The Early Crew

This would seem just a bit early to be thinking about the spawn but these big girls (or “meat eaters” as I like to call them) on Lake Lanier like to get things started early in February. Some of my biggest and fattest fish have come during the pre-spawn staging phase in Feb. and when I say, “staging phase” it starts early in the creek.

I believe that sometimes we tend to overthink a situation when it comes to bass fishing and that’s where patience comes into play with fishing. I used to spend hours with my dad just sitting on a pond dam after dark with an old Coleman lantern and 2 catfish rods in rod holders. My dad and I would just be watching those rod tips in the glow of the lantern, just waiting for one of the rod tips to start bending towards the water. It would be very peaceful with nothing but the sound of moaning frogs, crickets and cicadas in a never-ending melody from nature. That’s where I learned patience as a kid and now, I have that same patience when it comes to fishing.

This week I tried not to over think my situation on the lake. Plain and simple, there are plenty of fish in the ditches and finding the magic ditches are the key to success. Find multiple ditches and you can occupy your time, sometimes all day going back and forth from ditch to ditch. There is also another pattern going on and it happens every year around this time. There is a class of bass that chooses to cruise the sunny, rocky, shallow shoreline in search of a meal. This class of bass doesn’t cruise the rocks for exercise or sight-seeing adventures, this class of bass goes to the rocks for one reason and that is to eat. I have a choice and that choice is to find the meat eaters in the shallow rocks or go out and hover over the deep ditches, sitting on spot lock and making fan casts. I made a rare trip out last Sunday after church to play with the little Emerald Ned rig on the shallow sunny rocks and I made a little video of my afternoon.

On Monday this week I was able to go from ditch fishing in the morning to staging areas in the afternoon and I had success with both. On Monday I got out early and looked around the ditches till I found one that held fish, so I just moved around the areas and made casts in 40+ depths with a little Damika rig. There were 2 little areas of structure and the fish seemed to be relating to the structure and moving around looking for baitfish in 42 feet of water, so I just set up spot lock and fan casted around the structure using the little 1/4-ounce Lanier Baits Damiki head and various swimbaits including a new Emerald swimbait from KBDBaits.

On Monday afternoon I hit the rocky staging areas where the Feb. stagers show up on the sunny afternoons. That’s where the patience comes in because there aren’t many stagers right now. It’s still a little early but there are a few looking for that big fat meal up on the sunny rocks. It’s generally the bigger fish, in excess of 4lbs that are cruising these areas and getting them to eat a bait can be pretty forgiving. They are pretty aggressive fish and will eat a variety of bait. So aggressive that I’m reminded of a Feb. on a rocky point in 6-mile creek, I caught a fish on a crankbait and the fish had a trick worm and a creature bait half-digested in its gullet and it still wanted more when it whacked my crankbait. On Monday afternoon the bites were few and far between on the secondary points in the sun but towards the end of my afternoon I was rewarded with a very nice fish and my patience paid off. Here’s a picture of the fish and a video of my catching the fish. This fish pretty much made my whole week.

On Tuesday I met my buddy Mike for a few hours of fishing. Mike and I just happened to run across a couple of ditches while out looking for areas to fish shallow up north in YD and in a feeder ditch in 2-mile. It was a ditch I had visited a few years back and found fish. The fish were there again, and we went to town on the deep fish stuck to the bottom. Mike had the magic touch and was dragging a fish up from the depths on every cast with a swimbait while I was popping the occasional fish casting the little spoon for my bites. We basically went from a ditch in YD to a ditch in 2-mile twice and amassed a day of close to 40 fish, with a couple pushing the 4lb mark.

Yesterday was likely my last day on the lake this week and I wanted to make a little video about the ditch bite and how slow the bite can be. Most of the time the bite is so light in 40+ feet depths it’s hard to feel but just take it slow, keeping the bait on the bottom during the retrieve and sooner or later you’ll find the fish, or the fish will find you. Here’s a little video that shows just how slow the ditch bite can be. When working a swimbait in the ditches, there are 2 ways I like to work it on the bottom, either bouncing it with my rod tip up or dragging it with my rod tip down. You can see in the video that I quickly learned that dragging the bait was more effective than bouncing it.

The lake levels are dropping right now, and the corps is pulling water around the clock. The lake is a little over a foot above full pool and the water temps are holding steady in the upper 40’s.

