Spring bass fishing has always been personally challenging, engaging, and exciting for myself and guests throughout the years. More heavyweights tipping the scales between 4 and 8 lbs. are caught and released in May and early June than most months combined. Catching them consistently however, isn't easy. While their movements from ice out to pre-spawn are generally predictable, it's usually the unpredictable weather and water temperatures that's throwing curveballs our way. This winter was mild and tolerable, but spring, despite an early ice-out, has been meaner and colder. I anticipate a cold spring season that will last until Memorial Day weekend. This could undoubtedly slow the fishing. There are no shortcuts to consistently catching trophy northwoods bass in spring, but there are certain strategies and methods you can implement to improve your success. The most important order of business is to spend most of your time fishing the right waters.
On Labor Day weekend I had the pleasure of hosting my girlfriend, Amanda, up north. After almost 8 months being happily together this was her first time with me in God’s country, at my happy place, where I spend the most time from May through October. She was able to take the weekend off from medical school, and we took off for a long weekend adventure. We departed from Chicago late Friday evening and arrived at midnight, ready to fish for most of the day Saturday, Sunday, and half the day Monday. My priority for the weekend was to mainly relax, and spend quality time with Amanda, doing more tourist activities than fishing and showing her around my town and the places I spend all my time at. But as we quickly found out, she is a natural at fishing and I couldn’t keep her off the water. Since all I do now is mostly smallmouth fish for leisure and guiding, I treated my sweetheart as if she was the VIP client. Thus I barely tried hard, did the coaching, and allowed her to do most of the catching. Each day Amanda and I fished at least 6 hours. We worked a few local lakes in the Minocqua region that are good for catching smallmouths in numbers and size, and usually have low to minimal boat traffic.
My musky tournament partner and good buddy Steve Peterson and I recently had the pleasure of traveling to Green Bay, Wisconsin and fish it for muskies for the first time. It was a quick 2 day marathon trip for us. Having built a good network of friends and guides in the area thanks to my regular day job, I was able to schedule this quick 2 day trip way back in January and reserve our fishing dates. This visit to fish with guide buddy, Brett Jolly, and Stephen Wesoloski of Toothy's Tackle was long overdue. We were excited to fish world class waters with friends, and learn a new fishery so that we may be comfortable returning with our own boats next time. On Thursday August 27th, Steve and I left Chicago at 4am, high on coffee, and drove 3 hours straight to the boat landing. Brett, who will be retiring from being a fishing guide in November, was kind enough to take us out on Day-1 for a combination of casting and trolling.
A few weeks ago, after a 2 year hiatus from one of the best muskie fisheries in the world, I returned to Lake of the Woods in Northwest Ontario. During the first week of August I joined one of my best fishing pals, Zach Quinn, and his dad Dave, along with his uncle and a family friend. The five of us rented a cabin on Flag Island Resort, and we fished out of two boats. The cold weather, blowing wind, and inactivity levels of fish led to one of the most difficult fishing trips I’ve ever been on. Our group boated a total of five muskies, a handful of pike, and walleyes on this trip. Compared with my trips from previous years, our fishing was less than satisfactory. I’m not sure if trying anything different would have helped. Sure, being with the perfect fishing partner for a full week, and having your own boat and the freedom to navigate and run to spots of choice would have given me all the confidence in the world and perhaps changed the outcome. But the fishing was just bad. They weren’t biting. End of story. I live and learn.
In May, I fished from May 6th thru 22nd. Due to lousy daily weather that ranged from wind storms, to snow and overnight freezing, and below average air and water temperatures, the bass fishing was the most difficult I’ve ever experienced for the month of May. Early spring can be either a feast or famine. Spring 2015 has been a famine. For the past 7 or 8 years, I must have been lucky. During May, there wasn’t much to show for my efforts but a few memorable float trips down area rivers, and some quick feeding windows we had in between the lousy weather. Smallmouths were found, but not in their usual numbers, sizes, nor locations. My friends and guests had to look long and hard with me in order to find them – we found them shallow and deep, and even from wintering holes. Water temperatures for much of May were steady at 52-56 degrees. If only the sunlight was present, the fishing would have been spectacular – but for over a week it was nothing but clouds and dark skies. Smallies were not moving, nor were largemouths because even weedgrowth was lacking too.
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