Category Archives: Announcements

Back On The Water!

It’s been much too long since last posting material on my blog but there’s a reasonably good excuse for it. In February 2016, I had rotator-cuff surgery on my right shoulder for the second time. The same surgeon who repaired my shoulder in 2011 told me to expect about an 85% recovery, meaning use of my right arm. He also assured me that fishing as in the past would not be part of my future. Serious limitations would have to be set and accepted. After that prognosis, learning to fish left-handed was added to my to-do list.

From late 2015 until my scheduled surgery date in mid-February, boredom ruled an endless series of days that revolved around resting my shoulder; the goal to minimize inflammation of tissue before surgery. That’s easier said than done because I don’t do “coach potato” well at all. While pacing the floor twelve days before surgery, a pause in turn 6 found me staring out a window. It was a beautiful sunny day with a light breeze and temperatures well above normal. Claustrophobic and depressed, a beam of sunlight suddenly struck me and the idea of running to a local river to practice left-handed casting came to mind. A quick analysis of pros and cons confirmed that learning to fish left-handed was an important part of my recovery plan and something that could begin before surgery. Also, free time was available in profusion. So, with an upbeat attitude, away I went. In hindsight, more thought should have been given to the cons.

After arriving at a river full of smallmouth bass and tying on a Texas-rigged soft plastic, casting practice began. The first few attempts were at weeds and sticks on open ground away from trees; a wise starting point. It’s shocking how difficult it is for a righty to make a simple left-handed lob-cast. But with practice my lure was soon hitting the river, and at times close to the intended spot. In perhaps a dozen casts, I felt a light tap through the line, reeled down and set the hook. The force of the hook-set, an equally awkward movement left-handed, pulled a nice smallmouth to the surface where it immediately threw the lure. In response, I turned and stepped in a muskrat hole all the way to my left knee-cap. While falling in slow-motion, all concern shifted to my shoulder so rather than trying to catch myself, I attempted rolling toward my good shoulder. The next morning after draining 70 cc’s of blood off my left knee, an x-ray showed no visible breaks or tears so an elastic knee brace was added to my post-op equipment list.

After two months of recovery from surgery and plenty of physical therapy, my routine at home had returned to staring at the walls and laps through the house. Soon lap times were approaching those before surgery, except a few of the more hazardous turns where I didn’t want to press the damaged knee. After consulting my best fishing buddy, we decided it was time for me to get out on the water but with some serious restrictions. We agreed that trolling for brown and rainbow trout was a good choice because I could sit and stare as easily as at home and would get some fresh air and sunshine in the process. My attitude improved after discovering I could operate the landing net left-handed with little difficulty. After a fish or two, it was game on!

My first trip afield, two months after surgery. Couldn’t operate the boat or a fishing rod but enjoyed netting some nice brown and rainbow trout.

We caught some beautiful trout that day up to twenty-three inches long and the therapeutic value was beyond measure. On a follow-up trip, several attempts at casting with ultralight tackle confirmed it was too much movement, even casting left-handed, so the decision was made to do only what my body would comfortably permit; with patience, careful patience.

Four months after surgery, progress permitted me to use light-weight spinning tackle for short periods. Over time, growing confidence pressed me to search for fish that would test my strength; time to try some night-fishing for reservoir smallmouth bass. During a couple short trips, the number of casts was low but several nice smallies accepted my offering and fought like champions. Landing them boosted my confidence but again made me realize it was still a long way to full recovery. A month later, an MRI was ordered to see why the knee was still bothering me. My surgeon, obviously bug-eyed with disbelief, slowly walked into the room staring at my MRI results, which had been delivered by yours truly minutes before. “About that knee, we have a fracture,” he announced after a long pause. His review described a hairline fracture across the largest bone in my knee that had not shown up on the post-accident X-ray. Yep, I had broken it. He closed by telling me no further treatment of the knee would be necessary, other than some simple exercises, because it was healing nicely. He closed in saying, “This is a testament to how tough you are.” He must have said that because of my work schedule at Bass Pro Shop in the months before my MRI. Who would have guessed?

