By Aaron Stigar
Springtime is the best time. Everything turns from brown to green. Nature awakens from its months-long slumber. Plants poke their heads out from the chilly dirt and bask in the first real warmth from the sun since the previous year. Stepping in line with the weather and the plants, fish begin their early season ritual of spawning. Spawning fish are notoriously picky and difficult to catch. This is why catching them before they begin bedding is important for an angler.
Before largemouth bass settle in to their nesting area during the spawn, they engorge themselves on anything and everything they can fit down their gullets. From crayfish to baitfish, everything is on the menu.
A lot of techniques work great in the early spring, but slowing it down tends to work the best. I like to drag my bait across the bottom, feeling the subtle ticks as it slithers over rocks, mud, and weeds. A Texas-rigged creature bait is my lure of choice for this time of year.
Normally in March and April, I am out chasing walleye around Lake Erie with my trolling setup and late this spring that's exactly what I was doing. I took my mom with me up to the lake and the weather looked ideal for a morning of trolling for ol' marble-eyes. However, wind began to pick up, waves began to kick up, and we were soon booted off of the lake by Mother Nature.
Driving two hours up to Lake Erie is an investment in time and resources, and so it is always wise to have a backup plan. Luckily, across the bay there is a protected harbor that is known for its largemouth bass fishing. The water temperature gauge read 42 degrees. It still seemed a bit chilly for a pre-spawn bite, but with the mild winter we had, it was worth a shot. We packed up our trolling setups and pulled out the bass rods. We were off to go bassin' for the first time in 2016!
Something about fishing for bass just feels right. It really makes me smile when I Texas-rig a creature bait and begin that all-familiar cadence. On this specific trip, we didn't really expect much. It was chilly outside and the water wasn't much better. After a quick paddle around to enjoy the tranquil surroundings, we decided to wet a line. It proved to be a great decision to go bass fishing. We were immediately on the fish.
Several bass into the trip, my rod got taken with that signature "thump" of a quality fish. Into my mind popped the thought, "this is exactly why I bass fish" as I set the hook hard, driving it into the upper lip of the fish. The fight was on. Moving side-to-side, it peeled a bit of drag. Confident in my gear and setup, I quickly regained control of the battle and turned the fish's head toward the kayak. A couple more quick turns of the reel, and she surfaced. When I saw her for the first time, I was surprised at the quality and girth of the fish. It would be a quality tournament catch. She was approaching 18 inches and likely over 3 pounds. After she was netted, we snapped a few pictures and dropped her back into the water.
Overall, I learned a couple of things from that trip. The first was to be flexible. I woke up that morning thinking I would have a stringer full of Lake Erie walleye coming home. However, the lake did not cooperate and I had to significantly adjust my plans. It very quickly paid dividends.
The second lesson I learned was to always cherish the times you have with your family. There aren't many better times in my life than fishing with my family, and especially my mom. It was really cool to have her up on the lake with me and I was proud to have her watch as I succeeded at something I love to do.
All in all, it was an amazing experience that you can only accomplish in a kayak. I wouldn't trade that experience for the world.