Big fall smallmouth bass love painted spinnerbaits!
Big fall smallmouth bass love painted spinnerbaits!

Part 2 – Change is Good! You Go First!

Thursday October 6, 2005 — The Big Chill
(or Do You Think the Wind will Blow?)

Every year now, we get at least one day like this. Wind howling. Waves churning. Cameraguy had to leave early anyway for a golf outing he does every year. Derek decided he wasn’t going out fishing in the morning either (probably because none of us wanted to test those waves pouring into the beach, shore and harbor in front of us).

Everything was shaking and light stuff was trying to blow away. Our screen tent (courtesy of Jerry and Roxie Overton) was straining to leave us. My boat cover had blown part way off. It was cold too. The wind was blowing 30 to 40 miles per hour constant. It was hitting our shore, but it was pushing waves right up the lake too so none of us could work up the nerve to go out and get cold and wet. There are a few isolated places we could fish, but we still had several more days to go and the good spots were all rough.

Fishing in rough water is something we’ve all done plenty of times, but in tournaments you either go out, or donate your entry. This was supposed to be fun and relaxing (even though I try to learn all the time). So we did what seemed like the best idea. We drove into Cheboygan for a warm, hearty breakfast cooked by someone else. Then we sent Derek on his way home. A long drive for half a days fishing, but he didn’t seem to be complaining too much after all those toads yesterday.

Here’s the only picture I took from this day:

The wind howls pounding big waves into the beach at Aloha State Park on Mullett Lake.
The wind howls pounding big waves into the beach at Aloha State Park on Mullett Lake.

To really get the feel of the day, you can watch this short recording I took from the campground of the fast moving waves and the wind. This part of shore is really shallow for a ways so the waves aren’t big. The picture above shows the waves getting progressively bigger as you look further out into the lake, but the movie will let you hear and see it for yourself »

Friday October 7 — Back in Black

Larry liked what he saw Tuesday on Black Lake and wanted to show Jerry. Jerry was game despite a much different morning than our nice mornings earlier in the week. I had thick frost on my boat cover. It was $@#$%@#$% cold out. We were all bundled up and moving real slow. The heater was on in the community tent and a lot of hot coffee was being consumed.

The wind was still moving fairly well – nothing like yesterday – out of the northerly direction so Larry thought if we launched in the Black River at the marina and stayed in the north end, we’d be in little waves and near a whole bunch of bass. I was skeptical because I had a feeling the past day and a half would whomp on shallow flats smallies pretty good, but I’ve been wrong before… and I do like to fish rivers too so I figured there still might be some biters in the Black.

There were. Literally… Pike.

I stayed in the river to start while Jerry and Larry went right out to our same flat from the other day. I could see why they call it the Black River. The main channel was pitch black. But the pike were in the shallow thick weed beds, of course. I saved my spinnerbait from several.

After deciding the river wasn’t the place to be today, I headed out into the lake to see Larry/Jerry making drifts. I didn’t blast right out there like Larry does. I like my Yahama HPDI – it’s shallow out from the river mouth. I made it out there after a 10-minute or so idle through reeds and around a real shallow gravel bar.

I forgot mention – the surface temp had dropped over 10 degrees! I tried to think positive and set up a drift heading towards Jerry and Larry. I even tried to toss a spinnerbait albeit much slower. Another pike put some more bend in the wire for me as soon as I got near the first weed bed. And that was the last bite I had.

I got to the Larry and Jerry show, and Larry told me Jerry had whacked a 10-incher and 5-pounder right away on a spinnerbait and that was it. We never saw another fish. I made 4 drifts including dragging tubes and grubs. I tried farther out on this huge flat in a depression a couple feet deeper even, but the bass had apparently left the building (with or without Elvis).

It was cold too. Not much wave action but we were still in the open and the wind was moving stiffly past. So Larry announced, “We are heading back to the campground to warm up.” It would be just a short visit today.

Friday PM – Another Mullett Lake Quickie

Dan Kimmel with 2 decent Mullett Lake smallmouth bass.
Dan Kimmel with 2 decent Mullett Lake smallmouth bass.

