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Northern Michigan Big Bass Hunt 2005
1 – Heaven on Earth?
by Dan Kimmel
2, 2005 — Quest for Brown Bass
only a 1-day
delay this year
(much better than last year), we were finally off on our annual fall
northern fishing and camping trophy bass hunt (well actually, we just
want to catch a bunch of really nice smallies – they
don’t have to be records… I guess they could be
largemouths too – we aren’t really that picky).
drove all morning to Aloha State
Park on the shores of Mullett Lake, arriving before noon despite a last
stop for the rest of our food for a week and a good breakfast at a
restaurant near Larry’s Higgins Lake cabin. We got
Larry’s pickup camper set up after self-registering at the
Dan's Toad Smallie
One of Larry's Toads
See the Sturge
Pg 2 - The Huge 8-2 Smallie
were both more than a
little ramped up, but not from exertion. Only Jack Smalldon was already
up and on the water (well besides boats in 3 small tournaments we found
out later, although you couldn’t really tell). It was sunny
and gorgeous. Hot too. Probably close to 80 degrees out.
discussion or real thought. I threw some tackle in Larry’s
boat and we launched his Ranger R93 into Mullett. Surprise one (well,
not much of a surprise after this hot summer/fall) – the
water temp was in the mid to high 60’s still instead of the
mid to low 50’s we usually see this time of the year.
decided to cut to the chase and start right
on one of our favorite points – a little weed, rock and sand.
We started out deeper with no bites. The water was very green and kind
of murky. It looked like they’d had some wicked wind
recently. We found a ‘new’ really thick large
weedbed on our spot, but after a few minutes the weed bed coalesced
into a huge school of minnows – bigger school than we
was throwing a heavy ¾ oz chartreuse and white spinnerbait
to the inside of the minnows at a 7 to 8 foot break. A huge smallie
charged my spinnerbait and failed to connect. Got my heart really
beating though – I said something like, “Holy!
Jeez! Uurrk Wow! Did you see THAT!!!” Then Larry hooked a
toad to the left of the edge my fish came from (it also ran the other
way) on a tube. After a bulldogging fight, he landed this 5-pound+
picked up an Xtreme Bass Tackle tube of my own tied to my fairly new
All Star 7 foot tube rod and tossed the tube out. I popped a dink. Then
a baby 2-pounder. But I wanted to hook a toad too. I was dragging my
lure out away from the weeds/minnows when my tube was CRUSHED!!! I mean
CRUSHED!!! Beauty of a smallie – well over 4 – did
its best to not come in the boat. It tore across the surface like the
Tasmanian devil, but I got it anyway and quickly released it (I
wanted… needed… more).
the bass seemed to have too much natural food and were scattered,
seemingly individually. So after a few more minutes we moved to a long
rock/boulder point a little ways off and started whacking solid keepers
really good. Several threes, and a few well over 4 pounds. Things were
looking great! Life was good! Here’s one of the 4’s
Larry caught. (left)
bite here slowed we moved to one of our favorite big smallie, deeper
rock/boulder fields and I started burning the big ch/wh War Eagle
spinnerbait again (painted ch/wh willow leaf blades). A big smallie
coasted up behind the spinnerbait, and then grabbed it – one
of those thrilling in close grabs that makes clear water (fairly clear,
not as clear as normal) fall smallmouth fishing so heart-poundingly
thought I had another 4-pound class bass, but this fish was really
fighting strong. It ran under the boat and dragged my 7-foot All Star
fiberglass crankbait rod into the water. It actually jumped right on
the other side of the boat. Somehow, I kept the line (20 pound
Shakespeare Super Tough green) from rubbing the keel despite a very
strong surge from the powerful smallie.
pumped the fish back to my side of the boat and saw that it was much
bigger than I originally thought. Now, the fight was making more sense.
