Go Fish

Go Fish, Pets, Places, & Things

Fishing on Empty

By Steve Chaconas “Gas prices are so high, a guy tried to siphon gas out of a Tesla, NASCAR cut laps to semi-circles, and hitchhikers are giving lessons.” High gas prices are no joke to bass fishermen. The sudden gas price jump might sink their tournament season. Bass fishing tournaments draw regional anglers competing for bragging rights to a few thousand dollars. The top local tournament trail, Potomac River Battle Series, hosts 10 events annually. There’s been chatter about some not fishing due to expensive gas.  Tournament Director Ed Dustin says his trail, is mostly a working man’s league comprised of self-employed or small business owners. He says they have the flexibility to schedule fishing, but also can raise rates to account for rising gas prices. Anglers working for someone else, like government employees, are taking a hit.  He thinks participants are cutting practice days. Overall, if gas keeps going up, he expects a lot of boats up for sale. Traveling pro angler, Frank Arthur is on the road a lot. Sponsored by Comprehensive Nursing Services Inc., he began his season shortly before the big spike in fuel prices. His first stop, the TBF Nationals on Lake Conroe Texas, cost $500 to drive from Maryland. Leaving his truck in Texas, he caught a flight home for a few days. Returning to Texas he fished his event and drove home at an increased cost of $650. Fuel sticker shock has Frank contemplating fuel savings, like driving his boat slower during practice days and the truck slower on the highway. He looks for the cheapest gas and fills the truck and boat. He’s aware many are putting off tournament fishing for a while as added costs broke already thin budgets. Some boaters are ready to take a seat as a back of the boat angler due…

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Go Fish, Pets, Places, & Things

Catching Technology

By Steven Chaconas In early competitive bass fishing, the playing field was level. Fishing gear, lures and boats were evolving. Tournament destinations were undisclosed until arrival. Tackle boxes were limited by weight, and horsepower was restricted, lifted in the late 90s. The early 150 hp standard went to 175, to 200, to 225 and has mostly settled on a Goldilocks 250 hp. Boats can only be so big and remain good fishing platforms. Hooks got sharper, lines stronger and lures more lifelike. Rods are so sensitive you can feel the price tag with them.  Reels cast a mile and retrieve at lightning speeds. Trolling motors put boats on a spot and keep them there. In shallow waters, Power Poles deploy anchors to keep boats perfectly still to target shallow bass. Electronics evolved as well.  Simple flasher units were effective, sending sonar beams to be interpreted by anglers. Bottom hardness, vegetation, trees, rocks, or mud could be discerned by color brightness. Humminbird’s early liquid crystal diode screens advancements interpreted sonar signals into more easily read 2-dimensional images. Then came GPS and contour maps. The big 3, Humminbird, Lowrance and Garmin fought over the bass fishing market. Humminbird’s side imaging set the bar, followed by 360 degree sonar. Recently, Garmin achieved dominance in forward scanning units. Seeing fish swimming around caught the eye of tournament anglers who rose to the top with their mastery of this technology. Pros and weekend anglers found the huge advantage of locating and targeting previously unnoticed bass. These unpressured fish could be identified and hunted down, identified by size, and followed until caught. This game-changing technology is also changing angler attitudes. There’s skill in catching fish, but also in maximizing the effectiveness of these units. Fishing is morphing from Opie and his dad Sheriff Taylor walking down…

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Go Fish, Pets, Places, & Things