We got back to the campground and I made my own announcement. “I’m going out on my favorite lake (Hint: Mullett).” I went right to the boat ramp and launched. Yeah, the water was over 10 degrees colder here too. From the high 60’s/low 70’s of Wednesday to a chillier 57 to 59 degrees now. I just slowed down a little, but was still able to pop a few here and some there on spinnerbaits and tubes. No giants today, but enough keepers to make it worth a little cold with several between 3 and 4 pounds, along with 2 at or a little over 4 pounds.

Here’s a picture of two of the better ones from the day (one of these hit near the boat, jumping and driving my spinnerbait right into the hull putting a nice 90 degree bend in the wire thank you very much). (Right – not a great picture, but you take what you can get for ‘photographers’ in the campground)

Saturday October 8 — Chilly, But Bass Biting

Saturday, it was still pretty chilly in the morning so we took a little time getting out, but I finally bolted for the ramp. Larry had announced we were going out in our own boats. I think he wanted some time to himself. He’s got some real challenges coming up in the next few months and I don’t mind some quiet time either. Besides we have the radios to shout back and forth as needed.

I ran to one of the northernmost points. Larry ran up into some new sandy spots he’s been catching bass on not too far away. The fishing wasn’t fast and furious, but the bass were biting a little. The minnows were thicker than ever in big schools. Bass would occasionally bust them, usually in singles and scattered over a large area. I had dreams of exploding topwater bites, but the bass didn’t share my dream.

The water temp slowly creeped up and I started reeling a ½ oz War Eagle spinnerbait a little faster. With colder and clearer water, and all the flashy minnows, I went to green shad for a more natural look. It started to work. I would toss it out from the outside rock edge since the smallies weren’t making strong movements back up into the shallow rocks yet.

Slowly, but steadily, I started to pick up bigger bass. Again nothing huge today, but the big toad bass spot produced one around 4 pounds and I slammed another one over 4 pounds (along with 3 more nice ones) off the end of one of the long rock points.

Two more quality Mullett Lake smallmouth bass caught post cold front.
Two more quality Mullett Lake smallmouth bass caught post cold front.

Here’s a picture of two good ones (and sun in my eyes):

On the way in, I hit the awesome taping spot from Wednesday again. These bass had really been knocked for a loop by the cold. With no more bites on the light tube. I grabbed the green shad spinnerbait and tossed it over the same corner I hooked and lost a big one on this morning. A ‘boulder’ again stopped my spinnerbait dead in its tracks. THUMP! I set the hook feeling the slow, powerful head shake. Then nothing. By the end of the day, I think I lost this same fish 3 times.

The water had really turned murky here from stirred up sand. On the way out this morning I had stopped here for a few minutes and after a slow start, popped 3 good ones on a light-weighted Xtreme Bass Canadian Mist tube from a small weed clump I could barely see. Then I hooked the ‘boulder’ that did not want to move. After a brief slow head-shaking tug-of-war, the big fish pulled off. I think this may be the same strong fish I lost at the end of the day.

Sunday October 9 — Last, But Not Least

Larry decided to head home first thing to get a head start with all his upcoming challenges (along with surprising Sharon by being home early). After we helped him get on his way, which warmed us up a little, I launched for my last day on the lake. It was chilly, but very nice out over all. Just a light breeze.

I ran up to the minnow point hoping to pop one more giant. We hadn’t caught a ton up there during the week, but several we did catch or lose were over 5 pounds. We saw several more toads busting minnows or following our lures to the boat.

I got there to see scattered bass busting minnows in calm water. I slammed one respectable keeper on the spinnerbait. It hit pretty darn hard. I was moving the spinnerbait right along, but not top speed. I had another one on a tube that felt solid. I had thrown in where I saw one bust a moment earlier. I didn’t do something right and this bass pulled off. A few minutes later, an angler in another boat hooked and landed one about 3 pounds in the same general area.

The breeze picked up just a little and topwater activity tapered off. The bite got even slower so I headed for Larry’s sand spots. I fished there a while, smacking 1 decent keeper, but that was it. I think the fast drop in water temp kept the fish sparse. Larry had worked them over good yesterday too.

