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Entries in fishing books (225)

Thursday
Jun012017

B.A.S.S. Celebrates 50th Anniversary of First Tournament

A half-century ago, when Ray Scott of Montgomery, Ala., wanted to entice outdoor media to cover his upcoming press conference, he didn’t soft-sell the event.

He invited the journalists to meet him in Springdale, Ark., and learn about “The Biggest, Most Important Happening In Bass Fishing History.”

The “happening” was the All-American Bass Tournament on Beaver Lake, Arkansas, an event many mark as the beginning of the modern era of bass fishing. The tournament was held June 5-7, 1967 — 50 years ago next week. The tournament was successful enough to launch the professional fishing careers of Bill Dance, Stan Sloan, Don Butler and others, and it inspired Scott, an insurance salesman turned promoter, to conduct a “tournament trail” of events across the country.

And it spawned the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society — B.A.S.S. for short — which would grow into the world’s largest fishing organization with more than 500,000 members and a magazine, Bassmaster, currently read by 4.5 million people each month.

Bassmaster’s June issue marks the milestone of tournament fishing with a cover story written by Bob Cobb, who contributed greatly to the All-American’s success.


In Why We Fish, I documented the  impact that B.A.S.S. has had on every aspect of sport fishing, from tackle, boats, and equipment to conservation and catch-and-release. Here's an excerpt from "The B.A.S.S. Factor":

“I remember a B.A.S. tournament on (Oklahoma’s) Lake Eufaula in the early 1970, when I was in high school,” said B.A.S.S. Conservation Director Gene Gilliland. “Roland Martin won it.

“Afterward, he and Forrest Wood (founder of Ranger Boats) sat out on the dock and talked about how to make livewells better to keep fish alive. The tournament environment, I think, spawned a lot of innovations, especially in boat design and safety features for both the occupants and the fish.

“Maybe they would have shown up anyway eventually,” he continued. “But their development was sped up by tournaments and they became available to the public sooner.”

Kill switches, boat hulls, electronics, trolling motors, trailers, and tow vehicles are but a few additional items that owe their current state of development to B.A.S.S. and its professional anglers. Others include specialized rods, reels, baits, lines, tackleboxes, sunglasses, and clothing.

“If my granddaddy could see the equipment today, he wouldn’t believe it,” Bill Dance said. “He just wouldn’t believe what fishing has become.”

Roland Martin added, “So many of us now are on design staffs. The tackle and marine industry use us for a lot of different things, but especially research and development.”

Sunday
May282017

What Is Life All About? Go Fishing and Find Out

A friend once told me that when his father was questioned or criticized by his non-hunting friends about his fondness for fishing and hunting, he responded that his pursuits had “much more of an ecological integrity and a biological and cultural basis than their golfing or even attendance at professional sporting events.”

Those wise words have led me to the realization that fishing is just as important as a means as it is an end. Yes, fishing is synonymous with relaxation, catching fish, having fun, and spending time with friends and family. Those are all valuable “ends” that make life better.

But fishing also is the means by which we connect with both our humanity and nature as we pursue those ends. In the outdoors, only hunting and possibly farming are comparable.

Sure, running, biking, swimming, and playing tennis are healthful pastimes, as are hiking, kayaking, and a variety of other pursuits in nature. But none of them transport us so completely into the web of life as fishing and hunting. We might no longer fish or hunt to feed our families, but these pastimes takes us closer to what life is all about than anything else I can think of --- except for maybe getting lost in the wilderness or being pursued by a grizzly bear.

And in getting closer to what life is all about, we implicitly recognize our place in it and, as a consequence, are healthier and happier in our everyday existence.

What is life all about? Go fishing and find out.

From Why We Fish. Check it out, along with my other books, at Amazon.

Monday
May012017

Tribute to a Fishing Friend

We fished Venezuela's Guri Lake for peacock bass.Yes, we fish to catch fish. But one of the reasons that we keep fishing is because of the friends that we make and the memories that we share. That's especially true as we move into our "golden years."

That's certainly the case for me and my friend Norm Klayman.  Back in the mid 1980s, Norm caught what was then the Missouri state-record smallmouth bass, and I used him as a source for several magazine articles, including one entitled, "The Bassin' Dentist of Bull Shoals." We've been fishing together since.

