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