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Doug Vahrenberg's Journal

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Date:11/10/2005 - 10/22/2006

November 10, 2005-October 22, 2006

A lifelong resident of Higginsville, Missouri. Doug gained his knowledge fishing the many farm ponds and local conservation lakes as a child and has progressed up thru bass clubs, buddy circuits and local pro-ams. He now competes in the Pro Divisions of the BASSmasters Central Opens and FLW Outdoors Stren (formally Everstart) Series. 

Doug receives promotionally considerations from these fine companies: SKEETER Boats, YAMAHA Outboards, MINNKOTA Motors & Chargers, HUMMINBIRD Electronics, NAVIONICS Charts, H&H Fishing Rods, DAIWA Reels, DAVE'S Custom Baits, AGCO Farm Equipment. Email: imonem@ctcis.net  WebSite: www.dougvahrenberg.com  

Anglers in Action – Truman Lake – October 22, 2006

The fall action can usually be some of the best fishing on many impoundments. The falling temperatures of fall create a mass exodus of the shad into the creeks and the bass soon follow. Well Truman Lake is not following the normal fall ritual. The low water conditions have kept the baitfish out of the creeks and positioned on the main lake. With an open day to participate in a local event on Truman Lake, I was joined by fellow fisherman Rich Campbell in the new Anglers in Action Circuit Event.

The day started off crisp and cool with the passing of a major cold front the night before. The day started off with bright blue bird skies. We ran to a nearby creek to throw buzzbaits in the back of a creek I had caught some fish in a week prior. With no luck we started working the creek channel out. I quickly switched to Dave’s Custom Bait Balsa Crankbait and started hitting every major tree with horizontal branches or cedar trees. Within a few casts I had hooked up on our first fish. It was a solid 3 pounder. We worked the area with no more luck. I had one more creek that had produced a fish in the back and had a couple nice fish suspended in big trees out front. We worked our way to the back and worked the back end of the creek with a spinnerbait and Balsa Crank. Just a few feet from were I had caught the fish a week prior I hooked up on another solid fish in the 3 ½ to 4 pound range. As it approached the boat it made a lunge for a cedar tree, I tried to gently steer it to the boat and it came unbuttoned. It was still early and we had time to recover from that lost fish. We finished working the pocket out to the deep trees and quickly hooked up on another nice keeper in the 3 pound range.

We hit a couple more areas in the lower lake without much success. Rich had caught some fish up the Grand Arm on a similar pattern the week before, too. We fired up the Yamaha and headed west up the Grand. The wind was kicking pretty good and the deep main lake trees were rolling with waves. As we approached I kicked on the Side Imaging to see we were located right on an underwater bluff, where the old channel had once swung before the lake was filled. There was a thermocline about 30 feet deep and lots of shad. The boat was sitting in 48 foot of water as the non-typical fall pattern was looking fishy. We worked a couple big trees with the spinnerbait and balsa crank and I quickly hooked up on a 4 pounder. With three fish in the box and a couple hours to go we still had time. We pounded more of the big trees with no luck. I looked at the Navionics map on my Humminbird 987 and found a similar bank not far away. We quickly went over and started working it and hooked up on another solid 3 pound fish. 4 in the box and a little over an hour let in the day. We ran to another similar area and after fishing the tree row in to a shallow wind blown flat I hooked up on a monster fish. This fish tugged like no other. It had me wrapped up and we hurried to get to it and then it came out of the trees. As it started coming up the flash of the side was a big hybrid – it weighed over 15 pounds (see the Phish Foto Page). It was time to head back down the lake.

As we ran back down the lake the wind had made some big waves on the main lake. I was sure glad we were in my Skeeter 20i. This boat amazes me the dry, smooth ride it provides, even in 2 to 3 foot waves we were running. We quickly made it back to the cove I had lost that keeper we were badly needing. I hooked up on some small fish but never got the chance to get that fish back. Time was running out and it was time to head in. We really needed five to have a chance to do good and at least scrape a check out of this field of seasoned local anglers. As anglers began weighing in it was a tough day for most with only a few limits. Our four bass weighed 13.62 and good enough for fourth place, a small check and just a couple pounds from first. I feel that lost fish cost us our chance to win, today.

It was great to get the opportunity to fish on Truman Lake again. We were fortunate to scramble around and instinctively find 5 quality bites. In fishing I have found that it is very hard to replace a miss opportunity and that is exactly what had cost us today. Every fish came on Dave’s Custom Baits, 2 on a Large Bream Color and 2 on a Small Shad Color. On tough days like today I have found that these baits produce a reaction that bass can’t resist. It’s like I can make the fish bite, with these baits.

Gear: H&H P.846 Popping Rod – Mustad 20# Thor, Dave’s Black Market Balsa, Mustad Triple Grip Hooks, Daiwa 153HST Reel.


FLW Stren Series - Midwest Division - Mississippi River - La Crosse, WI 
July 2006

The second event in the Stren Series was held in the northern confines of the Mississippi River on Pools 7, 8 and 9, near La Crosse, Wisconsin. What an amazing and complex fishery. Though nautical miles of waterway are short, the vast backwater areas contain numerous miles of fishable water. The big problem where do you start and how do you navigate. With record low water depth on the river system, the backwater channels fluctuated drastically. 10 foot deep one second and 50 yards away 6 inches of water. But one thing for sure the waters of these pools are loaded with bass - largemouths and smallmouths. 

Practice - Day 1: After arriving mid-day; my first half day of practice I spent in the middle of pool 8 searching for largemouths in the slop. I immediately hooked into a short fish on a Scum Frog. I had several bites in this small area of slop. I proceeded to navigate the very time consuming backwaters looking for more areas. The backwaters of pool 8 are difficult to navigate as the water depths vary greatly in just a few yards. One minute you're in 7 to 10 feet of water and the next it's a matter of inches. I stayed with the shallow slop fishing pattern for the balance of the day. Slop fishing is usually one of the dominate tournament winning patterns on the river. What they call slop is a mixture of duck seed, pond scum, milfoil, eel grass and other aquatic plants. The bites are aggressive and this is a fun way to fish. 

