It's a fall spectacular on the Menomonee

Posted10/16/2013 11:04 AM
  • Jumbo smallmouth are part of the draw of the Menomonee River when the fall smallmouth bite kicks into gear.

    Jumbo smallmouth are part of the draw of the Menomonee River when the fall smallmouth bite kicks into gear. Submitted photo

Guide Bob Dekker and I couldn't believe our eyes. Without exaggeration, the water in front of us exploded.

I'd flipped a 6-inch chub minnow to a formation of shallow, underwater rocks. The second the chub landed a huge smallmouth bass grabbed the bait and tried making off with a quick meal.

It was nearly 15 minutes before this jumbo prize called a truce. Some 22 inches of powerful, football-like smallmouth tested the limits of the my scale.

On my three-day trip to the Menomonee River I had caught and released numerous 4- to 5-pound smallies. And then there was this encounter.

Of course, the day before with Mike Mladenik was an eye-opening experience, with 5- and 6-pound fish coming from a hot spot that kept offering thrill after thrill.

There was so much fog on the Menomonee River during the morning runs to the "hot locations" that I was a tad dubious as to whether we would arrive at the morning's destination in one piece. The mission was to locate and catch trophy smallmouth bass. The only drawbacks were numb fingers, ears, and a dripping nose.

The morning of Oct. 8 found me in Bob Dekker's 18-foot boat while neighbor Jerry Hermes and friend Ken Kortas were in Mike Mladenik's boat.

The air temperature hovered at 37 degrees, about perfect for a hot smallmouth bite but not so pleasing for this Florida Keys bonefish flats fly fisherman.

And yet both Dekker and Mladenik were certain we would see spectacular action.

I'd fished here before for the fall bite, and that trip provided me with nonstop trophy action. Even the spring-summer trips here gave me an opportunity to use Little Acton Macs as well as some whacky worming, too. The summer bite also showed me that topwater plugs were on the menu during afternoon hours.

But this was the October session, and after a constant stream of communication between Mike in Crivitz, Wis., and me, down here at the homestead, I already knew my two friends and I would be in for some great fishing.

Hermes is a police sergeant with the Wheeling Department, and Kortas is a Doctor of Pharmacy. Ken has been with me on several Canadian adventures and has joined me in the jungles of Costa Rica for some fabulous off-shore, tackle-busting tarpon wrestling.

"I know some guys give you a lot of heat, Mike, because they think you stretch the truth on the quality of fishing in all the spots you've been to," Kortas said. "But if they only knew the real story about how we've been able to find and catch monster-sized fish in both fresh and saltwater. They should come with us so they could see for themselves."

Hermes schooled himself on the fall smallmouth column I wrote following last year's bash. So when he tied in to his first 5-pound fish, he was more than mildly pleased.

"We stopped counting fish numbers on the first day out after we reached 35," he declared with a huge smile. "These fish put up one heck of a fight."

We switched guides and during my last hours with Mladenik we concentrated on "easing" the chubs on the outside edges of submerged trees.

It was nonstop jumbo-catching time, with more than a half dozen 5-pound fish rising to the occasion.

The picture I chose to use in this column is about the quality of the fish, rather than having a smiling angler have another ego-boosting event.

•Contact Mike Jackson at, and catch his radio show 6-7 a.m. Sundays on WSBC 1240-AM and live-streamed at

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