The Resting Phase

A few nights ago, we were having our usual Thursday night dinner with our fishing friends and of course the topic of fishing was on my mind. It had been on my mind all day and I was just waiting for someone to strike up the right conversation. My old buddy Jimmy Sanders was sitting across from me and asked how the fishing was going. That’s all I needed to get to talking. Jimmy is recovering from a recent knee surgery, and he is just getting back on the water after a couple months off. Jimmy is a few years older than me and a good litmus test for me when it comes to tracking physical ailments. It seems we both kinda have the same breakdowns, only Jimmy is a few years ahead of me. We have both had multiple shoulder surgeries and we both tried to plan our surgeries for the “Resting Phase” or a period just after the holidays until early March. To me, it’s usually from the full moon in January until the full moon in March. That’s usually when the water gets it’s coldest and when the fish take a little break from the action. It’s the dog days of winter and that’s the time that Jimmy and I plan our repairs and recovery time.

Don’t get me wrong here, the fish still need to eat during this period but in terms of the bass moving around and aggressively seeking food, the window of opportunity can be very small. It’s all for good reason as the bass need to rest for an upcoming event that keeps them busy for a while, in the spawn. Right now, as I write this, the days are getting longer, and our little spring Lilies have just broken the surface of the ground. The water temps are down in the upper 40’s right now and unless we see a very cold February, the water temps shouldn’t get much cooler so we should be on our way to another awesome spring bite. I can tell that the fish are slower to react to a bait and are refusing to chase a bait very far, and I can also tell the difference in catching a fish in 40 feet of water verses catching a fish in 10 feet of water right now. The fish in the 40-foot depth are chilling for the most part. They are resting and eating the occasional bait pod or school that drifts overhead. They are stuck to the bottom like glue until something triggers them to move. This week I only fished a few fragmented days, but I actually caught fish in both deep water and shallow water. On Tuesday a buddy came over to fish some docks with me and we wound up finding fish in a 40+ feet deep ditch and pulling fish off the bottom. It was just dropping on faith and waiting to see if the fish showed up. My buddy caught his fish on a 3.3 Keitech and ball head and I was dropping an emerald-colored Damika rig. It was slow but every once in a while, the fish would just show up under the boat if I hit the Spot Lock very near some kind of structure or just vertically jigging from the bottom up about 5-10 feet very very slowly. The fish would usually pop the bait on the fall so controlling your baits decent was a good way for feel for a very soft strike. We ended our 3–4-hour trip with a small limit from the deep water but it was fun to jig the fish up from the depths.

I went back out for a while on Wednesday and played around with the deep fish again with basically the same result. Nothing to brag about, just some very cold 2lbers coming off the bottom and not giving much of a fight on the way up. On Thursday the rains came in and a by Friday morning the lake had shot up more than a foot. The back of the creek looked very stained, and we had some new debris in the creek to deal with. Water temps in the back of the creek were 47 yesterday morning so I headed out into the main part of the creek to try and find the clearer water to check the shallow bite. My experience is that anytime the water rises the fish instinctively come to the shore to investigate the newly submerged, even in the coolest part of the year. My buddy Kevin “Kbad” Badgett made some special looking, emerald-colored baits for me and last week I caught them on his little drop shot bait and his emerald trick worm. On Thursday this week I got a few more baits to try from Kevin, one of which was a little Ned bait that I really liked. I had just been going over my reports from last Feb. and I found that a year ago around this time I had sized it down to the Ned rig to get my bites. The Ned rig was on my mind at dinner Thursday night when I told one of the guys at dinner how the fish seem to really like the smaller stuff in Feb.

I knew exactly how I was going to rig the little Ned rig for fishing shallow yesterday and my little rig worked to perfection. Here’s a picture of the little rig and all the parts I used as well as my rod and reel of choice. The reel was loaded with KastKing 20lb high vis braid and a 20 foot KastKing 10lb Kovert fluorocarbon leader line.

Yesterday the rain ended mid-morning and I headed out to the main body of the creek and a few docks to try the new Ned rig on. The wind really kicked up and I think the fish were kind of shut down from the storms and the sudden rise in water level. It will probably take the fish a few days to get used to the new water levels, but I was still able to catch a few plinking the little Ned rig around the docks. Here’s a picture of my first fish on the rig, caught between 2 docks in about 10 feet of water. I caught 3 others while I was out, but this was definitely the highlight of my short trip out in the cold wind. My KastKing Speed Demon rod and reel combo with the medium tip worked well for the task and enjoyed putting the KastKing spinning rig to the test.

The lake is still on the rise at 1.5 feet above full pool and the corps is moving water for a few hours in the evening right now. It looks like we have a pretty good run of upcoming stable weather, so I expect things to pick up next week. Water temps are in the upper 40’s to near 50.

