Tuesday, April 30, 2019

The "Make Fun of Me, Will Ya" Bass...

Continuing with my story telling, as we sit around our virtual campfire, let me tell you about a what might have been my first bass over five pounds out of my home lake.   It's a kind of an "I'll show you" story, sort of a tale of an underdog, overcoming the odds and achieving a goal.  But for me, it turned out to be a good memory that may have shaped my approach to bass fishing altogether.

This story took place in the late 1980's, way before anyone, that I knew of, heard of blogging or the internet.  In fact, I don't think that Al Gore had even invented the internet yet!  This particular lake was one that I learned to fish on, just a couple miles from where I grew up.  This lake never really got any serious bass fishing pressure.  Most of the anglers that fished there were focused on fishing for the stocked with trout, as I had also done for several years prior to this event.

Spring was in full force.  The spring peepers had been chirping for a few weeks, forsythia bushes were in full bloom for almost as long, and eastern redbud and cherry tree flowers filled the landscape splashes of pink and purple. Other trees and shrubbery sprouted new leaves that tinted the landscape with a hint of green.  Parking was limited, because just a week earlier, the Maryland DNR  stocked several thousand rainbow trout into the lake.   As we'd come to learn, all these signs meant that big bass cruised the shallows in search of a fishy meal.
Howard sports a nice spring time bass caught on the lake that I grew up fishing.
Certain popular access points were packed with anglers that fished for the stocked trout, most of them seated on buckets that contained their tackle, bait, supplies and perhaps, lunch.  Their rods were seated between the twigs of carefully selected fork sticks that they stuck in the bank in front of them, intensely focused on their rod tips for the slightest of nibble of finicky trout.  The hot baits at the time were round globs of Velveeta Cheese or Berkeley Powerbait molded to their hook, or the commonly used and equally effective bait, a juicy fat night crawler.

Other trout seeking anglers found room  and cast out Roostertail, Mepps, or Joe's Flies spinners in search of more aggressive trout.  That day, many of those using bait or lures already had stringers with a few trout dangling in the water as they sought their limit of five trout per person per day.

One of these access points was at the upper end of the lake, where a road bridge crossed the main feeder creek.  On both sides of the bridge, trout anglers stood or sat shoulder to shoulder in pursuit of their coveted limit of trout.

The upper end of this lake also was, as we discovered, a pretty good area to find bass.  It made sense.  There was shallow water near a deeper channel, with a nice gravel point that we suspected was a spawning area.  There was plenty of debris and cover on the bottom.  On the other side of the channel, there were stumps on the flat providing nice ambush points.  Also, the upper end of the lake happened to be the Northern end of the lake, where the lake received plenty of sunshine from the Southern sky, providing the warmest water in the lake that time of year.

The incoming creek sported a good population of minnows.  Stocked trout roamed in and out of the creek.  My buddies and I always wondered if the largest bass in the lake fed on these stocked trout as opportunities arose.  Or, perhaps they kept minnows on the move into locations where largemouth could wait in ambush.

My fishing pals that day, Howard and John, joined me at the lake after work on one warm cloudy afternoon in April.  Although the vast majority of anglers that frequented this lake targeted trout, there were, at times, guys like us that liked to target crappie or bass.

On the East side of the bridge, there was a swampy area that most of the fishermen avoided walking through.  After the swampy area, there was a long, shallow point that led to the creek channel about a cast away.  There, brush piles often held good populations of panfish and bass.  The creek channel ran through the bridge, along the Eastern shore, and then turned and followed the point out into main lake.  The use of hip boots or waders allowed us to traverse the swamp like area, and provided us with more room to fish or wade out off the point, away from the crowd.

Howard and John waded out off the point, and tossed Texas rigged plastic worms fished on light spinning gear to the brushpiles, where they hooked into a few keeper sized bass.  I decided to lob a bigger lure, a half ounce white tandem spinnerbait, along the creek channel, hoping for a lunker largemouth bass.  I changed out the outer blade in favor of a huge size 7 willowleaf blade.  This spinnerbait put out a lot of flash and vibration, and I felt that it surely would call in a big bass if there was one nearby.  If that didn't work, my plan was to switch off to fishing soft plastics. 

