Sunday, July 26, 2009

Out of Ammo 7/25/09

Why do I bring so much stuff? I hate to not have the one bait the fish are biting with me. Got out Saturday AM to a fine mist of rain. It lightened up midday, but the sun was there to warm rather than drive fish into hiding.

Got a 13" and 16"er on a white spinnerbait in front of and behind the first riffle. The last bites of the day on the spinnerbait.

I hit this 17.75" smallmouth on a tube on the inside current seam (nice winter hole) across from this riprap (produced nothing). I caught an 18"er there last time through with Bhugh. This time I planned on doing the whole wade from the bridge below the famous Santa Claus to the railroad and walk back.

The tube bite was sporadic and unpredictable. There was zero topwater bite. I needed a search bait to cover water. I threw on a 4" green pumpkin/red flake grub (darterhead). The grub started producing fish in places where I'd thought they would be, but weren't to my other baits. What's more the bass were all decent fish all day- hardly a dink all day. I still doubted whether anything epic would happen. Then it did.

The bait I always thought was a dink magnet got slammed parallel to the lay downs behind me. I knew it was large. It kept going through my head that I had a size 1 hook on that jig and how lots of fish seemed to find their way off when fishing LMB in a local creek a month ago. To keep the fish out of the wood and keep it from jumping, I horsed it with rod tip down. Beached the beast. Would have probably been 20" #10 of the year if it had a normal tail. Arthritis of the tail. 19.5".

Continued catching nice 12-15" smallies when it dawned on me I had dropped my grub bag somewhere. I was down to the last jig and last grub. The bite was sick. The hook broke while removing from a fish. Oooff. The bass were biting other lures, but the grub was catching the same quality at about 5-1. Worse, I was about to hit the best part of the wade. It was around dinner time. I finally got some fish to attack the Techno Minnow 2000. This resulted in 2 dinks and a 17"er. I still had almost a mile of prime water to go. Tired and dejected from running out of ammo. I power walked back to the car.

Could have been a 50 fish day, but not bad at all.

On the walk back, I was yelled at by a weirdo, then invited to party by two different groups of locals. Did you know 17"+ SMB can be caught on live crickets?

33 SMB (19.5, 17.75, 17, 16, 3-15) 5 Googs

Friday, July 24, 2009

After Work Dog Wade 7/24/09

Got off work early and picked up the dog for a wade. Every bridge had a car parked at it. Finally found a spot by 5:30.

Got one 14" fish off the front of a rootwad (shade). It picked Wake Crank of surface. Only bite until sun started going down in earnest. Got another 13" cranking the WC up a current seam. That was the last time I got bit on that bait, they just weren't chasing at all.

I started working a Sammy 100 really close to wood. Plop it down, one long walk to one side, let it sit, walk to the other side, let it sit.... bam! Another 14" smallmouth. This pattern kept repeating for a while- all 13-14" fighters. I was in the middle of a long pause, when a large fish suddenly shot upstream past my lure. A couple casts later, I hooked up with a good fish that turned out to be 18.75".

2009 is the year of the 18"+ smallmouth, must have been an oustanding year class. Oh, and someone snuck in the picture:

8 SMB (18.75") the rest 13-15" Most came in about 2 hours of fishing.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Defending the Home Field

Went to catch fish Saturday, plan was to fish in the AM, then meet up with Kevin from Chi town (Illinois Smallmouth Alliance) at 11 and fish in the afternoon. I got on the water about 7:10am; the stream was in good shape clarity wise with 3+' of visibility. Weather was cloudy/overcast and a slight breeze. The sun peeked out on several occasions, but didn't stay long. The stream is filled with silt and wood, somehow smallmouth still magically exist in this man created ecological disaster.

I got a slap at a buzzbait at the bridge, but as has been characteristic of most buzzbait strikes this year seemed more a warning to the buzzbait to get out of Mr. Smallmouth’s territory. I decided to go *Techno Minnow 2000, because of the ability to stop the bait and allow the bass to get a tantalizing look before vrooping it away. It was difficult to see because of the low morning sun making patches of light and shadow, throwing off depth perception.

Spotted a sycamore root wad along the first outside bend up from my put in. The Techno splashed down and ripped twice, SMACK, SPLASH, (miss, miss) now I slowly retrieved it with rod tip high/line completely out of the water for maximum noise. It didn't make it a total of 10' before a large smallmouth was on and then bulldogging left and right. My key with topwater plugs is not to pull the bait away but to keep working it until a fish is felt on the line. Braided line and very sharp hooks: I never [i]set[/i] the hook on a topwater strike so very seldom pull away the bait. The fish's momentum is more than enough to cause a Gammie round bend treble to sink home. Then I keep a tight line. This helps from having the topwater 'jerksies'. Here's a 18"+ chunky stream smallmouth bass:

I moved up and worked some deeper pools loaded with wood piles. Buzzbait was a no go, so I worked the LC wake crank over, around, and through the wood piles. The bass responded to the bait slowly moved, or a let it sit approach. Lightly plop it down within a foot of cover usually meant a strike. Sit to an 8 count, twitch, sit for 8 count, twitch, speed it away, pause, speed it away. The sitting and the twitching usually worked on the bigger fish off each laydown, the stop and go away from cover picked up dinks. The AM ended with fish on flukes, tubes, and topwater. At that point, it was a nice mixed bag of sizes with 11 SMB, a chub, and a 11" white bass. About 10:30am I headed back to meet with Kevin.