Norm fillets Bull Shoals fish for me to take home.He lives less than a minute's drive from Pontiac Cove Marina on Bull Shoals, and I normally make the 4 1/2-hour drive to visit him and his wife, Sue, and go fishing two or three times a year. Also, he's filleted many bass, walleye, and crappie from that clean, clear water for me to take home, and he gave me my favorite recipe for fried fish.

We caught big lake trout on a cold, windy day on Manitoba's North Knife Lake Lodge, and then warmed up by the fire before lunch.We've also fished together in Canada, Costa Rica, Mexico, Venezuela, and the Florida Keys. I've learned much from his expertise. And we've caught  double-digit bass, tarpon, lake trout, northern pike, and peacock bass.

Tarpon on in the Florida Keys.

But what I treasure most is the time that we've spent on the water together and the memories that we've shared.

What prompted this tribute to fishing friends in general and my friend Norm specifically is that we recently had a great time catching smallmouth bass together on Bull Shoals.  For reasons not related to Norm and Sue, I had not visited them in much too long. Several years, in fact. Reunited, I realized both what I had missed and how valuable friends are, especially fishing friends.

Lunchtime margarita at Angler's Inn on Mexico's Lake El SaltoIf you're an angler, you know what I'm talking about. Yeah, we'd rather catch fish than not. But that's not what going fishing is all about.

Friday
Mar312017

You Just Never Know . . . 

While fishing for bass with a swim jig on Lake Kinkaid, Ryan Povoloish just caught this Illinois state record for crappie. It weighed 4 pounds, 8.8 ounces, surpassing the old mark of 4.5 set in 1976 on Rend Lake.

Back in 1992, Barry St. Clair caught this state record largemouth bass on Lake Fork while fishing for crappie with a shiner. It weighed 18.18 pounds. It's officially the only Texas bass to top 18 pounds.

When you go fishing, you just never know what you'll catch. That's one of the many reasons we go fishing. It's also one of the many reasons that I wrote Why We Fish. Here's an excerpt:

"Sadly, the snook weren’t biting. But a tarpon was. It ate my jig, nearly yanked the rod out of my hand, and then rocketed toward deep water. All I could do was hold on. I knew that I couldn’t stop the fish, no matter how skillfully I played it. I waded out into the water as far as I dared, knowing as I did so that it was a pointless gesture.

"But then the miraculous occurred, just as I looked down at my reel to see all of the line gone except for the knot."

Friday
Feb242017

Blame It on a Hula Popper . . . 

Its rubber skirt long ago dried up and crumbled into dust, but the old yellow Hula Popper remains one of my most prized possessions.

I haven’t fished with it in 40 years, and, as best I can remember, I caught only one bass with it.

But that one fish . . . well, it set the course that I have followed as a lifelong angler, including to my friendship with Sam Griffin, a lure designer and one of the world’s best topwater fishermen. That’s why I so love that Hula Popper.

Yet, I didn’t make the connection between that lure and my addiction to topwater fishing until I wrote an essay in my  book, Why We Fish.

As I started to write “The Proof Is in the Popper,” my intent was to point out that pleasant memories of previous trips are some of the main reasons that we fish. But then the essay took on a life of its own as I visualized that fall day on Turner’s pond so many years ago.

The water was flat calm, and I knew next to nothing about fishing a topwater. Since the bait was a “popper,” I popped it. In fact, I popped it as hard as I possibly could, sending ripples all across that pond.As the pond returned to glasslike following my second pop, water under the lure exploded, and I suddenly was tied fast to the biggest bass that I had ever hooked.

Of course, it wasn’t large enough to pull drag on my Johnson Century spincast reel. But at 3 pounds, it was a trophy in my eyes as I dragged it up on the bank. My heart nearly leaped out of my chest at the sight of that fish, and, after I put the fish on my rope stringer, I remember looking down to see my hands still shaking.

In the decades since, I’ve caught thousands of bass larger than the one that I caught that fall day, including more than a dozen that weighed 10 pounds or more. And I have caught some of those lunkers on Sam’s wooden surface baits, mostly the Offset Sam.

But I’ve never caught one that excited me more than that 3-pounder did. And as I wrote about that, I suddenly realized, hey, that’s why I like topwater so much!

How can a 3-pounder that I caught on top as a child mean more to me than 10-pounders that I’ve caught as an adult?

