by Bob Jensen
In thirty-five years of fishing all over the Midwest and much of North America, I’ve had the good fortune to get in on some outstanding fishing action for a wide variety of fish. In narrowing that down a bit, I’ve had some memorable days of catching smallmouth bass. I have fond memories of outstanding smallmouth catching on the Rainy River with John Peterson, with Toad Smith on Rainy Lake, Jim McDonnell on Lake Erie, and all by myself on the Shellrock River in north Iowa. But on Monday, October 10th, on Kabetogama Lake in northern Minnesota, I experienced what was most certainly the best smallmouth bass fishing of my career on the water. We caught big ones, little ones, and lots of in-betweeners. Big ones being legitimate six-pounders, in-betweeners being three and four-pounders. Here’s how that trip unfolded.
I’ve been fishing Kab for years, almost always for walleyes, and have always had very good success. Last year on my annual trip to Kab I met Tim Snyder. Tim owns a resort on Kab and also guides a bunch. Tim said that next time I come to Kab, we should chase smallmouth: He said the bass action was pretty good in the fall. Understatement!
When autumn rolled around this year, Tim and I made a plan to get together to create an episode for Fishing the Midwest television featuring Kabetogama’s smallmouth bass. I asked if I could bring Mike Frisch along. Mike is an outstanding multi-species angler who really likes to catch smallmouth. Tim said, “bring him along”.
We got on the water about two in the afternoon. The weather was beautiful: A light breeze, sunshine, maybe sixty degrees. Even if the bass didn’t cooperate, it was a nice day to be on the water. However, the bass cooperated.
We headed for a hump that topped out at about fifteen feet of water and was surrounded by forty feet of water. The aSeries Raymarine sonar revealed that there were fish on the hump. While Tim and I were putting minnows on our jigs, Mike made a cast with his drop-shot rig. Before Tim or I could cast, Mike said “Got one”. First cast! Like most smallmouth, this one did not want to come to the boat. Mike had his hands full, and when he finally got the bass boat side, it was easy to see why he had his hands full. It was twenty-one inches, and almost that big around. Six pounds easy. Nice start!
While Mike was unhooking his fish, Tim made his first cast. Fish on, and it was another big one. When I finally got to make my first cast, no kidding, I got bit and put a four-pounder in the boat. I don’t know how many bass we caught in the next couple of hours, but it was in the dozens. We caught several over twenty inches, lots of sixteen to eighteen-inch smallmouth bass, as well as some small ones, which indicates a healthy fishery.
Most of our fish came on drop-shot rigs with Impulse Smelt Minnows and Fire-Ball Jigs with minnows. When our minnow supply ran low we put the Impulse on jigs and caught’em just as good.
Kabetogama is a world-class smallmouth lake for a couple of reasons: First, it’s got all the qualities necessary to produce world-class smallmouth.
Second, and just as important, they take care of their smallmouth at Kab. In the fall, when these bass are so susceptible to fishing pressure, you can’t keep any. Catch all you want, but you’ve got to put them back. If you ever get the chance to experience this smallmouth action, it’s an annual occurrence, Tim said what we experienced wasn’t unusual, you’ll understand why it’s so important to release the bass and you’ll gladly do so.
PHOTO CAPTION-Mike Frisch with maybe his best-ever smallmouth taken on Kabetogama Lake in northern Minnesota.
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