Saturday, March 27, 2010

Spring into Prime!

Next week we are looking at prime temperature increase mixed with a full moon on Tuesday. Tuesday and Wednesday could be the start of some prime time fishing. Just look at this weekly forecast. I dare say this is the best outlook in several months. The fish have been waiting for this just as much as anglers. Water temps will increase and a lot of species will become more active.

The Full Moon appears on Tuesday, which will draw out prime walleye fishing in the evening hours, but my guess is that water temps will reap the full benefit of this warm spurt on Wednesday. The only way to know for sure is to fish every second from Monday to Friday. If not for bills, responsibilities and financial self-preservation I would not show up for work at all this week.

(Above: Modified screen shot from 9News Weather. After back-to-back blizzards last week, this is almost unbelievable.)

If for some reason you have not spooled and re-spooled your reels a hundred times over as I have during this 5 month ice age reoccurrence, you may need to visit your tackle box and do some inventory. If you do have your gear ready and just waiting for an optimum time to start fishing…that time is now.

Disclaimer: This is Colorado afterall and even with 75 degrees forecast on Tuesday, we may see a storm that still brings two or three feet of snow anytime before the end of April.

Good luck and good fishing. Hit the water while the hittin' is good.

Gearing up for spring…for months now.

When it comes to Colorado weather folks just have to roll with the punches. This year has been a knock down drag out blizzard fest. Sun then snow and then more snow with 20 and 30 degree drops in air temp within a 2 or 3-day span. This has slowed my outings down a step but not stopped me from venturing out.

One thing that helps me get through the winter season (other than nearly killing myself on a few trout outings) is buying new fishing gear. Being a workaday slob with bills and no sponsors I am limited on what I can afford and use. “The best you can afford” mantra is one most anglers embrace as well as understand. When you buy as much gear as I do there is a tough choice between high quality and bankruptcy.

The Catera by Shakespeare

One of the new reels I picked up this year was the Catera by Shakespeare. This is a 6-bearing reel in the 30-dollar range that fishes like something in the 50 or 60-dollar range. The pinion gear is brass and the line roller is titanium…this says quality in my book. The rest of the components are aluminum and dense plastic for a lightweight feel.

Now I am not saying this reel stacks up to Pflueger or Quantum reels that generally go for 60 and above (higher price generally equates to more titanium and stainless steel). I have purchased the higher end reels and love them. However when it comes to gearing up in spring I have to make a choice between one high-end item or multiple lower priced options that complete the needs of the new year. If the high-end stuff gets damaged falling off a cliff, stolen or lost I could be out of the game. The real trick to “fishing on a budget” is finding quality products in your own personal price range. It is my opinion that the Catera does this. A few test runs have already impressed me enough to pick up an additional Catera for my jig setup. Two reels for the price of one in the retail world is a winner in my book.

Please understand that I have trashed reels in the 80-dollar range with one simple act of stupidity or theft and nearly had to mortgage the farm to replace them. I have no doubt that any reel that finds its way to my hands will be reduced to scrap or vanish within two or three seasons. This is no fault of the manufacturer per say as much as it is the fact that I can be dumb and clumsy at times…this may be an understatement. So until I hit the Lotto and can afford 4 or 5 setups in the 1500-dollar range, I will continue to look for value and bargains.

Note: I am not the go-to source on equipment and many others do a much better job at this. Pro anglers that receive a lot of equipment for free have a supreme advantage over the not so famous weekend warrior-fishaholic crowd like myself. What I do offer is an objective opinion outside of the commercial barrage you get from people trying to pimp a particular product to support the fancy patches provided by their sponsors.

My name is Matt and I’m a fishaholic.

Underwater Compilation Video…Test Run

There is always room for improvement and this year I hope to add another element to my fishing videos with the underwater camera. Getting quality underwater footage is not as easy as I first thought so a few test runs and practice trials are in order. Hopefully this additional layer provides more of a fish’s view as well as invigorates people to release more fish.

If you have not been to my youtube page, please check it out. Rates and comments are encouraged as well as any ideas from my massive viewing audience of 4 or 5 people on how to improve things.

I greatly appreciate the kind words as well as the few jabs and jeers. Thank you all for stopping by.

