for the joke, out of nervousness and fear.

My close friend Brian owns a small contracting company called Preisler Construction. He keeps me busy when I'm not fishing or doing something sponsor related. This is not a bad thing because I'm now quite handy in the area of home repairs — except for one thing. I've learned that I'm afraid of heights. It always seems we're working 40 feet off the ground, and this is very stressful for me. Brian just laughs and says we'll work on that fear. Then he tells me to go get another sheet of plywood and bring it up. I hate that! Anyhow, it helps with the bills, and a man's got to do what a man's got to do.

So with little in the way of sponsorship money and the promise I would fight back, I set off for the 2009 Bassmaster Opens. Before that, though, I spoke with OSI to firm up an arrangement for 2010 Elite Series sponsorship. We came to an agreement. Now I had to perform!

The '09 season started with a bang. I finished third at the Chesapeake Bay, second at Lake Champlain and third at Sandusky Bay on Lake Erie. My contact, Tom, from OSI said he would be at the Sandusky tournament. I was pumped. I told Rachel to get all of my old OSI tournament shirts and put as many friends and family as you can in one. This would make a big statement since it was a pretty good bet I would win the Northern Opens points title, qualify for another Classic and requalify for the Elite Series.

Well, I managed to reach those goals. My wife couldn't hold back her tears. Brian and the rest of my family and friends were going nuts. Tom from OSI was also emotional, which was strange to see since he's a mountain of a man and quite stoic. Anyway, when all the high fives and interviews were over, Tom said we need to meet on Monday. I was fired up because I just knew I was back!

Making the Classic in 2002 gave me the momentum to garnish enough sponsorship to carry me through several seasons. Surely making the 2010 Classic and winning the Opens points title would be even better. I was so excited to meet with Tom I could hardly sleep.

When I met with Tom, he told me he'd been taken off marketing and reassigned to national sales. Neither of us knew what to say. We had been working together for almost seven years. I asked him what it all meant. In Tom's stoic manner he said, "You have to resell the program."

Resell the program?

July 2, 2010
The new non-boater

As many of you may know, I have four children — three boys and a daughter. Now, to say my kids like to fish would be a gross understatement. My son Frank is 20, Noah is 14, Rose is 10 and Josh is nine. Essentially, I am raising a bunch of future non-boaters. Well maybe just two, Frank and Josh. Both are fishing freaks. Both could cast a baitcaster at age 4, and both have been in a boat since they could walk.

Noah, on the other hand, loves to fish but I think he goes so he can rib his siblings to the point of tears, which actually is hilarious. We fish for everything and anything. Carp to steelhead, we are a fishing bunch. Noah just turned 14 and would rather play football than do anything else. This is probably good since he wears size 13 1/2 shoes, is 5 feet, 11 inches tall and weighs 180 pounds. This boy eats from the time he wakes up until bed. I wish bass ate with that frequency!

Josh, at nine, has the passion and determination of KVD, which quite frankly scares me. He usually outfishes his brothers, but when he doesn't, he refuses to admit it. Ever!

Rose is much more like her mother. Thank God! She will go fishing, catch a few and then sit down, pull out a book and read... then talk, read, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, read, talk, talk. I don't know how she does not run out of words.

The new non-boater in this story is my 20-year-old, Frank. He is in the Army National Guard, holds down a fulltime job, aspires to fish and is engaged to a sweet girl (Gen). So, as you can see, he has not quite figured out focus. Nonetheless, his first tourney without me is in two weeks. Helping him get ready is somewhat frustrating for me because it is on 20-year-old time, which usually means last minute — very last minute! I made a trip to the Rod Makers Shop to buy some tackle he would need for this event, knowing full well I have now become his "sponsor." How the hell did that happen?

Frankie is not used to fishing without me, so I needed to go over a few rules of engagement. He has been a little spoiled in the early tournament game. We have won every team event we've entered. I tried to explain that this non-boater thing would be a new experience. He is there to learn and (hopefully) catch some fish.

I told him to always have integrity, honesty, respect and be humble. We talked about the etiquette of a non-boater. I explained to him that even though these guys are not fishing for a living, they still have more at stake than the non-boater does.

    1. Do not cast in front of the boat.

    2. Do not fight cast for cast at the same object. (No one will catch one then.)

    3. Do not act as if you know more than he does (even if you do).

    4. Be polite; don't talk too much.

    5. Fish smart. For example, the boater will more likely than not be around fish. If he is cranking and not catching, the bass are probably off the crank. Throw a shaky head or a Carolina rig. Just think and fish.