If you’ve ever returned to the elementary school that you went to as a child, you know that the halls, the rooms, the desks, everything looks smaller to you as an adult that it was in your memories. Well, it’s the same thing.

I have no doubt that if a 3-pound bass were to blow up on that Hula Popper today in exactly the same way as that one from my childhood, the explosion would pale in comparison to what I remember.

But just as school is larger in our memories than in the reality of adulthood, so too is that strike.

That’s why I’d rather throw a topwater than anything else.  I remember how that blowup excited me, and I want more, in much the same way that an addict needs his fix.

And that’s why I’m so blessed to have Sam as a friend. It’s as if some higher power led the student to his teacher. For years, Sam made baits for Luhr Jensen, including the Jerk’n Sam. Now he makes his own line, including the Offset Sam, a slush bait, and the Lil’ Richard, a finesse lure that has been his biggest seller.

“Keep throwing a topwater and eventually you will get bit,” says the man who has been designing and making topwater lures for more than 30 years and who has been living on and fishing Lake Okeechobee for most of his 70-plus years.  While guiding and “field testing” his lures, he has logged more time on the water than most any professional bass fisherman.

“My big things are to be confident and have patience. I’ll fish behind people throwing worms and crankbaits and catch fish they bypass. I like to fish that topwater slower and let ‘em read the menu.”

Sam’s Secrets

 Here are some of the strategies that Sam has shared with me during our time on the water together:

  • On topwaters, most fish are caught on the front hook. That means it is important to have a bigger, stronger hook there.
  • Dress up the back hook. Sam has learned that he gets 25 percent more bites when he puts pearlescent Mylar tinsel on the back hook. It’s especially productive when the bait is still.
  • The same topwater bait will work anywhere. “It’s a matter of confidence,” says Sam. “That’s why there are regional favorites.”
  • Slow down. “Most of the time, people fish a topwater too fast,” the lure designer says. “They’re just pulling and pulling. I’d say that 85 percent of the time, the bite comes when the bait is still or coming to a stop.”

With most topwaters, Sam will jerk the bait twice, creating slack in the line and allowing the bait to sit. Then he will swing the rod tip toward the bait, taking in line, and repeat the sequence. With a popper, he might jerk just once.

“Pay attention and fish will let you know what they want,” he says. “If you are fishing too fast, they will follow but not hit.”

  • “Early and late is a myth,” says Sam. “Those are not the only times to throw a topwater. People used to fish two or three hours before work and then come home and fish two or three hours. That’s the way that got started. I’ve found that 10 to 2 is the most productive time for big fish.”
  • Color is more important to the fisherman than it is the fish.

“When I develop a lure, I seal it so it won’t take on water, but I don’t paint it,” Sam explains. “Then I fish with it. I’ve probably caught more fish on those baits than with painted baits. I’ve sold a few like that too, but mostly they’re too bland for fishermen.

“I offer 26 colors, but black and white is what I use the most. It’s what I grew up with and what I have confidence in.”

  • Topwaters aren’t just for warm water.

“You can catch bass consistently on top in water that is 50 degrees or above,” the Florida native says. “Usually in colder water, you want to fish extremely fast or extremely slow, not in between.”

The popper is a good choice for colder water, he adds, because you can keep it in one place longer and because its tail sits down in the water, making it easier for the bass to take.

  • Topwaters aren’t just for calm water either.

“Take what the weather gives you,” says Sam. “In rough weather, you can throw in the ‘wind rows’ in grass. And you can throw in troughs between waves. Most of the time, you’ll want a faster retrieve in rough water, to take the slack out of your line.”

  • Not every topwater bite is explosive. In general, louder and larger baits will draw more aggressive bites. Smaller, more subtle baits will get the “suckers.”

“In cold weather and in calm water, when you’re using a small bait, it’s really important to watch your line, just like you would with other baits,” Sam says. “That’s because you’re more likely to get a sucking bite.

“With a soft, suck bite on the back of the bait, don’t set the hook hard,” he cautions. “Instead, lift up and reel. Otherwise you’ll pull the hook out. When you do get a fish this way, it’s usually hooked on the edge of the mouth or even the outside.”

If you want to incorporate some of Sam’s lures with his strategies, your best chance of finding them are in the bait shops around Lake Okeechobee. A few are listed from time to time on eBay and possibly you might find some at other websites as well.

Just as with that yellow Hula Popper, I’m not about to part with any of mine.