Tuesday, September 23, 2003

He knows the angles on angling

A fishing pro from Milford is helping a lot of people, many of them women, get onboard with this sport

By Shauna Scott Rhone
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Professional angler Joe Thomas pulls in a largemouth bass in the private lake on his Milford farm.
(Jeff Swinger photo)
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As any fisherman or woman worth the bait they're using knows, the easy part is dropping the line. The hard part is finding the perfect fishing spot to drop it.

Milford resident and professional angler Joe Thomas is ready to spill the worms about one of his favorite places to fish: the Land Between the Lakes in Western Kentucky. Thomas, who is number 43 on the B.A.S.S tournament list of top money winners, is up to his waders in fishing experience.

The 42-year-old Thomas has produced several videos on fishing, maintains a Web site (joethomasfishing.homestead.com), has written a book and works on two television shows. The Outdoor Channel's Angler on Tour (www.outdoorchannel.com) airs 9 p.m. Monday on Time Warner Digital cable, Dish Network and DirectTV. Reel in the Outdoors with Joe Thomas (11:30 a.m. Saturday, ESPN2, reelintheoutdoors.com) is all about fishing in the Tristate.

"The best part about Reel is that it's filmed entirely in either Ohio, Kentucky or Indiana," Thomas says. "When people watch the show, they see places they've been. They'll know if I can do it, they can do it."

Seems a lot of women are casting lines, too. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says nearly 46 million people in the United States fish every year, 33 percent of them women. All-women trips are spring up across the country, and classes in the national Women in the Outdoors fishing seminars fill up quickly.

"It's not just a guy thing," says Renee Allen, 50, of Deer Park, who has fished for most of her life. "My sister and some of my friends are fisherwomen. It's peaceful."

Fishing fans - male or female - who attend Thomas' seminar Wednesday at Bass Pro Shop Outdoor World will see an excerpt from his ESPN2 show on Kentucky Lake; get a free autographed trading card and have all their questions answered about fishing in the Tristate.

Thomas has been busy this year, competing on the B.A.S.S. tournament circuit. Why the fuss about the Land Between the Lakes? Here's a quick history:

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers rerouted the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers in 1959 to form Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley, one of the world's largest man-made bodies of water. The installation of Barkley Dam formed a fertile, plentiful inland peninsula, called the Land Between the Lakes (www2.lbl.org/lbl/).

This peninsula, about 300 miles west of Cincinnati, has more than 170,000 acres and 300 miles of undeveloped shoreline housing elk and bison. The lakes contain almost 220,000 surface acres of water and are currently stocked with crappie, bass, sauger, catfish, and bluegill.

Thomas talked to the Enquirer about why LBL is one of his favorite line drops and offered tips and secrets.

Q: How often do you go to Land Between the Lakes?

A: I take three to four trips a year, in the spring and fall. Both lakes are very diverse in their fisheries. Kentucky Lake is great, with deep points and unique features. The fish there are deep-water related. Lake Barkley is teeming with shallow water fish. Depending on what type you like to fish, there's something for everyone. I filmed two episodes of my ESPN show there for this season. Last time, I caught a 7-pound smallmouth bass with top water bait.

Q: What's the best part about fishing there?

A: The wide variety of fishing opportunities. Shallow fishing is more exciting to me. I like to fish the flooded bushes in the spring and the back of the creeks in the fall. The largest fish I've caught there was on Lake Barkley in May 1999; a 10-pound, 1-ounce largemouth bass, caught on a jig pork frog combo in shallow waters.

Q: What else does the LBL region have to offer the outdoorsperson?

A: For fishermen with families or nonfishing partners, they might find it interesting to go to the lake's state park. You can visit old homesteads or see the buffalo and elk preserves. There are also great resorts there. I stay at the Moors Resort and Marina at Kentucky Lake. The whole area offers a real family environment with plenty to do and see.

Q: What tips can you offer to area anglers?

A: In the fall, especially in the Midwest, reservoirs will see shads migrating up the creek with cool-water bass following. I catch lots of fish with the shad-imitating shallow running crank bait, spinner bait or top-water lures. It's a seasonal pattern. I watch for shad movement on the surface. Bass always follows shad. If you're fishing and you notice you're around shad, you're also around bass.

Q: Are there other spots closer to home you'd recommend?

A: East Fork (in Bethel) or Caesar Creek (in Waynesville) and the Brookville Reservoir. That seasonal pattern of bass following shad will hold true.

Q: It must be nice to have your own private lake. Tell us about it.

A: I've lived on my Milford farm for the past six years. My 31/2 -acre pond is stocked with largemouth bass. We have a concrete boat ramp right on the pond, so I can put the boat out on the water for photo shoots. I'm also constantly called on to test new products, so I go out there for that.

If you go

What: Professional angler and TV show host Joe Thomas discusses the Land Between the Lakes

Where: Outdoor World Bass Pro Shops in Forest Fair Mall, Fairfield

When: 7 p.m. Wednesday

Admission: Free.

Information: www.outdoorworld.com


E-mail srhone@enquirer.com

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