Frankie is off! He left this morning for drill, and after that he will be a non-boater. I am excited for him, not nervous. It is a small, inland lake with no danger of big waves. As a father, this is a plus. My son can fish. I am confident that if his boater is around fish, my son will catch them! I hope his experience is a positive one. I hope the boater is as kind and considerate to his non-boater as I am and some of my pro buddies are.

As a boater, it is our responsibility to promote ethics, honesty and sportsmanship. We set the standard. If we don't like what we see from new pros, just remember, they learned what we taught them. We must lead by example.

June 11, 2010
Red River, red hot!

I went down to the Red early so I could try some different things without rushing through practice. One time Gerald Swindle and I were talking over a cold one, and he made a statement that kind of stuck with me. He said, "Practice smarter, not harder." I liked that thought process and have been implementing it throughout my last two seasons.

While packing for the Red River, I thought I should pack a couple of warm jackets as well as long pants. Ha! Little did I know that the average temperature would be 96 degrees with a heat index of 107.

Why don't the weather people just say 107? It's like at home (Ohio) in the winter. They it will be 25 degrees with a wind chill of 12. In my book, that's 12!

We don't go to the scales and say Scalish has 25 pounds with a weight index of 40 pounds. It is what it is.

I finally climb into my boat that exciting first morning of practice, and it didn't seem so hot outside. Well, considering it was about 6 a.m., I should have known better.

By 10:00 a.m., it was hot. By noon, it was sick hot. I consumed 8 to 10 magnum bottles of water each day, put ice rags under my hat and continually wiped the sweat out of my eyes. I will say by the third day I had acclimated to the conditions — not only the heat, but the fishing as well.

I figured 10 pounds a day would be good for a top 15 finish. I knew it was going to be tough — except for Chad Brauer, who obviously locked through to Amistad to catch his fish. I must say congratulations to Chad for the most decisive victory I have ever witnessed in my fishing career. Way to go!

The tournament went OK for me. I managed to land enough bass to get me sixth place with a weight index of sixth place. See weather people — that's how it works.

Not to change the subject, but I am. It's my blog. There will be some changes coming in my near future. I'll keep you posted.

I would like to thank all who read these words — not just my blog but all of the BASS blogs (but mine especially). Thanks!

May 11, 2010
Ignorance in action

I read an article this morning, written by D'Arcy Egan, in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. The article really got under my skin:

"Six fishermen plead guilty for excessive fishing of smallmouth bass"

This title is enough to get any true angler upset, but there is more.

The gist of the story goes like this. Six guys from Georgia and Tennessee come to lake Erie to experience the best smallmouth bass fishing of their pea brain existence. Upon finding out that the six of them must be insanely awesome bass fisherman, since they can come to Lake Erie and catch pre-spawn and spawning smallmouth until they can't fill another freezer! Did I say fill a freezer! No I believe I said fill another freezer!

The out of town non-caring greedy bass fishermen wound up taking 141 smallmouth bass in a couple of days. Now considering the legal limit is five ... well you get the idea. You can read this article here. If you read it, all of my ranting will make sense.

Fact one: A 5-pound Lake Erie smallmouth is 15 years old. Up until recently, they did not even know smallmouth lived that long.

Fact two: The easiest time to fish for Lake Erie smallmouth is April through June. The bass are prespawn and spawning, so every bass in the lake is now concentrated in a certain depth range.

Fact three: No matter the size of a body of water, it can be fished down! Examples: redfish along the coasts, tuna, stripers, the Florida snook kill. Oh, but that's the ocean. No kidding! This is my point! It's the biggest body of water on earth!

The reason there are regulations on our fragile fisheries is to make sure we have a sustainable resource for years to come. With the information highway of today as well as new technology, anglers are way more educated, and thus must be responsible for their own actions.

I have been fishing Lake Erie for smallmouth most of my life and have never over harvested. I think in the last 30 years I may have eaten a dozen bass.

Don't get me wrong I'm not saying I am against eating fish, but lets use common sense. You know these men kept and killed the biggest bass they could catch. Why? So they can go back home and brag about what great anglers they are. If they want to eat a smallmouth, they should keep the two pounders and let the big ones alone to reproduce and fill the gene pool with the biggest growth potential.

Lake Erie's smallmouth fishery is very fragile in spite of the fact it is still one of the best in the world. It is our hope (all the states surrounding this lake) to keep it that way. All lakes, rivers, estuaries, oceans are fragile environments. It is up to us with our intelligence to help maintain these fisheries. How stupid is it if we are the ones to destroy what we love so much?

