Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Quest for Bronze

I had a problem.  I haven't spent nearly enough time in the rivers and creeks this year.  I hadn't caught a decent smallmouth bass yet in 2013 and the weather was getting cooler.  Plans were made to wade.

Dave caught the trip's first fish; a decent little smallmouth on a worm. I'd get the next smallie on a minnow.  A better fish.

Then another again on a minnow.

Dave realized the fish were preferring minnows today and scored a nicer fish after making the switch.

I saw the copper flash of the side of the fish as it hit my next cast.  I thought it was another decent smallmouth.

It wasn't. It was a decent rock bass.  Time for a rock bass selfie.  (at least I'm not doing the duck-face)

Cast after cast, minnow after minnow we'd pull bronze out of each hole we fished.  The morning was a success in numbers and in quality fish landed.  We knew we'd be happy if we had to call it quits right then but one more hole looked so inviting we had to cast at it.

More quality smallmouth came up for a photo.  Dave had his rod tucked into his wading belt.  His float ten feet from our position.  He asked me to help get a Plano box of floats out of the back pocket of his wading vest when I noticed his float was down.  I grabbed his rod and line between the reel seat and the big sripper guide and pulled tight to set the hook.  Dave took over and reeled in the best fish of the day; 16.5" long 9" girth calculated to 2.25# of bronze!

Dave and I were both happy with the quality of fish today and the excitement of the last catch hadn't worn off before my float went down.

Dave set the tone for my fight when he said "Holy $hi+, that's a GOOD ONE!!"  The fish made two runs.  I used my 7' custom Micro-Wave spinning rod as leverage to steer the fish away from a fallen log.  The fish jumped but I saw the #4 Gamakatsu Octopus-Circle hook was set firmly in it's lip. 

Bronze!  Big bronze!  18" long, 10.5" girth would calculate to 2.75#. WOW!  My biggest smallmouth of 2013 and a little smaller than my personal best.

I was complaining earlier this week I hadn't gotten out and caught my favorite species of fish.  I was complaining I hadn't put on my waders much and walked in moving water this season.  I decided to change that today and I'm glad that I did.  

I was on a Quest for Bronze, and bronze was what I got.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Bass Start Early

One of the things I have learned in the few years I've been fishing is that fish feed at night and the morning bite is usually better than any other part of the day.  Today was no exception.

Dave and I got to the pond we would fish before six AM.  We worked our way to our favorite spot and began calculating how we were going to fish what we could see.  It looked like some weeds grew where I knew there to be a ledge.  I tied a 2/0 Owner cutting point EWG hook to the 15# fluorocarbon with a simple palomar knot.  

I was wanting to fish a Rage Tail plastic called the Shellcracker.  In two times out fishing I've had two bass grab the bait on the drop and on both occasions I didn't get a hook in the fish.  I dragged them up to the surface and watched them let go of the bait.   This time I rigged it up weightless, Texas rigged, and texposed

I cast out into the dim light conditions and saw my bait land past some weeds.  I worked it like a stick worm, let it fall then raise it up.  Once I hit the weeds I flipped, flopped, hopped the little bait like a fish out of water on top of the weed growth.  When I reached a hole in the weeds I let the bait flop right in, twitching it once.  


Reel down and WHAM!  BASS!!

See, I told you bass start early.  I didn't know if it was luck or not but this bass hit pretty much like I thought it would; on the drop as the "dying brim" floated and twitched it's way to the bottom.  I cast out in a different direction bringing the bait to the weed edge again.  Again flopping, hopping, then drop........Bass!!   

Same cast, same retrieve, and same result.  Dave got one too!!  Nice double!!

The sun was lighting the sky but it still hadn't broken the horizon.  More early-shift bass bit our bait.  Then the finesse plastic bite stopped.  We kept casting but stopped catching.  As all good fishermen do Dave started switching baits, tying on other lures, other colors, other presentations until he found what the bass were wanting.  Swimbaits!!

Dave ran out of Big Hammer Swimbait tails so he decided to pull a Stange and rig up a 5" Berkley Flatback Shad on a Strike King KVD Heavy Cover Swimjig.

