Friday, September 28, 2012

Dropper Loop Knot

Last winter we started experimenting with tying our own tandem rigs for crappie fishing. Mostly just tying multiple jig hooks a foot apart on are line with hopes of increased crappie catch rates in extremely cold water. In Ohio, it is legal to have up to 3 hooks, so this is what we stuck to. At the time I didn't know of any particular knot to use so I just tied clinch knots leaving a long tag to tie more hooks onto. This worked okay but I imagined there was a better way. For the most part I just thought it would be a hassle to retie after snagging, especially in the 30 degree weather at the time.  So I didn't look into it more until recently.

After a quick google search I found a knot that looked quite interesting, the dropper loop knot. It looked easy to tie and you could tie it into a line without having a tag end, thus you could add a knot in the line anytime without removing your end hook. So one evening I sat down and learned how to tie it. Knots are never as easy to tie with monofilament line as the rope or braid that you will find in almost every example on the Internet. It wasn't as easy as it looked with monofilament line but still very simple. Here's how I learned to tie it.

Start by making a loop or an overhand knot in the line, either will work. The bigger the loop the bigger the ending dropper loop will be.

Next, wrap the loop around the line 6-8 times. This can be difficult at first, just simply alternate which hand is pinching the line as you make each half turn of the loop. I found its also important to have each end of the line attached to something such that the ends of the line aren't free to twist as you try to make wraps. If the line is on a reel just tie your hook on the end of the line first and attach it to an eye on your rod. Here's what it should look like after the wraps.

The next part can also be a little tricky but after this you are home free. What you need to do is feed the big loop through the center twist in the line (where my thumb is pinching the line in the picture above). Try to create a gap in the twists without letting the twists unravel and push the top of the loop through. Once you get this started it may be necessary to pull the loop through with your mouth as you hold each end of the line with your hands. Once you've done this, you can pull each end of the line tight simultaneously and you are finished. If the knot slips you most likely didn't get enough wraps in. Here's what the final product looks like.

From here you have two options for tying on a bait to the loop. You could cut one side of the loop leaving one line to tie a hook to. Or, you could tie a new piece of line to the loop to tie your hook to. Although I have not tried it, another option would be to slide all your hooks on the line first (unless you can slide the hooks over your ending hook). With this method you would tie the knot with the hook on the loop, this may actually make tying the knot easier. However this would leave your hook free to slide around on the loop, this may or may not be desirable.

I have not yet tested the strength of the line after tying this knot in it. Nor have I tried it while actually fishing. I do look forward to trying it out soon and I will most likely blog the results. Here's a picture of a finished rig I did with 1/32 jig hooks.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

9/23 Smallmouth Trip

Sunday evening I took a solo trip to Brush Creek to do some smallmouth fishing, something I've neglected to do for a while. I arrived at 5:00pm and analyzed the drought ridden creek. I knew it had been low for the entire summer but I hadn't seen the upper end of the stream in person. One of my favorite smallmouth areas was only 6 inches deep so fishing it wasn't an option. So I moved down stream closer to the head of the nearest hole where the water was still deep enough to hold fish.

 I started casting the tried and true Rebel wee craw. It wasn't long and I had caught a few smallmouth, all in the 11-13 inch range. Soon thereafter I hooked into something nice, which turned out to be a 2lb 14oz Drum. The Drum in this area aren't shy about hitting crankbaits and spinnerbaits and there are some big ones held up in the deeper holes.  For the briefest moment every time I hook into one I think I've got myself a monster smallmouth but its always a Drum. Still fun to catch none the less.
2lb 14oz 19 inch Freshwater Drum
The bite eventually died down and I ventured downstream to the tail of the hole in search of more smallmouth. I didn't get much action other than a couple bluegill on the wee craw at the tail end of the hole. At this point the sun was starting to set so I tied on the old Rebel Pop-R. I had quick success with the popper, catching 3 spotted bass. The biggest of the spotted bass was 12 inch 12oz.
12oz 12 inch Spotted Bass
I made my way back to the head of the hole throwing the popper without any bites. When I reached the head, I threw the popper about a dozen times before finally provoking a strike from the biggest smallmouth of the day. A 1lb 5oz 14 inch.
1lb 5oz 14inch Smallmouth Bass
The action died after the final smallmouth and I soon called it quits. On the day I caught 6 smallmouth all in the 11-14 inch range, 3 spotted bass, 1 drum, and 2 bluegill. Not bad for 3 hours of fishing. The best part was I didn't have a single fish spit a hook, an uncommon feat when fishing for smallmouth as they are aggressive jumpers.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

September Ohio River Trips

Since the last Ohio River post I have fished the river over half a dozen times in several new spots. I took dad to the river a couple weeks ago, and before he got on the water he said that he would like to get a new personal best catfish. He didn't care what kind, he just wanted to catch a fish bigger than 16 pounds. He knew that we had caught several fish exceeding 30 pounds so his hopes were set high. At first I drove over to a nearby power plant discharge and picked up some shad and skipjack. While throwing a sabiki rig Dad hooked a 3 pound channel cat on an ultra light, needless to say it was quite a battle.

