The Silver Cat Magnum at work.

My friend and B’n’M pro angler David Magness putting the new Silver Cat Magnum Rod to work.

Old Hickory Tilapia

I could not stop myself from heading out to Old Hickory Lake, to chase those darn Tilapia, on Saturday morning. I had the pleasure of fishing with a father and son duo who just wanted to catch a few fish. They were not disappointed.

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We left flippers at about 630 am and were fishing by 645 am. The bite was steady but not frantic like it will be after a couple weeks of cold weather. The high point of the day was a 3.4 pound Tilapia.

We were giving my B’N’M crappie wizard spinning rods a test drive, and they passed with flying colors.

Ethanol: Is it really all doom and gloom?

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A quick search about ethanol will wield you plenty of doom and gloom results. Basically ethanol has gained a reputation as the end of all small engines as we know it. It will just destroy your boat motor if you even park next to an E10 pump according to the internet. The truth is that E10 ethanol is not the destructive beast that we may or may not think it is.

What is ethanol? Ethanol is an alcohol fuel that’s distilled from plant materials, such as corn and sugar. Alcohol fuels have been around for years, typically mixed with gasoline in a blend. It all sounds good, environmentally sound, and good for farmers. Honestly in modern 4 stoke motors there is no cause for concern with E10 fuel. There are a few times that E10 can give boaters issues.

First is the initial transition from 100% gas to E10. Obviously the alcohol in E10 is basically a solvent. That means during the initial transition you can experience plugged filters due to the E10 actually cleaning the fuel system. The solution is to watch your fuel filter and maybe keep a spare handy. After a tank or two this problem will go away. Going back and forth between 100% gas and E10 can cause this potential problem to re manifest itself.

Second is called phase separation. This happens when the Alcohol absorbs any water that is in the tank and causes the gas and ethanol to separate. This can only happen if you have excessive water in your fuel system. When this occurs, for whatever reason, the solution is to drain the tank. The alcohol in E10 does a fabulous job for removing small amounts of water in normal operations.

Third and last is the issue that we can control. Long term storage of E10 is just not a good idea because there is no additive made to stop E10 from absorbing and Condensation that occurs and over time we end up with phase separation as discussed above. There are two great ways to avoid this potential issue. First is just fish all the time! Second,and more Realistic, you will want to avoid storing your boat for an extended period of time without draining the fuel.

As you can see the downsides of E10 are not so much different than 100% gas. Its all about proper boat maintenance and common sense fuel management. For those of us fortunate enough to fish all year long E10 presents no issues beyond the initial transition.

As hard as it may be to believe for some of us tenured boat owners to believe there are upsides to E10. These are both mechanical and economical in nature.

First on the economical end of the spectrum E10 is a great help to farmers. A study conducted in Minnesota revealed a 2- million dollar increase in domestically grown corn for ethanol. That’s a single state seeing millions of dollars in additional agriculture related revenue.  Also the cost of E10 fuel is much less than 100% gasoline, and I could burn a lot of extra fuel in my truck just trying find a station that sells pure gas.

Second are most, not all, boats get better fuel economy with the E10 over 100% gas. When running E10 you do benefit from a cleaner fuel system due to the cleansing attribute of ethanol.

The bottom line here is that a majority of modern 4 stroke marine motors can see a benefit from E10. Both Mercury and Yamaha make it clear that the newer motors are totally E10 friendly. Now the new E15 is another column but the truth is simply don’t do it!

Small Stream Fishing

 

DSC_0004When most people talk about bass fishing they are referring to one of the many great big lakes available to fisherman today. Although big waters do offer some fine fishing they do not hold the patent on good bass fishing. They do hold many fisherman, water skiers, jet ski’s and pleasure boaters. If you’re fishing on the weekend you can find it more akin to a dirt track race than a peaceful fishing trip.

Here in the volunteer state we are blessed to be within an hour’s drive of some really fine bass fishing, via the network of small streams and rivers, from just about anywhere. In fact some of these streams run through major metro areas and receive very little fishing pressure. Don’t be fooled that since the streams don’t get a lot of fishing pressure that they are easy pickings. Although there are lots of fish they are far from easy to catch, so to fish them you better play you’re “A game.”

The first thing you must learn is since most of these streams tend to be low and gin clear you must learn to cast not only on target but also with minimal false casting.