Practice - Day 2: I continued this morning exploring the numerous acres of backwaters in pool 8. I fished a mixture of slop, points and logs and with little success. A few short fish and on rare occasion a small keeper fish would be enticed by my lures. I made the decision mid-day to head to the west side and fish a large natural lake - upon arrival it was take a number. The bream were biting and the locals were thick in there. I maneuvered my boat into the vast amount of slop and tried to fish shallower than most as they were fishing the edges. Getting past the pressure zone has led me to some great finishes before. The outer edge of the slop was thinner compared to the slop about 10 to 15 yards in. I powered my MinnKota MaxPro into the slop and started working the thick mats with my Scum Frog. I had a few blow-ups but they just weren't aggressive. With acres of slop to cover I felt uncomfortable in this style of fishing. I'm a power fisherman and I like to cover areas with limited cover and cover those areas fast. I needed to get on some fish quickly, to boost my confidence. I moved to the main river and started fishing rocks with crankbaits and a jig. I immediately started catching smallmouth. Every pile I pulled on I was getting bit. Running a small Bandit and Wiggle Wart into the rocks seemed to be producing the best numbers. I proceeded to work my way up a series of rock piles and then some wing dams. The active fish were positioned on the upstream side and just hammer the baits. I found several areas holding some quality fish both largemouths and smallmouths. I had found something to work with. 

Practice - Day 3: On day 3, I meet up with a good friend, Cary Beaver, that wanted me to go to Pool 9 and explore some areas. Cary is a native of Wisconsin and had located some great Largemouths in the slop. I knew if I could get the slop bite going I could have a shot at winning this event. We immediately moved into a backwater area and immediately started getting bit. I had a nice 3 pounder blow up on the first area of slop. I moved to another area loaded with duck weed and got 4 or 5 bites. Things were looking more positive. I met Cary and he also had some limited success but just no size to the bites. In practicing with frogs; fishing In the slop you can get the fish to expose themselves without hooking up. It's an easy way to see the results without sore mouthing any of the fish. We continued to explore pool 9 and working the lower part of the pool, where there are massive areas of slop. I kept getting bites but never could find a good concentration of fish. They where still very scattered and had not schooled up yet. 

Pool 9 - Slop 

Practice - Day 4: Today I made a decision to expand on my second day practice area of fishing rocks. I knew I could probably go south to Pool 9 and catch some fish. I started the day throwing a Buzzbait on rocks. Immediately I had a nice smallmouth hit the bait. Traveling down the bank I had several more bites. I then proceed to a small creek and immediately had another blow up. Looking down the bank there was a series of logs that reminded me of home and immediately picked up a Dave's Custom Baits Black Market Balsa and on the first log had a nice keeper. I proceeded down the bank and on the next log had a nice 4 pounder eat my Black Market Balsa. I had seen enough. I pulled up the trolling motor and proceeded to look over the rest of the creek. It had good potential and no need to fish and sore mouth any more. I moved to another slough and it was packed with logs. I proceeded down the bank with my Black Market Balsa and after running a few logs hooked up on another 4 pound fish. Now this is what I'm looking for! I moved my boat farther into the slough and decided to test another log - guess what another 4 pounder. It was time to move. Today's a short day and I needed to maximize all the time I had. I moved into another slough and it too; was loaded with logs. I said one more and that was enough fish. On about the third log I hooked a nice 2 ½ pounder. I had my mind made up - it's pool 8 do or die tomorrow. If that don't work, day two I would go to pool 9. I made a decision to check the abundance of rocks and see if the smallmouth would still bite. I started fishing any rocks I could find. I fished a couple sets with no luck. On the next set I again hooked up a nice smallie on the Wiggle Wart. It was approaching noon and I need to do some serious organization and get ready for the meeting. I proceeded to run the river and mark waypoints for all the rocks I could see. For the next hour I logged numerous waypoints on my Humminbird 987. The better rock jetties I would scan with my side imaging to find the ends and look for fish. Most of the fish were located on the up side and directly on the ends. I made up my mind to fish my way - running rocks and fishing logs. 

TOURNAMENT - DAY 1: I immediately started on a main river set of rocks in downtown LaCrosse. On the fifth cast I hooked up on approximately 3 pound smallmouth on my Buzzbait. There were several local spectators and they went wild. Then the fish jumped again and the bait came flying back. All I could here was a loud moan from the crowd. I was upset but that's fishing. It was really cool how everyone in this town was so supportive of us being there. It made me work harder. I wanted to show them the fishery they had. I worked the bank for about an hour with only a couple shorts to my name. I decided to hit the creek that I had some success in the day prior. I immediately had another good fish blow up on the bait but couldn't get it hooked up. As I started working towards the logs I noticed the current was faster today and a small eddy had formed inside the narrow passage. I fired by Black Market Balsa and two cranks and a nice largemouth jumped and came unbuttoned. I thought oh no, not one of these days. I fired repeatedly at that same spot and a nice 15 inch largemouth engulfed the bait. These Black Market Balsas have such an awesome retrieve - bass just can't resist them. I proceeded down the bank with logs and fish number two was on and in the comfort of my Skeeter livewells. This is when things went for the worse, on the next log a big Northern came up ate my Black Market Balsa and bit the Mustad 20# test in half - I think I almost cried this bait has been very successful the last year, she moved like no other bait I owned. I tried furiously to find another Black Market Balsa and my boat drifted to the next log and my co-angled hooked a 4 pounder. Man what a day - I was thinking. My mind was going south fast. My casting accuracy became horrible, hung up, missing my marks, backlashes, you name it. I decided to stop take a breather and get my baits reorganized and get back to work. Immediately I found a Black Market Balsa close to the one that Northern had in his mouth. I decided to head back to the narrow passage and make a few more passes every time we went through the passage I would catch several fish and have at least one good weigh fish. I finally caught my third keeper. I decided to give it a rest and head to the sloughs with logs. Something was different but continued to work the logs but to no prevail. I moved to the other side and watched some bait scatter near a clump of eel grass. I immediately through in and my fourth keeper was in the box. I kept pounding the area, I knew the four pounders were around. I finally decided to leave and get my limit fish. I started hitting rocks and on every group I could catch a nice smallmouth. I kept pounding rocks and culling but I was culling ounces not pounds. I also lost several quality fish on the wiggle wart - guess it was just not my day. Time was running short on the last set of rocks and hooked up on another keeper largemouth. I finished the day with 5 for a little over 9 pounds. I was just 5 pounds from the top 20 cut. This made a big challenge but not impossible to overcome. Overall I caught approximately 15 keepers and over 50 fish total today. 