Worm Replication

By Steve Chaconas Moving hundreds of pounds of the soft plastic lures I’ve collected over the past 40 years around to get better organized – the worms were put into buckets, 4, 5, 6 & 7-inch. Straight tail curl tail, cut tail and odd combinations of every tail combination. There were creatures, grubs, centipedes, craws, stick worms, and technique specific baits, like Ned rig, Neko rig and drop shot baits. While sorting through these, many were scented, my tackle storage room had the aroma of a department store perfume counter. Garlic, licorice, and coffee scents at first were distinct, then they combined to smell like the dessert section in an Italian restaurant.  I recognized an old bait from the days of finesse fishing made famous in California by legendary pro angler, the Godfather of Finesse, Don Iovino. He introduced the bass fishing world to brass and glass doodling. For 50 years, the California pro pioneered innovative fishing techniques around the country. His peers recognized his trail blazing and innovative deep water fishing methods and inducted Iovino as a charter member into the International Fishing Hall of Fame (IFHF). His soft plastics cover the finesse fishing spectrum across the country. Sifting through soft plastics, new and old, a handful of some original Iovino baits, in several sizes and colors, were uncovered.  Giving them a try, these 50 year old baits worked very well! I wondered out loud whether different sizes, color pattern variations and floating plastic could revive a lost bait from the tackle box of days gone by. When I began to bass fish in the 60s, there were only a few companies making worms. Mann’s and Crème lures were the most popular and they were hand poured. That is, the heated plastic was poured into open cavity molds. They were very good, but…

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Go Fish, Pets, Places, & Things

Fly-Fishing Mecca…Maryland?

By Steve Chaconas In 2016, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Sport Fisheries Advisory Commission (SFAC) recommended the creation of a Black Bass Advisory Committee (BBAC). Originally a loose group of volunteers meeting annually to discuss black bass management, the Black Bass Roundtable provided many of the original members of the BBAC. What began as a 13 member group is now down to 10, and only two of the original members. Seven attended last month’s virtual meeting for a fly fishing presentation. SFAC Chair John Neely and BBAC Vice Chair Richard Batiuk co-created a vision for a Maryland fly fishing trail. The goal is to lead anglers on a fly fishing journey across Maryland to enjoy the state’s numerous fresh and saltwater opportunities.  In addition to the wide variety of species, Maryland’s Fly Fishing Trail would lead fly anglers to public and handicapped accessible locations and thus invigorate local economies including tackle shops, lodging, restaurants as well as historic sites. Such a program would be the first of its kind in the country and reach out beyond Maryland anglers to bring tourism dollars to the state. Business is to be had as there are over 7 million fly fishers looking for new waters and new species. Maryland boasts wild brook trout, striped bass, sailfish, and even largemouth bass, all within a few hours. With so many opportunities, Maryland’s Fly Fishing Trail would enhance efforts to introduce fast growing fishing segments, such as women, youngsters, and minorities to fishing. Members of different cultures and classes would get the opportunity to experience fly fishing without extensive and expensive excursions to better known areas. Land or sea, Maryland waters enable fishing from shore, boat, canoe, or kayak.  More than attracting new anglers, Maryland Fly Fishing Trail opportunities could retain anglers when it’s time…

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Go Fish, Pets, Places, & Things

Fishing Resolve

By Steve Chaconas Fishing Resolve Who keeps New Year’s resolutions? We make them and for a few months, or weeks or days, they stay front of mind. Then they vaporize and we go back to the bad habits we ended with the previous year. Not many hobbies or professions lend themselves for sharing with those close to us. In the DC area, resolving to share our passions with others won’t work if you’re a government worker, lawyer, or lobbyist. But fishing can be enjoyed once, twice or for a lifetime. Professional anglers develop skills to enable a higher rate of success and take much of the luck out of the sport. Guides, especially, are skilled in transferring the years and often decades of experience to their clients, making them well suited to resolve to take friends and family out on the water. Resolving again to take more friends out on the water, 2022 will be memorable. For nearly 20 years, I’ve fished with my client, turned buddy, Alan Friedlander. Almost every week we took to the water, and in recent years we took guided smallmouth bass trips with Capt. Matt Miles on the Upper James where Alan introduced me to his love of fly fishing. But 2021 greeted Alan with medical issues and he was unable to get out on my Skeeter. We noticed his stability on the boat was getting shaky towards the end of 2020, but managed a full season and our annual fly trip with Capt. Matt. When it became apparent Alan wouldn’t, or couldn’t, get on my boat, we considered scheduling our Upper James trip later in the year. Alan worked all year to prepare himself physically for our scheduled October trip. Normally we make the 4-5 hour drive to our fishing spot to meet Capt….

