I was having some troubles with my boat motor running on Memorial Day so it turned out to be a day of hanging out with the family at camp. Towards the end of the day, we found a newly hatched painted turtle right by the dock. There was a smallmouth circling the area so we brought it into a small wading pool that I learned how to swim in. The turtle didn’t want to hang out in the safety of the calm water so we wished him luck and away he went!
It was getting tossed around in the waves
I had a few hours to kill between lawn and garden duty so I decided to hook up the boat and make a quick trip out to one of my favorite smallmouth lakes. Upon arrival I knew I was going to have my work cut out for me. The lot was full of pleasure boats and kayaks and the wind was creating a nice chop on the water. My plan was to have a little fun sight fishing for bass but the conditions were not going to allow me to do that so well.
I motored to my first spot that year after year holds fish in decent numbers. This lake is a good size body of water that does not see a lot of intense fishing pressure. Most days it’s nothing to put 8-10 fish in the boat of two pounds or better. It was almost impossible to see any beds on the shore as the water was stained and the waves were much larger than normal. I was forced to rely on my past experiences on this body of water to catch some fish. It’s very important to pay very close attention to details every time you hit the water, you never know when the conditions will throw you for a loop, or your GPS stops working and you are forced to find areas and small attributes on the lake floor that force you to use your good ole intuition to catch fish. I focused on two areas in my search for fish, sharp breaks out of deep weed beds onto a hard bottom, and two sand bars that provide smallmouth with a nice warm place to make their beds.
Today the weapon of choice was a faithful 3″inch tube rigged on a weighted hook in pumpkin-seed color. I was able to see one bed with a fish on it all day and was able to catch a nice 3lber, (this is the first fish caught on the video below.) After an hour or so of fighting the wind and boat position I decided to use to wind to my advantage and drift the two sand bars I had mentioned earlier. It was a pretty simple technique. I positioned the boat so I would drift across the bar and started at the edge (deeper water) and worked my way in. This worked great and saved a lot of frustration. I was able to hook into three more fish one being a dink and two that where in the 3lb range. Check out the video on our YouTube Page.
Before two long, the lake was over run with pleasure boaters that apparently didn’t see me fishing so I decided to head off the water feeling pretty good that I was able to catch some fish in such difficult conditions. It’s important to never get discouraged when you are faced with unexpected situations and conditions. Trust your instinct and your past experiences to have an enjoyable day on the water.
Because I had to work through the night Saturday, Bobby and I didn’t get on the road until just after 8 am Sunday when I got out. We were launched and pulling into the spot around 10 am and the air was already heating up quickly. Other than the heat while in the direct sun, the day couldn’t have gotten any better. The water was calm besides a few minutes and the fish were biting.
We found two different patterns that produced good numbers of fish. The first was that the fish were holding very tight to shore, shade, and structure. If you could find all three together you would mainly catch big bluegill and better sized crappie. The second pattern was to drift weed flats where the baitfish were schooling up. The crappie were chasing big time but they were mainly chips. We saw a few decent size crappie holding tight in the shade under lily pads in these areas but were relatively inactive.
We tried many baits throughout the day and even though they all worked at times, the best bait selection for the day was a baby shad by Lake Fork Trophy Lures in the “black/pink” color. We also had good luck with “violet shad”. Both baits have half of their body as pink but when we tried straight pink we have very little luck. The two tone body was key for the day.
As usual, we fished the baits fast under a bobber. We did well for the most part working the shores casting as close as we could with the baits set down about 14″. It didn’t matter how deep the water was, that was the depth to be at. Any other depth you got nothing but snags. The best gill of the day was 10.5″ and a solid pound. We were a little weak on the size of the crappie with the biggest being only 11″ but we did well with numbers. Here’s a YouTube video of a few of the nicer fish we got in the boat for the day but this video has more of what we saw.
Despite the small crappie size, we did develop a new technique that worked well as the crappie were chasing baitfish. When we were fishing the pods of minnows that were being chased by crappie, we could get them to bite a fast moving bait but they wouldn’t commit. We found that long pulls to raise the bait in the water column was the best tactic as the crappie were hitting on the fall.
I got out of work early yesterday due to a bomb threat so I called some buddies and we went to check out a crappie bite that had been hot recently. The weather was bad, hit or miss thundershowers all day. I looked at the radar and the closest storm was over the great lakes so I thought we had some time to get a few hours in. I picked up my buddy and his boat and headed to the lake.
We got to the lake at 1 pm and noticed some blackness overhead so we waited 15 minutes for a storm to blow over and we hit the water. I was very familiar with the bay that we were on. I had spent many hours ice fishing this bay on my own and also during the VT Sportsman tournament series. The bay is notorious for holding large numbers of gills, seeds and crappies during the winter but it’s usually only a staging area for them. The fish were there now and we had to find them. The bay is nothing more than a larger 6-8′ flat with pockets of weeds. Once you found the weeds you found fish. A good graph would be key or in our case the Navionics app on my phone pointed us in the right direction.
It was not a good day to be bobber fshing. The wind was blowing about 15mph from the south and boat positioning was an issue. The wind also created some decent sized waves with white caps that I think was spooking the crappies away from our baits. We managed to find a school of fish and I caught two decent crappies right off, but the anchor didn’t grab and we lost them.
Why were these fish here? Well this is my theory. We have had a really dry spring here in Vermont. These fish usually head for one of two near by creeks to spawn. I don’t think they ever made it due to the lake level being so low. I think these fish decided that it would be better to save their energy and spawn in the shallow weed beds and stick marsh of the bay. Hopefully they make this decision for years to come!
Back to the fishing. The three of us tried lots of different baits to try and get the crappies to bite. The two most successful baits were the Berkley Gulp Minnow , and the Bobby Garland Baby Shad rigged under a bobber on a 1/16oz jig. The bite slowed but I had another theory that payed off. We were catching white perch one after another and they were feeding aggressively. We see this a lot in the winter with the gills and seeds in which their feeding activity actually causes the crappies to bite less or the fact that they are lazy and the seeds and gills beat them to the bait. Another factor working against the crappie on this day was the weather. The waves were big, and the lake was churned up and the crappies were laying in the weeds on the bottom. I took my bobber off and decided to slow role my jig tipped with the Gulp minnow. First cast I pulled a nice 12″ crappie. I would cast out, count to 7 figuring a 1′ drop per second, and then slowly swim the jig through the weeds. This got the bait below the white perch and into the crappie laying in the weeds on the bottom.
We ended the day boating some nice fish and running away from another big thunderstorm. I kept a few for dinner and that’s that.