First looooooong cast, I hear the swimbait hit the water.  I hear Dave say $h!+, I think I'm snagged.  Then I see it jump and toss it's head back and forth....BASS!!!!!

This would be the biggest we caught weighing in at 4.25# on my Boga-Grip.  She did lots of acrobatic jumps and pulled drag on Dave's spinning reel four times to gain back line.  Here's what she was trying to toss with each jump.

See how completely this bass ate the 5" swimbait tail and the extra inch of swimjig?  The swimbait paddle tail is in the bass' stomach.  This is the textbook definition of the term "She ATE it!"

Needless to say I switched to a swimbait and began to catch bass too.

I didn't keep count but Dave figured I caught 12 and he hooked seven including the 4.25#.  My largest was 3.5# but not a bad morning at all.  

After a short hike back to my car Dave and I loaded rods in the hatchback then headed to his house to enjoy a homebrew.  We flipped through pictures on our phones of the fish we caught and marveled that all fish bit only two styles of lure.  

Early morning the bass were favoring smaller fish sized plastics.  After the sun peeked over the horizon the only thing that caught fish was a larger fish sized swimbaits.  Less than half of our fish were caught once the sun was up.  The bulk of our bass came early.  Bass start early, so I need to start just a bit earlier.  If I get to have this kind of a productive day I'm happy to start early too. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

Anchor Away

I had a lake I wanted to kayak before I had a kayak.  I had been taken to this lake a few years ago by Marty and Patrick from DuPage Angler in the summer for shoreline bass fishing.  We did ok but not great.  The next year I was taken here to fish for crappies.  There are nice crappies here and as I learned VERY nice bonus bass!  

Like most lakes and ponds in the Mid-West the shoreline weeds make it tough to fish from shore during the summer.  Enter the kayak.  Ok, so it was a literary device AND the next thing I did before I started paddling.

I pitched my minnow bucket over the side of the kayak and began to look for a spot past the shoreline weeds to look for crappies.  I anchored my kayak and positioned the anchor line at the rear of the kayak with my homemade anchor trolley.  Satisfied with where my boat was positioned I nose-hooked a minnow 1.5 feet under a float and cast to a spot clear of the weeds.   Soon I was rewarded with crappie.

It wasn't the largest I'd ever caught at this lake but at least the skunk was off.  I could concentrate on fishing now that my boat wasn't drifting across the lake.  In some situations the drift would be welcome but not when I had minnows under floats.

I wanted the minnows to get eaten by hungry crappie but the bass had other ideas.  After catching several small largemouth bass I decided to stop wasting minnows and pull anchor.  Anchor away I started paddling to a new spot.  My effort was rewarded with another crappie.

I used the rest of my minnows and caught more crappie and comparable size largemouth. 

The wind had been light but steadily blowing.  I say had been because it all of a sudden stopped. The surface of over half the lake glassed up and became still.  It was then when bass started rippling the surface eating bugs and minnows.  I quickly got my tackle box out and tied on a large perch patterned Chug Bug topwater plug.

I cast near a surface weed clump and chug-GluG-GLUG-chug-p a u s e-GluG-chug- l o n g e r pa u s e........SMASH!!!!!!

My plug disappeared.   I saw the strike and had the presence of mind to wait and reel my 15# fluorocarbon snugly to my custom spiral-wrapped casting rod.  My Lew's BB1 held tight as the rod bent and I felt the weight of the fish.  Ok, now it's time to set the hook!

Oh, that seemed to tick her off!  The bass leapt into the air shaking her head back and forth to let the trebles loose from her lip.  She hit the water and I got her closer to the kayak when she jumped again, tail walking and shaking her head.  I saw one of the two treble hooks that was attached to lip hanging free.  I didn't want to stick my thumb in the bass' mouth at the angle I had her at because I'd certainly get a treble hook in my hand.  I did the next best thing, I reverse-lipped her; stuck my index finger in the bass' mouth and my thumb under the bottom lip.  I had her!

3.5# on my Boga Grip scale.  I have to say that topwater of any type is cool but topwater on a kayak when you're right down at water level is awesome!!!

