Monday, November 26, 2012

Hot Hands

With cold weather setting in, keeping warm is important to having a good day of fishing. Since gloves aren't that practical due to needing your fingers for tying and baiting hooks your hands are often the hardest part of your body to keep warm. I have a pair of fingerless gloves for this reason but the pair I have is not very waterproof defeating the purpose. The water tends to get in through the finger holes. There may be other waterproof fingerless glove options that work better but I have not tried them. So the alternative to gloves? Hot Hands. Since we started fishing year round, Hot Hands, a brand of hand warmers, have been a necessity in our tackle bags.
Hot Hands Hand Warmer Value Pack
To put things simple, these packets of heat work when oxygen mixes with iron producing hours of heat (10 hours as advertised). The process is a little more complex and you can easily find a more detailed explanation using a Google search.  It takes an hour or two for them to reach their average max temperature of 135 degrees, but it is well worth the wait. Keeping your cold, wet, hands warm can save valuable fishing time and extend trips. When outside in freezing conditions they don't feel nearly the 135 degrees advertised but they still help tremendously. I would recommend Hot Hands to any angler wishing to brave temperatures below 40 degrees.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Bass Pro Shops Gold Series Landing Net

This spring I decided to buy a folding net for the jon boat because our other net was taking up too much space. So I went to bass pro and bought the cheapest folding net I could find, in hindsight that was a bad decision...explained shortly. Fishing out of a 14' jon boat with 3 people can be pretty cramped so saving space is crucial. Below is a picture of the nets fully extended to show their comparable size.
Below is a picture of the nets collapsed.
The folding net definitely saved a lot of space, and I liked the fact that the net was coated in rubber which makes it easier on the fish's slime coat. However, the net has its faults. The rubber coating on the net makes it harder to cut through the water, a lot slower than the thinner net. The Bass pro shops net is also significantly heavier than the aluminum net. The front of the collapsible net is rubber which makes for scooping larger fish up a bit harder since the front rim isn't solid. On several occasions I have had a fish just at the rim of the net only to lose the fish as it thrashes out and over the soft rubber rim of the net. In fact, Amanda hooked and brought a decent sized blue, very quickly and green, to the boat one day. I went to net the Blue Cat and touched it with the front of the net and it dove back down and threw the hook. Saving 40-50 bucks isn't worth losing fish, especially decent fish. Next season I will be purchasing a high end collapsible net with a hard rimmed front edge.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Boat Buying Research

So ever since selling my boat back in June I've been doing quite a bit of research on different types of boats and brands as well as keeping an eye out for anything used that catches my eye. Originally I was interested in shallow running modified v jon boats such as the G3 Gator Tough series. This has since changed. I realize now that currently there just isn't enough situations where I would benefit from being able to run extremely shallow. There has been far more times where rough water has effected our fishing, so I would rather get a boat better suited for taking on the big waters. So the obvious choice was a deep v fishing boat. Not only does this style of boat handle choppy water the best, they have much wider beams than the modified v's. Wider beam equals more space, something that is still very important to me. My number one requirement is to have enough room to fish 4 people fairly comfortably. Here's a list of all of my current requirements and preferences:
  • Can fish 4 people somewhat comfortably (4 seats).
  • Side console for maximum space.
  • Has or can easily install transom and bow mount trolling motors.
  • Has or can easily install console and bow fish finders.
  • Bow and aft livewell/baitwells.
  • Easy to install rod holder options.
  • Hull durability, will most likely hit some stumps and rocks on occasion.
  • A built in cooler would be nice but not a deal breaker.
  • Outboard motor size isn't that important, whatever it takes to get the boat on plane, most likely in the 60-115hp range
So I started looking into the deep v's. I found that there are several well known companies that make deep v fishing boats that fit my criteria. I'm not necessarily looking into a new boat just yet, but using them as a guideline for determining what kind of features I could get on one vs anything used I find. I decided that I wouldn't consider a new boat until I have a garage to store it in, plus most lose their new value very quickly. Overtime I accumulated several boat catalogs from some of the top brands.
G3, Alumacraft, Tracker, Lund, Crestliner Deep V, Crestliner Modified V, SeaArk, and Sylvan boat catalogs
I have also requested catalogs from Lowe, Polarkraft, Princecraft, Smokercraft, and Starcraft but have yet to receive anything from those companies and I'm doubtful if I ever will at this point. Here's a little bit about what I thought of each companies catalog and boat selection.

G3 has one of the best put together catalogs and Is my personal favorite. They give you all the information you need in an easy to read format with large pictures of each model. For every model they have a big straight down view of the boat layout, not just a drawing of the layout like some of the other companies. They don't have the biggest selection that meet my criteria but a solid lineup for sure. They have two models which I would be interested in, the V162C and V172C.

