- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 15, 2002

Of the dozens of outdoors-oriented books that cross our desk each year, the majority aren't worth the paper they're printed on. Some are written by scholars so dull, you'll be fast asleep by the end of the dedication page, and others simply don't deliver what they promise. Here are four that fit our requirements: They must be able to teach and/or entertain. These books are primarily teachers.
"Secrets of a Champion," by Kevin VanDam with Louie Stout ($16.95, plus $5 shipping, KVD Publishing, P.O. Box 174, Jones, Mich. 49061). The authorship of this terrific bass book that reveals the fish-catching secrets of one of America's pre-eminent tournament anglers should actually say "by Louie Stout" because VanDam admits right from the start that Stout did most of the work.
Stout, by the way, is a top-flight outdoors writer whose magazine pieces are read by fishermen all over North America. However, the Michigan-headquartered VanDam wasn't stingy when he shared the supremely useful fish-catching tricks that made him such a huge success on the pro tour.
For example, VanDam's favorite spinnerbaits most always sport willowleaf blades, no matter what time of year. In these parts, you'll hear local "experts" proclaim that the sharply pointed willowleaf blades are only good during certain seasons. Oh yeah? Well, tell that to one of the money-makingest bass phenoms on the planet.
And when was the last time you actually "doctored" your spinnerbaits blades to alter the action, or shined them up with toothpaste? VanDam/Stout provide the details. The same goes for lipless rattle baits, such as the Rat-L-Trap and Diamond Shad. Have you considered removing the rear hook, adding a bigger than normal treble hook to the front and then fishing across massive weeds with the altered lure? VanDam tells you what to do. He also says he prefers to use snaps (not snap swivels) on jerkbaits and crankbaits to give them better action.
There's lots and lots more to learn from this Michigan pro who has earned the admiration of every Southern bass pro. The book is well illustrated, including sketches when needed, to show you the bass-catching tricks used by one of America's best anglers.
"The New River Guide,"
by Bruce Ingram ($11.95, Ecopress, Corvallis, Ore., [email protected]). Bruce Ingram, who lives in Fincastle, Va., knows the New River like the inside of his boat. From the high country of North Carolina through the gorges and over the ridges of West Virginia and Virginia, Ingram has experienced this magnificent waterway first-hand.
The book is divided into four sections. As Ingram says, "Fly and spin fishermen, as well as canoeists, rafters, and bird watchers, hopefully will find Section1 filled with enough 'how-to' tips to make their time spent on the New more enjoyable."
Three "where-to" sections cover the New River in the area above Claytor Lake, below Claytor Lake to Bluestone Lake, and the river from Bluestone Lake to Fayette Station.
Nothing is left to chance. You'll see maps, road numbers, precise instructions for safe boating, including degrees of difficulty in some sectors for kayakers and rafters. There is fishing advice, including what types of lures to use during various times of the year. Even the names, addresses and phone numbers of outfitters, fishing guides, tourism promoters and lodges are provided, along with precise instructions about where and when to visit which part of this grand old river. Can't ask for any more than what Ingram put into this worthwhile book.
"Knowing Bass,"
by Keith A. Jones, Ph.D., ($26.95, hardcover, Globe-Pequot Press, globe-pequot.com). Jones is a distinguished scientist who, of course, uses the scientific approach to catching more and bigger fish. For 16 years, Jones has studied bass as director of fish research at the Berkley Fish Research Center in Spirit Lake, Iowa.
The man knows his subject intimately. Jones shares tons of fascinating facts about bass biology, the bass's life history, its organs of vision, hearing, smell and taste, including the flavors and fragrances that bass love or abhor. Soon you'll understand how smell and taste control a bass' feeding behavior, and thus you'll also discover the best types of fishing lures that might trigger an attack in certain situations. If you're a serious bass angler, this nicely color-illustrated book must become part of your fishing research library.
"Big Trout
How and Where to Target Trophies," by Bernie Taylor ($22,95, hardcover, Globe-Pequot Press, globe-pequot.com). Taylor, who lives in Oregon's Willamette Valley, writes, "Most anglers only dream about catching brown and rainbow trout [that weigh] over 8 pounds or brook trout over 4 pounds." However, in his book, such sizes are minimum standards for trophy trout hunters.
You will study more than 60 of North America's top trout lakes, tailwaters, and migratory trout rivers, then learn how and when to fish them. Nothing is overlooked. Taylor, with the advice and counsel of some super trophy trout guides and anglers, passes along invaluable information about the bigger specimens' behavior, feeding peculiarities, lures, color and fly patterns that are likely to elicit a strike. Also, the best times of day to go after big fish and when not to pay any attention to solunar time tables that so many of us live with day to day.
From Quebec to Montana, and from Oregon to British Columbia, this is a wonderful learning curve, well illustrated with black-and-white sketches and photos. Again, if your search for big trout becomes a very personal quest, this is a must-have book. Taylor did an exceptional job here.
Look for Gene Mueller's Outdoors column every Sunday and Wednesday, and his Fishing Report every Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com.

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