Zerust Dividers for Your Plano Tackle Trays

     I spend a lot of time during the winter getting my gear organized for spring.  Each year I rinse out my tackle trays to clean out any grime and since I fish with a minimal amount of lures I like to replace and sharpen all my hooks.  Last season I noticed that my new hooks were looking a little dingy by the opener. Some even had a little surface rust!
     To help protect my lures in 2015 I splurged a bit and bought some of the Zerust replacement dividers.  These handy little dividers are an exact replacement for the Plano tackle trays and as an added bonus they are made in the USA.  How do they work you ask?  Well it turns out that the special Zerust polymer emits a harmless vapor that forms a protective layer around metal surfaces that prevents oxidation from occurring (RUST).  This should be especially useful for my boxes since everyone of them holds multiple Echotail blade baits.  Hopefully it will also cut down on the surface rust I get on the metal bits protruding from my Nauti Lures.
     Installation couldn't be easier, just pull your stock dividers out and push the Zerust dividers in.  They help protect my investment and don't break the bank.  I got two different sizes to fit both boxes (24 dividers) and they only cost me 4 bucks total.  Next time your out and about pick up a set for yourself.  It's rare to find something that can make this kind of difference for such a small amount of money.
     Tight Lines.

The Serial Specialist, looking back at an adult life.

     I am turning 35 next week and was recently introduced to a new term, Serial Specialist.  The basic idea was somebody who devoted all of themselves to a hobby or profession until they got about 70% proficient, then something else caught their attention and they moved on before ever actually mastering anything.  This little phrase has described my whole adult life perfectly.  Don't believe me?  Lets review...
Only lasted 2 years with this hobby.
     That's me on the mandolin with my 2 year old son back in 2005.  All I did was practice the mandolin.  If I wasn't working I had a mandolin in my hands.  I learned to read music, took lessons, bought expensive instruments, lead jam sessions, and even joined a band and wrote songs.  I got pretty good too.  We played at fairs, theaters, and even recorded a couple tracks for a CD.  I was known as a mandolin player and loved the fact that I was finally getting somewhere when I became interested in yoyoing from a video I saw on YouTube.
Spent about a year and half on this hobby.
     Yup, yoyoing became my new passion.  I spent hours throwing a yoyo and practicing tricks.  I joined forums, made videos, and traveled to contests.  I experimented and developed new tricks.  I even spent time sharing philosophies about how yoyoing was a parallel to life.  Again, I got pretty good, those in the industry got to know me, and I even took 5th in the Wisconsin State Yoyo Championships.  I was on my way to finally achieving whatever it was you get when you become a great yoyoer.  Until one day when I was practicing at my sons tee ball game.  When one of the kids asked me if I could juggle.
3 years, a new record!!!
     Well I couldn't juggle, at least I couldn't juggle yet.  That would change however because I am a Serial Specialist.  I got into juggling and sooner than you would think I was doing 3 balls tricks, then 4 balls, then clubs, then random objects.  I was juggling while balancing plates, juggling while walking a slack rope, juggling in parades.  Don't believe me?
     Seriously though I attended conventions and got a lot better.  Even started to get booked for birthdays and private corporate parties.  Then I added stilts and started to do the parade circuit.
     In fact I got good so quickly that I started to look for new things to do.  Trying to always come up with something new or something that would challenge me.  Eventually my own wife was so used to what she would see in the house that she wouldn't even look up.
     See the pattern?  Serial Specialist, apparently it's a real thing.  Shortly after making a start in the world of juggling I became fascinated with balloon twisting.  It all started with an argument I had with my wife, "It's great that you do all this random crap, maybe figure out how to make a living at it".  I ordered a basic balloon twisting kit and once again I devoted myself 100%.  I started small and soon it got big.  All my designs used multiple balloons and they started to get a following.
Took just 8 months to go pro.
     I was off to a great start and soon was traveling.  Different corporations, different states, different venues. It got to the point where the organizers had to bring in other balloon twisters to help take the load off.  I would be twisting as fast possible and still have a line 2 hours long.  Then when I introduced the concept of moving mouths on balloon animals so they could talk like puppets I started to get bookings and instructional requests from other countries.
     I tell ya what, I almost made it.  Then it got to the point that I couldn't deal with the stress.  All of a sudden it felt like work.  I wasn't having fun anymore, line work wasn't a challenge and I was burning out because you can only give 100% for so long before you lose the drive.  My wife went to France for a month to attend school and while she was away I saw my first episode of River Monsters.
     You guessed it!  I started fishing, that was 6 years ago this season.  I started simply, with a Zebco 33 combo from Walmart and a Mepps #5 black fury.  I caught fish the first time I went out and started instantly look for more information.  I was reading everything I could get my hands and buying gear like a man possessed.  I chased bass at first, until a chance encounter with a muskie fisherman (thanks JJ) changed my whole perspective.