Rod selection is up for debate here. There are some who preach the shorter the rod the better. Now use a Sage Motive 7wt myself.  It’s nearly ten feet long but really doesn’t hinder my casting too much. A shorter rod would be handy in some spots but I find that accurate casting is much easier with a longer rod. I choose a 7wt over a 6wt because it enables me to cast some of the larger flies with ease.

Lines are pretty much your standard weight forward floater, but I do keep a sink tip in my vest in case I run into a deep stretch of river that calls for my fly to get down deep. Leaders are ultra important in a small stream. Long tends to be better due to the combination of clear water and spooky fish. Try to use the smallest diameter you can get away with. I have recently started using the fluorocarbon leaders because they are tough as nails and literally disappear in the water.

Reels are pretty much up to the angler. After all, the reel is just a device to hold the line. That said if you happen to hook into a really big river smallmouth you will wish you had a drag system, so its up to you. I used an inexpensive Cortland reel with great success for years. I ended up losing some good fish and upgraded to the Tibor “Tailwater”  series of reels that have a drag system and have not looked back once. Waders are optional unless you choose to fish all year rather than just during the summer.

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Fly selection is directly related to the type of food sources in a given stream. Since most river dwelling fish like Bass, pickerel, musky and the smallmouth are predators and eat basically anything that won’t eat them first, you have to choose your fly based in what’s living in the stream. The one thing you can almost always count on is that the river/stream fish eat lots of crawdads, so a menu that’s a bit Cajun will nearly always catch you fish. That means stream and river fish have a diet that primarily consists of crayfish. Now they still eat minnows and shad but they eat a lot, and I mean a lot of crayfish. It would be prudent, if you intend to use crayfish patterns, to catch some crayfish and look at them as they molt several times a year and the hot color can change in a matter of days.

Some other good selections include minnow imitating flies such as a Deceiver, Clouser Minnow, and light colored Woolly Buggers. If you find a stream with a good population of shad the Whitlock’s Waker Shad is really hard to beat and I have also used the Seaducer with good results. Shad patterns generally consist of lots of silver and grey colors. If you find some streams with really slow moving water it will most likely hold plenty of frogs. When I stumble on a high frog population I love to fish a frog colored popper close to the shore. Any self-respecting bass will hammer a frog that has ventured too far from the safety of shore. Once the dog days of summer get here a hopper  is a must. Grasshoppers are another staple in a fish’s diet.

Fish in a stream still relate to structure in the same manner of their lake dwelling kin but they also relate to different structure. A stream fisherman must pay attention to the water more so than when fishing a large impoundment. The sheer fact the water is moving creates a new kind of, not only structure, but hiding places as well. Look for places where the river or streams have eaten out the shoreline below the water level also, instead of looking for riprap, find the gravel shoals.

When you’re approaching pools of slower water your better fish will be in what’s called the tail of the pool, where the water runs out of the pool. Don’t overlook the head of the pool, just be aware that bigger fish will lie at the tail out and feed on the plankton as it drifts by. In the faster stretches of water pay close attention to large structure like trees or boulders. They create an eddy or piece of slack water where fish will rest to avoid the current.

Stealth is of utmost importance when fishing small streams and rivers. These places are small and generally very quiet so to be successful you must move slow and be very quiet yourself. A good way to judge how fast your fishing is when you think you’re fishing and moving slow enough you’re probably going too fast. If you’re wading be especially stealthy and don’t make excessive waves in the water.

Pay close attention to your clothing as well. Those bright colored fishing shirts you can get in town are not what you need to be using. Earth tones or dull clothing is best. Give the streams and rivers a shot and you won’t be disappointed. They are not crowded, have no bass tournaments, no jet skis or houseboats. They do have beautiful scenery, lots of wildlife, and offer peace which is hard to come by in our fast paced lives.

ACT Challenge at Grenada Lake

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OK sports fans the inaugural season of the American Crappie Trail is now officially a wrap. The ACT Challenge at Grenada lake was held this weekend, and what an event it was. This was a “Match Fishing” style event where the fish were weighed and released immediately, no live wells needed. Matt Morgan wanted to have an event while being able to promote conservation on this great lake. I would love to see more of these type events.

Four teams came from around the United States to fish. There was no money other than a fruit jar for this event. These teams all came because it was a grudge match. They have been fishing against each other all year and it was time to see who were the big dogs.

