The Smallmouth Bass Bite is "Hot"
Or So I Have Heard
I think I have been doing way too much trolling. Now that most of the mega-tournaments have run their course on the Bay, I decided to take advantage of the warmer weather we have been enjoying and target smallmouth bass. It is smallmouth bass that drew me to Door County many years ago and it is still my favorite fish to hunt. Over the years I have had to adapt to the changing forage and adjust my baits and technique. I used to throw exclusively crank baits, mostly chartreuse Rapalas, as my go to lure since smallmouth were feeding on the alewife, shad and smelt in the Bay. Now that much of the feed is comprised of the invasive gobies, small dark fish that stay on the bottom, I now use darker Kalin Grubs and tube jigs primarily. I do use the occasional crank bait, Flat Raps or Shad Raps (Yea, I should have stock in Normark Corporation) as a search lure, particularly as the water warms up in early summer.
I started out on The Flats in Sturgeon Bay. This area had been pounded pretty good since the early May opener, but it is a large area and you can usually find fish. Also, the configuration of Sturgeon Bay allows you to find a place to fish even when the wind is howling. On this day there was a pretty good northeast wind so the east shoreline was fishable. The water temperatures were in the low 60's so all looked pretty good. I started working a Kalin grub in about 8-10FOW water and had a fish on pretty quick. I thought that I had a hook in the fish, but after a couple of jumps it was off. No problem, that happens with aggressive fish. A few casts later I had another bump, set the hook and had a nice fat smallie on the line. Again, I lost it. I took some time to sharpen my hook and went at it again. After losing a third fish, I started to question my hooking setting technique. This brings me back to my point of trolling too much.
Since moving to Door County, I spend a greater proportion of my fishing time trolling. With the huge expanses to water to cover, trolling is the most efficient way to hunt for salmon, trout and walleyes. However, one thing you lose when trolling is the sensation of feeling that initial hit by a big fish as well as the need to "set the hook". Your hook set is pretty much done by the equipment and is determined by the sharpness of your hooks, the speed of the boat, the tension of your release and, of course, the aggressiveness of the fish. Oh, and the most important variable, luck! To be honest, once you have a fish on while trolling, as long as you keep a tight line and don't do anything really stupid like throw your rod in the lake, you do not have a lot of control over whether you will land the fish or not. Baring equipment failure or a poorly set drag, you will either get the fish to the boat or not. It is pretty much up to the fish and blind luck.
However, setting the hook into "one of those bass with the small mouths" is a different deal. It does involve some timing and finesse (not to discount luck as well). Perhaps my hook-setting "chops" have atrophied while sitting on my butt watching trolling rods bob on the waves. There is only one cure for that. Fish bass more. I plan on doing that in the coming weeks.
At any rate I did manage to boat a couple of smallmouth and even a nice rock bass before moving up to Egg Harbor in the afternoon. I had a little better success there until the wind shifted to the north and forced me off the water. The smallmouth bass bite is going well on both sides of the peninsula, or so I have heard. I still have not had that good day yet, but will keep at it until my "chops" return.
Tight Lines, Bruce
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