Heading north

When ICAST came to Orlando in July, I started daydreaming about going up north after the show to fish the Bassmaster Open Elite Qualifier on New York’s St. Lawrence River. I live 30 minutes from Orlando and peel off three shirts a day in the summertime because of Florida’s intense heat.

I’m more than ready to head north for some cooler weather and to cast for smallmouth. I’ve installed brand new Norsk Lithium batteries into my Phoenix 920 and given the boat and Yamaha motor a good overhaul. I can’t wait to put Power-Pole’s new MOVE trolling motor into the current of the St. Lawrence.

Having said that, I did enjoy getting together with the good people who come to ICAST and seeing all the new stuff. Congratulations to Berkley for winning best of show in the Freshwater Soft Lure category with Nessie. Nessie is a soft glidebait that isn’t like anything else.

I saw more swimbaits at ICAST than I’ve ever seen in my life. Bass fishing is no longer just flip, frog and swim jig anymore.

This year’s trip to New York will be special. The tournament schedule has finally worked out where I can bring my son with me. He’s Bobby the third, and I can’t believe he’s already 16.

His friend Bryden Tyler is also coming along. We’ll be staying at a house I rented. It’s right on a river that dams up to the St. Lawrence but doesn’t have access to it.

My brother Chris and I floated that river in kayaks last year and just crushed the fish on Berkley Choppos and Maxscent Flat Worms. I’m talking smallmouth, pike and even some muskie.

The river is maybe 100 yards wide in some places, and you can fish it for miles. It flows around rocks, over shoals and past current breaks.

I feel sorry for the fish in that river when I turn the boys loose on them in kayaks. They’ll hammer them for six or seven days while I’m competing. That river is loaded with smallmouth, but they don’t get as heavy as the ones gorging on gobies in the St. Lawrence.

Joe, the guy I rented the house from, is a world champion ping-pong player. The house has all kinds of ping-pong tables and machines. I expect all of us will be better ping-pong players after staying there.

My parents just bought an Airstream trailer, and they’ll be towing it up to see me weigh in. They’ve talked about doing this for years to get away from Florida’s heat. They’re going to make a vacation of it and scoot around all over northern New York.

I’m going to take three days off after the tournament to spend time with the boys fishing Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River for smallmouth, largemouth and walleye.

After that I’m venturing to Minnesota. I’ll be working with Norsk Lithium, my new battery sponsor. Their headquarters is in Minneapolis.

From there I’ll travel to Spirit Lake, Ia., to do R&D with Berkley. We’ll be working on some really cool and innovative stuff that I can’t talk about right now.

Our last project was my Berkley SwampLord bait that we just introduced at ICAST. We’ve been working on them for almost three years to get the right softness.

When anybody buys a frog, they want to know how soft it is. We put a hole in the package so you can actually touch the bait and find out. We wanted to make the baits super soft for better hook sets but not so weak they could tear.

The Swamp Lord is available in a standard frog body and in a popping frog. Both have Fusion 19 hooks that you don’t have to open up. Just take the baits out of the package, tie ’em on and you’re ready to catch the big ones.