It’s Like Watching Paint Dry

When I started this week, I was full of energy and ready to get it going, but now I feel like the lake handed it to me this week. I had to work for every bite and pull out all the stops including heading to the northern reaches of Young Deer Creek for my bites.

On Monday the bites were few and far between and my time on the water was very fragmented. I fished for a couple hours in the morning and the same amount of time in the late afternoon. In the morning I was mainly throwing the shaky head for my bites in the creek. This time of year I’m kinda partial to the shaky head and I have a lot of confidence in it, especially around the docks in the back half of the creek. There are a lot of docks in the creek that offer a variety of options, from sunny and shallow to rocky, dark and deep. Pick your poison. On Monday my poison was the rocky docks with the shaky head, and I had to fish them slow. It was like watching paint dry to get the bites. Here’s some pictures and videos from my time on the water Monday.

Tuesday was a slow day, and I just caught a few little fish in the small amount of time I fished, but Wednesday I decided to visit Young Deer Creek and hit some of my rocky dock stuff over there. It was like night and day, between Tuesday and Wednesday. On Wednesday the fish were on the shaky head like a rat on a Cheeto. It seemed like there were fish at every place i thought there would be fish and I had a blast on a warmer sunny day. I started the morning with a quick limit in Bald Ridge and then headed north for a bigger limit. Here’s some pictures and a video from my day on Wednesday.

Thursday was another wash for me, and I didn’t get much time on the water, but I was back out this morning after receiving some new baits from my friend Kevin Badgett and KBDBaits. Kevin asked if I minded if he made some soft baits in my emerald color from the Emerald Popper. I was more than happy to see the baits and he sent me a few to try. Today I only used his trick worm and a little drop shot finesse bait in what he calls “Farmer’s Emerald” color. They worked well and I had a blast using them today. I’m not sure if Kevin is going to put these baits on his site but I think they would be a great addition. They worked great for me today and here’s a few pictures and a video from my day today.

I hadn’t made a video on “On the Cast Away Deck” in a while so I thought I would cover a few baits that I’ve been using for the past week or two. The biggest advice I can give this week is to slow it down and be patient. The fish are there but they are slow to eat and not very aggressive right now. They are in chill mode for the most part and this is a time that a lot of fish take a little break before the pre-spawn staging around the full moon and beyond next month. The lakes a little below full pool, the corps is moving water a few times a day and the lake temps are around 49-50 degrees.

The Two Gallon Milk Run

This time of year, finding gas on the water on the south end of the lake can be a task so I have a little two-gallon gas can that I carry down to the dock when I’m going fishing. The 2 gallons of gas allows me to make my creek milk run that requires about 2 gallons of gas if I don’t push it. My milk run covers a variety of different areas of interest, be it shallow mud, steep rocky bluffs. rocky points, deep docks and shallow docks, both in the sun and shade. Usually, I can kinda figure out what the fish are doing from a sampling of the different locations, and I don’t really need electronics to do this as the fish are somewhat predictable this time of year.

This week was the week I returned to the lake after a 3 week lay-off and a battle with covid. I knew the rona was coming for me and I was ready for the battle. Thankfully, it’s all over now and I hope I’ve added to my antibodies in case this ever comes around again. That being said, it’s back to the lake and figuring out these fish for me. On Tuesday, my first day back, the first thing I did was make a run to my sunny dock stretch to see if the bass were still responding to the sun and moving up shallow during the course of the sunny afternoons. My bait of choice was the shaky head on Tuesday. I used it for the duration of my trip, and it was the only bait I used on Tuesday. One of the first things I noticed was the lack of bigger fish that were moving up shallow. It was mainly the fish in the 1-2.5 range rather than the 3-4lb fish that had been there before my 3-week break. From there I went to the darker shady deep docks and ran a set of those. It seemed that the fish were laying low in the dark chunk rock and their little metabolisms had slowed a bit. I could tell the fish were slowing down because I really had to let the worm soak for a bite. Another observation was that the fish weren’t chasing the worm back to the boat like they would do 3 weeks ago. They had definitely slowed down so I made the adjustments.

I want to share a picture with you and explain what I key on this time of year, whether it’s a dock run or just going down the bank in the creek.

I circled the red area because that is a dark steep rocky bluff where the water gets deep quickly. You can tell by the contour lines being close together. That is where I caught my fish on Tuesday whether it was around the docks or going down a bare shoreline. Dark, deep chunk rock. Most of the fish I found were hanging around the rocky bluffs and laying low, so I soaked the worm very very slow for my bites. Here’s Tuesday’s catch.

