Spring Fishing

2004 has been an interesting year for me. Overall, I went fishing far less than I have the past 10 or 15 years. I had slow days like everyone, but some good ones too though when I did get out.

I started out the year before fishing began with a bunch of seminars at various Showspan shows. I really enjoy doing seminars and we had some good ones.

Mark Gomez shows off an 8 1/2 pound Detroit River walleye caught jigging the spring river runs.
Mark Gomez shows off an 8 1/2 pound Detroit River walleye caught jigging the spring river runs.

Mark Gomez talked me into another couple of attempts at the spring Detroit River walleye run. Apparently, I can catch walleye everywhere except the Detroit River in the spring. I’m not even sure if I had any bites. Mark had one decent day with the best one landed being this sowbelly 8-½ pounder. He lost something bigger after a decent fight, but we think it may have been a musky the way it cut his line suddenly.

Nothing new there for me anyway, but I moved from there to spring crappie and bass as usual. That worked better for me. I did have some fairly slow days, but also some really good days with lots of solid bass and a few big bass. Crappie fishing was really slow though.

Spring spinnerbait caught tubby Kent Lake largemouth bass caught by Dan Kimmel.
Spring spinnerbait caught tubby Kent Lake largemouth bass caught by Dan Kimmel.

Here’s a typical tubby spring largemouth. This one from a Kent Lake trip with Mark (cameraguy). I caught it on my old off-colored water special spinnerbait with a chartreuse & white skirt and a #5 silver Oklahoma blade – great for slow-rolling through new weed growth or around shallow wood.

No 5-pounders this spring, but I landed a few at or over 4 pounds… which is nice. Being without my boat yet, I was at the mercy of various fishing partners, but I got out a few times.

I also snuck in another seminar at D & R Sports Center’s spring fishing show where I had a great crowd that asked tons of good questions. I really enjoy that.

In early May, we repeated our possibly now-traditional spring trip to Hardy Dam Pond for smallies. Brian had won his club paper tournament the weekend before with over 18 pounds while catching a TON of bass. What a turnaround though. We struggled all day with only a tiny handful of bass landed.

A tiny Hardy Dam Pond walleye that hit a blade bait deep during our annual spring fishing trip.
A tiny Hardy Dam Pond walleye that hit a blade bait deep during our annual spring fishing trip.

I never landed a bass at all, but proved I can catch walleye other places besides the Detroit River in the spring. I landed 3 keeper walleye – 2 on blade baits and 1 on a jerkbait. Of course, being the great cameraman that Mark is, he only seemed to be able to find this photo of my 4th walleye that didn’t ‘quite’ stretch to keeper size.

Mark might be a funny guy, but Brian was REALLY happy to take home the 3 keeper walleye to his wife. Fresh walleye makes her happy…

My boat is back!!! My boat hull was finally all repaired and ready for pick up at the Ranger Boats in Flippin Arkansas. I shot down there and picked it up in two hard days of driving. Now it just needed to have my new Yamaha 225 HPDI motor hooked up at D & R Sports Center before I would be completely back in business. It would be several weeks before everything was done and usable.

Then the bass season issue started to heat up too. Between work, the economy, the family and the bass season issue, I could see I wasn’t going to be fishing as much as normal. But I shouldn’t complain too much since I still get to fish quite a bit compared to many people.

I made do at times just by combining things such as when I was invited to be on the Bob Bauer radio show on 97.1 FM in Southfield. I would get on the show early in the morning and when done, I’d head over to Cass, Kent or St. Clair to do some fishing the rest of the day. Mark and I went out after the first show I did on May 22nd and had a great day on Cass, catching a very satisfying number of keeper largemouth and smallmouth bass. I also landed a good eating size keeper walleye (I really can catch them other places).

I got my boat back with motor ready to use on Memorial weekend. Had a cool day on the Upper Grand River in Lansing with my Godson Aaron where we didn’t catch many bass, but we managed to rescue a very young fawn that had fallen into the river and was getting hypothermic because of the cool water temp and not being able to get back out of the river.

