Old Friends Poppin In

First off, I gotta admit that I’m a climate change believer and if the climate didn’t change, I’d be worried…. unless I was back in San Diego or Hawaii, it seemed like the climate never changed there. Nonetheless, this week feels like my old sweaty friend Louisiana came up for a visit and brought me a gift of sweltering heat and 152% humidity. I could tell it was here by the humidity dripping from the Georgia pines at 5am when I stepped outside to let Chigger out for his morning pee. I’m pretty sure this is just a precursor to August when Louisiana comes back to town in the form of a tropical wave with biblical rains for days but it’s just some of the joys of living in the south.

The fishing

This week was a tough one for me in terms of getting out on the water. I got sick late last week and thought it might be that mutated covid strain going around so I laid low for a while. Early this week my knee went all “bone on bone” pain and I met with my ortho doctor for options for the knee plus a pat on the butt and a yummy cortisone shot to kick the can on down the road for a few months. Ultimately, I’ll need to have the knee replaced but for now it’s just shots. The suspected mutated covid strain and the painful knee definitely slowed me down this week, but I was still able to get out and throw a few new baits that I haven’t tried in a while. Early this week I was thinking spoon, and not just any spoon but a big Georgia Blade spoon. Early in the morning there has been some wind out on the main lake and if there was a good chop on the water, I was throwing the big white pearl 5-inch spoon this week in low light and cloudy skies and then switching over to a chrome spoon if it was sunny. I like the 5-inch Georgia Blade spoon because I can cast it a mile with my bait caster and 17lb test fluorocarbon line. I made a video this morning and you can see the big Georgia Blade spoon in action in my “On the Cast Away Deck” video further down in this report.

Another bait that’s re-surfaced like another old friend this week was the emerald popper. It was probably my second-best producer this week coming in just behind the spoon. I used the popper in the afternoons over brush if there was some chop over the brush. If there was a small to moderate chop over the brush piles in 20-25 feet of water, I could call the fish up at times. It wasn’t a sure thing, but it seemed like the better popper bite has been the afternoon when these bass are chasing bluebacks on or near the surface. No big ones on the popper but some nice blow-ups during the week.

The third best bait I had this week was the G-fix 80 spybait in the American Shad pattern. It just seemed to net me some decent fish out on the main lake this week. If there wasn’t any wind to work with and I didn’t feel like throwing the spoon because of a lot of structure of brush in the area I chose to run the little spybait over the top of the brush. It was a great bait for numbers, especially earlier this week.

After I beat up the brush with the topwater and spybait stuff, I’m moving in for the kill with the drop shot. The drop shot has been the best for us in the afternoon and evening time but has been a little tough for me in the morning, so I’ve been sticking with the moving stuff in the mornings.

I’m planning to start changing my format a little bit and moving towards a podcast over the next month. My plan is to have videos from the current week or use some older videos from my YouTube page as a reference and narrate the videos from the man cave. I haven’t done a “On the Cast Away Deck” video in a few weeks so I made one this week and posted it below. The water temps were around 86-87 out on the lake this morning and the corps is generating in the afternoons through early evenings. Water level is 1.2 feet below full pool and dropping. Here’s a video of the tackle I used this week and a very nice fish I caught on a Georgia Blade spoon around the 8-minute mark.

Nippers, Bricks and the Alpha Bass

This week we’ve been working down in the man cave to give it a little much needed makeover. Lisa and I are adding a few things and finishing out a few projects we’ve been planning for a while. I’m still working towards a podcast, and I set a few goals to get it off the ground. I’d like it to be on Friday evening from 8-10pm down in my man cave and I’d like to start the first podcast on the Friday evening just before the MLF Bulldog 2 day on Lanier. I’m pretty sure we can put together a show with a few guests that evening and we’d probably get a pretty good audience for the first podcast. I would like to cover my weekly report during the podcast and also have guests with reports and info on the lake. I’d also like to cover hunting and have guests that can talk about our upcoming hunting seasons and different topics concerning hunting. I’d like to put together a show in advance and have a video or two as a reference and a topic for our conversation during the show. Definitely we would have a Q and A for the guests and have a good time. It’s still in the planning stages and I’ve got a long way to go. Stay tuned…

The Fishing:

My week started out on Monday morning, and it was a great morning for some good old fashion summer topwater. We had wind and we had cloud cover. It didn’t take me long to break out the white pearl walking bait for the win. If there was wind and brush on a main lake point or hump, I was running the topwater over the top of the brush. Usually there was an alpha bass guarding the brush or the crown of the hump and just a soon as I threw the bait around the hump the alpha bass was going to smash it. Usually, the alpha bass is the first bass to eat and the biggest bass around the brush to be caught. I caught a lot of smaller fish on Monday but here’s a nice sack of 5 topwater fish from Monday morning. I was probably using the topwater walker 75% of the time with the spybait being 25% and drop shot 0%.

Tuesday, I worked down in the man cave during the day and Lisa and I made a quick evening trip for some spybait/drop shot action. It was slow and boat traffic was heavy in the creek, but we managed a few on both drop shot and spybait. Here’s a couple of nice spybait fish that Lisa caught Tuesday evening.

Wednesday was a wash for me. I worked down in the mancave most of the day, but I did go out in the afternoon to throw the spybait and drop shot. Just a few decent keepers on both spybait and drop shot. Here’s a pretty cool pic from Wednesday.

Yesterday it was mainly spybait but I did still catch a few on the little topwater walking bait and the drop shot. In terms of percentages of baits and time used, about 50% of my time has been focusing on spybait with 25% topwater and 25% drop shot. Here’s a couple nice fish from yesterday.

Today was hot from the get-go but you know what they say, “if you can’t stand the heat get off the lake”. I could see from my living room window that the creek was flat as a pancake this morning and as soon as I got out into the wider parts of the creek it confirmed my suspicions. No wind anywhere so I had to make the adjustment and just leave the topwater on the deck and focus on the spybait. My plan was to work the spybait over and around offshore brush and drop shot if I see fish under the boat. I had made 4-5 different stops at points and humps out on the main lake, and I was making a few casts on a hump that had been producing a big fish or two for me lately. That’s when it happened. Now, there’s two different ways these bigger spotted bass hit my little spybait, it’s a nip here and a nip there until they get a little piece of meat snagged from one of the treble hooks. They usually come unbuttoned on the way to the boat when the little piece of meat tears and the big one swims away with a sore lip. Sometimes you can land these fish if you have your drag set properly, and the hook holds long enough to get the fish into the boat. That happens time after time with the spybait and I call those big fish the “nippers”.

The other way the bigger spotted bass hit my little spybait is what I call the “brick”. I call it that because when they hit the spybait it feels like the spybait just hit a brick. It’s a dead stop for a split second and then the fish goes into the routine. It’s like those big old bulls in the PBR rodeo. All of the bulls have their own little moves coming out of the chute. Some come out spinning and some come out bucking. The spotted bass has some moves too and in the case of this morning on that main lake hump, I hit a brick with some moves. The bass did what just about every big bass does, it headed straight back down towards the brush he came out of and as soon as I saw the trajectory of the line start moving downward, I knew it was a big one. That’s when I raise my rod tip to try and turn the fishes head up instead of down. If I’m successful in keeping the big fish out of the brush with a good setting on the drag, the fish usually comes shooting straight up to dislodge the bait and try and shake it while jumping out of the water. They may go through this routine a couple of times but this morning it didn’t work, and I managed this 4.14 pictured below to end my week.

