Our Outdoors: Smallie Success

In the slight wind of late evening with the sun sinking along the western shore, my boat drifted along the opposite side of the lake, absorbing the golden light of an early summer sunset and using it to re-rig my offering from a trolling set up to a Texas-rigged tube.  Having weathered stronger gusts throughout the evening, I set up along a small muddy point littered with the old timber remains of when the small lake flooded a couple decades ago in the late, wet 1990s.  I hoped the structure would hold the smallmouth bass I had been looking for over the past couple trips to the flow.

The author with a 17.5″ smallmouth bass at dusk on a most excellent evening

I set the trolling motor in motion to hold against what remained of the wind and fired off my first cast toward an arch of wood that came up out of the water a foot or two from shore and re-entered three or four feet out into the depths.  As I slid into position, the last of a series of painted turtles plopped off the log, having taken what they could from the waning sunshine as well.  Working the edge of the wood and popping my lure through the nearby weed edge set off another local resident and I set the hook hard to drive the hook through the plastic.

The fish burst through the surface, cartwheeling and splashing its way to the boat.  A solid, chunky smallmouth came to hand and taped out at 14 inches.  Not a monster by any means, but a good sign of what was to come.  Resetting my rig, I sent another cast out toward the timber and again felt a quick bump just a few moments after it splashed down.  The bite was on and another smallie came to hand.  When all was said and done, and my half hour on the point was up, I had boated seven fish and missed a handful more.

Looking down the shore, a log loaded with pelicans caught my attention.  In between where I was and my next stop, the location seemed unlikely to produce good fishing with the piscivorous birds taking up residence on the logs and stumps along the shore.  Figuring no fish would chance fate under the orange beaks of the large birds, I paid little mind to the spot and buzzed by with the trolling motor while the birds hopped off the log and swam single-file away from the point.

Sending off a half hearted cast as I burned by the location, I was surprised to feel a strike as another mid-range smallmouth smashed through the slightly rippled surface and battled hard all the way to the boat.  As I unhooked the olive-barred bass and set it back in the water I tapped the foot pedal on the troller and spun the boat around to take a second look at the structure.  My follow-up cast was met by another take and in the last light of the sunset I pulled another five fish who were brave, or maybe just camouflaged enough, to hold under the roosting area, providing exciting success from an unlikely spot.

I wrapped the evening up probing the remaining timber on the windward side of the lake which had stacked up and lodged along the shore in previous seasons.  The scattered fish coming in ones and twos from various logs, branches, field rocks and gravel slides.

With light fading, I zipped off one a cast and turned to talk to my dog, reassuring him we’d be heading out shortly and the shoreline grasses awaited him after patiently observing all of the evening’s action.  After petting him, I lifted my rod tip and it arched in response to a near instantaneous inhalation of my lure.

Setting the hook hard, I felt the weight of a big fish below.  It thumped and thundered in the depths, unlike the smaller specimens that had bolted toward the sky.  It rolled under the boat, testing the drag of my reel before shooting out in an attempt to make it to a nearby stump on shore.  Pulling up, I horsed the fish toward the surface and after a few flips, it came to hand.  Taping out at 17.5 inches, the large bronzeback was a fine finish to an excellent evening; a ten-year-old tribute to what good habitat and structure, along with sustained catch-and-release bass fishing can do for a fishery.  Watching the fish disappear into the depths which reflected the blue-gray onset of night, I tucked my hook point into the holder near the base of my rod and fired up the motor and closed out another great night of exploration and learning rewarded with a number of fine fish…in our outdoors.

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