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I fried up some crappie a couple of nights ago along with fresh sliced tomatoes, some steamed squash and a few fried potatoes. That’s a meal that never diminishes in excellence. It is always better than I remember, and I remember that fried crappie is pretty dandy! Well, everything was wonderful except those dang tomatoes. The tomato industry should be ashamed of the product they lay out for us. It's kinda like modern day Nashville. They roll out a product that looks good, but is way short on the real reason you bought the product. Tomatoes are a whole nother story. Back to the crappie and how to land them in your grease.
Ahhhh, springtime! Spring is the absolute favorite time of year for most anglers. The various species move to the shallows to spawn and defend the nest against anything that comes within smacking range. You can load up a mess of keeper crappie this time of year, and they are accessible to anglers that don’t fish from a boat. I do fish from a boat, or at least use the vessel to get me in an area that I want to fish. The crappie will look for a hard surface for a spawning area. Hard clay or rocks maybe. The keys to look for are:
I employ several tactics in the springtime. If the fish are spawning on the rocks along a dam or bridge, I will place a float, or bobber about 6-8 inches above my jig, and as I drift or very slowly troll along the rocky bank, I allow the bobber to do the same thing. Very effective method. Another great way to sack em up is to look for shallow flats that are occupied by lots of button willows, or cattails, or stumps. PARK THE BOAT. It's too shallow to get into these flats with most boats anyway. Tie it off so it won't blow away and slip into your waders! Slowly, without disturbing too much water as you go, move from brush to brush to logs to other cover. A 9 to 12 foot lightweight jigging rod is recommended. This will keep you far enough from the fish to not spook them. Only allow about 6-8 inches on line with jig attached to dangle past the tip of the rod. With your free hand, pull the line and jig up snug to the rod tip so that there’s no slack. Ease along, much like a feeding heron does, and slip the tip of your rod at water level, deep into the cover. NEVER turn loose of the line in your free hand. Ease the jig down into the water and wait for the thump. When you feel it, pull the line with your line hand to set the hook and pull the fish up to the rod tip. Back him out of there quickly. Without constant control and contact with your line hand, you will be miserable, losing fish and tangled in brush all day. Stay in control of the line at all times. AND, check the last 2-3 feet of your line regularly. Your fishing in abrasive stuff and line wear occurs often. Re-tie, don’t break off that nice one.
I often see bank fishermen set up in a spot and stay there all day, which can be very productive if the fish favor that spot and the weather hasn’t moved them around or out. But how much more productive could you be with an inexpensive set of waders that help you cover a lot more water. Slip em on, slip out into the water, and slip up on some cover, then slip em into the cornmeal and grease.
A few thoughts:
The majority of crappie that you catch on spawning beds are males. They build the nest, mate with incoming females, then stay and guard the fry against predators. The females will be at the nest only long enough to lay her eggs and move back out. If there are hardwoods or stumps or other cover in nearby deeper water, don’t forget to check them regularly as well. That’s where the big girls are hanging out while not visiting the beds. You’ll more than likely catch your bigger fish here.
When? 62 degree or warmer water seems to be a key factor for the crappie spawn. A string of 60 degree or warmer nights (air temp) are a big deal too. When you have a string of 60 degree nights and a full moon in the forecast, mend the hole in the waders and string up new line on the long pole! Good fishing to you! Send me a picture or two of your success for the BBKO Braggin Board... and a basket full of home grown, vine ripened tomatoes!
MARCH 24, 2017
Now's the time for Bream!
We come here every spring, Robin, other family members, friends come and go throughout the 10 day stay. We drag boats, travel trailers, gear, dogs, stuff out the old wazoo. The 3 hour trek from Dallas/Fort Worth to Caddo Lake on the Texas-Louisiana border looks much like the opening to the Beverly Hillbilly’s. But it's worth it! The bream are bigger here on Caddo...Up to a pound and a half. Why get so excited about jerking a perch? Many reasons:
A little gas for the boat, lightweight spinning gear and a box of worms is all you need for everyone from the kiddos to the pappaws to have a great time and contribute to the family food supply. If you come…The first couple of weeks in May have always been good for us as we try to time out the bream spawn on Caddo. Johnsons Ranch Marina-Uncertain, Texas is over one hundred years old. Not only a rustic old fish camp, but well stocked with snacks, fishing supplies, guide services, boat fuel, breakfast and lunch items, fish cleaning station, fish cleaners!!! AND...a boat ramp.
