I thought I would take the time here to publicly answer some emails. And the first one that got my mojo going came from J.W. in Lincolnshire. I'll start with his statement and question.
"I read your recent column where you caught 6-pound smallmouth bass on the Menomonee River. I could not figure out what the big deal is about these fish. I also wonder why you are always writing about finding and catching big panfish."
Based on how you phrased your email and also the way the tone of your missive, I am assuming you never caught big smallmouth bass. This holds true for jumbo bluegills as well.
My answer to your comments is this: In my opinion, smallmouth bass are the greatest freshwater fighters that swim the rivers and lakes. And my experience with fish over 5 pounds is greatly enhanced in locales that offer lots of big forage like big chub, sucker, and shiner minnows. And if there is a plentiful crawfish supply, one can just add that to the menu as well.
Now, there are some inland, northern Wisconsin lakes that harbor trophy smallies, but the bulk of the big fish reside in current areas, like rivers.
The exceptions to that profile are Little Sturgeon Bay and Geneva Lake in Wisconsin, Lake Erie's Bass Islands and several freshwater impoundments in Tennessee where the shad populations are year-round main-course items for hungry smallmouth and gargantuan striped bass. Both species are known to gorge themselves on shad. And for those dieters out there, you probably are aware that gorging equates to bigger size.
I am constantly exploring these bodies of water because of the battle ferocity smallmouth bass offer is as good as a muskie encounter.
Almost everything I just wrote can just about be applied to bluegills and crappie.
Perhaps the best king-size crappie fishing can be found in Arkansas and Mississippi. Of course the Ozark area systems aren't bad.
Wally Marshall, otherwise known as "Mr. Crappie," continues to preach his gospel about crappie angling. If you've been to any of the giant tackle shops, you may have seen Wally's tempting video pieces talking to you as you roam the aisles looking for bargains. In fact, many of his video presentations can help you on fishing and catching techniques.
Now to my second-favorite, freshwater fish, the venerable bluegill. Some anglers would not agree with me on the issue of respecting that little tyke.
I'm not sure as to the number of times I quoted my late father about his feelings regarding this species. "If a bluegill ever got to be as big as a bass, (even a 1-pound bass), an angler would have his hands full and probably never land it, he said).
I have found my best bluegill spots on area ponds. Two-pound test line, a tiny float, and a long rod make up my "weapons" of choice.
I would rather spend a day looking for big bluegills than trolling around a walleye hot spot like the rest of fishing's humanity.
There you have it -- smallmouth and bluegills, two great fighters that more often than not do it for me, rain or shine.
•Contact Mike Jackson at firstname.lastname@example.org, and catch his radio show 6-7 a.m. Sundays on WSBC 1240-AM and live-streamed at www.mikejacksonoutdoors.com.