BASS has been preaching and practicing conservation since Ray Scott the very beginning. We, as bass fishermen, are supposed to be on the forefront of conservation. To see such ignorance coming from fellow bass anglers is appalling. I am sure these anglers who are mentioned in D'Arcy's article would not take such advantage of the lakes in their own states. Or maybe they do, and that is why they now have to go elsewhere to overfill their freezers.

The scary thing is that these six are just the ones who got caught.

I urge all anglers to use common sense and follow the regulations. Think!

The out of state anglers now find themselves donating their bass boats and bank accounts to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, which I think is awesome!

Environmentally yours,

April 21, 2010
The Amistad tournament

Practice at Amistad was awesome for me. I fished the lake for seven days, and for seven days the wind blew ... at least at some point during the day. The first day of practice left me a little concerned with only about a 12-pound limit and way too many small fish. I knew I had to do things differently in the days to come.

On my second day of practice, I changed my approach and went deep! Well, it paid off with a limit of about 24 pounds in about as many minutes. I knew exactly what to do for the rest of my practice.

Oh, let me just say this. The first day of practice was a week before official practice, so I hooked more fish than I ever would during a practice round. As the days went on I would hook one fish per spot, as long as they were over 3 1/2 pounds. That being said, I dialed into two main patterns.

The first involved fishing deep crankbaits and suspending jerkbaits. My main depth was 20 to 25 feet deep. The jerker came into play in 10- to 15-foot depths. I just knew with the practice I was having I would pick up this season where I left off last season. The first competition day could not come fast enough.

However, the first day of the tournament was a sunny, windless day. What was that all about? Anyhow, my deep crank bite went south, and I had to move shallower and throw Yum Dingers and Ochos (Senko-style baits). This left me with a small first-day limit of 16 pounds and put me somewhere around 78th place.

Yikes! That's not the start I wanted nor expected.

For Day 2 of the competition, I woke up to the sound of my room door rattling with the wind! Yes, the wind. I decided to run my deep crank stuff since these were the conditions when this pattern worked for me. It all went according to plan. The deep bite was on, and I caught them all day.

Here is the bummer: I did not lose a single bass that I wanted to land in the last eight days of fishing. I have around 17 pounds in the tank, when I hook a nice 4- to 5-pounder on the jerk. The wind is blowing me toward the hooked fish, on top of the fish, over the fish — just in time for me to watch her swim into the tree top and come off!

Well, I regained my composure and went fishing, never losing another bass the rest of the day. Culling just ounces at a time, I soon ran out of day and weighed in 18 pounds, just missing the cut. Oh well, it's time to think about the next event.

I do not usually mention products, but I have to talk about this. I received a new 8-foot medium action cranking rod from Powell, and boy does it fish; I think it might be my new favorite cranking rod of all time. The only thing I can say is it cast like a champ and handles the fish effortlessly. It's a must-have in my book.

Until I cast, or blog, again — good fishing,

April 16, 2010
Lake Amistad ... windy?

I drove about 1,800 miles, looking forward to Lake Amistad. When I hit Texas it seemed like I hit a wind tunnel. No matter, I still had hours to drive to reach my monster bass destination. Let me just say, when driving to Del Rio, just because you reached the Texas border does not mean you are almost there. Texas is huge and was about a third of my drive.

You can count on two things at Amistad: big bass and bigger wind. If the wind blew in my hometown as it does here, we would never be able to fish Lake Erie. Let me just say this is when I am truly glad to be in my Legend bass boat. Nice plug, don't you think? That being said, fishing Amistad is always awesome. It is possible to catch a 10-pound bass on any cast.

I have been prefishing now for a few days. This lake is a lot of fun. I found out today that the lake was built sometime in the mid to late 1960s. The USA and Mexico went into an agreement to build the lake at a total cost of approximately $114 million. (I am not sure of the financial split.) Nicely done!

I would love to see more new lakes being built. In Cleveland, we have a river called the Cuyahoga River, which means Crooked River. Hence the microbrewery located in Cleveland, Crooked River. Wait, I am digressing. The Cuyahoga River Valley would be an awesome lake. I am not sure of the actual square miles, but it would be a monster-sized lake, and we would not have to involve any other countries!

If anyone is reading this that can get this task done, I am on your side. Anyhow, I'm writing this blog with one eye open, so I believe it is time for me to sleep. I must get some rest for another day on Amistad.

Watch for my Amistad tourney blog next.