     He told me tales of giant fish, epic fights, and long droughts of not even seeing a fish.  How the fish seemed to mess with anglers and more often than not the journey of trying to catch the fish was more interesting than when you actually caught one.  I became obsessed fishing 4-6 days a week for over a year until I finally caught one.  It wasn't huge but it lit the fire to keep me going.
     After I got a few muskies under my belt I started to look around for another challenge.  Eventually I found these people that were catching sharks from the beach in Florida.  I devoted all my time and resources into trying to catch one myself.  Which I accomplished on my first try...
     When I got back from Florida I soon found that my fishing was starting to get noticed and I started this blog.  It didn't take me long and I was on the prostaff of some great companies.  I realized very quickly that I was getting burned out (Serial Specialist) and started to look around for the next thing.  I discovered fly fishing around this same time and read that chasing carp was about the hardest thing you could do in freshwater.  I started the same pattern of immersion until one day I caught one, then three more.
     Eventually I found that the same people I had asked for advice had questions for me.  I discovered that I had information to share with others.  This came as such a shock for me because I am at best an average fisherman.  It turns out that I just spend more time fishing than others so I get more chances at big fish as a by product.  Big fish after all is what most fisherman want and now I get to help them find the fish of their dreams with my guide service.  So what does all this have to do with my Serial Specialist problem?  Well I am at that point again where I am looking for something new to take on and I need your help.
     I have spent all these years preaching the advantages of shore fishing.  How a boat is the last thing you need to catch big fish.  How boats and paddle craft are just tools some of us have at our disposal.  They are not a requirement to be able to catch fish well.  I honestly believe that anybody can catch big fish if they have the knowledge and are willing to put in the time.  That is why I started a shore based guide service.  I had originally planned to introduce Tenkara to my guide service in 2015.  I first heard about Tenkara a few years ago and quickly fell in love with the ideas of minimalism and simplicity.  I wanted to use it in an urban environment to teach children and curious new anglers how to fly fish.  Not sure what Tenkara is? check it out here.  I am all set up and ready to start this spring as a fully outfitted Tenkara guide service.  Lately though I have gotten a lot of interest in my kayak fishing.  I don't write about kayak fishing a lot, but the amount of interest in having a guide in Madison that specializes in muskies and bass from a kayak is intriguing.  I do not consider myself a kayak angler, I'm just a shore angler that occasionally kayaks.
     So where is all this going?  No idea, I do know that 35 holds lots of promise and a lot of new opportunities. I am being considered for the Madison Musky School faculty and am going to be at many expos during the 2015 season.  I am starting to write articles in the hope of getting published and my seminar on shore fishing is beginning to generate interest.  The only thing I need to figure out is which way this is all going to go.  Tenkara or kayaking?  Send me a message, comment, or call me to weigh in.  Here's to 2015 and the continuing adventures of a Serial Specialist.
     Tight Lines.

Fly Box Update December 2014

     For Christmas I got a Cabelas gift card from one of my sisters.  I fired up the interwebs and started looking for something I could use.  I ended up finding a 5 piece bait fish fly assortment.

     The kit included:

  • Captain Ray's Silverside
  • Clouser Minnow
  • Cowen's Bait fish
  • Deceiver
  • Midnight Minnow
     The large Orvis fly box still has the other flies mentioned in the previous posts.  I believe that with my goal of chasing more predatory fish in 2015 these flies are welcome addition.
     Tight Lines.