The JR BASS Northern Divisional was up first. I volunteered to help out as a boater or whatever else the Michigan BASS Chapter Federation needed to put on this first Northern Divisional for the JR BASS chapter members.

I had to be sure make the BFL meeting that night by 7:00 PM so in the end I was put on computer weight entry at the weigh in. That gave me some time to get in a little practice earlier in the day for the BFL going on the next day.

My first BFL tournament needed to be a good one because it was looking like it was going to be my only BFL and one of only a few tournaments this year. It was on St. Clair on the Canadian opener as has recently been the case. I had been getting lots of keepers the past few seasons, but not many big bass, so I decided I could afford to go for big bass and risk not getting a limit if only fishing this one.

I spent more time around the channels looking for early biters. I did find that some of the patterns seemed to be on earlier than I normally have seen them, but I missed the best pattern – mostly due to psyching myself into thinking it hadn’t worked before so it wouldn’t work now.

First place co-angler, 2nd place boater and several other top 6 places all came out of the channels that day. I did end up with a better limit than I had the past few seasons including a 4-pounder I caught on a white crankbait. My two biggest came on the crankbait and the rest were on tubes. I figured I had around 13 pounds and with almost 200 boats, I thought I might squeak into the money.

Everything was going good enough and I had plenty of time until I screwed up and took the wrong shortcut into Metro Beach. I apparently had the wrong opening marked for some reason on my GPS and it had been 2 years since I’d used the shortcut.

We went out the main channel in the morning, but I thought I remembered. When I went into the opening, I even thought I saw the same flag and same lady I’ve seen other times. I went around 1 bend and started thinking something didn’t look right. By the time I was sure I took the wrong channel, I was afraid I didn’t have enough time to turn around and go back out. Now I knew why two other boats ran farther into the corner than I did!

Not being familiar with this ‘new’ canal, I decided to risk it and keep going forward. BIG MISTAKE! This canal runs parallel to shore all the way to the main Black Creek channel and comes out still way out by the mouth. I ended up being 15 minutes late and threw my bass back. Just under 13 pounds made the money…

Fake cover of a magazine outdoor writer and photographer Ron St. Germain did for me from my one little bass I caught taking him fishing on Lake St. Clair.
Fake cover of a magazine outdoor writer and photographer Ron St. Germain did for me from my one little bass I caught taking him fishing on Lake St. Clair.

The following day, I took out Lansing outdoor writer Ron St. Germain back to St. Clair. It wasn’t real rough, but it was bouncy and not being used to bass boats and bouncy waves, Ron thought we were really ripping around all day.

Of course, desperately needing to catch bass and being limited to US waters, I was only able to catch 1 small keeper smallie before breaking down and going canal fishing. It was just too rough and time too short to head down the West shore. Ron felt he had a skunk to get off his back and at least he did manage two almost keeper largemouths on a 3-hooked worm.

He was happy to at least get rid of the total skunk but we didn’t put together much material so his following story was kind of humorous about the adventure of the day in the waves and racing all over while catching few bass. Luckily, he left my actual name out of the article so I wasn’t publicly embarrassed.

He did get pictures of my one small keeper smallie, and I guess, inspired by my tails of muskies stealing smallies off our hooks (while not actually catching a musky that day – which he wanted to do), he sent me this ‘piece of art.’ ALWAYS make sure you treat outdoor writers very wall.

Especially the ones who have the twisted sense of humor that enables them to do something like this to get you back…

Dan Kimmel with a quality Lake St. Clair smallmouth bass.
Dan Kimmel with a quality Lake St. Clair smallmouth bass.