Today it was about 75% spybait and maybe 25% drop shot but with no wind today the spybait was the best choice. I probably shook off 5-10 smaller fish boatside and had a couple close to 3lbs but after catching this one the 2-3’s looked like dinks. It was a great fish to end the week on and I only used 3 baits this week. All pictured above. It’s typical summer patterns for now. Water temps are in the mid to upper 80’s, the water level is about a foot below full pool and the corps is generated during peak power usage in the afternoon and evening. This weekend is the Poker Run on the lake and there a lot of very big and fast boats out there right now. Be safe this weekend!

Stealth vs Noise

Just a couple of things to cover before we get started with the fishing:

I’ve been thinking about starting a podcast for a while and I think we may pull the trigger on it soon. My neighbor has a podcast for his business asked me if I had thought about it for my fishing and offered to help. I think it would be great to have it in the Cast Away man cave and cover more topics than just fishing. I’d like to talk about a variety of topics, including hunting, fishing, sports in general, outdoor type activities as well as military topics and guests to tell their story. I’d like to invite different guests every week, whether it’s bass and striper fishing guides to promote their business or just folks that I find interesting and want to chat with. I’m open to ideas and suggestions to get it off the ground and I’d like to hear what you think…..

Secondly, chigger has been taken off the “seriously ill” home hospice list. He tried to bite Lisa and myself a couple days ago which means he’s back to normal. He’s barking at squirrels and turkey buzzards again and he’s eating well, so I think he’ll be around a bit longer.

Now to the fishing:

Speaking of seriously ill, topwater is on life support right now. Don’t get me wrong, you can still catch them on top, especially early or if you can find them schooling but I can definitely tell it’s slowing down considerably, and my friend Mike told me that a lot of the fish he’s seeing on Panoptics are coming up to about 5 feet below the surface before going back down when they see a topwater bait. That tells me that there isn’t good oxygen at the surface which means that if the fish do come to the surface they won’t stay there long. My friend Mitch Harper told me that the 3 second rule was in effect. If you can’t make a cast to a surfacing fish within 3 seconds of him going back down, he ain’t coming back up. Today it was more like 1 second but who’s counting. That’s where the Stealth stuff comes in.

Just after I retired from the Navy, Lockheed Aeronautics contacted me and ask if I would be interest in working on their F-22 stealth program. That was back when stealth was becoming a thing and I knew very little about stealth because there were no Navy aircraft with stealth capability. I agreed to go to work for Lockheed and I learned a lot about stealth and the need for it. There is a lot to be said for the element of surprise and being stealthy provides just that. This week I left the topwater on the deck for the most part and chose to sneak up on the brush and start out with the spybait all stealthy like. I found that if I approached the brush throwing topwater, the fish more than likely were not going to come up but what throwing the topwater did do was scatter the fish. The more I threw the topwater, the more the fish would scatter. It was like when the Army Air Cav blasted music approaching an area for attack. Blasting music from the choppers confused and scared the hell out of the enemy before they scattered into the trees. That’s what topwater is doing right now, for the most part it’s scaring the hell out of the bass, and they are scattered for the trees. For that reason, I have chosen the stealth approach and kept it quiet with the spybait and then after moving around the brush casting the spybait, I’m moving in with the drop shot. If I used this method this week, I caught more fish than if I started with topwater.

My week started on Sunday afternoon out at Man Pond. We caught some very nice largemouth including my buddy Will with a nice 7.5 on an ole monster. Here’s a pic.

Man Pond never disappoints, and I had a few nice ones myself but nothing like the 7.5. On Monday the 4th of July, Lisa and I got out on an early morning spybait/drop shot trip before the crowds got out and we caught some nice ones. Lisa and I were using the very same spybait, ghost minnow, but she caught 5 spybait fish from the back of the boat with me zeroing from the front on the same exact Spybait. Go figure.

Here’s a few pictures of our biggest from our trip on Monday including Lisa’s 4lber.

I really didn’t do much fishing until yesterday when I took my neighbor and his friend out. We just threw around the spybait and we caught 8 pretty nice fish for the morning, all on spybait. The bite died about 10;30-11:00 and we called it quits shortly thereafter. We had some great fellowship and talked about our faith in the Lord. David and Keith are great mentors when it comes to faith. Here’s a picture of one of my guests, Keith, a retired dentist and avid surfer as well as a few other sports. He’s still going strong, and I want to be as active as Keith when I hit 72.

Today I got out early in the morning, just after sunrise by myself for a little spybait and drop shot action. I caught fish on both and made a little video with a few fish and a quick report to end my week. Water temps are hoovering in the upper 80″ and the corps is generating during peak power usage and into the night right now. The lake level is a foot below full pool. Have a safe weekend. Here’s the video from today.

The Running Years

There was a period in my life in which I took a 10-year hiatus from fishing and my primary focus was on competitive distance running. Don’t get me wrong, I still fished during this time, but I spent the majority of my time running and training for distance races. I also played senior league baseball after moving to the Atlanta area which ate into my free time to fish for a few years but after the running and baseball was over, I was back at the lake fishing. This is the running years.

Running was a requirement in the Navy and early on in my Navy career I found out that I was way above average in running. The requirement in the Navy was to run one and a half miles in a minimum time depending on your age and sex. You were tested twice a year and I always did very well, finishing with a very good time every time I was tested. I’m not sure what they put in the water in Kansas, but it always seemed to me that the best runners were either from Oregon or Kansas.

It was around the mid-nineties, and I was stationed in southern Louisiana at Naval Air Station Belle Chase in another F/A-18 squadron at the time. I held the position of the squadrons Assistant Fitness Coordinator, and I was in great physical condition. Running was something I did just about every day to stay in shape and I felt like I was in very good shape for being in my mid-thirties while most of my counterparts were at least 5 years younger. I would usually run a few miles at a time when I had time, and I would usually just run along a one and a half mile stretch of roadway that led to the back entrance to the base. With the distance to our hanger and back, I was logging about 3 miles on a run just about every day.

A few of the pilots in the squadron invited me to a 6-mile run including 4 of those miles on an old unused runway obstructed from view from the main road close to the back entrance to the base. They told me that there was an old runway that was no longer used and that’s where we would be doing our run. These pilots were tall lanky distance runners and had logged quite a few marathons as well as triathlons over the years, but they agreed to run at my pace which really wasn’t that far off their pace, just double the milage. I agreed and we set out on a hot and humid afternoon run on an old runway surrounded by swamp. We made a lot of small talk and chit chat about the jets as they got to get a little inside look at life on the enlisted side of a squadron. Pilots were usually doing their own thing and there wasn’t a lot of fraternization with the pilots and enlisted folks but when I ran with most officers it was like the rank wasn’t a big deal. I showed them respect and they did the same for me. Our ranks were rarely a topic of conversation during long runs but topics like where we grew up or some of the past experiences we had while in the Navy usually dominated our conversations. Believe me, when your running distance, unless you’re running a very fast pace, there’s always plenty of time for conversation.

In distance running it was always a constant battle with my body for the first few miles of a longer run. My body needed to get into a rhythm before I felt comfortable. I always said that it wasn’t uncommon for me to look for a good place to rest in the first few miles of a longer run. The cool part about the first few miles of the run is that if I could fight the urge to stop and walk for a minute, the runners high would kick in shortly afterwards, usually around the 3-mile mark. From then on it was like putting my body on cruise control, it was just a matter of holding my pace and filling my time with something to keep me from getting bored.

