Thursday, April 26, 2012

Hanging in Nashville

The last 3 days have been spent in the Music Capital of the US, Nashville, Tennessee.  As President of our trade association for transformer manufacturers (TTA), it was time for our Spring Meeting and along with the usually strategic sessions.  I did get to visit the Opry Mills area before arriving at the airport, where I am writing this post while waiting for our ride back to Minneapolis.  Opry Mills is a Mall/Entertainment area which is home to Opryland USA, The Grand Ole Opry, and the main attraction in Opry Mills is the Bass Pro Shop.  Although Cabela's is only 5 miles from my home I think Bass Pro Shop's have a much larger selection of fishing tackle and equipment.  Maybe it's because those bass fisherman need more stuff than us walleye guys but again they seldom fish with live bait.  I have been interested in a technique called Drop Shot rigging, very popular for bass fishing.  As you see in the picture a hook is tied anywhere from 6 inches to 24 inches above the end of your line, with the hook attached directly to the line.  At the end of the tag is a sinker that is heavy enough keep you in touch with the bottom.  The theory is that the lure or bait is kept off the bottom and more in the strike zone of the fish's vision.  Like you and I, it is easier to see something at eye level than having to always be looking down for something.  My thought is that this would be a great technique for walleyes on Leech Lake where we normally fish with a simple short shanked 1/8 oz live bait jig and drag it across the bottom.  With the lake ice outs so early this year, I suspect the big females will be in the hunt after having spawned a few weeks earlier and may be hanging in the deeper rock ledges off the reefs.  The plan is to use a live shiner minnow as bait and along with a special drop shot sinker, fish these rocky areas more effectively than with a jig.  One secret is to tie the sinker with a lighter pound test than your main line and if the sinker gets snagged you can simple break the drop line, preserving you minnow and hook.  It seems like it should work and I will give a full report on my rresults in a few weeks.   Bass Pro Shops have a great selection of tackle made for this technique and I loaded up with some special hooks and drop shot sinkers which should make rigging much easier.  I also bought a fish counter for keeping track of the number of fish in the livewell, 2 half ounce bass jigs that were on sale, and a new LED Livewell light.As for the store itself, the Nashville Store is not the largest one I have been in however their aquarium was pretty nice.  Loaded with huge fish I was particularly amazed at the size of a couple of Largemouth Bass swimming around. They were easily in the 12 - 15 pound class,  dwarfing anything I could catch in Minnesota.  Along with a couple of nice paddlefish and wipers (cross between a white bass and a sea run striped bass), like airplanes I could sit and watch them swim around for hours.

Nashville is the home of the Grand Ole Opry, originally started as a radio program in 1925 it survives today with much of the same character as it did 88 years ago.  I had a chance to attend the Opry a number of years back and it was like going back in time.  After a few sets the show would stop for a commercial that was read in front of the audience.  While this was going on the stage was being prepared for the next act.  If you like country western music and want to an institution, I highly recommend a visit to Nashville.  This area suffered under a severe flood 2 years ago and it has recovered remarkably.  The Gaylord Opryland Resort is also something you need to see with it's beautiful indoor atrium's, complete with it's own river flowing through the Delta Conservatory.  Big enough to float a boat, you can go for a nice ride as you pass, catfish, carp, and colorful koi fish.  I will have to get back someday. 

On Monday I dropped off the boat at the dealer to get the cover re-fitted for the new trolling motor and am hoping that it will be done when I get back later tonight.  Once I have the boat back it will be full speed to the opener.  I still have much to do before I go but admittedly it's a labor of love.  The forecast is talking about snow again on Saturday.  Oh well!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Shad Rappin'