On Wednesday I was back out, and I found some fish sitting on the leeward side (downwind) of the ledge in 25+ feet of water and they were ambushing the bait as it was blown across the little point. All I needed to do was mimic the bait moving down the ledge on the bottom with my little swimbait. You can use this scenario to locate and catch fish for the next month or two with the little Keitech Damiki rig. I’m just throwing the little Damiki up shallow, letting it fall straight down to the bottom and slowly dragging it down the ledge. Once the wind kicked up a little, I got the urge to throw the crankbait up shallow and do the same, letting the crankbait come off the bottom in 10 feet of water and the fish would respond to the crankbait as it separated from the bottom at the top of the ledge. A little word of advice for this time of year is to NOT rule out a crankbait on windy rocky points and humps. If there is wind, throw the crankbait for bites and try different crankbaits that dive from 10-20 feet this time of year. I couple of my favorites are the DT-10 and 12 in a craw pattern or try aXD5 in a shad pattern. Both should work over the next month or two. Another little crankbait I like is my little 1.5 crank in a craw pattern and that’s what worked for me Wednesday as well as dragging the little Damiki down the ledges. I was putting it together by Wednesday.

Ledge fishing isn’t just for the Tennessee River fish in the summer, it’s also a thing for me on Lanier in the dead of winter. Here’s Wednesdays catch.

Yesterday was a jailbreak for Damiki fish and after loading my livewell with cookie cutter 1-2lbers my buddy Mike jumped in the boat for a couple hours and we were able to fill the livewell again with the Damika fish. It was cold and spitting down a little rain and sleet, so we didn’t last long out in the cold wind, but the same scenario applied yesterday, we found a ledge where the fish were stacked, and it was just a matter of hitting the right little area up shallow and dragging the swimbait down the ledge. The fish were once again set up at the bottom of the ledge and watching for bait coming down wind across the ledge. Here’s a few pictures from yesterday. The first picture was a nice shaky head fish, and the rest were caught on a little Lanier Baits 1/4-ounce Damiki with a 2.8 Keitech in a Bluegill Flash color pattern. Anything with blue in it is a winter favorite of mine. I also included a video from this afternoon using the Damiki rig. Sorry about the cheesy music. Trying out some new video editing software.

Lastly, over the next few weeks I’ll be trying out a few new rod and reel set-ups from KastKing. I just got my second rig in yesterday and I’m going to break down 2 different rod and reel set-ups for the worm and the swimbait. Yesterday all of my fish were caught on the KastKing Speed Demon rod and reel combo. I’m really looking forward to giving this KastKing gear a workout.

Water temps are in the low 50’s and the lake is just below full pool and falling. The corps is pulling water during peak power usage in the morning and evening. The fish are slowing so we need to slow down and soak those bottom baits now.

A Hometown Hero

When I saw this picture all those memories I had as a child came flooding back to me and I had to say something about this man. The man who brought me into this world.

When I was a young kid growing up, I developed very bad allergies. I couldn’t eat normal food and was restricted to nothing but rice and a few other foods. I was allergic to things like flour, corn, dairy products, plants, animals and a whole host of other things. If I would have an allergic reaction, it was pretty bad. My lungs would immediately fill with fluid and sometimes I would pass out as a result. For a little kid to experience this day after day, it wasn’t the kind of childhood someone would want. I had to take shots every week and it was hard to find things that I could eat without a reaction. As a result of the allergies, my lungs were always congested and at times I really struggled to breath. I developed pneumonia a few times and one time I had to spend days in the hospital under an oxygen tent for double pneumonia. There were times when I could barely breath and struggled to draw a breath because of the asthma caused by the allergies. This continued for years until I grew out of most of the allergies.

Our little town had a doctor by the name of Wesley Hall, and he was my hometown hero because when I got sick, Dr. Hall would come out to our little house, day or night and get us fixed up. I’ll never forget that face standing over me a looking down at me with a smile and a diagnosis. Just the mere fact that he was in my presence made me feel better. I don’t know how many times doctor Hall got me patched up when I was a kid, but I can say that had it not been for this man as my doctor I don’t think I would have seen my 18th birthday. He truly had healing hands.

My dad was one of my biggest heroes in life, and he taught me a lot, but to be perfectly honest, because of those healing hands, Dr Hall was actually my biggest hero. I know Doctor Hall is in heaven now and what a glorious time for him. When I get there, he’s one of the first people I’m going to hug.

RIP Doctor Hall, you were a Hometown hero to a lot of us kids growing up.