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Morgan and Watson came from Indiana to fish.

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The Team of Bullock and Bryant made the trip in from Missouri.

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Its hard to have a crappie tournament without the Team of Capps and Coleman from Tennessee.

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Finally the Outlaws from South Carolina came in. Whitey and Matt are a father and son team that are together for the 2018 Season. Both are prolific tournament anglers with to many wins to list but, this will be their first season together.

The event was broken down into two sessions. The morning session was great for most of the teams except for Capps and Coleman who struggled out of the gate. The second session was a little different story and Capps and Coleman started catching good fish. It appeared there might be a comeback in the making. That’s when the bite just died.

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When all the boats were put in the trailers for the season, and the weights were added up, the B’N’M poles team of Whitey and Matt Outlaw became the ACT Challenge at Grenada Lake winners!DSC_0111

I don’t want to reveal many more of the details as you can tune into the American Crappie Trail TV show in January to see the whole 2017 season. The first episode will be this event. The show will air on the Pursuit Channel, Fox Sports South and Fox Sports Mid-West.

Destination: Tennessee and the Caney Fork River

hat  As I netted the final Caney Fork Rainbow Trout of the day, in near total darkness, I wondered if anyone realized what a positive impact the TVA has had on coldwater fishing in Tennessee. In 1933 President Roosevelt, as part of his New Deal initiative, signed a bill creating the Tennessee Valley Authority. The TVA was created to help fill the demand for hydroelectric power in the Tennessee Valley. Dams were built and thus rivers called “tailwaters or “tailraces” were formed. These rivers are supplied a steady flow of cold water drawn from the bottoms of numerous lakes. The water flows through the hydroelectric generators and is discharged into the tailwaters, creating a prime habitat for both Rainbow and Brown Trout.

This river, a tail water of Center Hill Lake, is currently managed by the TWRA and provides some of the finest trout fishing that Tennessee has to offer. Although most of the time these rivers look like gently rolling waters they can very quickly change to fast moving very dangerous watersheds. In order to fish the Caney Fork one has to first understand what happens when the TVA has the generators on. Once the generators come on they start forcing a large volume of water into the river. This causes the river to gain speed and rise very rapidly during generation. Prior to fishing the river you must consult the generation schedule put out by the TVA. This can be accessed at the TVA website. A wading fisherman does not want to get caught in the water during generation, a boat is usually rather safe. If your going to wade fish the Caney Fork it would be advisable to drop in and visit Jim Mauries at FLYSOUTH, Nashville’s premier fly fishing resource. They can help you in choosing a good window to fish. The water does not instantly take over the river so you can fish certain areas longer than others when generation is happening.

Access Points

There are three primary public access points in the river, the dam at Center hill, Happy Hollow, and Betty’s Island. If you’re planning on floating the river there is boat access at all three locations. Floating from the Dam to Happy hollow is about 6 miles and will take the fisherman 5 to 8 hours depending on how much you stop to fish. When the generators turn on the water levels at happy are not affected for an hour. So if the generators come on at 7 you wont see the water until around 8.  The float from Happy Hollow to  Betty’s Island is about 3 miles and is a good half-day float. During generation water takes about three hours to get to Betty’s. There are plenty of wade able water accessible at all three locations. Along the river there are other access point but you need to insure your not trespassing on private property before you park or your vehicle might get towed, thus ruining a fine day on the water.

 

Fishing Methods

Although you will see plenty of bait or power bait anglers on the river, especially at the damn, don’t overlook the fly rod or the spinning gear. If you are a Fly Fishing aficionado’ make sure you bring along some sow bugs and scuds. Large streamers like wooly buggers are great when thrown at the numerous trees and logs on the river.

 

If spin fishing is your forte then try inline spinners like Mepps or rooster tails in the 1/8 ounce range. Three go to colors for the Caney are white, black, and olive. Don’t be afraid to try some small crank baits in the deeper runs as they produce a respectable amount of fish on the river. Stay with a quality line in the four-pound range. Anything larger will reduce your number of hook ups, the clear monofilament by Stren works well for me.

