Change up at C’wood

Felt like I needed a change of pace and a change of scenery. Decided that a fresh water trip was in order. Time was, C’wood was my home lake. My office was just minutes from the Lattins Landing ramp, and from April through August, I would drag the boat to work with me several times a week, and fish for a couple hours before going to work, and/or hit it right after work.

Of course after I retired from that job back in the late eighties to concentrate full time on writing, I got to fish Candlewood a bunch, too. Over the years, I experienced the lake as it evolved from the home of a million runt largemouth in the seventies, to one of the best largemouth fisheries in the northeast, then shifted to a smallie dominated fishery, and became an even better smallmouth lake than it was a largemouth lake! But as I drifted away from tournament fishing and the lake got more and more popular, it got to the point that I rarely fish it anymore, other than taking advantage of the postspawn topwater action a couple trips each year. I just don’t enjoy fishing in a crowd and not having the freedom to jump spot to spot without feeling like I’m cutting someone off. Or feeling like I’m getting cut off myself, for that matter.

Yesterday, once I left the first area I tried, it felt like everywhere I really wanted to fish, there was already someone there. I probably could have stopped without infringing, but I don’t even like the appearance of fishing close, if I can avoid it.

Time to think about the fishing itself. I went into the day with a two-fold approach.

  1. Hit ’em with some old school C’wood springtime tactics.
  2. Stick some modern options into the mix.

Some of the old school stuff required compromise. The first early couple early spring tourneys I fished there in the early 70s, I relied heavily on 1/4 oz black marabou jigs that are simply not available any longer. The marabou stork is a protected species now, and the turkey butt feathers that are supposed to be a substitute are too short to make a jig anything like what I used to use. So I fished a hair jig some yesterday, but I was never as big into the hair jigs as that extra long, extra full marabou.

Also, after the first year, the next several years of the “CCB 2 Day” that kind of kicked off the big tourney season on C’wood back then, we fished 5/8 oz jig & pig almost exclusively. With pork frogs. I haven’t owned an actual pork frog during this century, so I had to sub plastic. And my favorite ripping bait, from the ’80s was a #14 Floating Mag Rapala in green mackerel. No longer available.

But I did have plenty of smoke Sassy grubs, 4″ grape plastic worms, 6″ straight worms for wacky rigging, faded chartreuse and white 1/4 oz spinnerbaits, and #7, silver foil Shad Raps with me, so I got to play the old school C’wood bassin’ guy pretty well.

Also, the original Candlewood ripping plug. Ripping, and its red headed step child, jerk baiting, started winning tourneys on Candlewood in the ’70s, and it started with this plug.

And that’s the plug I brought my last one of, to Candlewood with me. As psyched up as I was to attack C’wood with that ripping lure and the small Shad Rap, it was kind of disappointed to not get a fish to react to either.

Not one fish. No hits. No follows. No response whatsoever.

Time to break out the more modern stuff. I had some exotic lipless plugs, a couple square bills, my trusty drop shot rig, a handful of Ned rig mushroom heads and appropriate soft plastics for them, even the dreaded Senko, and of course a couple more modern, suspending jerkbaits as well.

It took a while for me to get out of high energy, ripping and into the more gentle, twitch, twitch, p-a-a-a-a-u-u-u-u-s-e routine with the jerk bait. But it didn’t seem to matter to the fish. Nothing touched the square bill, either. As far as I could tell, they were having none of the moving baits. Even when I switched over to a couple items from my assortment of small jig type baits, it took a while before I got bit. Dead sticking seemed to be part of the productive pattern for me. At first, I thought it was the whole pattern. But eventually, I added another, and as far as I’m concerned, more important element to the pattern.

The deepest rocks that I could see. Boy, that was such an important part of my springtime efforts back in the 70s and 80s, especially on Candlewood, and it came back for me big-time yesterday!

Actually, I refined it even further over the course of the morning. The best targets were the rocks that I could barely make out. If I wasn’t really sure I was looking at a rock at all, just a vague, slightly lighter spot in 7 to 10 feet of water, that I wasn’t sure I wasn’t just imagining, that was the ticket. Then, if I threw something kind of dull colored, that sank slowly at it, and let it drift down to the fish and sit there, my odds of getting bit were at their highest.

All though the morning, I caught fish in that pattern. Caught a couple on the Ned, and a few on a 4″ grape worm on a 1/8 oz head. A couple on the drop shot, of course. Just for the sake of my comfort level, I eventually ended up tossing the drop shot more than anything else.

I think I’d boated 15 fish when I came to a broad point that I had been anticipating hitting all morning. I broke off the drop shot rig when it got stuck in a stone wall. Rigged up a 6″ funky green worm, wacky rigged with an insert weight in the nose. I guess a new school angler would call it a Neko Rig. To me, it’s an old school wacky rig, and later in my C’wood career, it was a Candlewood staple for me when the fishing was really tough.

And wouldn’t you know it, that funky, wacky rigged worm caught me my first decent size fish of the day! Until that fish, everything I’d boated had been on the small side. Not shorts, but if any were over 2#, I’d have been surprised. But the wacky (or it is Neko?) fish was a nice, 3# class smallie! Unfortunately, when it jumped, it threw the worm and insert weight off the hook. It took the opportunity to put on a Senko. Just straight wacky rigged it, without an insert weight. I judged where the intersection of two nearby stone walls should be, and cast.

Let it sink.

Finished my coffee.

Twitched the lure.

Just once.

Set the hook.

This one turned out to be a largemouth, of just about the same size as that last smallie. It too threw the plastic off the hook. That’s one of the biggest reasons I don’t throw Senkos very often. They are fragile, and get tossed often. And when they do, they sink. Into the fish’s world. Where they often get eaten. Then as the salt dissolves, they swell up in the fish’s belly — often to more than twice their original size — and don’t get passed.

 Wasn’t going to put another one on. Searched for a bag of 4.5″ green pumpkin Slug-Gos I knew was in my boat somewhere. Found it, and rigged one up on the same 1/0 VGB drop shot hook I’d caught the last two fish on. I made a few casts, but didn’t like the way it sank. Couldn’t lay my hand on my bag of insert weights, so I just re rigged it, nose hooked instead of wacky style. That way, it glided down, offering less water resistance. A few casts into that experiment, I caught my biggest fish of the day. Big enough to take a picture of, and even to get the scale out and weigh.

As long as it was, I was surprised it was only 4-3. But when I saw the picture later, I realized how skinny it was, so I guess that explained the seemingly low weight. Still a nice one though.

Worked the area thoroughly, and after about 20 minutes, caught another smallie in the 3# class, also on the nose hooked Slug-Go.

Another 20 minutes went by, and I decided that I’d probably overstayed my welcome on that particular point. It had certainly been my most productive spot of the day, but I had a laundry list of spots I had intended to check, and I wasn’t going to get to most of them.

I caught another largemouth on the same pattern from a boulder on a similar point, but that was the end of the action for the day, until I was electric motoring across a shallow reef to get to the edge so I could get the heck out of there and head for home. I picked up a spinnerbait, just to have something to cast while I worked across the reef, and caught a short largemouth on my first cast with it. It was my first and only fish on a moving bait all day. Also my first and only short fish, so I wasn’t going to spend any time trying to expand on that pattern.