Is your fishing pattern three weeks late?

Even smallmouth are a little behind schedule.

Even smallmouth are a little behind schedule.

Fish do not punch a clock per se. Water temperatures dictate when fish begin their spawn. It is time to adapt. Crappies for example are still in 12-feet of water here. Fish a little deeper. We fished the Tennessee River last week. The white bass are still deep and rather lethargic. They too are a little late. Slow down your presentation. Observe, change and adapt is the mantra of better anglers this spring.

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Unwritten rules for anglers and writers that build relationships.

Writer, Darl Black wades the cool waters for the perfect shot.

Writer, Darl Black wades the cool waters for the perfect shot.

These are unwritten rules of course and just my observations. There is an old saying; “No fish, no photo. No photo, no story.” rings true. The objective is clear for the writer. The angler hopes to educate the writer and perhaps earn some ink for his guide business or sponsors.

Rules for the pro follow.
1. The morning’s golden light is best. Try to have several of yesterday’s fish in the live well for an early shoot. This is not phony reporting. What you did yesterday is just as important to the story. Fish often “color up” when spending a night in the live well too.
2. Your boat is your office. Good captains keep clear decks. You may find the writer lying on the floor of the boat, shooting photos from all angles.
3. Wear layers in bright colors. Grey, black, or white shirts rarely photograph well.
4. A good shave and genuine smiles for the photo shoot will pay in spades.
5. Save some dry storage for the writer’s camera bag. That bag is as important to the writer, as your boat is to you.
6. Keep snacks and water on hand. You never know when you may have a diabetic on the boat. They often need just a little something. Pros like Stephan Matt of G3 Boats often provide a shore lunch. That is a touch of class.
7. Be prepared for an interview. Detailed answers are what the writer are looking for.
8. The writer is often too busy with interviews and photography to fish hard. Clean a few fish if possible for the writer to take home. Now, you are a hero.

There are a few rules for the writer. (I am not picking on anyone here.)
1. Be on time. Enough said.
2. Help the angler launch. The quicker you get on the water, the more gold light you will have to shoot with. (Tip: Always ask, “Drain plug in?”)
3. Wipe your feet. Sand and mud can damage decks and carpet. Deck shoes are best when weather permits.
4. Never step on a seat to climb onto the back deck. This splits the seat at the seams. OEM seats run about two-hundred dollars each.
5. Thank your host. That guide may have nixed a paid, guide trip or bagged a day of tournament practice to take you out.
6. Send a few, low-resolution photos for the guide’s web page. You will be more likely to receive an invite back.
7. This builds a relationship that you can count on down the road for quick interviews and fishing reports.

I have been blessed to be both host and guest. Either way, the pleasure has been all mine to learn from the best.

Sam has hosted more writers than anyone I know.

Sam has hosted more writers than anyone I know.

Blessings, tj

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Bass and crappie begin prespawn dance.

Spring seems a long way off. However, fish are biting between the cold fronts. They have to eat. Choose your days carefully. Don’t be surprised to find crappie and bass around the lily pads. The sun warms these little “solar panels”.

Copyright Road Runner Lures

Lily pads are often the first place to warm up.

While crappie will be first in the pads, bass will soon follow. Ledges near these pads will hold the bass until the water warms enough to move in. Try the heavier, quarter ounce Road Runner along this structure.

Tip: The favorite water temperature of crappie is about sixty five degrees. Bass become more active in water temps of sixty nine degrees. Water temperatures are just one of the factors in fish activity. Your Humminbird depth sounder likely has a water temperature gauge. Check it during the day to see how much the water warms up.

Elite Outdoor Media

Rich bagged these fish along step edges.


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A few photos from the St. Johns River trip.

The adventures and travel continue. Here are a few photos from the Florida trip. A few days in Titusville and Deland are just what I needed. The weather is perfect this time of year. I’d like to thank Visit Space Coast and Hontoon Landing.

Visit Titusville for fishing and lunch with an astronaut!

Visit Titusville for fishing and lunch with an astronaut!

American Shad visit the St Johns River once a year.

American Shad visit the St Johns River once a year.

Crappie Fishing on the St Johns River with Tim Gibson of B'nM Poles

Crappie Fishing on the St Johns River with Tim Gibson of B’nM Poles

The crappie love to hide in the lily pads near Hontoon Landing.

The crappie love to hide in the lily pads near Hontoon Landing.

