D&R Sports Center Spring Show Weekend
April 18th and 19th
Each year I look forward to doing several things. One of my annual favorites, for many years now, has been attending Randy Van Dam's D&R Sports Spring Show. The show always has some great seminar guests, probably because Randy's brother Kevin might just have a few connections. This year's schedule of seminar speakers surely was not a let down. I was able to attend all but two, and I learned something in every presentation.
One of the presentees this year, coming all the way from Hughson, California, was Elite Series and FLW Series pro Ish Monroe. Ish is one of a few anglers who fishes both major professional tours, FLW and B.A.S.S. He is an excellent angler and a fan favorite. During his career he has had 26 Top 10 finishes and 4 tour wins. His bank account holds $1.4 million dollars in prize money. He's been fishing as a pro for 16 years (That's $87, 500 a year, just in tournament checks.) . I have never had the opportunity to attend one of Ish's seminars.
Two tour pro Ish Monroe from Houghson, California.
Another angler that I've never heard on the seminar circuit before, who came all the way from Idaho, is Brandon Paliniuk. Dave Mercer has taken to calling Brandon "The Prodigy." He certainly has stormed out of the B.A.S.S. Federation to notch several wins on tour already. I have talked to Brandon several times during my Marshal trips. We have a couple mutual friends that act as segways to conversations. He's a very personable young man, who speaks well, and has remained quite humble despite all of his success. He definitely resonates well with the fans, and he looks to be one of those tour anglers who will have a long career.
Brandon Palaniuk with my good friend John Baker.
Another Elite angler, on D&R's seminar schedule, is one of my all time favorite speakers, the G-Man, Gerald Swindle. I've heard G speak before. After one of his presentations a few years ago, I got a picture taken and it has become one of my all time favorites. You can see it during the scroll on the top of the main page of this site. I took that picture during his first trip to D&R. That year, after his hour long session that he did with Zona, I actual hurt from laughing so hard. Zona and Swindle could easily work in Vegas as a comedy duo.
The G-Man, Gerald Swindle 2004 Angler of the Year, from Warrior, Alabama
One of the local pros at this year's D&R event was Chris Noffsinger. Chris, is a tournament angler, who spends much of the year guiding on Grand Traverse Bay. He and Tony DeFillipo are two pros you can count on if you need some guidance up on one of the premier smallmouth waters, Grand Traverse Bay.
B.A.S.S. pro and expert guide on Grand Traverse Bay Chris Noffsinger.
Two mainstays that you would expect to see at D&R are KVD and JVD. For those of you who have been living under a seaweed covered rock, KVD, is Kevin Van Dam, and JVD is his nephew, Jonathon Van Dam. I've heard Kevin speak many times. Even if you see heard one of his seminars before, you will most likely hear a new presentation containing a wealth of information from one of the best speakers ever. Jonathon hasn't had the years behind him, but does a very good job himself presenting inside knowledge to us weekend warriors.
Elite Series Champion Jonathon Van Dam
King Kong of the fishing world, Kevin Van Dam, KVD
Even though, I went down to D&R on Friday and Saturday, I didn't get to see a couple of the speakers. One that I missed was Mark Zona. Mark is a well know angler and TV personality. He's a Michigander and doesn't live too far from Kalamazoo. If you have ever attended a seminar or watched him on TV you know how talented and how funny he is. I was sorry that it didn't work out for me to see him, especially because he owes me. Long story, but it involves a Detroit Lions autographed jersey.
The other seminar guest was Gerry Gostenik. Gerry, a tournament pro, is a St. Clair expert. He guides there, and was another of the speakers I wish I could have heard.
As I've mentioned, D&R Sports is on M43 just outside of Kalamazoo. It is a destination for serious anglers and hunters in southwest Michigan. They truly have what you need. I can certainly attest to the fishing supplies. They carry the most current lures as well as all the oldies but goodies. If it's a hot bait, they have it. They also sell boats and service them.