Good luck and good fishing!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Pure Desperation…a deodorant for desperate anglers

My season started out pretty lame this year. A few trips were complete skunkers and once or twice I flirted with death. I started getting concerned that the fish could literally smell my desperation as I approached the water…especially the hard stuff. Hunters use many products that mask their scent in the wild but what about us anglers? What do we use? In attempt to fill the void and help out my fellow angling brethren I introduce “Pure Desperation”, a deodorant for desperate anglers.

No more approaching the water reeking like some hard up-no chance geezer at the singles club. This deodorant may not give you actual results or even a boost of confidence. We do not guarantee that this product will help your fishing results. But when anglers are truly desperate, we will try just about anything.

Desperate anglers, finally there is a deodorant for you!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Let’s get to know…”Gizzard Shad”

How cool are fish? Each species is different and has biological differences that control so much about where they live and why. Knowing these facts will help dial in the location and patterns of the fish you seek to catch. Fish identification is just the start. Learning the biological aspects helps us catch and preserve this amazing natural creature. Please bear with me and my poindexter excerpts of “Let’s get to know…”.

Let’s get to know “Gizzard Shad”

Shad is an excellent source of forage and routinely stocked across the United States. Although this species thrives better in the warmer southern climates it is also stocked in a few Colorado waters to boost the bellies of predator game fish such as large and smallmouth bass. Walleye and other species will also benefit from stocking shad. But what do we really know about this fish species?

There are several variations of the shad species (American, threadfin, gizzard shad and more) for this discussion I want to focus on the gizzard shad which is more common in Colorado.


The gizzard shad or Dorosoma cepedianum are slightly “diamond” shaped with a blunt snout and extended bottom fin similar to most shad species. Gizzard shad generally have a black dot behind their gill plate but this marking can fade in some cases. Very similar to the threadfin shad, the gizzard variety The gizzard shad has an upper jaw that protects the lower jaw and do not have the yellow coloring on the fins as in the threadfin. The easiest way to distinguish the two is by the anal or bottom fin that has 30 to 35 rays as where the threadfin only has 20 to 25 rays.

Biology Facts:

Gizzard shad are planktivorous meaning they feed on plankton rather than bugs or smaller fish. However, some adult gizzard shad have been caught by anglers using flies and other means so it is easy to deduce that large shad may have a more varied diet that consists of protein.

Shad will often form large schools that attract predator fish. In the summer months anglers will actively seek out large “boils” on the water surface created by predator fish feeding on the school of forage. This binge feeding is referred to as “busting” and fairly common at places like Pueblo Reservoir where shad populations stay fairly consistent.

Shad are not considered a very palatable table fish compared to bluegill and perch but predator game fish benefit from such an abundance of forage at a time when water temps and fish metabolisms are at their peak.


Spawning occurs in the late spring or early summer in Colorado when water reaches 70 degrees in shallow water. Eggs and milt are released within the school of fish and fertilization takes place in the open water without any distinction between the individual breeding adults. The eggs are adhesive and attach themselves naturally to structure hatching in 4 or 5 days.

Complications of shad stocking in Colorado:

Shad are prolific and can reproduce in abundance when the water reaches 70 degrees. This high reproduction activity can displace other types of forage. Several water systems with shad may not have adequate drainage protection and the shad escape into ditches and can migrate to other waters where they are unwanted.

Another problem is the fact that most shad species will experience population die off when the water reaches below 45 degrees. When lakes freeze over the oxygen levels start to dissipate. This can also cause large die offs in the shad population.

(Above: This is somewhat of a routine sight for me this time of year depending on how bad the winter season was. I can’t help but be concerned every time I see a massive shad die off and have to remind myself this is not a problem with the water or lake. If you see dead shad in large numbers do not be overly alarmed. This is often a natural occurrence. If you see other species dead along with the shad…well then you have a much more serious issue.)

Smaller lakes may need routine stocking every year or so to keep the species viable and ensure reproduction in summer months where water temps are more agreeable to them. Stocking shad can really pump up the volume in regards to game fish weight and overall health. But shad are not the solution for every lake. Shad do best in large reservoirs and other species’ habitat needs should be weighed beforehand.