The St. John’s River near Titusville to Deland offers so much beauty, so many fish!
Blessings, TJ
Dan enjoyed the "Specks" of the St Johns River.

Dan enjoyed the “Specks” of the St Johns River.

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Think you have seen it all? from Crappie NOW Magazine

This 14-inch crappie weighed 2.75 instead of the usual 2.50.

This 14-inch crappie weighed 2.75 instead of the usual 2.50.

Hang on. It does not matter your age; there are plenty of crappie lessons to learn. After fifty years, I am still learning. Reading CrappieNOW is a great place to start. What totally hits you between the eyes is experience. Here are a few examples.
A fun lesson was just a few months ago. Fellow Crappie NOW writer Jeff Samsel and I hit the water. The plan was to bass fish for an hour because he needed a bass photo for an article. After that we would crappie fish. We began to cast quarter-ounce Road Runners with four-inch BanG, Shads. Three hours later, we had sixteen of the largest crappie we could ask for. The lesson? Never underestimate what big crappie will eat.
The next lesson was that very night at the fillet table. I never weighed a crappie that was less than sixteen inches. These were “measly” fifteen-inch fish. However, they felt heavy. I was curious about two of them. They weighed 3.01 and 3.08 pounds! How many three-pound fish have I tossed back? The lesson? Weigh any crappie over fifteen inches.

Another lesson was a reminder of simpler times. Two older men motored by in a rickety boat. These anglers quietly anchored near a point. The greybeards held a cane pole in each hand and loaded the boat. The lesson? Keep things simple and you will have more fun.

Think back to your last fishing trip. What did experience teach you?
Mother’s Day is the 11th of this month. This is a great opportunity to take mom fishing!


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Fishing, Eating, Fellowship and Fireplaces

Alan Clemons enjoyed Noxubee Lodge too.

Alan Clemons enjoyed
Noxubee Lodge too.

I could not help but smile as Noxubee Lodge came into view. The graceful farmhouse was a welcome sight. A reminder of simpler times, I pulled the screen door to reveal a large porch. The next door opened into a huge parlor. The warmth of the massive fireplace, the creak of the wood floors and the smells of the kitchen greeted this old angler. This was going to be no ordinary fishing trip.

Oh, there is hunting too. Ducks visit the 300-acre duck swamp. Deer and hogs are everywhere. Turkeys roam the farm as if they own it.

Venison tenderloins and roasted duck, dressed our plates that evening. The desserts were as good as the fellowship. This old redneck slept comfortably that first night.

The in-room coffee was a blessing the next morning. Wondering into the dining area, I found venison sausage-biscuits awaited my arrival. (Yes, I ate again.)

We ran down to “lake one” to test the waters. The morning bite was slow due to the cold front. However, we managed a few bass before lunch. (Yep, still eating.)

Our hopes were higher for “Big Lake” that afternoon. We managed some bass to four-pounds. Returning after a coffee break, the fishing had slowed a little. Jeff bagged another bass over six-pounds.

The next morning’s trip was a nice surprise. Twenty-two bass, visited the G3 boat. A quarter ounce Road Runner rigged with a BanG Shad was the ticket for Alan.

Lunch was a hearty crawdad bisque, and deli sandwiches.
We passed on the skeet shooting opportunity and returned to the lake. The bite was slower. However, Jeff hooked a bass over seven-pounds. Jeff won the battle and breathed a sigh of relief.

Are you ready to book your trip to Noxubee Lodge? Imagine hunting hogs in the morning and fishing for hogs in the afternoon. If 10,000-acres of first class fishing and hunting appeal to you, click this link. Who knows, I may be see you there.
Blessings, -tj

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Take a bite out of winter. Catch more fish.

41-degrees today, 29 tomorrow. Keep extra layers handy.

41-degrees today, 29 tomorrow. Keep extra layers handy.

Winter has reared its ugly head these past few days. These can be tough conditions.
How does this former Florida boy beat the cold?

Start at the top. Knit caps and neck gaiters are wonderful. I have found the Polar-Tec material to be the warmest.

Base layers have improved over the years. The XGO brand is American made. Choose the “Phase 4.0” for maximum warmth. This brand is the most comfortable I have found.

SealSkinz™ makes waterproof socks and gloves. These actually fit like a second skin. Another great sock is a brand called “Fits”. These knee-high socks are very warm.

Boots are cumbersome in a boat. Try a half-boot style like the Camo-Camp Boot by Muck. They are waterproof and warm.