We parked Kevin at a creek bridge that turned out later to be just a feeder creek bridge. Looked just like the real creek- same width at the bridge :oops: The map is notoriously hard to read here and it is easy to get confused as they don't label the roads. This would allow for some extra walking later.

Got on them pretty quick. For me, the WC was still rocking it, followed up with a tube for a fish after fish. Plenty of dinks which is a very good sign for the health of the stream, but also a good diversity in size 6-14.5". Had a 17-18"er come out of the water when I put the WC on a laydown. Whiffed. Kevin caught three fish out of the hole on a chart and white tube. At the next laydown, I worked the bait from every angle. Behind my head in this pic is the path I took with the usual pattern. On the last pause, I saw the large smallie come up and look at the bait, the engulf it. Awesome. Another 18".

At another bend, I made a long bomb cast above a laydown near current, the bait got destroyed by another large fish who rubbed my bait off on the roots. I had to almost go scuba diving to get my WC back. That area produced several more nice smallies on top. Another big black bass went airborne after I landed it by a log, but didn't hook as it came airborne. Kevin was regretting not taking advantage of BPS LC sale. In his defense, he fishes the Kankakee in IL, which is large, fast flowing rocky river without the 3'+ visibility we had. He has never fished wood like this where target practice and lure retrieval is important. Loaded with 12lbs mono (great for preventing break offs there), I could outcast him by 15-20 yards. Not good for small Indiana streams with spooky bass where long casts mean less spooked fish.

Kevin threw a tube and crank bait most of the day. Funny point of the day was when Kev went behind a laydown to retrieve a snag. An enormous laydown decided to break off with the slightest pressure from Kevin. Nearly making a Chicago deep dish pizza. It made a huge splash. On his next, cast Kevin pulled a 13-14" smallie in right off the laydown. Later on, I showed him how to work a Sammy 100. Despite lack of confidence, he caught a fish on it a few casts in. Gave me a chuckle.

We walked some dead, silty stretches that absolutely exhausted us.

Overall, I waded 6.3 miles on the two stretches combined. Kevin and I fished about 4.7. Our plan to have a car at both ends utterly failed (my fault), as his car wasn't at our take out bridge; we got a ride back to my car by a kindly stranger. Later, we found we had parked at a feeder creek about the same size at the bridge as the main flow! Not knowing this, we would have had a 6 mile walk back in the dark to the put in. Kindly strangers are awesome. Never assume a creek is YOUR creek.

The health of the stream seemed ok, despite what seemed a missing year class in the 15-16" range and large stretches eliminated or silted in.

*Techno minnow 2000 is the Lucky Craft Splashtail 90

BT 43 SMB (2-18) 2 White bass, Chub - I did fish 3.5 hours longer
Illinois 12 SMB Goog

Friday, July 17, 2009

Change in presentation

I'm going to slowly go back and edit borders on my fish pics. Makes them pop a bit more.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

7/11/09- More Pigs

Hit the water early Saturday am with my golden retriever in tow, needing to be back in time for wife's B-day dinner. Fishing by 6:30a. Nothing for 3 hours. We spooked a couple of nice fish out of ridiculously shallow choke points.

About 10 or 11 it started to look like rain. Fish woke up. In the next 3 hours, I caught 20 Smallies from 12"-20.5" on Wakecrank (three or four on tube). Letting it sit, twitching it a little, varying the speed of retrieve and often letting it come back up to rest. Battery on camera was depleted or more pics of heifers and silly dog. Fish were all crazy fat and have obviously been eating heavy.

Pulled an 18" off of very shallow run in front of laydown. What a fight.

As the thunderstorm came down on us, I lost an absolute beast on a jump at some push water, then it jumped again. A few minutes later 100 yards upstream, in the pouring rain, the wake C got destroyed. Even the big, normally lazy fish were tearing me up. Metabolism speeding up. Landed a 20.5" after getting the twine tested. Again, plop the bait (let 'em hear it), let the feather dance, couple slow cranks, couple fast ones, pause to let it come up, then speed it away cranking full speed. Repeat. Something in there kept getting their attention.

Get out if you can, smallies are at their best.

20 SMB 6.5 hours(20.5", 18", 17", 3-16-16.99" 1 15") the rest around 13-14

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Got out to the water by 5:15PM. Decided to run and gun a stretch that has taken me 7-8 hours in the past if the fishing is good. Water was low, clear to 2.5', overcast, light sprinkle. Stretch above the bridge had gotten much deeper. Had to climb out and through nettles.