I thoroughly worked the side of the point along the channel to the right of the brush piles, and then cast parallel to shore to my right along the creek channel.  The oversized willowleaf blade moved a lot of water, perhaps a key to tickling a big mama bucketmouth's lateral line and allow her to hone in on the beefy bait.

The spinnerbait created a loud splash on each cast, prompting the trout guys to grumble that, perhaps, I was scaring their fish.  My lure never went near anyone's lines or where they were casting, but many of the trout guys, sitting on their buckets, rather than concentrating on their rod tips, joked out loud  and made fun of me tossing such a large bait.

Why were they mocking me?  I have no idea.  Perhaps they felt that the splash of my spinnerbait chased their precious trout away.  Maybe they just didn't know that there were nice bass in this lake and trout were the only game in town.  Maybe the sight of such a large lure seemed silly to them.  I have no idea, but, they were laughing it up pretty good.  I just ignored them and kept casting.  I had a good feeling about my lure choice.

After several casts worked parallel to shore along the creek channel, a fish finally annihilated my spinnerbait.  After I set the hook, my rod doubled over, and she shot straight up out of the water and fell back with a tremendous splash.  My immediate thought was one of elation and surprise that I hooked this big bass, followed by the thought, "That outta scare the trout away!"

I fought her for a bit, and, as she tired, I was able to wade out and lip her.  I hoisted her out of the water, and showed off her massive mouth and bulging gut to my fishing pals.  This fish was at least twenty inches long, perhaps slightly longer, and may have been my first five pound or larger bass out of my home lake.  I didn't carry a tape or scale back then, or a camera, for that matter.  Heck, I was just out there for fun.
I used a white half ounce tandem spinnerbait with an oversized willowleaf blade to catch the bass mentioned in the story that was similar in size to this fat one.
As you may suspect, the laughing and mocking ceased.  At first, it was so quiet that you wouldn't know anyone was there.  The trout guys observed, jaws agape, wondering what they had witnessed.  My friends started giving me props, and it felt good.  I felt vindicated.  I was extremely thrilled by the experience, so much so, that my hands shook.  The trout guys really gasped when I released her back into the lake and watched her swim off.

After that, wouldn't you know, that some of them scrambled through their tackle boxes in search of spinnerbaits!  That was pretty funny.  As it turns out, I had the last laugh that afternoon!  But, the overall lesson for me was to confirm that, what I read about in my fishing magazines, that big lures catch big springtime bass, a lesson that I'd remember time and again throughout my angling years.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Steve's New Boat, a Maiden Voyage Big Bass Story

When I first considered writing about my big bass stories, I pretty much had a few of my bigger bass in mind.  As I pondered my plans for blogging these stories in the future, it occurred to me that I need to include my fishing buddies big fish stories as well (for those trips that we shared).  After all, it's our fishing world, not just mine.  So, from now on, I'll tell their tales as I saw them, with pictures, if I have them.  Not only can I share our experiences with you, but my fishing buds and I can look back and enjoy these memories.  This particular story tells of two memorable bass caught on the same trip.

March 19th, 2012 marked a new day in the history of Captain Steve Kelley and his fishing career, the maiden voyage of his brand new Mako boat.  His boat is similar to a bass boat, with a front deck and a strong trolling motor, but has a center console.  It has a 200 horsepower outboard and is pretty fast for a bay style boat.  He likes to fish saltwater as well as the tidal waters of our state.
Steve's boat is a perfect match for what he loves to do, fish the tidal rivers and the Chesapeake Bay. 
After launching his new rig, on our way out from the ramp, we debated whether to fish the main stem of the river, or fish a nearby tidal creek.  Just a couple days earlier, I fished with another buddy of mine in the creek and did well, so I convinced Steve to give that spot a shot, and then try the main river later.

A chrome/blue back Rat-L-Trap was my lure of choice to start with.  In my opinion, this lure somewhat resembles a blueback herring or other flashy shad like baitfish.  The chrome coloration, tight but heavy vibration, and lots of flash on the retrieve are irresistible to hungry springtime bass.  I felt it was a good choice for a sunny day.  Actually, I did well on that lure a couple days prior, therefore, I had confidence in it, more importantly, it was already tied on, and I was too lazy to tie on anything else.  Meanwhile, Steve had a Yo Zuri version of a lipless crankbait tied on in the same basic color scheme.