Nothing else would come on topwater today but that's ok.  Catching a big bass is enough.  The wind kicked up anyway and I was out of minnows.  Time to rig up the 4" Power Worm finesse rig. I can fish that in my sleep and pick apart areas between the weeds for bass.

I caught several small bass and a nice bluegill.

I pulled my anchor back to the center position on the trolley and hand-over-handed the anchor up from the depths.  Ok, it was really only about seven feet but I'm not used to anchoring the kayak yet and the anchor trolley performed flawlessly.

Several more small bass ate my Power Worm on the drift across the lake to where I had parked. I was ready to go.  The bluebird skies with the big fluffy clouds are pretty to look at but they make fishing stink.  I got some sun, I caught some crappies, I got rid of minnows in a way I hadn't thought to before, and I experienced topwater bassin' in a kayak.  All in all a great morning that started because I wanted to test my anchor trolley.

First Cast Creek

Dave and I try to go fishing every Sunday.  Schedules don't always permit but this Sunday we decided we wanted to wade.  I haven't been wading much this year.  This would be the third time out to walk in water and I wanted to check on a body of water I hadn't fished yet this year.

The creek looked inviting.  I'd never waded this stretch but it looked promising from the word go. In the photo above see how you can see the brown bottom in the foreground that is about a foot to a foot and a half deep.  Notice how the water takes on a blue-green color as you move closer to the far bank.  That's at least three feet deep.  I know because I set my float at least three feet down while I fished this spot from shore.  This is where we'd enter the creek.  

Unless the spot where you enter a moving body of water is exceedingly shallow it's a good idea to fish it from the bank before you walk through it.  Dave was faster getting baited up and pulled off a first cast fish; a nice, clean channel catfish.

I'm encouraged by the sign of life and quickly finish setting up my split-shot weights and nose hook a fathead minnow.  My first cast didn't go where I wanted it to.  Not close enough to the far side of the creek.  Adjustments were made to the float and my stance and by my third cast I hooked a big rock bass.

Full of hope we step into the creek and begin working our way upstream.  Dave has always been quite the bluegill angler where creeks are concerned.  He can always seem to find them.  Today was no different.  

Any bluegill you can lip is a good bluegill.  We'd catch bluegills and catfish until about 8:30 AM. Every time I fish this creek it takes until about 8:30 before the smallmouth start biting.  I guess they enjoy sleeping in.  No matter, four ate my minnows in four successive casts.  

The average size was 10 inches or so.  Not huge but fun to catch.  Dave caught a smallmouth with a beautiful color pattern.

Very white belly, dark bronze spots and bars by the eye; a gorgeous example of a juvenile smallmouth.  It, and all other fish caught today were released to grow larger.  I'll come back and catch them in a year or two.  They can have time to fatten up and grow.  

When all was said and done Dave caught six species of fish and I got five, missing only the venerable creek chub.  We could have caught many more depending  on what species had come up the creek to spawn and decided to stay.

We finally decided to call it a day and began our walk back to our entry point and car.  In total Dave and I each landed a dozen smallmouth, a largemouth or two, some channel catfish, a handfull of bluegills, different sized rock bass, and Dave bested me by catching a sixth species; a creek chub.

It was a good Sunday walk in the water.  A good time out with an old friend.  This creek is a good one.  I've fished other stretches and it can produce some excellent sized fish.  Today nothing over 12" was caught but we enjoyed every minute of it.  

A creek doesn't have to be a small body of water but most around here are.  We have to walk and cross many yards of unproductive water to get to the deeper holes that the fish live in.  Once we find the holes we sometimes have to work them from many angles and drift our bait past many times before we get bit.  

Today we knew it was going to be a good day early on because Dave caught first cast.  It doesn't always happen that way but of any place I've fished I'd bet this creek to produce a first cast fish before most others.  It's a special place away from the stresses of our lives.  Surrounded by the beauty of nature we bait, cast, catch, release, snag, break off, retie, and adjust our floats.  These motions become fluid and practiced and routine with time.  What doesn't become routine is the creek; it's natural beauty and ever changing landscape make it a challenge to wade and a challenge to fish.

To call it my happy place is an understatement.  To call it by name is forbidden.  From now on I may call it by my own made up name; I may start calling it First Cast Creek.   Today it was, and may it stay that way!