Trickin' out my Nitro

Jan. 25, 2011
Trickin' out my Nitro

My new Nitro will be delivered next week, and I'm excited.

I'll be running the Z9 again, but I've tweaked the layout a little and changed up some of the equipment I'll be running.

Here's an overview of some of the equipment and accessories I'll have on my 2011 boat:


I'll run the MotorGuide Tour 36-volt motor and a Mercury Pro XS250 with a 25 Fury prop. The outboard will be mounted on an Atlas Hydraulic Jack Plate. The trolling motor will include some prototype features I'll be testing for MotorGuide, whose engineers are always searching for ways to make their motors and mount quiet and more durable. Many of the features on your MotorGuide were battled tested by Elite Series pros the year before.


I'll have a Humminbird 998ci combo mounted on a Ram mount at the bow and another 998 flush mounted in the console. I also will have a larger 1197ci combo on a Ram Mount next to the console.

Ram Mounts are great additions because they enable you to adjust the viewing area depending upon where you're standing or sitting.

Nitro revamped its console this year to accommodate the 998, which has a larger screen. I'll use that unit for GPS and mapping. The 1197ci, mounted on the side of the console, has an even larger screen, which I will use for graphing and side imaging. While both of the units are capable of providing sonar, mapping and side imaging on one screen, spreading the information over two units enlarges the amount of information I can see.

I also will run a Stealth Charging System and four 31 Series AGM Deka batteries. The Stealth System transfers excess energy generated from the Pro XS alternator into all of my batteries. When it senses the cranking battery is charged, the amps are passed onto my trolling motor batteries anytime the big motor is running. It has a gauge at the console that displays battery power throughout the day.

The Stealth will keep my batteries fully charged on days when I'm running and gunning. I carry a Dual Pro 36 volt 25-amp portable charger to top off batteries at night, if necessary. It does a great job of charging batteries quickly when I need it.

Miscellaneous gear

I'll have a stereo/CD player at the console and a single Power-Pole mounted on the transom. The Power-Pole anchoring system is one of the greatest accessories to come along. I use it to hold me in grassbeds or when sight fishing in the spring.

I also have a "Key Captain" (Sarasota Quality Products) that replaces the standard locks found on most boat storage compartments and serves as an automatic locking system. With the touch of a key fob, I can lock and unlock all my compartments simultaneously. It's an after-market product offered by some boat companies as an option and one that I've found to be invaluable.

Remember, it's all about the attitude.

Jan. 18, 2011
Fun at sport shows

I spent last weekend working sport shows in Novi, Mich. (near Detroit), and in Cincinnati.

Both shows were packed. People were buying a lot of new products, and the exhibitors were selling a lot of boats and tackle. You could feel the renewed excitement from everyone at both shows.

Heck, I even stopped by a Nitro dealer at the Novi show and helped him sell a Z8! It took me back to the days when I sold boats and tackle at my brother's store in Kalamazoo.

It was good to get out and mix with the anglers who were very enthusiastic and asked good questions at both shows.

The Novi show is only a few hours from my home and offers a unique perspective for seminar goers. Instead of the typical Hawg Trough tank, where most seminars are given, the Novi show has a large, above-ground pool filled with water, some trees and boat docks and a Z9 boat floating in there, from which I demonstrated techniques during my seminars. It gave the public a different perspective and worked well.

I also gave a special program to some 600 diehard bass anglers in an auditorium. The special seminar was cosponsored by show promoters and the NBAA, a weeknight tournament circuit that is strong in Michigan. I've fished against several of those guys during my early days, so it was fun seeing them again. The seminar was free, but anglers had to preregister at the NBAA's show booth or online. The response was incredible and shows you the value of social media.

Speaking of social media, I now have a Facebook page and welcome anyone to sign up as my friend.

The Cincinnati show was equally rewarding. There were several collegiate bass anglers and young people at my seminars, and they all asked great questions.

Something I found interesting at both shows was the interest anglers have in waters away from their homes. Many of the questions I fielded from NBAA fishermen were about Kentucky Lake, where their Classic will be held. Conversely, a lot of the Cincinnati crowd asked about fishing Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair in Michigan.

I also got a lot of questions about pond and strip pit fishing, which is prominent in that region. One of the things I like to do before a seminar is to get a feel for the kind of waters in a region so I can tailor my seminars accordingly.

Of course, one of the common questions I get is, "How do I break down a lake I'm not familiar with?" You can find my answer this week on B.A.S.S. Insider under my "Tip of the Week."

And finally, I got a kick out of the 10- to 17-year olds who approached me this weekend to say they were going to get on the Bassmaster tour someday and beat me. I love that kind of mentality!