We then drove around the river and looked for a few new spots. We found a rather large log jam sitting in 5 or 6 feet at the head of the log pile, and over 20 feet at the core of the hole. We set up and dad quickly had a few bites. He landed a few quick channel cats on cut skipjack, and then found a hot bite near the bank. Within 10 minutes his rod loaded 3 or 4 separate times, but the circle hook failed to find flesh. He was persistent and eventually got the hook to find a fish, and after a quick battle and a good leap we knew he hadn't hooked a catfish. After a few hard runs he brought in a nearly 9 pound Longnose Gar.
8 pound 12oz Gar
After he landed the gar, I told him that we should probably move unless we wanted to run through our bait before midnight. Gar are an extremely hard fish to catch, their mouths are full of teeth and extremely hard which makes it very difficult for a hook to find a spot to penetrate. When we fish for gar we typically use floats and let the gar run with the bait for over a minute before we set the hook on them, with hopes of them getting the bait down their throat and closer to softer tissue. We then drove across the river and set up on a shallow point near Brush Creek. About an hour after anchoring dad hooked a nice fish on a cut skipjack head. The fish started swimming right toward the boat and it surfaced rather quickly. I dipped the net in the water to land the fish (which looked to be a rather large channel catfish) and as soon as it touched the water the fish figured out that it was hooked, and it made a very quick run and threw the hook.

We then moved into the mouth of the creek and Dad got his chance at a personal best catfish. The rod went down and started slipping drag in the rod holder, at that point I told him that he had a good fish on. The fish took about 2 minutes to surface, which is typical of a flathead, but this time around it happened to be a very motivated blue cat. After missing the blue cat with the net a time or two we finally got the fish into the boat. The fish went 20 pounds 3 ounces,  which was his new personal best. 
20 Pound 3oz Blue Catfish
After that trip we had a few decent outings with lots of 3 to 6 pound channels, several decent drum, a few small flathead, and lots of hybrid striped bass. Last night however, was another notable trip. I launched the boat at about noon and drove in 20-30 mile per hour winds, 2 to 3 foot rolling waves. So I hugged the bank and shifted all the weight to the back of the boat as to lift the nose of the boat over the waves. I pulled up to the barges at the power plant, and to my surprise there was a boat fishing in the calm water behind the barges. I tried to go around the barges in order to fish the downstream side of the tied off barge containers. After 15 seconds of battling extreme wind and waves in the middle of the river, I decided to turn around. I watched the boat leave and went to investigate, riding the bank behind the barge containers from the upstream side. I then found a new route to the power plant discharge, which happened to take me over several logs less than 6 inches deep....which required me to pull up the motors and push myself over them. I quickly anchored and started casting a sabiki rig for skipjack. I noticed that the wind had all of the shad balled up on the backside of the barges, and all along the bank. I quickly caught a few small skipjack and tossed one out alive on my smaller sized catfish rod. (Abu Garcia Kalex 60 paired with a 7' MH Shakesphere Catfish Series Ugly Stik) Before I could make another cast with the sabiki rig, the catfish series ugly stick loaded. I quickly reeled in a 2lb 1oz Hybrid Striped Bass. This happened pretty much all day, I would catch a skipjack and a hybrid would eat it instantly. I ended up catching 15 hybrid striped bass, with 2 fish over 3 pounds, 4 fish over 2 pounds, and 6 fish over 1 pound. Below is a picture of the largest hybrid of the day at 3lbs and 8 ounces. 
3 pound 8 ounce, 18.5" Hybrid Striped Bass
I also ended up catching a few channel catfish this very same way, the largest of which went 6lbs 3oz. Later that night I took the few skipjack I had remaining, a few small hybrid stripers, and tossed them out upstream of a logjam. At about 11:30pm it started getting really cold and I was wet from tossing the throw net, so we decided to start packing up. I quickly started putting my tackle box together and Amanda reeled her rods in. As I turned to reel in my rods, I noticed that my furthest rod had loaded and I hadn't noticed in all of the commotion. I started reeling and Amanda asked if I needed the net, I told her I could lip it. However when it got to the boat I changed my mind, the fish apparently didn't like the boat. After a few hard tugs the fish came up, and to my surprise I had landed a flathead on a cut skipjack head. The fish went 14 pounds and 3 ounces.
14 pound 3 ounce Flathead Catfish
As with all of our fish, other than bait, the fish was released to fight again.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Double Trouble Channel Cats

