Saturday, May 31, 2014

Simple and Quick Crawdad Modification

          When I first saw the Stankx Bait Co. NXT LvL Craw I thought it was missing something. The little guy looked more like Zoidberg from Futurama than a crayfish.  It shares the same problem many crayfish, crawdad, crawbug, yabbie, mudbug, or what ever you want to call them baits have. There is no antennae. The antennae are impotent organ to the crawfish. So to get a more realistic crayfish you just need to add your own.


I used Peacock Herl, a needle, super glue, and a pair of scissors to modify my baits. Just thread the needle with the herl and stick it where the antennae go.


Pull the herl until it is the length you want, then pull it a little shorter, cut, add a dab of glue and pull it back to the length you wanted it.


It looks good on about any soft plastic crayfish body you can think of.


I couldn't find a bait I didn't like it on.


It makes the NXT LvL Craw look less like an alien and more like something that lives in a pond or stream.


But it looks even better in the water.

On the craw-chunk the herl adds a subtle movement when the jig is at rest on the bottom.


The hurl, while not being very durable, looks awesome in the water.

Once I showed Travis, owner/master bait pourer, he decided to add a little extra to all of his NXT LvL Craws.

          I know some of you may be thinking "Who is this guy saying he came up with this?" I am aware many people have done this in the past. About every crayfish fly you see has feelers on it. This is just one way to do it. There are many ways to modify baits and it is hard to come across something someone else hasn't already done, but it is not a common practice in bass fishing. I believe I even read the tip in a Bass Master article sometime in the past year about using monofiliment line to supplement antenna.

         I just hope this inspires a few people to do more than thread a bait on a hook, and hopefully it will mean another bass or two for them. I like how the peacock herl reflects light and sits weightless under water, but feel free to try other materials. Living rubber from the skirt of a old rusty jig would work, as would some braid fishing line. The options are only limited to what you have at your disposal.

Thanks for reading,


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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Leffingwell Fishing and my New Personal Best Rockfish

           I finally got the chance to head to the coast on Monday. The central coast rockfish opener was May 1st but there were still plenty of good fish to be had. My buddy Caleb got to my house at four AM and I wasn't ready. I couldn't find my camera anywhere, but after ten or fifteen minutes of searching I gave up. We hit the road and got to the launch at 0630, and by 0700 we were on the water. Just as we got into the water My buddy Will and his father showed up. I fished my hand tied dropper rig with a 4-oz holographic jigging iron as the weight and a watermelon green redflake colored Polli-minner with a 6/0 octopus hook. I fished a few bumps I saw on the fishfinder with no luck. We got into the kelp and Caleb hooked into the first fish, a gopher rockfish. A cast later I hooked into the largest rockfish I have caught to date.  
PB Rockfish
My personal best rockfish
It measured twenty inches and weighed in at almost six pounds. The best part was it hit on the polli-minner. Next fish was a twenty-three inch ling and a seventeen inch cabazon came after that. I ended up getting five ling cod (I kept one), five cabazon (I kept two), and three rockfish. The swell was about four feet at six or seven seconds, which felt almost like an amusement park ride at times, but the wind was calm enough to bare it.  

The haul
It was great to get out and I had a great time. Will caught a few fish, Caleb caught a few fish, and Will's dad went home with a ling and a cabazon. So all around we had a great day. We were off the water by eleven. I caught a few of my fish while wearing Caleb's GoPro so hopefully I will cut the footage and get that up soon.

Will's dad with his catch
I have caught more fish but the quality of fish I caught Monday was higher than I have caught in a while. I really needed a day like that on the water. Plus I got to bring home a lot of tasty fish to my family. 

Thanks for reading, 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Fly Fishing Below Pine Flat

DSC_0011_E        Fly fishing has been daunting for me. I just couldn't seem to get the hang of it. I also had problems meeting up with other fly fishermen. I have read a ton about fly fishing in books, magazines, and most of all the blogs in my blog roll, but it still didn't feel right. I caught my first fish on the fly in Illinois right after I got the pole and only took it out once since. It has been over two years since I tried to fish at Putah creek and got the skunk. Then Mark Kautz (Northern California Trout) emailed me and told me to bring my fly rod.

Can you spot him? 
Mark gave me some coaching and really helped me stop over thinking what I was doing. In the end it is just a hook with some fibers, tied to a long string that you manipulate with a stick. We drove down to the spot and it looked good. There was no one there, but by the time we got our gear out two trucks pulled up. Seems like we happened on someone's secret spot.


Mark about stepped on a poor trout in no more than six inches of water. There were a few rainbows cruising the boulders and at least one good sized brook trout. Word from one of the guys who came in after us was they just stocked. We tried dry flies, but the trout did not seem interested. After a while I realized if I was missing the spot to the left or the right I needed to turn my body.


At least the scenery was good. The wind started to pick up so we ditched the fly gear and went to spinning reels. That didn't work so we Power baited up and hit the dam. People seemed to be packing up as we got there. It wasn't long before we were alone. Around eleven we called it a day.


We may not have caught anything but I felt more confident in my skills and am thinking about wetting a fly line way more than I was before. Mark is a great guy, patient, and full of stories. He even waited for me while I took artsy shots of wild flowers, a true gentlemen.


We made it back to the campsite and talked while we put the gear away, said our good byes and parted ways. It was getting hot and I wanted to go home, but there was something nagging me. A spot I found a while ago. A steep bank leading from the road to the river where there always seemed to be rising trout I could never seem to catch. I went down in my tennis shoes with nothing but my 4wt and a green woolly bugger.