The tide was low, water visibility was about 2 feet or so.  Water temps were in the upper fifties.  It was a beautiful, seventy degree, sunny day with just a small amount of wind.

Our plan was to cast lipless crankbaits and focus on the vast emerging weed beds.  The wind is our ally when fishing like this because if you position your boat correctly, you can use the wind to your advantage, drift, and cover quite a bit of water, saving juice on the trolling motor.

We started along a deeper channel where it met a large weed bed that was at least four or five acres in size.  As I rearranged the weeds with my crankbait, Steve hooked up on his very first cast, and landed his biggest tidal river largemouth as of that date, a stout twenty one inch hawg that I’d say weighed about six pounds, although we didn’t have a scale.  How's that for a start on the maiden voyage of your boat?

He worked the lure back, and made sure to just tick the top of the weeds with the lure. When the lure hung up slightly on the weeds, Steve ripped it off the weeds and the bass hammered his crankbait.  Most of our bass that day bit when we jerked the lures off of the weeds.  The trick was to not snag the weeds so much that you had a glob of weeds on the end.  Rather, your lure had to barely touch the weeds and maybe grab one with a treble hook, and then you had to rip it off with a sharp jerk of the rod.  The bites mostly happened when you ripped the lure off of the weeds.
My friend Steve with his personal best (at the time) tidal river largemouth bass, caught on his maiden voyage of his new boat, on the first cast of the day.
Just a few casts later, Steve tied into and landed a fat eighteen and a half inch chunk of a bass, using the same technique.  Of course, we were pretty pumped to find that the bass were still attacking crankbaits.

Meanwhile, as Steve boated nine pounds of fish in just a few casts, I politely used my retrieving technique to clear a path through the weeds so he could work his lure more effectively.  I had trouble with not snagging too many weeds.  In other words, Steve was catching the protein, and I was collecting the salad.  

He proceeded to catch another nice seventeen inch bass a few casts later.  Not long after that, I was on the board hooking into a less than massive twelve inch skinny male largemouth.  Hey, it was a dink, but, at least the skunk was broken.

Then, the tide stopped moving, and although we both had a few more hits, the water was lower and it was difficult to work that pattern.  The tide was so low that the weed tops were nearly up to the surface.  We tried different lures and worked the weedy surface and the channel edges without any luck.  We knew that if we stayed in the creek, it would have eventually produced, but Steve was itching to play with his boat and run it a bit, so out of the creek and off to main stem of the river we went.

We stopped at the mouth of another creek to see if the weeds had emerged yet.  If we found weeds, were were likely to find willing bass.  This spot had always been good to us, but on this day, the weeds weren't there yet.  Fishing was slow, but Steve managed to catch a white perch on his crankbait, but no bass bites.

Steve changed tactics and worked the woody shoreline with a Texas rigged plastic worm.  He caught a couple chunky largemouth and a couple yellow perch with that rig.  I continued to work the crankbait, but it didn't happen for me at that spot.  

After a while, I decided to try something different, and do a bit of finessing.  I pulled out my trusty spinning rod rigged with a 1/8 oz. jighead, a Mann’s Sting Ray grub dabbed in Smelly Jelly (that actually smells pretty good), and proceeded to snag on my first cast with it.  I tried to straighten the hook with my strong braided line, but must have had a nick in it and broke it off…I could have waited for Steve to move the boat as he was willing to do so, but got impatient.  So I tied on another jig and proceeded to catch a yellow perch and a couple fifteen inch fat largemouth.

As we moved toward the creek mouth, we noticed that the tide was coming in, so I switched back to my Rat-L-Trap, and hooked up with a nice chunky bass that would have been about three pounds.  Would have been?  Yes, would have been.  I lost it while trying to yoke it in the boat,  Bassmaster style!  Dumb…fishing was tough, and I should have thought to be more careful to make every bite count.  I had a couple more hits and misses, but at least the activity picked up.  