Tuesday, Sean and I did some catfishing after I got off work. Catfishing has been slow for us this year with only a few good trips this year. Good bass fishing early on in the year lead us to bass fishing more often than catfishing so this may have been a contributing factor. Well we finally had a decent trip Tuesday. Things started slow during the daytime. We fished two different spots without much for than a nibble. We were using cut shad as we almost always do at Rocky Fork Lake. At sunset we setup at a small cove we had never fished before. The majority of cove ranged from 8-12ft deep with intense weeds along the edges as is most areas in Rocky Fork. The water temperature was 73 degrees. We anchored in the cove and cast out into the mouth hoping the channels would be coming in to feed at dusk. It wasn't long before Sean started getting nibbles that failed to load his rods, we started to blame turtles for this as our confidence was low. At about 8:30pm one of Sean's rods finally loaded and a battle ensued. After a short battle we boated a decent size channel cat. Not ten seconds later one of my rods went down. Sean quickly removed his channel from the net as I fought my fish. After a few good drag pulling runs we boated another decent size channel cat. Yet again we had two nice channels in the boat. It happened last year on July 30th with my 11lb 4oz personal best and a 7lb for Sean.
11lb and 7lb Channel Cats From July 30th 2011
 We quickly removed our circle hooks and weighed the fish. This time around we had nearly identical sized fish, both weighing 9lbs 8oz. We measured mine at about 28 inches.
9lb 8oz Channel Cat
9lb 8oz Channel Cat
 This time around we dared to take some double pictures. It's safe to say we had some severe fisherman's thumb after handling two channels at once without gloves.
Two 9lb 8oz Channels
Two 9lb 8oz Channels
A couple good pictures of them in the net.
Two 9lb 8oz Channels
Two 9lb 8oz Channels
And finally the release
Double 9lb 8oz Channel Release
 We were pumped to finally get some good channel cats in the boat again. We ended up staying until 10:00pm without any more bites. I had work in the morning so we called it quits. A good confidence building trip none the less.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Cleaning Cork Handles

A couple weekends ago we ended up sitting inside watching the doppler radar for a break in the storms long enough to fish without fear of getting struck by lightning. It turns out we ended up staying home both Saturday and Sunday, so I had plenty of time to mess with my gear. While taking my rods out of the car and putting them on the rod rack for the first time in several months I noticed that several of my rods that had cork handles, were now dark brown rather than beige. So I took a few minutes to see if I could clean them.
I began as I always do when I clean my gear, I grabbed a bowl and filled it with warm water and dawn dish liquid and an old sock.
I then dipped the sock in the soapy water and began cleaning the cork handle in what I would call an "Indian Burn" fashion. Many of you may have experienced an Indian Burn a few times, but for those of you that haven't, it's when someone places both hands on your arm and then clamps down and turns each hand in opposite directions. Below is a picture of the cork handle with the bottom half clean and the top-half untouched.
It turns out that after giving the handle a few good twists with a wet sock the cork looks as good as new, at least for a week or two.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Abu Garcia 7000i, 7000c3, 7000cs Differences

I have often wondered what the differences between my Abu Garcia 7000 models were. A year ago I purchased a few used Abu Garcia 7000's, including a 7000i, a 7000ic3, and a 7000ics. You can see that by the price the 7000i is cheapest, 7000ic3 is the mid range model, and the 7000ics is the most expensive and supposedly of the highest quality. I have done a little research and I know what random people on forums, blogs, and other websites say about the differences between each model. I have heard that the 7000ics (Pro Rocket) has more bearings than the 7000ic3 and 7000i, that the bearings are sealed in the 7000ics, the 7000ic3 and 7000ics have bearings and the 7000i has bushings, that the 7000ics has a better drag system than the 7000ic3, etc.. Since I have all three models I decided to take a look for myself.
Above is a picture of a 7000ics, 7000ic3, and a 7000i from left to right. I began by removing the left side plate tension knob and removing the bearing/bushings located inside the tension knob.
The 7000ics and 7000ic3 had bearings located within the tension knob, and the 7000i had a bushing. I then took the side plate off and began looking for differences. I found that other than the clicker mechanism the rest of the parts were similar. I then took the right side tension knob off and removed the bearings and bushings of each reel.
Once again I noticed that the 7000ics and 7000ic3 had similar bearings, while the 7000i had a bushing. These bushings/bearings hold the spool off of the side plates and aid in easing the friction of the spool spinning. Essentially the bearings sit on each side of the spool as shown below.
I then began taking the the side plates off of the frames and disassembling the right side plate. I'd like to state here that taking apart newer model reels is slightly difficult and frustrating the first time you take them apart. I have taken these reels apart several times and have misplaced many parts, which have taken many hours to figure out the proper placement. You notice that I now place parts in order of the way I take them off the reel, that way I know which parts go on first. Its also important to note that some washers are bent and need to be placed on the exact same side every time as to provide proper spacing. Below is a picture of each reel taken apart as far as needed to expose all parts.

