WILTZ: I don't often have days when everything works

On the afternoon of May 12, I chanced into some angling where everything was perfect ... something I don't experience all that often. When the In Fisherman guys fish on their TV program, there is nothing random about the way they fish. They work ...

On the afternoon of May 12, I chanced into some angling where everything was perfect ... something I don't experience all that often.

When the In Fisherman guys fish on their TV program, there is nothing random about the way they fish. They work hard at what they do. They zero in on a certain structure with lures appropriate to the food source. They have absolute control of the boat. Their presentations are precise. In short, they have narrowed it to a science.

My experience met all of the above criteria including the work part. I was busier than a dishwasher at Pierre's old D&E Caf. The result was constant action with scrappy smallmouth bass. I had invited Betsy to go along, but she passed. She had her reasons.

Had I wanted to relax, I couldn't have as I was in my Lowe Model 1436 john boat -- the one I tipped over with Betsy in it two years ago. I'm cumbersome if not clumsy, and my numb legs don't help the situation. One false move and that boat goes over. As much as I like this little boat, I'm trading up to a Lowe Model 1448, a boat that will be a foot wider and more stable.

I put the boat in at St. Charles Bay and headed for the mile of rip-rap at the extreme south end of Francis Case Reservoir. The trip over was exhilarating. I pointed the boat straight ahead and let go of the tiller. When I needed to turn, I just leaned in that direction and the boat followed. It was like riding a motorcycle.


For tackle I brought along a light spinning rod with an open face Cabela's Prodigy reel. I had a 10-foot leader of six-pound test fluorocarbon line tied to six-pound test Fireline with a barrel knot. The leader was nearly invisible, and it would prove lethal on those smallies. To my leader I tied a Venom "Death Grip" quarter-ounce jig with a 3/0 hook. Prior to that I had slid a four-inch amber-colored Mizmo tube called "The Edge" over the jig body. Mizmo claims the tubes are scented with real baitfish.

The amber color does make a difference. I'm thinking the fish think the lure is a crawdad. This same lure is deadly on walleyes, but on this day I was after smallmouth bass. The fish like the feel of this soft plastic tube, and if they miss the hook, they will probably hit it again.

I back-trolled along the rip-rap with my little electric trolling motor while I straddled the rear seat. While facing the rip-rap, I went directly into a mild westerly wind that aided boat control. Boat speed was 1-2 miles per hour. The depth-finder screen was on the seat between my legs. My right hand controlled the motor while I vertically jigged the rocky bottom with my left hand. I was literally seated at a smallmouth dinner table.

Proper depth wasn't a matter of being close. It had to be exact. I had to be between six and seven feet, and it took me awhile to nail that down. The action was furious. Through the rod handle I could feel the pick up. In setting the hook I'd sometimes take it away from them, but often they'd be back. When the line raced to the surface, I'd prepare for a jump. Then they would pull much of my rod under the boat while boring for the bottom. Once on top they would repeatedly refuse the net. What a show!

Dark brown weasel-like animals scampered over the rocks and boulders as I passed. These bold fellows were bigger than weasels but smaller than otters, and I'm guessing they were mink. As often as not, the bass I played were frequently accompanied by one or two peers. It never occurred to me that I was alone.

How long will this particular action last? I went back on May 16 and enjoyed the same fishing. It is a pre-spawn situation as the females still carried their eggs. When the spawn is over they will retire to deeper water.

* * * * * * * * * *

On any given year, 40 percent of the legal length walleyes are taken from Francis Case Reservoir by anglers. This estimate has been tallied through the use of a tagging system. Over the years friends and I have frequently caught tagged walleyes. Our walleyes are under constant attack. It certainly tells us why most of the walleyes we catch are under 15 inches in length.


Attempts have been made in the past to deal with it. The once eight fish daily limit went to six and then four. Not long ago a three fish limit was tried but it went back to four. Personally, I'd like to try a two fish limit, but I know that won't happen for reasons related to money.

Perhaps it is time to voluntarily throw back some of the legal walleyes and keep some small-mouth bass, white bass and catfish if we want fish for the table. Finally, we could slow down the double dippers and those keeping sub-length fish by making the TIPS hotline a part of our routine.

* * * * * * * * * *

I won't call it a scam, but I will call it over zealous marketing, and I don't like it. A few months ago we received notice that it was time for me to renew my subscription to Petersen's Hunting magazine. We sent them a check which was cashed.

This week we received a notice from the same magazine saying that it was time to renew. If I hadn't remembered the earlier notice, we would probably have paid them again. We sent the latest notice back to them and told them we had already paid. We haven't since received an explanation.

*See you next week.

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