We decided it was time for a spot change and to find some different weed beds.  We pulled up to a spot that my friend, Mark, and I found a couple days earlier that held fish.  I finally hooked up and landed a decent bass that crushed my Rat-L-Trap, that was just shy of nineteen inches. 
I finally hooked into a decent bass after having a tough morning.
I caught a couple more smaller keeper sized bass over the next half hour.  After that, we moved to check out another large weed bed.  I started to get some consistent action, and landed some more fat bass that were scattered among the weeds, but really had to work for them.  

Steve decided to fish the bank and work the wood with a green pumpkin plastic worm.  On his first cast, he landed a fat seventeen inch bass, followed by a yellow perch.  A few casts later, he hooked into a fish that catapulted out of the water on the hook set.  This fish almost performed a back flip.  I yelled out, “snakehead”!  Sure enough, Steve landed his first snakehead ever.
Steve hooked into an extremely acrobatic northern snakehead.  Man, did that fish ever fight!
I’m not sure if it was the next cast or not, but he hooked into another one shortly after, not quite as big.  We wondered if they were pairing up to spawn, and, perhaps he caught the mated pair.  
Steve's second snakehead of the day.  What a thrill these are to catch!
I also really wanted to catch a snakehead.  At that point in time in my life, I hadn't caught one.  I tried to fish a plastic worm and caught a couple yellow perch.  But, really wanted to catch a snakehead.  I had a bite and the fish bit me off, so unless chain pickerel are in there, my guess is that may have been a snakehead.  I guess it just wasn't meant to be on that day.  I was still snakehead challenged by the end of the day.

By then, it was late afternoon, and we wanted to get back and finish where we started the day.  We knew that the fish were there.  So, we went back to the spot where Steve caught his big bass, and worked it thoroughly.  The tide was up, so it was much easier to work our crankbaits over the tops of the weeds.  We had a couple hits, but no fish landed, then decided to let the wind drift us toward the Northern shoreline.  

We noticed a bass, definitely a bass, in shallow water, doing some sort of evasive maneuver, leaping out of the water several times like baitfish fleeing a big bass.  It didn’t look like it was feeding.  Rather, it appeared as if it was leaping for its life.  We thought it might have been chased by a snakehead, gar, or perhaps a large blue catfish.  I'd never seen a bass behave like that before.

Both Steve and I managed to catch a few more fat bass on the trap while probing a different weedy area, a place that we vowed to keep in mind for next time.  We drifted to a point that dropped into deep water and after a few casts, I hooked into another big bass.  I landed it, and noticed that the beast was barely hooked by the back treble of my crankbait!  She measured twenty one and a half inches long, my biggest bass in the past few years.  Man, she was fat and heavy.
This bass was twenty one and a half inches long.  Although it wasn't my personal best, she was my biggest bass caught in quite a few years.
To sum things up, Steve started out with the hot hand, and landed his personal best tidal river bass.  He also landed his first two snakeheads, ever.  Despite my tough start, I also caught my biggest bass in several years.  We each had a blast.  We caught several big bass as well as decent numbers of fish, and a mixed bag of species as well.  Not bad for the maiden voyage of his boat!  What an epic day it was!

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Another Big Bass Fishing Story

Last week, I posted a couple stories of a couple of my biggest bass caught in my local area.  I hope you all enjoyed them.  I have more stories to share, and will post more over the next few posts.  Later, I will mix in some other funny or adventurous stories that I have experienced over the years.  The way that I will try and tell these stories is as if we are sharing our experiences over a campfire.  I plan on posting more adventures and less tutorials in the future.  I won't stop posting tips and stuff, rather, I just plan on posting more fun experiences that I've had in the outdoors.  Please let me know in the comments if you like these types of posts.

Five Five Pounders and a Lunker
It's funny, but I keep mentioning stories shared with my fishing buddy, Howard.  The last two stories, he was there, and this next one, he's in it too.  Why?  I don't know, maybe he's good luck for me, but we've caught a ton of big bass together over the years.  This story happened between my boat owning years, where all we did is wade or bank fish.  We found some of these spots while fishing out of our boats, and then found ways to reach them from shore.  Some spots required tough hikes or wades to get to them effectively, but it was worth it.