The Choclanana Delight

This one is probably a little fattening but that’s what holidays are for. I combined my midwestern chocolate delight recipe with a southern banana cream pudding recipe to make “Choclanana Delight”. I’ve always like bananas and chocolate so why not get them together. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 1 box of Betty Crocker Pie Crust mix or make a graham cracker crust if you would like
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 8-ounce package of cream cheese softened
  • 2 8-ounce tubs of Cool Whip
  • 1 large box of instant chocolate pudding
  • 2 small boxes of banana cream pudding
  • 5 cups milk

Prepare the pie crust using the whole box of pie crust mix and using 4 tbls of cool water and 4 tsps of cool water. Mix thoroughly and create a ball of dough. I used a lot of flour to keep it from sticking to the counter, but I roll it out on a thin bed of flour and flour on my rolling pin. Once I’ve rolled it out I place it in my greased 9X13 baking dish, and a little granulated sugar on top and bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes.

Once the crust cools, I mix my first layer of 1 cup powdered sugar, 8 ounces of softened cream cheese and 8 ounces of Cool Whip.

Mix the large box of chocolate pudding with 2 and a half cups of milk and I add a few small chocolate chips to the mixture before spreading it.

Spread chocolate mixture on top of cream cheese mixture and then mix the banana cream pudding using 2 and a half cups of milk.

Spread pudding mixture and spread on top of chocolate mixture and top with sliced bananas.

After the bananas slices are added, top the whole dish with 8 ounces of Cool Whip and garnish with a few more miniature chocolate chips, cover and chill. Serve chilled and enjoy!!

The History of Cast Away Cove

It’s been at least 10 years since Lisa, and I found a little piece of lake property for sale during a time when the lake level was down more than 10 feet and the dock for the property was sitting on dry land. There were some young renters that were occupying the small doublewide trailer and the dwelling was in pretty bad shape. Still, it was lake property and something both Lisa and I had dreamed of owning one day. The property had been on the market for a while, and it was getting ready to drop off the listing again. The seller had come down on the price, but he had no takers. I didn’t really want to make the investment, but Lisa really thought it would be worth it one day. We made an offer on the property and it was accepted by the seller.

Once we took ownership of the property we went to work with a total remodel and replaced the old dock as well as installing rip rap at the water’s edge. In that same time frame the rains came and the lake filled to full pool, and we had plenty of water in our little cove to float the dock. Since that time, which was more than 10 years ago, our dock hasn’t seen dry land once. Lisa and I spent 6-7 years using the little lake house as a weekender for us, friends and family members. Some reading this may have stayed in our little lake house we appropriately named Cast Away Cove because of my tackle business (Cast Away Bait and Tackle) and the little cove the property was on. Here are some pictures of Cast Away Cove from years ago.

We had always wondered if we could build on the property and the prospect of building a new home was always something in the back of our minds. Around 2016 we started investigating the possibility of building a new home on the property, but we ran into a big roadblock that concerned the installation of a new and larger septic system. In order to expand a septic system, you need to have a certain amount of undisturbed soil and on the side of a hill you are required to have a holding type tank and pumping system. When we had the soil tests done, we didn’t have the room and there were too many large rocks to put in a larger septic system.

At that point we decided to sell the property and purchase a permanent existing lake home, but the market was tough, and it was hard to invest our money into something that was already 20 years old. We placed the lake house on the market, but we had no takers and eventually took it back off the market when a tree fell on our dock during hurricane Irma. We had the dock repaired and just before we were going to place it back on the market an area very near our property was developed and some townhomes were built just a few hundred yards from our lake house. Lisa and I did some investigating and found out the townhomes were located inside the city limits, but our house was in the county. It was a long shot, but we were hoping there were city sewer lines near our house from the construction of the townhomes and we could somehow tap into the city sewer even though we were in the county. Originally, we had been told through hearsay that it couldn’t be done because it was commercial type sewer system. We wanted to find out for ourselves, so we set up a meeting with the Cumming City Utility Dept. and pleaded our case. They were very understanding and there was actually a sewer line very near our road and it was just a matter of running the sewer line down our street and we, as well as our neighbors could hook up to city sewer. It was like a dream come true when the guys at the city utility department said that we could build the biggest house we wanted, and they would provide the sewer services to our property!!

Next was finding a house plan and Lisa and I looked at a bunch but settled on a plan we both agreed to. We both scanned design after design on a website called Architectual Designs. They had hundreds of designs and we settled on one after weeks of looking and looking and looking. Turns out that the architect (Garrell and Associates) for the plan we finally agreed on lives near the lake, and we were able to modify the plan to fit our property. Once we settled on a plan it was time for a builder. We found Coal Mountain Builders were local folks and we liked the custom homes they had built in the past on the lake, so we signed the building contract and scheduled the build. We broke ground in the early spring of 2018, and we were in our new home by Christmas. Here’s pictures of the tear down of the old and subsequent build of the new Cast Away Cove lake house.