Fish the shallows deep in the cypress breaks or islands. 2 ft of water or less. Hunt n peck til you find a bed, then load the boat. Accommodations are clean and comfortable at beautiful Caddo Lake State Park, just 5 miles from Johnsons Ranch Marina. RV hookups, and fully furnished cabins are available to rent. Walmart is just 15 miles up the road in Marshall. Last but not least, call me when you are headed out!
APRIL 21, 2017
(First Published May 2015)
I’m not referring to the college football conference that produces high scoring offenses and exciting fall gridiron action. The big 12 in my book will forever be roaming the drainages and deep cover of Baylor county Texas.
I have hunted quail primarily on my friend’s ranch outside of Seymour, Texas for the past 20 years. Ken has been so kind to me all of these years with gate and barn keys, and a hearty welcome to hunt his ranch. In the beginning I rarely saw a deer at all while walking miles each day behind the bird dogs, but through the years that began to change. I started seeing a doe here and there, then a basket rack buck, then a spike, then a group of 4 or 5 does, then some better bucks. It was obvious that the deer were moving into Ken’s country over time. It was also obvious that the quality of the deer in both body and antler size were improving. I guesstimate several reasons for the increase.
* habitat improvement-the mesquite bottoms and brushy cactus country on Ken’s ranch has grown taller and thicker through the years. Perfect cover.
* plenty of feed available-annual winter wheat, sufficient spring rains.
* a thick, thick, thick deep bottom-about 40 or 50 acres that seldom sees a human and is ideal for loafing/bedding deer
Here’s the bigun though…
* Educated hunters have been hunting more selectively over the past twenty years. Once upon a time, that little basket rack 6 would have been a prize in most hunting circles…draped across the hood of the car, or on display with a lowered tailgate and driven thru town a time or two, with a stop at the café thrown in just to make sure the local boys knew that you had bagged a buck, any buck. Thinking has changed drastically. That basket buck would still be taken today, and still with great pride. The difference would be properly placed enthusiasm. Once the pride was placed on the antlers, it is now placed on herd improvement. You don’t want that buck to pass along his genes to future generations of 5 and 6 year old 6 points with a 13 inch inside spread. Take him out of the reproduction cycle, enjoy his delicious venison and watch offspring from better bucks grow up. Another benefit from educated hunters, and this one is a bit more difficult for many, is properly aging deer before pulling, or not pulling the trigger. There he is, a tall 8! Looks like a 20 inch inside spread! Beautiful!! WAIT!! While he’s giving you a good luck, try and age him. If this great deer is 3 ½ years old, let’s give him another year or three to develop. If he’s 6 ½ or older, he’s reached his peak, should have plenty of offspring nearby and will start to decline so let’s go ahead and harvest this animal. That mindset has helped grow and improve our deer herds across America the past couple of decades, and I surmise that these are the reasons for the big 12 showing up.
I’d never seen him before, as far as I know nobody had. There was no camp talk of him, no game cam pics hanging in the barn. He showed up mid rut at about 7:30am. I saw him coming from a distance and when he hopped the fence and the sun gave me a good look at his crown, I knew immediately that in all of my years on this ranch, I’d never seen anything close to him in comparison. I was in a blind overlooking a feeder that the girls enjoyed on a regular basis. He was on a dead run to see if the girls were at the buffet…they were not. He ran to within 100 yards of me, never stopped. Took a look, no does, and on he went disappearing into the thick cover.
