Hi all, it’s been about half a year since my last blog post. It almost feels like I’ve forgotten how to write these, but at least writing 1-2 articles per month and continuing to develop and build upon my existing fishing websites has kept me in creative shape. I’ve been motivated for articles but not for maintaining these blogs. Whatever.
I didn’t post much last fall because I was catching lots and working lots. Muskies, river walleyes, and big smallmouth bass kept me busy through mid November, as did a number of new business clients. My winter and spring season as a result has been the busiest it’s ever been in 4 years since I decided to go full-time with the independent design/marketing/media production job (following college graduation in 2010). So being in demand is good and prospects for the future are looking great. Hopefully someday I can become world famous and build myself a castle on a lake.
When the calendar turned to 2015, winter sport shows kept me busy, as did a lot of work, and boat shopping (if you keep reading, you will see what I finally bought myself!). With all of these real life things going on, my participation in fishing has been at the lowest level since before birth. For instance, I have not purchased my IL fishing license yet this year, and at this rate probably won’t because priorities are elsewhere and schedule will be taking me far away. I’ve only fished one week thus far and it was in Tennessee during the last week of March. At least I will be fishing up north for 3 weeks in May and another 3 weeks in June, with the remaining weeks and months afterward still unplanned.
The Wisconsin season opener took place this weekend, and I will be departing for my first trip of the year on Tuesday or Wednesday this week. I can’t wait. Anyways, below is a showcase of highlights of what I’ve been up to since January.
January: I ice fished once all winter and it was for a long weekend buddy getaway to our place north. Good beer and northern pike kept us entertained. My friends Mike and Steve Peterson hold one of many we caught on this end of January weekend. A group of 12 of us went and it was a fantastic time with camaraderie.
February: Didn’t do anything or go anywhere. Too much work, had no life.
March: From March 23 to the 29th, I drove myself south to Eastern Tennessee for my spring break getaway. I joined my friends from the Tennessee Valley Muskie Authority for the second straight year in a row where my good friends/guides and hosts Cory Allen with partner Jake Priegel treated me to a week of muskie fishing on Melton Hill Reservoir followed by a blue catfish extravaganza on Watts Bar Lake.
On day-1, within 2 hours past my arrival, I got on the board quickly with a chunky 46 inch muskie, caught while vertically jigging a heavy plastic from a tailrace area. Per request of my hosts I had to eliminate the background to conceal the spot. If anyone remembers my story from last year in which I caught nothing, this quick catch already made my trip and 9hr car ride worth it! Tennessee is low density numbers, but they have so many HUGE fish down there!
Jake Priegel with a 36 incher caught on day-2.
^^^^ Above - Allen, our friend Charles Wallace, and I spent a full day in the backwoods of Tennessee, fishing at a state park with a stream populated with native muskies. On this day I had action from 7 muskies with one pushing 48 inches and 30+ pounds. Unfortunately we had no biters, but the scenery made up for it.
The rest of the week was a struggle however, as we didn’t catch any further muskies. So after 4 fishless days, I decided to conclude my week of fishing by trying for blue catfish for the first time. I hooked up with our friends Marc Cooper, and Matt Lynch on nearby Watts Bar - both of whom are catfish experts and part time fishing guides on the area reservoirs.
NOTE - more about these two and our catfish outing has been written about in a full article to be published.
Up until now, I had never fished for catfish before. After quickly hooking up with a few 25 pounders, I quickly learned what I had been missing out on my entire life.
Cooper, Lynch, and I spent an entire day drifting and dragging cut baits, with skipjack herring being the preferred menu item for the cats. Blues and flatheads were caught. Not only did I catch my first ever blue catfish, but I caught my first ever flathead too. Watts Bar is an incredible fishery for both numbers, and giant fish surpassing 100 lbs. I highly recommend fishing this massive reservoir for the mixed bag of catfish if you ever go on a vacation to the Knoxville / Kingston region.
Matt Lynch holds our largest from the day, a 38 pounder. Cooper and Lynch have had days where they’ve caught over 400 lbs of cats in a single outing. On this day, which was miserably cold and windy, we caught a modest 120 lbs. of fish which is about average. I will put this first time trip up there amongst my finest fishing memories and trips I’ve ever taken.
For those of you wondering how I partnered up with Matt Lynch and Marc Cooper; both are mutual friends of the muskie duo Cory Allen and Jake Priegel. Marc Cooper (above) is founder and President of the Tennessee University Catfishing Club, and the Collegiate Catfishing Association. Facebook communications and friendships can take you to places, and it sent me to Tennessee for two years now. I look forward to my return trip to fish with each of them again sometime in the future.
