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I get a kick out of the fishing shows I see on TV that (always) tout the “world-class” fishing they're about to show their viewers. I'll admit, some of the muskie, pike, king salmon and walleye fishing they present seems worth bragging about, but when they decide to do a smallmouth bass-fishing segment it's almost laughable.
I saw a show not too long ago hosted by “Uncle Homer” Circle, one of the big names in the outdoors, who was just falling all over himself about the great bass fishing he was about to show us. Well, the show wore on and all I saw were fish in the 10-inch class - lots of them, for sure, but nothing that could measure up to what we have right here in our own back yard. I've fished all over central Maine since the 1970s and have concentrated more on bass than anything else (just because there are more of them, they're easy to catch, the fight like pit bulls and they taste pretty good, too). I have to say that the worst bass fishing I ever experienced was in Glenburn Pond, and even then every smallmouth I caught was bigger than anything Uncle Homer held up for the camera.
Thanks to my affiliations with various outdoor writer organizations I am forever getting free samples of fishing and hunting videos and CDs. The deer, bear, elk and moose shows are pretty good, and most of the fishing shows are interesting enough, but very few smallmouth videos show anything even close to what Maine has to offer. I only bring this up now because June is prime time for bass fishing in Maine, and just about every lake, pond or river in our region holds some good fish - most offering better than “world-class” fishing if all those TV shows and videos are any indication.
The easiest bass fishing can be found by simply paddling along the bank early or late in the day and casting a small, lively lure up under the shoreline trees and brush. Our bass are territorial, aggressive and belligerent, so you can forget the “finesse” approach. I wouldn't throw rocks at them, but if you paddle along smoothly and drop your lures into the water with a gentle “plop,” you'll soon be fast to a fish - occasionally, one as long as your arm!
You don't have to fish the biggest lakes or deepest water to find good bass fishing. Poke along the shore of Wassookeag, Sebec or Big Indian and you'll catch plenty of bass - and some big ones, too. Boyd Lake in Milo produces some nice catches, as does Nokomis Pond in Newport or Pleasant Pond in Orneville. In fact, Pleasant Pond was the site of my best bass catch ever - the fish hit down along the west side of the pond and towed me - in my 16-foot canvas-covered canoe - all the way to the outlet on the east end! That fish was big and strong, and I was about to lip him and pull him into the canoe when my little Rebel minnow came sailing up and stuck in my shirt about an inch from my chin! That fish and I saw eye to eye for about two seconds and then he was gone . . . I fished that pond again for years and never hooked another one like him.
Most ponds require that you use a boat or canoe to get to the fish, but you can also use a raft, a kayak or even a float-tube. It's not really possible to wet-wade most of these places because it's too deep, brushy or mucky to make any kind of serious progress. In fact, I'd recommend against wading most of the pond shorelines around here - you can be walking along just fine in knee-deep water only to fall into a hole filled with silt that may well be 10 feet deep . . . or more! Watch out for that stuff!
If you like to fish from shore and don't mind getting a little bit wet, try fishing some of the rivers in our area. They all contain bass and all have stretches of shallow, rocky water where bass can be found in numbers. Just walk along, cast a minnow-imitating lure into the deep holes and near the larger rocks and logs and hang on! Spend plenty of time in areas where the water is deep, slow and riddled with boulders - this is considered bass heaven! Also, try the tails of rocky shoals and rapids, the slow water at the far end of pools where, normally, you'd expect to find trout.
If you want a really interesting experience, try bass fishing after dark. The theory is that the bigger fish spend their days in the cooler depths, and then come into the shallow water at night to feed on frogs, crayfish, minnows and other small quarry. The drawback with night fishing is in knowing where you (and the water) are, so if you don't intimately know the water you will have to pick a spot and just claim it as your own for the night. Toss Jitterbugs and other gurgling topwater lures as far out as you can and retrieve them slowly and steadily. Another good trick is to rig up an 8- or 10-inch black rubber worm or eel on snelled tandem hooks, keeping the points of the hooks buried in the rubber so the worm can slither over and under any obstacle it encounters out there in the dark. For some reason, bass can find black lures on a dark night, so be patient and persistent. If you raise a fish but miss setting the hooks, cast right back to it and try again. Most bass are more than willing to strike a second or even third time if the presentation is right - make your lure look and act like it needs to be eaten and you'll get a response.
Whatever you do, don't waste your time this month watching lame fishing videos. Try the fishing in your own back yard and you may be surprised at what you will find. There are some “world-class” bass out there waiting for you, I guarantee it!
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