It's finally feeling like summer around here… Better late than never! The Lloyd family was back in town for their annual trip in the Hayward Lakes area, and I spent Monday with cousins Will Lloyd from Downers Grove, IL and Grayson Murtagh from Roselle, IL. This is a good bunch of people. Will has fished with us before, but this was Grayson's initiation. We started slow, and evidence of a big Mayfly hatch was floating everywhere. The results were predictable, and we ended up moving to another lake after catching a few smallmouth up to 16". Flat water, high skies, and a big bug hatch usually means we're going to move! After a quick lunch the boys got into some big largemouth, and they each landed a couple of porkers up to 19" on slip bobbers and leeches along 10' weedlines. We switched gears around mid afternoon and targeted smallies in 5' – 10' rocks, and it ended up being the right choice. Will and Grayson caught a bunch of fish on a variety of presentations including topwaters, heavy jigs with plastics, and suspending plastics. No real pattern ever set up, but it didn't matter. The lines were tight, and my crew landed some whoppers. Our largest fish of the day ended up being a 20" fish landed by Grayson as time was running down. Water temperatures warmed into the low 70's by quitting time, and I was sure proud of these guys for sticking with it and putting a very respectable day together. Congratulations on your first topwater smallie Grayson. There's no cure for that sickness my friend! See you next year gang!
Independence Day was spent doing a little recon with a couple of my best fishing partners. The St. Louis River has always been one of my favorite walleye fisheries, but I just haven't been able to connect on the bite over the past couple of seasons. Timing and weather play a big role in fishing the Great Lakes, and my schedule hadn't allowed me to hit it just right. Maybe that's about to change… Terry Peterson and Morgan "The Morganator" joined me to see if we couldn't stir up a little magic. We were pulling crank baits in 6' – 8' of water, and it didn't take long for Morgan to connect on a fat 18" fish. That was too good to be true… It was tough sledding from there until later in the morning when Morgan had a nice mid 20's fish up to the boat that came unbuttoned just before it hit the net. Dang!!! We stuck with our strategy throughout the day, but the bite was slow. Some short fish hit the net along with a few missed rips, but The Morganator wasn't going home until she left her mark. After hooking up on a good fish in the early afternoon, Morgan played the 28" giant perfectly into the net. It was a beast of a fish, and I couldn't have been prouder. Her personal best! An interesting side note to our day was a suspected snag that turned out to be a fish that completely ripped the back hooks our of our crank bait. Had to be a musky or sturgeon, but it sure would've been good to get a look. Water temps ranged from the high 60's to the low 70s, and I'm hopefull that the bite will continue to get better as the water warms. Not a lot of fish, but a lot of promise. I couldn't have had a better crew along for the ride. That was awesome Morgan. Happy Independence Day!!!
Mark and Machelle Homp from Chippewas Falls, WI had Thursday reserved for a half day trip on Chequamegon Bay with me. The curse continues… This has gone way beyond ridiculous! Thunderstorms rolled through early in the morning kicking up big NW winds as the Homps and I watched big rollers crashing into the landing. We thought about waiting it out, but the reality of fishing in that muddy water after all of the wind just wasn't a good prospect. The biggest disappointment was that I had reports of a really good top water bite going on. My quest for a day on the bay continues… Time to head inland and make lemonade. Even though the fronts had rolled through earlier, the inland lakes were calm, skies were high, and temperatures were warm. What a difference. We started out hot landing a couple of nice smallies including a fat 18" fish landed by Machelle that crushed a top water bait. The bite got wierd after that, and we had a lot of lookers in between a fish here and there working breaklines in 5' – 15' of water. No pattern ever set up, and we caught them on everything from topwaters, to jerkbaits, to jigs and plastics, to drop shots and plastics, to sinking plastics, to live bait. You get the picture… It was one of those funny days, and you just had to hang with it until you found a hot fish. Thankfully the Homps were up to it, and we spent a really enjoyable day with good conversation and a few good fish as well. Water temperatures hit 74 degrees by quitting time. Now Mark is a Lutheran Pastor, and I have to wonder why he didn't put in a good word for us in the weather department with the big man upstairs? You're taking the blame for that one my friend!
