Thursday, March 26, 2015

Early Spring Smallmouth (SW PA and West Virginia): First Bass of the Year 

Trolling through the Internet and checking out fishing tactics and techniques, most of what’s out there focuses lake fishing, boat fishing or big water fishing in general. For folks like me, who do 80% of their fishing in creeks, a lot of this stuff just doesn’t apply. Talk about shallow and deep water for example, is a matter of perspective. In the creeks we fish around here, if there’s a hole that’s 5 foot deep, that’s about as deep as it gets. Most of the time were running lures in 2 to 3 feet of water. This time a year it’s a little deeper. Shallow water doesn’t mean small fish though, I pulled a 43” Muskie out of about 2.5 feet of water and it followed my lure from a hole that was maybe 3.5 feet deep. I’ve seen people do better than that too. So anyway, that’s where we’re fishing - in creeks. These creeks I’m specifically talking about are on the border of Pennsylvania and West Virginia near the Mason Dixon line in about a 30 mile radius. 

First thing to consider, this time of year is notoriously slow. Time wise the first day of Spring hit, but here we are in late March and there’s still sporadic snow mixed with 60 degree days in between. The water temperatures are inching up to that 45 degree mark where bass start to come alive. I call this the pre-spawn - I’m not much for science so if you go getting technical on me that’s fine, you stay in the lab and argue about terminology and I’ll be in the creek fishing during “pre spawn,” because that’s what the “Appalachian Apostle” calls it and I have a nasty habit of referring to myself in the third person. 

What You Need:

Tackle - I’m not a gear snob - many of the spots I go are hard to access and dropping expensive poles in the mud or getting them pulled in the water when a carp or drum bolts off with your bait sucks. This trip I used a little pan fish Shakespeare spinning combo I bought

on tour at Walmart - they are like 15-20 bucks. I took the crap line that was on it off and replaced it with some 10 lb Berkley Trilene monofilament in that transparent green color. That’s closest to the water color by me. I also use a lot classic Mitchell Spinning reals too - they are made a lot better than comparable priced stuff these days. We'll talk bait-casters another day. 

Waders - I sometimes bank fish but even when I do I wear waders. It makes it easier to not worry about getting wet, especially when it’s cold. I don’t use insulated waders and this time of year it can get cold standing in the water for any period of time. I use rubber style hip boots that clip to my belt. I don’t personally like chest waders for my style of fishing. First they don’t leave me room for my pistol and second, when it comes summer and you want to take your shirt off you get a weird tan and look like Hillbilly Jim from the WWE back in the day. Oh yeah, and put your phone in a plastic bag, I'm on my third iPhone from fishing casualties. 

Lures - The most successful lure I have in my arsenal is the Rebel Wee Craw in chartreuse. It’s basically firetiger style in other lures in terms of coloring. I carry a bunch of these. I have other colors but these seem to work best for me. I’m not sure if it’s just a great lure for the area or if I just use it better than I do my other lures but it gets me the best results. Even in the other colors with the same lure I’m not as consistent. I also use a lot of Rapala cranks too - usually yellow, black/silver minnow looking one or firetiger. This time of year I don’t

have much success with spinners but when it comes spinner time go with a Deathshimmer if you can find them. Their action is unmatched and I do good on bass with them in Muskie creek waters. What I found this time of year is though, my later season tactics aren’t the best. So with that in mind, for my first bass this year, I used Berkley Powerbait minnows. I used the smaller size and tied them straight to my line. I use swivels later in the year when I’m using bigger cranks just because it’s easier; but tie these Berkley baits straight on for the best results.

Side Arm - Ok this isn’t necessary but I’m a big 2nd Amendment guy and I generally never leave the house without my pistol and my buck knife. Hell, we have a song about my Buck knife. When the weather is crappy like this, I carry my Glock 19 with a Blackhawk click plastic holster. You can’t really hurt that weapon. When it gets nicer I prefer by big framed single action Ruger Blackhawk .357. These don’t help you catch fish necessarily but they keep the Deliverance people away that may be aiming to make you squeal like a pig. 

RedMan Chew - I’m a very habit oriented creature, I believe Redman Chew helps me catch more fish - Golden Blend is the best for this. 

Getting the Bass

Chances are you’re fishing areas you fished the previous year. This gives you a good place to start. Aim for the last place you caught a bass the previous year. If you don’t know the area, look for “bassy” areas with a lot of cover. Places with rocks, ledges and fallen trees. I found that the bass this time of year are deep, which means they are in the deeper creek water. In terms of lures, this means shallow running lures will be fine. Deep diving lures for "deep spots" are referencing lakes and rivers and you'll snag these and lose a lot of coin fast if you try to use them in these creek spots. A good way to guess depth without scaring all the fish and wading out is to look at the water color. When you see those darker colored spots that are out of the main current, aim at those. Areas where rapid moving water flow into wider water are good too because that’s where fish feed. For me, and probably for you, the fish won’t be in exactly the same spot as they were. A few months of winter and flooding can change the whole landscape of a creek. There’s a good chance they moved nearby. I nailed my first season bass about 10 yards up stream from where I was catching them the previous year. 

