Elk Chain ice …

The ice on the Chain is hanging on but deteriorating rapidly.  About 20″ is the most that is left with many areas considerably less.  The moving water areas that remain open are expanding at a good rate.

A couple solid rains will break up the edges and then the wind and heat can speed up what we all have been waiting for.

Based on last fall’s big smallmouth this promises to be a very good catch-and-release season.  Open lakes and the April 26 opener could happen at the same time.  That would be perfect.

Coach’s Angle of the Week…

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Coach’s Angle  of the Week…

Like most anglers I went through a phase where I constantly checked the water temperature.  When I would go to Bull Shoals Lake or Lake Norfork in March I automatically looked for the warmest water.  I caught bass, therefore, I must be doing the right thing.

Fishing a regional tournament on Norfork several years back, I headed up a major creek arm to some 52 degree water I had found during practice.  Most of the lake was at 44 degrees.  I did okay catching a limit of 2.5 pound largemouth.

The two boats that beat me had gone to 39 degree main lake water.  You guessed it!  The winner’s fish averaged over 4.5 pounds.

This didn’t actually prove to me that the water temperature issue is misunderstood but it did initiate some questions.

Today I chuckle when guys say it is too early because the water is too cold.  Last year I witnessed a fellow driving 18 miles to a good smallmouth lake in May only to leave after backing his boat into the water.  When I asked an acquaintance of his what he was doing, I was told he was checking the temperature to see if the bass had come shallow yet.  I was fishing every day and was having very good success on bass in 5 ft. to 8 ft. of water.  I glanced at my temperature gauge a couple of times each day and found 45 degrees as my warmest reading.

I may not have had that “needed water temperature” the other fellow was looking for.  I did have something though.  It was an area loaded with baitfish.

Let’s see, baitfish on the southeast side of mid lake or warmer temperature on the north side?

I chose the baitfish.

Coach’s Angle of the Week…

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Coach’s Angle  of the Week…

As our favorite lakes open up from this record-setting winter, one of the first smallmouth methods we want to apply is “jerk-baiting”.  You do not need a temperature gauge to know if the time is right.  If your boat will float the temperature is right.

What is a jerk-bait?  It is a “minnow” bait that is usually 4” to 7” long and usually slender in build.  It is not fished with a steady retrieve but with an erratic jerk that may not be the same from day to day. Some are wood while others are plastic. Some famous names are Rapala, Smithwick Rogue, Cordell Redfin, Lucky Craft , Mega Bass and the Rebel.  Some are floaters, some sink and some will suspend.

This method requires clear water for best results.  We are blessed in this area to have some of the clearest water in the country.  I spent many years in areas that had both clear water lakes and stained water lakes.  We never knew until we arrived at a stained water lake if it might be clear enough for great jerk-baiting.

In our pristine lakes of NW Michigan, we know ahead of time that the jerk-bait will work.  I learned to fish a jerk-bait on beautiful Bull Shoals Lake on the Arkansas/Missouri border.  If you do not have jerk-baiting in your arsenal, Bull will be a tough lake.

My experience from the 1960s on Bull prepared me well for this very clear water area.  What have I observed in my many hours of perfecting the jerk-bait?  There are variables that might separate a bad day from a good day of this early spring method.

THE VARIABLES?  Deep-diver or shallow-diver;  floater or sinker; size of bait; color of bait; how long to pause between jerks; line diameter; and boat positioning are some of the factors that could separate catching from not catching!

I can give you examples of these variables at work but that can be at another time.

Awesome Smallmouth Fishing with your Guide Fred Fields

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Awesome Smallmouth Fishing with your Guide Fred Fields in Northern Michigan

 

Good smallie on a windy day in the Traverse City area.

 

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Our fisherman are having a good week. Quality fish showing up as Ivan Williams holding over 11 lbs of smallies. Big was 6.19.