This trip was an all out pond hoppin’ bass search in the metro. This area requires a lot of walking if you are to hit all of the lakes. The key factor for this place is timing. It is crucial to fish this place before Memorial Day, as nearly every foot of shoreline will be occupied. The water will be whipped to a froth and it is a miracle that any fish make it through the 3-day holiday still alive. So the weekend before I wrangled a Friday off and hit it for all I was worth. The tackle bag was loaded and three rods were in tow. Three is the most I can carry comfortably and generally what I take on long walking trips.
First pond is a good place to start with a visual scout and a few search casts. 4-inch senko smoke with purple flake is what the smallies seem to like. Search, search, cast, cast, no bites…move on.
“Frog Pond” looks too small to contain fish but there are actually some decent bass in here. Once again it is all about timing. On a good day you can nail three or four bass anywhere from 6-inches to four pounds. The water is small so you can cover this one in short measure to see whether the fish are active or not. Search, cast…move on.
Pond three has more water and gets more focus. The river runs into this pond and creates a crazy situation for all manner of species. I believe this is how everything from trout, smallmouth, carp and even saugeye have entered pond three. I scout the east and west shoreline before moving on.
Pond Two is the largest of all the lakes on the property and stocked with trout. One of these days I am going to throw kastmasters all day long and get into some of these guys. For now it is all warm water with no time to dilly-dally for stocker trout. Big bass is our main focus. Still…somehow…panfish will attract my interest. Like this little guy. But after a few of those guys it is time to move on.
Pond four is our last chance for big fish. Hopefully it wasn’t too late and others had not beaten up the fish too much. I expected dome pressure but hoped for at least one or two nice fish. I had scoured at least twenty ponds in the last four days and caught well over a hundred fish. But none of them were in the +18-inch category let alone the 20-inch OMG fish. Time was running out and in just a few days most if not all the lakes would be in hatch/bass fry mode or as most bassers have dubbed the post spawn.
The first look at the water on the south end was green and mossy. The water almost looked too thick to fish with heavy green slime. Moved on to the western side and saw a few bluegill and a few nesting fish. Popped one right off the bat.
(Above: In the summer I will take these 16’ers all day long. But this time of year I go BIG and this just doesn’t make the cut.)
Signs of life were starting to present themselves. This fish wasn’t the monster hawgs that I was looking for but gave me signs of hope. At least there were active bass and the chances for big fish would hopefully swing in my favor. Scouting, casting and getting a few smaller fish here and there continued for another hour.
“C’mon, Betty. “ I muttered. “Where are you?”
Then I came across a nest that was nestled by some wood structure and cattails. The male was guarding the area chasing little bluegills. A good fish by most standards and could easily be caught. But this was still not the big fish. My eyes searched the edge of the weed-matte and beyond. My heart skipped a beat as I saw the dark shadow cruising twenty feet out. It made one pass and I tossed the grub. Nothing. It made another pass and I tossed the jig combo. Nothing. One more cast and this time with a baby bass fluke rigged Texas-style. I call this my “slop-rig” because it’s the sloppiest looking setup that I throw. For some reason this rig gets clobbered once in a blue moon by that one fish that doesn’t seem to want anything else. I throw the fluke and the shadow moves quickly towards it. The fish looking plastic doves into the weed matte and the fish stops within inches of where it went in. I lift the rod tip and the fluke looks as if it is fleeing the dense matte of vegetation. BAM! The fish inhales the bait with an enormous gulp of its jaws. The rod was already loaded for the hookset and nailed it perfectly. This almost never happens for me unless I can see the fish strike. It was a great moment. A perfect moment. Now I just had to land the fish.
A large log stretched across the water in front of the shoreline about two feet in front of me. It was easy enough to hop the lure over it during the retrieve but there was a good chance that this fish would run right into the branches or find a way to wrap around the log and break off. I didn’t even waste time thinking about it and jumped in. This rod was spooled up with a heavier line. An 8lb copolymer that is as tough as nails. I was able to pull the fish’s head towards me eliminating the chance for escape. One leap into the air with a magnificent splash of green and white before being pulled closer. My right arm rose the rod as my left hand gripped the fish right at the log. It was a pure genius move jumping in the water as opposed to battling the fish through the structure.
(Above: Betty in prespawn glory. The wood structure is just out of the picture to the right.)
The reason I measure my fish in inches rather than pounds is because there is a huge difference between a 14-inch fish and a 20-inch especially when you are taking photographs. Weights of fish are often disappointing and take extra precious time away from fishing. In fact, these days I rarely even measure the fish. Just catch, get the pic and get them back. This fish was a good 18’er and probably around 4lbs. The picture always helps to tell the real story.
A few more casts at a few more spots before heading out. Leave no water untouched. This was one of those trips where I was nearly crawling back to the truck. There was still a few areas that I didn’t get to check as well as not being able to cover the river. My 10 hours of fishing for the day was at its end.
My name is Matt and I’m a fishaholic.