He’s b-a-a-a-ck!

The last time I fished before my surgical sabbatical was May 22 — a day short of two months ago. But last Thursday, I took a short, stealth trip to Hatch Pond, just to get my feet wet, so to speak. Just a few hours, and the fishing kind of sucked. Ten little bass. The biggest one might’ve been 13″. And skinny.

Worse, it took me the better part of two days to recover from that mini-excursion.

But recover I did, and by Sunday, I felt good enough to start thinking about a longer, more serious attempt. I made plans to hit Lakeville on Tuesday.

In the water by 7:15. Surface temp already 81 degrees.

There were trout guys anchored just about where I usually start fishing, so I put the Terrova on high and went a reasonable distance past them, before stopping at a random spot along the weedline. Threw the big jig a yard or so into the veggies. It got hammered before it stopped sinking. 3-12 on the Rapala digital.

Turned and made a cast parallel to and just outside the weedline. Again, it never hit the bottom — but this one was a little 12 incher. Still, two fish in a row on the big jig is encouraging. Potentially even exciting! Unfortunately, those two fish made me throw that big jig at the outside weedline way more than continued results justified. In fact, after that two-cast/two-fish flurry, all it caught was pickerel. And not really all that many of them.

Needed a new strategy, so I stopped following the weed edge and beelined it directly to Rich’s Rock. Might as well go right to my best shot. Went trough the whole rotation of presentations there, from topwater down to 35 feet with everything that’s ever caught them there. Not a bite. Damn, this ain’t supposed to be this hard!

Back to fishing my way along the weed edge, I kept seeing scattered fish on the Element, mostly in 22 to 28 feet of water, which is typically pickerel territory at Lakeville. Still I invested some time working the drop shot, the jig and a swimbait through that depth zone. Caught a couple pickerel.

As noon-time approached, the surface temp was over 82, already on it’s way to 83 and beyond. Working my way around the perimeter of the lake, I mostly stuck with the outside weedline until I came to a can’t pass it by shallow rock pile. Threw the Ozmo. Got popped. Huh? Bright sunshine & two feet of clear, tepid water? That was a surprise. Threw it again. Hung up in the rocks. Broke off. Rigged a 6″ Sinking Slug-Go, wacky style. Caught a skinny, 14 inch bass. It had been more than 4 bass-free-hours since my fast start.

Hit another shallow rocky area a couple hundred yards farther along, and…

Zip.

Back to the depths.  More scattered fish in that 25 foot range on the sonar.  But no action in the real world. Detour to the bank to throw that wacky rig way too far into the branches of a laydown tree. Immediate hookup. This one came so shallow I saw it charge the lure, and never lost site of it as I fought it around numerous branches and snags. Out-fought it’s 2-12 pound size range and made me question the advisability of fishing a 10# test leader in that kind of cover for sure.

For the next half hour or thereabouts, I stayed shallow, and made multiple casts to every dock, log, rock and weed clump I could reach — for a grand total of one 13 inch bass and what I’m pretty sure was the skinniest pickerel in the lake.

But things were about to change. After moving back out to my comfort zone beyond the weed edge, I began to notice alewife schools ranging from small groups to substantial clouds of bait. And those randomly scattered fish I’d been noting all morning, seem to be relating to those schools of swimming protein.

Look like there’s some type of game fish lining up for chow.

The swimbait seemed a perfect choice. Seemed that way to me, anyway. But not to the fish. Grabbed the spare dropshot rod.

What? You don’t carry an extra dropshot rod? Shame on you!

Went with a larger hook and what is for me, a longer sinker drop. I normally run the hook 12 to 14 inches above the weight. I rigged this one about 40″ up, as most of the fish I was seeing around the alewife pods were at least a few feet from bottom. Nose hooked a 4.5″, Alewife Freaky Fish.

4,5″ Lunker City Freaky Fish, rigged on a 1/0 VGB Drop Shot hook, coupled with a 3/8 oz Bakudan drop shot weight.

And suddenly, it was like I was on a different lake. Every third or 4th cast as I followed the contour, staying in 25 to 28 feet of water, I’d catch a bass. Most were in the 1-3/4 to 2# range.

There was a lot of water left to fish, but I was supposed to leave by 3pm, and it was already 1 o’clock.  Made an executive decision to point the Terrova at Rich’s Rock, and give it another shot. Ate my sandwich, drank a water and tidied up the boat a bit while the Minnkota’s Autopilot took me where I wanted to go.

All right, the part about tidying up the boat is wishful thinking.

Put the boat right outside the waypoint off the deep drop, and had at it. Took me a few minutes to discover the cast that consistently put the bait right where the fish seemed to want it, but once I did, I started making up for lost time in a hurry.

I couldn’t resist heat checking the fish by throwing something from the selection that usually works at “my” rock. Heavy jig. Standard drop shot setup with my favorite motor Oil Ribster. Jig & worm. The bass were having none of it. They wanted something thy couldn’t help but confuse for an alewife, and they wanted it fluttering around and sinking slowly, not swimming like a swim bait.

As long as I fed them what they seemed to want, they kept eating it. And they all seemed to be decent size, topping out at one that matched my first fish of the day, at 3-12.

Had two more spots to check on the way to the ramp, so I pulled of the rock at 2:15.  The first one produced a nice rainbow, but no bass. The last spot turned out a big pickerel and a semi-decent bass.  Oddly, the pickerel was the first one since I’d gotten on the deep alewife pattern even though I was concentrating on the depth range that the Lakeville Lake Snakes usually dominate.

Was pretty well worn out by the time I got the boat strapped down and headed for home. But it was a good kind of worn out. Happy to have gotten out, and happier yet to have figured something out when the standard approaches didn’t seem to be cutting it. Ended the day with 24 bass, not counting the few dinks.