Happy Holidays

     Tight Lines.

St Croix Legend Gold Ice Series Rod Review

     For the past few seasons I have been panfishing with the St Croix Legend Gold Ice rods exclusively.  I have really enjoyed the rods due to their durability, handle design, and unbelievable sensitivity.  Factor in that they're made in the USA and I had found the perfect rod.  Then last year the Legend Gold I had been using was knocked down a notch and rebranded as the Legend Silver Ice rod.  When St Croix released the new Legend Gold Series in 2014 I decided I had to have one.  I just had to know if it was actually any better than the original or if it was just progress for the sake of progress.
The original Legend Gold Ice rod with Fishing 13 Black Betty Reel.
     So I thought it would make sense to take a look at the original and what I liked about that rod.  When I first made the decision to purchase the Legend Gold Ice rod it was because I specialize in shallow water panfish.  With this in mind I wanted an ultra light model because it's sensitivity would greatly increase my ability to detect those subtle bites.  I also needed a shorter length because even though I don't own an ice shanty a lot of my buddies do.  Keeping this stuff in mind I purchased the 24 inch or specifically the LIR24UL.  The going rate at the time was $60.00 MSRP and all my buddies thought I was nuts when I showed up with it on the ice.

     This rod featured:

  • Precision tapered carbon blank
  • Pac Bay Minima Guides
  • Comfortable up locking reel seat with cork trim
  • Super Finesse High Tension Stainless Steel Strike Indicator 
     The first feature listed is in mind, kind of a gimme.  St Croix is known the world over for their incredible rod blanks.  They go to great lengths to control the quality of their blanks, so the fact that they chose a carbon blank for their flagship ice rod just makes since.  The use of Pac Bay guides also speaks of a top of the line model.  They hold up well and protect the light lines associated with panfishing.  The reel seat works well and looks trick!  It holds the reel securely and fits great in the hand even when wearing gloves.  What sets this rod apart from its competitors is the strike indicator system. This system was designed by the great ice fisherman Greg "The Prowler" Wilczynski.  It was developed for competing in international ice fishing competitions at the highest level.  You can adjust the sensitivity of the strike indicator (spring) by sliding it forward or backwards (use 2 hands).  Regardless of the jig or spoon your using the strike indicator can be set to the perfect tipping point to help you detect the slightest of bites.
The new Legend Gold Ice rod with Fishing 13 Black Betty reel.
     This brings us to the new Legend Gold Ice rod.  Released in 2014 with a new handle design it claimed to be even more sensitive than the original.  It also came with a heftier price tag at $90.00 MSRP.  I again bought the 24 inch ultra light for the reasons listed above model number LGR24UL.  Looking at the listed features you'll quickly see that other than the new reel seat it's essentially the same rod.

     The rod features:

  • Precision tapered carbon blank 
  • Pac Bay Minima Guides
  • Super Finesse High Tension Stainless Steel Strike Indicator
  • Innovative Neoprene Skin Handle with Fuji SK2 reel seat
     The new reel seat does look nice and the neoprene skin is reminiscent of the Rage series of rods. This gives the rod a nice technical look.  Kind of like the difference between a hunting shotgun and a tactical shotgun.  Both work on the same principals, one just looks a hell of a lot cooler.  The new handle is also a bit longer and the locking nut is easier to adjust when wearing gloves.  These are small things, but I believe they are worth mentioning.
The larger reel seat knob is easier to adjust with cold hands.
     So how does the rod perform on the ice?  Well to be entirely honest damn near flawlessly.  It's sensitively is off the charts even when you compare it to other ultra light favorites.  The fit and feel are like an extension of your hand and the reel seat and guides have held up very well over the last few seasons.  The Legend Gold series is billed as the best and it certainly lives up to the hype.  You will be hard pressed to find a better rod anywhere that is even near the same level quality.
     The real question is whether or not it's worth purchasing the new Legend Gold at $90.00 when the old Legend Gold (now Legend Silver) can be had for $60.00.  In my opinion, no it's not worth the extra money.  The Legend Silver is more rod than most ice anglers will ever need.  In fact, I don't fish at a level that gets any where near the capabilities of the rod.  Unless your a tournament angler fishing at the highest levels of competition I just can't in good conscience justify the purchase of this rod to anybody.  That said, I have one and absolutely love it!  You can check them out at www.StCroixRods.com and decide for yourself.
     Tight Lines.