Your legs need another layer. Have you tried fleece-lined jeans? The warmth and comfort is off the chart. Look for these at retailers like Cabela’s outfitters.

Outerwear technology has changed too. Check out the new StrykR® jackets and bibs by StormR®. These feature Neoprene Core™ technology. This material adds positive flotation to their gear.

Layer up with these high-tech products. Now you can concentrate on fishing, instead of being cold.

Guess who this is. Photo courtesy of Tim Huffman.

Guess who this is. Photo courtesy of Tim Huffman.

Blessings, -tj

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Ten outdoor questions for next year.

Spider rigging for crappie could be your next technique.

Spider rigging for crappie could be your next technique.

Go ahead get a pen and paper. This will require some thought.

1. Who will you share the outdoors with next year? Perhaps a neighbor kid down the road could use a fishing trip.

2. Is there a new fishing technique you have not mastered? Challenge yourself.

3. Have you ever stayed at a state park? Take a moment to search your own parks. We have stayed at four this year. Pymatuning, Joe Wheeler, Rend Lake, and Edgar Ivins state parks were wonderful. No, we did not pitch a single tent!

4. What have you done new at home? Learning to use a Dutch oven with your spouse is a great experience. Your children will learn how the “cowboys” ate too.

5. Have you fished for a new fish species? Have you fished for peacock bass? There is nothing like catching a new fish, to recharge your “batteries”.

6. When was the last time you booked a guided trip? Many bass and crappie pros, guide in the off-season.

7. Have you cleaned your reels yet? There are dozens of instructional videos available.

8. Are there “new” waters just an hour’s drive away? Fishing new waters will make you a better angler on lakes your already know.

9. Are you one of those anglers that knows one knot really well? It is time to learn a few more.

10. How many times did you say to yourself “I’d like to do that.” last year?

Take a child fishing.

Take a child fishing.

What questions did I miss?

Wishing you an adventurous and blessed 2014, -tj

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A tackle shop tradition

I hope this doesn't become a tradition. That beard itched like crazy.

I hope this doesn’t become a tradition. That beard itched like crazy.

Thoughts tend to wander to old traditions. Reflecting on the past and remembering good times is good for you. Thoughts of our tackle shop on Christmas Eve come to my mind.

There would be hundreds of shoppers today. The rush would begin about eight in the morning. This would coincide with dad asking, “What should I get your mom for Christmas?” Then he would dash off and return just before lunch. He probably waited until Christmas Eve, wishing to experience the adrenaline for himself.

Lunchtime was an absolute zoo. You could barely move in the store. The phone rang non-stop. The conversation was always the same, “What time do you close today? …. Six? Oh my God, I hope I make it”. Hot items included everything from Tru-Turn Hooks, to the Humminbird #LCR-4ID. (Remember those?) Mom would write up dozens of gift certificates.

Foot traffic would lighten up about two in the afternoon. Our voices would be weak from answering product questions. Mom would go home early to start dinner. The next rush would begin about four o’clock. We would run our legs off until closing. To be honest, we enjoyed it all. Our customers knew we cared.

The tradition-
“Big Bob” would bring in pizza. Ron would reappear with a “Warsteiner” six-pack in each hand. Raising our bottles, we would toast the season and our fellowship. The teasing and jokes would begin in earnest. We had a two-beer limit, so the “party” would be short. Then we would head home to our anxious families.

Sixteen years later, we insist on a Warsteiner beer every Christmas Eve. We celebrate the tradition that started in the backroom of our tackle shop.

To our trusted Tim’s Tackle Box friends, thank you for the fond memories.
Merry Christmas!


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December 2nd

I nearly lost an angler friend to drowning last week. So I felt the need to reblog this from 2009. Please take a moment to read.

TJ Stallings' Fishing Blog

The photo at the left has probably got you thinking “TJ has lost his mind.” Please bear with me a few minutes.

Over the 28 years my dad’s tackle shop was in business; we lost seven customers to drowning. However, we don’t know how many of those seven really died of exposure.  But four of those those seven souls were found with their zippers down!

They simply fell off their boat while making water.

Getting back in a boat from the water is tough, especially as hypothermia begins its death grip.
Assuming the best; there’s the cold-wet ride back to the boat-ramp ahead of you. The combination of evaporation, speed and cold would freeze you, to death.

A five-dollar urinal is as an important a safety device as my PFD.

There are several other safety tips you may have not thought of before. Most anglers wear their cell-phones on their…

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