TOURNAMENT - DAY 2: With the numbers I had on Day One, I made the decision to pound it out in Pool 8 again. I still had several rock jetties I had not fished plus I had some area's I wanted to retry. I started on the main rocks in downtown La Crosse and hooked up on a keeper quickly. I kept with the topwater bite and the fish were just barely hitting it. I decided to head to the creek and try those fish a little earlier and quickly put the second keeper in the boat. The numerous smallmouth at the narrows had moved on. Smallmouth are here today gone tomorrow. As I was fishing out of the creek I saw a rock bank across the river. It looked right so I decided to fish it. Deep water close, Docks and a Wing Dam. As we neared the docks my co-angler caught a nice 3 pounder. I picked up a jig and had a 4 pounder. Then the fish started schooling on a jetty that ran underneath the dock. This place was stacked with fish. We kept catching largemouths but the size kept getting smaller. I made the decision to try the logs and the current was absent. We hit the best part and only a few shorts. I needed a limit bad. I moved to some rocks near the lock and quickly put two more keeper smallmouths in the boat. I noticed a closing dam to the slough I had fished had good current running over it. We starting fishing it and immediate success. The fish were just hammering the bait. We caught several more keepers on the closing dam but it was not my lucky day - I was catching keepers and my co-angler caught two nice keepers that I really needed. We pounded more rocks then headed back to the sweet jetty with the docks - we caught several small fish but I could not cull any. I moved back the rocks downtown and with only a couple minutes culled another fish. I finished the day with another limit but only a hair over ten pounds 

The Baits 

POST TOURNAMENT REVIEW: I fished hard and tried to unlock the key of success on this highly complex fishery. The fishable waters are massive here, the only area the bass are probably not found is the deep river channel. The biggest key to success here is not finding fish; it's that matter of finding the better quality fish. It took 15 pounds a day to lead, 13 pounds a day for top 20, 12 pounds a day for a check; I had 10 pounds a day. A couple lost opportunities each day; plus my co-anglers got a couple key bites I needed, would have changed the story. I feel confident that I made the best decision to fish the area's I did. I wish I would have managed my time more wisely and fished more thoroughly. I know that (Jim Eakins, Troy Eakins, Stacy King) 3 of the top 20 angler's fished the same areas and type of structure. 

My Equipment: · Dave's Custom Baits - Medium Black Market Balsa - Root Beer Chartreuse, Daiwa TD Advantage 153HST, H&H Fishing Rods P846, Mustad Thor 20#, Mustad Triple Grip Hooks. · Storm Wiggle Wart - Root Beer Chartreuse - Daiwa TD Advantage 153HST, H&H Fishing Rods P.814, Cabelas Fluorocarbon 12#, Mustad Triple Grip Hooks · Scum Frog - Trophy Frog - Black, Daiwa TD Advantage 153HST, H&H Fishing Rods Grass & Pitch Special, PowerPro Braid 65# · Boogerman Black Buzzbait, Daiwa TD Advantage 153HST, H&H Fishing Rods Spinnerbait Special, · Homemade Jig 5/16 - Natural Craw, Net Baits - Paca Craw - Okeechobee Craw, Daiwa TD Advantage 153HST, H&H Fishing Rods MWR825, Mustad Thor 20 

Doug Vahrenberg is sponsored by these fine companies: SKEETER Boats, YAMAHA Outboards, MINNKOTA Motors & Chargers, HUMMINBIRD Electronics, DAIWA Reels, H&H Fishing Rods, DAVE'S CUSTOM BAITS, AGCO Farm Equipment. 

If you have any questions or would like to know more please feel free to visit me at www.dougvahrenberg.com  or email me at: imonem@ctcis.net  

FLW Stren Series - Midwest Division - Kentucky Lake, June 7 & 8, 2006

The first event in the Stren Series (former Everstart Series) was held on the vast Kentucky/Barkley fishery. Known for it's miles and miles of ledges and numerous 3 to 5 pound bass, I knew I was going to have to find my own little honey hole on one of the world famous ledges. With consistent success at cashing a check last year - I have been eluded from a win at this level. My focus for 2006 was to fish-to-win, not fishing to survive or just cash a check. There are many risks associated with type of attitude. I have missed opportunities in the past year because of a more conservative attitude and this year I want a win bad. This plan played into my map reading and practice period. 

Studying a map of Kentucky and Barkley can be mind boggling. One thing I key on is finding the underwater points and underwater bluffs. I spent several months looking over my maps and trying to find this type of structure. I had logged numerous potential areas and had developed four full days of practice committed to the ledges. 

Practice - Day 1: My first day was dedicated to Kentucky Lake. With several big tournaments being held on the North end I made a decision to travel south and fish ledges from the Highway 68 Bridge on into Tennessee. I attack structure fishing differently in practice. I do want to see the quality of fish but understanding the ledge and how it is shaped is more important to me. With the Side Imaging Sonar on my Humminbird 987c, I can not only see the bottom in traditional 2D sonar and find the ledges with my GPS Mapping but I can also visually see the structure the fish are relating too - stumps, rock piles, boulders, mussel beds etc. This is very important in locating the "sweet spot". Once I find these areas I can then put the trolling motor down and try to sample the available fish relating to these areas. 