After all, it's all about the attitude!

Jan. 11, 2011
Time to go back to work

It's time to get back to work. The busy, pre-tournament season is on me and I'm ready to hit the road again.

My busy schedule begins now and will take me right into February's Bassmaster Classic. I try to do as many sport shows as I can now since they're difficult to schedule once the regular season begins in early March.

For example, this Saturday I will work a sport show in Novi, Mich., then fly to Cincinnati for another show on Sunday. I go home for a few days then head to the SHOT Show in Las Vegas to work for one of my sponsors, Irish Setter footwear.

The SHOT Show is where all the new hunting and shooting products are revealed. And while I will be busy working for Irish Setter, I'm hoping to find time to walk around and look at all the new gear.

I also have some appointments to meet with other companies to discuss new sponsorships. Like most Elite pros, I'm an all-round outdoorsman and believe there are opportunities that help bridge fishing and hunting, whether it's promoting equipment or getting more people to enjoy all outdoors activities.

I'm also updating my new tournament jersey with current sponsorships, such as Kodak's Play Sport waterproof video camera. I will use it throughout the season to provide on-the-water videos from the tournament trail and post them on my website,

I've also redesigned my boat wrap. It will still be decked in my traditional red, black and yellow Nitro colors, but I'm tweaking it to add some new elements.

My new boat is being rigged and will be wrapped soon. I'm excited about a few new things added to the boat, and I'll share that new set-up in a future column.

While I wait for the boat, I've been going through all of my tackle, carefully stocking new Plano 3700s with the baits I think I will need for the Classic and our first few events.

Stocking my utility boxes with lures takes a lot of thought since we fish a lot of diverse waters this year. For example, I know I won't need my deep running Strike King crankbaits in New Orleans since there's no deep water to fish. We go from there to Florida, so I'll need to stock heavily with soft plastics. When you get on a good bite, it's nothing to go through 50 craws or lizards in one day!

That's what is great about Plano's 3700s. I can add and replace specific boxes of lures as I need them. I'll have dozens of boxes carefully packed with lake- and technique-specific baits that I'll carry in my truck and only put those in the boat that I feel I might need.

It may be cold and snowy here in Michigan, but I feel that sense of urgency to get ready for spring — the fishing season will be here before we know it!

Remember: It's all about the attitude!

Jan. 4, 2011
Santa was good to me

Hope your Christmas was good and you got all the cool fishin' stuff you wanted.

Anglers who fish for a living rarely get tackle at Christmas because we tend to have everything we need or buy it as we need it.

But, I got lucky this year, as a couple of gifts put a smile on my face. First, Sherry bought my sons and me custom-made ice fishing jigging rods built in my KVD colors (red and black). One is for bluegill fishing and the other for bass.

I couldn't wait to try them out, so I rigged up the bass rod with a jigging Rapala and walked onto the ice of the pond behind my house.

I caught three fish and, man, did it feel good! I haven't landed a bass since early November!

I drilled four holes into the ice around a hump that lies offshore in my pond. I dropped my Humminbird Ice 55 transducer in the water and immediately spied fish hanging around the bottom. I had a hunch they were bass.

Normally, the fish are pretty aggressive during early ice, but it took me about five minutes to get the first one to bite. I could tell he was interested by the way he kept moving up on my jigging Rapala, but he just wouldn't take it. After a while of our little cat-and-mouse game, the bass finally took a swat at and I nailed him.

That's one of the cool things about today's electronics. Back when I ice-fished with less sophisticated equipment, I wouldn't have known those fish were there and would have looked elsewhere and drilled more holes. But, since I could see the fish on the graph, I stayed with that spot.

The same is true with my boat electronics. When my Side Imaging graph showed a school of bass on a Kentucky Lake ridge last year, I knew that all I had to do was get them to bite — and I did. My electronics gave me the confidence to fish there, and I wound up winning the tournament.

I got another cool "gift" just before Christmas when my lure sponsor, Strike King, sent me the new 5XD crankbaits that will be introduced at the Bassmaster Classic in February.

The 5XDs have a body similar to the Series 5 crankbaits that run 10 or 11 feet, but the new lures run 15 feet with 12-pound fluorocarbon line.

I fished prototypes last fall and can tell you these will be hot in 2011. They are the only 15-foot-deep crankbait offered in a small body style that doesn't put a lot of torque on your reel.

Anglers will love how easy they are to fish. They dive sharply and hit that magic depth that so many smaller-bodied crankbaits can't reach.

The 5XDs will be offered in all the Strike King colors and a silent (non-rattling) version as well.

Be prepared for even more additions to the XD lineup later this year!

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