Bass fishing in Ohio can be a real grind in late summer, even for the most hardcore of anglers. Sometimes the best way to rejuvenate yourself for the end of the season is to hop in the car and drive to where the fish are biting.
This week I traded in the bass boat and Ohio’s small, highly pressured waters for an eight foot kayak and an expansive view of crystal blue water. My destination was Grand Traverse Bay, a smallmouth mecca located on Lake Michigan in the north west corner of Michigan’s lower peninsula.
The water in Grand Traverse Bay is so clear that you can see the bottom from 30 feet above. Weed beds, sunken drift wood, and rock piles line the drop offs, and as you peer down you’ll occasionally see the lumbering shadows of giant Lake Michigan smallies cruising in search of a meal. Most of these fish have probably never seen a lure before, a theory that’s reinforced by the ferocity with which they bite!
My presentation was simple – a seven foot spinning rod, a Shimano Sedona 2500 series reel spooled with six pound Seaguar Invizx Fluorocarbon, a size 1/0 EWG Gamakatsu hook, a 3/4 oz drop shot weight, and a variety of Berkley Gulp baits. I worked the break lines where the bottom fell from 10 to 25 plus feet of water, making long casts and letting the weight drop to the bottom. As the rig bumped the edge of a rock or weed line, I would shake it in place. Most of the fish would hammer it, sending a hollow thump through my forearms. Occasionally I wouldn’t feel the bite at all, and the rod would just load up.
Fishing from the kayak was an amazing change of pace for several reasons. First, it allowed me to get back to the basics – no fancy electronics, trolling motor, or casting decks – just me and the fish. Second, I didn’t have a landing net, so I got a lot of practice lipping and belly landing 3, 4, and even 5 pound fish. And finally, the kayak allowed me to gain a respectful appreciation for the power of these smallmouths. Some of the larger fish fought for close to five minutes, gave incredible acrobatic displays, and pulled the kayak a hundred feet before finally surrendering. There’s nothing quite like having a five pound fish jump to your eye level while you’re virtually sitting on top of the water.
Over the course of five days, I boated hundreds of fish, including a 5.4, 5.2 and 4.9. It was a much needed change of pace, and best of all, I didn’t spend a dime on fuel!