We arrived at the parking lot of a public park, and hiked along a boardwalk style nature trail as far as we could go.  Then, we hopped off the boardwalk and into the water to wade the rest of the way.  We fished our way forward until we reached our destination, an old wharf along the tidal river.  We'd done well over the years at this spot while boat fishing, and figured it would be worth the wade.

It was about this time of year, a beautiful warm spring day.  Just about every tree was flowering and the woods was greening up fast.  It was time for big female bass to make their ways to the spawning areas.  The tide was falling, and that usually means that fish are active.

Both Howard and I were lobbing large, double willowleaf, tandem spinnerbaits.  Our color of choice in the spring was chartreuse with chartreuse blades.  This was a hot bait for us over the years at this location.  A local fishing guide once told me a saying, "If it ain't chartreuse, it ain't no use!"  That was a great lesson, and it applies to almost any water in my state.

About ten casts into the day, Howard hooked up and yelled, "Fish on!"  After a brief battle, he landed the fat largemouth bass that measured twenty inches.  The bass, at that time, hadn't spawned yet, so this female was fat with eggs.  I estimated her to be about five pounds or so.

On the very next cast, Howard again yells out, "Another one"!  I'm a bit perplexed, because he cast exactly to the spot where I placed my previous cast, where I ran my spinnerbait along and parallel to a log, and did not hook up.  Usually, that is a money cast.  He showed me how it was done, and landed the fat female bucketmouth.  He measured her at twenty one inches, another probably five pounder, and we weren't even anywhere near our hot spot!

We both waded and cast our way for the next quarter mile without a bite, and reached the point of our destination, and area with much flooded timber, and tougher wading, that stretched for about three hundred yards, culminating at a very old, abandoned, flooded wharf.  This particular spot also has four small points sandwiching three coves.  The depths varied with the tides, but low tide ranged from two to five feet deep, with flooded logs and debris just about everywhere, with pea gravel banks, perfect for bass searching for good spawning locations.

When we reached the first point, Howard hooked up again.  "Fish on!"  I still hadn't had a bite.  Again, he landed another very nice bass, and it measured nineteen inches.  Two casts later, Howard had another fat bass hammer his spinnerbait.  This one measured twenty inches.  Man, did he have the hot hand!  Meanwhile, I wondered if my wife had put a curse on my spinnerbait, or perhaps poison!

As we waded around that cove, I hear, "Holy hand grenades, I'm into another one!"  Howard landed that fish, and it measured, you guessed it, twenty inches!  This fish was the fattest one of the day and had to weigh a good six pounds.

I still hadn't had a bite, and I'm wondering what in the world I did to have the good Lord punish me this way.  Don't get me wrong, I was very happy for him.  Any time your fishing buddy is catching fish, big fish, one after another, you have to feel good for him.  Seeing that still gives you hope that the next bite will be on your lure.  Still, I felt it would be nice if I could just get that first bite.

We worked our way around all of the coves, and, although the total numbers weren't that high, Howard still landed a bag limit of five big bass that would have made the Bassmaster Classic guys envious.  Of course, all of these bass were released.  Meanwhile, I forgot what a bite felt like.  I was just going through casting practice.
Howard shown here with an eighteen inch fat tidal largemouth bass.  He caught five nineteen to twenty one inch bass on our trip that day!  Unfortunately, neither of us brought a camera.
At that point, the old reliable chartreuse spinnerbait wasn't working for me, so I switched to a tandem white spinnerbait with gold blades.  The larger blade was a huge size 7 willow leaf that really provided a ton of flash, but had much water resistance on the retrieve.  I added an all white ringworm as a trailer to give the bait a larger profile.  I figured that I had to try something different.  Howard's pattern worked for Howard, but not for me.

On our way back, I stopped at a point that was a huge gravel bar.  It was now almost low tide.  I heaved a cast as far as I could, not aiming for any cover or anything.  I'd made some great casts throughout the day along flooded timber without a so much as a sniff, so why not try something different?  The channel edge wasn't far away in the direction of that cast, and the bottom was littered with debris and sunken logs that you couldn't see.

I reeled immediately as the lure hit the water.  About four cranks of line back, my lure just stopped cold, and then yanked back.  I set the hook as if it was going to be the last fish of my life, and hooked it solidly.  I felt a few head shakes, and then she came to the surface.  She rolled on the water with a tail splash.  Howard turned around after the splash and watched me fight the fish.