Tons of soft plastics
The best selection of the new Keitechs around. Make sure you click on this Keitech hyper link to read about and see some of the rigging options for this bait. Some of them I wasn't aware of untill I looked this link up.
Just a few shots of all the tackle available. You're a kid in a candy store here!
Ever try the KVD, Strike King Ocho? My go to bait.
Not many places have a great selection of Chompers!
They are a full service outdoor store.
Check out these hunting blinds!
I think that I mentioned they sell boats. Here's JVD's rig.
Vendors, like Ron Fabiszak, were available with specials and ready to share their particular expertise. Ron has fished the B.A.S.S. Federation National Championship as Indiana's Champion.
The folks from Vicious were there as well. I've used there Pro Elite Fluorocarbon now for several years. Very good stuff.
The Berkley Trailer came in to town for the event.
You just don't know who you'll run in to at D&R.
Yea, for sure you will run in to all kinds of folks. I do believe that is Dan Kimmel from greatlakesbass.com.
Traverse City's Chris Noffsinger
The first seminar I attended was given by Chris Noffsinger the B.A.S.S. Opens pro who hails from Traverse City. He has a guide service he runs there. He spends almost every day on the Bay during the fishing season. I'd say he knows the water well.
Chris started his presentation by talking about blade baits. He is a fan of Silver Buddies, which came to fame in 1983 when Paul "Buddy" Banks began to produce them. They are a classic cold water blade bait. Chris starts his season on the Bay jigging these lures.
Chris said that despite having painted blade options available now, he pretty much sticks to silver and gold Silver Buddies. (He has also used River to Sea blades.) He will use them from ice out up until the water temperatures reaches around 56 degrees. He sets up the baits by removing the hooks and putting on split rings. He upsizes the hooks just so, so that when they are bent toward each other don't touch. If they are too large they will constantly foul. He always fishes the baits with a snap. If there are more holes than one in the top of the bait, like in River to Sea blades, he always uses the middle hole. His rod of choice is one that has a soft tip with a good back bone.
Chris uses the bait in 15 to 40 feet of water, but also said he has caught them shallower. He emphasized that you hit the bottom with the bait, and then you use short little bursts to raise the bait 12-18 inches. He likes deeper sand flats, and prefers to fish them off steep breaks. Bites on a blade are very aggressive, so be ready and hang on!
Chris went on to say that hair jigs also work well in cold water. As the water warms to between 40 and 52 degrees he will begin to integrate a jerkbait. He likes a DD100 and a Pointer 100. He is partial to hot pink early. He fishes his jerk baits on Vicious Pro Elite fluorocarbon 8 lb. test full spool.
Chris' go to bait as the water warms is the drop shot. He'll use it as a follow up bait to trigger fish that he sees following his jerkbaits. He uses a 3/8 to 1/2 oz drop shot sinker. He also prefers to use a small black barrel swivel rather than using say a double uni knot to connect his braid to his fluorocarbon leader. He will fish straight fluoro until he goes deeper than 20 ft. then uses the braid/fluoro combo. He likes a Trokar TK 180 hook when he texas rigs his bait, or a TK150 when he nose hooks them. His rod of choice for the drop shot rig is one that is super sensitive and light weight. He never sets the hook on a drop shot, he'll just reel set. He also mention that in bodies of water that have gobies, you will want your bait right on the bottom, because gobies don't have a swim bladder.
Another bait that Chris will throw is a Keitech swimbait. He likes to make long casts with them, lets them hit the bottom, and then retrieves them slowly back to the boat.
One last thing I remembered that I wanted to pass along after Chris' seminar, was the rod butt cover that his rods were adorned with. (See the white knob at the end of his rod in this picture.) I have seen these before. Shaw Grigsby is another pro that has them on all his rods. The Luna Sea Cush-It looks a little over sized, but Chris says that they are very comfortable to use. The biggy for me was when he said that they also make the rod float. I have lost several rods overboard during the years I've spent on the water. When I take rookies out with me fishing, which I like to do, I often wonder if they know how much the rod and reel they are using costs. I worry a little that the rod might get lost overboard. Chris guides all fishing season long, and he guides novice to experienced anglers. This Cush-it adds a little security and lessens the worries that he has with clients using rods worth hundreds of dollars. I am going to give these a try. Here's a link to Cabelas for the Cush-It.
