Rayjus Jerseys

     So this year I decided I wanted to try my hand at a few local fishing tournaments.  My plan is simple, compete in tournaments to help advertise my sponsors.  I am not a competitive person by nature so whether or not I win doesn't really matter.  I just want the opportunity to give back to the companies that have helped me out with this crazy dream I'm chasing.  While most anglers that start fishing tournaments spend the off season worrying about gear, or fishing strategy.  I spent my off season guiding anglers on the ice and working fishing expo booths.  I already own the gear I need to fish tournaments, and I have a pretty solid strategy for catching fish.  The only thing I didn't have was one of those fancy jerseys.
     I started to look into how one gets a jersey made and found the Rayjus company.  After going through the site I was able to design a jersey and send in the form for a digital proof.
First Proof
     I liked this first layout, but you see the Shorebound Hero logo was small.  Why does that matter?  Well, Shorebound Hero is my biggest sponsor.  They cover the costs of my fishing because well it's me!  I decided that I wanted the logo to be bigger which isn't a problem for Rayjus since your jersey design can be altered until you give final approval.  After a few emails, I received proof number 2.
Second Proof
     I liked this one better and sent my final approval.  After a few weeks it arrived and I couldn't be happier with the final product.  Rayjus uses a process called Dye Sublimation to print the jerseys.  I was told by a company rep to think of it like using a laser printer on fabric.  The colors are bright and the logos are crisp.  One thing I worried about was the how the flags would look.  All 50 stars and 13 stripes are clear and accurate.  I plan to wear this jersey on my fishing adventures and want the American flag represented correctly.  The fit is perfect, they give a sizing chart and the extra large is actually XL.  I immediately went outside with it and verified that casting was comfortable.  The jersey feels good going through the entire range of motion while casting.
     This is a great product and Rayjus is a wonderful company to work with.  Only problem I have now is that right after it arrived, I got accepted on to Team Pink Fishing.  So now I need to order a new one.

      Tight Lines.

Spiderwire Utility Box Backpack

     I spend a lot of time talking about the need for mobility when shore fishing.  The ability to move freely over terrain while casting is quite possibility the most important aspect of covering water effectively.  So how do you do it?
Spiderwire Utility Box Backpack
     I have tried lots of tackle boxes and found that they just didn't work.  They are usually hard to carry, heavy, and impossible to hold onto when casting.  I used a cart for a while and although they were more mobile and allowed me to take extra rods.  I still couldn't cast while pulling it around and I was constantly forced to leave it behind if the terrain got rough.  Around that time I was introduced to land based shark fishing and one of the first things that the guys mentioned was that they used backpacks to haul gear from their cars to the beach.  Using a backpack allowed them to keep their hands free so that they could carry the heavy rod and reel combinations at the same time, saving them multiple trips.  So then I wondered, would this work in Wisconsin?  Well the short answer was yes, but which backpack to use?  I wanted something that could hold large tackle trays, my rain gear, and if possible an extra rod.  Maybe have my release tools on the outside of the bag for easy access?  After searching backpacks online, both fishing specific and general hiking I decided to just try and use a hiking backpack.  It worked well enough, but I still couldn't carry extra rods or have my release tools quickly accessible.  This caused some real problems on more than one occasion while trying to release a very angry musky.  I can direct you to a few spots on Lake Monona where if lucky, you may be able to extract a set of boga grips from the sand.
     Eventually I had enough of this and decided to pay out the money to get a REAL fishing backpack.  A few days spent pouring over reviews online I decided on the Spiderwire Utility Box Backpack.  It had everything I was looking for and was marketed by a company I had faith in.  I placed the order and was pleasantly surprised at how nice it was when it arrived.
My Musky Mojo Rod fits nicely.
     My first impression of the bag was that this really was a backpack for the angler.  The bag came with 3 utility trays.  Just basic adjustable trays, good for smaller lures (think bass lures).  It also has a cooler built right into the middle chamber of the bag.  It works well enough, and will keep your drinks or bait chilled on those hot summer days.  The rod holders on each side of the bag are really sturdy and will hold any rod from ultralight to musky XXXH.  This was nice to see, because I was initially skeptical about my musky rods being able to fit, seeing how this backpack was designed for bass fisherman.  My tools fit on the outside of the bag making it much easier to access them in a hurry.  My boga grips clip easily to the strap system and I can even fit my long handle pliers with out any issues.  Plenty of room in the top of the bag for an extra layer, snacks, or rain gear.  The bottom compartment is designed to hold the tackle trays, but if you need more room the dividers in the bag are velcroed in so you can adjust them anyway you can imagine.  With lots of extra pockets and a nice internal small item organizer in the upper compartment you can carry everything you need to enjoy a day at the lake or river.  Also the included removable pliers sheath is a nice feature.  As is the hard shell felt lined sunglasses holder.
     After using this bag a few times in different conditions I have really taken a liking to it.  I have used it ice fishing this winter for brown trout on Lake Michigan.  It is really nice to be able to hole hop without having to go back to a base, when I want to switch rods based on lure presentation.  I have been to Port Washington in pursuit of salmon with it where I found out that the bags small item organizer was the ideal solution for keeping track of all those little hooks and swivels.  Most recently I used it while wading for pike on the Cedar River near Palo, IA.  You wouldn't believe the peace of mind you get when your hands are free while traversing difficult shoreline.  All in all this is a great fishing backpack.  It meets all the requirements of the shore bound angler and it looks pretty good while doing it.
     I made up a quick video review for YouTube.  It covers pretty much everything I said in this article, maybe a little more.
     Tight Lines.