Undeniably my favorite place to shop these days is Fleet Farm.  Everything from grass seed, ATV batteries, to sporting goods my motto is "if Fleet Farm doesn't have it, you don't need it!".  On Sunday I was helping out my brother-in-law, Walter and we needed some parts to fix a water line to the garden.  He lives in Hudson Wisconsin and the local Fleet Farm is only 10 minutes away.  After a few minutes trying to figure out all the parts needed to repair the water line, we headed for a tour of their sporting goods area.  They have a real good selection of fishing tackle and often put their obsolete lures and overstock on sale.   No real review of the current lure's available would not be complete without a pass down the Rapala Shad Rap aisle.  Of course something caught my eye, an exclusive  Fleet Farm color, Hot Pink Clown.  Man, I just had to have that color as it should be as good as Hot Steel for deep trolling this summer.  The come in various sizes, #5, #7, and #9 are the most popular. #5 is my favorite size as I do a lot of shallow water trolling as well, it is beginning to be my go to bait for deep water lead lining in the summer.  They run about 5 feet deep and offer a good consistent feel when  trolling the reefs and shorelines, especially in the spring.  This size definitely is deadly on all sizes of walleyes as it's not too big to scare away a 15 incher yet a 28 inch fish will slam it just the same.  If I am fishing 7 feet of water the #7 works well and of course 9 feet of water, the #9 is my choice.  So I get my newly found prize home, unboxed it, and as it was being placed in the appropriate tackle box I couldn't help but smile at my colorful collection of these deadly crankbaits.  Managing to lay them out on the floor of my boat, here are 21 different color patterns that were in my Shad Rap box.   This doesn't count the few that are stuffed somewhere in my collection which were simply camera shy.  The colors are as follows starting from the top left and going down then back up: Pink Pearl*, Pearl, Blue/Silver, Sunset Tiger*, Blue/White, Perch, Yellow Perch, Crawdad, Helsinki Shad, Dark Brown Crawdad, Silver, Clown, Hot Pink Clown#, Hot Steel, Red Tiger, Fire Tiger, Chartreuse, Shad, Lambeau Field#, Fire Tiger Bleed, Purple Pearl*.  The colors with the * are exclusive to Gander Mountain and the # are Fleet Farm's colors.  Truth be told there are 28 official Rapala colors and I estimate at least another 10 that are private labeled for stores however I not a big fan of those you don't see.  So why have so many..............well why not, after all they are awfully pretty!  Actually each has a purpose and I have fished with everyone except the Lambeau Field pattern (I'd hate to simply fish out a lake).  The brighter patterns like the Clown and Hot Steel work very well for lead lining.  The lighter colored ones are great for Leech Lake or fishing right at dusk.  The darker patterns can work very well at night, especially if there is a full moon.  Crawdad colors are deadly for smallmouth bass and walleyes, and if I were limited to just 1 color it would be this one.  The Dark Brown Crawdad is new color pattern for this year so my experience is yet to be discovered.  The other aspect of the Shad Rap is that it was one of the first "shad" type crankbaits that worked extremely well for walleyes.  With their balsa wood body and plastic bill, for the most part they simply slide off rocks and snags, although I have left quite a few on the bottom of Mille Lacs.  I would guess they were introduced in the early 1980's and remain my #1 confidence bait for trolling and casting for walleyes.  In fishing it is the confidence that can really make the difference.  Heck, I even landed a 12 pound Silver Salmon at the Homer Fishing Hole in 2000 with a #5 Fire Tiger pattern.

I spent a few days in Chicago and Detroit this week.  Having never been through Michigan, I found it quite interesting as there were a number of wineries and fruit orchards along the way.  On of my stops was at our manufacturers representatives office which was located on the southwest corner of Midway Airport.  Midway was the major airport serving Chicago until 1955 when O'hare opened.  With it's short runways and being surrounded by residential as well as commercial buildings, the airplanes come pretty low as they approach the runways.  Midway's runways are pretty short for today's standards and if you have ever landed there, you'll see what I mean.  The pilots really pour the coals to the braking systems on the planes.  It has become a major hub for Southwest Airlines and it was fun sitting in the upstairs offices watching the planes come in about every 5 minutes.  Besides fishing, I could watch aircraft, trains, an large ships all day long.  Something about them fascinates me and I just had to take a picture.

I am getting the urge to try the boat out and may just do that for a few hours this weekend.  Monday she goes into the dealer while I make my way to Nashville for a conference.  Opener is 3 weeks away and by the looks of the trees, it should be very good.  Onions got planted last weekend and I am going to put my potatoes in on Saturday.  They always say that Good Friday is the best day to plant potatoes but that just seems too early to me.  Radishes and lettuce also got planted and I wouldn't be surprised if they will be up by the weekend.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Back to Reality