Ish Monroe, the California two tour pro, was at D&R. It was the first time I have gotten to hear hear him give a seminar. He was a very good presenter, and very approachable.
Ish has a couple of bait companies that he reps for, one is John Crews' company called Missle Baits. Missle Baits offers a line of soft plastics . One of Ish's favorites it the D Bomb. I have heard him mention it a number of times on stage during weigh-ins.
The other company that is prominent on Ish's jersey is River2Sea. They manufacture a number of hard and soft plastic baits plus plenty of terminal tackle. I like their tear drop and skinny tungsten dropshot weights.
Ish talked about a number of things, and some I remembered to get in my notes. One was a spinnerbait tip. He recommends throwing spinnerbaits with colorado blades pre spawn in water temps under 60 degrees. He switches to double willow blades above 60. With both types of blades, he likes to work the spinnerbait with jerks and pauses to get skirt flair.
Another tip from Ish was one involving square bills. The square bills have really come in to vogue in the last few years. Ish advises using square bills without rattles when the water temp is less than 50 degrees. He then swiches over to square bills with rattles. That is not a hard and fast rule though. When fish are getting pressured throw the silent for more reaction bites. He likes "Da Heater" in dirty water and The "TS Minnow" in clear. He emphasized that square bills run through wood very well.
As most know, Ish is a big frog fisherman. (Keep that in mind for your Toledo Bend B.A.S.S. Fantasy Fishing selection) . He has designed several versions for River2Sea. He likes to keep it fairly simple when fishing frogs. He likes white for clear sunny days and black on cloudy days or in dark water. He likes to use 65 lb. braid when he fishes frogs with a high speed reel. The new high speed reels take up three feet of line per handle turn.
I am always impressed with how personable the pros seem to be. Ish was more than gracious with his time .
Most everyone knows by now that Randy Van Dam is the owner of D&R Sports and with Kevin being his brother and Jonathon being his son, you can count on the KVD, JVD combo being on hand in the store and in the seminar room. Jon has gotten more comfortable in front of a crowd, and there was a big crowd on hand. He answered questions and talked about the Series 5 XD. For you Lake St. Clair guys, he likes the Sexy Blue Back Herring color in the 5 XD. He says they run about 15 feet on 12 lb. fluoro. He uses a GLoomis 7ft 6in med crank bait rod. He likes that rod set up so that he can make long casts with it.
Jonathon also likes to drop shot, especially after winning the Green Bay event with a prototype bait that Strike King was developing. That bait is now for sale and it's called the "Dream Shot."
One other bait that Jon mentioned often as a great bait, especially in Michigan, is the Strike King Rodent. Zona is also a big rodent fan. He texas rigs it using a 4/0 hook.
Kevin is the King Kong of bass fishing, and I would dare say of the seminar circuit as well. He's a eloquent speaker and always comes off well prepared. You could see him three times in one day and find that his presentation would be different and very informative. I've been watching and listening to him for probably twenty years now. I can remember seeing his twin sons when they were tiny babies.
Kevin fielded a number of questions about the Hydrowave. I don't know of any Elite Series pro that does't have one on his boat. In Ish's seminar, he said he always ran his Hydrowave on high, but Kevin said he sets his on an intermittent schedule at about 50% power. He is a firm believer in having them on his boat and has noticed many times how fish will come up schooling when his unit kicks on.
Kevin talked about Major League Fishing. He ran away with the tournament they held last August in Apena (Hubbard, Long Lake). He wiped up the competition, and set a new MLF record for total weight. Those that have watched the show, saw him throwing a spinnerbait and jerkbait, catching one big ole smallie after another. Kevin targeted large flats adjacent to sharp breaks. He looked for rock and threw at dark spots up on the sand. I watched the MLF shows that are televised on the Outdoor Channel. If you don't subscribe to that cable channel, you can also watch extended coverage of every event on your computer. It's $29.99 a year, and in my opinion, well worth the price of admission. You can preview one of the current shows by clicking the MLF link above.