At the first good spot, I pulled a 15.75" smallie off the front of a laydown with a jointed wakecrank. Then a dink. Another dink. Threw the WC over towards the back of the deepest part of the pool above some willows, plop, pause.... crank....BOOOOSH! Gulp. Jumps...hits the water like a brick, runs drag left, runs drag right. Hooked well. Keep the fish down. Another drag pulling run. Get it in the shallows. Ufff. Finally. Wow.


The bass was thick and had fought like a lion. Some quick pics and off she went! A couple pics with different perspective.

Hit some fish here and there on the Wake Crank. Three times a bass hit the bait shortly after splashdown before turning reel handle.

Finally, came to a spot far upstream where a tree used to lay across the creek. It was gone now, but the stump was still there. My first cast was well short. I was using a 3.5" tube and hadn't compensated for the missing weight. Second cast bounced off a root and into the water. I didn't feel the bite, but I did feel the fish running with it. Tightened up and it was on. Run after run. Didn't seem like a large fish until it realized it was being brought to me then it spazed out. Got the fiesty fish on its side in the shallows. Looked like it could be another 20", instead measured out 19.5".

Caught several more and went home.

15 SMB (20", 19.5" 2-15.-15.75") in 4 hours

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Fun with Numbers

Recently compiled my stream fishing data for the first 6 months of this year (January 1st-June 30th). During which time, I caught smallmouth in every month. Included is my data in 2008 and 2007 for comparison.

Click for detail:

I break the data down further for each stream, temps, and water levels, making note of water clarity and weather. That isn't being shared. Sorry.

2009 has been great for bigger smallmouth bass, the number of 18"+ smallmouth is way up. Numbers of fish seems down per hour. The numbers days are still ahead of us.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

7/5/09 skunk

I hit three new creeks on Sunday. Smallies did not cooperate. I was prepared to keep trying new streams until something took. A bored phone call to my wife talked me down from the situation. Still drove over 200 miles for 0 fish.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Mr.Ploppy's Magic Ride 7/3/09-Bonus 4 patterns for $$$ of 1

Batmobile was in the shop, so clusterfrick was out, Bhugh did all the driving. We arrived at the NCS around 7:15am. The water was cool, but clear to 2+', a nice green color.We started out on a new stretch I had never fished of a favorite northern sidewinder.

To start we threw buzzbaits, tubes, wake crank, Sammy....dead sea.

We marched past marginal water, mission to prop up the rookie's confidence. I told him a story about the fish turning on when the water warmed a degree or two. Pattern 1: No pattern- cold overnight temps not great for AM fishing.

We waded quickly through a long silted pool when it riffled up with a riprap bank on right hand side. I banged out 3 consecutive smallies: dink to 12" range, losing a fourth. Bret came over and snarfed up number 5 from near the riprap. We worked our way forward quartering casts from the rirap bouncing downstream. I bomb casted a tube at an inside rainbow arcing current seam. I got hit pretty good and knew a good fish was on. Then it was gone . As I reeled in my slack, it had not left but shot downstream rapidly. I was in for a crazy fight afterwards. I can honestly say that fish was one of the better fighting smallmouth I have ever faced. It didn't come up and I thought it was a carp. It measured 18". I went and walked where the fish had hit on a seemingly featureless current seam. Two half buried boulders had served her ambush point.

We moved on and for about 2 hours caught fish on tubes. I managed a 14, 16, 12, and a 16.5 on tubes tumbled in current fast and slow. Brett caught some dinks on his 3" tube and a fish on a Wolkabuzz. I managed 2 splashdown fish on Mr.Ploppy (LC RC 1.5 Wakecrank). It's quickly becoming famous for getting slammed shortly after impact. It lands without a hard thunk. The jointed tail feather wavering in the current. It didn't get bit once when I moved it. The largest was this 19" spawned out smallmouth. The fish annihilated the bait in a deep gap behind some water willows. Almost instantly.

Meet Mr. Ploppy:

Mr Ploppy shakes his tail feathers to attract all the hot smallie girls

Pattern 2: tumble tubes in somewhat agressive feeding areas, plop away Mr.Ploppy.

Then the sun came out. Picture a balloon deflating. That was our fortune for a couple hours, when cloud cover moved in and smallies went nuts. I discovered ripping a tube was getting hit by pulling the tube out of a 17-18" bass nearly at my feet. Pattern 3:rip something fast. Tubes, grubs, and then buzzbaits. We went on a pretty sweet run of dink fish after fish for two hours when...

The sun emerged from the clouds! Slowed wayyy down.

Brings us to Pattern 4: Clouds came back and brought on the stink. We caught like one or two small fish. On the way back, I did have a monster hit the Kelly J, pull drag, then disappear.

BT 29 SMB (19", 18", 16.5", 16", 2-3 14") 5 Googs
BH 17 SMB 3-4 Googs

About 8 hours of wading in the neighborhood of 4 miles.