This fish turned and bulldogged, not letting me gain any line for about fifteen seconds.  It was the biggest bass, if it was a bass, that I'd hooked so far all year.  I wondered if it was a big catfish that sometimes fool bass anglers like me into thinking that we've caught the mother of all bass.  Either way, this was a good fish.

The water had some color to it, a slight brownish stain, with about two feet of visibility.  Until she reached the shallows close to me, I still didn't know that type of fish that I was dealing with.  Then, her head popped up, and this huge bucket of a mouth shook at me, tossing water droplets on my face and sunglasses.  I waded out and grabbed her huge lower jaw, and hoisted her out of the water.

I pulled out my measuring tape and Howard measured her for me, and she was twenty four inches long.  This was the first big largemouth bass that I was able to measure.  In previous years, I didn't worry about carrying a measuring tape, but, for some reason, it was important to know these things, especially since I started keeping fishing logs.  We did not have a scale.  And, neither of us had a camera.  This was prior to the waterproof digital camera years, and my budget at the time did not include an expensive, waterproof camera.  I released the fish as both Howard and I admired her.
I've caught a bunch of fish like this in our tidal river, but the fish described in this story was another class of fish.  The fish pictured was twenty two inches, while the one caught years ago was a whopping twenty four inches long!  What a fish that was, but it was my only bite of the day!
We both worked the entire way back to our parking area without a single bite the rest of the day.  When it was over, Howard had the thrill of catching five big bass, all weighing at least five pounds.  That's a heck of a day for anyone.  At that point, my only bass caught might have been the biggest largemouth of my life at that point in time.  It was the only bite that I had that day, and what a bite it was!  It's funny how one bite, and one fish, can make your day, or perhaps wind up being your personal best!

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Remembering Some of My Biggest Bass

Last night, I was reflecting on some of the biggest bass that I've caught in my home state over the years, and thought that maybe it would be a good time to share some of these stories with you.  Since some of the stories may be long winded, so I'll do this over the course of several blog posts.  Some of the stories might not have been my biggest fish, but, they were big fish, and the stories are worth telling.  I hope that you enjoy them and, even better, learn something that may help you catch your personal best bass.

Unfortunately, some of these stories happened prior to the digital age, and I have no idea what I did with the pictures that I had, so you'll have to take it on good faith that the stories are true.  Yeah, I know what they say about fishing stories.  I do have witnesses though!!!   So, if I don't have a pic to share of that actual fish, I'll post a substitute picture of a nice fish, or pics related to how I caught the big one.

One day, if I'm lucky enough to find any of those prints, I'll make a copy of them and share them with you.  I had a major septic flood in my basement in 2012, and lost a bunch of stuff, so it's possible that many of the pics are gone forever.  I also have rolls of film that I've never developed, so maybe there are some pics on those rolls.  Some of you may ask, what is "film"?  Ha ha.  Some of these big bass were caught prior to the invention of affordable waterproof or digital cameras.  What can I say, I'm an old fart!

How do I...???
One hot summer evening, I was bank fishing with my buddy, Howard, his girlfriend at the time, and his black Labrador, Max, along a body of water next to a local river, and decided to drop down to fish the river.  The bank was steep and it was a struggle to climb down there.  

The river was deep, and the water was, what some of my friends today call, "big fish green".  "Big fish green" means that there is a slight amount of color in the water, enough sediment to make fish feel comfortable to be active, yet not too much that they can't see your lures, leaving the river with a greenish tint.  

There was a huge log that ran parallel to the river bank right in front of me.  In fact, I had to fish over this log, and, it sat at about waist high to me, so it wasn't easy.  There wasn't a lot of room to stand along the bank there, and just barely enough room to effectively cast.  Just a bit upriver from me, about twenty feet or so, was a rock ledge that stuck out from the river bank about twenty five yards and created a nice eddy where I figured that fish would lay in ambush of their prey.