During his seminar Kevin admitted to being a bit hard headed in terms of being slow to try the football swivel head that Tommy Biffle has made famous. Mustad makes a similar version that allows you to add a hook. Kevin likes this style because if your hook gets banged up you can simply replace the hook instead of the whole jig set up. You can't replace just the hook on the Biffle Hard Head.
I have drawn Tommy twice as a B.A.S.S. Elite Series Marshal. The second time was on St. Clair last August, and Tommy threw the Hard Head Biffle bug combination all day. He made the third day with it and cashed a nice check.
I drew Tommy Day 3 and we noticed as he left the Detroit River that there was another tournament that launched out of Elizabeth Park. When we got to one of his stops, the Help Pad, there were several boats there already and all of them were drop shooting. Tommy pulled up and made long casts with his Hard Head and promptly landed several fish, one a dandy five pound smallie. The drop shooters were digging in their boxes after seeing what he was doing.
In the recent Bassmaster Elite Series tournament on Table Rock, Mark Davis nearly won the event, losing to Mike McClellan by less than a pound, using a similar hook set up with a Rage Menace as a trailer. Here are a couple links: Biffle Hard Head, Rage Menace.
Tommy Biffle Talking about his Hard Head/Biffle Bug Combo
Kevin, being the power fisherman that he is, talked some about spinnerbaits and a little bit about the crank baits he used down on Table Rock. One of the things that stuck in my mind about spinnerbaits was that you need to use bigger blades in dirty water. You always want to create flash and movement with the bait. By stopping and jerking the bait you get skirt flare and noise from the blades banging together.
Kevin talked briefly about Wiggle Warts. The wiggle wart is a standard down on Table rock. It's a bait that I saw just about all of the pros we fished around throwing. Many weren't able to get a hold of the original Wiggle Warts, and threw the newer versions that are now produced by Storm. The dark greens were the color of choice and many of those had orange bills. They are on sale right now at Cabelas and online. Wiggle Warts.
Idaho's Brandon Palaniuk
I didn't think I was going to get to hear Brandon speak. I originally was scheduled to work at Cabelas, but they called and said they were having hour issues and not to come in. That was okay with me, because it allowed me to head down to D&R for another day.
My friend John and I drove down, and shortly after entering the store, I saw Brandon talking with some customers. I waited until he was free and said howdy. Brandon knows a couple of mutual acquaintances from out West who fished and became State Champions in the Federation, Sidney Reeves and Ben Schilling. We chatted for ten minutes or so, and then I let some others have some of Brandon's time. I milled about the store and chatted with Mike Elkins, and Kendal Ulsh. Mike and Kendal rep for companies. I met them in my old BFL days. We all qualified for the regional one year and went down to Cherokee Lake, Tennessee and fished.
As I headed outside, to the building that housed the seminar, Brandon had made his way outside. We stopped and talked to him some more, and I got the photo of he and John that is up at the beginning of the article. As we chatted, I asked Brandon if he ever thought he might move East, and especially the Southeast, because most of the tournaments B.A.S.S. holds are in that general area. Brandon said it would be hard for him to live in any other area of the country. He's right near Lake Coeur d'Alene in Idaho which is a spectacularly beautiful lake. When he's on the water there, it is not uncommon for him to catch a five fish limit that would push 20 pounds. He also said that he loves winter sports, especially snowboarding. His family owns and operates a Ski Shop, and he can envision a home for himself that has pull through inside storage for his boat, and a ski shop, living quarters, all combined. I don't believe we will see Brandon moving East anytime soon.
When it came to be seminar time, we were early, and so was Brandon. He began fielding questions basically as he was walking in, and it just transitioned right into his seminar. Once he had answered questions about the B.A.S.S tour and tour events, etc., he began talking about square bill crankbaits and specifically the Arashi by Rapala Storm.