I sat back and exhaled for the first time in about two minutes. Wow…what a deer. Through my binocular, I saw him again at about 9:30am. On the neighbor’s wheat, and he was a good mile from me. He wasn’t far from cover, and didn’t stay exposed very long. I like to crawl in the blind an hour before legal shooting time, and stay all day, or until I make harvest. I did pull the trigger that day just before dark, on what I believe was one of the big 12’s kinfolk. Perfectly symmetrical like the 12, 8 tall and wide points. I went ahead and filled my tag and freezer with the best buck that I’d ever taken on this property, and one of the best I’d ever seen in Baylor County Texas. I still wanted more meat in the freezer and I will never in my days on earth get enough time in God’s perfect creation, so back to the woods I went day after day, studying the deer and with a keen eye out for the 12.
I didn’t see him again for a couple of weeks, but I did see him again, three times more in fact. Baylor is a two buck county, but only the 12 would satisfy my second buck tag, nothing less. On a muddy morning, after an all-night rain I stepped out of the barn/apartment with my coffee just before sunrise. I could see deer feeding in the wheat. Thru my binocular I could see 5 does and one really big buck. Each minute brought better light, and before long I knew that I was looking at the big 12. The rut was full swing and he’d lost control of his protective senses. He had now exposed himself in an open wheat field, ours by the way, and made himself vulnerable. A lot of humans do that too. I ranged him at 276 yards, I’m comfortable with that shot. I was not comfortable with the man standing beside his pickup a half mile behind the deer. I guess his ol’ truck had broken down, or he found the one spot that had cell service…whatever his reason for stopping in the middle of nowhere, I couldn’t shoot. I waited and waited and waited. The pickup didn’t move, but the deer did. The does were moving east and back toward heavy cover, the big 12 travelled with them. I had studied their movement enough to know where they were going.
I immediately moved west and took the long way around to the trail that I knew they were going to use. My plan was perfect, my execution of it was not. I should have stopped 100 yards shy of the trail but I pushed it. I wanted to cross the trail before they got there and catch a better wind. As I popped out of the brush 10 feet from the trail, so did HE! We were face to face for about .0003 of a second and then of course he was gone. I knew I had blown a golden opportunity. I saw him once more on the very last day of the season, a cold windy January day. He was across the fence on the neighbor, about 500 yards away, and all alone, the way he spends most of his year I recon. I watched him for half an hour before he slipped into a depression and disappeared…again. That was two seasons ago and far as I know, he’s still there.
I didn’t harvest the 12, but the chase, the strategy, the hunt and the time is just as big in my memory. Special memory. I’ll carve out a little time to look for him some more this year and share great tales of great adventure with campmates. We’ll eat store bought beans with unfulfilled tags, and backstrap fillets when our shot finds its mark. Happy bow opener to you! Make memories and send me YOUR story and pics along the way. I look forward to that!
SEPTEMBER 30, 2016
I'm asked from time to time to speak to different groups. It's always humbling to be invited and to actually stand before these groups. Even though I've been in the radio business and spoken publicly for decades, it also scares the bejeebers out of me. I'm much more comfortable alone on the bow of the boat searching out slab crappie or big bass.
When I do stand before these groups, I can tell of the 8 ponder that I caught last week. Where I found her, what bait I was throwing, water temp, water color, weather conditions and other details that MIGHT help these folks out. I can tell them about the brushpile deep in a body of water that holds mega numbers of crappie this time of year and that MIGHT help them some. I can give some stats, numbers and accounts of how remaining in your stand on guard for big bucks has paid off many times at 1 in the afternoon rather than at daylight or dusk.
But...What I have to say, or anybody else for that matter, is only yesterday's news, or a guess about tomorrow...unless...we are speaking God’s word. THAT is my only confidence. That is the only pure truth, the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. I'm not a preacher, God didn’t call me to that. I am saved by His incredible grace, and I love to tell the story of Jesus and His love, and that I can speak of with an overwhelming confidence.
There's lots of public speakers out there right now that are talking about walls, gun control, international terrorism, our suffering economy, how the US can be great again and so on and so forth. Yesterday's news and tomorrow's speculation. There is but one way to make America great again. I sure hope you'll call the family in, click on the LINK and listen to "Who is God’s Candidate?" You can have confidence when you base your vote and your daily choices on what God has to say.
