Here Come the Smallmouth Bass

The Missouri River flood of 2011 totally shut down my fishing plans for the spring and summer.  The Corp of Engineers announced they would be dropping the river starting August 1st. This was good news and the best part was there were no levee breaches in and around Council Bluffs.   Seep water was dealt with, and if you look on the front page of the website there is an excellent picture of some of the work done.  It appears it is slowly coming to an end.  The people doing the work and those in charge have done an outstanding job of protecting the community and surrounding areas.  Plus the state dispatched the Iowa National Guard to patrol the levees.  Seeing these young people on the levees and the surrounding areas leaves a person with a stong feeling of confidence knowing they are on the job. 

The weather patterns in southwest Iowa have been hot and hotter.  Checking up north to Webster, South Dakota, the nights were looking cool but the days were warm.  I have always experienced low humidity in the glacial lakes area so warm to hot might not be all that uncomfortable.  With the forecast for southerly to westerly flow, I headed north to South Dakota for some walleye fishing.  Late in the season, it was reported that a good bite was still on.

The bait shop recommended trying Swan lake just 15 miles south of Webster and Bitter south of the town of Waubay.  Waubay Lake was my first choice as I have fished it for fifteen years and know the lake well.  Since it was Wauby the first day, it was recommended to fish south of the old school bus point and the southwest shore line. 

On the lake by 7:00 AM it was up to school bus point.  The old school bus has been gone for many years, but the area still remains a good spot for walleye with lots of structure on the north shore and standing timber on the south.  Using one of the new spinners, it was smack, smack, smack.  I was getting little sharp hits on the lure, and that had to be small fish or small perch.  The perch were starting to get really active I was told.  Back trolling out from the point into 20 feet of water, the pattern was repeated several time.  Nothing was boated, but some good hits were recorded. 

I moved to the south shore out about 30 yards from the standing timber.  Getting snagged  was a major problem and I moved out another five to ten yards.  This put me between fifteen to eighteen feet of water.  I could see a lot of algae, but the lake looked really great.  Boom, boom, I picked up a walley, but it was really small.  I picked up a couple more, but again they were really small.  All three of these fish were caught in about sixteen feet of water.  In addition, I had pulled the lure off the bottom, and was running it in about 10 feet.  That was well above the snags below, and looked like on the graph it was right in line with the bait fish. 

The wind was out of the north to northeast.  Just like South Dakota.  The weather service had called for a southerly flow, but this was far from it. All the years I have fished this area, the forecasts are seldom correct.  Five to ten mph was the wind speed and it was just enough to put a good ripple on the water.  Staying south of school bus point, I worked up northwest along the tree line in 15 to 20 feet of water.  A smack here and there and by noon I still had not boated a keeper walleye.  It was time for lunch and with the sun up high and no clouds, I decided to take a four to five hour break and be on the lake again by 5:30 PM.  The sun would be at a lower angle to the water, and that in itself should improve the fishing. I was back on the lake at 6 PM and immediately headed toward the south point.  Walleye success was always found here, but not in great numbers.  Working for an hour produced nothing.  I then headed into the bay to the southwest.  The bait shop had recommended this area.  The graph showed the bank to slope quickly out to seven to ten feet with a lot of standing weed and then gradually into fifteen feet.  Finally bottom was found around twenty feet. 

Starting at eight feet and back trolling into deeper water.  It did not take long.  Wow, I thought the rod was going to be torn out of my hand.  It was big.  Fishing with an ultralite and five pound test showed that there was more fish here than rod, reel, line and fisherman could handle.  I got it up to the surface, and it was a small mouth bass, and it was a really big small mouth.  I had only seen one this big mounted on walls.  It went back and fourth, out and in, down and up, and finally it moved under the trolling motor.  I stood there in the boat, it laid under the motor.  I shifted the rod to my left hand making sure the butt end was up against my forearm.  This would provide leverage.  Next a net was grabbed, and a small gaff was laid beside me.  I did not know if the fish had tangled itself in the motor.  If that was the case, all would be lost. 

Then it was time to move.  I could not stand here the rest of the day while the big beast rested.  I hit the button on the lift and the motor came up out of the lake.  It was not tangled, but it sure did not like that move.  Off it went, with me hanging on.  Then a leap out of the water, and a plunge.  Back up again it came.  This fish was far from worn out, and then it threw the hook.  I am sure people could hear me screaming all the way to Sioux Falls 150 miles away. 

The rest of the evening was uneventful.  I boated four small mouth bass that were considerably smaller and a couple of sixteen inch walleye in the eighteen foot range.  The smallies were a blast to catch.  I hooked a total of nine including the giant, but only was able to boat the four.  They were warriors.  This turned out to be a great day.

Just a side note.  If you fish Waubay with catching small mouth bass in mind.  The state has a slot limit.  You can keep fish under 14 inches and over 18 inches.  In the slot, you have to throw them back.

Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck.  Hank.

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