The lake is still FROZEN.

"Continuous effort-not strength or intelligence-is the key to unlocking our potential." -Winston Churchill

     As I headed down the highway my head was full of thoughts that revolved around the idea of casting from the shoreline.  I had gotten a call a few days earlier from none other than my mother.  She called to let me know that Pleasant Creek lake was thawed and I could leave the grand kids with her and spend the whole weekend fishing.  I was skeptical that a lake only 3 hours away would be thawed when all the lakes around Madison were frozen with over 20 inches of ice.  She assured me that the lake was open, and I must admit that I am pretty burnt out on vertical jigging.
The Lake is FROZEN...
     The air temperature was a balmy 29 degrees when I exited my vehicle.  As I surveyed the lake I quickly realized that my wonderful mother was mistaken.  Pleasant Creek lake was still frozen.  My heart sank, I was so hoping for an early season musky.  Now what?  I was gonna get to try out my new backpack and waders.  I got them over the winter and starring at them in my bedroom everyday was slowly starting to kill me.  All I wanted to do was use them, just one time before the Wisconsin season opened.  I got back in the car and headed down the road to my parents house.  As I entered the door my dad said, "Your back early, guess your mom was wrong?"  He could tell I was down, "Why not try the river?"  "It's up a few feet, but it should be safe enough for you to try out those waders."  Of course, the RIVER!  Why didn't I think of that?
The beautiful banks of the Cedar River.
Frozen levelwind on a Revo Toro Winch.
     Now time for a bit of a confession, I don't fish rivers.  It's not that I don't like river fishing.  I just don't have any real experience fishing them.  So where to start?  I headed to a bridge that I knew had public shore access.  I got my gear on and wandered down the rocky embankment.  I decided to throw a soft plastic swimbait (made by bog baits).  I figured if I didn't know what I was doing I should probably throw a lure I had confidence in.  I stayed on the bank while under the bridge since I knew the river level was up and had no idea how deep it was.  After a few casts the cold temperature started to rear it's ugly head.  Soon enough the eyes on my rod started to freeze up and the levelwind on the reel  stopped working.  I decided to warm the gear up in the car and head over to the boat launch.
Wandering down the boat ramp.
     When I got to the launch I was surprised at the water level.  I had seen this launch last summer and at that time you could see the guide poles for backing up your trailer all the way to the ground.  Now they are almost completely underwater.  I put on the waders and headed down the boat ramp. The water was cold, a lot colder than I thought it would be.  As I adjusted to the feel and fit of the new waders I worked my way down the shoreline remembering to shuffle sideways not walk straight so I wouldn't trip on any debris.  No need to go and die before the season even starts back home.  I fan casted as I moved along the bank hoping to pick off the stray walleye or possibly a pike.  I have seen them caught here in the past, so I knew it was a possibility.
You can't tell from the angle, but I am freezing.
     Well it didn't take me to long to get cold.  The water was a brisk 36 degrees, almost freezing.  I kept on casting as long as I could, but between the cold water and gear freezing up I had to call it a day.  I would love to say it was a great day of "catching".  It wasn't; it was miserable, cold, and an awesome adventure.  I got to cast, test my gear out, and experience something new.  This is the kind of fishing I love to do.  I really enjoy the journey, the hardships, and the struggles.  I believe that anybody can go fishing when it's nice and warm out, when the fish are biting, and everything goes right.  It takes a special kind of crazy to go out in conditions like this knowing you probably won't catch a thing.
At least I tried, a character building exercise?
     Tight Lines.