How Many Do You Need?

That’s the question I asked myself over and over again this week. I found myself wanting to go to the deep ditches where I could spend hours just casting or bouncing a spoon around because the fish are there in big numbers and I could catch a bunch.

This week I started out practicing my jig skills in the back of some pockets early in the morning and if there’s one thing I’m lacking when it comes to fishing, it’s confidence with the jig. I can never seem to get on a roll with the jig although it’s a winter staple on Lanier. I just choose other baits to use during the winter months but this winter I’ve made myself use the jig more. Early Monday morning, I was all about the jig in the shallow pockets in the back of a ditch in the creek. As I moved up shallow in the center of the ditch, I started marking fish suspended and moving around at the 20-25-foot depth, so I started making casts towards the shallow back of the ditch and letting the 1/2 jig slowly sink to the bottom. After I feel the jig make contact with the bottom, I like to lower my rod tip and slowly drag the jig along the bottom in a stop and go motion back to the boat, always making contact with the bottom. The cool part about the jig is that when a bass hits the jig there is a pretty distinct thump and it’s your que to set the hook. I got on a roll with the jig early and managed a few confidence builders early in the morning in the very back of ditch pockets.

Monday afternoon I picked up my neighbor for a few hours and we looked for a few shaky head fish in the creek. It was kinda slow, but we managed a few. My neighbor David is working on his shaky head technique, and I always enjoy my time with David as we always talk about the bible and being better Christians. David and wife Ann both teach Bible study and are accomplished Christian writers and just a joy to have as friends and neighbors. Here’s David and his afternoon fish.

On Tuesday I was back out for the afternoon run again and I had a plan. My plan was to run 2 long stretches of docks with the shaky head, one in the shade and one in the sun to see if there was a distinct difference. I started on the deeper shady docks and by the time I had finished running at least a dozen docks in the shady stretch I had amassed a smaller 5 fish limit. The 5 fish were mainly caught between the docks up shallow or on the spud poles. The thing about spud poles this time of year is that they hold heat in the sun, and fish will suspend near the pole, usually chasing anything that moves near the pole. If I see a spud pole, it always gets a cast. Some of the docks were deep with big chunk rock or flat slopping rock shelves which usually produces a fish or two. It was a good dock run.

I then moved to the sunning docks that were just a bit shallower on average and this dock stretch had less rocky stuff. It had a flat out in front of a stretch of 3-4 docks and the flat was in the sun. Bass were always patrolling the flat in the sunny afternoons and I generally expected to always catch a fish on the flat. At the end of my run, I had 4 more fish and missed what would have been my 5th to a slow hookset. That’s the thing about the shaky head, you gotta be on your game because every once in a while, a fish will hit the worm on the way doing to the bottom and you’d never know it if you have a lot of slack in your line. If that’s the case, sometimes the fish will suck the worm in and eventually spit it back out, undetected. I almost always control my drop with the shaky head. I quit fishing after running the sunny stretch of docks and as I was leaving to head back to the house, I noticed a 3/4 moon was rising in the east as the sun was setting in the west. I had a good evening and I remembered what an old wise fisherman told me one time, “when the sun and the moon are in the sky at the same time, the fish bite the best“. Over the years I’ve come to the conclusion that there may be something to that observation from my old friend. Here’s some pics from Tuesday.

On Wednesday I decided to fish the morning hours to see if I could find a few larger fish, so I started out on the docks again but the fish either weren’t there or weren’t active. After an hour of running docks, I shifted my attention to the sunny, windy points and rocky areas that had wind and waves blowing across them. It was mid-morning and the sunny points facing the south with wind was the ticket with the shaky head. The bigger fish were up, and cruising and I slowly amassed a good sack on the rocks. I was back at the house by lunchtime and considered the morning bite much more productive for size. Here’s a few pics from the morning bite on Wednesday. The biggest was very close to 5lbs and I caught that one on a shallow south facing flat.

On Thursday things started changing and we were facing clouds and no wind to speak of. The fish that had been coming up shallow in the sun and wind were not coming up shallow and I had to head back out to the ditches for my bites. I spent a few hours out from mid-morning till early afternoon and found my fish either very deep or very shallow, but the big girls just weren’t out cruising like they had been doing in the sun. I did manage to catch a few on a pearl Magic Swimmer when I saw fish chasing a bait on the surface but all in all it was just a bunch of staring at the graph and dropping the spoon deep for 2lbers. It was kinda fun because I would drop straight down on empty bottom and start slowly going up and down about 10-20 feet and eventually, I would draw a crowd. The crowd would chase the bait up and down until one lone cowboy would say ‘I’m your huckleberry bass” and my rod would load up. I gotta brag on my Humminbird units. Whether I was fishing in 50 feet of water or looking for a certain contour on my mapping to find my shallow fish, I couldn’t have had success this week without them. They were key whether it was sonar or mapping.