987C Side Image of Pallets on a Ledge Point 

I ventured down the east side covering numerous ledges I had logged and with limited success. As I neared Paris, Tennessee I came upon a ledge that I had fished several years ago and on the first cast hooked up with a nice Largemouth that I estimated in the 5 pound range. On the very next cast I caught another fish in the 3 pound range with two more 4 to 5 pounders trying to get the Dave's Custom Baits painted Mann's 20+ out of its mouth. What a sweet ledge - 15 to 18 pounds seen in two casts. I kept exploring ledges in this area trying to expand on this area. I had found two more ledges and got bit on a handmade football head jig. I kept looking and casting trying to find more. With about half the daylight gone - I switched to the west side and continued looking for more sweet spots but with little success. 

Practice - Day 2: After a short evening of continued map reading and planning my next day - I ventured to Barkley Lake to check out the ledges. Typically Barkley is a shallower lake than Kentucky and the fish relate to shallower water. I spent the better part of the day scouting Barkley and found little success. I finished up the last few hours of daylight fishing some deeper rock structure that is favored by smallmouth bass. Day 2 turned out not very productive but it's not about catching them in practice it's finding the most productive pattern for success. I had eliminated lots of water that I feel is unproductive. 

Practice - Day 3: With a restless night sleep - dreaming about how these fish were haunting me in finding them; I made plans to locate more areas where I had had success plus expand north towards the take off area. I located another ledge that I saw in the previous nights map study and immediately caught another solid 3 pounder on a homemade football head jig. I kept working all the structure from ledge to main lake points with similar structure as I could see on the Navionics Premium Map on my graph. If it looked good, it was worth fishing. I had several areas I was able to get bit. I was finally putting pieces together and a plan of attack was developing. But I was still open minded to new areas. You never know when you will find the mother lode. I worked my way into the Jonathon Creek area and my shallow water side took the best of me. Just a year prior I had one of the best practice periods shallow I have ever had - but the water dropped the night before the event and left them high and dry. That is why ledge fishing is the typical winning pattern on Kentucky/Barkley. The first patch of water weeds I pulled on I had to 3 pounders blow up on my frog. Great there's a shallow bite still if all else fails. 

Practice - Day 4: Today's the final practice day and a short one. It's meeting night and preparing tackle for the upcoming tournament. I focused today's efforts North on some of the most productive and community ledges on Kentucky Lake. I struggled all day and just couldn't put together anything solid. I pulled off the water early afternoon and began preparing for the trip south. Practice was not easy and everyone was struggling but somebody always finds them. I tossed the coin to go shallow or go ledge fishing. You don't win unless you play the odds and my best bet was to fish the few ledges and deep water I had found in the Paris, TN area. If they worked out right I could bust a high teens or low 20 pound sack - if not well, that's competitive fishing. I just didn't think I had enough area for a multiple day event down south. 

TOURNAMENT - DAY 1: It's work day and time to put everything or what little I learned in practice together and find success. I pointed my Skeeter 20i south for the 45 minute run. While running down the lake I had an idea to work some shallow points with a Yellow Magic and see if I could pick off a bonus fish or two. I pulled into a creek that had one of the drops and immediately caught a few shorts - so I kept running points until I neared the drop. Once I got in position I fired my crankbait out and immediately hooked up. Oh yeah I said! It's going to be a good day - when all the sudden it quit feeling like a bass and the "Ole Heartbreak Fish" came up - a double digit drum. That's not all bad thou - drum and bass are on these ledges for the same reason - bait fish. I ran to the next ledge and after getting my markers placed I immediately caught a short fish, then a sauger - but the keeper fish were alluding me. After spending over an hour and no keepers it was time to move on. I hit a couple of other ledges and either only small bass or the wrong species prevailed. I made the decision to head north and fish shallow. I immediately started catch barely short fish and had several good blow-ups on the frog out of the weeds. The shallow water bite seemed to get better with high light conditions, it places the bass on the available cover. I kept running water weed patches and I just couldn't hook up - the bass were close mouthing the bait and hitting it not eating it. Next I went to a couple banks that had produced last year and tied on a Black Market Balsa and immediately caught a nice 3 pounder. I started running everything I knew and caught another 2 pounder. Time had run out and only 2 keepers - I knew I had made a bad decision but I went for the best opportunity I had to win. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. 

TOURNAMENT - DAY 2: With the disaster I had the first day, I elected to spend Day 2 fishing shallow water exclusively. I started in the Moor's area throwing topwater and caught short fish after short fish. I then proceeded to some docks and began power fishing - my style. I was able to catch a small spotted bass. It wasn't much but its points and every point counts. I caught fish all day but the keepers I needed were nowhere to be found. I noticed that the water had been pulled several inches down and may have been the cause of the better fish pulling off the shallows. Nearing weigh-in I pulled back in Bear Creek and immediately lost a real nice fish in a dock covered with brush piles. I finished the day with only one small keeper. 

The Baits 

POST TOURNAMENT REVIEW: I look back at this poor performance and wonder what I should have done different. I did the best with what I found in practice but that doesn't help a poor finish. A poor, performance makes me work harder. I have already planned a return trip to Kentucky/Barkley to learn and better understand why and how these fish relate to the ledges. The only way I can improve my fishing skills is to work harder on my weaknesses. During my Post-Tournament review I can find several things that I could have done to improve my success. · I didn't read the fish correctly. I feel the bass were in the deep post-spawn pattern and not moving much to get the bait. They've had a long spawn and have now spent considerable energy getting to their summer homes. I did not adjust and was looking for a more aggressive bite. · I should have broken down the lake smaller and keyed in on a smaller area or one ledge and found the sweet spot. Several of the top finishers caught there fish quickly on multiple casts. Sam Newby caught 10 keepers on his first ten casts, once he got lined up on the sweet spot. · I should have spent more time with my Humminbird 987c graphing and locating fish and the sweet spots on the ledges. This unit keeps amazing me the ease of structure recognition. It is so easy to see stumps, rock piles and other structure underwater. 