After running a few times with the pilots, they asked me if I’d consider running for a military team competition in Pensacola, Fla., called “The Blue Angel Marathon”. The Blue Angel marathon was held every year in Feb., and it was approaching September at the time they asked me. They told me that we would need to train together for about 4 months prior to the marathon competition and we would be competing against other teams from all branches of the military. Pensacola in Feb. was usually pretty warm, and the course was relatively flat which seemed to attract quite a few top-notch running teams. They told me that the marathon course started on the Navy base but after a few miles on the base the course went through the city of Pensacola and out along the beach for a few miles before circling back through the city and then back to the base. The race was very popular with the locals, and it drew a lot of local support all along the route. It sounded like a fun race and I told them I would join the team.

We ran together and trained pretty hard over the course of the next few months but unfortunately, a few weeks before the race, when I was tapering in late January, I developed walking pneumonia in my right lung and had to drop out of the race. I was really bummed about missing my first marathon but as soon as my lung healed, I was back to running in late spring of 97. I started running smaller races in the New Orleans area before transferring to Dobbin Air Base in the Atlanta area in July of 97.

Once I checked into the base and started my new job, I quickly became the Assistant Physical Fitness Coordinator for the Naval Air Station and put together a daily fitness plan for the personnel assigned to the Navy base. I also managed a group of sailors who were out of Navy standards and my job was to get them back into shape before the next physical exam cycle. I spent a lot of time at the gym, and I also liked to incorporated weight training for core strength in my training plan. My weight training wasn’t to bulk up, but it was to tone and work a lot of important muscle groups for distance running. The base had a running trail, and I would begin my runs at the base gym and often times it would be with a small group of runners. We would run 1-2 miles a day on the little base trail, but my real distance runs were always off the base.

The first place I ran distance after moving to Marietta, Ga., a northern small suburb of Atlanta, was the “Cheatam Hill Battleground” and the “Kolb Farm” area in Cobb County. My new home was just a few miles down the road from Cheatam Hill, so it was very easy to go for a quick 5-mile run. If I could recommend one place above all other places to run in this area, or train for a distance race, it would be Cheatam Hill and Kolb Farm. It was a big oval scenic trail run with hills and the trail was a distance of about 5 miles unless you wanted to go all the way to Kennesaw Mountain visitors center and back which made the run about 18 miles. If I’m not mistaken, you could add 2 more miles to the run by running up to the lookout center at the top of Kennesaw Mountain which made it an even 20 miles and my longest run when training for a marathon. That was my litmus test before tapering, and when you throw in all the steep hills of a 20-mile run, it was very challenging. I ran the 5-mile trail almost daily for the first few months after moving to the area. Not long after getting to Atlanta I learned of a big 10k race in Cobb County on Labor Day. The race was called “The US 10K Classic” and it was dubbed “the toughest 10k in the nation”. That sounded like my kind of race, so I trained hard through the months of July and August that first summer I was lived in Marietta. The 10K classic was tough because it was all up hill, and 6.2 miles of constant uphill will wear a body down very quickly. Down in Louisiana all of my runs were relatively flat but after moving to Ga. running took on a whole different meaning. It’s hard to get away from hilly ground around the Atlanta area so most of my runs, either training or a race, involved hills.

I ran the 10K Classic that first year in 97 and it was everything it was advertised to be, it was tough. My body did very well at the 10k classic, so I found other local races to run, and I continued to train as my ultimate goal was to compete in the Blue Angel Marathon in early 98. Most of my training runs were on trails out at Kennesaw Battleground but I occasional ran over in East Cobb along the river. There was a 3-mile loop along the river and there were a lot of runners as well as bikers that used the trail on the weekends. The river trail was actually busy with people walking biking and running so I could always people watch while I was running. Another place I liked to run was the Silver Comet Trail down in South Cobb. It was an area that was flat, very scenic and it ran for a very long stretch of miles. Once again, the trail was well used so I could always people watch during my runs. One other place I like to run was the Big Creek trail. I was a member of the Alpharetta YMCA and there was access to the Big Creek trail, which was paved, right there next to the parking lot of the Y. The Big Creek trail runs for miles and actually starts up here in Cumming and runs down to and through Alpharetta now. The trail runs along Big Creek and there are miles of scenery along the way.

Although running was always something I could do to clear my mind and sort out my issues, running was also boring to me unless I made it interesting. I would carry a Walkman with an arm strap on most of my runs and I could listen to music. I also wore an iPod in later years, and I could load my favorite tunes for a distance run. As I got more seasoned with my longer runs, I planned out my runs and I would load enough music on my iPod to not only listen to, but to also help me keep on my desired pace.

Training properly was a big thing for me when preparing for an upcoming race. If it was a shorter race like a 10k I trained for speed. Not only would I train on hilly trails, but I would also incorporate a day every week devoted to interval and gate training. If you want to get faster at distance running, interval training is the only way to better your times. It was very painful but a necessary evil when training for a race and figuring out my target pace. If it was a long race like a half or full marathon, I would focus on distance rather than speed. A full marathon takes about 4 months to properly train for the race and the milage increases every week until the last few weeks when you taper. By late 97 I was forming my first marathon team by soliciting runners in my weekly article in our base newspaper. I wrote an article in a weekly sports column on health and fitness, and I put together a team for my first Blue Angel marathon. I also put together a support group that was comprised of a medical staff and a few select folks to stage along the marathon route for support and drinks if we needed them. We did well and finished 3rd in 98 and the glass trophy you see me holding below was placed in the captain’s trophy case at Naval Air Station Atlanta. This was our first NAS Atlanta marathon team.

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Our base Captain really liked the idea of the base having a running team and to him it promoted fitness and a healthy lifestyle for our base personnel. Shortly after the first marathon in 98 I started running more local races and I usually wore a Navy shirt to promote the Navy in our local area during the race. I would chat with a lot of other runners about the Navy and often times I would give my Navy t-shirt away to a younger person along the route towards the finish line. I’m not sure how they liked receiving a sweat soaked Navy t-shirt from a runner but maybe they kept it. I never like running with a shirt on, but I like to promote the Navy in our area and a lot of times I would get positive comments from spectators along the route.

In the early fall of 98 I started soliciting for another marathon running team in the base newspaper and we actually put 2 running teams together for 99. We finished 2nd and 4th in Feb. 99

I ran a lot of local races in our area as well as traveling to races around the south but a few most memorable races I ran was the Hog Pen Hill Climb in Helen Ga. in the dead of winter. They don’t have that race anymore, but it was the toughest race I’ve ever run. It was 18 degrees when the race started in downtown Helen, Ga. and ended 10 miles later at the top of Hog Pen Pass. It was the only race where I experienced frozen chest hair and two frozen streams of snot beneath my nose. This was me during the last hundred yards of the race.

Another was the Atlanta Track Club Ekiden relay marathon race. I ran the anchor leg for the Georgia Power team that year and we took 1st place. I’ve always said that it was the best race I’ve ever run. It was a marathon relay, and I was asked to run the final leg of the race. I was representing Georgia Power which was entered into the large corporation division and a very competitive division for the race. I was actually dating one of my teammates and she was one of the engineers that worked for Georgia Power at the time and I was looking to get an engineering job there after retirement. Team Home Depot had some pretty good runners and seemed to always win in the large corporation division, but we foiled their plans in 2000. My other 5 teammates kept us close for most of the race and when I took over the final leg, only the Home Depot team was in front of us. I knew exactly how many minutes they were leading me, and I did the math to figure what kind of pace I needed to run to pass them before the finish line in a little over 7 miles. To me it was just another 10k race and I was able to pass the Home Depot runner with a couple hundred yards to spare. As soon as I passed him, I knew he was spent and couldn’t hold my pace so he drifted back. I won the race; Georgia Power had their winners’ cup from the Atlanta Track Club, and I kept the blue ribbon and a winner’s cup from the race. Here’s a few pictures from the race and our team.