This is where it all begins...

     Tight Lines.

Lucid Fishing 10 Liter Dry Bag Review

      Last summer I made the progression from standing on the shoreline to actually standing in the water.  That's right I started wading to access areas that I previously couldn't reach.  Although the introduction to new waters was exciting, it also exposed some weaknesses in my fishing system.  I quickly realized that tackle trays and electronics full of water were simply put, a royal pain in the ass.  I needed to find a waterproof bag if I was gonna keep up this wading chest deep thing.  I started looking around online for a bag that was easy to use, large enough to hold my Plano tackle trays, and as my wife pointed out, it needed to stay within budget.  What I found was a 10 liter dry bag from my friends over at Lucid Fishing.

      I placed my order and a few days later I had a box on my doorstep.  Upon opening the package I found the dry bag and some bonus stickers (I'm a sticker addict).  I quickly pulled out the bag for inspection and was surprised at how well the bag was constructed.  It appears at first glance to be your standard roll top dry bag.  However with a closer look you'll find that it's built much better than any dry bag you have owned in the past.  The material that the dry bag is constructed out of is thick and robust.  It is easily 2-3 times thicker than any of my other dry bags.  It features an adjustable strap that's long enough to comfortably wear the dry bag across your shoulders as a sling pack.  This allows you to cast easily since the bag stays in place centered between your shoulder blades.  The external plastic D ring makes hanging my Lucid Fishing Grips or strapping the bag down in my kayak quick and simple.  Also I like the fact that the bag is a bright safety orange.  Anything that helps me stay visible that close to the waters surface on a busy Madison lake is a plus in my book.
     Once on the water I started putting the bag through it's paces.  After many trips out I can honestly say that the bag is performing flawlessly.  It has held up well and as of writing this I have had no water get inside bag.  It stays put when casting and the D ring hasn't cracked or deformed despite being made out of plastic.  This was my only real concern with the bag since in the past I have had issues with plastic attachment points failing on bags used for outdoor activities.  All in all the bag is a great investment and performs exactly as promised.

      This brings up the part of the review where I have to ask is their anything I don't like or would change about the bag?  The only thing I really would like to see is maybe a 20 liter size.  Seriously, that's all I would change.  I can easily fit my jacket, sun gloves, buff, and a tackle tray in this 10 liter bag.  What I can't fit is my large Orvis fly box.  The mouth of the bag is to small so I need to transfer the flies I plan to use to a smaller box when I use this bag on the water.  Otherwise I love everything about this bag including the price, at $14.99 it's a great deal.  To get one of your own check out www.LucidFishing.com.
     Tight Lines.

How We Rig Our St Croix Rods for Echotails Under the Ice

     I believe quality lures, catch quality fish.  I also believe that in certain conditions like ice fishing for shallow water bluegills a great rod can make a real difference.  Here is a quick video that Justin Blanchar of Vibrations Tackle made with yours truly, explaining why we prefer and how we setup our St Croix rods when fishing the ever popular Echotail through the ice.
Tight Lines.