The arrival of fall found me much more active. My right shoulder was still weak and tender with limited range-of-motion but casting left-handed had become almost routine. Days after beginning some new stretching exercises, the broken knee was forgotten. I was strong and mobile enough that launching the boat was no problem and could fish for about an hour before having to rest my right arm. After a cool snap brought the first freezing temps of the season, a search for schooling striped and hybrid bass began. Fishing for surface-schooling fish is a mixture of much driving around, setting and watching for fish breaking and casting for short periods; an almost perfect match considering my limitations. With a selection of rods rigged with favorite fall striper/hybrid lures, the adventure began one sunny afternoon. Surface water temperature was ideal, in the mid-60’s, and confidence was high. After a long search, clouds of baitfish began appearing on the depth finder in a long narrow cove that ran inland off the main lake. The narrow strip of water didn’t look like much when driving by but an expanded search found it full of baitfish with water depths exceeding forty-feet along much of its surprising length. After confirming it was full of striper food, I moved back where I could see the main lake and much of the cove. It was time to drop the trolling motor, set back and wait.

An hour later the water erupted on the main lake close to the mouth of the cove. Big fish were smashing schools of baitfish not more than a hundred yards away so I moved quickly toward them. Soon there were fish smashing the surface in every direction. Then a jointed Storm ThunderStick landed among the explosions and began making a V-wake along the surface, then a seven-inch Cordell Red Fin, then a large swimbait fluttered along a few feet beneath the surface, all without so much as a bump. Round two with the ThunderStick included variations in speed until, finally, a boil rose beneath the plug. But that was my only strike after more than an hour of casting to feeding fish. Minutes later the water went flat and calm; the party was over and the fish were gone. My mind was sorting through possible reasons for the lack of success when a crippled minnow fluttered by along the surface. The minnow’s size surprised me because it was much smaller than expected. After slowly approaching several schools of surfacing minnows for further size checks, my suspicions were confirmed. My lure choices were too large.

The next day found me waiting in the same spot but with smaller lures rigged. My primary rod held a modified version of the plug that had produced the boil; a Storm ThunderStick. The modified version had the rear section removed with the split ring and hook reattached to the front. With this simple change, the lure’s length was reduced from more than five-inches to four with no change in the plug’s action. Back up combos included a smaller swimbait and a Rat-L-Trap. Soon after arriving a good fish boiled the surface close by, then another. Suddenly, an area the size of a parking lot was filled with watery explosions.

My first striped bass caught left-handed.

Almost immediately a fish attacked my modified ThunderStick and after a brief battle, a three-pound hybrid was in the net. After a quick release, the ThunderStick again sailed into the melee. On the next cast a big fish crushed the plug and pulled a deep bend in my rod. There was no question it was a much larger fish because it ripped line freely from the reel and forced me into a defensive squat. After several line-stripping runs, the fish finally surfaced close to the boat; a striped bass in the mid-teens. At boat-side, a firm grip on the fish’s jaw was shaken off as if attempted by a child. I could grab the fish well enough but any attempt to lift made me realize how weak my arm was. The idea of shifting the rod to my right hand was rejected quickly after the fish surged; there was no way my right arm could take that. After remembering a gaff stowed in the rear of the boat, the fish was safely landed and released unharmed, save a small hole in its lower lip. In the time taken to land the fish, snap a couple pictures and release it, the surrounding school of feeding fish disappeared and the water became still. It felt like the end of a standing ovation as the last few tail slaps subsided in the background; a rewarding afternoon. In the best of moods, a decision was made to add a new Boga Grip to my fishing tool box.

Work and book signings kept me busy through the Holidays but by mid-January fishing fever returned. Thoughts of visiting a highland reservoir for bass crossed my mind but required a significant investment of time and exposure to some very cold conditions. So, brief trips to pitch soft-plastics from shore to river smallies moved to the top of my schedule. But one day, a friend and coworker at Bass Pro Shop told me about a pattern for catching big walleyes during the coldest period of winter. Walleyes spawn in late winter/very early spring in the south and many instinctively migrate into moving water as the time to drop eggs approaches. Areas with increased current attract pre-spawn walleyes and those that hold abundant prey such as alewives, shad, even trout, may attract many of the largest walleyes in the system. The pattern my friend described required fishing a local reservoir from shore at night during the coldest part of winter when the lake water level was at its lowest. The low water period lasted but a brief time, while at winter pool, and wasn’t about how many fish you could catch but how big the fish were. I had to sign up for some of that.