JUNE 10, 2016
This is the time of year when even the most ardent land lovers glance at those shiney new boats and start daydreaming about big fish, evening cruises, and family time on the water. The water provides tremendous pleasure, even therapy. It’s a direct contrast to 5mph traffic, constant people contact and as my friend Will Primos put it “this cell phone, laptop, computer infested world”. Your decision to buy a boat or not is very personal and not one to be taken lightly.
Ask yourself this question and give a sincere answer. How often will you truly use a boat? There are 52 weekends in a year. How many of those will be consumed with work/family/duty commitments that keep you away from the water? Do you have 8-10 spare weekends in a year? 10-20? 20-30? If you have limited time but still want to hit the water, consider rentals. Someone else pays for the boat, storage, upkeep, insurance and licensing. You pay an exorbitant fee for a half or full day rental and refuel. But you pay as you go. One-n-done.
If you, like me, LOVE to fish, consider using various guide services. If you can't get to the water as much as you’d like but 1-10 times per year is an option, you don’t have the time to “figure out” the fish and their seasonal habits and travels. The guides do and the fee that you pay a guide is well worth the money for a much much higher catch percentage option.
If you’ve thought it over and decided that you and your family are indeed able to get to the lake more often than not, and you want to take the ownership step...good for you! Before you load a single fishing rod, wakeboard or water ski on that boat give some serious thought to safety. The law requires proper flotation for each passenger on your boat and a fire extinguisher, but...I like to take it a few steps beyond lawful requirements. Here's my short list:
~Weather radio...these are cheap and an absolute must! Buy one that allows you to switch it to alert only. Keep fresh batteries in it, and every time you head out onto the water-pretty day or not-turn it on. It can save your life, the lives of your family and friends, and your boat gear etc with early warning that lightening, big wind, foul weather is approaching.
~A VERY loud noisemaker. Some states actually require a whistle. I carry a whistle, and a compressed air horn. The air horn was designed to get a bear out of your face in the woods, but I promise you it will grab attention in distress from across the lake.
~GPS is waaaaaaay too common, inexpensive and user friendly these days not to have one with you. Mark your boat ramp before you take off on a new lake just in case you lose your bearings. Small handheld units are great, but I prefer to spend a few more bucks and install a unit that includes or can be loaded with lake maps, bottom contours for safe boat travel, local marina and emergency services information etc. I have two Garmin devices on my boat. One of them in red lettering has a man overboard button. If someone falls in, throw a float cushion and hit the red button. It will mark the exact location of the accident in the event that emergency personnel are required.
~Always...leave a plan with someone that will actually miss you if you don’t come back in time. That plan should include: 1) The water body that you will be boating 2) How many others will be in your boat, names, phone numbers 3) The boat ramp/parking area that you will access 4) A description of your vehicle and trailer, along with license plate #’s 5) A time to expect you back 6) A description of your vessel, and registration numbers from the exterior bow of your boat
Have a great summer and we’ll see ya on the water!
JUNE 3, 2016
Your wife shoots better that you…just the facts.
Robin and I just returned from another Dallas Safari Club S.A.F.E.T.Y event.
DSC along with the Dallas Ecological Foundation host these events twice per year and have for a long long time.
6 stations including bow, rifle, shotgun, muzzleloader, pistol and shotgun.
4 mega bus loads of Jr High and Sr High school students
4 mega bus loads of Jr High and Sr High school parents
0 cell phone activity allowed during the day
150 or so DSC/DEF volunteers
1 really, really, REALLY nice west Texas ranch
The kids, most of whom have never touched a bow or a gun receive one on one instruction at each station and have the time of their lives.
The parents, most of which have never touched a bow or a gun receive the same treatment…if time allows after each student takes his/her turn.
I have been blessed to work several S.A.F.E.T.Y. events thru the years and have observed enough to know that your wife shoots better than you.
I teach shotgun at these events and no matter the experience, I teach each student/parent the same thing. Four simple steps…
1-mount the gun properly…
2-lay your cheek on the stock…
3-weight forward…(on the left foot if right-handed shooter/right foot if left-handed shooter)
4-shoot the nose, or leading edge of the target as it flies
You would be amazed how many first-timers break all 6 targets that we throw for them. The students listen and take instruction pretty well. The moms listen and take instruction better. We men…uhh…miss. I will take the first time lady shooter over the first time male shooter every time in a friendly wager.