When I finally got the fish to hand and lifted it out, “Wow,
what a TOAD!!!” This smallie had a fat hump on its back and a
huge belly roll from its chin to anal vent (can I say that?) and even
bulged out on both sides up past its lateral line, making its head look
tiny (kind of funny). It was a football smallie, but only if the
football was lumpy and overinflated by 40%, bulging against the
holding the HAWG, I could feel the solid weight of it. It ended up
being my biggest bass of the entire week. (right)
I was still shaking from releasing the monster after a couple pictures
when about 50 feet away, another huge smallie slammed my same
spinnerbait. It was like trying to hook into a boulder. I
didn’t do too well setting the hook and this next hawg pulled
off after a few seconds and a washtub boil on the surface. WOW! Two
toads in a row… and we’d only been out about 2
hours on our first afternoon.
ended up landing at least 2 dozen smallies, most over 3 pounds with
several well over 4, at least one over 5 and one well over 6!!! What a
start!!! I told Larry that we might have already spoiled ourselves for
the entire week. We fished less than 3 hours before we decided to
finish settling in at the camp and rest up a little from our long drive
and preparations. Awesome afternoon!
weather! Awesome fishing!
October 3 — Mullett Lake Repeat Performance?
woke up to another gorgeous day.
Not as bright as yesterday though. Out we went again, working more
points and rock edges. The water had cleared up a bit already, but
visibility was still reduced.
tried going south to start but
for some reason, those bass weren’t up, ready and willing as
normal. I caught one tiny dink and that was it. So back north we went
after a couple hours. As soon as we got into some rocks, we started
bass seemed a little jumpy
today maybe because the water was clearing up again, but we still had
fairly consistent success, running into single fish and small packs of
3 or 4 bass at a time. They didn’t seem to be schooling up
tight yet. We were having too much fun catching some 2’s,
good numbers of 3’s and some heavy 4’s but only one
really big one today – this 5+ Larry landed, again on a tube.
about 6 hours of hard fishing
we went in to get camp ready for all the other guys coming in over the
next 3 days, and to rest Larry a little. He’s been having
some health problems lately that have been challenging to say the least.
also wanted to get ready for a road trip tomorrow to Black Lake
a lake we’d never been on and didn’t know much
October 4 — Road to Black Lake
never been to Black Lake before despite having fished other area lakes
for about a dozen years. It’s a pretty good-sized lake but
smaller than Burt or Mullett. The launch at the State Park on the south
end was shallow, but we made it out into a chilly, but quickly warming
and beautiful fall day. Before it was over, we’d be sweating
had marked some spots of interest and we started cruising them. In
about 20 minutes, we found a weed line on a sand drop. Larry and I both
commented it seemed like a great morning for topwater – calm,
bright and warm. First cast down the weedline, and Larry’s
Pop’R is blasted by a decent keeper. It jumped off part way
to the boat. We actually saw a small sturgeon swimming, several widely
scatterd bass blast the surface up on the shallow flats and small
groups of bass cruising the weed edge, but we couldn’t get
any other bites.
tried some other edges, a few depressions and edges on flats, and a
really nice looking steep weedy sand drop. We tried up shallow and out
into 18 or 19 feet with no more bites. We were starting to wonder, but
Larry really thought we needed to be in the shallow northern end near
the big reed beds. I caved in from my original plan (it
wasn’t working anyway) and we went up to look at some great
spawning territory, but even the deeper reeds produced no bites.
found some nice weed flats though and what was throwing me was that we
weren’t even catching dinks or at least pike. There were a
few boats out though most were perch fishing. We moved onto a little
deeper weed flat, and I hooked and lost something solid burning a
shallow crank over the weeds. It felt like a decent smallie. Plus we
actually saw two smaller boats tossing bassy-looking baits.
talked to one boat
and they said they had caught several really nice smallies just tossing
spinnerbaits. Shortly after we pulled away, they whacked a 3+ just to
demonstrate this. We moved about 300 yards out onto this deeper flat
and started seeing scattered weed clumps with lots of open, clean
quality bass started following our lures back to the boat. Then we
started seeing bass in singles, pairs and even small schools roaming
the flat and edges of the thick weed clumps. But we couldn’t
get them to hit anything. Very frustrating. Larry finally had one grab
a wacky-rigged stick worm that he had thrown out, and then let lie for
a while as he ate a sandwich. Yeah! The ol’ sandwich trick.
