New B.A.S.S. owners Don Logan and Jerry McKinnis got introduced to the good, the bad and the ugly — Michigan-style — this week.
The two flew into Traverse City to fish with Mark Zona and me. Jerry has been here before, but it was Don’s first trip to what I call the “Holy Grail of Smallmouth Fishing.” Don had won a smallmouth trip to fish with Zona during a charity fundraiser; and when I overheard them discussing it, I told Jerry to tag along and I would join them.
The “good” was the smallmouth fishing. The “bad” is the how hard the wind blew, and the “ugly” was the worst cold front of the fall season.
Don, an Alabama native, was impressed with the fishing, but I don’t think he favored our crazy weather. After a beautiful weekend in the 70s, a nasty nor’easter blew in upon their arrival. Night time temperatures plunged into the 30s and the daytime temps— with wind chill — weren’t much higher. Water temperatures dropped from the low 70s to the upper 50s. The wind howled 15 to 25 mph out of the north; we battled 3-foot waves; and at one point, it was sleeting while were fishing!
But, as any Michigander will tell you, that invigorates the smallmouth. The big ones move up and start to feed heavily. Under normal conditions, we’d fish tubes and jigs. But when the wind is blowing like that, nothing catches them better than a big spinnerbait or a Red Eye Shad.
The wind made it too dangerous for us to get on Traverse Bay where the real giant smallmouth live. But the nice thing about the Traverse City area is it offers several inland lakes where you can fish windy days and still catch big smallmouth.
We split up, with Don and Mark fishing one lake and Jerry and I another. We didn’t catch a lot of fish but the ones we caught were good ones. Jerry had a monster smoke his spinnerbait so hard we initially thought it was a salmon since they are running into the inland waters from Lake Michigan this time of year. He was using my 7-foot KVD Tour cranking rod and reel with 14-pound fluorocarbon and the fish nearly took the rod out of his hands! Although the drag was set firm, the fish zipped 20 yards off the spool in no time flat.
Zona's Awesome Fishing Show host Mark Zona (left) and McKinnis display the fruits of their labor after enduring one of Michigan's worst cold fronts of the fall season.
Of course, Jerry is a good fisherman and got it under control. It took awhile with the waves tousling us around, but he still landed the 6-pound-plus beauty!
Don was a trooper —albeit a cold one since he’s not used to our weather. He hung tough and was rewarded with a 5-pound-plus smallmouth that smoked his Red Eye Shad. We caught several other smallies between 3 1/2 and 5 pounds and would have caught more had the wind not been so brutal, dirtied the water and made it difficult to hold the boat.
While the new owners would have preferred better weather, they got a taste of trophy smallmouth fishing Michigan-style and found out just how mean and hard our fish fight compared to the southern largemouth.
These northern smallmouth have a mean streak in them, and Don and Jerry gained an appreciation for that.
Like the smallies, they’re gamers, and know it’s all about the attitude!