Probably the highlight of my afternoon was seeing a striper work its way back into a pocket I was fishing. I watched the striper chase bait on the surface in the shallows and I couldn’t resist putting a stalk on the goofy striper just all carefree and focused. It reminded me of red fishing in the marsh and sight fishing a red in some backwater pool in the evening. The water was gin clear, but the striper is very curious and aggressive so my bait of choice that almost always fools the striper is the white pearl magic swimmer 125. It’s almost always a lock and when I saw my opportunity to make a cast to the striper, I made it count and the fight was on. Lots of fun and a great way to end my afternoon.

Friday, (yesterday) I was back out in the morning and it was kinda overcast with patchy sunshine here and there but no wind again. I didn’t have a long time to fish but I was able to find a few nice shallow fish and a few deep fish. It seemed like as the morning progressed into afternoon, and the temps got up into the 60’s the shallow fish responded, but I mainly caught smaller fish up shallow. It seemed like the bigger fish were reluctant to come up shallow at first but just when I thought it was going to be a smaller fish afternoon, I hooked a giant in a few feet of water, and she just went to jumping and shaking her head on the way to the boat. She was working the heck out of that single hook in her mouth and on a last-ditch pile drive the hook pulled at the side of the boat and she disappeared into the depths. That’s how my week ended this week and I’m still a little bummed, but I did manage a few decent fish to end the week. Right now, I’m pretty stuck on running banks and docks with the worm although the numbers aren’t quite what they would be if I were out in the ditches, but I always end up asking myself, “how many do you need”? Here were the last of the fish to end my week so I can’t really complain about the ending. I had Mac Deisel, mini mac and broke back mac.

Cast Away Beef Enchiladas

This has been one of my favorites for years. Sometimes I substitute chicken or shrimp for beef. Be sure and adjust the ingredient amounts or ingredients to your liking.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound of cooked ground beef (drained)/or cooked chicken
  • 10 flour tortillas
  • 8 ounces of shredded cheddar cheese
  • 8 ounces of Mexican cheese
  • 1-2 cans of green enchilada sauce
  • 1 can of Rotel diced tomatoes, lime juice and cilantro
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 8 ounces Philadelphia cream cheese
  • 1 small can sliced or chopped black olives

Brown hamburger and add chopped onion

In large mixing bowl add drained Rotel

I add 6 ounces of shredded cheese to the mix

I usually just add a couple tablespoons of the green sauce to the mix for flavor

I add a swipe of cream cheese to each tortilla

Add a generous scoop of mix, roll and place in 9×13 baking pan or dish. I usually spray the pan with Pam

Add the remainder of the sauce and top with 8 ounces of cheddar cheese

Add olives to the top

I cover the dish and bake at 375 for 30 minutes and then uncovered for 15 minutes longer before serving

I top mine with sour cream, a little hot queso and serve with a side of refried beans top with the remainder of the Mexican shredded cheese. Enjoy!!

Skinning the Cat

Years ago, when my dad was still living, every year for his birthday I’d take him down to West Point Lake and Highland Marina to stay in their floating dock house and do a little fishing for a few days. I remember when I was a little kid growing up my dad always took the time to take me fishing so I thought I would return the favor for his birthday in October every year after he retired. We had some good times down at West Point and the cabin we always stayed at was a floating cabin, so it made it very easy for my dad to get in and out of the boat. The back door to the cabin was about 3 steps from our docked boat so it was very convenient, especially as my dad got older and didn’t get around as well.

Back then I was a striper fisherman, and I netted my own bait at West Point when we went. Bait wasn’t very hard to find, and we could usually set out my Hydro-glow light at the cabin dock and net as much bait as we wanted, but if we needed more, I could usually find it back behind the marina where the water got very shallow and muddy. That’s where the gizzard shad liked to hang out. I could usually get a lot of threadfin shad to come to my Hydro-glow light just before dawn but netting the gizzards was usually a bit more of a chore, especially if you didn’t know where to find them. I had a few places back in some pockets behind the marina that usually produced the gizzards we were looking for though.