These guys had one of my least favorite catalogs. They include all of their floor plan drawings on one page in the back rather than right on the models page. They do have very nice full page pictures for select models. They have several models that I would be interested in including the only model I've seen that has a small built in cooler on the side. Not the best catalog but definitely a strong lineup of boats.

Tracker Is amongst G3 as one of my favorite catalogs. It is easy to read and displays all the information you need. Like G3 they have large pictures showing the layout of each model. Tracker is also the only company I know that has prices listed which is a huge plus.  They don't have the largest selection with only one boat meeting my criteria, the V-175 SC. I'm also not a huge fan of the bright red and blue paint schemes.

Lund, surprisingly, like Alumacraft has one of my least favorite catalogs. They include a large section of magazine like material in the front which I don't really care about but no biggie. The biggest downfall is the lack of layout pictures. They include only a very small drawing of each models layout and that is one of the key things I look at. It all looks nice it just doesn't show me the information I want to know very well. They do have several, most likely very expensive, models that I would be interested in.

Crestliner isn't the worst but not the best either. The information is easy to read and they do have medium size layout drawings of each model. Like Lund they also include a large magazine like section. They have a solid selection with two models that I would be interested in, the Raptor and Fish Hawk.

SeaArk isn't one of brands I'm considering much anymore as they are mostly modified v's. They still have a solid catalog and selection for someone interested in modified v's.

I didn't have high expectation for Sylvan.  Their catalog and selection is very small. The catalog is mediocre. They do have the nice layout pictures that I like but the information is lacking. They don't really have any model that I am interested In.

Since most of these companies have boats with similar features I started comparing their hull designs and thicknesses.  Of all listed, only Tracker and Crestliner are welded rather than riveted. I've always herd that the all welded boats are the best as they don't develop the leaks that riveted boats are prone to. Both Tracker and Crestliner have a similar aluminum gauge of .100" on the models I was interested in. Of the riveted boats I also looked at the aluminum gauge used on the models I was interested in. Lund surprisingly had the smallest aluminum gauge at .080" bottom and .063" freeboard. Lund does claim to have some special hull shape that enhances boat control. Alumacraft wasn't much better with .080" bottom and .080" freeboard. G3 came through as the top dog of the riveted boats with a .100" gauge bottom and a .100" bow.

Through all of this I have learned one big lesson. They don't make shopping for new boats easy. Excluding Tracker you don't know the price of anything without calling a dealer. This makes comparing models tough as price is the biggest factor. Moreover, boat dealers are all hours away from where I live so its a long trip If I decide to go look at any in person. It would be nice if they would just list a sticker price on everything. Thumbs up to Tracker for their "No Haggle, No Hassle" pricing system. Also I forgot that Crestliner does include starting prices on their website but no in their catalog.

So at the moment I still don't know what boat I would choose If I was to get a new one but for the time being my search for a used one continues. Even with a used one I'm wishing I had a garage to keep it in before buying.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

2003 Mercury Short Shaft 9.9hp Outboard Motor

For quite sometime I have been looking for a new outboard motor for my 14 foot modified v jon boat. My old motor is a 1978 Ted Williams 7.5 horse power 2 stroke outboard that is extremely loud and too slow for our fishing needs....6mph. We have traveled up to 2 hours before on various fishing trips while scouting large stretches of the Ohio River and its tributaries. So I was hoping to get a motor that could push us at 10 miles per hour or greater, in order to fish more and drive less.

The other day Rylan sent me a email about a 2003 Mercury 9.9hp motor for $300 on Ohio Game Fishing's Marketplace. At first I thought he was joking, because most motors newer than 2000 run well over $500. However the motor had been dropped and it was cracked and the cover was lost. I still felt that the motor was still worth every bit of $300. So on lunch break I logged into Ohio Game Fishing and found the motor. I then quickly expressed my interest and made contact with the seller. Two days later I met LegendKiller, Brian, and he started the motor on the first pull. I was amazed, since Rylan had a 2008 9.9 Mercury Big Foot outboard and it typically took one pull on choke to get it running. I didn't even hesitate, I gave Brian the money and brought the motor home right then and there.
Here's the busted rear end of the motor that kept the hood from attaching. I'll probably add some jb weld and order a new hood from Mercury. For the mean time I'll use it as is and cover it when I am not driving it.
Friday night I had the motor mounted and ready to hit the water Saturday morning. My expectations were high, I wanted to hit 10 mph with over 800lbs of people, gear, batteries, etc. Using an app on my phone, GPS Essentials, I had clocked my old motor as high as 6.25mph so I was expecting to see a dramatic difference in the two.....and I did. We never got up on plane, but we still reached 12 miles per hour. More than likely I'll have to shift weight up to the front and we should hit plane, maybe even hit 15mph.