I wish every event was more exciting but everyone has bad events. I was pretty down after this event but after many thoughts and reviews I will use it as a learning experience. I must grow on my weaknesses and build on my strengths. I stumbled at the start but with 3 solid finishes I still have a shot at making the Stren Series Championship. It will take even more work to accomplish and I have already begun my map reading work for the next event. It's like losing a big fish - crying over it isn't going to help. Shake it off and go on. 

February 6
Mexican Bass Fishing – Lake Guerrero Trip Wrap Up

The Largemouth Bass of a lifetime is closer than you think. It’s time to head south of the border, where the big bass live and are always biting. A trip to Lake Guerrero can produce that special fish but for sure it will produce countless memories as each and every fish you catch will bring excitement. Lake Guerrero, just 3 short hours south of Harlingen, Texas, was impounded in the 1960’s to provide irrigation water to the farms below the dam. But the result of this project produced thousands of acres of prime fishing water. Situated on the northern shore is Lago Vista Lodge, the premier lodging facility on Lake Guerrero. The staff of Lago Vista Lodge knows how to take care of it’s customers, whether it’s getting them across the border, providing world class accommodations, top notch food or getting them hooked-up for some awesome fishing or shoulder bruising hunting. They know how to make each trip, one you will never forget.

Lago Vista Lodge – Lake Guerrero


On a recent trip to Lago Vista Lodge and Lake Guerrero to film a TV show with Donnie McGaughey from Outdoors Unlimited, we found Lake Guerrero willing and ready to produce hundreds of memories for us. We arrived late in the afternoon and after checking into our rooms we headed out to launch his Skeeter ZX225 into Lake Guerrero. We headed out for a short test of the waters; I quickly hooked up with a nice Guerrero Bass on a spinnerbait. With the sun setting behind the Sierra Madre Mountains, it was time we headed to the lodge. What a teaser for the days ahead. After arriving back to the lodge I was greeted by an outstanding American style dinner. It was more than necessary and I was ready to kick back and relax. After some nice socializing with the other guests and checking my emails via the WiFi Network, I retired to my plush bed. It was so comfortable!

Lago Vista Lodge – Sleeping Quarters


I was awaken with a knock on my door and a glass of fresh orange juice. It was time to head to lodge for breakfast and prepare for our morning session of fishing and the search for Grande Pescado’s, that Spanish for Giant Bass. We headed up the Rio Pilon River and immediately started catching fish on Spinnerbaits, Black Market Balsa’s and Kicker Kraws. One thing you will notice is the over abundance of cover. Lake Guerrero is like 100,000 acres of flooded thorn trees and oaks. What you see above the water, there’s more below the water. I think any cast in a 360 degree circle can produce that fish of a lifetime. Sometimes it hard to find a place to cast, but that’s why these fish have the opportunity to grow so large. We caught numerous fish this outing from a pound and a half up to six pounds. What a blast! And every fish pulls four times its size. It was unbelievable. With the time approaching noon and another fine meal waiting, we headed back to the lodge. After lunch I needed to replenish some of my tackle so we headed to the Lago Vista Lodge Tackle shop to find a great selection of lures from some of the best names in the industry and in the best colors for Lake Guerrero.

Lago Vista Lodge – Tackle Shop


We headed out for our afternoon session to the island area near the dam. We caught several nice fish and began our quest in search of a double digit fish. Fishing Swimbaits and Deep Diving crankbaits we fished a couple deep ledges near the dam. We caught several smaller fish but not the fish we needed to finish the show. Next we headed to an area near the underwater town of Padilla to fish an old road bed and some underwater foundations. Immediately we started catching fish flipping plastics to the numerous bushes in the area. We were catching fish every cast and then with one flip I got a whipping by a very large fish. Was this my missed opportunity? You never know on Lake Guerrero. With the sun starting to fall behind the Sierra Madre Mountains we started to head for the lodge. What an awesome day with numerous memories and a great opportunity, I was pumped to hit the water again tomorrow.

I was awaken again and jumped right out of bed anxious to get the day started. We had another great meal and quickly hurried to the water. We headed up the Rio Pilon and started catching fish again but something had changed - the fish were not as active and the bite seemed to be a little more difficult. We decided to check out some other areas in search of Grandes. While leaving the Pilon, I ran into Ron Short, a Skeeter Rep that I knew. What a small world! With limited success this morning we decided to head in for lunch and regroup. Even though the fishing was tough we still caught and released nearly 20 bass this morning. After a quick lunch we gathered around the map to look at some new areas. We decided to spend the afternoon searching a large flat near the lodge for bass. Soon after we arrived we began to immediately catch fish and lots of them. We used Black Market Balsas and Spinnerbaits to catch and release nearly 60 fish. What an afternoon! We never caught any Grandes but we caught a lot of average sized bass in the 2 to 5 pound range.

Couple Lake Guerrero Bass falling for Black Market Balsa Crankbaits


As the daylight began to hide behind the mountains we began our track back to the lodge. Fishing in this maze of flooded timber, it is easy to get displaced. Thanks to our Humminbird electronics we were able to easily follow our track back to the lodge. We were once again greeted by the friendly staff and another great meal. Tonight it was Pork, Green Beans, and Mashed Potatoes, served with Fresh Tortilla Chips and Cheese Sauce and Jalapeños. You will not go hungry at Lago Vista.

Typical Evening Meal

With enough footage to make the show, we decided to fish the morning session in search of Grandes. We headed to the Hacienda (House) Area and fished the numerous fence rows. Immediately we hooked up with a nice 6 pound plus fish on a Strike King Diamond Shad. After having limited success with my spinnerbait and Donnie kicking my rear I switched to a Dave’s Custom Painted Rat-L-Trap in Green Crawfish Color and started catching fish. We caught over 60 fish on one fence row. These fish go crazy for these rattling baits as they come blasting out of the timber to chase them down. We caught just as many fish going up the fence row, as returning back down it. All this happened while Lago Vista Lodge customers were Duck Hunting the surrounding flats. With only a couple hours remaining we headed back to the road bed near Padilla and Donnie quickly hooked a Grande on a Strike King Series 4 Crankbait that weighed 13.57 pounds. (Initially reported as 12.07 but after certifying the scales, the scales were off a pound and a half)

Donnie McGaughey’s 13.57# Grande Pescado


What a perfect ending to a great trip to Lake Guerrero. Except, did I miss my opportunity for a double digit fish, earlier? Within ten foot of were Donnie had just caught his Grande, I hooked up with another double digit fish. This one hammered a series 4, too; and weighed 10.37 pounds (After Certification).