My first trip to fish at night for winter walleyes was more about exploration than serious fishing. Learning details like water depth, temperature, bottom contour and structure present would help me decide which lures would work best. Casting hazards and required distance would dictate the rod and reel combo needed for precise presentations. After exploring and casting for an hour I decided an adjustment in equipment would permit me to fish the area well with a large swimbait, one of the lure’s my friend recommended. Several days later we returned with a third fishing buddy and spread along a sand-covered shoreline that gradually sloped from the water’s edge to a meandering creek channel. In many places, a long cast would reach the channel’s edge. In some spots, there were trees lying across the barren shore with their tops partially submerged in shallow water. Soon we were spread along several hundred yards of shoreline, casting from parallel to shore, out to along the edge of the channel break. In fewer than thirty-minutes, as my swimbait tapped along bottom in the shallows, the water boiled and my line became tight with a heavy, head-shaking fish. Minutes later the glowing eyes of a big walleye surfaced against shore as one of my fishing buds arrived carrying another fish. A break to check size revealed his walleye weighed four-pounds; a nice fish and average size for the lake we were fishing. Mine was a hog weighing eight-and-three-quarter-pounds and stretching twenty-seven-and-a-half inches. A week or so later another trip rewarded me with a twenty-seven-and-three-quarter inch walleye that looked a little fatter, though I didn’t take time to weigh her before release. Soon after, spring rains arrived much too early and the lake began rising quickly. I’ll be back to visit those fish again after the next Christmas Holiday passes.

So, I have finally returned to the fold, so to speak. Fishing and writing are again part of my routine though use of my right arm is still limited. In support of my continuing recovery, trolling will be included in much of my future fishing; rainbow trout, crappie, walleye and others come to mind. Another angling method I’ll employ frequently is presenting live or dead baits on set lines. Big carp, striped bass and catfish are suckers for the right baits presented on bottom. Both approaches will permit me to fish with limited stress on my shoulder while I strengthen it further. However, occasional trips to enjoy long-standing-favorites such as night fishing for summer smallmouths and the fall topwater blitz will be made; left handed of course. Visit me here to read updates on my progress and angling adventures, including new things I learn.

In closing, it is with great sadness that I bring readers news from R&S Bait Company. In late May of 2015, our sport lost a rising star when Rodney Williams, owner of R&S Baits, lost his battle with cancer. Now, his family has no plans to continue operation of the company and the R&S Web site has been closed. Such a loss; a dear friend and talented contributor to our sport. To provide some history about my friendship with Rodney Williams, there’s a story in my book about fishing small jigs for summer smallmouths at night using black lights, though at the time my book was published I didn’t know R&S Bait Company manufactured the jigs described. A story posted on this Blog about meeting and becoming friends with Rodney Williams attracts a lot of traffic and many readers inquire about availability of R&S Baits’ products. If you’d like to read the story behind the story of how we met and became friends, find the Archives button at the top right of this page, click Select Category, then select Announcements and you’ll find a story called “From My Friends at R&S Bait Company”. To read a story about night fishing with R&S Baits Arky Smallmouth Jigs, select Summer Fishing and scroll down to a story called “Day and Night Summer Smallmouth Bass”. To see the side bar photos from each story, click Enlarged Side Bar Photos at the top and select the story title.

It’s good to be back. Be safe and good fishing!

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Adapting to Changing Conditions

Big rainbow release

After turning the page on my office calendar to August, I paused to reflect on where the time had gone. Notes on the last few pages confirm each month was a whirlwind of activity, mostly of the non-fishing variety. Not that there wasn’t some time to fish, but much of my spring and early summer seasons were filled with other time-consuming activities; more on that later. Furthermore, favored places to fish were limited this year. Another hot, dry spring reduced flow on local rivers so much that productive fishing for smallmouth bass was affected and repairs at a local dam transformed some of my favorite spring fishing waters so completely I was forced to search for new ones. Nonetheless, the search for good fishing led to the discovery of new opportunities and limited choices encouraged me to invest more time in spring patterns still available. The extra time spent pursing two of my favorite game fish, rainbow and brown trout, produced an exceptional season of spring and early-summer trout fishing.