I attribute the difference to prop size, age, and of course the addition of 2.5 horse power. The prop on the old 7.5 Ted Williams was super small, smaller than the prop on my trolling motors even. On the left is the prop for the 2003 9.9hp Mercury and on the right is the prop for the 1978 7.5hp Ted Williams motor. I'd guess the prop on the Mercury to be close to three times larger than that of the Ted Williams motor.
Prop size isn't the only size difference, the Mercury is almost twice as heavy, at 76.5 pounds compared to the Ted Williams at 48 pounds.
All in all, I am very pleased with my purchase. I hope that it will give us more time to fish and less time driving. However it will be tempting to drive twice as far to fish less pressured spots, but I guess that's a positive thing. It will also be more reliable than the nearly 35 year old Ted Williams. I will miss the gas efficiency of the Ted Williams though, which would run 3 hours straight on 1 gallon of gas. I don't know how the new motor will be, but I'm pretty sure we burned nearly a gallon driving around Rocky Fork lake last Saturday and spent almost an hour driving.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Hook Sharpening

Ensuring that your hooks are nice and sharp can make the difference between landing and losing a fish. I feel this is especially important when using circle hooks since these hooks are designed to wrap around the corner of a fishes mouth and hook the fish under light pressure. That's why I'd like to show how I sharpen my hooks that may have become dull due to extended use or snagging. I have two hook sharpeners, both of the same style, one made my Rapala and one by Field & Stream. Here's a picture of both of them.
Hook Sharpeners
Rather than try to explain in words I made a short video on how to use these sharpeners. The main rule to follow is to run the hook point parallel to the grooves in a direction such that the grain is moving towards the hook point. The hook I used in the video was an 8/0 Gamakatsu octopus circle.

Monday, November 12, 2012

11/10 Rocky Fork Lake Crappie Fishing

Since we had good success crappie fishing last weekend, this Saturday we decided to head out to Rocky Fork Lake for some crappie once again. We couldn't have asked for better weather in November with sunny skies and temperatures hitting 70 degrees. We arrived and launched the boat at 11:00am and motored to a fallen tree that Sean had the best luck at last Sunday. The water temperature was down to 51 degrees this time. It didn't take long before we started boating the crappie with about 1 out of 4 being keeper size of 9 inches. Last weekend Sean kept the fish and this time around I was going to keep the fish. Our goal for the day was to specifically find the bigger crappie. So we traveled around to various spots catching 10-20 crappie with a few keepers each time.  Also in the mix was a few largemouth and bluegill. We would keep moving in hopes of finding a school of big crappie. We did well fishing some ledges as well as the snags. Depth was variable too, with some crappie coming from 5ft on the bank and some coming from 15-20ft on the bottom. Catch rates on minnow floats, small plastics, and minnow jigs was evenly distributed. The best float depth seemed to be 5-8ft.

Towards the end of the day Amanda's float went under and she hooked into something pretty nice, at least in the aspect of crappie fishing. After a short battle we netted a small Channel Catfish of about 3lbs. We didn't end up finding any trophy crappie, the biggest of the day was a 12oz 11 inch. By 6:00pm it was dark and getting cold so we headed towards the boat ramp. When we got home we laid out our catch for a count and picture.
21 Crappie and 5 Bluegill
I put the 11 black crappie on top and 10 white crappie on the bottom. After an hour of filleting I took the meat inside to rinse off. Finally I bagged the meat up and weighed it out of curiosity. 2 pounds and 15 ounces of meat, enough for a couple good fish fries for my friends and family.
2lbs 15oz of Crappie and Bluegill meat

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Repairing a Rod Tip

A few weeks ago I noticed that one of my rod tips had lost an insert.

When eyes lose an insert they tend to damage line, so I put the rod away and waited for an opportunity to purchase a rod tip repair kit. Last weekend I picked a kit up at a local bait store, and finally got around to replacing the tip on the rod. The kit that I purchased was manufactured by Berkley, but there are many repair kits out there and I have used several of them before with nothing bad to say about any of them.
Following the instructions, the first step of the repair process is to heat the tip as to loosen the glue and remove the broken rod tip.

I then scrapped all of the excess glue off and moved on to the second step. Next, I chose the smallest eye in the kit, heated the tube of quick dry cement, and applied it to my rod tip.

