First Smallmouth of the Year
On getting "skunked"

Harbor Angler Report, May 24th Photo

Howling winds, cold rain and too much time sitting in a turkey blind has kept me off the water for a while. (Yes, I did. Thanks for asking.) I finally got out for smallmouth with friend and colleague Steve on Monday. We were fishing Little Sturgeon Bay following the Sturgeon Bay Open Bass Tournament held the weekend before. This followed two other big tournaments on the Bay the weekend of May 12-13 (Sturgeon Bay Bass Tournament and Cabela's North American Bass Circuit). I have already expressed my mixed feelings about these tournaments (see blog from May 6th) but I do have to respect these anglers for catching some very large fish in tough conditions. The water in the Bay is still pretty cold. The warmest water I found Monday was 57F and most was in the lower to mid 50's. In addition, they had to contend with some very rough water. In fact, the first day of the SBOBT was canceled due to high winds and waves. Despite this the winners of each of the tournaments (you can view the results by clicking on the tournament links) came in with bag limits averaging almost 6 pounds. That's average. Most of us would be thrilled to boat a couple of 6 pounders for the season. However, what really fascinates me about the list of tournament results is not those on the top of the list, but those on the bottom. Not everyone catches limits or even anything. For example, according to the official tournament results for the Sturgeon Bay Open Bass Tournament, of the 129 registered teams, 58 teams did not register a fish for one of the two days and 22 teams had exactly ZERO bass. Now that does not necessarily mean they caught no fish. They may have caught some undersized fish or fish of other species. In addition. there may have been other circumstances that caused them not to register a fish. But I am sure that among this bunch of highly motivated, skilled anglers. (each team composed of two anglers) at least some got skunked.

Which brings me to my point. There is no shame in getting skunked (aka going fishing and catching no fish). It happens to even the best, a group of which I definitely do not belong. The only people who don't get skunked are those who don't fish much. You can surely tell when a guy is lying about his fishing prowess if he claims, "I always catch fish". Nobody always catches fish. We all have days when it is just not happening no matter what we do. I have said many times that "I have never had a bad day fishing, but I have had many bad days catching!"

Well, you know where this is going, don't you? Steve and I did not do very well on our first smallmouth venture of the year. No, we did not get "skunked", but pretty close. I boated a nice smallie in Little Sturgeon using a silver and blue Flat Rap. We also got a snake (aka northern pike) and a smallmouth off Sherwood Point. But that's it! The conventional wisdom for early smallmouth fishing is find the warmest water you can and then work you lures excruciatingly ssssllllloooowwww. I guess either the water was not warm enough or I just cannot do slow enough. I am confident my results will improve as the water warms and the fish become more active. I find the time between Memorial Day and the end of June is my most productive time for smallies. We'll see.

At any rate, my experience Monday only increased my respect for those professional and amateur anglers who catch fish even when the fish are not biting. My hat's off to them! And it still was a good day fishing. 


 Tight Lines, Bruce


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