|My recent column about setting up a bear bait for the upcoming season was routine as outdoor columns go, but I was amused to hear from a reader who decided to do exactly what I said . . . not planning to lure in a bear but in the hopes of proving me wrong! In truth, that is not so hard to do in most cases, but when it comes to bears and free food, I have great faith in the power of donuts, molasses and Liquid Smoke!
This fine sport (who shall remain nameless for any number of embarrassing reasons) picked a sheltered spot in the woods near a local stream, placed a barrel with some bait as noted within the tangled branches of a large blown-down tree and poured liberal amounts of molasses and Liquid Smoke around the area. To the average person the resulting bait site looks a lot like the mess you'd find under a two-year-old's high chair, but bears see it as ringing the dinner bell on Saturday night.
I guess our intrepid baiter assumed that bears are smarter, more timid and more selective than that, and was hoping to tell the world that Ol' Steve doesn't have a clue about bear baiting. Well, he was diplomatic enough to admit his plan had gone awry because he had a bear on the bait the second day! And, when he rebaited, he found that at least two bruins have been coming in to the bait and cleaning out the barrel every day! To prove that his bait wasn't being hit by raccoons, dogs and assorted other non-target critters, Sir Baiter set up one of those remoter trail cameras and found that at least one of the bears was a serious trophy, easily 250 pounds (wider and taller than the barrel) and fat as a pig!
I had not thought anyone would try what I recommended and hope to prove me wrong, but it's a good lesson for me and him! I don't recall ever making up a story just to meet a deadline and am reminded not to do so, but I'm also glad that someone actually read the column and tried what I'd suggested. I'm more than happy that at least one reader will have a shot at a bear when the season opens in a few weeks. We all win on this one!
Well, since I'm on a roll of “told you so,” it happens that I was doing some river bass fishing a few weeks ago with three other anglers who considered themselves experts at trout fishing and were thinking their successful salmonid tactics would also work for warm-season smallmouths. Guess not! I thought it odd that they would wade into the middle of the river current and cast downstream where the current was fastest and the water was deepest. A good trout tactic, I would think, but not in August when the water is warm as bath water and the only cover available was the thick layer of algae that covered the rocks and logs at mid-river.
Together the three were formidably adamant that they knew how to fish for bass in summer (using flies, no less!), but the game became serious when, after a full day on the water, only the crusty old columnist was catching any fish. In fact, late the next afternoon I generously let one of the anglers fish all the best water ahead of me while I poked around in my vest to sort lures and whatnot. I let the sport fish all of the best pools and runs and noted right away that he was fishing too fast, too high and too impatiently. When he got far enough away for polite casting, I waded over to the first big log and, using my best flip-and-toss technique, dropped a tiny purple jig into the dark water just below the wood. Hesitate one, two, three . . . and a bass was on! This fish was about 3 pounds, not too big, but big enough! I caught another bass in the same pool, then hooked at least one, if not two or three, wherever I found obstacles and deep water near shore. The frustrated sport ahead of me saw all the action and was obviously miffed by it all.
He finally waded back to me, came over and said, “Please show me how to catch bass in here!”
“Well, it's simple,” I said. “You are fishing water that's too fast with no cover and you're not covering the water properly. If there is cover and deep water there will be bass - they can't be anywhere else. Take your time, fish each hole as if you know there's a bass in there and, in one cast or 20, you'll find him.
“Also, let your fly get into the cover. You're ending your cast just as your fly is getting to the sweet spot. Let it drift under the rocks and logs so the fish can see it.”
I kid you not, the guy waded out to the next logjam, and, after several errant casts, finally bounced his fly off a log and let the big, black nymph drift 6 feet under the obstacle. His fluorescent green line immediately snapped taut and a fish was on - simple as that! I couldn't have planned that catch any better!
The good news is the guy finally “woke up,” started thinking like a bass and began fishing the right places with more determination. He ended up catching twice the number of fish his cohorts found.
I thought everyone knew how to catch bass, but evidently not everyone is an All Outdoors reader. As they say, if this column saves just one outdoor career this week, it will have been worth it!
That reminds me, too of the time I accompanied Rolling Thunder Express founder Jerry Angel and his sons to the St. Croix River for a weekend of fishing at Jerry's riverside camp. I was in my canoe with Luke Angel who was about 17 at the time and new to river bassing. He was fishing hard at mid-river and not having much luck, so I suggested he wait a second and try a spot I had picked out as we paddled along. At the right moment I said, “Cast to that twig sticking out of the water,” and Luke placed the yellow twistertail jig right on the money. There was a swirl, a splash and a nice bass was on the line.
Nothing to it, right Luke?