Good fishing,

March 18, 2010
Slower traffic, keep right

I travel all across this great country of ours. I get to see some pretty awesome sights. Actually I would rather drive than fly, for just that reason. However, after a recent road trip, I may have let my road rage (or my Italian temper) get the best of me! First of all let me just say, I always seem to be in a hurry. So I may be a little impatient on the highway.

Just because I am towing a boat does not mean I will be going slower than the speed limit. So my first gripe is why must someone feel the need to get in front of me, then slow down or, when I am passing, they then speed up! But now I'm getting ahead of myself.

The German Autobahn — this is a road for me. The world's first motorway was built in Germany between 1913 and 1921. AVUS, a 15-mile long section of road in southwest Berlin was an experimental highway used primarily for racing. And, once in a while, it still is used for racing today. In the early 1930s, more routes were planned. Adolph Hitler saw the propaganda benefits of a high speed road system, as well as the ability to transport war goods across the country rather rapidly. He started to build even more roads to connect all of Germany. The Autobahn was born.

During and after the war, Franklin D. Roosevelt was so impressed with the German roadway he started building the American version, sometimes referred to as freeways, interstates, highways or turnpikes. However, after traveling on the Autobahn with its slow serpentine curves, FDR thought, the straighter the road the better (except in Arkansas, where there are no straight lines.)

After many years of driving experience, we now realize straight long roads cause many problems for drivers. Road hypnosis for one, which actually makes the driver tired faster, and keeps him driving in a state of sleep!

Here are some things to remember when you're on the road: Merge is not a personal challenge. Slower traffic, keep right. If you are in the left lane, and you peer into your rearview mirror (which you are supposed to do more than once an hour) and you see a line of cars or a truck and boat wrapped in OSI Sealants Logos, you need to move over!

Road construction 5 miles, left lane closed: This does not mean that in 4.9 miles you should try to squeeze between the next car and a construction barrel. If someone has their blinker on, it usually means they would like to switch lanes; let them over — unless they think the green blinking light on their dashboard is a holiday feature, and they are waiting until New Years Day to turn it off.

It is the law that when you see an emergency vehicle on the side of the road you must move to the other side. Do not break your neck while slowing down to get a look at the incident or you will cause an accident!

Speaking of accidents, the German Autobahn was famous for open speed limits. Believe it or not, this fact did not appear to negatively impact driving safety, as compared to highways in other countries. Some hypotheses of why the Autobahn was safer were due to less traffic than is seen on other highways or the fact that drivers reached their destinations before they were worn out. A weird fact: The most common cause of fatalities on the Autobahn is due to drivers traveling the wrong way! Yikes!

Now I am not advocating that we break speed limits just because there are fewer accidents on the Autobahn. Just the thought of unobstructed travel at unlimited speeds... Snap out of it, Frank!

Today the Autobahn is speed regulated and heavily monitored with radar control as well as cameras, which they use to apprehend the law violator. Actually, the monitoring systems they have in place are so sophisticated that they are impossible to beat. They implemented this video and electronic system to help aid in emergency rescue, since a lot of the roadway is remote.

Now you know a little history, and you know the grass is not necessarily greener on the other side. Hopefully you now realize basic driving common sense, courtesy and just plain paying attention will get us all where we want to go, faster and safer. Well gotta go race.

Good driving,

Feb. 25, 2010
Unsung heroes

The Bassmaster Classic is over. The hype is over. The excitement is over and so is my 14-hour drive. Today I unpacked, did laundry and cleaned the house. I am still in complete disbelief that the Classic is over. I call this post-Classic blues. While tying redfish flies this afternoon, I started thinking about my 2002 Classic. Why not this one? I'm not sure. Maybe I just don't want it to be over... or maybe I want a do-over.

Back to 2010. After pre-fishing for two days without a single bass — except stripers — a 180-degree turnaround was in order. So I put everything away that was not working and went into a desperate "find fish" mode. Then it happened — I got one!

Then, in a matter of just minutes, I shook off 14 more. Thank God! I have a place to fish and a limit is inevitable. Now the big question: Can I find more? I knew I needed better quality. This, however, didn't happen. I was suddenly fishing for the cut instead of trying to win the tournament.

Every day during this Classic I caught limits early and fast. Leaving my primary area and searching for better bass left me with small limits every day, just missing the cut.

Everybody knows the hero of the 2010 Classic. It was KVD, of course. I know his secret. Unfortunately, I am sworn to secrecy. But I think I'll tell it anyway!

KVD is a reincarnated bass. What else can explain it? Nothing!

There are unsung heroes of the 2010 Classic, though. This group of people is almost never seen, yet they get to work earlier than the BASS pros and are still out working after the pros have called it a day.

