Jackson: Cold weather doesn't impede die-hards
The calls kept coming in, especially the frantic messaging from the Lake Geneva area.
"I found smallmouth down at 40-feet," Tommy H. yelled on the phone, "and I hit and caught a dozen in a half-hour."
Good stuff, I thought to myself.
And then Stan called from the town of Delavan. "I just got off the lake (Geneva) and had an exceptional trip for smallies."
Marv W. left a similar voicemail.
"Best smallmouth fishing all year happened right now," he declared.
And so it went as the mercury kept dropping and the winds picked up.
I received almost two dozen calls from readers and listeners who heard last Sunday's radio show and our conversation with guide Billie Heim.
"This is the time when smallmouth anglers live for," Heim noted.
He too located a school of larger fish and caught a good number of "heavies" from deeper water.
And so I was foolish enough to test my physical self and called a friend with an 18-foot fishing boat who agreed it was the perfect time to get out on Lake Geneva.
We headed to a deep-water spot just of a shallow point and immediately noticed large schools of fish on the sonar screen.
My friend used his favorite setup, a drop-shot rig with a tiny Berkley Power Bait. I opted for a ½-oz. Rat-L-Trap on 8-pound mono.
Len had two small fish (smallmouth bass) immediately while I cranked away. After about five minutes I felt a hit that rocked me in my chair. A 3-pound smallie came to the net with a mouthful of hooks.
Here's an aside about this famous crankbait.
I have a fairly good collection of various-sized traps. I use them in both fresh and salt water. I have a couple monster traps that I've used for muskies when others in the boat turned their noses at what I threw, all because they never caught muskies on a trap. I'm not telling you the fish I caught were large, but they were muskies. (the heaviest went 22 pounds.)
I like to run traps on the outside weed edges and at a good clip. I am not going to assume the mantle of angling expert and tell you it's the rattles inside the lure's body that does the actual attracting of big fish. I've had similar results with rattling Thundersticks.
Anyway, guide Billie Heim told me on my Sunday radio show that "it's no accident these smallies are reacting in a positive way." He noted the smallmouth have a tendency to suspend in deeper water while eyeballing the baitfish. And then they come into the shadows when the emerald shiners start to school up off the weed lines.
I joked with another friend about the weather in comparison to ice fishing temps. We both agreed that many ice anglers use tents and shelters while the "real, stouthearted anglers show their true colors at this time of the year.
• Contact Mike Jackson at email@example.com, catch his radio show 7-9 a.m. Sundays on WGCO 1590-AM (live-streamed at www.1590WCGO.com) and get more content at www.mikejacksonoutdoors.com.