Another race that really sticks out in my mind was the 2002 Blue Angel Marathon. It was the year that our team from NAS Atlanta won the race. We trained hard that year and we finally broke that winners curse that haunted us since 98. My good friend Rob Tomey did a lot of training with me over the years and only fitting that he and I were teammates when we won. Another teammate and good friend of mine over the running years was my old Maintenance Officer in my last squadron, Rudy Chavez. He was just a bit older than me but could usually outrun me in shorter races but not the marathon. We logged a few thousand miles together and competed in a lot of races with and against each other. In 2002 Myself, Rob, Rudy and one of our squadron pilots won the Military Branch division of the Blue Angel Marathon and our teams was put on the Naval Station Pensacola’s Captain Cup. I had reached the pinnacle of my running years. We presented the Naval Air Station Atlanta Commanding Officer the first-place plaque to place in his base trophy case. Here’s few pictures from the race including the Commanding Officer from Dobbins and the Commanding Officer from Pensacola.

Once we won the race in 2001 I went on to run races, including the Blue Angel Marathon up until my last marathon in 2004. By that time, I was fighting a bulging disc in my lower back which was very painful when I ran distance. Ultimately the disc ruptured, and I quit running after surgery and my doctor advised me to find another sport. I still played softball for the Naval Air Station for a few years and also played senior league baseball for a team in Duluth. Playing baseball in my 40’s was a dream come true for me but after all the running, softball and baseball I just enjoy fishing now but I’ll never forget my running years.

Here’s a few more pictures.

It’s All Chrome This Week

This week my report is just a little different and I want to share a few personal things before I get to the fishing. First Lisa’s son Mark and his soon-to-be bride Amanda are tying the knot tomorrow and we’re all pretty stoked around Cast Away Cove. We’re all very happy for them and starting a new life together. Secondly, a little update on our little dog Chigger. He fell pretty ill a few days ago and we were all but certain we were going to have to put him down today, but that little joker bounced back this morning and started eating and drinking again. He had been checked out for the last 3 days and just paced day and night. He hadn’t recognized me for the last 2 days, but he knew who I was this morning. I really believe that some new foreign chicken snacks we gave him made him very sick. We’re not out of the woods yet but hopefully he’s on the mend. Lastly, every once in a while, I run into someone who thanks me for writing reports, answering questions and making videos to help others on our lake and I really appreciate the kind words. A neighbor thanked me just a little while ago out on the lake and I told him the good Lord asks us to live our lives in service to others. I believe you can find it in the pages of Matthew and Peter and among other places throughout the Bible, but we all need to be in service to others in some way whether it’s at your everyday job, first responder, serving in the military or writing fishing reports. I really enjoy what I do, and no thanks are necessary. Now on to the fishing.

This week actually started last weekend, right after my last report when I had a chance to get out for a while to try a few new baits. LJ, from Lanier Baits hooked me up with a few of his new hard swimmer prototypes so I put the chrome swimmer to work. I had it tied on when I was out throwing a spybait on the main lake when a few fish started schooling beside the boat. I had the video camera rolling so here’s my first cast with the hard swimmer and another fish a little later in the morning.

Here’s a couple more fish from my trip with the hard swimmer.

Another bait I was throwing off and on that morning was the spybait. Once again, I had the camera rolling when I boated a nice 4.3 on the spybait and I also added some instructional stuff to the video as well as a cast to catch video of the 4.3 at the end of the video. Here’s the video and a picture of the 4.3.

No fishing on Monday so I was back at it Tuesday morning and I was actually greeted with some wind in the morning. I’ve been saving this one bait for a nice windy day and that bait provided me with a lot of fun last year, so much fun I wore the chrome off the old one last year. That bait was the 120 chrome Choppo. I tied that sucker on Tuesday morning and slap wore them out in the wind all morning. It was a steady retrieve with no ripping necessary and I had at least one fish boated at every stop. I tried the same thing with my ghost choppo pattern, and I also tried a solid shad pattern choppo 120 but the only one the fish would react to was the chrome choppo. It was just like last year when I wore all the chrome off my last one. Unfortunately, this one broke off on a fish right before I was coming in Tuesday afternoon, but I’d venture to guess the chrome choppo 120 accounted for 20+fish. Here’s a few from the morning.

Wednesday, I had a doctor’s appointment, so I didn’t get out till lunchtime, and it was brutal hot with little to no wind. I didn’t stay long and only took a couple of pictures, but I was starting to put something together. Here’s a couple from Wednesday. I also did pretty well with the smaller fish in the afternoon on the spybait. The spybait always does better in the afternoon.

By yesterday morning I started figuring out that these fish wanted chrome. I had a few z-dogs in a chrome pattern, so I tied one on just to see if I was right and sure enough, they went after the z-dog in chrome while denying other topwater baits. I tied the Casper shad pattern on, and they were not interested in that or a solid bone color, but it was obvious that they wanted the chrome. I had caught them on the chrome hard swimmer and the chrome choppo earlier in the week, so it only made sense that they were attracted to the chrome and the success with the chrome z-dog just proved it. Here’s a few pics of some of the fish and the chrome z-dog I was using this week.

I may have another video to put out this week with more of the hard swimmer catches. It’s been a good option for me off and on over the past week. Here’s a pic of the hard swimmer.

In terms of bigger fish, I would have to say that the best bait this week was the chrome 120 Choppo when there was wind and bigger chop, the little g-fix spybait for the flat/calm water, especially in the afternoon. If there was a small to medium chop, I used the little chrome z-dog. They would also come up a whack that little z-dog even when the wind would die down at times. Lastly, I was dropping a little bit with Blue Lily this week. No big girls on the drop shot this week but it’s coming soon. Water temps are hovering around the mid-eighties and the lake level is approaching a foot below full pool. The Corps is generating during peak usage hours in the afternoon and evening, and I think the drop shot bite is picking up during generation periods. If you’re on the lake this week, be safe and good luck~!

The First Week of Summer

It’s official, it’s summer on Lanier and time to settle into the summertime fishing patterns on Lanier. This week I had four rods on the deck and every one of them produced good fish and good numbers, it was just a matter of figuring out which one worked the best for the conditions where I was fishing.

First and foremost, I have to brag on my electronics this week. There are certain times of the year I can get by without electronics but for the next few months my Humminbird units are essential for the way I’m fishing. For the next few months brush and structure in the 20–35-foot range is what I will be targeting and boat position in relation to the brush or structure is crucial for my success. My Humminbird mapping is what I’m relying on to get the boat in position in relation to the brush. A lot of times, if there’s wind, I want to position the boat up wind of the brush and make my casts down wind, using the wind to help carry the little spybait or topwater bait on a long cast. Being up wind and pulling a topwater bait against the grain also provides more surface disruption. I really need good mapping to target summertime fish in or around the brush and my Hummingbird’s get the job done every day.

