Basslog Part 1
Published on Bassmaster.com January 19, 2010
Now that we're in the cold season and most fishermen are indoors, I thought this would be a good time to talk about the inner workings of the Insider Basslog. I believe if you have a better idea of how the Basslog works, you will be more likely to take advantage of its capabilities. To set the stage, I want to mention how it (and I) evolved to where we are today. I think you will find my story interesting.
At the age of 24 (1990), I moved to the Lake Fork area to pursue a fishing guide career. I had an old worn-out 14-foot flat-bottom boat with a 6-horse motor and only a 2-gallon gas tank. It was a lot like something Harry 'N' Charlie would fish out of. It wasn't much to look at, but it put me on the fish, and I had it customized perfectly for bass fishing. I was broke and could only take out one client at a time, but I was pursuing my dream and had the perfect boat to put in my hours on the water on a low budget. I managed to fish 200+ days a year, even though I rarely had a paying trip. After all, who's gonna pay to fish out of a leaky johnboat with an inexperienced 24-year-old guide? I was so broke, I would sometimes sleep in my boat to save the two gallons of gas it took to go home and back to the lake.
With no money or credit, I decided to seek financial aid to go to college while pursuing my dream. To my surprise, I qualified for government grants (free money) that covered my books and tuition. I also qualified for school loans and I signed for every dollar they would give me. As soon as I got my first school loan check, I immediately spent the entire amount on a 20-year-old Ranger bass boat. I knew that was irresponsible and I would never recommend it, but I only had to justify it to myself. I was then able to take out two clients at a time and charge the going rate for a guide.
By the time I graduated, I had accumulated quite a debt in school loans. Only by this time, rather than having the loan checks as an extra income, I was expected to pay them back. I did start booking a lot more trips and even won a couple of good tournaments, but it was very unlikely that I could support my fishing habit, much less pay back my school loans on my fishing income alone. So I had to consider getting a real job.
About the time I graduated from college (1994), I was issued a credit card with a $1,000 limit. I quickly maxed it out and purchased my first computer. The first day I had the computer, I put together a database for my fish. I went through my photo album of Polaroids and entered all the fish from my catches. Knowing that bass are pattern-oriented, I wanted to record every fish I caught — not just the big ones. So, I started carrying a notepad with me on the boat. When we caught a fish, I would record the time, water conditions, sky conditions, cover, structure, etc. Then, when I got home I would transfer it to my database. I learned more about databases from my fishing records than I ever did in college. In fact, I became so proficient with databases that it got me in the door to my first real job out of college — with Microsoft Corporation.
(A side note for the computer geek: My first computer had Windows 3.1, 4 megabytes of ram, and a whopping 75-mb hard drive. Microsoft Office Professional took 31 floppy diskettes [remember those things?] to install and wouldn't even run on my 4-mb machine. Since I only had one memory slot on my PC, I had to remove my 4-mb chip and replace it with an 8-mb chip (that cost me $200) just to run Microsoft Access. I eventually upgraded that computer to a 250-mb hard drive, 2400 baud modem, Windows 95, and a single speed CD ROM before retiring it. Compare that to today's technology.)
I realize that's probably too much information, but the moral of my story is that I went to college because the loans supported my fishing habit. Then, my desire to improve my fishing with statistics on my catches led me to database work. My database experience led to 6 years of corporate database work, which eventually led to the skills necessary to create the Basslog.
In my six years of corporate database work, I made enough money to pay off my school loans, get a house, start a family, and pay cash for a nice new boat. The timing couldn't have been better for me. Lake Fork was going through a virus and most of the guides (including me) were fishing other lakes. While at the same time, corporations were paying big bucks for Web site and database work.
About the time of 9/11, the IT market became flooded; it was the perfect time for me to get back into guiding full-time. By this time, the Internet was big and I was able to take advantage of my Web site and database experience to showcase my pictures and advertise my guide service. I learned how to optimize search engines so well that you could go to most any search engines and type phrases like "big bass pictures" or "Lake Fork fishing guide" and my site (bassfishing.org) would come up first. So, it didn't take me long to start booking 200+ days a year as a full-time guide.
The reason for bringing all this up is that a database as complex as the Insider Basslog requires a database professional as well as an experienced fisherman. But most bass fishermen don't know databases and most database programmers don't know bass fishing. Before I put together the Basslog, I had seen other attempts at a community database. But they were made by fishermen — not database programmers. So, the end result was more like a spreadsheet or a word processing document than a database. Those programs didn't have correct structure to make useful queries. However, I just happened to be blessed with both database experience and fishing experience. I knew what it needed to do and had the ability to make it happen. In this article and future articles, I will do my best to explain how the Basslog works and what sets it apart from other attempts at a community database.
An interesting thing I've noticed about bass fishing lures is that there is a relatively finite number of designs that all lures fall into. There are thousands of manufacturers and variations, but they can all fit into certain categories. Consider soft jerkbaits for example. You may refer to them by their manufacturer names (Slug-O, Chatterbait, Fluke, Bass Assassin, etc.), but they all fall in the soft jerkbait category. So, not including brand names in the Basslog made it possible to have an exhaustive list. Occasionally, a new bait will hit the market (like the swimming blade jig) that requires a new category. But that's the exception, not the rule. Most likely, every lure you have ever used will fall into one of these general and more specific finite categories. Click here to view the full list of categories.
The main challenge of getting the Basslog set up was the fact that lures in each category have different details. For instance, spinnerbaits have blade type, blade color, skirt color and weight, whereas a Texas rig worm has weight type, weight size, plastic worm type, and plastic worm color. You couldn't just have an unrelated series of list boxes or you would end up with unrealistic possibilities like a blade type for a plastic worm. The Basslog is set up in a way that gives each lure category its own detail choices. After you select a lure category, it goes to the database and brings back only those details that correspond to your chosen category.
All baits have a size, but they aren't all measured the same way. We measure some baits (like hard jerkbaits) by inches, others (like lipless crankbaits) by ounces, and others (like soft jerkbaits) we simply call small, medium, or large. So, it was necessary to give each lure category its own set of size details. Color is very similar. Even though all lures have a color, a generic list of colors wouldn't work. Soft plastics, for example, have a different set of colors than hard plastic or metal baits. Consider the color chrome. It's not uncommon for hard plastics or spoons, but have you ever used a chrome soft plastic? Likewise, firetiger is a popular crankbait color, but where else do you see that color? This is why in the Basslog, each subcategory has its own set of size and color options. Another reason to give each subcategory its own color list is to minimize the size of the list. If we listed every possible soft plastic color in the list for each bait, there would be a ton of colors that didn't get chosen. Even soft plastics have different color lists depending on their subcategory. I find it interesting that most fishermen use different colors for floating plastic worms or soft jerkbaits than they would for Texas or Carolina rigs, even though the soft plastic is the same. So, I found it beneficial to give every subcategory its own choice of colors. Doing so helps to minimize scrolling through color lists, making it much quicker to log your fish.
The Basslog is designed to be a quick and accurate way to enter all the details of your catch and be able to learn from your own records as well as the help of others. Be sure to check back often. In the next couple of articles, I plan to explain all the details and features of the Basslog.