had them now! Not! We kept
seeing bass. We kept having followers, but could not get them to
actually bite a hook. After a few hours of this and after quickly
checking a few other spots with no success, we decided to head
back to camp. Larry was still building up his
energy and it’s harder to stay energized when the fish
aren’t biting well.
nearby store, we talked to the owner of the Black River Marina and
found out they had a tournament the past weekend with some big weights
and huge fish weighed in. Many of the top weights came from the same
area Larry and I saw all the bass in. He said he also had the only real
deep-water ramp on the lake (actually up in the Black River) and said
we could launch there for $5 (pay if they are there).
headed back to camp to hear they
were whacking ‘em pretty good on Mullett today.
That’s okay – we had the rest of the week yet and I
get bored fishing the same water over and over (no matter how good it
is after too many days). Black was a pretty lake with some definite
potential. With only catching a couple small bass, we didn’t
get any pictures this day.
PM – Mullett Quick Hit
after a few minutes sitting in camp, hearing the stories, thinking
about how warm and nice the day was, and then remembering I would be
using my boat tomorrow because we were both expecting guests for the
day, I decided to quickly transfer my stuff from Larry’s boat
to my boat and head out for an hour or two before dinner.
move that was! I ran north again to find the water had really cleared
up nicely. There were even more minnows around the one point. I caught
a small keeper and a dink on a spinnerbait and that was it again. I
moved down to the long rock boulder point to find small schools
gathering around the bigger boulders out deeper and just off the edges.
I caught several 2 ½ to almost 4-pounders, each time having
followers. But not right away…
couple of the smaller keepers hit my tube, but I had more followers and
didn’t get bites off boulders I passed and actually saw
groups of bass hanging around. I had won a box of lures in a drawing at
Anthony Adam’s Crossroads for Youth fishing day in August,
and there were some small black Zoom Trick worms left (after the kids
had raided out there share – always share the booty with your
fishing partners). I rigged one up wacky style and tossed it out off
the rock edge. I was counting my line down when it sped up from a foot
or so a second to about 50 feet per second! SLAP! My rod was yanked
down and I was into a 4+ smallie. I landed that one. Fixed the worm up
and tossed it out again.
the line took off after sinking about 3 seconds. I set the hook into
another beauty of a smallie over 4 pounds. I caught 2 more nice ones
before I decided I better head in if I wanted any dinner. (I knew the
‘old’ guys would be a little touchy that I was out
fishing while they were just swapping tall tales in the camp.)
the way in, I stopped to make a couple quick casts to a stretch of
sand drops I was hoping to use tomorrow for some taping we would be
doing for a new fishing show (this has been a fall hot spot in years
past and Larry had agreed to leave it alone until after we
filmed… well that’s what he said anyway). On the
4th cast of my tube, I hooked and landed a solid 3-¾ pound
smallie. Good enough.
October 5 — Swinging for the Fence
Derek and cameraguy were coming up later in the morning for some
hopefully great smallie fishing, we went out in separate boats. Larry
and Jerry were still saying they’d leave the sandy spot
alone, but I wasn’t sure how good the bass were in there, so
I ran farther north to look for some small quick-hit spots.
was surprised (for a week day in the fall) to find a guy in a small
boat sitting right in the middle of the spot I was counting on to be a
good choice. I saw him catch 3 smallies including a big one, all on
live bait before I wrote the spot off. He was keeping them and appeared
to live nearby, so I suspected this spot was getting hammered.