I learned to fish for trout long ago, limited then to fishing small mountain streams and stock ponds for freshly stocked fish. Many years later after moving to Tennessee, my focus changed to catching holdover tail-water trout; those that had lived for years on a diet of abundant natural prey in cool, swift water. This spring has been a testament to what I’ve learned about fishing for larger tail-water trout. We caught many rainbows and browns above eighteen inches but some special fish and one exceptional encounter come to mind. My most memorable tail-water trout adventure so far in 2015 included my best fishing buddy Andy and his 12-year old son, Harrison. Harrison had already proved he could catch trout by trolling for them. On his best outing he was credited with catching twenty-eight rainbows, though Andy and I reeled in a few of them because we had several doubles hookups. However, this trip was Harrison’s first to cast for them so when we arrived on good water, casting practice began. Andy helped with the casting part but each time the lure hit the water, Harrison took control of the rod and the retrieve. Soon we were coaching him on ways he could vary his presentation by changing speed, pausing or adding subtle twitches.

Sixteen inch tailwater brook trout 1Not long into our second drift, Harrison’s rod bowed deeply and a big trout thrashed the surface. With a firm grip on his rod, he fought the big fish well while Andy coached and I controlled the boat in swift water. When Andy slipped the net under the struggling fish, shouts of victory filled the air. It wasn’t just a big trout; it was a huge brook trout. For those of you not familiar with brook trout, let me put the size of this fish in perspective. In the State of Tennessee, if you catch a brookie ten-inches or longer, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency will award you with a colorful Trophy Fish Award, suitable for framing. The brook trout Harrison landed was sixteen-inches long. Before the day was over, he also landed a rainbow and brown trout above eighteen-inches. So on his first trip casting for them, Harrison landed the Eastern equivalent of the trout trifecta and did so with some remarkably nice fish.

My most exciting fishing experience this season came on a day when time to fish was limited. With but a few hours free and no fishing partner, I loaded my boat and headed for the closest tail-water. Local weather and water generation schedules were favorable for trout fishing, though it was midday under a sunny, blue sky. After making the first drift through prime water without so much as a follow, I changed to a larger lure, returned to my starting point and began again. A few casts into the second drift a big fish smashed my plug hard and began stripping line. The fish moved so fast and with such power, I was sure it was a big hybrid and quickly realized my hands were full.

I was adrift in fast water and approaching a shoal so shallow that hitting rocks with the trolling motor prop was a probability, but didn’t want to raise the motor and let the boat spin during the fight. With one hand on the trolling motor and the other controlling the surging fish, it became a very busy time. If I had a third hand, I’m sure it would have been equally busy. Suddenly, the fish charged the boat and did its best to tangle my line in the outboard. After a few tense seconds, it came free from the lower unit as the river bottom came up along the upstream face of the shoal. Then, out the corner of my eye I saw the big fish jump clear of the water. Even in my adrenalin-filled state I realized that hybrids don’t jump so my eyes Twenty nine inch eleven six tailwater brown edit 1strained for a clear view of my adversary as it approached the boat, then in less than two-feet of water. As we drifted over the shoal, the big fish swam closer and was soon swimming parallel to the boat in water so shallow it could clearly be seen. The light-brown color and big spots along the fish’s back confirmed it was a huge brown trout. After drifting into deeper water, it became a battle of patience and the big fish was in trouble. Finally, I led her into the net and lifted my largest brown trout ever into the boat; a beautifully marked twenty-nine-inch female. There was little time to set up and take pictures because my greatest concern was for the fish’s health. But after a few quick shots and gentle handling beside the boat, she recovered, surged from my grip and disappearing into the rushing water. I collapsed in my seat, took several deep breaths and talked to myself until my heart-rate slowed. Drained after the battle, I set out trolling rods and trolled back to the ramp. Several smaller fish up to sixteen inches came to the net on the relaxing cruise back that sunny afternoon. It was a brief though memorable outing and invigorating dose of outdoor therapy; one to remember for a very long time.