I decided to risk running into the local again on the small spot farther north so I ran up there. Good move. I had the spot to myself. I quickly caught a solid smallie on the edge of a hole. Then I had too more smack the same spinnerbait by throwing it over the edge of the hole. The 3rd bass was fairly long with tall sides, but it was deformed so that it had a sharp ridge all the way down its back, kind of like a hatchet blade. It hit and fought hard, but it was missing a lot of muscle mass or it would have been over 4 pounds for its length and depth.

I caught one more nice keeper – a 3+ – by drifting a wacky-rig Xtreme Bass melon tinsel Xworm over the edge of the hole. Then the spot decided I’d caught enough. I tried various speeds and techniques to no avail. Being my last day, time was a-wastin’ so back south I went.

I heard the lure (no pun intended) of those big toads on the minnow point one more time and stopped on my way by. No one there now. I popped a small keeper on the spinnerbait. Then had one swat it, but not real big. I knew right where big ones had been sitting often all week, but I also knew they were definitely on to me. Repeated casts of various jerkbaits, spinnerbaits, tubes and grubs produced only one BIG follower.

I decided to try something extreme despite the reduced conditions. I took my green shad War Eagle spinnerbait that had been bent repeatedly the past few days by bass and pike and tossed it right at the corner of the thickest weed clump. The instant it hit the water, I burned it away from the weeds. I mean I had it flying so fast it was just a blur.

An eye blink later, a much bigger torpedo-shaped blur intercepted the spinnerbait, crushing it! It was what I imagine a seal feels when the Great White blasts it! A huge incredibly long smallie blew out of the water as I slammed the hammer down. This smallie was part steelhead. It cleared the water straight for the clouds in an amazingly high jump. At the same time, my spinnerbait blades catapulted 20 feet to the left. The long whopper smallie immediately exploded out of the water again reaching 3 or 4 feet above the water, and then was gone. The scene was quiet again looking for all the world like nothing had happened.

All I got back were my blades. The rest was gone with the LONG mean fightin’ machine of a smally that I won’t soon forget. The whole thing from cast to quiet again took about 3 seconds. But what an amazing 3 seconds!

With my heart beating strong and fierce again, I drove farther south and stopped on my favorite rock point catching several dinks to medium keepers. They were starting to school up again, but the tube wasn’t getting them real well. I decided to test the bigger rock field bass again – see if they were deciding to move in and up again in the slowly warming water – but I’d work my way there on the trolling motor. Just to pick up what I could along the way. It was getting nicer and nicer out.

Ben Trodder decided to run his boat right up on the rock edge I was preparing to stealthily cast too. He seemed rather proud that he could run right in front of me and ‘take’ the spot… like a man I guess. I let him have it. There are plenty more spots. I try not to want one that bad (and this is a very rare occurrence in the north country luckily).

I decided my renewed spinnerbait attack for big hawgs would best start by moving right to the deeper boulder field that had produced a few big bass all week including my monster bass last Sunday. I wasn’t there long when two bass came from the inside – I’d alternate casting out and in along the hard edge – stalking my spinnerbait. This is what I really like about northern Michigan smallie lakes – the big one outraced the smaller one at the last minute to ambush its ‘target’ – one of those real exciting strikes where you see the big torpedo gliding up from behind, sneaking up on its intended victim. And then the last tail kick – WHAM! The prey is engulfed!

I timed my strike just right and hooked the big fish. After a hard toe-to-toe battle, I landed one well over 4 pounds. Now we talking. I hadn’t moved 50 feet when another loner bass pulled the exact same maneuver from the deeper outside. Another jolting strike and exciting close in battle around the trolling motor. Another one well over 4 pounds. Now I’m really getting excited.

I moved along having a short dry spell until I got to the next really good rock point. I popped a 3+ on the north side of the point as I came into the rock edge. I popped another quality bass almost 4 pounds on the south side edge. I figured with bass on the move again that one big one might have pulled up to the really big boulder on top of the middle of the point (our group had caught at least two well over 5 there earlier in the week) so I snuck up on it. Nothing.

Well, you can only expect so much. But the boulder is in a depression and there are other smaller boulders scattered through the hole. I kept the spinnerbait wet by tossing it to the side of the hole as I took a sneak peak at the key boulder. Just as I saw there were no toadies hiding there anyway, a 4+ smallie shot up from a much smaller rock and killed my spinnerbait. Man I love this kind of fishing!