Modified BuzzBait Rigs

     While helping out at the Vibrations Tackle booth at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Sportsmans Show, I was approached by a man that I expected to ask me a about the Echotail lure I was working in the display tank.  He came up and said "Are you the guy from the frog booth at the Madison Fishing Expo?"  I replied that I was the guy from the "Bog Baits" booth (I even did air quotations to help lock in the name).  He said that he had bought a buzzbait from the booth, and he asked me what I did to modify the rig so that I could fish with bigger soft plastics.  So this begs the question, how do I modify a buzzbait rig?
     It all starts with a Bog Baits buzzbait rig.  He makes these from vinyl coated steel cable crimped to a hook at one end and a tying loop on the other.  The 4/0 hook that is included is great for throwing small to medium baits, and the multiple blades make a real ruckus in the water.
Bog Baits Buzz Rig
     But what if you want to throw a BIG frog?  I mean if you put a big bait on a small hook your hooking percentage is going to go way down.  I do a couple of quick and easy mods to make this rig capable of throwing almost anything.
     First, I cut off the hook, being careful not to cut into the cable.
Be careful not to damage the steel cable.

     Second, I attach a split ring to the cable where I cut off the hook.
The split ring allows the attachment of any size hook.
     Third, pick out the correct size hook for the soft plastic your throwing.
Any style works, as long as the split ring fits through the eye of the hook.
     That's all you need to take a buzzbait rig from basic to brutish.
From mild to wild in 3 easy steps.
    With these simple tweaks you can now throw bigger baits to chase everything from trophy bass to monster muskies.  This trick works with all styles of buzzbait rigs.  If you need to buy a rig for yourself, check them out at the Bog Baits website.  
9 inch Bogs Musky Frog on a modified buzzbait rig with 12/0 hook.
     Tight Lines.


A chance to be in the history books? IGFA Trout Royal Slam Club

     So I admit that my goals are weird.  I have a tendency to set my mind to things that are a little random.  This past fall my buddy invited me to go fishing for brown trout.  Long story short I caught one.  That single fish has been swimming around in my mind ever since.  At the time I thought it was just a trout, people catch them all the time.  It wasn't till I showed some people the picture that I found out it would be considered a trophy to many fisherman.  That fish was 31 inches long and weighed in at 16 pounds.  When I posted the picture online I got lots of comments ranging from "how lucky I was", "to how many years did it take to get one that size"?  I realized at that point that for many anglers, large trout were the pinnacle of fishing success.
     Around that same time I joined the International Game Fish Association or the IGFA.  I was interested in the history of angling on a global scale and these were the guys that kept those records.  I researched everything from sharks, to bass, to muskies, to marlin, to snakeheads.  The stories of the anglers, the rod, the locations.  I loved the idea of belonging to an organization that had such a rich history.  The question was outside of catching a world record, how could one get their name into that big book of accomplishment?
     The Trout Royal Slam Club became the answer I was looking for.  To join the ranks of a club you need to catch all the species recognized by the IGFA for a certain species.  The Trout Royal Slam Club consists of 7 trout species-Brown, Brooke, Lake, Rainbow, Cutthroat, Bull, and Golden trout.  You have to follow the IGFA angling rules and you have a lifetime to catch them all.  Currently only 38 anglers world wide have accomplished this feat.  This club appealed to me because 4 of the 7 species can be caught in Wisconsin, and since currently I can't stop thinking about trout.
     So expect to see some posts as I work towards this goal in the upcoming years.  I believe that I will be able to register the 4 local species in the next 2 years.  The other 3 will take a bit of work, considering that 2 of them I hadn't even heard of until I read the rules of the slam.  Some traveling will definitely be in order.  Colorado looks promising for Cutthroat and Golden trout.  As for the Bull trout I believe Washington or California will be on the family vacation list in the next few years.  As a bonus I want to catch the Lake trout through the ice and the Golden trout on a tenkara rod.  I also need to work on my ultralight fishing and probably learn to use a fly rod.  Will see how it goes, I already have one fish caught, and I am not known for giving up easily. 
     Tight Lines.


