Thanksgiving with the Blaylocks: Family, tradition … Oh, and a Little Fishing, too

BENTON, Ark. – Ever since I can remember as a little boy growing up in central Arkansas, Thanksgiving weekend has been about family, and being outdoors. Late November is right in the middle of deer season in Arkansas, and as a kid I remember thinking that Thanksgiving was all about deer camp.

Our family was there, we’d eat Thanksgiving dinner in camp, and hunt in the evening. Now that I’ve gotten older and have a family of my own, deer hunting isn’t the most important thing – heck, this holiday isn’t even about the actual day of Thanksgiving. It’s more a time to be thankful for everything we have in our lives, and to enjoy the things that make this such a traditional holiday.

And I have to admit, I like to hang on to old traditions. It kinda makes me sad when things change, but our Thanksgiving weekends now are different than they were when I was a kid. Back then, my great grandma and grandma would come into deer camp, and we’d fry up deer steaks right there in camp.

It seems like Thanksgiving has turned into “Turkey Day”, but that’s just not how we traditionally did it. Growing up in my family, Thanksgiving weekend was family and hunting, and I was fortunate to have a family where four generations got together during the holiday to eat and share time together. We just happened to do it most of the time in the outdoors.

No matter how things change, though, the holiday is still about family. These days, myself, Lindsey and our son Kei will spend time with Lindsey’s grandparents and my grandparents on my mom’s side, and it’s still a big deal for all of us to be able to spend time together as a family.

Of course, Thanksgiving is about food too, and we’ve done both the traditional and the not-so-traditional. As a matter of fact, some of my favorites are not the stuff everybody seems to cook – ham and turkey and mashed potatoes and such – but Li’l Smokies and potato casserole. Lindsey is a great cook, and she puts things together for Thanksgiving weekend visits with the families. Me? I’m a good taste-tester.

Fishing the holiday weekend

It just so happens that this Thanksgiving weekend features a winter tournament series that a buddy and I compete in near our home in Benton, so I’ll be continuing the tradition of being in the outdoors for the holiday weekend. This is part of a four-tournament series, and all of the best anglers in the area get in on it, and I can tell you this right now: some of the very best bass fishermen in the country are guys from Central Arkansas you’ve never even heard of.

If you’re a student of tournament bass fishing at all, you know that Arkansas is notorious for producing some of the best anglers in the world: Scott Suggs, Larry Nixon, Mike McClelland, Ron and Spencer Shuffield, Kevin Short … that list goes on and on. Well the guys who I fish against in these local tournaments aren’t intimidated one bit when you show up from the FLW Tour or Elite Series. Chances are, they’re going to beat you unless everything goes right, and that’s something I truly appreciate about the late fall/winter tournaments around here.

This time of the year, it’s pretty much a no-brainer that the Alabama rig is going to dominate, but there’s always the added factor of unpredictability in the weather. Two weeks ago, we had days that dipped down into the 20s, and this week we have a warm front moving in that will push the highs up to 70 degrees.

The water is going to be cool no matter what, though, and this is a time where the Livingston Lures Stickmaster and Electronic Baitfish Sounds technology™ are going to be players. I’ve said this many, many times before, but I’ll repeat it again: don’t put your jerkbaits away in the late fall and winter! People assume that you have to stop throwing a jerkbait when the water cools down and fish start moving out into deeper water, but that’s not always true. You can catch fish on jerkbaits all through the winter if you just do a couple of things to modify them.

I’ll go down in line size to 6- or 8-pound test, and add a No. 3 or 4 split ring to either the front or back eyelet of the treble hooks on the bait. What this does is make the bait sink slowly – I don’t feel like fish are going to run up to your bait in the wintertime nearly as much as they want it to come to them.

EBS is a big help here, because it basically calls the fish to the bait as it sinks.

Starting to plan for 2015: The end of November/early December mean that it’s almost time to start getting tackle ready for the next season, and I’m really looking forward to 2015. In addition to the FLW Tour, I’ll be fishing both the Central and Southern B.A.S.S. Opens, so I’ll be fishing more tournaments than usual.

I’m going to continue to enjoy the holiday season with my family, continue to fish and hunt a little, but I’m already looking ahead to the first Open on Lake Toho in Florida in January, and the FLW Tour kickoff on that same fishery in March. It’ll all be here before you know it, and I’m ready to get back to work.

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