The bite disappeared again so I moved to another big boulder point I hadn’t pestered much this week. The water was much murkier here. I couldn’t even see a lot of the bigger boulders and wasn’t getting bit, so I moved on down the rock edge.

I started getting whacked again right away. Every few minutes, my spinnerbait would get creamed by a smallie from 12 to 18 inches. Farther down, I was really getting them near scattered logs. Every other log produced 1 to 3 aggressive bass on the spinnerbait. To keep them honest I kept tossing the spinnerbait out deeper and on one cast I hit another ‘boulder’ that stopped my lure dead, shook its powerful head several times and then pulled off. Man! That felt like a toad!

Right to the end of the rocks (and about the end of my trip) I was picking up bass regularly. I ran into Bud and Judy then. Bud said he’d caught a lot less bass than me although one almost 5 pounds. I mentioned the heated up spinnerbait bite and that I was about ready to head in and get on the road (unfortunately). I did fish the sand spot one more time, but my luck had run out and the bass seemed wore out too.

Bud Faynor with a 6 pound 13 ounce Mullett Lake smallmouth bass.
Bud Faynor with a 6 pound 13 ounce Mullett Lake smallmouth bass.

I said my goodbyes to everyone over the VHF and pulled into the Aloha State Park ramp. I left my radio on for a bit and heard bits and pieces of Bud and Judy telling the others that Bud had just landed a monster bass. I heard him say it made his 6.30 pounder earlier in the week look small. Judy mentioned something about Dan telling them about the heating up spinnerbait bite.

I turned the radio off! I was going home and I didn’t want to hear any more about the big ones I would now be missing.

Here’s a picture of Bud’s 6-13 he was talking about on the radio (looks like the sun was in his eyes too): (right)

That’s huge… but not truly massive. I was still rigging my boat for the 4-hour drive home when a friend and member of my bass club – The Bass Boys – Paul Stokes pulled up the ramp. I had no idea he was even up here. Surprise surprise.

He’d been up since Thursday with a group of walleye anglers nearby. But Paul wanted to bass fish. He said hea and his fishing partner had caught a ton of decent keepers today, but no real big ones. The real story happened on another lake earlier in the week. Paul found a spot that produced several bass over 6 pounds and a MONSTER 8-2!!! Holy smokes!

You know, that just gives me something to shoot for next year…

UPDATE — Land of the Giants!!

Paul Sacks with his 8 pound 2 ounce giant Northern Michigan smallmouth bass.
Paul Sacks with his 8 pound 2 ounce giant Northern Michigan smallmouth bass.

Pretty rare to get a hold of picture of a truly GIANT smallie. Even more rare to have caught one. My biggest in a tournament was a 6-1 from St. Clair a few years ago. The smallie I caught on the first Sunday of this trip is probably my biggest I’ve caught – I didn’t get an accurate weight on it but the extremely fat smallie was well over 6 pounds.

But imagine catching a MONSTER smallmouth bass over 8 pounds!!! Few anglers have been so fortunate. As I reported above, friend and fellow Bass Boys club member Paul Stokes did just this during the same week we were up on Mullett.

Paul was fishing another lake in the area and had already caught some 6-pound smallies on spinnerbaits when the Ultra-Toad hit a large clown Bomber jerkbait in 7 or 8 feet of water. It was the only bass he caught on a jerkbait. But what a FISH!

Paul was lucky enough to get back up to Mullett Lake with his son Troy the following weekend and catch a few more big bass. Nothing like the jumbo above, but still big bass anyone can be proud of. He sent me a couple more pictures to share with you. Below left is Troy with a football smallie going 5 pounds even. Below right is a 6-2 toad Paul landed. These are the good old days…

Troy Stokes with a 5 pound smallmouth bass!
Troy Stokes with a 5 pound smallmouth bass!
Paul Stokes with a 6 pound 2 ounce giant Northern Michigan smallmouth bass!
Paul Stokes with a 6 pound 2 ounce giant Northern Michigan smallmouth bass!

Well that’s the story on the 2005 Northern Michigan smallmouth adventure. What an awesome week of fishing. Big hard-fighting smallies can’t be beat.

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