Doug Vahrenberg’s 10.37# Grande Pescado


The action wasn’t over as another monstrous bass inhaled Donnie’s Bait and wrapped him up in one of the millions of bushes in Lake Guerrero. We never got that fish out but it just shows that big fish relate to certain structures and are prone to catching at certain times. What a great ending to an awesome trip to the world-class fishery of Lake Guerrero and the premier resort, Lago Vista Lodge. Every fish was caught and released back into Lake Guerrero to be caught again. Please practice catch and release on these special fish, so the next generation can enjoy a trip of a lifetime.

Secrets of Success:

Spinnerbaits: ½ oz and ¾ oz Strike King Spinnerbaits; Chartreuse, Chartreuse/White, Silver/Blue; Mustad 17# Thor Line; Daiwa Advantage 153HST Reel, H&H Fishing Rod – Spinnerbait Special

Flipping: 3/0 Mustad Hook; 3/8ozTungsten Weight; Mustad 20# Thor and Power Pro 65# Braid; Kicker Fish Bait Co. Kicker Kraw; Daiwa Advantage 153 HST Reel, H&H Grass & Pitch Special.

Shallow Crankbaits: Black Market Balsa, Mustad Triple Grip Hooks, Mustad 20# Thor, Daiwa Advantage 153HST Reel, H&H Fishing Rod – P.846

Deep Crankbaits: Strike King Series 4, Mustad Triple Grip Hooks, Mustad 14# Thor, Daiwa Advantage 153HST Reel, H&H Fishing Rods C.B.R.845 Crankbait Rod.


Notes: I was overwhelmed by the strength and abrasion resistance of the Mustad Thor Line we were using. We never lost a fish because of it breaking and it allowed us to horse the fish from heavy cover. Both double digit fish were caught on Mustad 14# Thor. I never once saw abrasion marks or felt damage to this line. I also felt the H&H Fishing Rods allowed us to present our baits accurately and the incredible sensitivity allowed us to feel every bite. The H&H Fishing Rods also gave us the power to handle these powerful fish and keep them in control and out of the bushes. The H&H quality is bar none the finest I have ever seen. The Daiwa Advantage Reels had the durability to catch literally hundreds of fish with power and performance to present the bait correctly, plus fight the fish back to the boat.

Noteable Notes:

Mexico has been given a bad rap by the press over the years. Yes you will see some poverty but the Mexican people work hard, just like you and I. I never saw any banditos or was ever scared or threatened. The worst area is the border towns but it is no different than traveling through any of America's major cities. You can get in just as much trouble in the wrong neighborhoods in urban America. The drive from the border south takes you along a vast agricultural area. The staff at Lago Vista Lodge are experts in making your trip across the border safe and fast. They know how to get the proper paperwork done and the roads to travel. The guides are very knowledgeable and are willing to make your trip to Lake Guerrero enjoyable. The meals are top class and made from selected food. There’s no Montezuma’s Revenge here. The water to the rooms is triple treated for your safety and purity. Purified bottled water is used for drinking. You can be rest assured all steps are taken by this knowledgeable staff to make your stay as comfortable and enjoyable as possible. With Satellite TV and Wireless internet; you can still take care of business and communicate back home while gone.

Lago Vista Lodge is not only a fisherman’s retreat but an outdoorsman retreat that offers shoulder bruising Duck, Dove and Quail Hunts, too. With the numerous wildlife in the area, packages can be tailored to include both hunting and fishing. Plus meeting rooms are available if you want to conduct business meetings. Log on to www.lagovistalodge.com  for more information and let them set up the trip of a lifetime or the business meeting with the best fringe benefits. Packages are available as low as $695 for 3 nights and 2 days of fishing or $895 for 4 nights and 3 days of fishing. One thing for sure, you’ll come back with countless memories for a lifetime.

Grande Pescados (Big Bass)


January 26, 2006 - Third Day at Lake Guerrero.  See below for the other day's entries.....

We awoke to another great meal at Lago Vista Lodge, before heading out to wrap up filming today. We went to an area around the Hacenda to fish fence rows and a road bed. The conditions this morning were cloudy and cool. I had to put on my Skeeter fleece jacket for the run. Once we got there we immediately started catch bass on Diamond Shads, Spinnerbaits and Black Market Balsas. Immediately we hooked a 6 pounder. We caught approximately 35 to 40 fish down the fence row. 

Next we headed to an old road leading to the underwater town of Padilla. With a little deeper water and in search of grande's (Big), we tied on Black Market Balsas and Series 5 Strike King crankbaits in a greenish gold color that mimic the Talpia, a bait fish in Lake Guerrero. The action got fast and furious as we hooked a 12.07, a 8.87 and several others. Donnie McGaughey hooked and lost a monster in the mucho (very many) brush in Lake Guerrero. It never fails the last hour or the last hole in golf brings the best action or shot. 

Grande Pescado's (Big Bass) 12.07, 6.42 and 8.87 

We are getting ready for our trip north and film again near Houston. Tune in for a complete full detailed article next week of the awesome fishing trip to Lago Vista Lodge and fabulous Lake Guerrero. www.lagovistalodge.com  

Later Doug

January 25, 2006 - Second Full Day at Lake Guerrero.  See below for the first two day's entries.....