I did have a stretch of exciting moments around that time where I was pounding bass all over on inland lakes and St. Clair on topwaters. I sometimes think I have a weak heart, but despite even a 20+ pound musky crushing a Super Spook in the St. Clair River, the old heart is still beating. Not that my heart doesn’t do a flip-flop or two when a St. Clair River bruiser smallie like this one smashes the Spook… especially when you can see her coming up like a dark Polaris missile!

I was starting to get into the bass season issue with both feet. A group of us got behind Anthony Adams from ABA to start holding our own meetings in preparation for the expected MDNR public meetings later in the summer. We did not like the way things were going (still don’t).

I was getting on the Bob Bauer 97.1 FM show, in some magazines and newspapers, and one appearance on Mike Avery’s Outdoor Magazine radio show to talk about the issue. Coming home from one July Bob Bauer show/Kent Lake fishing combo trip, my 11-year-old truck died along the highway. Blown head gasket! Unfortunately, it was 4th of July weekend so I had to get Larry to come for my boat while I waited 3 hours to get a tow to Lansing.

Luckily I was only 15 miles from home, but my truck was dead and gone… too old to spend the big bucks to repair a blown head gasket and who knows what else underlying.

That cut into my fishing even more. Good thing I do have friends who also have boats.

I did come up with another tank of a truck a couple weeks later, but then ran smack into the 20-some MDNR public meetings all over the state. I made it to 9 or so, but also spent many hours writing my speeches and putting together study information and documentation that our MDNR in charge of this bass season fiasco did not seem to be able to find on their own. I put a ton of miles on my truck, wife’s car, and Anthony’s vehicles during August.

Lake Ovid keeper largemouth bass caught on a Texas-rigged plastic worm.
Lake Ovid keeper largemouth bass caught on a Texas-rigged plastic worm.

Despite the meetings all over the state, I still managed to do some fishing with one slow trip to the St. Clair River where the wind blew hard against the current and a lot of the river was closed off for boat races. I did better on Lake Ovid with a couple days that proved once again the Ovid is an awesome inland largemouth lake. Tore them up with lots of keepers and one over 5 pounds. Some great Texas-rigged worm fishing, but the toad came on a small jerkbait. Most were from the size of the one up above to about 17 inches. (You can see the weed mats we were pitching to in the background.)

Back into some tournament-like competition finally in early September when I volunteered to be a boater for the competition day of the Big Ten Classic on Lake St. Clair. It would be different then normal since I would not be able to fish myself, but take two college anglers around the US part of the lake to fish.

I drew young anglers from Northwestern (Rocky) and Wisconsin (Alan – wow, those Wisconsin team pants were something). On the first spot, which was a somewhat challenging spot, Rocky landed a GOOD one – a 4-4 smallie. Alan landed 4 regular keepers, but they each lost several bass including keepers.

We fished some other spots but ended up weighing just those bass. We had a close call while heading to a weed bed later. Another boat changed course and beat us there by one cast length. The front angler ended up boating 3 nice keepers in a row on spinnerbaits right in front of us. He was from MSU and ended up winning the tournament along with MSU taking top college team.

It was a fun and interesting day, but a huge surprise waited for me at the end. It was a slow day so not many good weights. Rocky ended up with big bass. Better news was that my ‘boat’ total weight ended up 2nd overall and instead of just the gas allowance, which turned out to be $30, I also received a $200 award for being the 2nd place boat volunteer. Good gas money I did not expect.

I was really looking forward to the now annual Mullett Lake trip this year with the lack of tournaments and less fishing than normal. We had a couple day delay due to health problems of one of the members, but got up there a week earlier than normal. I was a little nervous the fishing would be down. The water was in the low to mid 60s and is usually in the low to mid 50s when we’ve gone in the past and really hammered the big smallies.

It turned out the bass were much more scattered and in singles or smaller groups than previous years on average. I was lucky to figure out a good approach to maximizing what the bass would give me. My best 5 the first day were close to 20 pounds. I did have one that was over 6 pounds take a grub 3 times and I never sunk the hook into it. What a whopper. I saw that fish 2 more times and could not get it to bite.