Finding the bass is the hardest part. This can take a lot of casts and patience. It also takes slower retrieves and more action on the lures. When it gets warm and bass are more active, you can run stuff right across these areas and they’ll chase them. This time of year the strike range is more limited. You have to literally run the lures right passed them. I’m a number guy so I use the “7” technique. I cast and retrieve 7 times across the area I think they are. Each time I put the lure damn near in the exact same spot. If you can’t do this go in the yard and practice until you can; otherwise, it’s like shooting in the dark. If I don’t get anything, I target the same area from a different angle and do the same thing. If I still didn’t get a hit I do this one more time at a different angle. So basically I’ve covered the same spot with 21 or so casts. I learned this watching Bill Dance Outdoors back in the day. 

Some people aren’t into this. Some people cast once or twice and move on. You can cover a lot of ground this way, but this time of year it won’t help you locate the fish efficiently. After that, I move along to another likely spot nearby. Another note, when the water is moving fast or the current comes into play, make sure you aren’t swimming the lure with the current, this is pretty useless as lures this small will lose all their action. Either take your angle directly across or pull it slightly upstream. For me, it was the third spot I hit from the last spot I caught a bass last year. So yeah, that means I was at least 42 casts in before I even could confirm where the bass were. This is about the only time I'm patient, put me in LA traffic and I lose my shit. 

As I mentioned before, I used the slowest retrieve I could to make that Berkley minnow have action. Instead of just swimming it, I started each cast by jigging it a few times before I swam it. This means I threw it, let it hit the bottom, jigged it a few times and then swam it. In that third spot using this technique I foul hooked a 14” smallmouth. I got him in and thankfully my hook didn’t do too much damage. I got him back in the water right away and he was off to spread those good genes during the spawn. I want to take a second to push some good ju ju. If you aren’t going to eat it put it back. I aim to have every bass I catch back in the water in under a minute. This is enough time to get it off the hook, take a pretty picture and even get a measurement. If it’s a trophy, it’s even more important you get it back in the water. These days they can build you replica mounts based on pictures and measurements that look amazing. They are usually cheaper too than the old style skin ones and they look great. You have a fish for your wall and the fish is still swimming and breeding, which is a win win for everyone. 

After I landed that bass, it was a victory because it was my first bass of the year but also it showed me where they were. Now I had to make a decision, did I foul hook it because the weren’t that into what I was throwing or was it because I pulled too soon. Since it was hard to tell, I began targeting that area with the same technique and in the next 20 minutes I landed 2 more - a 10” and a 12” smallmouth. Both are respectable for this area.

After all that chaos they stopped biting there. Usually after that much action you should let it simmer down in a hole like that for a 1/2 hour. We did that and I let my young Padawan Jedi that was with me learning the ways of the Appalachian Apostle hit the spot the next time. Using the same bait, and after two bouts with the tree, he managed to put one line in the right spot, reeled it in, and declared there were no fish there and moved on. Anyway, he didn’t catch any fish that day. Remember, "Patience."

On a side note, a trick I like to do when I fish an area is to throw a second pole in with a worm. I’m a lure guy but worms are a good way to discover what type of fish are in an area and where they are. This day upstream about a 70 yards from that spot I hooked an at least 10lb carp like this. I got it up to my waders in the shallows but it got off the hook at the end. I really wasn’t rigged up for something like that. It still was exciting and marked the end to a solid few hours of fishing. 

Final Thoughts

So that’s it, these are some of the tricks I’ve learned from old timers and through trial and error during my years on the water. I’m going to be trying to do regular blogs about my fishing techniques and such when I get a chance. When I’m on tour I get to fish a lot of spots across the country. I carry a rod broken down in my guitar case so I’m always ready to go. It’s always a challenge finding new water and then going about getting something out of the water. Stay tuned, if you have any questions hit me up. If you live around me and want to go out and fish with me, I’m usually down for that unless you are annoying, a complainer, a stalker or stupid; and then you’ll take away from my fishing Zen time. Being the self proclaimed most metal fisherman in the land, you never know who you may see me take fishing. Lots of times bands on tour through Pittsburgh or Morgantown I know hit me up and I take them out if I’m not on the road myself. You could end up seeing a guitar legend or something like that learning the ways of the Creek Ninja. Say howdy if you see me, unless you are one of those eco-yuppies in a kayak paddling through where I’m fishing, then I’ll probably throw rocks at you. 

-Adam Joad (Appalachian Apostle and Self Proclaimed Creek Ninja)

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Thoughts on the New Scattered Hamlet Album 

So it’s that time again, time to make a new album and put a permanent stamp on where we are right now. We introduced ourselves with “Skeleton Dixie” with all the subtly of a pack of coyotes. We kept it simple, straight up, raw and all that good stuff. Now 2 years later, several hundred shows later (lost track) and a few minor line up adjustments, the diesel is idling and ready to go- and so are myself, Jake, CB, Crash and Rich. To say we are exited would be an understatement. 