Women step up to me on the range and eagerly listen. Men step up and, many times, ask me how far to lead the target. I have learned to just say fifty yards and let ‘em have a whack at it. They’re not listening anyway. The women break 4-5-6 targets. The men 2-3-4. Averages. The bottom line? Students, moms, dads, instructor’s all have an incredible day together.
New target shooters and hunters are born at this event, right before our eyes!
Bad thoughts and beliefs about guns disappear right before our eyes!
Hurting family relationships are HEALED right before our eyes!
Meek and mild ladies become sharpshooters right before our eyes!
Male ego’s are in need of a 911 call as they wilt right before our eyes!
I am a hard headed male, so I know of these things. My wife tries to tell me things but she just doesn’t understand. I already know! I’m way ahead of you honey…I’ve got this! Of course I miss the target about 100% of the time when I do that. So the S.A.F.E.T.Y. event is a good reminder to me that my male ego needs to calm some too. It’s a good event, and it’s good for all of us involved.
Please consider volunteering at next Spring’s DSC S.A.F.E.T.Y. event and look into starting an Outdoor Adventures Program in your local schools. The DEF has already written the curriculum, and it is a huge plus in the lives of every kid that participates. It actually replaces P.E. for those that are not involved in athletics and for those who just don’t like P.E…they love the OA class!
Til next time, keep your weight forward and your eye on the beak of the bird…and I can STILL outshoot my wife!
OCTOBER 5, 2016
Sunjack Portable Solar Charger, You need this!
I am taking some time over the dog days this year to feature some items that will come in handy, or in this case, could be a lifesaver during your next wilderness trip or fishing excursion. While it’s too hot to do very much outside of early morning and very late evening, it’s a great time to “gear up” and get ready for the fall seasons that will begin to unfold soon.
I have been spending some time with the Sunjack Portable Solar Charger of late...and I like it. I like it enough to tell you about it. I won't ever lie to you or invite you to purchase junk. Sunjack is a keeper and like I said, could be a lifesaver...no exaggeration.
More and more, our gadgets are part of our hunting and fishing, birding, boating and hiking. Whether it's keeping up with our favorite football team while spending a day in the blind, keeping up with our remote trail cameras, recording our hunts/fishing trips, or using the phone for business or family concerns, we are forevermore attached to our electronics. At BBKO radio we spend a great deal of time each year in a hunting scenario, or on the boat. When we cover events life the Bassmaster Classic, we're on the water recording and photographing the event and burning up the batteries posting the latest to the social circles of the world. Power has been a problem in the past. That’s why I was thrilled to find out about the Sunjack, and why I was even more thrilled to find out that it does exactly what the folks at Sunjack said it would.
*recharge my devices at wall outlet speed
*fit the small storage areas in my boat and hunting pack
*handle phone/tablet/GPS units/GoPro cameras/etc in short order using only God’s good sunshine.
*durable and dependable time after time after time
It folds to up to a small 9x7 inches. When unzipped and laid out flat in the sunshine, it stretches to 26 inches of sunbathing power plant that works...and works fast!
The unit features two USB ports for multiple charges directly from the solar panels, as well as a separate battery pack for even smaller back up power in your pocket, pack or tackle bag. The separate battery pack also features a small built in L.E.D. flashlight (just in case) and a L.E.D. power level bar that tells you exactly how much power is available.
I have met a lot of folks that hunt off of the grid...waaaaaaay back in the out yonder (I’m talking remote Alaska, Africa, Tajikistan etc.)-Areas that you DO NOT want to hang out for 7 to 10 days without power that can give you a life saving connection to tamer places. Same goes for your boat, you don't want to be on a lake that you know well when the motor stops or that unexpected storm beaches you in a bad spot.
Be ready. I recommend it, Sunjack Portable Solar Charger. Lay it out or hang it up in the sunshine while you're out on the boat or busy hunting, then charge up to eight of your devices while you wait for tomorrow to show up. Remember this one...Sunjack. It Works!
JULY 15, 2016