I hope you have enjoyed this segment of “Let’s get to Know…”

Acknowledgements, sources and reference links:

Pontooner update: Fine-tuning the mods.

(Above: Some renderings of the tooner in various stages of design. CAD "computer aided design" is one of my forte's and how I pay the bills outside of my fishing world. It really helps being able to storyboard these adaptations before going into the prototype phase.)

Last year I released an article on the website called “Pimp Your Pontoon”. That article was so popular that I received two, maybe three e-mails about it. The article itself covered some pontooner basics as well as some add-ons that helped make fishing a bit easier. After toning around for a few years now, I thought it would be nice to update folks on some pontoon additions that have been improved, added and even future tooner additions. (link to article below)

The wheel unit was a great addition and an enormous help in regards to reaching lakes further away from the parking lot. It is just a bike wheel attached to the boat. But after two years the inflatable tire fell apart. It literally fell apart spokes and all. The bike tire version of the prototype also required constant maintenance to stay full of air. What about cactus trails? Clearly some improvements could be made.

Solution: A solid wagon tire was used to replace the inflatable one and I kick myself for not doing it sooner. The ride is not as smooth but can take a lot more punishment. Still a few tweaks before it is 100% but getting there.

The camera holder for the pontoon boat is not the easiest item to find. The ones that I did find were expensive or not as durable as I would have liked. After some trial and error a homemade version seems to be doing the job nicely. Not as cool as a pivoting arm with springs and elbow joints.

Recent Improvement: Once fitted with a longer post it works even better to get the perfect vantage for videos and photos.

The front platform has been kicked up a notch and is working really well. Rather than having a chair and front platform to stand on, the chair has been removed and a larger platform spans across the entire frame. More or less it is like having a flat deck to stand and cast from. It’s just another one of those crazy cool ideas for the pontooner that really makes sense.

(Above: The tooner with the new and improved mods for 2010. The deck will possible go through several variations before I settle on the final design…prototype one is working out great so far. I expect to see a lot of people switch over to the flat deck scene on their pontoon boat once this idea catches on.)

The rod holders are still being tweaked. The front rod holder is too low. Add an extension piece bolt it all back together. That will make the front rod holder damn near flawless. I still need to add one to the other side. This one will utilize the Scotty brand rod holder I picked up for 10 bucks. Just need to adapt it to the boat. That is always the kicker.

The multiple rod holder is working as well as intended. It transfers from my belly boat to my pontooner with a strap adjustment. It holds two rods and that can be a big help when I am switching species or trying to dial in the bass.

Modifications that are being scrapped or sent back to the drawing board:

The extended seat unit was scrapped or at least shelved for now. It added too much weight and wasn’t used or even needed as much as previously thought. My first prototypes were also unstable and just going to get me into trouble. Maybe if I can come up with a lighter seat post and fabricated clamp.

Anchor systems that are effort free and not too elaborate still seem to evade me. The best thing I have come up with so far is a spool and crank option using a large plastic spool and an old reel handle. Once I get the locking pin in place and a better clamping system we may see this go into field-testing. For now the sloppy old school method will have to do.

Hopefully this pontooner update will motivate other anglers to think outside the box in regards to fishing modifications. Good luck and good fishing.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Rebound Sunday-continued, “Part Two”

Epilogue: This is part two of the Sunday Rebound Saga. Part One discussed bass in one lake as where Part Two will cover the rest of the story on another lake. I also want to mention spotting Team JW out in the wild but I was too exhausted and not sure if he would have appreciated my interrupting his fishing to yak it up a bit. Team JW and James P are people that I really look up to on the fishing and forum scene. I should have at least said hello.

Sunday rebound Part Two:

Pulling off the main lake was a lot muddier than going in. The sun was pouring on the heat. Frost had faded and shortly after I was lugging the tooner across the trail and to the parking lot and then to the other section of ponds. This section of ponds seemed slightly cooler in regards to water temperature simply because of the treeline on the south side that shields the sun just enough to take things down a degree or two. At least the trails were dry even if the shoreline was not.

