Welcome to our new blog. We plan to feature articles by Texas fishermen who are skilled in the art of catching sunfish. If you would like to join our group please feel welcome. If you would like to post on this site please contact me at lilburn@uwmail.com. I have contacted many of you, and I await hearing from you and receiving your first article. Please limit your posts to how-to articles and stories about your fishing experiences. The more pictures the better. Controversial items, criticism of TPWD, and such should best be posted on the TFF or other forum. If you decide to post on a regular basis I will need a picture of you, your real name and your website if you have one. You will be added to the sidebar as one of our fishermen. No handles or avatars, please.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A Do It Yourself Alabama Rig For Sunfish

Alabama Rig for panfish
A Do It Yourself Alabama Rig for Panfish

The Alabama rig has enjoyed a great deal of publicity lately. Since it was used to win a FTW tournament the bass world has been sharply divided on whether to allow it or not. BASS has banned it. All seem to agree that it is a good way to catch bass.

I have an infected tooth that is confining me to the house. I can't even eat, so I have been climbing up the wall to find something to do. I cleaned up and rearranged my tackle bags. I watched numerous videos, including one which pointed out that the Alabama Rig is actually an old striper technique. It occurred to me that if it catches whites and stripers and the sunfish family of bass that it might catch panfish as well.

Alabama Rigs from the tackle companies sell for anywhere from $10.00 to $50.00. It occurred to me that since I was under house arrest for illness anyway that I should be able to build a credible rig out of supplies on hand.

The key item is a tube of .032 piano wire that I have on hand to build radio controlled model airplanes. So if you want to duplicate my project go to the local RC hobby shop and ask for K&S stock number 501 .032 wire. You will get a tube of four 36-inch pieces of wire. It should cost about $1.50 per tube of four wires.

Cut a five-inch piece of wire and bend a u-shaped hook on one end. Slip a barrel swivel over the hook and then bind the end with fine copper wire. I robbed my copper wire from a short piece of flexible automotive wire, Neatly wind about five turns of wire to hold the swivel on the wire so that it is free to move. Solder the copper binding securely. See photo1.

Next drill a .032 hole in the center of a dime. That may turn out to be the most difficult part of this project. Dimes are made of a sandwich of nickel and copper, and the resulting clad metal is harder than a witch's heart. Just be careful not to hurt yourself or break the .032 drill.

Take one piece of your wire and cut it exactly in half. Then bend each piece into a right angle at the center.  Find a piece of scrap cardboard bigger than 18 inch by 18 inches and place the dime in the center. Stick the 5-inch piece of wire in the hole in the dime with the swivel up. Push the wire through until about 2 inches of wire is left. Now arrange your right angle pieces as shown in photo 2 and tape the wire down to the cardboard so that it will not move. Now solder the wires to the dime. Use lots of solder and get the wire hot so that the solder flows. The soldered assembly is shown in photo 3.

Now bend a hook in the other end of the center wire. Slip a barrel swivel on and bind and solder. At this point you should have an assembly which looks like photo 4.

Measure 4 inches from the center of the dime along any one of the wires. Bend a right angle in the wire pointed in the direction of the short swivel. Then bend the wire back forming a hook for a snap swivel that is 1/2 inch long. It will be clearer if you look at photo 5.

 Bind and solder.

At the end of the wire form a similar  1/2 inch hook and place a swivel. Bind and solder.  Do the same for the other wires and your rig should look like photo 6.

That finishes the bending and assembly. Now we have only to bait our rig. The Alabama Rig is supposed to mimic a school of bait fish. Our rig has 8 tightly grouped fish and a straggler. The idea is that the crappie or bluegill will be forced by his killer instinct to pick off the straggler.

I used Bobby Garland baby shad on number 4 hooks. Make up 9 baits and put 8 of them on the snap swivels. Then take about 8 inches of 6 pound test line and make up the center bait so that it drops about 6 inches behind the school. See photo 7.

Some versions of the rig have swept back wires. Our rig is straight out, but pulling it through the water will make the arms bend back. If desired the wires can be bent at the dime for a more swept back look.

As I mentioned at the beginning I am confined to the house by illness. When I recover I will take the rig to Lake Mineral Wells and see if it fools the fishes.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Lake Mineral Wells Under a Comanche Moon

Comanche Moon
Fishing Lake Mineral Wells Under a Comanche Moon

For you non-Texans and young whippersnappers, a Comanche moon is a full moon on a bright, clear night. At 3:30 this morning the moon was so bright that it cast shadows like daylight. The term originated in the 1800's when the Comanche Indians would raid and pillage when the moon was full and bright. They had a regular route through South Texas to Mexico and back. The Comanche moon struck terror in the hearts of the early Texas settlers.

This morning I loaded the pickup under the bright moon and arrived at Lake Mineral Wells State Park just as the automatic gate opened at 6:03 AM. The gate out of the park opens on time at 6:00. But the gate into the park is 3 minutes late.

Lake Mineral Wells has a number of fishing piers. All of them but one require a long hike over rough terrain. The one exception is the lighted, handicap-access pier at the marina. For those of us with mobility problems that pier is outstanding. It is built in a deep-water cove so it is actually possible to catch fish, and it is wheelchair access. Four mercury vapor lights make it as light as day.

This morning I had the pier to myself until one other fisherman arrived. I put on a jig in the Electric Chicken pattern on a 1/32-oz. pink jig head. I cast into the edge of the light and slowly retrieved the jig. It only went a foot or two when a feisty 11-inch black bass grabbed it. I took a photo and sent him back to grow up.

Two casts later I caught a slightly bigger bass. What is going on? Don't those bass know I am fishing for panfish? A short time later the big brother of the first two grabbed my lure and headed out into the main lake. With 6 pound test line on an ultra-light rig I watched helplessly as the fish stripped line and broke the light line. I backed way off on the drag (ever hear about the farmer who built a secure barn after the horse was stolen?).

The crappie were obviously not in the cove after the cold front. I tried a while longer then took the lure off and tied on a #8 hook baited with a worm. My signature rig is a slip bobber over a small hook and sinker just off the bottom. However, after my experiences at Fairfield and Bluegill Lakes I knew that I would catch fewer but bigger fish without the bobber and slowly retrieving the hook and sinker across the bottom. I cast out and slowly brought the hook back to the pier over the bottom. A 7-inch Bluegill took issue and nailed the worm.

Now a 7-inch bluegill is not very impressive after the 10-inch fish at Bluegill Lakes last week, but it is about as big as they get at Lake Mineral Wells. I continued to catch small Bluegill for the next two hours. Along the way I caught a 13-inch catfish.

The sunfish were small but very healthy and in beautiful colors. I released them all, knowing they were not going to get much bigger in that lake. The lake record is 7.13 inches and several of mine were almost that long. I keep trying for an 8-9 inch fish.

My limited stamina gave out, and I headed for home.