Well, what goes up must come down.  After 6 weeks of significant above normal temperatures, we experienced a very hard frost this week.  Normally this would not be a problem however the warm weather has cause most of the trees to bud out significantly and more importantly has advanced my apple and pear trees to start blooming way too early.  2 years ago a mid May hard frost eliminated my entire apple crop as it froze all of the fully opened blossoms and killing them.  As of today most of the blossoms are still fairly tight and have not opened up, this may be a good sign.  The new reports of the hard frost extending south to Missouri have the commercial orchard's concerned.  I guess we will just have to wait.  If left alone apple trees tend to be cyclic, producing heavy one year and light the next.  Orchard chemically thin the apples once the blossoms have been set and have started to develop small fruit.  When the apples are about the diameter of a dime the trees are sprayed with Sevin (carbaryl), an insecticide that will cause about half of the fruit to drop off the trees.  Once thinned, the apples will grow larger and the stress on the tree is less causing them to fruit more consistently from year to year, assuring a viable crop each season.  I wanted to try this last year as the trees were filled with apples, just ran out of time.  My Haralson tree always produces a good crop yet my Honeycrisp, Honeygolds, and Wolf River apples are very cyclic and will not have a large crop regardless.  Lord knows how my pears will survive.  In the end the cold weather might simply be a minor issue or I might just be able to take the summer off!  Last Sunday I was determined to fertilize my orchard, something I did for the first time last year and it really paid off.  Having bought a heavy duty 1.75 inch earth auger for my drill, I drill 4 holes around each tree at the drip line then fill each with a 10-10-10 fertilizer.  It is recommended that you do this before the tree fully leaf's out.   As I was preparing to start drilling Rick Shermer, a guy with the same interests shows up to say hi.  Noting that I was ready to fertilize my trees and showed him how it was done he just had to try this.  Being the nice guy that I am, reached for the auger and told him to go ahead and use it today.  Promising to bring it back later that day, not a problem....right?  3 days later and no Rick we stopped by to check it his chickens, garden, trees and maybe hint about the auger.  Well, he had no intention on giving it back!  This was fine with me as Rick would give you the shirt off his back as noted by his past actions when he rototilled my garden as I laid up from surgery a few years ago, mowed my back acreage when it was too tall for my mower.  He actually came by on Saturday morning and with his Kubota made short work out of tilling my garden again.  What a guy.  I did receive my new auger this week and the trees are all ready for their summer meal.

Our Alaska trip planning is really starting to take shape.  We finally have all of our lodging booked as well as 2 days of ocean fishing out of Seward.  We have come to enjoy the combo trips out of Seward which feature both Halibut and ocean run Silver Salmon with the chance of getting a few rockfish and Ling Cod as a bonus.  Our planning works well with the tides for the days we are going and look like the morning high tide to afternoon low tide differential is only 2.5 feet.  That sure beats Homer where you can see a 20 feet change in 6 hours.  August quarter moon tides tend to be quite tame and our trip is planned to take full advantage of them.  Halibut fishing is always the best at the lowest differentials in high to low tides and for sure it's a lot easier to fish.  We have had to use 6 pound weights on time to hold our baits on the bottom of a rushing tide in 300 feet of water.  This is truly work!  My cousin Mark will be hosting our Kenai salmon fishing adventure with a rented 18 foot/35hp jet that will handle all of us.  We are trying to do something exciting and another fly out trip across the Cook Inlet for Silvers might be interesting.  The last time we flew over to Polly Creek it wasn't what we expected but still caught fish and had our first encounter with some Brown Bears.  My uncle Jerry is not coming this year however in the spirit of our adventure he did make me a few items for the trip.  Being a master wood worker, he hand made these fish dispatchers, a must for any Alaskan fishing trip.  Hooking a big Silver is one thing, landing it is another, but once you get the fish in the boat watch out!  These things flop around with the tenacity of a tornado.   About the only way they can be safely subdued before completely trashing your boat is a good konk on the head.  This can only be accomplished with the right tool and Jerry is the master of what he calls the Konkinator.  They come in all kinds of shapes, sizes, wood types, each with their own special label.  Starting from the top you see the plain Konkinator, design by Cordless Conker Co., Inc., LTD.  This is made from a heavy wood and can be very effective.  The next one down is made from the famous Lodgepole Pine of central Idaho.  Called the Oinker Silver Doinker, it is courtesy of Rip'N'Jerry Mfg. LTD, Kenai Branch.  The middle grey colored a uniquely stained device directed right at my political preferences.  Labeled the Lite Wt. Smolt Smasher it further described as Republicanator for Killing Small Fish, Boehner & Co, Brains LTD.  I told Jerry that the gray color reminds me of elephants.........what can I say!  The next light colored pine device is none other than Dave's Sockeye Slayer and was specially built by Andersonock-A-Head Mfg, Chimney Rock, Wis. The bottom is the one he made for our trip in 2008 and I can assure you it works pretty well.  I am anxious to try all of these out in a few months and hopefully can reward Jerry with the assurance that we had a great time.  Now I know where I got my sense of humor!  Thanks Jerry, I will cherish these gifts forever.