After another fantastic breakfast we headed out on Lake Guerrero in search Mucho Grande Pasilla (Numerous Big Bass). I've learned a little Spanish but no need to worry here. The English speaking staff makes communication very easy. This morning we headed up the 2 major creeks in search of the numerous fish available in this fishery. Even though the lake is 20 foot from normal it has an over abundance of cover. This is why it is one of the top bass fisheries in the world. You are going to catch numerous fish and just about any cast in any direction can lead to getting your line tightened. We caught numerous fish this morning on Spinerbaits, Diamond Shads, Black Market Balsas, and a variety of soft plastics. It amazes me the numerous baits that that you can catch fish on. If you don't have what you need, don't worry they have a great selection of the hottest lures from the top names in bass tackle manufacturers on site at Lago Vista Lodge! I've visited several times myself to replenish my depleted stock. 

Every day at Lago Vista Lodge you are treated to 3 complimentary meals or a brown bag lunch can be prepared for a full day on the water. The lodge is very accessible from any of the vast acreage of water, so returning for lunch is not out of the way. After another great meal, we were heading to a large flat near the lodge and immediately starting catching numerous fish. In some areas every cast we were getting hooked up. We hooked up with several females that were moving into this area to spawn in the 3 to 6 pound range. It amazes me how hard the Lake Guerrero bass fight. I think they pull harder and fight stronger than our Northern Smallmouths. It's fun just trying to keep them out of the brush. What a great experience you will have here at Lago Vista Lodge. We hooked and released between 50 to 60 bass today. With half of the day spent head hunting for big females and not constantly pounding the water, that is awesome in my book. 

Doug Vahrenberg and Donnie McGaughey with two average lake Guerrero Bass

The weather was awesome again today with mostly cloudy skyies and over 70 degrees! Perfect moving bait weather: Spinnerbaits, Black Market Balsas, Diamond Shads and even some topwater action. We saw two other boats on the lake and imagine it being someone I knew, Ron Short the Skeeter Boats representative from Indiana was visiting Lake Guerreo. You never know who you might see or not see because we have fished 2 full days and seen less than a handful of boats. 

It's time to go my Bar-B-Qued Pork Dinner Awaits. Good Night and watch for tomorrow's report from Lago Vista Lodge. 

Typical Evening Meal 

For more information on your year round fishing bonanza or even shoulder bruising Duck, Dove and Quail hunts visit: www.lagovistalodge.com  

January 24, 2006 - First Full Day at Lake Guerrero.  See below for the first evening's teaser.....

I was awaken this morning with a knock on the door and fresh squeezed orange juice. This is a first class place! Big, comfortable beds, first class meals and much, much more. 

We started fishing the river this morning and caught several nice fish on a variety of lures. Spinnerbaits, Rattling Baits, Soft Plastics and I even introduced them to Black Market Balsas. Man this fishery is so vast and cover is everywhere. There is no doubt that you can fish any bait and fish your strength. We captured several good fish on film and pics will be updated in my final report from Guerrero. 

After a short trip back to Lago Vista Lodge and enjoying another great meal, we headed to the islands area and started catching fish right away. We spent our afternoon session head hunting several ledges. We finished the day fishing old Padilla, a submerged town. We got on a roll and we were catching a fish out of every bush! And then I flipped a Kicker Fish Kicker Kraw into a bush located next to an old foundation and I got a whippin. It was huge! You never know here when the next fish is going to be the fish of a lifetime. Plus you are going to catch numerous fish and lots of 3 to 6 pounders. 

This evening we came in to enjoy another great American style dinner. Montezuma does not live in the food here. You can be rest assured that the water, the food and accommodation you will be first class. I might never make it back. Great Fishin', Great Food and Great Accommodation what else do you want. Until tomorrow -Good Night! 

January 23, 2006 - Here's a little teaser from Warm (71 degrees) Lake Guerrero. 

Today was my first day arriving to Lake Guerrero. A quick three hour drive south of the border, and after checking in to the beautiful Lago Vista Lodge, we launched the boat and headed out for a few casts before the sunset behind the Sierra Madre Mountains. 

In about 15 minutes after launching and 10 casts later, I had my first Lake Guerrero beauty. I hope this was just a teaser for many days to come. We will start filming tomorrow for Outdoor Adventures to be aired on Fox Sports. Look for daily updates and some great fishing! 

Guerrero 1-23-06 

A more detailed account of my Mexician Bass Fishing Trip to Lake Guerrero will follow. Check back daily for more updates for Lake Guerrero. 

November 10-12, 2005
Bassmaster Louisiana Central Open - Red River

The final regular season event in the 2005 BASSmaster Central Open took me to the Red River in Louisiana. If you have never been here this is a massive fishery consisting of a river system with locks and dams and a massive area of backwaters. The backwaters of the Red River system are not like most river systems. The Red River's Backwaters were formed mainly by levees that were developed by re-channelizing the river to create a straighter river for faster barge flow. The backwaters fish more like lakes. For this event only Pools 2 thru 5 are open for competition, 162 miles of river, approximately from Alexandria to Shreveport, LA. 

Aerial photo showing typical backwater areas on the Red River

Map Study and Pre-Practice Work: I have fished several events on this system in the past and with this knowledge it gave me a great advantage to look for the small details in the river system and backwater to fish my strengths. I love to power fish shallow. The maps for this fishery are not topo maps but navigation charts with aerial photos. November should be a transition time for bass from their summer homes to the backwaters. I will have 5 days of practice for this event and have broken down my map like this: 2 days in Pool 4 and 2 days in Pool 3, with the last day available to practice where needed. 

Practice - Day 1: My first plan was to explore the main river to establish a bite. 99% of all rivers have fish that live here all year long. It didn't take long to start getting bites on the river. I found two baits working - a flipping bite with a Paca Craw and a Spinnerbait bite. One thing I noticed was most of the fish came on some type of drain or point in the river, current breaks. This is not unusual but the Red River was absent of current due to the dry conditions in the region. I next proceeded to cover a couple backwaters finding success on a Dave's Custom Painted Baits Black Market Balsa and the Paca Craw. I saw several big fish eat my Black Market Balsa. During practice; I had removed the hooks to prevent sore mouthing these fish. I had several fish 3 pounds plus eat the crankbait, and I would get it away and they would eat it again all the way to the boat. 