Though my time on the water this season has been limited, a few trips for other fish were also rewarding. During early spring, a couple night-fishing trips for river-run walleyes produced good results. In spring, walleyes in most southern reservoirs migrate into primary feeder-rivers to spawn. This concentrates them in sections where water depth and flow are favorable and prey species are present. Find walleyes and what they’re willing to strike and it can produce good catches of one of the best-tasting fish in fresh water. My preferred method of catching spring river-run walleyes is trolling at night so I scheduled a couple evenings free to go after them. Our priority on the first night was finding places on the river that held fish and we soon caught enough for a meal of fresh fillets. In just a few hours on the follow-up trip, under a star-studded sky, we stayed busy catching and culling fish. Repeated trolling passes along a sixty-yard stretch of water produced more than two-dozen walleyes including a few double hookups with a smallmouth bass and catfish or two mixed in. Trolling at night on a river may sound like a recipe for trouble but it’s an effective method of fishing if you follow a few simple safety rules and employ the correct lures and methods of presentation. To learn more about trolling for walleyes and other fish at night on rivers, refer to the chapter on “Winter Fishing” in my book, The Weekend Angler’s Guide To Good Fishing.

Several outings for bass produced nice catches, including both river and reservoir trips. We fished at night for reservoir largemouths when fishing pressure was lowest and smallmouths during the day on a river where only kayaks disturbed the Five four Boone Lake largemouth bass on an R&S jigserenity. Our first bass-fishing trip of the season to search for largemouths was interesting; a rough start that bloomed into a rewarding finish. We arrived late at the ramp and had to wait in line until almost dark before launching. Then, as we prepared to take off down lake I noticed some nasty looking clouds coming our way. By the time we reached a nearby bridge for shelter, it was raining steadily. An hour later we started down the lake, one we’d not seen before, to find a place to fish in total darkness. Radar on a phone app, a depth finder and some blind luck led us to a shallow point with a distinct offshore break-line that merged with a shoreline filled with alternating layers of rock, red-clay and gravel. I was confident the diverse mixture of bottom types would attract some fish. In the next few hours we landed sixteen bass along a hundred-yard stretch, mostly smallmouths, with a five-pound, five-ounce largemouth taking top honors. Small finesse jigs with plastic pork-chunk trailers caught all our fish though we tried several soft-plastics. Regrettably, I haven’t had time to go back and fish that spot again.

A few half-day trips for river smallmouths produced good fish though larger bass were less than plentiful in the low, clear conditions. The realistic action of swimbaits and soft-plastic stickbaits caught the majority of our fish with Keitech Easy Shiners and Zoom Super Flukes catching the most. Various rigging methods worked well with the Flukes when matched to water flow and natural colors were consistently good choices. However, at times four-inch swimbaits caught more fish so we had to find the best lure and method of presentation on each trip. And I often mix in some variety when fishing so we did raise a few bass on other lures. One encounter that comes to mind didn’t end with a big smallmouth photo-op, but left a vivid memory. It was a day when water generation at an upstream dam was brisk. The water level was high and moving with scattered clumps of grass drifting on the surface. However, water clarity was good and the temperature was an inviting seventy-two degrees; ideal for active river smallmouth bass. In warm moving water, fast retrieves often work well when patterning river smallies so I grabbed a spinning combo rigged with a Pop-R and began quickly covering water. No more than a dozen casts later, a bruiser smallmouth crushed the lure. I set the hook and began reeling quickly, but then my line went slack. Before I could describe what had happened and add a closing expletive, my line suddenly started streaking up river. Panicked reeling soon pulled a bow in my rod and the battle was on. However, after a hard head-shake and short burst downstream the big fish spit the lure back toward me. I thought the bass had thrown the plug because of the poor hook-set but found it had violently removed the rear treble hook, split ring and all. It was a fast and memorable tail-whipping by a big, powerful river smallmouth bass. I hesitate to estimate the fish’s size but the boil it made on the strike must have weighed four-pounds.