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Go Fish, Pets, Places, & Things

Fishing for Holiday Gifts

By Steve Chaconas Fishing for Holiday Gifts Shopping for anglers is frustrating; but for people on the receiving end, there’s a guaranteed stint in return lines! Choose gifts for on and off the water! For the recipient who wears the pants in the family, there’s a pair they’ll put on one leg at a time to give them a leg up in the outdoors. Sitka’s background traversing the backcountry bridges technology gaps in fabric, construction, with a performance perspective.  Hunting for pants where the unexpected is always expected, waterproof Dew Point pant has micro-taped seams and no pockets making it easily packable.  Waterproof and breathable GORE® C-KNIT® backer technology with 20-denier nylon ripstop allows movement. Sitka’s Dew Point Pant is easy is on and off with two-way side zippers for pocket access and venting. Boots come on and off with sides unzipped. Articulated fit won’t tug when you’re active, no matter the weather. Adjustable nylon web belt. Can be layered for versatility. sitkagear.com Carl Grundén, the son of a fisherman, grew tired of unforgiving weather in Sweden and took on the forces of Mother Nature. Today, foul weather fishing clothing specialist Grundens’ steps up with their Gaff Pant. Pockets for everything. Two back pockets. Two side mesh hand pockets for a cooler, dryer feel, a thigh pocket with a drain, and a thigh welt pocket tailored into a nylon spandex blend fabric with a Durable Water Repellant finish and more flexibility. Grundens’ Gaff Pant gives fishermen water-resistant, quick drying performance.  7 belt loops provide a better belted fit and a metal riveted button adds security for active anglers. Perfect for warm weather rains or wading. grundens.com In 1992, the FBI chose 5.11 Tactical® for training pants. More extensive 5.11 law enforcement gear was developed in 2003 to meets the needs of…

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Go Fish, Pets, Places, & Things

Catching Cobwebs.

By Steve Chaconas Catching Cobwebs. During a recent visit to the Potomac River, I finally got to step into my pro buddy’s boat for more than a quick interview or a photo. Troy Morrow has been around for a while, fishing several pro tours. He has a knack for the Potomac River. Lots of things have changed for Troy in the last two covid seasons. The biggest, his move to Phoenix boats was a rare move for the Georgia pro who’s had the same sponsors for quite some time. His deck was decked out with 17 white Duckett rods and reels, spooled up with high end Sun Line. Each outfit is specifically tuned for each technique Troy plans to employ in this tournament. His lures of choice to cover water were a unique buzz bait and a Zoom crankbait. Troy demonstrated a new sticky sharp Gamakatsu G-Finesse hook. The bait keeper secures soft plastics, perfect for drop shot. Zoom soft plastics are on his line for every fishery across the country. Every tournament stop requires different baits and different colors to be successful. Making baits for nearly 40 years, Zoom is one of the oldest soft plastic makers with more than 70 industry-leading products and more than 400 unique colors.  But it was the crankbait made by the company’s founder Eddie Chambers that got us talking about how innovative his company was, stretching the imagination of the soft plastics industry and going beyond with fish-catching balsa wood crankbaits. After Eddie’s death, Zoom stopped cranking out crankbaits, but Troy keeps throwing them, taking extraordinary efforts to retrieve when snagged as they are selling for hundreds of dollars on eBay. A Garmin LiveScope master, Troy uses two LiveScope units, one in forward scan, the other in the wider perspective view. Finding the fish holding cover that produces…

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Go Fish, Pets, Places, & Things