Milwaukee Ice Fishing Expo Experience

     One of my jobs as a prostaffer for different fishing companies is helping out at events throughout the year.  Last weekend I was given the opportunity to help out in the Vibrations Tackle booth for the Milwaukee Ice Expo.  I enjoy expos for many reasons, from helping to promote sponsors products, to sharing my personal tactics, the countless seminars, and meeting the industry pros I look up to and respect.  The Milwaukee Ice Fishing Expo had decent attendance for an event in its first year.  Their was to much going on to try and explain it all in 1 post so I thought I would just drop some quick photos.
A fuzzy photo to start the weekend.
We had a huge interest in Echotails for brown trout. 
Got to talk shallow water perch with Jason Mitchell. 
Explaining how the lures vibration can be adjusted based on line location.
This is the coolest snowmobile I have ever seen.
Always working, Rob Blanchar explains the advantages of
a replaceable soft plastic tail.
Shameless selfie, not gonna lie, I love working these events.
     That about wraps up my weekend at the Milwaukee Ice Fishing Expo.  All the big names were in attendance, Clam, Northland, HT Enterprises, Striker Ice, and Thorne Bros.  I would like to give a shout out to Vibrations Tackle and Justin Blanchar for allowing me to help out in the booth.  I got a bunch of new blog post ideas and had a great time.
     Tight Lines.

2014 Milwaukee Ice Fishing and Winter Sports Show

     This weekend is the 2014 Milwaukee Ice Fishing and Winter Sports Show.  I will be working in the Vibrations Tackle booth #221.  Stop by to see the new Ice and Disco series of the Echotail.  Talk tackle, learn some new tips and tricks, and get some new lures to round out your tackle box for the 2015 fishing season.  Hope to see you there!
     Tight Lines.

A Rare Request

     This weekend I finally made it out for a little panfishing.  I am still in denial that ice fishing season is starting up, so I headed out with the hopes that I could still find some open productive water.  While packing my gear I got an uncommon request.  It was from my daughter and she wanted to go fishing.  Now for those of you who don't know my kids are not big fans of fishing.  They know the rules, if dad is going out in the summer they have to come with.  They don't have to actually fish, but they have to join me.  You see as a child my family was into competitive horse showing (it's a thing).  Whether you wanted to or not you were taking lessons, riding, and showing horses too.  To this day I still can't stand being around horses and I don't want my kids to grow up hating fishing so they know that they don't have to fish.  They don't even have to bring a pole.  I just want them to get outside, do some exploring, and take in the little bit of nature left in our increasingly urban surroundings.  So you can imagine my surprise when my little 9 year old ball of fury actually wanted to go.  I reminded her that it was cold and that from my experience she has never really been a big fan of freezing, but she said she was cool with it and wanted to go along.  We suited up, grabbed some echotails, and headed for Lake Monona.
     Pulling up to the triangle she made it clear that she was looking for an adventure.  I told her that I knew of a "Secret Spot."  We worked our way down the bike path and after a very close call with a rogue cyclist we arrived at the "Secret Spot."  Only one little issue, the spot was taken by a homeless person looking for shelter from the wind and cold.  It was at this point that I realized that even though I see homeless people all the time, my daughter hasn't and she had a lot of questions.  I did my best to explain how it could happen, lack of a job, mental illness, loss of hope.  I also explained that as a city we are trying to find ways to help these people instead of just turning a blind eye to the problem.  It took some time, but eventually she said she understood and we went to another spot to try for some bluegills.  We tucked up under a bridge and after a quick lesson about how to cast in tight quarters we were off and fishing.
     The fishing as it turned out was nonexistent with no gills in the the mood for a snack.  However the conversation was excellent.  We talked about rainbows, minecraft, and what the stuff is that comes out of a wax worm when you squish it.  After a bit of rock climbing she decided that we should try another spot.  After some debate we decided to head over to the Monona Terrace.  While we walked the shoreline I told her that sometimes if I keep a sharp eye on the rocks I find fishing lures that were lost by other anglers.  She thought that was pretty cool and soon we were hopping from rock to rock looking in every tiny crevice for the chance to load up on some free fishing tackle.  Turns out she has a good eye for finding things and soon she had a small collection of lures to add to her tackle box.
The spoils of shorefishing in Madison.
     When we arrived at the terrace she became convinced that we would find fish if we casted out from the dock footings.  She casted out her line and started exploring around the terrace.  I clipped on a small Echotail and started casting out to where the water depth transitioned from 40-6 feet in depth.  I guess time got away from me a little bit because when I turned around to see what she was up to I found this on the ground next to me.
     Turns out she wasn't asleep, just taking a break.  She was hungry and started dropping hints that maybe it was about time we get going.  Since nothing was biting I was happy to oblige.  One thing you learn quickly when fishing with kids is that having fun is top priority.  Nothing will turn them off quicker than when they get bored.  Reeling in the rods to pack up I said "Did you know that we can see 4 planets on the walk back to the truck?"  She quickly decided that I was lying and that if I wanted to change her mind I would have to prove it.  I assured her that I wasn't lying because this part of the bike path has a scale solar system.  I told her to look for the silver signs and soon we had found the Sun, Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars.  I explained that cities are full of these kinds of things, you just need to know where to look.
     We had a great time out and about that day even if we didn't see a single fish.  I always recommend that people make the most of every opportunity they get to take a kid fishing.  It's a rare chance to introduce our sport to a generation hooked on technology.  A generation that unfortunately is getting further and further away from a connection with the outdoors.  You never know, you just may be the spark that lights a fire.
     Tight Lines.