I'm talking about the BASS staff.

For those of you who have never experienced the Bassmaster Classic, let me just say you can absolutely not believe how many things go on simultaneously. Let's start with the boat yard, service crews, drivers, marshals, police escorts, food crews and (the most confused of all) the pro anglers.

All of these people and places must be managed down to the second to make sure everything goes off like clockwork. And the sick thing is that everything I listed is just in the boat yard. The hotels, meeting functions, stage, arena, media center, registration, sponsor meetings and television crews are only a part of the rest of the show. And the actual weigh-in is yet another circus and logistical nightmare.

There you have Trip Weldon and Keith Alan doing their thing. Fish Fishburne is doing his thing. Mark Zona and Tommy Sanders doing their thing. The TV staff is running the broadcast, the media are gathering stories and shooting photos, the sponsors are working to make sure their anglers are being covered, the Toyota drivers are pulling the boats around the arena and going back for the next rig, and then there are the anglers.

And it's all happening at the same time!

Who coordinates that?! It's such a recipe for disaster but it all runs smoothly. The anglers, the fans and the viewing public all expect it, and they get it. Wow!

So, with much gratitude, I want to thank the BASS staff and volunteers for making my 2010 Bassmaster Classic an awesome experience!

I would like to also thank Mercury Outboards and their service crew, OSI Sealants, Legend Boats and Powell Fishing Rods for helping to make my dreams come true.

Finally, thanks to my family, friends and fans.

Best fishes,

Note: Click here to check out Frank Scalish's angler profile.

Oct. 20, 2009
The Lake Erie chronicles, part 2:
The chronicles of nausea

Things are a little different this blog. I have in front of me a bag of Cold Eeze, Hall's mentho-lyptus with advanced vapor action and a hot bowl of chicken noodle soup. By now, you have probably surmised that I am sick. With three kids in grade school and fall weather, my house has become a germ factory! I am supposed to meet with sponsors tomorrow night, and I feel like #%$@. I bet you did not start reading this to hear me whine like a little baby. Well, this cold I seem to be nurturing would most likely kill 10 ordinary men. That being said, lets get to "The Chronicles of Nausea."

The Lake Erie event arrived with much confusion for me. Not in the form of how to catch fish or even where I needed to finish to win the points, make the Elite Series and qualify for the Bassmaster Classic. Instead, the brain drain came in the decisions on how to play the odds in order to accomplish all three goals: (1) Classic, (2) points title and (3) Elites. I knew all I would have to do is catch five bass each day and I would make it. However, I have never fished Lake Erie conservatively, and I was almost sure this would not be the time for that.

My thoughts wavered, but I figured I would let my practice time dictate my strategy. Off I went to the lake I hate to love to fish. Yes, hate! It makes no sense to hate to love something. Giant waves, unpredictable fall weather patterns and everything on the line is a tough combination. No matter, I am as cool as a fall nor'easter. So why is it every time I launch my boat on Erie, the first song to come to mind is The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald?

Big wind and bigger waves made the going fairly slow for the first couple of practice days. I run a Legend Alpha 211 with a Mercury 250XS. This is a comforting feeling when you are scaling mountains of water, but let's be real. The Great Lakes are nothing to take for granted in a bass boat. Slow and steady wins out there. OK, no more lectures.

Struggling for the first couple of days left me with an upset stomach as well as a bad feeling. I knew I could catch an easy limit of largemouth and pretty much close the door on everyone. To me that would be like giving up ... or at best conceding that I could not win.

I would never do that! At this point, I knew I was in for long days on the ocean prior to the event.

Practice came and went. I found deep fish and super shallow fish. I was ready for the tournament and very confident I would achieve all my goals.

First of all, can I just say that for me the pre-tournament registration meeting is the most anxious and frustrating part of any tournament. This is not a slam on how the meetings are run, I just am not wired for the hurry up and wait program. I am going out at boat number 64 on the first day of competition. My boat draw on Erie doesn't bother me. Most of the time I am fishing stuff other guys are not, and the wind is the great equalizer (or, in my case, advantage maker). I have a lot of experience driving on Erie, and I know my boat and motor will do what I need to succeed.

The wind was moving pretty well when we launched the first morning, which left me a little concerned. My number was called and off we went. The bay itself was a little tricky to run, but, all in all, no great problem. I got about a mile or two outside the bay and could not believe my eyes. Eight or 10 boats were heading back to the bay! How rough was it out there? I kept driving and kept wondering where the big water was. I guess it is that rough water experience thing again; I arrived to my fish no worse for the wear.