The winds of fortune are on us this time. Thanks to y’alls support we’ve got more cred, more cash and more backing this time. That means we have more at our disposal to make this a better album. We have a killer production team that’s worked with badasses like Rob Zombie, Band of Horses, the Murder Dolls and they even have a few Grammy nods in there. Our producer said to me awhile back, “Joad, I want to make an album that doesn’t sound like all the radio rock garbage that keeps copying itself these days...The kind of album that people can sing along with and make them feel the way we did when we heard our favorite rock tunes back in the day.” 

......Well, that notion lit my ears up because that’s exactly the album that I wanted to make. Rock today is too safe in my humble opinion, a bunch of suits and business men have been worrying about all the hype about rock being dead and the industry is dying. Scared people play it safe so they keep making a clone of something else that was successful. The problem is you end up with a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy blaring in your ears. Anyone knows the more you do this it fades and gets worse each time. Think of the movie Multiplicity for example... Ok, so this album probably won’t buy me a jet, but who cares, worry about buying jets wasn’t and isn’t what attracted me to music in the first place.

I had a chance to talk to one of my favorite guitar players and song writers awhile back, Tom Keiffer. He was explaining to me how the industry now doesn’t let vocalists have a voice these days. There’s no character when all singers sound the same and all tones are the same. He’s right, you can’t tell a band apart by listening to the singer half the time anymore. I like that observation because I don’t want to sing like a third rate copy of Chad in Nickleback - but I also didn’t want to limit myself to sounding like Lemmy’s drunk hillbilly cousin either (No offense to Lemmy, who is and always will be king or Chad either, it’s not his fault every radio rock band has copied their model). 

Getting it Done, Putting in the Work!

All this is well and good, but in order to pull this off some things had to happen. First, I had to learn to sing better and learn to play guitar better, this took some time away from catching Bass and Muskie - I didn’t hit my 200 fish catch mark this year - put I was damn close; got about 190. I also didn't get to train my MMA and Jiu Jitsu as much as I wanted - though I still think with proper motivation, I could cut to 185... Now I'm way off topic so let's get back here - Second, we rolled back off the gain to let our fingers make the tones. AND, we have to record this sucker mostly live as a band because that’s how Skynyrd, The Allman Brothers, Thin Lizzy and all them folks did it. So, we have to get really really tight to pull this off, which is the way pro bands should be in this saturated market where every Tom, Dick and Harry make a Facebook page, play out once and are waiting for their million dollar record deal. We also have to grab some vintage amps and push them to the brink with some American made badassery courtesy of Fender and Gibson. 

Getting away from my tech nerd rant, above all, we need good songs. Right now, we’re poking and prodding at 11 or now 12 stories for y’all. They are stories, our stories, my stories, stories of people who grew up just like us. People that like “To drink and dance all night” who “when it comes to a fix ain’t afraid to fight,” just like Ronnie said. The same people that come alive when the gitar strings are bent just right, when that throttle cracks its sweet spot on a big V-twin, when that bass explodes on a top water lure while the frogs are singing their songs on moonlit summer night and  most importantly, those who have as much in common with Hank Williams 1-2-3 as they do Black Label Society and Black Flag. 

                    "Got in some fights and I broke some laws, Knocked to my knees where I had to crawl.   
                     My strike it rich and I might not  land, I come alive in a guitar band" (SH “Green 

I named songs after my uncle’s hunting dogs, we wrote about my Buck Knife, we wrote about country boys trying to navigate hollywood, we wrote about bitch ass promoters trying to rip us off, we wrote about ridge running the back roads of Greene County, but most importantly, we wrote about what we know. We did it with a double guitar attack, harmonicas and in your face down and dirty country rock or probably even metal at times. Unless you’re a metal elitist that paints your face, likes cookie monster vocals and burns churches, then this probably won’t be metal at all. I’m ok with that and not fond of labels anyway - I’m the same fella that gets misty eyed every time I watch Hank Jr.’s “A Country Boy Can Survive” video:

Those are my people. Those are the things I do when I’m not on tour... that’s where I came from. If you don’t get it, that’s fine, but don’t put down what you don’t understand. I don’t get gang culture or the mood in the streets back in the early 90’s South Central Los Angeles but I still like NWA’s album “Straight Outta Compton.” It was honest and sincere. 

So be patient, we want to get this right. We called on our friends across all kinds of genres to get their input and ideas. We have  a handful of friends from metal bands, country bands, punk bands and even hip hop backgrounds prodding at the demos giving us input so we can make them as good as possible. There will be guest appearances, humor, magic and all that you’ve come to expect from the Hillbilly Side Show Extravaganza. We’ll be on the road again in May and June, look for a late summer release of this album and you can let us know if we pulled it off. 

                        "Crossroads hoo-doo magic by the rail road tracks" (SH "White Trash")

Freezing in a bunker in Appalachia,

Adam Joad  

SH is: "The Irish Thunder" Jake Delling Le Bas (Drums), "The Old Kentucky Bastard" Rich Erwin (Bass, Vocals), "The Legendary Chicago Bluesman" Adam Newell (Lead Guitar, Vocals), "The Applachian Apostle" Adam Joad (Lead Vocals, Guitar, Harmonica) and "The General" Johnny Crash (Vocals, Whiskey, Hype, percussion).