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Monday
Jul112016

A New Fishing Buddy

Ursa, my fishing buddy for 14 years, died in 2012.With the first anniversary of her death fast approaching, I decided I was finally ready for another canine fishing friend.

My original idea was to get a pup, or at least a dog no more than 6 months old. However, when I visited the pet adoption center today, I discovered only adult dogs were available. Disappointed, I decided to look at the animals anyway.

Seeing all those dogs in cages—barking, whining for affection, or cowering in the corners, made me want to cry. I’ve visited animal shelters before, but not since Ursa became my companion more than fourteen years earlier. Our relationship had changed me in a way I hadn’t realized, and I suddenly understood that many of these affection-starved dogs would never have a chance to enrich a human life the way Ursa had mine.

Pippa, an adult dog that I adopted from a shelter, is my new fishing buddy.From "A New Fishing Buddy" in Why We Fish.

Sunday
Jul102016

Robotic Casting Competition Explores Ways to Help Disabled Anglers, Honors Memory of Young Angler

 

Four years following his tragic death in a truck accident, Riley Laymon's vision endures with innovative ways to provide a brighter, more inclusive future for sport fishing.  In its latest endeavor, Riley's Catch sponsored a robotic casting competition for engineering students at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte.

"The four levels of competition were design, build, compete, and sell," said Bill Frazier, conservation director for the North Carolina B.A.S.S. Nation and the tie that binds it to Riley's Catch, a youth fishing club based in the Charlotte area. "It was not just some machine bouncing a ball or running an obstacle course. It provided a product connected to a real need from the beginning."

And that need is a casting device that can be mounted to wheelchairs, piers, or other props to help make fishing possible for the disabled. (Video on Riley's Catch Facebook page.)

"The one thing every team absolutely nailed was the need for fully or partially handicapped users," Frazier added. "They considered everything from Bluetooth to voice activation from both laptops and smart phones."

The 14 teams also factored in dexterity issues and even multiple rod options, as they competed for both accuracy and distance. With a cast of 106 feet, The Outcasters were declared the winner.

"Almost every team saw the ultimate best application and opportunity as a resource for wounded warriors," said the conservation director. "This really got my attention. Developed the right way, I can see these devices becoming a whole new outlet, and I can see a marriage with B.A.S.S. Conservation's lake enhancement projects."

And Riley would have liked that. Before his untimely death, he was working on a plan to start a fishing club at Weddington High School. In a letter to his favorite teacher, he wrote, "I think it would be cool to get our school and maybe some other schools to get teams for friendly competition. These guys that wanna help are both strong Christian men and are all for students getting out and fishing and think it's a good way to keep all of us out of trouble and have a good time."

Founded by his parents, Tom and Lisa, Riley's Catch "exists to empower students to live greater lives by using the outdoors in building strong hearts, minds, and bodies. "

Its four pillars are fun, friendship, faith, and fishing. For two years, it has sponsored the "Life of Impact Leadership Experience & Riley's Cup Fishing Tournament," which highlights creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and communication skills, along with mentoring by outdoor professionals.

"These are the same kids who hosted the state championship last year," Frazier said. "The group acquired a large YMCA camp, housed, and fed them (competitors) for the entire weekend. They even got youth teams from out of state to come visit. And their technology project was the film of the B.A.S.S.Trail project (habitat/fishing course at Oak Hollow) that is out there on YouTube."

Riley's Catch kids fish, he added, "but that is the least they do. They seek to engage young people at an early age and provide them with a platform to grow as individuals and citizens. They provide events that expose them to technology and mentors that show them how life is integrated and gives them opportunities to think about what they want to do and how to get there.

"They are not a traditional group. They are thinking much bigger."

Friday
Jul082016

Dangling Lures Invite Trouble

So . . . what ripped up this Rapala on my friend's dock? A northern pike? A bluegill on steroids?

No. In all likelihood, it was a raccoon that saw a shiny object dangling about 6 inches below the tip of the rod as it leaned on the railing.

What seems to have happened is that the animal eventually wrapped the line around one of the railing posts and that gave it enough leverage to pull the hooks out of the wooden bait. Of course, the two trebles probably still are embedded in the animal.

Don't leave lures or hooks dangling from the end of your fishing rods. When you do, you're just inviting trouble.

Thursday
Jul072016

Confidence a Critical Component for Angling Success

Every angler should have a confidence bait. Mine is a lipless crankbait, which is what I used to catch this 12-4 largemouth.

More specifically, it's a 1/4-ounce Cordell Spot, a lure that most anglers  wouldn't consider to be a "big fish" bait.  I wouldn't either. But when the bite is tough, as it was on this day, I go to my confidence bait, and, more often than you might suspect,  I get rewarded.