Fishing on Day 1 started out just like I thought. I caught six, culled one and left my first spot by 8:30 or 9, then spent the rest of the day looking for more fish. Yes, I found more deep fish. The sad thing was I most likely could have stayed on my first spot and caught 23 pounds. I saw them chasing every fish I landed. The thing was not to burn those fish the first day. I figured I could smoke them on Day 2 and use my deep fish for the final day.

At the time I thought this was a winning strategy. When Day 2 was cancelled due to high winds, I was happy and confused. I just wasn't sure if this was good for me or bad. I knew it would be good for AOY, but at this point, I also wanted to win the event. Not greed, but my competitive nature, left me wanting more. The cancelled day I drove home and spent some time with my wife, Rachel. This was a nice break in the action. Honestly, though, I would have liked to have been in the throws of fishing battle.

The weather had really messed things up for my shallow fish on Day 3. Needless to say, the residual waves I had rolling in on me took their toll. Every time I would get close enough to catch one, a wave would crash my boat into the rocks. After losing the first two fish, fighting them while trying to keep my lower unit from sure disaster, I managed a few shallow fish. Then I left the shallows for something a little more fishable. Going deep saved the day. With some nice bites and some culling, I knew I succeeded. This made the drive back to the bay a little more relaxed. Now, hopefully, I could win.

You all know how that event turned out. My hat's off to Jonathon VanDam for the win, and to Pete Gluszek for taking second. I must also congratulate Kotaro Kiriyama for making the Classic. It was a great fight!

The Bassmaster Classic is the fishing event of all time. I am proud to be fishing in it again and will do my best to contribute to the future of this great sport.

Thanks to all my sponsors: OSI sealants, Mercury Outboards, Legend Bass Boats and Powell Rods. Without these guys, none of my accomplishments would have been possible.

See you next time.

Oct. 5, 2009
The Lake Erie chronicles

I am very sorry it has taken so long to blog again. Well I am back with beer in hand and computer on lap ready to go.

It has been said never put off until tomorrow what you can do today. It's not that I have intentionally been putting off this blog, it has just been non-stop since my last entry.

Looking at the Northern Open schedule, I felt OK about it, with the exception of the Chesapeake Bay. I have never fished there, and in my opinion this was going to be my biggest hurdle. I am not saying that Champlain or Erie were in the bank. With bass fishing no lake is a shoo-in, however, it is a fact that some lakes just fish better for you.

Off I go to the old history-laden Chesapeake Bay. The first thing I learned on the way was you had better have a pocket full of money. Pennsylvania, Virginia and Maryland are very proud of their highways, as the expense of the never-ending tolls tells you.

Everything I ever heard about the bay was fish the grass, grass, oh yeah the grass. So naturally when I got there, I fished the vegetation. And I fished even more vegetation. The insane thing about it was it all looked good, green, plush and fishy. No dice, not a bass in the bunch.

So I asked myself, what would KVD do? I bailed and went to my strengths. I ran up the river and looked for structure. I found exactly what I was looking for, structure and bass — big bass — both largemouth and smallmouth. It was becoming apparent if I caught five bass a day, the limits would be giant.

Everything about this tournament was shaping up. In fact, I fished the entire event with two rods. (This made rigging easy.) Anyway, you know the outcome. I smashed a lower unit at 8 a.m. on the final day. I limped my boat to my best smallmouth rockpile only to find another competitor on it — one who did not fish it the first two days but watched me fish it. Oh well, I still took third in the tournament. I was pumped. Like I said, this was my hurdle. Let's not pretend. I was disappointed I did not win. Nonetheless, I was on my way.

Fishing Lake Champlain one day, I saw this movement on the water. I did not know what it was, then, just like that, it was gone. Thinking to myself, I got my camera out and patiently waited and waited. Suddenly, out of nowhere, this serpent-like creature appeared, probably 16 feet long and a neck of about 6 feet.

Luckily, I had my trusty camera. I started snapping pictures like crazy. All I could think about was I actually had proof — honest to God proof. Could I be famous? Could I be the first with real proof? I sped my Mercury-powered Legend boat back to the ramp to go down and load the pictures on my computer.

By now, you must be thinking I should have stopped writing this after one beer! Anyhow, this is true. I finally get back to my room. Shaking, I slip the MMC card into the card reader, and unbelievably, the MMC card was damaged! No proof of any lake monster, no fame, no fortune and no one who would take me seriously.

Do you know why every monster story turns out this way?

No lake monster!

Wow! That was fun. I got to pretend I was actually a writer.