Bass Pro Shop Bristol TNSo my spring and early summer excursions, though limited, included some exciting and memorable fishing. Furthermore, a recent development that kept me off the water during much of the season produced many opportunities to meet other anglers and learn more about catching fish. On April 1st, I accepted a Sales Associate position in the Fishing Department at the new Bass Pro Shop store at Exit 74 in Bristol, Tennessee. I’m working there part-time, including many weekends, and enjoying the interaction with other anglers immensely. So if your travels include a trip along the I-81 corridor through Southwest Virginia and Northeast Tennessee, take a few minutes to stop and ask for me there. I’d enjoy meeting you, swapping some fishing stories and helping you choose some lures and equipment for your next fishing adventure. Come by soon and let’s talk fishing! Hope to see you there.

From My Friends at R&S Bait Company

R&S Jigs 1

My journey as an author and writer has been filled with new experiences and adventures. Promoting my book, writing stories about fishing and doing related research has helped improve my writing and angling skills while creating opportunities to make new friends. As an author, the work I enjoy most is book signings because of the interesting people I meet and things I learn from them. Occasionally, fate will creep into what would otherwise be a chance encounter and one such meeting has evolved into a special friendship and business relationship.

Not long after my book was published in 2011, I attended an open house at a local fishing tackle shop in Bristol, VA to sign and sell books. The little shop was packed with vendors and customers when I arrived and soon found space at a table to set up. As I set out books and other materials, a soft-spoken man beside me extended his hand and introduced himself as Rodney Williams. While we exchanged greetings, I noticed he had a fly-tying vise set up with thread, hair, rubber skirt material and other supplies. But the jigs lying on the table in front of him grabbed my attention like a topwater strike. “Where did you get these jigs?” I asked while inspecting one with bulging eyes. “I make those jigs,” he replied and began telling me about his lure company’s history and products. As we talked, I picked up one of my books, flipped to a page in the “Summer Fishing” chapter, handed him the open book and pointed to a picture. “These are your jigs in my book,” I said as he looked closely at the picture, then also with bulging eyes. When he looked up smiling I said, “Mister Williams, I’ve been looking for you for a long time.” That was the beginning of what has become a close and trusted friendship.

There’s a feature story in the summer chapter of my book called “Smallmouth Bass in South Holston Lake” that describes how to fish the lake for smallmouths at night using black lights, fluorescent fishing line and small jigs. South Holston Lake is the setting but only because it allowed me to describe the lake, its nature, access points and other details of interest for visiting anglers. It’s also one of the top smallmouth bass fisheries in the South. The rest of the information provided in the story including how to find fish, recommended rod and line combinations, best methods of presentation, and other details were learned on various lakes across the southeast but with one exception; my first choice in jigs. At the time I Insert 1 - Arky Weedless Smallmouth Jig - rootbeerwrote my book Rodney Williams was making R&S Smallmouth Jigs part-time at his home in Gray, TN with limited distribution through local sources, primarily close to South Holston Lake, so they were very difficult to find. When I did find a few in sizes and colors I needed, often unpackaged and dumped in a small plastic container, I bought them all because there was no reliable source for replacements. After meeting Rodney Williams that day in Bristol, my worries about having the right jigs for smallmouth bass fishing disappeared.

But a jig is a jig is a jig, right? Not in my world. I’m as picky about choosing lures as most tournament professionals. I look at lures, actually all fishing tackle, as tools designed for particular jobs. I don’t tie on a lure or pick up a rod and reel combo because it’s a favorite but choose tackle because it’s the best choice for creating the presentation needed based on species, water depth and conditions. When presenting a crawfish profile to smallmouth bass there are specific attributes to look for in a jig. A small jig with a stand-up head and matching trailer resting on bottom looks much like a threatened crawfish in a defensive posture; a realistic profile that feeding bass often see. The Arky head used on R&S Smallmouth Jigs is among the best in stand-up designs. Sharp, premium hooks, an effective weed guard, quality-made construction and a selection of natural colors in the correct sizes rounds out my list of requirements and describes the R&S Smallmouth Jigs precisely. I’ve enjoyed consistent success using them over the years, including a few tournament wins, and have taught many friends how to fish with them. Of all the kinds of fishing I enjoy each year, more friends and family come to stay with me and fish using R&S Smallmouth Jigs at night with black lights for reservoir smallmouth bass than all others. They are that effective, and it is that enjoyable to fish with them.

