The fishing spot is picked and gear inventory starts clicking through my head. Picking the spot is crucial these days. Just finding a spot that people haven’t stomped all over or crowded with a few hundred watercrafts can make all the difference on so many levels these days.
“So what is the meet time?” I ask over the cell phone…”6:00AM?”
“Naw man. We gotta get in there earlier than that. 4:30?” Don says trying to hold back the anxious energy that screams nothing but MUST FISH.
“Killing me.” My voice gargles exhausted from 60 hours of the daily grind. It’s Friday. My eyes burn and my back aches but I know he’s right. Early start is better. “Ok, but they have to open the gates. 5AM meet, roll in and be on the water as the sun is coming up?”
Don and I have some pretty strict rules when it comes to fishing.
1. You are only allowed a 15-minute window from the meet time without a phone call. When you call, you better be close to the meet spot or waiving off your end of the trip altogether. No call-no show results in loss of spot on future trips.
2. You bring your own crap and be ready to load up and roll in 5 minutes. 10 or 15 if it’s a two-day trip or more. If we hike, you carry your stuff.
3. Never S.O.L. This means a positive/focused attitude at all times.
The rules seem really simple but after a while you just stop trying. We have made exceptions and sometimes it works out but more often than not, if I am not fishing by myself it is with this “Don” guy. He has helped plan and film a lot of these fishing trips, especially the larger excursions. That is why Don is a crucial part of The MAD Fishing Show.
On with the post…
Forecast: High 86
Water temp: Mid 70’s
Weather forecast: Sunny with storms building in afternoon
Wind forecast: 5-25 mph building later afternoon
The morning starts dark and cold. Air temp drops sharply after nightfall and seem coldest around 3:30AM when I am starting the truck. Coffee in my hand adrenaline starts to surge. Sometimes I can’t even sleep before a big fishing trip. At least this time I got a few hours. It didn’t seem to matter. The only concern was speed limits on the way to the meet spot.
Now here is where I cheated a bit and got to the meet spot a good 15 minutes before Don (who generally shows up early) and started setting up the pontooner. Setting up the frame (pontoon bladders filled with air previously) is a bit of a process but worth it in my opinion. I only get a quarter way into it when the coffee forces me to take a nature break. On the way out of the latrine Don’s headlights illuminate the gravel road into the parking area.
“He’s really early this time.” I said quickly moving to finish the setup.
Don pulls out a fully inflated belly boat. All he has to do is attach some rods and go. I don’t want to be the goober holding up the show so luckily the frame was all put together and the wheel unit was in place. Just had to the fix stabilizing rope, load the rods, fix the oars, set the platform, load the anchor and gear bag. (this is after checking off water, camera, wallet, fishing license and keys).
“Oh and life vest!” I say at the last minute. “Don’t want to get flagged for that!” (Some rangers will kick you off the water if you don’t have one. They make me put it on and I can still fish. Others just say you have to carry it. But you have to have it or you run the risk of getting booted.)
We both were geared up and ready to roll well before the intended time. From there it’s a decent walk in. To reach the pond we want to fish we have lug all this crap well over a country mile. With the sun already turning the sky orange and blue we headed out. It didn’t take long for effort to sink in and sweat to build. In this case, the belly boat has the edge clearly over a pontoon setup even with some added help in regards to wheel units.
Finally the water greats us. The sun is just now coming over the eastern horizon. Still sheltered from the trees a large shadow is created with a layer of mist. The lake was flat with only a few top circles. Nothing too promising at first glance. It was far too early to do anything but soak everything in. we both got in as silent as we could. First the belly boat to the left and the pontooner to the right. We opened up on the first pond and began casting.
“You want fish this side and then go up on the other one?” Don asked for mere courtesy. We both pretty much had a plan cemented in our heads.
The weed growth and natural structure of this pond presents a lot of terrain where fish can hide, move and ambush prey. There is also a great deal of forage types of all kinds. We have covered this entire lake a number of times and now dialed it into a few hot spots and a few consistent lure patterns. Our plan is to hit the prime time areas on the first pond and then roll on to the other lake.
At first the smallmouth and largemouth were tiny. We are throwing big stuff (short of musky gear) and these punky brewsters are going nuts! The smallmouth would trick you at first into thinking you had a “real” fish. But I think these fish are pretty cool anyway.
(Above: here’s my first dinky smallie. Even dink smallies have some scrap to them.)
(Above: Don with another dinker smallie. This was a fish caught early in the day and dubbed “skunkbeater smallie”.)
We saw a few scattered schools suspending baitfish here and there. Running a few baitfish patterns and nothing. The larger fish were more difficult to locate or reluctant to bite. We were knocking on doors and coming up empty. Then out of nowhere. BAM! I hook into a fish that dang near wants to pull me off the boat.
(Above: Some people call this fish a bronzeback. I call it pure gold.)
A few more casts along the edge and nothing. It looks like too good of a spot not to have a decent sized fish. I weed through a few dinkers and then get a super heavy tug. This fish was different from the previous one. Instead of sporadic bursts of energy the stress on the line was more in the form of lazy pauses and then heavy surges. Thankfully the fish stayed out of the weeds and landed fairly easily. It even posed real nice for me like a real trooper.
(Above: Sweet looking bucket. Very defined dark markings and a big ol face!)
From here we decided to roll off the first pond and try the back one. This pond has been hit and miss. My solo trips or trips with the MAD Show have been really great or really dismal. It is just one of those kind of ponds.
The day had pressed on and we were faced with the rising sun. This meant rising temperatures, wind and then a storm cycle of some sorts. Wind had already kicked up from almost zilch to sporadic gusts of 15 or even 25 mph. In this case, both boats have equal and opposite advantages. They both get you offshore but the belly boat will be much slower moving against the wind. But the pontoon boat is much harder to stabilize in windy conditions. Heavier anchors are needed for heavy wind. Just the kind I won’t carry all over hill and dale. There were times I struggled even if my boat could reach the spot first.
Don seemed to be able to control himself and cast right on target every time. Wham! Wham! Wham! He was pulling fish right and left. Sometimes it was a dink sometimes it was a stocky bass in the 2 pound class. Some were 16-inches and quite respectable. It was almost automatic. If there was a fish there, any fish…he was going to nail it.
(Above: Don with a fantastic gill attacking a big in line spinner. Out of the twenty or thirty fish he landed on this pond alone…I like this one the best. Panfish are @@#$%^ amazing!)
This is all just a small taste of a MAD Fishing montage coming soon. Just need some time to work on edits. Getting Don’s memory card would help a bit too (hint hint). There is a lot more footage worth seeing but will save that for the official MAD Fishing show release.
Good luck and good fishing.