I found at least a sixth of a motor cycle down there. I am not sure if it was ditched on to get rid of stolen parts they did not need or just to get rid of it, but it was way too heavy for one guy to lug back up that steep, sorry excuse of a trail.


The spot was even more beautiful than the last time I had been to it. The water was low and the fish were just swimming about the shallows and appeared to be feeding between the rocks. I tried to go for at least four of them but my little woolly bugger just wouldn't get down there. I tried to get a picture of the fish form out of the water, but between their green back camouflage and the glare of the water it was not happening. I scrambled back up the hill and went home to start on the "Honey-do" list.

Thanks for reading,


Check out Mark's blog at

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

How to Photograph Your Catch: Part II

For this second installment of outdoor photography tips my fishing buddy and professional photography instructor Russel Lowe will talk about the settings on your camera. The pictures Russ submitted were all taken on the Wolf River in Freemont, Wisconsin.
P1010563                Because I teach photography, I'm often asked what camera I bring when I go fishing.  I like using a camera with manual controls or one with at least Aperture Priority mode, when I go fishing.

          While I normally use DSLR cameras for most of the photography I do, bringing one on a fishing trip doesn't seem practical.  A small camera makes a lot more sense.  Currently, I'm using a Lumix DMC-LX5 for fishing.  This camera is an advanced "hybrid" camera that offers the convenience of a "point and shoot" sized camera with the features of a DSLR camera for controls.

"Auto" mode is perhaps the most easiest, but not always the right mode to use.  Having some control over the camera and lighting makes a world of difference in the exposure.  For instance, look at the photo with the silhouette of the angler.  Auto mode would not have given me the ability to get the dramatic look to this image.


For many, Aperture Priority mode is the best mode for them.  You pick the ISO (the sensitivity of the image sensor to light) and also the Aperture (to help select your depth of field).  The camera will pick the corresponding shutter speed to match up a good exposure for you.  Depth of field is the distance between the nearest and farthest objects in a scene that appear acceptably sharp in an image.  The larger the aperture number, the smaller the aperture, which gives more depth of field.  The smaller the aperture number, the bigger the aperture, which gives a shallower depth of field (less things in focus in front and behind the main subject being focused upon.)


Full Manual exposure settings is perhaps the most difficult for many photographers.  Three controls help set up your exposures... ISO, Shutter Speed and Aperture.  To use this mode, pick the ISO first, then pick either the shutter speed or the aperture next (depending if movement is an issue or if depth of field is the issue).  Then, using your camera's built-in light meter, choose the final control that's left over.  In other words, if you want to control your depth of field, choose the ISO first (lower number for brighter sunlight), pick the aperture, and then look at your meter and move the shutter speed until the meter moves to the middle (0 EV) mark.  You should have a good exposure if you do this!

Creative control of your images make for more interesting images.  If you are in the Chicago area and need help with figuring out a DSLR camera or advanced hybrid camera, come take one of my photography classes!  Check out my website at


Russ has been a professional photographer since 1990 and a court-qualified expert in Forensic Photography and Audio since 1992. I know how good he is because he shot my wedding. 

More photography tips to come,


Check out the other tips here:

Image Composition and Best Practices for the Outdoor Photographer.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Kings River is Getting Low

The Kings river is sitting lower and lower. This section is where bass boats launch into the river, but the spot they usually go in is about thirty feet from the water. Only the main channel remains.


The water under the bridge is only bout a foot deep. A few carp are swimming through the brush that is growing on what used to be the river bed.


          It extends about 150 yards past the bridge. It is barely deep enough to get a kayak through.
I am losing hope that the bass will make it through. This part of the river was around six feet deep when I first arrived in California. Now it is almost bone dry. There was a time I'd be on this river three days a week and now it is hardly worth checking if there is any water left. At least it the central coast rockfish season has opened. Next weekend with good weather I hope to make it out.

Thanks for reading


Thursday, May 1, 2014

How to Photograph Your Catch: Part I

Eyes closed, too much flash,
and the only shot I got. 
               While it is not going to help you catch any more fish or get you home safely, knowing how to take a good photo can immortalize your buddy’s big catch. There is nothing worse than getting back home and checking out the days photos and finding a thumb over your big fish of the day, a blurred face, or even worse a completely botched shot. It has happened to all of us. Hand the camera off and take a risk. The only alternative, the dreaded "fish selfie," a move reserved for limited use only to a fishermen alone in the wilderness.

           When taking a picture it is always good to familiarize yourself with the camera you are using, if it is your friend’s, don’t be afraid to take a minute to check to see if the settings are correct and if you got the right shot.  Take off your sunglasses if you can't see the screen. Just getting the fish in the shot is not good enough. The picture to the right is my first Lake Michigan King salmon. The guy, who I met at the marina that day, netted my fish perfectly. But when he took my picture he said got it and I believed him. I learned to ask to see the photo before packing up. 

          Do not center the person in the shot; keep their body to one third of the photo. Using the Auto setting is your best bet in most lighting situations. It is a good idea to ask how your friend wants the picture, once the fish is gone you can‘t retake the photo.  You want to avoid having the sun to your back or your partners back as a general rule. Make sure you check the photo and if you can show them before they let go of the fish. Lastly, make them smile. There are enough pictures of guys looking like they are at funerals with fish; pretend you are having some fun out there. 
           If someone else is taking your picture remember it is OK to ask them to get another shot. If you are keeping the fish Time doesn't really matter, but if you are catch and release fishing keep the fish in the water as long as you can. Many fish air-drown while someone is waiting to take a picture of them--so please remember the point of Catch Picture Release (CPR) fishing is to release and preserve the species. 

Thanks for reading,


Check out the other tips here:

Camera Settings.