Catching Covid

  Catching Covid The word elicits a response from social media overlords, fact checking and links to the CDC with information about social distancing, masks, vaccines, more masks, and booster shots.  But when you mention covid to anglers, they go fish. Even the Maryland Governor’s stay at home order in March 2020 couldn’t keep fishermen from wetting a line. As covid continues, many family gatherings, outdoor activities, and sporting events have gone underground to avoid being labeled a “super spreader”.  Rising above it all and keeping it real…and safe, families and friends chose fishing as the much needed escape from the incessant media and political coverage of things you could and couldn’t do. Tournaments continued on a limited basis and the 25th Annual St Jude Children’s Hospital Tournament was cancelled. Always an inexpensive and accessible activity, during covid fishing hooked participants normally not even remotely interested. After every other form of recreation was shut down, fishing was wide open.  Alexandria-based Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation’s (RBFF) 2021 Special Report on Fishing shows fishing grew in popularity with nearly 55 million participants, including 4.4 million first-timers. Fishing satisfies covid cops as being a safe activity. Picking up a rod relieves other covid symptoms, stress, and anxiety, enabling participants to focus on something outdoors that’s free from covid hype or hypodermic needles. While covid has shut down the country, it has led new people to the water. Getting to the water is the first step toward fishing. Most first time anglers expected their trip to be relaxing. Spending time with family was the most common motivation to start fishing, according to the study. These newcomers have brought the fishing industry closer to its goal of reaching 60 million participants within the 60-month period ending in December 2021. Fishing isn’t just a “guy” thing. This report says…

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Go Fish, Pets, Places, & Things

By Steve Chaconas New Toys, New Modifications There’ve been many new devices to make bass fishing more effective and enjoyable. A few stand out. Many were met with resistance by fishing’s rank and file. “I don’t need that” or “I’ve always done it this way” or “Just wait to see if they really work” were common excuses for not embracing the new and disposing the old. One of the first was the gas foot pedal. In early years of boating, a hand throttle was standard on every bass boat. Left hand on the steering wheel and the right on the throttle. Boaters operated their throttle by hand with one hand on the wheel. Along came the foot pedal, allowing complete boat control with both hands on the steering wheel. Better for boat handling and safer too. About a decade ago, shallow water anchors were becoming available for bass boats This enabled remote control of two anchor spikes deployed into the lake bottom. Prior to these devices, anglers used trolling motors to keep boats in position. Along came Power Pole and anglers stayed put with the touch of a button, especially handy in current or windy conditions for fishing specific target fishing. Trolling motors wouldn’t be used, making it quieter near fish hangouts. Effective while fishing and for taking a break to change tackle or retie without losing boat position. In addition, these anchors made docking a piece of cake, allowing boats to be safely away from the dock to avoid damage. Fishing electronics have truly changed fishing. “Seeing” underwater to find fish hangouts or fish themselves, these minicomputers with big screens eliminate unproductive fishing time. In the last few years, Garmin released the most innovative advancement since Humminbird released side imaging. LiveScope allows anglers to aim a transducer to see…

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Go Fish, Pets, Places, & Things

“Catching” Up

By Steve Chaconas “Catching” Up In this fast paced world with email, Instagram, and social media posts, there’s nothing like a 6 hour fishing trip to get reacquainted with high school classmates. Fort Hunt High School was a huge school. Our class of 1973 had nearly 650 graduates. Alumni from all over the country gather every year to stay in touch at an annual reunion at Fort Hunt Park and via social media. A couple of us reunite on the Potomac River for an annual fishing trip. During our school years, we all fished. Why not, with the Potomac River right up the street. But then the river was nasty, polluted with forever contaminants and fresh raw sewage. But by the time we were in the waning years of school days, the river cleaned up. My buddies Duel Ballard and Keith Salo moved out of the area but maintained contact with those who just couldn’t leave the Alexandria suburbs. In the 70s Duel spent several years on the Fort Hunt Crew team, rowing up and down the river. Duel and Keith grew up in the oldest part of Fort Hunt territory, Hollin Hall. In fact, our baby boomer classmates provided a steady flow of students into one of the best high schools in the country. Nearly every home housed a Federal or future Federal.  Most of them enjoyed fishing. Flash forward to 0600 on a July morning, the same guys who couldn’t get up to go to school on time were at the dock ready to fish. We all anticipated a wonderful day, regardless of Mother Nature. But today she cooperated with fantastic weather and decent fishing. But, let’s face it, we weren’t out on the Potomac just to fish. We sped through 50 years chatting about our friends, teachers and…

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