Just a few days prior, I purchased my first baitcasting outfit.  I'm not really sure, but it may have been my first time fishing with it.  Back them, stores pretty much only sold affordable baitcasting reels that cranked on the left side, and being right handed, and growing up fishing with spinning tackle, I was used to cranking with my right hand.  So, I had to learn to switch hands after each cast, and learn to crank with my left hand.  Learning to cast and not backlash was difficult enough back then, prior to the invention of fancy magnets in reels that prevent the spool from spinning too fast, but, switching hands too?  Still, I started to get the hang of it.

I remember that I had a large chartreuse buzzbait tied on, a perfect choice for targeting big, aggressive largemouth bass in the slower waters during the hot summer, but not really a lure meant for tempting smallmouth bass the fast river water.  Also, most people generally pursued river smallies with smaller morsel sized baits over the bigger lures commonly used to chase largemouth bass.  But, being lazy, I didn't want to tie on a new lure.  And, I only intended to toss a couple casts.  Honestly, I didn't really think that I'd catch anything on it in the river, but, what the heck?

My buddy, Howard, and his girlfriend, happened to walk by and watch me cast from the path above me.  I think that Howard, already a baitcasting veteran, enjoyed watching me struggle to learn the ropes.  It must have been somewhat amusing and entertaining throughout the day, watching me learn the hard way, as I cursed while I picked out the many birds nests.  I forced myself to learn the hard way by leaving my spinning rigs at home.  So, even if I wanted to toss smaller smallmouth sized lures, I wouldn't for fear of getting more backlashes.

On the first cast, I lobbed the buzzbait upstream and across, and retrieved it past the tip of the rocks and through the eddy.  Just as the lure reached the bank right in front of me and the tree, the water erupted.  Water went everywhere, on my sunglasses, on my face, and on my shirt as the fish thrashed about in front of me.  It suprised the heck out of me!

I don't have any pictorial examples of big buzzbait smallmouth, but, this picture shows that big smallmouth will hit big baits, and big baits don't get much bigger than this musky sized bucktail.
Of course, I was extremely surprised and excited, and nearly forgot what I was supposed to do.  In situations like that, sometimes people say the silliest things.  I fought this fish as it went ballistic on me just over the stupid log, I yelled out a couple expletives that are too vulgar for this blog, followed by "How do I fight this thing?"  Howard, his girlfriend, and probably the dog too, were laughing hysterically at me.   I really did get confused, not used to reeling with my left hand, and fighting a fish with the rod in my right hand.
These days, I routinely toss small 1/8 oz. buzzbaits while targeting smallmouth bass like this decent fish.  The truth is that you definitely will get better summer time numbers of fish on these smaller buzzbaits.  But, big baits catch big fish, as the story told explains.  
To this day, Howard teases me about that fish.  Eventually, I figured it out, got the fish in, and hoisted it over the log.  It wasn't the biggest smallmouth bass that I've ever caught, but it was a nice one for our area, and was my biggest to date at that time.  I didn't have a tape measure or scale with me, but I'd guess that fish was a fat twenty inch smallie.  And, it was the first fish that I ever caught using a baitcasting outfit! 

The hanging down to my ankles fish...
It was a hot, muggy, dog day of a summer evening as Howard and I met each other in the parking lot after work.  Typically, back then, we'd scurry to our fishing spot after work and get as much time as possible in to fish.  But, on these hot, steamy nights, there was no hurry.  We arrived at our spot about an hour before dark so that we could fish the magic hour, and then fish well into the dark.  Usually, our timing was about right, and we'd catch fish right away.  During the dog days of a hot summer, the best bite is often at night as bass are mostly inactive during the heat of the day.

Frogs sang and chirped loudly.  They'd jump from our footsteps and into the water as we walked along the path along the bank.  Bugs were everywhere, and mosquitos constantly buzzed us as they searched for a chink in our bug spray armor.  To me, all these things meant is that it was buzzer time.  

Using baitcasting outfits were so productive for me throughout the years, whether they were specialized rigs for flipping, pitching or just plain chunkin' and windin'.  I found them to be very effective for using larger lures, the spinnerbaits and buzzbaits, for example, that produced so many big bass for me.  These lures are perfect for fishing around sunken timber, weeds, lily pads and logs.  

