May 25, 2013
Bass Opener is to fisherman what Christmas Day is to little kids. It’s one of the most highly anticipated days of our fishing year. To those who don’t have closed seasons or “Opening Day”, it might seem odd that you can’t just go out and fish whenever you want and why one day of fishing is such a big deal, but for those in states like Minnesota that has managed seasons, Opening Day becomes like a sort of sacred holiday. Opener has a way of generating incredible excitement. Weeks before Opener, we decide what flies or lures we’ll toss that morning, muse on what the weather might be like, and wonder if the big ones will be shallow. Flies and jigs are tied, leaders are checked, and strategies are made and revised for the big day.
Bass are hands down my favorite warm-water fish, so when Opener rolls around near the last weekend of May, I naturally start to get pretty excited. Largemouths hit a fly with passion, and usually put up a good fight complete with acrobatic, gill rattling jumps. Typically, the bass have already spawned out, but are still hanging around the shallows in good numbers, making them particularly vulnerable to a fly rod.
The bass were still shallow this weekend for the Opener. The crazy late spring (which we practically never had here in Minnesota) pushed back the spawn, so the big females were still right up in a foot or two of water, fat with eggs, and ready to nail a well presented bait.
Morning came quick with a five o’clock alarm. I rolled out of bed and stumbled half-awake into the pre-dawn darkness. The crisp spring morning air and the prospect of catching some unmolested bass quickly woke me up. I rigged up a small crankbait on the spin rod and the trusty brown Meat Whistle on the fly rod. I figured I’d try for the aggressive fish with the crank and go back later with the fly for the finicky ones. Second cast and a bass choked it. I forgot my bass net at home, so I ended up thumbing her after a somewhat lazy battle, a solid 17 incher. With only a slight feeling of guilt about catching her on a spin rod, I cradled the bass in the shallows before she shot off, leaving my arm soaked. I kept tossing the crank into the calm shallows, eventually switching to a fly. I caught two more smaller bass, one on the Meat Whistle, and another on the crank. The weather was perfect for a day of bass fishing, one of those soft, sleepy days where the clouds hung low and the lake was calm, the ripples only occasionally interrupted by the ker-sploosh of a jumping bass. Fisherman develop a kind of sense for these days, where somehow it just feels right for fishing, an urge inside you, pulling you to the water. I kept working the opposite shoreline with the Meat Whistle, but the fishing slowed, so I stopped for a much needed coffee break.
I rigged up a “stupid tube” with a 3.5″ brown tube and had a few bites on the spin rod, but nothing stuck.
Braden and I were deep in a heated wiffle ball game when I heard Noah half-excitedly, half-trembling, yell for the net. I booked it over there to find Noah’s rod deeply bent with a good fish on the other end. At this point, my poor little trout net just wasn’t going to get the job done. The fish jumped, which was more like a lazy flop due to the fact of its pure fatness not allowing it to get more than halfway out of the water. After a few tries, I managed to get a thumb in her lower lip and landed the big bass, a fat female that taped to 18″, his personal best largemouth!
The fish really started hitting, and Noah and I had fast action for another half-hour. I grabbed the fly rod and a Meat Whistle and caught a bunch, including a nice 16 incher. Later in the afternoon, we pulled out the rowboat and hit the docks, tossing plastic worms and tubes in every likely spot, but ended with only a few small fish to show for it.
The great weather held through the afternoon, and so did the fishing. Noah kept tossing the stupid tube, and hooked up with another beast. After a few heart-pounding jumps, he landed a monster 20″ bass that tipped the scale at just over five pounds!
Evening found the three of us still working the river mouth, Noah and Braden with the tube, me with my six weight and a Meat Whistle. It wasn’t long before Noah’s rod was deeply bent, a good fish thrashing at the end of his line. This one was just shorter than the five pounder, but one of the fattest fish I’ve ever seen. Another great bass!
The action stayed pretty consistent, with plenty of smaller “pounders” to keep us busy. Braden hooked and landed a nice seventeen incher on the tube, his best bass of the day. The biggest fish of the day came late in the evening. Almost a half hour after sunset I was hopping my Meat Whistle along the shallows when my fly got hit hard. As soon as I set the hook I knew it wasn’t a bass, no deep headshakes or bulldogging, but an excited, nervous tug tug flowing into a quick run toward deeper water. The purr of fly line coming off the real cut through the stillness of the night, a good fish at the other end. My first thought was pike, but it wasn’t quite quick enough for that. Not knowing what I had on, I slowly eased the fish toward shore, Noah waiting with the net. He scooped, but came up empty, a flash of fish rolling on the dark surface. The second try proved to be the end of the battle. A second later, I had my first walleye on the fly! I was stoked. Catching a walleye on a fly rod has always been one of my crazy ambitions, but I never dreamed I’d actually land one! The fact that it was a solid 23″ inches was a bonus. Braden snapped a quick pic before I got it back in the water, its golden sides illuminated by my headlamp before it disappeared into the darkness.
Knowing I really couldn’t top that fish, I called it a night. Today was just amazing. All of us caught some solid fish. Noah nailed some huge bass, and the walleye was icing on the cake. Tomorrow should be another great day on the water chasing bass.