headed back south and caught a couple here and a couple there off the
little weed there is and of course the rocks. The big ones
weren’t moving in yet this early in the fall day, but I could
see they were slowly filtering in. I stopped way out several feet
deeper on one of the good points and quickly got into schoolers on
spinnerbaits just roaming the rocks. Nothing over 3 pounds, but mostly
solid keepers. Good for filler, but not for a short segment of big
radios started chirping up as other members of our group started
checking in to see who was whacking them good so far. We all have VHF
radios and sometimes they are used for confidence building, sometimes
for clues to a good move and sometimes for a little
‘friendly’ bragging. I like to kid around, but try
not to do too much bragging. It usually just escalates into truly tall
knew Derek had showed up and was now out with Larry. Everyone else was
off to a slow start, but Derek and Larry were yucking it up that they
were already whacking them and had several toads. On a hunch I got on
the radio and told Mr. Dekker he better get off the
‘camera’ fish and go somewhere else for a while
like he promised. He vigorously denied the offense, but I found out
later they started right on the spot quickly catching 4 big
ones… just before I called. (I know him too well.)
moved and were still able to whack them pretty good in the next two
spots – shallower areas that warm up faster so I
didn’t feel bad and neither should they.
showed up and I ran in to the ramp to pick him up around noon. We
rigged up and ran back out to the ‘camera’ spot.
The tape was rolling and on the 2nd cast, burning (the surface temp was
up to 71 F here) a ¾ oz all white double willow War Eagle
spinnerbait (I do better here in the fall when the water clears on all
white), I felt the lure get bumped. I just kept it humming along right
under the surface and was excited to see two big smallies coming in hot
on my lure.
8 feet from the boat, I stopped the spinnerbait dead and the lead
(bigger) smallie hesitated on seeing the boat. I twitched the lure in
place and the desire was too great for the TOAD smallie to resist (I
think she figured she could grab the ‘food’ and be
off before the scary boat people could do anything). My 7-foot All Star
rod (same 20-pound Shakespeare Supreme Super Tough line) was yanked
down and the BIG fish turned and ran away from the boat as
cameraguy’s camera was rolling.
smallie was HUGE. The fight wasn’t long, but very thrilling
on a short line. Despite nerves and not knowing how good it was hooked,
I was able to grab its jaw and haul her into the boat. WHAT A BASS!!
Probably 2 inches longer than my toad from Sunday, but not as fat. Just
a thick, thick smallie with big shoulders. Let me tell you, my heart
we had a job to do, so we taped the release of the awesome fish. And I
got that spinnerbait right back out there. Just burning along. To make
a long story short, I was on fire, slamming two more well over 4 pounds
and another over 5 pounds along with numerous 3+ class smallies all in
about an hour and a half of taping! It was unbelievable! I was in a
great mood this day.
little later we headed farther north and got into some decent fish here
and there, but no more real toads although cameraguy took a break from
taping to catch his biggest of the day on a tube up in shallower rocks.
Here she is:
out fairly late since cameraguy could only stay today and Derek had to
go home in the morning. There were numerous 5s and at least 2 other 6s
caught by other members of our group this fabulous day in the beautiful
the way in, cameraguy got into Larry’s boat with Derek to do
some alternate perspective and casting shots. Before Larry went in, we
took some shots of some of the many big ones Derek and Larry had caught
with 2 more toad smallies from an Indian summer October day on Mullett
(Left) Derek with 2 of his own Mullett toad smallies
we proceeded to finish the
business part of the day. I was just supposed to cast to the boat, but
we were near the spot from earlier in the day. On my first two random
casts burning the spinnerbait, I whacked two more solid keepers. I
quickly caught two more after that before cameraguy told me to quit
catching them. You know, some days, not a lot… but some days
you just can do no wrong. Those days are great!
do have to add here that we had a
first in the group – our first sturgeon landed. Okay, so not
a whopper, but pretty
interesting and fairly rare – Judy Faynor landed this
adolescent sturge on a tube. It was released to grow BIG.
finished the day with a great
dinner and cameraguy being, well… a camera guy, snapped this
nice picture of Larry, Derek and I shortly before sunset of this
that’s the story on the first half of an exciting week of
Northern Michigan smallmouth fishing. We have seven regulars in our
group at this point along with our two Wednesday guests. A whole lot of
5-pounders have been caught so far along with several sixes and too
many fours to count.
want to see how the rest of the 2005 adventure went, click here
for part two of the story.