Over time, R&S Bait Company owner Rodney Williams and I have become good friends. Visits to his home to replenish jig inventories evolved into reunions to catch up on business, family news and new fishing experiences. He invited me to attend the East Tennessee Fishing Show in Knoxville, TN in 2013 and again in 2014 to sign and sell books in their booth and help sell their line of fine fishing products, primarily their Arky Weedless Smallmouth Jigs. I was grateful for the opportunity and enjoyed recommending R&S jigs to the angling public. It’s fun to promote and sell fishing products you use and believe in to people who share your passion for catching fish so we sold out of smallmouth jigs early at both shows. Furthermore, the feedback we received from visiting anglers was complementary and sometimes entertaining. One morning, a gentleman elbowed his way to the front of our booth and openly gave thanks R&S was back for the 2014 show. With increasing animation, he described his success with the smallmouth jigs, how he’d lost his R&S contact information, and searched everywhere for replacements. I thought for a moment he was going to cry. A middle-school-age young man helping in another vendor’s booth came by one afternoon and bought a couple smallmouth jigs to try. The next morning before the show opened he ran straight to our booth to tell us he’d gone to the river in downtown Knoxville and caught one of his largest smallmouth bass ever on one of his new R&S jigs. It’s always a joy to share in the excitement and success of our angling youth. Endorsements like those can’t be topped.

Insert 2  - R&S product selection collage editR&S Bait Company has expanded their product line and is now ready to offer their fishing lures and accessories to the angling public on a grand scale. Rodney Williams has recently retired after thirty-seven years in law enforcement and is devoting his energy fulltime to manufacturing and selling hand-crafted lures and other fine fishing products. Their new Web site, rsbait.com, displays their line of products, company history, instructional videos, photo gallery and a few stories from my Blog. The Arky Weedless Smallmouth Jig will continue to be R&S’s showcase product but they also offer a selection of other jigs, swimbait heads, weighted hooks, spinnerbaits and buzzbaits and all are made with the same attention to detail and high-quality workmanship. Their newly designed swimbait head with stainless-steel screwlock has already attracted the attention of top tournament anglers. To compliment their line of hand-crafted products, R&S is also offering some carefully selected lures produced by other manufacturers including P60 and P70 Pop-R’s, Luck E Strike blade baits, Zoom soft plastics, a new line of swimming jigs from Snow Spin and Basstrix Swimbaits, perhaps the top selling swimbait on the planet. Fly-tying materials such as thread and craft hair are also available so there are products at rsbait.com for anglers with various interests.

The item in their premier product listing that I’m most proud to announce is copies of my book, The Weekend Angler’s Guide To Good Fishing. I was flattered when Rodney asked if he could offer my book as one of the products selected for their new Web site. It’s an honor to be associated with an honest, family-owned and operated small business that is committed to providing top-quality products and services. Their Web site was designed and produced by my good friend and frequent fishing partner Andy Barnes with The Possible Zone in Kingsport, TN, also a local small business, that specializes in online marketing, branding, web design, even boat wraps and graphics; a service of special interest to serious tournament anglers. I think you’ll find the R&S Web site attractive, well designed and user friendly; comparable to many leading industry manufacturers. So if you’ve considered buying a copy of my book, you can now add one to your shopping cart when ordering products from R&S Bait Company. I highly recommend you try their Weedless Arky Smallmouth Jigs in your favorite smallmouth waters. And don’t overlook the Zoom Tiny Chunk trailers for the jigs or their selection of lead heads designed for almost any method of presentation with soft plastics. If you see something of interest on the site but have a question about hook size, other colors or custom work, contact information is provided so you can get an answer directly from Rodney Williams. Whether you fish for bass, stripers, walleyes or panfish, R&S Bait Company offers products to help you catch them. Welcome a new small business to the fishing tackle industry by visiting their Web site and placing an order. I’m sure you’ll be pleased with their selection, workmanship and services.

Be safe and good fishing!