This week started out on Monday with Lisa joining me in the morning. We were going to do a little topwater and drop shotting on our trip and Lisa loves to drop shot. I kinda figured we could find a few with the drop shot and maybe a few topwater fish if the wind picked up. That was the problem early this week, the wind has been sporadic and the topwater was only good when the wind picked up for me. We struggled to find a topwater bite and the spybait was still coming around, so we focused on the drop shot fish. Lisa started us off as usual and started boating fish right away on the drop shot on our first brush pile, so we spend the next few hours dropping. I think we boated 12-14 fish and just about all were from the drop shot around brush. LJ had re-stocked me with some fresh Blue Lily drop shot baits and we used Lanier Baits Blue Lily fruity worms and Roboworms Aaron’s Morning Dawn for just about all of our fish. Here’s a few pictures from the trip.

On Wednesday I got out for the morning with my neighbor David, and we focused on the topwater and ended up with 12 fish for the morning. We had a decent Choppo bite, and we had a little wind to work with, so David used a pearl white 105 Choppo and I had a 105 in a ghost pattern. I think we were about even in the number of fish we caught and that pearl Choppo was the ticket early in the morning while it was still a little low light. After the sun came up, mid-morning the ghost pattern started producing better. The pattern for the bait was back to slow rolling it. Ripping the Choppo wasn’t necessary to get bit, it was just a cast, a few quick pulls to draw attention and then slow rolling it back to the boat. The technique would usually gather a school of bass and it would get hammered by the school. We had some good explosions but the topwater really slowed down about late morning. I dropped David off at his dock around lunchtime and I went back out to see if there was a better afternoon spybait bite and drop shot bite. Here’s a few pictures from our morning and some of David’s pearl Choppo fish.

On the way back out I was digging through my little passenger glove box and found a brand-new little chrome and blue chug bug that I had been looking for over the past year or so and I tied it on just in case I saw some fish surfacing. I was really surprised to catch a nice fish on my first 2 casts using the little spybait at my first stop after dropping David off. It was getting hot, but it seemed like the fish were responding a lot better to the spybait in the afternoon which is usually the case in early summer. I spent the next few hours catching fish with the spybait and occasionally I threw the little chug bug if I saw fish surfacing nearby. The little chrome chug bug was money if I could quickly get it into where fish were schooling, and I caught some decent fish on it, but I also caught a lot of dinks on it. I also caught a few on the drop shot when I moved in on the brush. Here’s a couple of nice spybait fish from Wednesday afternoon in the heat.

Wednesday evening Lisa and I had dinner at the BBQ place (Smokey Q) at Bald Ridge marina again. Great food and if you’re on the water, it’s a good place to stop in and cool off and grab some great food. Lisa and I both had a brisket dog, mac and cheese and some Cajun tater tots. It was delicious.

Yesterday I got back out early in the morning, and I had 4 rods on the deck. First was the 105 Choppo, second was the little chrome chug bug, third was the little Duo Realis G-fix 80 spybait and last was Lanier Baits Blue Lily 5-inch worm rigged up on the drop shot. I caught fish on all four and it was just a matter of how I wanted to approach my target area.

Approach can be a problem in the summer months and sometimes it’s a good idea to leave the topwater on the deck and make a more subtle approach to your target area. This week I found that a lot of times if I threw the topwater when I approached a brush pile the fish would school and follow the bait back to the boat only to turn away and head to the bottom without reacting to the bait when they saw the boat. I could see them on my electronics and the school would head to the bottom and disappear. After doing that a few times the schools would scatter, and the brush pile would be just about depleted of fish by the time I decided to move in on the brush to drop shot or throw the spybait. Sometimes the topwater approach would work but most of the time the topwater would amount to a big blow-up without producing a fish so I left the topwater stuff on the deck unless there was a good chop over the brush pile. If there was a good chop, I would usually give the top water baits a quick try because the hook-up percentages went up when there was wind, so it was worth a shot. I could still call a few fish up to the topwater offerings yesterday but today when I got out there was hardly any topwater fish to be called up.

Today I was on a mission to get a buddy some bass for a family get together. I pretty much bypassed the topwater and went straight to the spybait and drop shot method I’ve been using. We had a nice wind today and lots of chop. I utilized the Minn Kota spot lock upwind of the brush piles and I made my casts down wind. It didn’t take me long till I had some very nice fish for my buddy and his visitors to have a nice fish fry this weekend with the spybait and drop shot combo.

Here’s a video I made this week to explain the spybait and drop shot approach I used. I also added a video that explains a little more about the drop shot technique and my gear. At the end of the video I included a nice 4+ on the spybait.

I also had a little fun this week with Lanier Baits chrome swimmer out on the main lake. Here’s a video of the swimmer in action as well as a couple pictures.

Water temps are in the mid 80’s right now and the lake is about a few inches below full pool. The corps is generating during peak power hours in the afternoon and evening. Hopefully next week will be cooler.

Rip’n Stop, Spybait and Drop

There are times I feel guilty playing dirty tricks on these fish but it’s all in good fun and a lot of times the fish swims away with nothing but a sore lip and a bruised ego. This week the fish were waiting on me to give them the ole “plop-plop-plop” over the top of the brush pile with the 120 Choppo again, but I blew their little fish minds and mixed it up this week. I noticed that when I threw the Choppo over the brush piles early this week the fish were slow to react to the constant plopping or chopping sound of the Choppo and there was little to no schooling like the weeks before. They were tired of the Choppo and they had gotten used to the chopping sound of the Choppo. With the exception of a few overnight newbies to the brush pile it was the same old schools of bass at the brush pile, and they knew the chopping sound meant trouble. I could see the fish swimming around the brush but the Choppo had little effect on the fish. They had fallen for the Choppo’s constant steady plopping sound for the last 2 weeks and they were done with it. They had figured it out so I gave them the old razzle-dazzle “rip’n stop” with the Choppo.

I haven’t used the rip’n stop technique with the Choppo lately, but I used to use it this time of year with the Choppo and the 130 Whopper Plopper when it became a little harder to call the fish to the surface as the water heats up. Years back my buddy Jake Wohlers painted a 130 Whopper Plopper knock-off and he called it the “J-rip”. At the time I had never had the pleasure of ripping a Whopper Plopper and I wondered why he would use the name “rip”. I asked him and he told me that they had been catching them by ripping the 130 rather than the steady retrieve I had been using exclusively. I tried ripping and killing the big J-rip on my next trip out and to my surprise it was a great success and another great option for the whopper plopper type baits. This week I brought the old ripping technique back into play and that’s how I caught about 80% of my fish. I found out earlier this week that the fish were used to the constant chopping technique I had been using but they didn’t expect the ripping technique and just about everywhere I went there was schooling, followed by either a blow-up, multiple blow-ups, and about 50% of the blow-ups resulted in a hook-up. I reduced the size of the Coppo 120 to a slightly smaller 105 which netted me a lot more smaller fish this week.

With every school that came to the boat with a caught fish, I could see bigger fish beneath the caught fish swimming around whereas last week I was catching nothing but the bigger fish on the 120 with a steady retrieve but for whatever reason this week, they weren’t as interested in the big 120. I could actually cast the smaller 105 a little further and one of the key features of ripping the Choppo is the amount of water it splashes out in front of the bait and the amount of water it displaces around the bait when you rip it and kill it. The amount of displaced water around the bait is important, especially when the surface is flat because the displaced water confuses the fish much like a choppy surface with a little wind. When the fish sees all that displaced water around the bait, the fish thinks it’s a distressed bait and takes a whack at it. Unfortunately, they are somewhat cautious of the bait and the hook-up rate was slightly lower. Lots of blow-ups but not a lot of hook-ups, and a lot of times the bigger fish would let the smaller fish react to the bait as they would be swimming a few feet beneath the schoolers.