 Immediately I noticed that the 7000i had a plastic spacer, whereas the 7000ic3 and 7000ics had a sleeve and bearing system. Shown below.


7000ics (Pro Rocket)
Up to this point the 7000i had three bushings, the 7000ic3 had 3 bearings in place of the bushings/spacers, and the 7000ics had the same 3 bearings as the 7000ic3. So as far as bearings go, the 7000ic3 and 7000ics were exactly the same. So I then began looking to see if the drags were different.
It turns out they are exactly the same as shown above. So I have learned that other than paint the 7000ic3 and 7000ics are identical, and anyone who bought a new 7000ics paid $20 or more for a different paint job and golden trim. As for the 7000i it lacks 3 bearings that the 7000ic3 and 7000ics have but costs significantly less. (Approximately $50 less than the 7000ics, and $30 less than the 7000ic3) In my opinion the 7000i will cast, in most cases, just as far, and land fish just as quickly as its higher priced brothers. When tossing large live baits for flathead, or hand sized cutbaits for blue cats, one will hardly feel a difference if at all. Maybe if you were surf fishing, fishing below a tailwater, competition casting, or tossing small baits and weights over 80 yards you would feel a difference. In most cases the approximately $50 saved would buy (or help to buy) a set of ceramic Boca bearings that should far exceed the performance of the bearings found in the 7000ic3 and 7000ics.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Browning Medallion GT Spinning Rod & Reel Review

My Browning Medallion GT spinning reel recently kicked the bucket so no better time than now to review the reel and matching rod. I purchased this combo in spring 2010 and it has been my go to rod ever since. I used this combo on nearly every trip for the past two years, which is probably somewhere around 200 days of fishing, so it has seen some very heavy use. I've caught nearly every species of local game fish on it including a 32lb carp. This year it started developing multiple problems and the reel finally become practically unusable although the rod is still in decent shape.

I'll start with the reel. Here are the stats on it.

Model: MD-25C (the medium sized model)
Gear Ratio: 5.5:1
Line Capacity: 8/140
Ball Bearings: 5+1
Max Drag: 11 Lbs.
Line Recovery: 28" Per Turn
Reel Weight: 8.7 oz.
Browning Medallion GT Spinning Reel (MD-25C)
For the first year and a half the reel performed great. It was smooth and I had no problems with it. The first problem that appeared was the crank handle started developing a wobble. Unfortunately there is no way to correct this as far as I can tell, no screws to tighten, just worn out joints. Thankfully the reel was still usable with this condition.  Next the problem that ultimately put the reel into retirement started occurring. On occasion, the reel would become difficult to reel or even completely lock up. I cleaned it several times before I figured out what exactly the problem was. One of the gears had developed enough play that it was grinding against the body of the reel. This problem slowly got worse and more common over time until I decided to retire the reel. Lastly towards the end of the reels life, the line roller started eating my line. The line would slip between the roller and the bail on occasion damaging my line. I was by no means easy on this reel, so I believe 2 years of performance was a good run.

Now on to the rod.

Model: MDN66MS
Length: 6'6"
Power: Medium
Action: Fast
Line Weight: 4-12 Lbs.
Lure Weight: 1/8 - 1/2 oz.
Pieces: 1
Browning Medallion GT Spinning Rod (MDN66MS)
The rod is still in working condition today and I plan to purchase a new reel to use with it. It isn't nearly the lightest rod or the heaviest rod I have used, somewhat in the middle of the road. I'd rate the sensitivity as somewhat average as well. The strength and durability of this rod has been the high point. The only problem I've had with the rod was the tip eye got chipped at one point which was an easy replacement.
Replaced Eye
Something important to note is the price of this combo has went up since I bought it. I found an old 2010 basspro master catalog and checked the price, $109.98 for the combo, $59.99 for the reel, and $79.99 for the rod. I believe I may have also got it on sale at the time. Compared to today's prices, $124.98 for the combo, $64.99 for the reel, and $79.99 for the rod. For the price I feel the combo is a solid choice even with the price increase. Durability is one of the biggest factors I look for when purchasing a rod and reel. I don't have many rods and reels to compare to but compared to what I do have this setup has been good considering the amount of use. I probably won't purchase another Medallion GT reel mainly because I want to explore other comparable reels. Of the other Browning products of owned they have always been top quality and that's what lead me to purchase this setup and It should definitely be a strong contender for someone looking for a mid price range spinning setup.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Finding and fixing leaky rivets