Practice - Day 2: Continuing from Day 1, I headed to the lower end of Pool 4 with two game plans - find more main river fish and backwater fish. I fished the main river from the lock upwards with little success and as I came to backwaters I entered and searched for more areas. I found very little this morning. I stopped for my lunch break - a quick sandwich and map study. I believe that during practice you must eat. While I ate I got the map out to look for areas similar to what I had found success in the previous day. I located several main river areas and 3 more back water areas to search. Immediately the river areas started paying off. I moved into the backwaters and found limited success here. In one backwater area I did find a natural bayou and I saw 3 fish over 3 pounds here, on the Paca Craw and Black Market Balsa. 

Practice - Day 3: My first day in pool 3 found me in search of the same type of areas I found in the previous days. Today I planned to fish from the take-off to Lock 4. Today I was joined by Dave Epema, a local Missouri fisherman fishing the event as a co-angler. This would give me an extra rod in the water and allow me to explore more water. We found continued success on the main river with the Paca Craw, Spinnerbait and small crankbaits. This area is very limited of backwaters and found very little success in them. 

Practice - Day 4: The middle area of Pool 3 is loaded with backwaters. I found success immediately and continued looking for more. I found success on the same baits here. The quality of fish here was equal to the fish I seen on day 1 but were more spread out and not located on defined structure. I found only a few limited areas and I saw a lot of boat traffic here. That concerned me about my chances if I returned. 

Practice - Day 5: My final practice day and a shortened one at that with preparing my tackle for the tournament and the pairings meeting. Starting where I left off I continued south in Pool 3. I found success early and the farther south I fished the more boats and limited success I found. I had a decision to make; Pool 3 or Pool 4? The river fish in 4 seemed to average better in size and the backwater fish had a larger average size but fewer in numbers. In Pool 3, I would get more time to fish, because of not having to lock but the average size was smaller in the areas I found. Plus the fish were more scattered. 

After drawing out in the middle of the pack - I made the decision to head north to Pool 4. I based this decision on the larger size of the river fish and my previous experience in this pool.  If I started to struggle, I had more areas of confidence here. 

The main river bank I fished each day

TOURNAMENT - DAY 1: I headed north as planned to catch a quick limit on the river then head to the backwaters. Stopping at my first area on the main river I found some success. I caught 4 keepers on a spinnerbait. Plus I lost 2 fish that just came un-buttoned. I had spent too much time on the river and had to make a decision - get to the backwaters and try to get quality or keep hitting the river and catch a small limit. I headed to the back water and immediately caught 3 more keepers on a Dave's Custom Painted Black Market Balsa including my two largest fish. I headed into a backwater bayou and had a monster chase my crankbait back to the boat to turn and swim away. I finished with a limit today for 7-14 and good enough for 47th place. 

TOURNAMENT - DAY 2: With the field stacked and needing another 8 pounds to make the cut, I decided to head north as I ran out of time on day 1 to fish some of my best backwaters. Starting on the same stretch as Day 1, I caught 4 more main river bass on a Spinnerbait and Paca Craw. I lost one keeper and saw another quality fish swirl on the spinnerbait and missed it. That's fishing. I headed to the backwaters and immediately caught my fifth keeper on a Dave's Custom Painted Black Market Balsa. I caught several more keepers but I was only culling ounces not pounds as I needed. I finished the day 8-0 and moving me into 42nd place and making the cut and a guaranteed paycheck. 

TOURNAMENT - DAY 3: It's Money Day! The more you catch the more you can profit. Especially here with the weights as tight as they were. No one is out of winning this event. My plan was a fast pass down the bank on the main river then it was back to the backwaters and crank a Large Black Market Balsa. Make the big one's bite or go home trying. I had saw some fish over 4 pounds eat my hook-less Black Market Balsa in practice - a monster on the river this time of year. That's the fish I needed to make the big push to qualify for the Open Championship. I started down the river bank and caught a small keeper rather quickly. The weather had changed and I could quickly tell the fishing was going to be tougher today. I missed a fish on the spinnerbait and decided it was time to make the move. I kept pounding backwater after backwater with little to no success. I kept seeing the fish come out after the Black Market Balsa but just could not get them to bite. I tried to flip the Paca Craw on these fish and they would not even take a look. I finally got my second keeper, a line burner, on the crankbait. I finished with 2-01 and finishing 46th Place and 44th Place for the Year. 

The baits utilized

Baits, Line, Reel and Rods: 

1) Sapphire Blue Paca Craw, 3/8 Tungsten Weight, 65# Power Pro Braid, Daiwa Advantage HST, H&H FS907 7'6" X-Heavy Flippin Rod 
2) War Eagle 3/8 oz White Living Rubber Skirt, 20# Mustad Thor, Daiwa Advantage HST, H&H 6'4" Med-Heavy Spinnerbait Special Rod 
3) Dave's Custom Painted Baits Black Market Balsa - Shiner Colored, 20# Mustad Thor, Daiwa Advantage HST, H&H P846 7' Medium Crank Bait Rod. 

Secrets of Success: I started on the river catching numbers, then moving to the backwater to finish my limits on Day 1 and 2. Finding better quality river fish was a key to my success. Every fish I caught was related to a change in structure - a small point. Wood Cover was a bonus. A few fish came out of the Pepper Grass. The river received less pressure and allowed me to fish my way. The backwaters I found looked barren compared to others but the structure was hidden and prior knowledge helped me key on these small areas. 

Changes: I think if I had to do over I would have stayed in Pool 3 on the final day and tried to catch my back-up fish. I was worried that there was not enough fish in these areas for 3 days but I feel I could have had enough for one good day. Best possible limit 12 to 15 pounds. 

My Decision: I had confidence I could get 8 to 10 pounds on the river in Pool 4 and cull up to 15 + pounds a day in Pool 4. I had observed several big fish on my baits in practice, 4 to 5 pounds. With the possibility of a 20 pound bag if things went perfect. It did not happen but a small front I felt shut these highly pressured fish down. 

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