We had pretty extreme temps this week but if you could stand the heat, the fish didn’t care, and they were usually putting on the feed bag early in the morning and then again in the hottest part of the day. Mornings were pretty awesome with that big ole moon in sight and a lot of surfacing fish. If I was in the right place at the right time, I could put the 105 Choppo in a “Perfect Ghost” pattern right in the area and they would react to it. The fish were very active in the morning, but the grind was the hottest part of the day. Rewards were bigger in the afternoons, but you also had to contend with no wind and lots of summertime recreational boat traffic if you were in the creek. The afternoons didn’t really bother me so much as I spend about 4-5 days a week in my sauna for 30 minutes and the temps in the sauna are 130-170 degrees for the 30 minutes I spend in it. My body starts pouring sweat quickly and it’s just a matter of staying hydrated with lots of water and covering my skin from the sun.

The trend this week was numbers in the morning and big girls in the afternoon for me. I could catch a few big ones early here and there, but in the heat of the day the big ones took over the show and got way more aggressive. Here’s a couple of those fish I caught on a mid-day Monday trip out to the main lake.

There were two other baits that I used successfully this week and one was the G-fix 80 Duo Realis Spybait in an American Shad pattern. I tried my old faithful spybait color pattern, but the fish only had an interest in one pattern, and it was American Shad for me. Once I caught a fish or had the fish school on the Choppo I could pull back away from the area and then cast the little spybait around the area and pick off another fish or two. It was just a matter of casting the spybait as far as I could and giving it a 10-15 count before a slow retrieve back to the boat. Here’s a video I made a while back that explains a little more about the spybait and how I use it. It’s a tactic that is coming into play now as the water continues to heat and the thermocline becomes more defined.

The last technique that I used to put fish in the boat this week was the drop shot. The population of fish on brush has exploded over the last week and competition for a Lanier Baits Blue Lily worm is getting stiff in the brush. If I was directly over a school of fish this week or I saw fish in the brush, I had my drop shot rod at the ready and I had it baited up with the 5-inch blue lily pattern. Here’s a link to the Lanier Baits Blue Lily and I recommend getting some for the summer month ahead:

https://lanierbaits.com/shop/ols/products/fruity-worms/v/FRT-WRM-BL-LLY

Yesterday I made my final trip of the week and I caught fish on all 3 baits listed above but ripping the 105 Choppo over brush this week was the big-ticket ride for me. The blow-ups would come from nowhere at times and sometimes I could watch the fish school around the bait before inevitably one would take a crack at it. Other times a big one would come from nowhere and just blast it into the air and attack it when it came back down. It was a fun week for topwater and I got to hone my spybait/drop shot skills for the upcoming few months. Water temps are pushing the upper 80’s now and the lake has dropped a few inches below full pool. The corps is only generating for a few hours a day and during the week it’s generally during peak usage hours. I got a new I-phone this week and didn’t figure out how to take pictures till yesterday.

If we thought this week was hot, wait till next week, it looks like a scorcher. Here are a few pictures from yesterday’s trip.

Choppin chop with the Choppo

This week wasn’t much different than last week in terms of what I was using and what I was doing. One big bonus this week was the wind. I was able to do very well this week when working with the wind in the right areas and utilizing the choppy water to my advantage. It has become very apparent to me that my bite all hinges on the wind, and it becomes very hard to connect with larger fish when the wind isn’t blowing.

I only had 2 baits on the deck this week and the size of the chop determined which one I used. If there was medium to heavier chop, I used the Berkley Choppo 120 in a “Perfect Ghost” color pattern. If there was light to medium chop I used my little Azuma Z-dog in a “Casper Shad” pattern, which closely resembles the Perfect Ghost pattern on the Choppo.

I can say this about both baits that I used this week; 90% of the fish I caught were larger fish. I didn’t have hardly any smaller fish this week and when I did connect with a big one, the blow-up was phenomenal, especially on the Choppo in the wind.

I found that the Berkley Choppo is more of an annoyance bait to the bass and their cat-like mentality. I think the bass just get riled up when they hear that chopping sound around their home at the local brush pile, and pretty soon one of the bigger ones in the area decides to give it a whack. I’m using a larger Choppo (120), so the profile looks pretty big going through the water. That may be why I don’t get many smaller fish. As far as the cadence for the bait, it’s pretty simple, just a slow and steady retrieve. No burning it or jerking and pausing it, just a slow steady retrieve is enough to drive them crazy. I had a lot of near misses and it’s a test of nerves to keep from jerking the bait away from the fish, but the key is to keep your composure and just keep right on cranking until you feel the fish load up. There’s a chance the fish will continue to pursue the bait after an initial and intentional miss because of the translucent bait.

With the wind being a factor out on the main lake, I really utilized the Spot Lock function on the Minn Kota a lot this week. I just positioned the boat upwind of brush on a point or hump and fan casted the Choppo against the grain for the best surface disruption with the bait. Some of the blow-ups on the windy humps and points out on the main lake this week were the best I’ve seen this year. That Choppo really makes the fish aggressive and although I haven’t used it this year, the 130 Whopper Plopper would probably get you the same results. I’ve used the big 130 out in the wind over the years and I’ve had great success with it, so that may be an option to try besides the Choppo. I’m using 8lb fluorocarbon on a spinning reel for the Choppo. The further you can cast this bait the better. The more time this bait is running through the water the better chances of it gathering a school of fired up spots.

The second bait I used with success this week was the Azuma Z-dog in a Casper Shad pattern. It was a little tricky to get it to work but I could get the fish to school on the bait and it was also a good option if fish were schooling on the surface and you’re close enough to make a cast to the action. If you got the Z-dog in the area of schooling quick enough, they would just hammer the Z-dog. I found that I could call the fish up and get them to school on the bait if I could make it splash and skip enough to get the fishes attention but not let the bait sit long enough for the fish to see it well. You have to keep the bait moving 90% of the time. It was imperative to keep the fish moving and guessing rather than a traditional walking of the bait. If I walked the bait normally, the fish would follow or swirl on the bait, but they would not react to it. Another big reason both the Choppo and the Z-dog worked well is the fact that they are translucent baits. I’ve found that the fish will keep coming after the translucent baits if they miss the first strike. A lot of times the fish will strike at the bait with its tail and knock the bait in the air if they are unsure of the bait. When they do this, they want to see what the bait does when it comes back down. A live blueback will be disoriented when it hits the water after being knocked in the air. It becomes easy prey for the bass. I found that a lot of times a bass will turn down a solid-colored bait after knocking it in the air or swirling on it, but they tend to keep reacting to a translucent bait more often than not. It just seems to me that the fish is just a little unsure about the clearer baits and they just keep coming after it 9 times out of 10. The Z-dog is just a great bait to mimic a blueback and if you can make the fish think that it’s a blueback skipping across the surface and having some kind of blueback seizure the fish definitely react to it.

Once again, the way I used this bait was in the smaller chop areas of the main lake and the creek, both points and humps. If I felt like the chop wasn’t large enough to fool the fish with the bigger Choppo, I broke out the Z-dog. I used either one or the other depending on the size of the chop. I really utilized the Spot lock this week in the wind and I didn’t move around quite as frequently, mainly because it wasn’t blazing hot and I had good wind to work with.