April: For April I had plans to head east towards Lake Erie to go fish the massive Maumee River walleye runs. However, schedule conflicts with my fishing buddies and then my work schedule prevented this year from happening. Last year it was floods. This year work and life getting in the way. I am not invincible as once perceived.
Despite no fishing for me in April, I did some major leg work on FINALLY concluding my two year long boat search for the coveted Ranger 681VS. Luck struck on the third week of the month as a boat I had been on the watch for was available for sale. All thanks to the original buyer for not having sufficient funds and flaking out. Up for sale was a 1996 hull with a 115 horse Evinrude 2-stroke with approx 150 hours. Discussions with the seller, and an agreement to purchase on the spot, sent me to Park Rapids, Minnesota on April 24th.
Following perfect compression test scores of 125 in each cylinder, and an awesome test drive, my 600+ mile round trip journey into North Central Minnesota from our house in Minocqua, Wisconsin proved worthwhile.
But what took me so long to do this and find the right one?: 1) I fish too much. 2) Ranger stopped making this boat in 2004. 3) Most private sellers don’t have the integrity and straight face this seller had. 4) Most people selling right now are overpriced and asking way too much for junk. 5) I wanted a boat that would require NO fixing or major overhauling.
I got my dream boat at last, with a pretty damn reliable outboard that still has a ton of life before a re-power will be needed in the future. In 3 or 4 years from now I am leaning towards an Evinrude ETec.
^^^ That’s Leech Lake in the background. Leech was this boat’s home water.
I currently have the boat stripped of its old gear and will be redoing all the electronics and trolling motor, as well as some other odds and ends and upgrades throughout the coming months. I ordered a MinnKota Terrova 80 with I-Pilot which will be super convenient when taking out friends, guests, or clients. I will also be running my existing Lowrance HDS units, but won’t be ordering much larger screens till later on. All new equipment has been delivered this week and when I return to the north either Tuesday or Wednesday of this week I will install and rig it up immediately so that I can be on water quickly. I AM SO EXCITED AND CANNOT WAIT! I have a boat for life in this ageless Ranger.
Even though I bought a new boat which will be primarily used for my bigger water, cold season, and bass fishing adventures, I still have two others that I will be keeping and still using frequently. The old fiberglass red retro Lund has been designated to part-time retirement status, but will still serve as my primary musky boat and small to medium size waters lake hopper for bass. I also still have the 14 ft custom river jonny that I keep adding upgrades to, such as this 15 horse Evinrude I repowered it with (has 9.9 decals so previous owner could be legal on IL waters, HA!). I also have a manual jackplate for it too but when time allows and if performance necessitates it, I will install it. I’m anxious to get on the rivers early this season unlike these last few years that have been flooded out. I should be good to go next week!
Some days I will have issues deciding upon which of the three boats I should use.
With all of these recent events taking place, more is set to come in the next few months. I’m still planning out my Canadian trips back to Rainy Lake and hopefully Lake of the Woods, attempting to find a balance between real work and fishing, and getting a schedule together so everything I want to do is accommodated for.
Last but not least, many of you were curious last year if I was ever going to get a future bass fishing guide service established. I needed the new boat first, and next I need some time before I can proceed the way I want to. I still have a couple things to take care of because I want to be legal and do it the right way. So for starters you can visit this operation at www.northwoodsbass.com. A complete high-end website for this project of mine will be released at some point this summer. Before anything this will be an informational resource for all things smallmouth fishing. I look forward to this next chapter and seeing how it goes. At least it will give me the continued excuse and motivation to keep fishing at the rate I want, and so I have a greater purpose to keep doing it. It will be fun once things get underway.
For the next several weeks I will be fishing a lot, but will check in periodically to publish weekly reports. I appreciate all the comments, e-mails, encouragement, and your readership.
End Notes –
If anyone wants information on lakes or has questions for me concerning the north, I’ll be more than happy to help anyone out this 2015 season and host you for a Northwoods Bass Fishing Adventure. Give me a shout anytime through my sites at www.ragasfishing.com and www.fishing-headquarters.com ........ AND NOW www.northwoodsbass.com
I’ve spent my last three weeks up in my magical northwoods kingdom. The bass fishing was spectacular and I had been meaning to post my weekly reports much sooner but my time on the internet was limited. I’ll be posting my August fishing report much differently than I usually do. Below are two installments, all in one single entry. First one written on August 3rd, and this latest written today. With the weather and patterns all changing on a weekly basis, this one should be interesting to follow…..