The final step of the process is to align the rod tip to the rest of the eyes and hold in place for 5 seconds. At this point the tip should be as good as new, if the tip moves when you apply a moderate amount of pressure...heat it up, remove it, apply more glue, and try again.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

11/3, 11/4 Rocky Fork Lake Crappie Fishing

This weekend we took a break from catfishing to see if we could find a few Crappie for the table. So we grabbed a few dozen minnows, a couple containers of wax worms, and several layers of clothing. Saturday Rylan, Amanda, and I took the boat out to Rocky Fork Lake and targeted fallen trees near the dam. We put the boat in around 1:00pm and fished through several showers until we were thoroughly soaked. The surface water temperature was around 53 degrees all evening. We trolled around and checked out our first piece of cover, setting from the bank into 16 feet of water, to see the extent of the fallen tree. We anchored at the deepest portion of the tree and cast slip floats toward the bank, while casting and vertical jigging soft plastics the entire length of the tree. We quickly boated a few keeper Crappie and then found a hot dinker bite. After an hour the bite had died and we moved to the next piece of cover.

After another fishless half hour of fishing we moved to one of the deepest pieces of structure we could find, setting in 15 to 25 feet of water. We found a few more dinker crappie, mixed in with a few keepers, and a couple Bluegill. We ended up staying anchored at this spot for the rest of our trip. On the day we ended up keeping 7 Crappie and 5 Bluegill, and catching over 80 fish combined, most of which came off of 1.5" Squirmin' Squirt tube baits and Bobby Garland swimbaits.

Sunday Amanda and I took the boat and the remaining minnows back to Rocky Fork Lake to see if we could find a few more Crappie. We got our first lines in the water around 11:30am, and had a fish in the boat on the first cast and then the second cast. To our surprise we had anchored on a few white bass.

After 3 White Bass, the largest of which went 13oz, they had disappeared ....more than likely following schooling shad. After the White Bass left, we found that the tree we had anchored on had a few above average Crappie. This time around the bite was evenly distributed between minnows and soft plastics. The largest Crappie on the day was a 12" long, super thick, 1lb 0oz Black Crappie. At Rocky Fork Lake Black Crappie are far less common than White Crappie, so I was pretty excited to catch it. White Crappie can be distinguished from Black Crappie by their color and pattern, White Crappie are more white than black and have distinguished vertical bands of black blotches whereas Black Crappie are more black and have no distinguished vertical bands.

Within the first hour we had 9 keeper crappie, 4 white bass, and over a dozen crappie under 9". I thought that we were going to have one of the best days of crappie fishing ever, but as luck would have it the wind picked up and the bites slowed down. We still caught fish, but only 2 or 3 every half hour with an occasional half pound plus Black Crappie in the mix....just enough to keep us anchored there. At 3:30pm we had caught more than I was willing to clean for the evening so we pulled anchor and made our way back to the boat ramp.

When I got home I laid out my evenings catch, 12 Crappie, 4 White Bass, and 1 Bluegill.  This should be enough for 2 large meals or 3 smaller meals.

With a couple successful panfish trips like these, it's hard to justify hitting the river for catfish next weekend and sitting around waiting for one or two fish in an evenings worth of fishing....but I'm sure we'll start to get the urge to catch a few whiskered giants and we'll be on the river soon enough.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Dropper Loop Knot Strength Test

Since it's been raining all week I had time to do some experimenting with the dropper loop knot. When I first learned to tie the knot I questioned how it would effect the strength of the line. So using the same method as I have been In the past I tested the breaking strength. I decided to use some 6lb Stren line I had laying around as I will most likely use this knot for panfishing and lighter lines.

I started out by testing the breaking strength of the line by itself using clinch knots. Clinch knots are still my preferred knot for lighter lines. I already knew that this line maxed out at an average of 7lbs but I wanted to reassure this. The first break was right at 7lbs and the clinch knots did not slip, assuring me that the line itself failed. This was enough evidence to give me a good baseline.

I then tied the same setup but with a dropper loop knot added in the middle. Here's what it looked like.

The first break with the dropper loop knot added in was at 5.25lbs, breaking at the dropper loop knot. I then attempted the same thing again, but this time I tried to add as many wraps as I could to the dropper loop knot. The more wraps, the harder it is to push the loop through at the end. This time the dropper loop knot break at 6.75lbs, significantly closer to the 7lb baseline. I repeated this process two more times and seen similar results,  6.75lbs and 6.5lbs.

So in conclusion, I found that just like the clinch knot the dropper loop knots strength is highly dependent on the number of wraps or twists in the knot and if tied properly can be just as strong as the clinch knot. Although with multiple dropper loop knot rigs the more chance for a bad knot, a risk I will have to take. Going forth I will now have the confidence to use this knot in the field. I don't expect to have to many epic battles while fishing for crappie but you never know what you might hook.