Two other baits that I caught a few fish on this week was the Emerald Popper and the little Duo Realis G-fix 80 Spybait. I’ll probably talk about the spybait a little more next week because I’m pretty sure that bite is going to kick in very soon.

Water temps are in the low 80’s and the lake is hovering around full pool. The Corps is generating during the high power usage times, usually late afternoon and into the evening. Lots of summer boat traffic out there so be safe. Here’s a few pictures from my more memorable fish this week.

The Law of Averages

Shortly after I checked into boot camp almost 40 years ago…to the day, our Company Commander (the equivalent to a Drill Seargent) sat us down for a little chat one evening. There was about 75 of us sitting cross-legged on the floor of a gathering room in the barracks and the Company Commander told us about the “Law of Averages”. Something I haven’t forgotten, and I apply it to everyday life still to this day. Our Company Commander explained to us that out of the 75 of us sitting on the floor, in the next 8 weeks someone’s immediate family member would die, and they would have to leave bootcamp to mourn with their family and attend a funeral. For that reason, one of us would be set back and graduate at a later date because of the time missed to go back home. He said that it was the law of averages and it always happened. Guess what, he was right, about halfway through bootcamp, sure enough, one of our shipmates mother had passed and he had to leave for 10 days. We never saw him again and I learned a lesson in the “Law of Averages”. It never fails.

This week was fast and furious for me. It’s been hot and I’ve shifted gears into my early summer topwater milk run, averaging over 30 stops in a day right now. The law of averages says that out of 6 hours of fishing and 30+ stops, I’m going to put fish in the boat. It never fails. I’m probably spending 10 minutes or less at each stop, trying to stay cool and hydrated in the warmer part of the day. Moving around frequently helps stay cool and as far as the fishing goes, I usually know within a couple minutes if the stop is going to produce. It’s just a matter of throwing my little walking bait out just as far as I can and walking it back over brush to lure a fish or a school to my bait. It’s been tricky but I figured out a way to up my success and its pretty much textbook what I wrote last fall in one of my topwater reports. I included a link to the report because it explains exactly what I’m doing now with the little Azuma Z-dog to catch my fish. here’s the link below. It fits this week to a T.

https://castawayblog.com/2021/10/15/shake-and-bake-in-the-chop/

I started this week with my last Azuma Z-dog walking bait on Tuesday after the holiday festivities during Memorial Day weekend. I didn’t get out on the lake over the weekend, and I was anxious to get back out for some topwater this week. I’ve been diligent about checking my line and taking good care of my last little z-dog but Tuesday morning it happened, and I lost my last Z-dog in the Casper shad pattern. I dug around in the tacklebox and found a similar bait in the little 4-inch Sexy Dawg. The sexy dawg was translucent and that was one of the key factors in success this week. The fish were just a little too smart for the solid colors so you I had to trick them with translucents. It’s pretty common with Lanier when the water gets gin clear, I have the best success with the clearer topwater baits. It’s mainly because the fish can’t quite figure it out and he keeps after in instead of moving on and not committing to it. Another aspect of my success this week was the cadence of the bait and making the fish think it’s the real deal without letting the fish analyze the bait too much. I explained the cadence in the link above and once again, it’s helped me put fish in the boat. The sexy dawg was the perfect replacement, and I really didn’t skip a beat until I lost my only sexy dawg yesterday afternoon when I was out with my buddy Steve. Before I lost it though, it accounted for my 2 biggest fish of the day and also most of the fish yesterday. I gotta say that the clear sexy shad pattern for the sexy dawg did the trick. Here’s a few fish it accounted for this week.

After I dropped Steve off yesterday afternoon the boat traffic was getting pretty bad, but I wanted to try one more bait that I’ve had good success with this time of year and that’s the Berkley Choppo. I had it sitting out on the deck of my boat and I had planned to make some casts with it during the day. The wind was hit and miss yesterday but I stopped at a point on the way back home yesterday and on the first cast with the Choppo, I was rewarded with a nice 3lber. On the very next cast it was the same result with a smaller fish, but those 2 fish told me it was a pattern, so I ran with it for another hour yesterday afternoon and probably caught another 6-7 fish just running points with or without wind. The Choppo did the trick yesterday afternoon. One other little pattern I had some success with this week was the drop shot. What little bit I did the drop shot, it produced a few fish. The drop shot is going to get much better over the next few weeks. I still haven’t found a good spybait bite yest but that’s a thermocline deal and the thermocline is still setting up. The lake is at full pool and the Corps is generating during peak usage from afternoon into evening. The bite seems to be hot first thing in the morning and then again in the hottest part of the day. Water temps are in the low 80’s.

Mooning the Lincoln

First off, an apology is probably in order up front as this story may offend a few folks, but you need to understand the time period and also the crazy nature of being young and being assigned to a Navy F-14 Tomcat fighter squadron at Miramar, Ca., home of Top Gun. I’ll just have to spit ball the exact time this happened as I just can’t remember the date, but the year was probably 89-90. At the time I had been assigned to a tomcat fighter squadron at Naval Air Station Miramar, Ca. for a few years and I had a few pretty good friends who, like me, loved to fish. There were about 5-6 of us in the squadron who were always trying to figure out a way to wet a line. A friend of mine, Oscar, was in my squadron and an avid fisherman. He had spent some time working down at North Island Naval Air Base which was south of Miramar and right on the waters of San Diego Bay. San Diego Bay was a pretty vast area, running for miles and the bay itself held a submarine fleet as well as leading to 32nd street where most of the Navy ships were stationed when in port. It also led to the pier at North Island where the big aircraft carriers docked when in port. North Island was a very large base and there was a little military recreation/rental shop on the water where sailors and Marines could rent small fishing boats and fish in San Diego Bay. The boats were little 14-foot Boston Whalers which were docked right at the rental center, and you had to pass a Coast Guard administered test to rent the boat. Once you took the Coast Guard “rules of the water” exam and passed you were issued a laminated card issued by the Coast Guard which was your license to rent a Whaler without taking the exam again. Oscar had the license and he and I fished the bay quite frequently. Sometimes there would be 3 of us as our other friends Steve, Lucky or Frank would jump in the boat with us from time to time.

The bay had very good fishing and when we went fishing in the bay it was all about table fare. We were usually targeting Sand Bass, Calico Bass, Halibut and Sculpin. All were very edible, and a nice big Halibut would go a long way for our meals back at the house, so we liked to target Halibut, dragging big 2-3-ounce root beer Scampi rigs on the sandy bottom of the bay. The picture below was taken by Oscar during one of our fishing trips in the bay. A beach on the south end of the airstrip at North Island is in the background and we were near the mouth of San Diego Bay. We had a mixture of fish including a nice big Halibut, sand bass and sculpin that afternoon and you can see a little bit of our old rental Whaler with a little 25hp Johnson tiller on the back. I was in my late 20’s when this picture was taken.