3's a Crowd

Cold Start
     As my BMW slid sideways across the bait shops driveway, I knew it was gonna be one of those days.  JJMuskie and his girlfriend Heather had invited me out to do some perch fishing on Lake Mendota.  Normally I avoid Lake Mendota like the plague.  You see Lake Mendota is huge, to get to the 80 feet deep water you need to walk out almost a mile.  I always have issues with overheating on walks that long so I try to fish other local lakes.  JJ said not to worry because he would have his ATV so it would be a quick ride to productive water.  I unloaded the car and made my way over to the atv.  It was at this point that it dawned on me that JJ owned a 2 person shanty.  It was gonna be a cold, windy day for me on the ice.  I loaded my bucket in the sled and off we went across the lake.  We must've looked hilarious as we crossed the ice.  All three of us on a little four wheeler bouncing over ice heaves and laughing hysterically as we tried not to spill our coffee.
Our trusty ice steed.  Always starts, even if it dies soon afterwards.
Same body, different layout, both effective.
     When we arrived at our spot, JJ quickly hooked up.  It was a small perch that we obviously kept because it's air bladder was coming out of it's mouth.  I decided at this point while still outside the shanty that I would use an Echotail.  I had some new ones with the twin hooks instead of the single treble and their extra size would in theory keep me from hooking to many small perch.  I dropped my lure, and hunkered down with my back to the wind.  It was cold, but manageable.  I worked my way from hole to hole cup of coffee in tow.  As I moved around I would occasionally get a worried Heather asking me if I was warm.  "We can make room for 3 in here if your cold", she's such a sweetheart.  Then it happened, while dropping the lure back down the 75-80 feet to the bottom, the wind blew and my line got caught up in the back of the spring bobber on my st croix ice rod.  I always wondered if that would ever be an issue and now I can say it is possible.  I tried to figure out how to get the line free but my hands were cold and weren't cooperating.  I had to succumb to sitting on my bucket between JJ and Heather inside the shanty.
Pile of perch in the back, crazy spring bobber in the front.
     As I fought to free my line we all giggled at how packed in we were.  Like sardines, just on the ice not in it.  Finally I gave up and had to cut the line to retie.  I dropped the line down the third hole they had drilled (just in case), and settled in.  JJ had his vexillar on and had noticed that the perch were coming through about 10 feet off the bottom.  Now I was glad to be inside the shanty.  I probably would have never connected outside.  I was fishing the bottom, no where near 10 feet up.  We laughed and told jokes as we jigged into the morning.
Nice perch with a 3000 size
Okuma reel for scale.
     It wasn't all smooth fishing however.  JJ was using a Rapala Jigging Rap.  For those that don't know it is a lure that swims in circles.  So his lure had a tendency to swim right into my Echotail.  This caused a lot of laughs and line tangles.  Should have been expected though in such tight quarters.  As we fished we ran into some really nice perch for our area.  Most averaged 9-11 inches with big bellies.  We picked them off as the schools swam through, and I laughed more then I have in a long time.
     I had a great time today.  I always feel so blessed to have such great fishing companions.  We joked all day about our fishing, our struggles, and our happiness.  As I packed in for the day I was reminded of why I rarely fish Lake Mendota.  The ride was cold heading back to the car.  Despite the face mask and my Ice Armor I was cold.  Once back in the car I paused a while to take in the view.  This area of Madison is really beautiful.  The ice went on forever and the freshly fallen snow made everything look so clean and crisp.  I always hope at the end of a good day fishing that I will get at least one more chance to do it again.  Until next time, please remember to limit your catch, not catch your limit.
Heather and JJMuskie
     Tight Lines.