We bank fished most often at one of our favorite bodies of water.  Baitcasting rods teamed with heavier line not only allowed us to toss larger lures, but also improved our chances of retrieving lures that we snagged in the timber.  After all, if your not snagging now and then, you're not fishing in the right places.  But, we were young and lived on a tight budget, so, every lure that we could get back was a bonus.
As Howard shows you, summer night fishing with buzzbaits can be the ticket for big largemouth bass.
Both Howard and I worked our way down the bank, and picked up some nice fish here and there.  On this particular night, the fish were bigger on average than what we normally caught.  Howard already caught a pair of twenty inch largemouth that probably weighed about four pounds at their summer weight.  I had a pretty good evening as well, landing a few eighteen inch fish and several fifteen inchers.  Howard and I eventually drifted away from each other, out of sight in the dark, as we each tried to figure out where the next big bass lurked.  I lagged behind as he moved on, because I knew that I was at a really good spot.  

I had a good feeling about this one particular spot, so I worked it thoroughly.  There were several blowdowns, and I wanted to make sure that I covered every angle fishing them.  I just knew that there had to be a lunker there.  This spot was about forty yards long, so I worked each tree from many angles to optimize my chances that a big fish would find my lure.  I picked up a couple smaller fish, and it was late, about midnight, so I figured that I'd work my way back toward Howard, meet up with him, and we'd head home.  After all, we had to work the next day.
Oh, how I love fishing buzzers at night during the dog days of summer!
On the way back over that same forty yard stretch, I fished the one spot that I hadn't really covered, where there weren't any trees, but, rather, had tons of frogs.  That spot was simply casting parallel to the bank.  On my second cast, I worked the lure all the way to me, covering as much water as I could.  I couldn't see anything except for where the weeds and water met, because it was so dark.  I couldn't even see my lure from the end of the cast to but to only about ten feet away.  But, I could hear the buzzbait, making a squeaky sounding plopping sound as it chugged along.  I worked the lure as slow as possible, just fast enough to keep the lure at the surface.

As I fished with the rod tip low to the water, and about four feet of line left from the tip of my rod, the water exploded just feet away.  Honestly, it scared the poop out of me!  I literally jumped when it hit.  I could tell immediately that this was a special fish.  On my baitcasting rigs, I set the drag pretty tight so as to get the maximum hook set, and typically, I'd horse the fish in.  There was no horsing this one in.  It took line, even with my drag set as to not allow that to happen.  Finally, I got it near shore, and I climbed down the bank and grabbed the behemoth by the lower jaw.
In the evening and at night during the dog days of summer, large buzzbaits, like this one, call in the hawgs.
As of that day, it was my biggest largemouth that I'd ever caught, for sure, and prior to that fish, I had caught dozens of five pound fish in my life.  This fish was bigger...unforgettable.  I was about two hundred yards away from Howard, and I wanted to show him this fish.  If this fish was so much bigger than most of the big fish that we catch there, that it was worth walking two hundred yards away to show my friend, and stop fishing, then you know it had to be a special fish! And that's what I did.  I walked down the path along the bank directly to him, carrying the fish at my side by the lower jaw.

When I reached Howard, he couldn't believe what he saw.  He said that, as I walked toward him, that he could see me holding the fish at my side, and the tail of the fish reached my ankle.  I'm 5'11" tall, as a reference for you, so it was a long bass.  He marveled at the fish as he proceeded to fit both of his fists into its massive mouth.  That amazed me!  The belly bulged on this fish, similar to the way my belly does now.  I was still shaking from the experience.  Neither of us had a camera, so, after a couple minutes of admiring the fish, I released it.
This was the buzzbait that I used to catch that huge fish, and many others since then.  I made this in-line buzzer by taking parts from other buzzbaits, bending my own wire shafts using a wire bending tool, and assembling the three components together with split rings.  This bait has caught me so many big fish.  The whole thing is about eight inches long.
Howard estimated that this bass would have been about twenty four inches long and weighed about seven pounds, give or take an inch or a few ounces.  It was truly one of the biggest largemouth bass that I've ever caught.  It would be a few years before I was able to equal that fish, but those are different stories for future blog posts.

OK, so that's all for today.  I'll post a few more on my next post.  Until then, I wish your all good fishing!