After that, I kept tossing crankbaits out off the deeper rocks and then big all chartreuse or all white spinnerbaits also out off the deeper rock edges with random movements into the rocks to see if any bass were active.

Most days we landed 4 or 5 heavy 4+ pound smallies and a respectable number of solid smallies. We had one slow day were we lost and missed a several good ones and only got a couple each. Larry got our boats only 5 pounder. I managed 6 to 9 keepers most days, which is below normal, but it was still beautiful scenery with gorgeous fat smallmouth bass. I even learned a couple new spots that were among our best. I look forward to adding them to the selection in the future.

Ended up only fishing 4 ½ days instead of 6 when we had several days of 40+ mph winds come in and pound the Aloha State Park campground. We headed home early. I had fond memories of close to 5 pound smallies slamming crankbaits and spinnerbaits all the way home. The bigger all-colored spinnerbaits really made a difference in the number of bites during the week.

Things seemed to be going pretty good until I woke up October 17th in the AM and went out to get some stuff out of my truck camper – I hadn’t finished unpacking things from my recent camping trip to Mullett.

I found the door open, a roof hatch bent up and broken, and a side hatch broken open. At first I was angry at the minor damage since it looked like not much was missing. That was until my memory kicked in and I started remembering everything I still had in the camper. The worse was when I realized I had my new Yamaha V-Max 25 T1 prop in there and it was now gone. They also took my good hand drill.

I’ll probably never know everything they took since I had spare reels in there and lots of spare tackle along with camping gear. I figured out a short list of things that I will most likely never see again. I’ve since taped up and stapled some things back together. I also beefed up some of the hatches. I believe I’ve since seen the guys who probably did it. I made it so obvious I thought they looked like problem guys, and then told the police and all my neighbors, that I hope they never come around again. After a rash of problems, our neighborhood has been quiet again lately.

Thanks goodness for great sponsors and friendly companies. A couple weeks later, a replacement Yamaha prop showed up as a ‘cheer me up’ surprise. Really did cheer me up! It was unexpected and greatly appreciated.

About the same time, I had to renew my existing contract with All Star through Shakespeare now because K2 bought All Star (I believe K2 is the parent company) and cancelled all of All Star’s contracts to renegotiate new ones with anglers they wanted to keep. I had just signed the original contract this past May thanks to John Maniaci.

I wondered if they would keep me being so new, but I fortunately got a quick reply that they wanted to sign me to a new contract. K2 also owns Pflueger and I’ve thought they make excellent fishing reels, so I agreed when they said they wanted to sign both rods and reels. I look forward to working to make this a successful arrangement for both parties. The All Star rods I’ve been using are great and I’m extremely impressed with the new Pflueger reels. The smoothest and sharpest reels I’ve ever owned.

Normally, Derek and I fish the October Cass Lake opens but this year I wasn’t sure if I could do the tournaments. It became moot when Derek took on a coaching job for the little guys football team his son Aaron is on. They had practice and games all October so he couldn’t make the tournaments.

I figured I’d get over it, but the week before the Ken Purvey / Last Chance tournament on October 31, I stopped at Cass Lake in the morning on the way to the state BASS federation meeting (at Bass Pro Shops in Auburn Hills). I ended popping keeper smallies pretty good on my usual October deep blade bait pattern in the less than 3 hours I had to fish. I caught the bug, so when Vince emailed me and asked if I could fish it, I went for it.

What a difference a week makes. It was windy and cold. My normal best break – were I whacked 6 keepers quick the week before – produced one shallow dink for Vince on a jerkbait, and a dink and one small keeper on my blade… and that was it. We started hitting other spots and especially keyed on the wind-blown inside turns and sides of points.

Between a combination of stingray grubs and tubes, we limited out, but with only one decent smallie. I caught 1 undersized walleye on the blade until late when I landed 1 more keeper on it. But, even with the balance beam, it seemed to weight exactly what our 4 small keepers weighed.