Joe Prohaska (Duluth, MN) was back to chase walleyes and smallies in the Hayward area on Friday. Joe's good friend Pete Freiburger usually joins him on this trip, but he couldn't make it this year. Thankfully Joe's son Ben from Minneapolis, MN was able to fill in. This father and son team put a couple of muskies in the boat with me last fall. We targeted walleyes to start the day and found a bunch of fish on our electronics holding over rock humps in 23' – 28'. Problem was, they wouldn't bite… High skies and flat water might have had something to do with it, so we switched to smallies and caught a few up to 18" in 5' – 10' rocks. It was kind of the same story as the previous day. Topwaters, football jigs, and plastics all caught fish, but there was no real pattern that set up. Every fish we caught was full of crayfish however, so that probably explains their picky mood. Weather conditions started to change around mid day. Clouds moved in, and the wind switched to the west. We had to try those walleyes again… We set up with slip bobbers and leeches on those same rock humps, and it didn't take long for Joe to put a fat 20" fish in the net. Not long after that he had one come unbuttoned. We're on to something here. As luck would have it, severe storms that were supposed to arrive late in the afternoon decided to crash our party, and we were blown off the water. More rain! What a bummer… Always good to have these guys in the boat however, and it's kind of cool to see the contrast in conditions of the pictures from the fish we caught in the morning to the afternoon. That's what we seem to be dealing with on a daily basis this year… Water temps hit 73 degrees when we had to pull the pin. Thanks for another fun trip Joe and Ben. Get well soon Pete. We missed you, and I expect to see you in my boat next July!
We were finally able to put a day in on Chequamegon Bay. FINALLY!!! Dave Rollins (Woodbury, MN) and his boys Ben (Minneapolis, MN), and Josh (Milwaukee, WI) were back with a twist to their annual trip. We usually fish the Hayward Lakes, but they decided that a Lake Superior adventure sounded like a good idea. With the luck I've been having lately, I was just hoping we could even get out there. The stars aligned, and we were able to get it done. And… The smallmouth bass were biting! We had a really good morning catching a bunch of big fish in 5' – 6' weed patches on a variety of plastics. The Rollins boys put multiple 20" smallies in the net, and it didn't take them long to see why this is such a special place. After lunch we did a little exploring and checked out some off shore structure. Stiff winds out of the north kicked up and made things interesting for us, but we found an active school of fish along a 13' weedline. Almost every drift with live bait produced a fish including a nice bonus walleye landed by Josh. I'm sure he won't remind his brother about that one… It turned out to be exacly the kind of day you're looking for out there with a pile of 20" fish landed. Couldn't have happend to a better bunch of guys. Water temps ranged from 68 – 72 degrees, and we are definitely in the transition period with fish moving from the shallows to off shore structure. Staying on the move and changing presentations will be huge until a solid late summer pattern sets up. Awesome job once again by the Rollins gang. Even though they're a family divided, (Josh went to Iowa, and Ben went to Wisconsin) we're all still able to get along. Sorry Josh… Go Bucky!
Let's see if we can keep this Chequamegon Bay thing Rolling… Darrel Wilkinson (Tulsa, OK), his son Jordan (Madison, WI), and brother Sonny (Shreveport, LA) joined me on Sunday for day #1 of a 3 day trip out of The River Rock Inn in Ashland, WI. Even though Jordan is a transplant to Madison from Oklahoma, I did my best to turn him into a Badger fan throughout the day. Not sure it worked… We started out looking into the shallow smallmouth bite that was hot the previous morning. Should've been here yesterday… After an hour without any action, it was time to move off shore. Even though the weather forecast was calling for an east wind, we had a stiff west wind blowing up on a 15' weed flat. Sometimes I like it when they're wrong! The Wilkinsons put a bunch of good fish up to 21" in the net before lunch. Drifting live bait along the weed edge produced, and my crew had to be super patient with each bite. They weren't overly aggressive, but they were willing. Winds (and more rain) picked up in the afternoon, and so did the bite. We had multiple opportunities on each drift, and Jordan put on quite a show. I have to admit that his "cell phone technique" seemed to be working Sonny! By quitting time, a pile of big brown bass had hit the net including multiple doubles and a bonus walleye. Water temps ranged from 68 – 72 degrees with overcast skies and scattered rain throughout the day. Remember to watch your food tonight Jordan. I wouldn't trust those guys… Nice work men!
The Wilkenson crew will be back in the boat to start our next report. Can't wait to see what we get into!