Fishing on West Point in October can be pretty good if you know where the fish are hanging out. Usually by October the fish are in the river along a stretch just north of the lake proper and it’s just a matter of using your electronics to find them. Once you’ve found them, that’s where the live bait comes in. I would put out live bait on downlines, freelines and my planer boards, which I manufactured and sold. We would usually have an average of about 6-8 lines in the water at one time which isn’t really uncommon for striper fishermen. The more lines you have out, the better your chances. It can be fun and when you find the schools of stripers and you can be busy for a while.

My dad used to love catching fish and sometimes we would be on so many fish he would be reeling in fish one after another. The stripers were usually 3-5lbs in size and they were perfect if we wanted to keep a few for filets to take back home. When we were growing up my dad did not believe in killing anything for sport or releasing fish if they were edible. His thoughts on guns were that they were only to be used for self-preservation, whether it was nourishment or self-defense and his thoughts on fishing was that you keep everything you caught. Sometimes we would catch 50 fish in a days’ time, and I told him that if he wanted to keep his limit, he was going to be fileting his limit; soon after that he decided that catch and release was kinda fun and within the confines of the law.

Growing up, we had a little 5-acre farm on the outskirts of town and my dad was very frugal. We didn’t have a lot of money and we would McIver everything or make do with what we had. We were always Gerry rigging something to get the job done so sometimes you had to think outside the box. My dad used to say, “There’s more than one way to skin a cat“. Kinda scary phrase when your young and your old man believed in eating anything and everything that had 4 legs, fur, skin or scales. We didn’t eat any cats that I’m aware of, but he did use that phrase a lot when he would be working on something and found a fix.

So anyway, back to West Point. There was one year that we went to West Point in October, and we couldn’t find the fish in the river that year. This was a year that it was still unseasonably hot, and a lot of stripers were still either down lake or way up the river, beyond where we could have gone so we chose to fish the lake that year. The first day of fishing, bait wasn’t a problem as I went behind the marina in a small cut, and we found the mother lode of 3–4-inch gizzard shad. They were so packed back in the pocket, I could fill my 8-footer with one bad throw. After getting bait we set out to find the fish, but we struggled to find any fish at all. The fish seemed to be scattered and we spent all day on the lake without much luck. Speaking of luck, I remembered a scene in the movie “Titanic” when the villain, Billy Dane says “I believe in making my own luck“. Such a cool phrase from one of my favorite villain actors. Well, by the end of the day we hadn’t caught any decent a fish, and I wasn’t not going to be satisfied with bringing my dad down to the lake for his birthday and not watch him catch plenty of fish. I believe in making my own luck so that evening I came up with a plan. I told my dad that we had plenty of bait at our disposal, so we were going to pack our bait tank full of gizzard shad and also pack a few 5-gallon buckets full of the netted gizzards and take them down lake in what I called the “bait relocation program”.

Early the next morning we went back to the gizzard hole, and we netted gizzards by the hundreds and put them in my big 50 gallon bait tank and the buckets of water. The bait was overpopulated in the buckets and tank but still alive for the quick move. I went down lake with the bait and I found a bay that had a west wind and waves blowing right into the bay. I positioned the boat at the mouth of the bay and started slowly driving across the mouth of the bay while we were releasing scoops of disoriented gizzard shad across the mouth of the bay. I believe some may call this technique “baiting the hole” but for this story we’re going to call this “skinning the cat“. That’s the plan I came up with. We scattered lively, half dead and disoriented gizzard shad across the mouth of the bay and let the wind-blown waves scatter the bait into the bay. At that point I told my dad that we were going to take a break and let nature do its thing.

We centered my 21-foot Carolina Skiff right in the middle of the bay and before long we started seeing fish on the graph below the boat. I baited my dad’s downline with a small gizzard and as soon as he dropped it down under the boat, he had a fish on. I spent all day netting fish after fish for my dad. Just as soon as he would lower the bait, his rod would load up and he had another fish to fight. He must have caught 30, 40 or maybe 50 fish that day, as I have no idea, but I know he was worn slap out that night.

The next morning, we went back to the bay and to our amazement the fish were still in the area, so we spent the morning catching more fish with fresh bait I had netted before leaving for home. All in all it was a great trip for us filled with fish catching and laughs. Had we not come up with the idea of moving the bait to the fish we might have had an unproductive trip. It was very easy to pick off fish after fish by drawing in the numbers and just dropping one line down at a time to catch one fish time after time after time.

West Point was a lot of fun for my dad and I in his last years. I always wanted to make sure he knew how much I appreciated all the things he had done for me over the years when I was growing up. This video below was one of our last trips to West Point Lake. We were blessed.