Starting at the west end of the lake I moved my way east cast at the shoreline and running the lure into the small trench. This was not the same type of vertical structure that had proven successful on the other lake but this shoreline was the most identifiable geographic structure that I could see. Dried cattails, branch and tree structure were also present and so inviting that an angler has to cast over there at least once or twice to see if anyone is home. Cast, cast, nada.

After an hour I was starting to think that I made a bad choice by pulling off the other lake and lugging all the gear over to this one. Then I look over my shoulder and spot a small school of sunfish congregating near by. Thankfully I had a rod geared up for baitfish and went to town. You see I have an addiction to panfish. Kind of expected this to be a bit early for bluegill and sunfish to be out so seeing this small school was sheer bliss.

(Above: Not too shabby and glad to get my season going with some decent pans.)

Panfish are not very selective and will hit just about anything small enough to get their mouths around. Typically I use fly patterns, baby shad plastics and micro sized grubs. These fish were not as aggressive as they will get come July but a few were willing to take the lure and pose for some shameless photo taking.

(Above: Here is a second bluegill with a darker color pattern and hunched body. As much as I love to catch bass in the warm water scene…I think these fish are just as spectacular in their own right.)

A number of bluegills were respectable in the 6-inch range with a few just beyond that. Didn’t see anything over 8-inches but maybe they will be present closer to the spawn. Words fail to describe my admiration for this species in regards to brilliant color and its importance in the overall ecology of any lake.

By now the sun is fading and so is my energy. Realizing that I still have to lug all of this gear back to the main parking lot, there wasn’t enough gas in the tank to fish another hour and still make it back to the parking lot. To be honest I was way past the point of no return in regards to my energy levels. My arms started rowing for shore with my will finally conceding to the fact that I needed to return to shore.

To port or not to port…that is the question

Here is where I run into a quandary. The shoreline on the eastern edge is dotted with three anglers. Both port locations are covered with one guy smack dab in the middle of the other two. As I am rowing my brain starts scrambling with a way to reach the eastern shore without making any enemies. Being courteous and respectful is paramount in regards to the fishing code, a code that has long been discarded by so many anglers in Colorado…that is a shame. The quandary here is that the three anglers are blocking the port in points and only about 150 feet between them. Had this been an official boat ramp the watercraft clearly has the right of way. 100 feet of distance from watercraft and shore angler is also part of lake rules in a lot of places, hence why I try to maintain this area of space regardless of whether it is enforced or not. So what is the right thing to do? At that moment I was not sure. If nothing else I might have to port on the far north or south side and walk an extra 500 feet or so.

Then I hear one of the shorebangers start blurting out some jeers. “Looks like that guy thinks he is in a triathlon or something!” He went along with some other stand up that I could not quite make out or even care too.

“Nice” I whisper to myself and change course.

Now I am going to do my best to split the distance on the eastern shore between the guy standing on port out spot number one and Mr. Jokes. I pulled it up on Google Earth and measured it out as a 75-foot separation between the two. This was only 25 feet off my original mark. (Had I known that Team JW was at port number one…well I would have ported on the north side and let them take the tooner for a spin while I took a nap on the shore. It wasn't until I had already ported out when I noticed-or at least think that was JW.) Mr. Jokes let out a few more comments that seemed to get more disgusted as I approached. Then eventually him and his buddy moved off to fish another section of the lake. No skirmish or hostile confrontation, which was a refreshing change from last year.

Anguish and labor…the downside of hauling all this @##%%^ to the water.

The pontooner doesn’t seem all that heavy at first. But after a few hundred steps the weight and pain start to sink in. The deck board adds a few more pounds and requires the handles to be pushed all the way forward. My wheel unit design is at the end of the tooner where as the Scadden model (that design is far superior to mine in many ways) is center based. This means that the weight is not displaced across the frame as much as it is focused on my arms. After hauling, fishing and then hauling again most of the day I was only able to haul about 1500 feet before taking a rest. Then 1000 feet spurts after that before reaching the truck.

My name is Matt and I’m a fishaholic.