Why? I can't speak for others, but this is what I believe:

Using  a confidence bait gives you a psychological boost, and that’s important when the bite is slow--- maybe more important than the bait itself. It heightens your concentration and makes you more eager to fish. It makes you more attentive to where you are casting and to detecting subtle bites. In short, throwing a confidence bait makes you a better angler.

Secret: If you don’t have a confidence bait, work on developing a couple. You’ll be a better bass angler for it.

But also don’t forget that many, many variables play into whether a bass is going to bite your bait. Some we understand. Some we think that we understand. And some we don’t even know about. That watery world below the surface is so different from ours that we simply can not know it in the same way that we know our air environment.

Once in awhile, we really do catch bass because we have chosen the “right” bait. Other times, they hit because they are in an aggressive, feeding mode, or because we have found a concentration of fish that stirs itself into a competitive frenzy when a lure passes through. During such times, just about anything in your tackle box might work.

Secret: So, when you are catching bass on a confidence bait (or a new lure that you just bought at the store), pay attention to more than just what is tied on the end of your line, its color, and the way it moves in the water.  Look at water depth and clarity. Determine where the bites occur in relation to cover, structure, and current. Note the weather conditions and wind direction.

In other words, benefit from the “confidence” that throwing a favorite bait gives you, but also be smart enough to realize that bass probably aren’t biting it because it’s your favorite or because it is vastly superior to others. Likely, they are biting because of a complex combination of favorable variables, of which the lure is just one.

(The above is from my first book, Better Bass Fishing. It is filled with content that will make you a better angler, from revealing how weather affects fish and fishing to bass behavior, patterns, and techniques.  It's available at both Amazon and Barnes & Noble. But Amazon frequently sells out. My second book, Why We Fish, is more a celebration of the joy that fishing brings, but also contains information that can make you a better angler.)

Wednesday
Jul062016

Why I Fish And Why You Should Too

 

I was hooked the first time that I went fishing, even though I didn’t catch a fish. Just seeing another Cub Scout pull in a bluegill with a cane pole was enough for me.

Until well into my teens, I fished to catch fish. Period. I didn’t just love to fish. I lived to fish. 

That began to change in college, when I intuitively went fishing to relieve stress. But still I didn’t think about it. Nor, as a young outdoors writer, did it occur to me to wonder why when I met fishing guides, bass pros, and folks in the fishing industry. 

But then my best friends died in a tragic murder/suicide. If fishing didn't save my life in the aftermath of that, it--- at the very least--- preserved my sanity. For a year, it provided my only respite from thinking about the horrific way they died. Being on or along the water with a rod in my hand kept me tethered to the simple but profound pleasure of angling, allowing my mind to escape persistent mental visions of what their bloody bedroom must have looked liked. Eventually, the nightmares stopped and I healed. Still, I will need a "maintenance" dose of fishing to bring me peace and joy for the rest of my life.

Why? Fishing is good for me. In fact, if I may be so bold to say this, it's good for everyone.

Soldiers stationed in Iraq have shared with me that fishing over there made them feel closer to home. A father with an autistic child revealed how his son is happier on the water. And the organizer of a fishing event for children with terminal illness told me about how a little girl screamed with joy to feel the wind in her hair as she rode in a bass boat.

And now, with decades of experience, I've also come to realize that going fishing as an adult awakens in me so many wonderful memories of angling trips with friends and family when I was younger. With that hindsight, I understand that fishing is an evolutionary trip that begins with a youthful quest to keep and eat, and it ends with… Well, I’m not sure where it ends, since I’m still enroute.

What I do know is that these discoveries inspired me to write a book, Why We Fish: Reel Wisdom From Real Fishermen. As I recalled my days on the water as both an adult and a child, but especially the latter, I also recognized that fishing was something much more--- the gateway to a love and respect for nature and the outdoors. That, in turn, prompted a sequel, Fish, Frogs, and Fireflies: Growing Up with Nature, a book that many parents and a grandparents have told me that they share with their children as a way of motivating them to put down their electronic devices and go outside.

And, yes, the second inspired a third, Under the Bed: Tales From a Innocent Childhood, about life during a simpler time, when children needed no encouragement to go outside.

Still today, time spent out of doors takes me back to my childhood, even as it empties my mind as surely as if I were sitting with crossed legs on a mountain in the Himalayas.

Although I also enjoy canoeing, camping, and wildlife photography, fishing was my first love, and remains so. Nothing relaxes me like being on the water. For some reason I can’t explain, the worry synapses stop firing in my brain when I hold a rod, and my hands take over. My mind snaps to respectful attention and is right there with the rest of me on that lakeshore or in that boat, living in the now.

As I’ve come to consciously recognize this blessing the Angling Gods bestowed upon me, I’ve also realized the key to happiness— even survival—in the increasingly hectic pace of modern life is to participate regularly in an activity that frees the mind and restores the soul. Angling was given to us by a higher power for exactly that reason.