With snow in forecast and a heavy travel schedule, time continues to fly.  I finally got an appointment with Frankie's to get my boat cover redone because of the trolling motor difference.  She is nice and clean as I had more time on Saturday to keep going once Rick took care of a few hours of planned work.  As predicted I started the Suzuki and honestly it could not have turned over for more than 2 seconds.  I love the way that motor sounds, it's a 4 stroke and purrs like a kitten.  With opener 4 weeks away, this cold weather should prove interesting.  Slowly but surely things are coming together.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Northwest Sportshow Time

This last week was the annual Northwest Sportshow at the Minneapolis Convention Center.  I really look forward each year to the show and usually make 2 trips down as I always miss something the first go around.  As well, and those who have accompanied me know that I really like to talk which makes it hard to get everything accomplish in one night.  There are a ton of new products being introduced as well as number of new companies selling their ideas.  There were a number of new things that caught my eye and I just had to have.  The first was some new software called Lakemaster Contour Elite.  Developed by a couple of guys from Wisconsin, it takes the Lakemaster data and creates a useable program to manipulate that data, write it to a SD card, and then allow you to put it into your on board electronics to utilize the mapping much better.  I am anxious to see how this works and will report on it later.  The next thing I thought was interesting was a tool made by Trusty Cable Tool, a company in Ohio.  They were selling a cable tool which was invented to help remove cables from Lowrance
Locators/Chartplotters.  More often than not the cables, which twist lock onto the unit connectors, are difficult to get at and twist on and off.  This design allows one to slip it over the cable and using the hex end like a socket wrench, simply twist off the connector.  It looks pretty slick as one of my issues with my HDS10 and HDS5 is the difficulty in removing the transducer, power, and ethernet cables.  It was kind of funny as the guy didn't have any in stock as the plastic tooling was not complete.  He looked pretty trustworthy so I gave him the $10 and he promised to ship it to me.  We'll see.   The next interesting booth was hosted by Jolly Roger Tackle .  A young man from Albertville, MN, he has started a business of custom tackle specializing in spinner blades, tied rigs, and a line of crankbaits.   I have a lot of respect for guys willing to go off on their own and do something with their lives besides wishing they would have done something years earlier.  I did buy a couple packages of custom painted spinner rigs and they are pretty impressive.  Truth be told a spinner blade turns pretty fast in the water and although they are painted with perch like detail and eyes I can assure you that it's all a blur once the blade starts spinning.  These great paint jobs do more to catch the fisherman than anything.  They still look great and I can't wait to tie up a few nightcrawler rigs and try them as I know general color variations can make a big difference sometimes.  Another interesting thing is how large the spinners are getting.  I usually run #2's and am seeing blades as big as #5's, stuff we use for bass baits.  It was evident by the number of boat displays that the marine industry is on it's way back.  It has also gotten very expensive!  A new Ranger 621, fully decked out was $72,000.  Man, that was more than I paid for my first house.  2008 - 2010 was very hard on this business as a number of manufacturers either went out of business, merged, or filed bankruptcy.  Everyone said they were busy and at least for this year things look great.

My friend Keith Holtan did make it up to the Rainy River over the weekend.  Wanting to rub it in a little, Keith sent me a picture of this nice walleye he caught.  Planning to head back to Alaska after Easter, it time to begin getting his business, Beaver Creek Cabins and Guide Service up and going for the upcoming salmon season on the Kenai.  We will be looking forward to seeing him next August and I wish him a safe trip up the Alaskan Highway.  Actually I wish I had time to ride with him and fly back, it's one road I would really love to travel.   Maybe in retirement.  In the meantime my brother and I continue to solidify our plans for our sixth trip to Alaska with my cousins Greg and Tom Nelson, and Mark Anderson, who lives in Anchorage.  As soon as we get this set I will post our plans. 

I have finally gotten my boat ready to go and need to take it in and get the cover readjusted for the new trolling motor.  My tackle boxes have been redone, are cleaned and ready to go.  I will probably get the motor started this weekend, something that I am always amazed at.  Usually I put on the water muffs, pump the fuel bulb a few times and I'll bet the motor doesn't turn more than 2 seconds before it starts.  I love my Suzuki!  I still need to put new line on the reels that need it.  In addition my 35 year old Troybilt tiller received new rear tine shaft seals compliments of around 3 hours of wrenching.  As stated, it is pretty early spring and have already tilled the garden 3 weeks earlier than normal.  I even planted some spinach and radishes.  There still is more work like fertilizing the lawn, fertilizing the apple trees, spraying the trees, and general cleanup.  This weekend is Easter and Sunday will be spent with the family, enjoying ourselves as we get older.  Have a blessed Easter.