Early season bass slammin'....'bout time


March is one of those months that can serve up sunshine one day, snow the next and then sunshine again. Take this week for example; Temperatures worked their way up to 50, almost 60 degrees only to drop back down to 20 degrees Fahrenheit or less by Friday. But by Saturday the sun was out and temps climbed back up near 50. Conditions felt “nice” but the water was still dealing with the aftermath of the storm. Fish were shaking off the change in barometric pressure on Saturday…action was slow. At least for me on the spots that I chose that day. One spot. The last pond that I checked seem to show promise with visible signs of baitfish. Cast, cast, one little bluegill.

Rebound Sunday

Sunday morning came and I had to venture out again. Weather called for near 60’s in the air temp department. After scouting a number of lakes on Saturday, I focused on the area that had the most activity. Hopefully an extra day of sunlight would stir up better action. That was my hope as I drove out early ready to face another day of absolute dejection.

The early morning gear up was a bit frosty. However it paled in comparison to the near blizzard conditions that hit the Metro and foothills area just days before. Saturday had thawed things out and I had the pleasure to gear up over frosted mud rather than snow or mucky ground. I might have actually grinned for a moment seeing the sun lift higher in the sky and clear blue skies with only two cars in the parking lot.

“Man, I just want to bottle all of this up and save a taste of it all for those hot July and August days when summer lasts forever.” Ok I didn’t really say that but that is exactly what it felt like. The boat was loaded, hauled and launched. Getting on open water was pure bliss. Pure bliss. Like seeing an old friend after years and years or snuggling into an old pair of shoes. Cast, Cast, BAM! A healthy chunk hammered the bait.
(Above: Nice chunk to get the day started. Not a brute but after the early year struggles that I have had…this fish was like a B12 shot of confidence!)

The fight was steady but sluggish. Bass typically don’t want to get all rough-and-tumble early in the year. Saving energy is key right now for them. I do my best to oblige with a quick pull, photo op-lite and release. Catching one good fish can make all of the difference in regards to the moment, the day or even the season…it is simply a matter of perspective. This one fish meant a lot to me because it seemed like forever since I caught a bucketmouth.

Having the skunk beat takes off some pressure but formulating what made that catch happen is the most crucial aspect of that first catch. Color, speed and especially structure type may be the clues to catching more fish. This time of year the structure type is more important and in this particular lake you have a lot of varying structure types. Shallow weedlines and stumps that were action packed in the summer rarely are good in colder periods but I still cast to them if I have time. What I focus most on is vertical or deeper structure this time of year in areas that draw heat. I could see this clearly by areas where the snow had faded. This is where I expect to find bites. Maybe the fish here are more active or fish simply congregate to these areas preferably. Large dirt or rock banks, Island structure or even dark trees submerged that act like solar panels make water warmer. Fish just so happen to be cold blooded so as the water warms the more their appetite grows. Putting simple pieces of the puzzle together help everything else fall into place. Keying in on warm structure points I was able to find some active fish.

One fish nailed the grub on top of the water and I saw the whole thing happen. I love it when that happens. The fish was following the lure as it ran slowly past some submerged tree structure and a large point. It was a perfect place for a fish to be but my cast seemed to come up empty in the hit department. Then I saw the fish trailing. I kept reeling and then stopped the bait about ten feet or so out. The fish clobbered it. That fish I just took some video footage and let her go. Hopefully I get some time to edit\post a few clips on youtube and the blogilicious but to be honest this is not full video montage material, really more of a test run on some new gear.

Another presentation that I love here is the jig combo (skirted jig in the ¼ to ½ oz range with a plastic trailer) really it is one of the worst choices for this lake due to the heavy weed-matte on the bottom. Vertically speaking however this thing can really dig out some stubborn fish.

In the deepest water where structure meets the bottom of the lake I get a heavy thump on the jig combo. This fish had some hawg’ness and lunged for the bottom one and a half times before landing. Healthy fish.
(Above: Finally I get to do some mean mugging shots with some decent fish. ‘Bout @#$%^ time!)

A total of five bass were caught before heading out and moving on to other water. Just in time too it seems as the noon rush hour seemed to descend upon the lake. The parking lot was filling up right along with the increasing air temp.

My fish finder is on the fritz which is what I use to take water temp…this is crucial as we move forward. My guess is the water is near 40 degrees…but I hate guessing, especially this time of year. Next weekend I should be able to get some actual water temps and give folks some news they can use.

My name is Matt and I’m a fishaholic.