A few weeks ago I noticed that I had some water in the boat after a long catfish outing, with winter on its way, I knew I had better fix the leaks while the weather was still comfortable. I started by removing all of my accessories: rod holders, fish finder, batteries, anchors, floors, etc. I then began filling the boat with water.
As the boat filled with water I adjusted the trailer up or down as to distribute the water evenly. As the water approached the water line I turned the garden hose off and crawled under the trailer to look for any signs of water.
I found that a few of my old patches had started leaking. I quickly marked off all of the leaky rivets and drained the boat. I then took the boat off of the trailer and flipped it over on its top. I then began to scrape the old patches off and re-sand the surfaces around the rivets. I cleaned the surfaces with dawn dish liquid to remove any residual dust left over from sanding.
I then applied JB Weld WaterWeld to the leaky rivets. I have found that it has been by far the most effective and longest lasting patch.
Below is a picture of the JB Weld WaterWeld applied in half-dollar sized circles on the leaky rivets. I will re-paint the patches black.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Selective Harvest Pond Fishing Part 2

Last Saturday, Sean, Amanda, and I went to my pond to do some more bluegill harvesting. We wanted to do are usual Saturday night catfishing but the forecasted hurricane rains made us decide otherwise. The doppler looked bad and they were calling for 2-5 inches of rain so we played it safe and fished my pond. It ended up raining next to nothing, unfortunate because we are in need of it. The target range was once again 5-7 inch gills, although for the sake of our filleting sanity we only kept 5.5-7 inch gills. We all used typical bluegill techniques with small jigs, floats, and nightcrawlers. Several of the gills caught were still really skinny. The average size was about 6 inches and the biggest was about 8 inches. Between the three of us we caught approximately 100 bluegill in 3 hours and kept 55. Sean and I made quick work filleting them, after filleting so many bluegill this year we've become quite good at it.
55 harvested bluegill
The most interesting part of the trip was Amanda caught a tagged largemouth. Since I tagged 12 largemouth back in March/April this is the second tagged fish caught. The tag was ripped out on the first tagged largemouth so no data could be recorded. This one still had the tag attached. It was tagged March 9th at 11.0 inches and measured 11.75 inches on September 1st. At this size the bass appears to be growing over an inch per year. It will be interesting to see how the growth continues over the years assuming the bass continues to get caught and the tag remains in place.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Freezing Shad

A month ago I decided to get a few shad for a river trip and ended up with way more than I could use. I had a rather large cooler in my car with a few frozen bottles for keeping the shad fresh, so I had the means to keep the bait in good condition. I left the house around 10 PM and made the 20 minute drive to Rocky Fork Lake. A night earlier Rylan and I noticed a rather large shad circle, a school of shad swimming in a circle, so I knew exactly where to go. I got out and took a couple casts with the throw net and managed one on my second cast, two on my fourth cast. On my fifth cast Amanda pointed out a swirling motion under a light by a nearby dock. I tossed the net right over the swirling water, I began retrieving the net and I felt a really heavy weight. As I brought it to the surface I pondered if I could lift the net without tearing the mainlines. It took a good bit of muscle but I got it up on the bank and I told Amanda we were done for the night. I quickly put the shad in the cooler and started on my way home. When I got home I put the shad on the table and began counting.
All together I had 73 shad, which meant that in my last cast I caught 70 shad....not too bad for a few minutes of throwing the cast net. The shad ranged from 6" to 11".
I quickly put the shad in gallon zip-lock freezer bags. I put 10 medium sized shad in each bag, four 10 inch or larger shad in one bag, and the remaining 9 in the last bag.  I then submerged each bag in water to expel all of the excess air. I then put each bag in the freezer.
Since then we have made several trips with the frozen shad and the general consensus was that we would rather fish with small fresh bait over using large frozen shad. We got bites on the frozen shad, but the fish tended to smash the "meat" out of the skin or tear pieces of shad away from the hook. Last week we actually decided to leave the frozen shad at home and depend on getting bait before we fish. Since we live a relatively short distance away from a warm water discharge, we probably won't try to freeze shad this winter.