           

A Busy Season Ahead

Headwaters of Patrick Henry

Summer passed much too quickly this year. I didn’t miss the extended heat of dog-days though I was disappointed my summer tan was a few shades lighter than normal. However, while it lasted summer fishing was very good. My friends and I enjoyed some productive smallmouth bass fishing in local rivers and reservoirs with some exceptional fish boated and above-average numbers. Also, before water temperatures began to fall we found good striped bass fishing in feeder-rivers above local reservoirs. Catching striped bass in shallow rivers during summer can be an exciting adventure but some of the best striped bass fishing of the year is quickly approaching in reservoirs. Now that the first cold snaps of the year have arrived and water temperatures are falling, good fishing will soon be available for a variety of species and I’ll do my best to get out and catch my share. Highland-reservoir walleyes are on my target list now along with schooling striped bass and hybrids. And of course, fall is my hands-down favorite time of year to fish for largemouth bass. However, I hope the weather cooperates because my available fishing time is shrinking quickly. Fall festivals, Christmas Shows and other seasonal events have created opportunities to get out, meet other anglers, learn new things and promote and sell books. I always enjoy meeting and sharing information with other anglers, almost as much as fishing, and have scheduled time off the water almost every weekend between now and mid-January. No problem; I’ll fish on weekdays, if the weather will permit it.

Keith at Big Stone GapI’ve made many new fishing friends since the autumn festival schedule began in late September. Book signings at the Bristol Rhythm & Roots Festival, Kingsport Exchange Place Fall Festival and Erwin Apple Festival jump-started the season. Selling books is always a priority at these events but my greatest enjoyment comes from meeting and sharing information with other anglers. Fishing is a never-ending learning experience so I’m always learning new things from others. Some of the benefits from attentive interaction include finding new lures, new places to fish and ways to catch fish. Finding new sources for fishing equipment is always a welcome bonus. I recently found someone to tie treble-hook trailers in color patterns I want, but can’t buy. I’ll have fun with those and expectations are high. And I often schedule time to scout new waters when traveling to distant signing events. I found a small lake along Virginia’s border with Kentucky that regularly produces bull bluegills and larger redear sunfish, aka shellcrackers. You can bet I’ll be there when the water begins to warm in early spring. Between scouting trips and tips from other anglers, I’ve started a list of new fishing spots to explore for smallmouth, trout, muskies, carp and others. Scouting some of these places will keep me from going into fishing withdrawal during the coming winter. I have several more future book signings scheduled including all three of the Tri-cities and my hometown of Bridgeport, WV. It’s always nice to visit the place where I grew up and learned to fish, see family, old friends, and make new friends. To complete my upcoming signing schedule, I’ll be at the East Tennessee Fishing Show in Knoxville in mid-January. You can find me there at the R&S Bait Company booth with my good friend and talented lure manufacturer Rodney Williams. It will be the largest and best fishing show of the year in this region with many outdoor celebrities, boat and lure manufacturers, and other industry representatives present so be sure to make a note on your winter schedule. You can find dates, times and addresses for all my scheduled signing events including the East Tennessee Fishing Show by clicking the “Book Signing Schedule” tab at the top of the page.

I’ve recently published a Kindle version of my book for the digital crowd and found it was much easier to finish than I expected. You can find a paperback or Kindle version of my book on Amazon.com by clicking on my book. Also, when Amazon finishes loading everything, you’ll see a Body 2 - Now on Amazon Kindlediscounted price when you buy both. As days get shorter and opportunities to fish become less, I’ll fill my late-fall and winter schedule working on a new book. I’ve just started writing so it’s premature to discuss content. However, I’m sure it will contain more about bass, lures, trout, equipment, walleyes, muskies, techniques and several more popular fishing topics. I’ll have to fish through a range of seasons to finish collecting information and photographs so another finished book is only a dot on the horizon but I’m excited about it and will provide more details here as the content develops. So I have a busy schedule ahead, filled with new experiences and adventures. Of course fishing is my preference but scouting, talking and writing about fishing follow close behind. So let the weather do as it will. If I’m flexible, I should be able to stay busy and have fun doing one of these until warm weather and the longer days of spring arrive. Be safe and good fishing till then!