Well, by now most of you probably read the tournament news on Bassmaster.com, so I won't bore you with the same details.

I will tell you while I was sitting at the weigh-in on the final day of the Champlain event, the top five were held back to weigh their catch last. (Drama, you know.) Anyway, they asked me to stay in my boat until they call me. Now I am hearing some of the top guys did not catch them as well as the day before. I am really getting jazzed!

Almost the entire field has weighed in, and a BASS official called the top five to go to the tanks. I have already spoken to some of the other top five or six and knew I won! It was all I could do to keep from screaming. Then I heard it.

Chris Bowes shouts: "22 pounds — for a total of 56 pounds, 3 ounces! We have a new leader!"

Well, damn. I did the math and knew I was in for second place. My heart sunk. I was again just shy of the mark. I think Iaconelli sensed my disappointment. He reached into his weigh-in bag and pulled out a 6-pounder. Then he looked and said — with a straight face — "This is my smallest one."

Then we both started cracking up. It was then I realized I was smoking the points race. Thanks to Ike for lightening up an emotional moment.

Stay tuned for part 2 of the "Lake Erie Chronicles — The Chronicles of Nausea."

Thanks to all my sponsors: OSI Sealants, Mercury Outboards, Legend Boats and Powell Rods.

Sept. 11, 2009
To the guys at Sam Rayburn

Leaving Champlain for Sam Rayburn was a long road trip and one I did not want to make. The whole time all I could think about was the upcoming Lake Erie tournament at Sandusky.

Kicking and screaming all the way to Texas I finally made it. Checking into my hotel (Bass Buster Inn) and unpacking left me parched and hungry. So, I did what any red-blooded American male would do and headed to the nearest watering hole (The Stump).

It was pathetically obvious I was not from around there. The table across from me was full of local men, laughing and looking around the room, mostly at me because ... well I was the only one in there at that time. I ordered a Coors Light and politely gave the table across from me a nod. The next thing you know I am joining my new Texas family.

Eddie Stagg is probably one of the most sincere individuals you will ever meet. Despite going through a close personal loss in his family, he still managed to muster the courage to be open and friendly to me. Thanks, Eddie.

Everyone knows Bob Sealy from the McDonalds Big Bass Splash. Keep up the good work!

Brian Branum is a lure designer for Gambler Lures and an engineer. You know he is an engineer in the first five minutes of conversation.

Jim Roman is a mechanic extraordinaire. He can build anything out of nothing. There were others that I met as well, and I am pleased to have met them. They made my stay in Texas a lot of fun. Thanks guys!

The tournament did not go as I had planned. I was catching topwater fish in the grass, but they weren't as big as I had hoped. I went to the schooling fish, and they were not even keepers. I had stumbled onto some deep brushpiles and caught some nice ones there (4 to 6 pounds). I thought if I could catch five a day, I would have a chance to win. The big question was whether I could get five.

I spent a full two days just looking for brush and found plenty. Since I'm leading the Northern Opens, I figured I would take a chance and go for broke at Rayburn.

I committed to the brush and failed. I lost three nice ones the first day and only weighed two. The second day, I lost two and only weighed three fish. I went to the grass to try and get my non-boater a limit before I went to the bush tops. I ended that tournament with my worst finish in a long time.

Look for my next blog — my drive home. I promise this one will be fast and furious.

Now it's time for Lake Erie. Amen!

Thanks to all my sponsors: OSI sealants, Powell Rods, Mercury Outboards and Legend Boats.

Sept. 1, 2009
Holy carp!

I just left Champlain, and I am not so sure everything sunk in yet. I am driving to Sam Rayburn in Texas — no rest for the weary. I am now officially in first place in the points for the Bassmaster Northern Opens. Holy carp!

I have been practicing on Rayburn, but my heart is on Sandusky. Well, let's talk Champlain. I fished all my deep structure spots, and it was hit or miss. So I had to look for the prevailing pattern. Much to my surprise, I actually fished the lake very differently than I usually do.

I wound up fishing shallow — 10 to 15 feet, to be exact. I found the fish on flats relating to grass and rock. The nice thing about this pattern was I was catching largemouth and smallmouth off the same stuff.

OK. Now the realization has set in that I am Classic bound providing I get back and weigh in every day. A top 20 finish should do it. Sounds simple enough, right? Just tell that to the butterflies in my stomach.

Old news: Thanks to everyone who responded so favorably to my "Find Your Own !@#& Fish" blog. I really feel strongly about that one.

Now I have to apologize to one of my sponsors: Powell Rods. Seems I forgot them in my sponsor mentions.