There were restricted areas of the bay that were off limits to recreational boats and there was a floating bait barge nearer to the mouth of the bay. The bait barge was a regular stopping point for the charter boats and longer-range fishing boats so they could stock up on bait. There was a small submarine base in the bay, and it was one of those restricted areas we couldn’t be around. Often times when we were fishing the bay, we would watch Navy SEAL’s working with dolphins or sea lions and training for all kinds of different scenarios. The SEAL’s had special boats with access doors on the gunnel and the dolphins or sea lions would jump into the boat and hitch a ride with the SEAL boats from location to location. The dolphins and sea lions were the equivalent of a trained military K9, and they worked with the SEAL teams often, training in the bay. Frank and I made friends with a Navy SEAL while we were stationed in San Diego but when they were out in the bay working, we didn’t get near them.

Most of the times that Oscar and I fished together, there was a third in the boat. My good friend Frank was probably the one that went with us most. Frank was an electrician in our shop, and he and I rented a house together in the suburbs of San Diego. Frank was from Brooklyn and he and I were stationed together in San Diego, then again in Louisiana. Next was Steve. I met Steve not long after checking into the squadron. Steve was like me; an aviation electrician and he like to fish. Steve was from San Diego, and he knew the area pretty well. Steve and I became good friends and like Frank, Steve and I were stationed together in San Diego, then again, later in Louisiana. Steve and I were close, and we spent a lot of time together in Ca. as well as Louisiana. We had a lot of fun times together, both in San Diego and in Louisiana, but Steve’s wife passed suddenly, shortly after they were transferred to Louisiana and Steve’s life changed dramatically. At times, he wasn’t the same person I knew in San Diego, and after his wife’s passing, I worried about Steve a lot. In some ways, it seemed like a part of Steve was lost with the loss of his wife. We eventually parted ways after I moved to the Atlanta area, and he moved back out west. I learned of Steve’s passing a few years back and I just wonder if Steve found happiness again before his passing. He was a good friend and I miss him.

Another guest that Oscar and I had from time to time was “LT” or Lieutenant Dave “Lucky” Lopez. He was our Maintenance officer and the squadrons liaison between the enlisted folks like me and the pilots. LT was a fisherman and really enjoyed going out with us in the Whaler. LT was also an excellent fly fisherman and we wet a line together a few times in the mountain streams of Oregon while on detachment to a small Air National Guard base in central Oregon. LT had a hard job in the squadron and many times I saw LT go toe to toe with the pilots, making sure us enlisted guys were well taken care of. We worked very hard to maintain our jets and there was a balance between being overworked and successfully completing our mission without accidents. Believe me, there were accidents in the squadron. Our squadron had a reputation for accidents, and I just have to shake my head at some of the loss of life in that squadron. Everything from fishing boat accidents to crashing jets, it brought new meaning to the phrase “work hard, play hard”. When I got to the squadron, they had just returned from a 2-week detachment to the Nevada desert where 5 of the squadron maintenance personnel rented a fish boat at a marina on a large lake near our air base. Somehow the boat capsized in the wind and the 5 fishermen in the squadron swam for shore. Only 2 made it back. Shortly after I checked in, our squadron crashed one of our jets and the “RIO” or back-seater was killed in the crash. The pilot survived the crash, but the passing of the RIO was another life lost while I was in the squadron. It was a tough squadron to be in, the work was very very hard, and LT was the ringmaster for the whole show.

From time-to-time LT would join Oscar and I on a fishing trip out in the bay. We always had a few cocktails and LT would indulge during our fishing trips. Even though LT was an officer and there were some unwritten rules about fraternization between officers and enlisted folks, but LT really like hanging out with us fishermen in the squadron. He was one of us out in the boat and we treated LT just like another fisherman. During my first year in the squadron my dad came out to San Diego for a visit, and I set us up for a multi-day offshore fishing trip. It was Oscar, LT, myself and my dad on the trip and we had a blast. My dad and LT got along great together while we fished all day, played cards and drank bourbon at night. My dad would tell the story of that trip for years afterwards and he had quite a fond memory of LT. This was LT was holding up a Pacific Sheepshead and my dad was taking a picture of me taking a picture of LT.

There was one particular memory that has always been a favorite of mine and I’ve never really shared it with anyone till now but I feel it may be appropriate for a Memorial Day memory and I don’t think LT would mind a bit. I think the year was 89 and the USS Lincoln had just been brought into service as the newest aircraft carrier in the fleet. The Lincoln’s homeport was San Diego, and the San Diego area was very proud of the newest addition to the area and Pacific fleet. The USS Lincoln was a “Nimitz” class aircraft carrier which basically meant it was big. When it came into the San Diego Bay it got a lot of attention, both on the water and on the shore. The shoreline would be lined with people wanting to watch the big carrier come into the bay and pass right by the city itself. The bay police on the water would guard the massive carrier when it came into the bay and tugboats would help to steer the massive ship if needed. The bay police were on big Zodiac type boats, and they made sure that no recreational boats got near the carrier as it came through the bay. There were also trained Navy personnel with weapons on the carrier to watch anything the bay police might miss but it’s a big deal when the carrier comes in.

It just so happened that myself, Oscar and LT happened to be fishing in the bay when the Lincoln came back into port from a highly publicized 3-week mission off the coast of South America. The operation was a success, and the return of the brand-new USS Lincoln was a big deal in the area. As the Lincoln came into the bay there were news helicopters circling above and water cannons going off around the carrier from the fire boats in the bay. The flight deck of the carrier was lined with sailors in their dress whites as the carrier passed through the bay. We were fishing just inside the bay as the massive Lincoln entered the bay at high tide.

I gotta say this about the moment the big carrier pass by our little Whaler in the bay. The carrier was majestic, and the moment was very surreal as the carrier came by. It was almost completely silent as it came by, with the only sound being the low drumming hum of the big motors turning the giant propellers to move the massive floating city. I was standing on the bow of the boat with LT in the middle and Oscar at the stern as the carrier passed us. I could see the men lining the edge of the flight deck and I could see their black neckerchiefs and bellbottoms blowing the same direction in the wind. At the time, there were no women allowed on the carrier and it was all a bunch of dudes in dress whites just looking down at us fishermen. That’s when it happened, I was living in my best patriotic moment with a tear in my eye when LT just turned around and dropped trial right there in the Whaler. LT gave those sailors standing silently and motionless at parade rest on the flight deck a show they really didn’t expect. I think at that point, Oscar and I followed suit and dropped trail also. Here were 3 guys in a small fishing boat mooning our shipmates as they passed by in the bay. I’m sure those guys were hoping for topless ladies in tiny bikinis and LT made sure we got their attention by yelling and a few gyrations during the exhibition. It was one of the funniest moments of my Navy career and something I’ve never forgotten. I’ve stood on the flight deck of aircraft carriers as they came into the San Diego Bay, and I’ve seen the bay from the flight deck perspective often but there’s only been one time that I’ve seen an aircraft carrier from a Boston Whaler while exposing my backside to a bunch of sailors. It was a hilarious moment, and it was our fishing friend LT that made those kinds of moments for us. There was never a dull moment with LT.

LT was a great friend and a great fisherman who helped bring some great memories to my life during his time on this earth, but LT lost his life in a vehicle accident during a short squadron detachment to an Air Guard base in Ore. It was devastating to our fighter family and especially us fishermen in the squadron.

I remember attending LT’s memorial service at the chapel on base. It was standing room only and the crowds spilled out of the church. LT was single and I believe there were no fewer than 3 dozen pretty women in attendance. LOL… (LT could charm the ladies and usually provided the entertainment for the Officers Club at Miramar).

At the end of LT’s memorial service at Miramar these were the last words spoken during his eulogy. Most referred to LT as “Lucky” but he was “LT” to us fishermen and enlisted guys in the squadron.