We each landed 3 keepers and squeaked into the last money spot – 5th place out of I believe 30 teams. We got our entry fee back anyway, but the largemouths got us this year for first place. Three of the other top 5, including ours, were smallies with one combo limit. There was a beautiful 4+ smallie weighed in for big bass.

It wasn’t the win I hoped for, but it wasn’t last place either thank goodness. No more tournaments this year.

Still fishing this year some as of November 22, but it’s getting cold. The fishing has been slow lately, but it feels great to get out when I can as always. There’s been a surprise birthday party for a sister, a football game (MSU-Wisconsin), a wedding and a baptism thrown in to the schedule, but that’s life. I’ve been updating the web site, doing some writing, starting to talk strategy for the upcoming spring show season with sponsors, and getting ready for the trip down to Flippin Arkansas for the Ranger Boats Factory Product Knowledge Tour.

I’ve made many new friends this year. More than in quite a while. That has been enjoyable. So I haven’t fished many tournaments this year, but I still got to fish with many anglers. That’s a great way to become a better angler.

My 2004 Shows/Seminars

Date Event / Location Description
Mar 5 Ford Field Fishing Show
– 3pm seminar
L. St. Clair Combat Fishing Booth
– Advanced smallmouth techniques
Mar 6 Ford Field Fishing Show
– 11am seminar
L. St. Clair Combat Fishing Booth / D & R Sports Center
– Advanced smallmouth techniques
Mar 11 Lansing Ctr Fishing Show L. St. Clair Combat Fishing Booth
Mar 12 Lansing Ctr Fishing Show L. St. Clair Combat Fishing Booth
Mar 13 Lansing Ctr Fishing Show
– 6:30pm seminar
L. St. Clair Combat Fishing Booth
– Advanced smallmouth techniques
Mar 14 Lansing Ctr Fishing Show
– 11am seminar
L. St. Clair Combat Fishing Booth
– Advanced smallmouth techniques
Mar 18 Grand Rapids Fishing Show
– 6:30pm seminar
L. St. Clair Combat Fishing Booth
– Advanced smallmouth techniques
Mar 19 Grand Rapids Fishing Show
– 12:30pm seminar
L. St. Clair Combat Fishing Booth
– Advanced smallmouth techniques
Mar 20 Grand Rapids Fishing Show L. St. Clair Combat Fishing Booth
Mar 21 Grand Rapids Fishing Show L. St. Clair Combat Fishing Booth
Apr 10 D&R Sports Center Open House 1:30pm bass seminar | Ranger Boats work
May 23 Bob Bauer’s Outdoor World 97.1 FM Radio guest on bass season issue 8 AM – 11 AM
Jul 3 Bob Bauer’s Outdoor World 97.1 FM Radio guest on bass season issue 8 AM – 10 AM
Jul 24 Mike Avery’s Outdoor Magazine Radio guest multi-station show bass season issue 7:10 AM – 7:40 AM
Aug 22 Gander Mntn Flint Grand Opening Crankbaits for Bass

My 2004 Tournaments

Date Event Location
June 25 Jr BASS Northern Div L. St. Clair, Mt. Clemens MI (volunteer)
June 26 Wal-Mart BFL MI Div L. St. Clair, Mt. Clemens MI
Sept 19 Big 10 Regional (boat driver) L. St. Clair, Mt. Clemens MI
Oct 31 Ken Purvey Mem/Last Chance Cass Lake, Pontiac MI

Money Finishes This Year

Date Event Finish Description
Sep 19 Big 10 Regional (boat driver) St. Clair 2nd Award for 2nd best total boat weight (also big bass of event 4.4 smallie)
I had an angler from Wisconsin & from Northwestern
Oct 31 Ken Purvey Mem – Cass Lake 5th Partner – Vince Reynolds

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