I am exhausted, so this blog will be a short one. Look forward to the next.

Thanks to all my sponsors: OSI sealants, Powell Rods, Mercury Outboards and Legend Boats.

August 19, 2009
Find your own !@#& fish!

I am sitting here with a beer as I write this blog. Very Hemingway, isn't it? Well except for the computer, the blog and the Internet.

Right now, I am extremely aggravated. Doesn't anybody find their own fish anymore? When I was younger, I was very impressed with the idea that a pro bass fisherman could go to a strange lake and then locate, pattern and catch bass. This was, and still should be, the ideal.

Every up-and-coming bass fisherman's goal should be to find and catch bass on any lake, under any weather conditions and in any season.

What a concept! This is why I became addicted to fishing, especially tournament angling.

The sad reality is, though, there are anglers out there who would rather take another angler's fish. I guess they figure it is easier. It's like a fast food mentality. I sure hope they don't think this is OK. It has become commonplace to steal fish and fishing locations.

Where are the ethics? Where is the pride?

I started to practice on Lake Champlain this week. The first day I launched my boat I made a quick stop on a spot and instantly started catching smallmouth.

I have several spots like the one I just fished, so I headed to another spot. While I was running down the lake, I saw a bass boat fishing a popular hump. There was another boat idling right up to the boat that was already fishing there. I assumed they were friends. While I drove past the two boats, I also passed by one of my spots, so they would not see it.

Then I noticed one of the boats take off and start heading my way. I decided to run three miles down the lake and start fishing. When I got to my place I shut the boat down and started working the ledge. Then the bonehead, in his white and red Stratos with red lettering on it, decided to stop 30 feet in front of me and fish as well.

What a bunch of BS! There is absolutely no reason to pull up on anyone and fish. The lakes are big enough. Find another place to fish! Move on!

This is one example of my first half hour on the lake. Unfortunately, I have way too many stories just like this one. I call it "the curse of a wrapped boat."

Unbelievably, while I was getting ready to leave for Lake Champlain, I received a phone call from another angler in another tournament trail. The other tournament's practice starts when the Bassmaster Open begins.

Here's the gist of the phone call.

Other Angler: "I will follow you around and take your waypoints."

Me: Silence.

Why should I put in all the work? I suppose this wasn't so bad since he at least had the decency to call me. What a fast food mentality!

I have a great idea. From this day forth, I will ask the name of the person who feels he has to be on the same spot at the same time as me. Then I will post his name on my blog.

Remember, when you go to the drive-through to order your limit of bass, don't forget to supersize it.

Special thanks to my sponsors: OSI Sealants and Adhesives, Mercury Outboards and Legend Boats.

August 7, 2009
Here's to the first time

Let me start out by saying, "I am not a blogger." However, in this fine world of professional bass fishing, there is a first time for everything.

In 2000-2001 I set my sights on becoming a BASS professional. I qualified for the Tour (basically the Elites Series of today).

In 2002, I fished my first pro season and qualified for the Bassmaster Classic. Like I said earlier, first time for everything.

I have won events, placed in the Top 10 of many and lost many. I hate the latter!

Anyhow, I've fished at the highest levels of our sport for six years and now find myself having to fight my way back into them since I did not re-qualify last year. Or, as my good friend Paul so eloquently stated, I am now an "E-ject." I guess it's that first time thing again.

This will be as personal as I get while blogging, and it's only to illustrate a point. Sometime in the middle of deconstructing my advertising agency of 20-something years to fulfill my dream as a fulltime bass pro, my wife and our four kids needed to find a bigger house. This meant selling our house on Lake Erie in Cleveland, Ohio, in search of more room.

I had two requirements — that we not live in Cleveland Heights and that our new home have a garage big enough for my boat. Simple enough, right?

Well, you should know that I'm writing this blog from my Cleveland Heights address while looking at my boat in the driveway! The point is that life — just like fishing — is ever changing. We learn, enjoy (hopefully) and move forward.

So, as you can plainly see, I have been at the top of the fishing game, in the middle and at the bottom. What does this have to do with my blog? Nothing at all.

I just want you to know that I'm going to speak the truth and bring you a dose of reality from the world of high stakes bass fishing. These views will be mine. You may like them or hate them, laugh or get angry. One thing is for sure — it will be real.

By the way, in closing I should mention that it's always a good idea to acknowledge your sponsors: I want to give great thanks to OSI sealants and adhesives; they have been and still are my biggest supporters. Thanks also to Mercury Outboards and Legend Boats.

Well, here's to the first time.