Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Zeroing In On U.P. Smallies


There is an Upper Peninsula location called the Stonington Peninsula. Land-wise, it isn’t much different than the rest of the U.P. There are rather startling differences.

The Stonington Peninsula is directly east of Gladstone and Escanaba . The Peninsula is directly across Little Bay de Noc, and it juts south into Lake Michigan. Still, nothing is very spectacular or different from other areas except for the smallmouth bass fishing...if you hit it just right.That can always be a challenge but most anglers are willing to accept some challenges during their fishing trips. It’s just part of the game.

The offshore submerged boulders and rocks offer refuge for a huge supply of smallmouth bass, and some of these high jumpers are in the five-pound range. Early to mid-July often is the best time to find this game fish in fairly shallow water. Much depends on the water temperature, and recent heavy rains could slow it down just a little bit.

There are some places along the western shoreline of the peninsula where anglers can wade from knee- to hip-deep and catch smallmouth bass, but much of the better fishing is more easily accessible by boat. In fact, a good boat enables fishermen to best work the offshore rock piles with greater ease.

Any lure that floats or dives will work, but in all honesty, a bow-mounted trolling motor can help hold anglers in position for a longer session of casting to key locations. In fact, if there is any wind blowing, it’s easy to get blown off-course and away from the large boulders that offer shade for the bass.

One of the best conditions is with a soft north wind. Set up crosswise to or with the wind, and drift slowly downwind along the rocky structure. Wear a baseball-type cap to cut glare and put on some good Polarized sunglasses, and fish to the visible rocks and boulders.

Smallmouth bass hold tight to the edges of big rocks and boulders. Bear in mind that on a hot, sunny day the fish will be found on the dark side of cover. It certainly doesn’t hurt to fish on all sides of such submerged rocky structure, but the dark side is almost always the best place to cast.

There are times when the gravel flats will produce some fish, especially on dark days. Anglers who do well fishing the western edge of the Stonington Peninsula spend most of their time in the boulders and rocks in four to 10 feet of water.

Drifting in a boat allows fishermen to gain a significant height advantage as well. Being above water level allows angers to pick big boulders and rocks to cast to, and then they saturate the area with cast after cast. Smallmouth bass often will hit the first lure that passes within a few feet of them, and they arrow up off bottom to smack it.

There is nothing shy about smallies.  Put something they like (or hate) in front of them, and they usually will strike. The leaping fish provides a great scrap for a fish their size, and it’s not necessary to use heavy tackle. Six-pound-line works fine, and allows the fish to show off its acrobatic abilities.

There is a wealth of different lures that work, and these bass don’t seem to mind what is offered to them. I like Shad Raps in natural black-white colors, but have caught these fish on the same lure in a rainbow of colors.

Beetle Spins are great lures, and a white or yellow skirt seems to work well. The single hook prevents fouling on rocks, and the trick is to retrieve it just fast enough to make the small spinner turn over. Tube lures work exceptionally well, and I like yellow or pearl colored tube bodies.

A Countdown Rapala is another great lure to use when the fish are holding in the rocks about 10 feet down. Count the lure down to about an “eight” count, and start the retrieve. The lure will wiggle past a smallmouth bass and be right in his face, and the strikes are savage.

Some people prefer to cast a Mepps spinner with an imitation minnow attached, and a Mepps bucktail that is allowed to sink and then retrieved near the rocks is another good bet.

I’ve learned one important thing about smallmouth bass in this location. All of the fish may be congregated in two or three distinctly different areas. Stretches of rock-filled water may appear barren, and suddenly the angler is back into the fish. It pays to keep on the move, and experimenting with different lures. The bass are no different than people; just offer them a different meal on occasion.

Smallmouth bass fishing is fun, but the enjoyment level of a bass fishing trip is doubled when the fish are really biting. Hot weather brings the smallmouth bass in off the rocks along the west shore of the Stonington Peninsula, and anglers who cash in on this sport will have something wonderful to discuss with their fishing buddies when they return home.

Posted by Dave Richey on 07/01 at 07:01 PM
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