Press Play and ride with me
I live by a big, clear, deep lake that is polluted with massive smallmouth bass, as are all the lakes that it connects too. As a fly fisherman, the deep water has been very intimidating to me. Big, open water with depths up to 35 feet in some structure spots can be a hard pill to swallow with a 7wt in your hand. Of course, there are bass shallower and there are definitely some big ones there as well. I was talking with a old timer at the boat launch one evening last year and he was telling me about the bass out in the lake that hold of the shoals in the summer. It got me thinking, if I could figure out how to target these fish semi effectively, what would that be like? A potentially 5-7lb bass in 30ft of water on the fly rod? I knew it could be done, I just needed to figure out the best approach.
First thing I had to do was learn how to cast longer distances. If you think about it, in a boat you’re on the surface of the water – so if the fish are holding in 25ft of water and you can only cast 60 ft, you’re only really getting 10 – 15 feet in the strike zone – factoring in the fly coming back up to the boat at the end. So I had to stretch my casting out. If you extend your cast you are also extending the angle of your presentation which keeps your fly in the strike zone longer and this also means that more of the heavy line is in the water so the faster it can get to where it needs to go: down. Since I’ve become more comfortable fishing this way I’ve started to think I almost have an advantage over the gear fisherman sometimes. When the fish are focused in the spring on predominantly young of the year baits I feel like I can present a smaller pattern better with my weighted line. Now this is all my own personal opinion but it is a fun concept to think about.
Water temperatures finally hit the numbers where bass were supercharged and feeding like maniacs and I made the run out into the lake out to a shoal and anchored up in 25ft of water and was fishing down off of a 13ft shoal with large boulders on it. I was crawling my smallish clouser on the bottom with sharp strips followed by short pauses. On a pause, I felt two little taps in my running line then on the next strip, dead weight that rapidly came to life. My Mangrove 7wt was folded over into the water, this fish had endless power. It was a fight I had never felt up until this point. That fish bulldogged me and then when I got it closer to the surface the aerial show began. There was no quit in this fish.
Pretty solid fish, around 4 lbs and lit up like a fire cracker. I released it back to the emerald depths and after a hand shake and a bottle of water, I was back to it again. We were catching bass pretty regularly in the 4-5 lb range whrn I set my rod into what I thought was a rock – until it dragged my rod into the water up to the stripping guide. I thought I had Nessy hooked. This fish beat the shit out of me, I’m not going to lie. But when we finally netted her I just stared at it and just shook my head. I had never up to this point seen a smallmouth bass this big and I live on Lake Erie and the Niagara River, big bass is what we do.
This is my personal best bass to date. Unreal fish, so strong and healthy; not to mention a great way to start the summer fishing season. Go out of your comfort zone sometimes, its fun when it comes together and makes all the effort leading up to it worth it. I spend the majority of my time in the summer targeting muskie and I cherish these smallie days because when the muskie season opens they are few and far between.
By: Justin Damude