Although bait fishing is a legal method of fishing the Caney there is really no reason to do it. This river is quality tail water that readily offers fish on flies, spinners and crank baits. Don’t forget that this fishery didn’t get to its current level by accident. There are regulations and following them will help insure the future of the river. If you observe people taking more than the legal limit you can call 800-241-0767. Information such as the individual’s name, if possible, a good description will do though, vehicle tag number or description, nature and location of the offense will greatly assists the TWRA in apprehending wildlife poachers. If your after a trophy and manage to catch one please consider a fiberglass replica rather than having the actual fish mounted. Fiberglass runs about the same price as an actual mount, and allows the better fish to live to fight another day. All you need for a replica is a photo, preferably both sides, length, and three girth measurements.

Guided Fishing Trips

If a guided trip is more up your alley or you only have one day and want a good chance at catching fish you can contact Jim at Fly South for information on booking a trip. They also rent gear if you don’t have the things you need.

 

If and when you do take the trip to the Caney Fork do not forget your camera. This  river is one of the most scenic in the state. It is home to an abundance of wildlife and you will see them at some point. Deer, Turkey, Ducks and a host of small game will be your company on the river.

 

The future of Archery depends on our children.

 

DSC_0041 (1)In 35 years of bowhunting the one thing that never ceases to amaze me is that bowhunters are the worst people to help get some “started” in archery. Now once a person knows how to shoot and has the basic archery skill set a bowhunter is always a good resource. By starting I mean someone who has never ever held a bow but has an interest. This might be your spouse, kids, or coworker. There are some things we can all do to assist and mentor new folks into the sport.

Your bow is not the best bow – Ok I am sure this hurts most of us but, it’s a fact your bow will probably not be the best bow for a beginner. It may very well be the best bow for you but your 1000.00 bow, 600.00 worth of sight, quiver, limb savers and stabilizer is yours. It fits you, you can draw it comfortably, and much like a fly rod it’s a very personalized tool. Remember when helping a beginner that they are probably not going to enjoy pulling a 70-pound bow for very long. Make sure you steer them to a bow that fits them, they can pull, and one they actually like. If your daughter like pink camo bows let her have a pick camo bow, we all know pink camo only works on flamingos but being happy is a big part of archery.

Your accessories are yours not theirs – My sons are living proof that my stuff does not work for anyone but me, at least not very well. I shoot a handheld release and my leftie is just not comfortable shooting that. My sight pins are tiny and have a light but my oldest can’t see them, even in daylight, and the light blinds him. We went to the local pro shop and they shot several releases until the found one they liked, same with sights they picked their own.

Your Brand choice might not be theirs– Luckily everyone in my home has a Bear Archery Product that fits them and that the enjoy shooting. When it comes to kids and smaller framed adults the ability to have a large range of draw weight adjustment is paramount. The muscles used to draw a bow change from setting to standing and they are not muscles most people use daily. A new shooter will want to adjust their draw weight as they develop these muscles. The ability to adjust your draw length at home is generally a plus as well. A beginner has no clue to where or how they are going to anchor until they have actually shot the bow so you will, as a rule need to make an adjustment or two in the early stages.

It does not take a 70-pound bow hunt most big game– As a bow hunter education instructor this was a myth we has to dispel very often. If you hand a new shooter a bow that’s too heavy there are a couple thing that WILL happen.

  1. They will struggle to draw the bow and it will cease to be interesting very fast.
  2. They will develop very bad habits to try to compensate for the excessive weight.

Remember an accurate shooter with a 45-55 pound bow is always more lethal than a shooter with a 70-pound bow they hate to draw.

Work is never fun– If you make shooting to much like work through improper equipment and excessive draw weight it won’t be fun. If archery is not fun then a new potential archer won’t grow into a bowhunter. I try to stay away from 3D targets in the beginning. Large colorful bag targets, for kids ones with dart boards and games, are perfect visual aids. I say large targets because a beginner does not want to spend ½ the time trying to dig arrows out of the grass.

Range is key – Yes I can in fact shoot out past 50 yards all day long with my Bear Archery Domain. My kids not only can’t but they should not be attempting those shots in the beginning. Start at 10 and move new archers out to realistic hunting ranges. Once a new shooter can hit what they aim at a 3D range is the next step.

 

Never forget than an archer is not a bowhunter. A beginner has to learn, and like, archery before they can morph into a bow hunter. Some people, like my daughter will probably never take that step but she enjoys archery and the family fun that can be had with sticks and strings.