The Arashi is a wide wobbling crank bait that has been causing a bit of a stir. Square bills in general have been getting a lot of ink lately. One of the claims to fame with this model is the self tuning line tie. Brandon, and the reviews that I have found online, substantiate the claim. You can burn this bait with a 7.1.1 high speed reel, and it won't start helicoptering on you.
Another aspect of the bait is its buoyancy. Many crankbait users love a balsa wood bait because of how it responds after it bangs into something. The bait will recoil upward which has a real triggering effect on bass. This bait is not balsa, but has a high buoyancy factor. You can fish it in heavy cover or wake it up shallow.
The bait also has the eyes, hook hangers, on the bottom of the bait, that are rotated 90 degrees. This allows the hooks to ride closer to the body. It also enables you to upsize the hooks easier. By the way, the hooks on this bait are VMC and come right out of the package very sticky. No real need to change them. Many lures you have to immediately replace hooks, but that won't be necessary with the Arashi.
One other feature of this bait that Brandon mentioned is that the bill is made out of circuit board material. This makes it extremely strong despite it being thin. It will take a lot of banging, and that's what you want this bait to do. You need it to be bouncing off the rocks, and when fishing over grass you want it ticking it.
Brandon likes the crawfish patterns in the early spring. As the water warms he will switch to the bluegill patterns especially around the bluegill spawn. He'll stick with the bluegill and sometime the baby bass patterns unless the water gets quite stained. He then goes to the brighter baits that are often associated with dirty water.
Almost as soon as he walked in, Brandon began answering questions.
Brandon brought along a number of t-shirts etc. that he tossed out to the crowd to those that could answer some questions he came up with. KVD did that as well after his seminar.
Yep that is KVD's boat they had inside the seminar room. Unbeknownst to Kevin Ish and Gerald signed his boat in a spot right behind Brandon. A bit mischievous they are. Brandon decline to add his, you don't want the Big Dog upset with you in any way. Smart move on Brandon's part.
A few of the young guns attending the seminars. I recognize a couple local bass fanatics.
Alabama's own Gerald Swindle, The G-Man
I am sure you are well aware of the professional persona that is associated with Gerald Swindle, the quit witted on stage comedian. He always cracks the crowd up with his down home style commentary about fishing. He's been around a long time. He's had a TV show, and by the way Michigan's own Roseann Cook (Dennis Cook is the Tear Drop Tournament Trail Director, and Roseann's husband), has been a featured guest.
Gerald is a passionate angler and often wears his emotions on his sleeve. Those emotions are often couched by his humorous side. He says that people wouldn't probably think of him as being a bit of a loner, but when he's at home, he often relishes his time by himself out in the woods, in a tree stand.
Gerald's seminar was one I really looked forward too. I remember the last time he was at D&R, he did a seminar with Mark Zona that was a hour long comedy sketch that left my sides hurting from laughing so hard. He and Zona could easily have a lucrative comedic career in Vegas.
Gerald didn't disappoint this year. He took a bit of a different track though. He had his moments where the crowd was rolling with laughter, but he spent a good deal of time during his seminar talking about his childhood and what drove him as a professional angler. He has plans of writing a book some day, and I know it will be one I want to read. It was a life expose that kept the crowd focussed and interested. He didn't present much about fishing that is in terms of techniques and tackle, but he gave one of the most heart felt talks about life that I've heard in a long time.
Well that's going to be it from me detailing my time down at D&R Sports this year. As I have said, I always enjoy my time down there, and I would like to thank Randy and staff for putting it on. Here's a shot of Randy that I took during one of the seminars.
Randy Van Dam sneaking in the back to take in some of the seminar action. Thanks Randy for the chance to come down each year to get an early fishing fix!
As I close, I would like to thank Megabass for the lures I won in a raffle they had down at D&R. I've been wanting to give several of their baits a try. It won't be long now, and I'll be giving them a workout! Here's a look at what the fish will get to see and hopefully sample.