Cold Water Jigging from Shore

     I always struggle this time of year in Madison.  Line freezes to the guides so fast you can't cast, the fish are still deep, and the ice is to thin to venture out on.  Don't get me wrong I'm still fishing, their just isn't a whole hell of a lot of catching going on.  The high today was cold and with the wind chill it was a few degrees below that.  Madison parks department has pulled all the docks so finding productive areas to fish from the shore is becoming a real challenge.  Still for whatever reason I suit up and head out into the blinding cold.
     Jigging is the name of the game for me right now.  Off break walls, bridges, and the terrace, if I can drop a vertical line off the side you'll probably find me out there.  I am almost exclusively jigging Echotails, mostly for walleyes, maybe the occasional perch.  Really I am just looking for anything that is willing to bite.  For the walleyes I like to use the 1/2 oz. for perch the 1/10th oz. is hard to beat.  Being able to swap out the tails to find what the fish like really helps and nobody can argue the effectiveness of a blade bait when the water gets cold.  I use short ice rods for this type of jigging since the fewer number of line guides helps to keep the line from freezing to the rod.  Another bonus with the shorter rods is that it keeps my arms in closer to my body so I don't get cold as quickly.  As for line I alternate between braid and fluorocarbon.  I like the braid when fishing over the terrace wall since you never know when a musky or pike might pop up and decide that Echotail looks irresistible and the fluorocarbon pretty much everywhere else.
     Technique wise their really isn't all that much to it.  I start at the bottom and slowly work my way back up through the water column.  Jig for a while on the bottom, then the middle, then just a few feet from the surface.  If that doesn't work I move on to another spot (see pretty simple).  Just make sure you keep in constant contact with your Echotail.  I see people all the time rip the bait and then just drop the rod tip.  I think people forget that fish will hit the lure when it's falling and those walleyes can grab a bait and let it go before you can react so after you rip the Echotail or any jig for that matter follow it back down with your rod.  I bet your catch rate will go up, and for those that are wondering this works on the ice too.
     So give these ideas a try if you find yourself out wandering around the shoreline in the cold.  Soon the ice will cover the lakes and the fish will be a lot easier to catch.  You just need to suit up, grab your rod, and brave the elements.  Some days it pays off, usually though you just get to enjoy some fresh air.  Never fished in the cold?  You can find some info here.
     Tight Lines.

Things Don't Always Go Right

     Today while lying around the house dealing with my cold, I found myself reminiscing about this years fishing season.  Specifically looking back at the times things didn't go right.  Sometimes despite having the best laid plans things just go wrong.  Whether it's equipment failure, bad weather, or getting skunked, if you fish long enough things happen...
Stupid Pike!!!
Should have used a Lucid Fishing Grip!
Watch your back cast!!!
Didn't this frog have 2 legs?
What's a drain plug?
Where's the skirt?
Dad, we need new fishing poles!!!
Dammit, I just wanted one bucktail!
How in the hell does a reel just fall off?
     I must admit that even though things don't always go my way, I almost always end the trip with a laugh.  Good friends and good fishing go hand in hand so get out there and catch some fish, tell some stories, and make new memories with those that mean the most to you.  
     Tight Lines.