A New Personal Best Smallmouth Bass

by | Aug 23, 2022 | fly fishing for smallmouth bass | 5 comments

Matt-NortonThe man who helped Granny and I with this move to Wisconsin more than anyone was my old Northland College roommate Matt (Howie) Norton.  In the process Howie and I talked often about how much fishing we’d be doing once I got here.  But since officially moving here on May 9th, we have fished together exactly two days.  Two!

 

The fact is, dudes in their 50’s are busy.  Between Moms 80th in NH, the CA speaking gig and the World’s in Italy, I haven’t been around much.  Toss in the work on our house – its amazing I’ve been fishing at all.  Howie’s been busy with his family much of the summer too so bottom line, we just haven’t been able to get together.  Last night Granny and I drove up to Iron River to Howie and Sues and today Howie took me out on his boat to Chequamegon bay on Lake Superior.

 

Lake-SuperiorThe forecast was for calm and sunny with temps reaching 77°.  I’m not big on lake fishing in calm conditions because fish are often spookier than ever, but on Lake Superior, if Mother Nature offers you glassy conditions you take it!  I will say however, the cloud formations as we headed out seemed slightly ominous, but they would dissipate in the first hour.

 

Jeff-Currier-fly-fishingWith an entire day for the taking, Howie had several stops around Chequamegon Bay in mind.  First stop was to catch and harvest a few lake whitefish for dinner.  Howie was concerned whether or not I’d be on board for the plan.  Not because we were going to whack a couple, I was all about that, but because the whitefish live on bottom and the school was lingering at 51 feet deep.  He was equipped to jig deep with the spin rod but worried about me and the fly.  I said no problem and used my SA Sonar Titan Int/Sink3/Sink5 with a heavily weighted white marabou fly on the point and a flashy gold Kreelex for a dropper.

 

lake-whitefishThere were at least five boats over the whitefish school.  All were dialed in with sonar, however, very few fish were being caught.  But Howie dropped down to bottom and on his third jig he was into a beauty.

 

Lake-Superior-herringAs you know by now, I’m stubborn and almost never pick up the spin rod no matter what.  Despite Howie continuing to get action, today would be no different.  Howie caught one more whitefish along with this similar and same family member, a Lake Superior herring (Coregonus artedi), also known as the northern cisco.  This is a huge one by the way.  The herring would have been a new species for my list had I caught him.

 

lake-whitefishNever giving up, I adjusted my rig then changed flies a few times and finally felt as though after a long cast and a count to 30, my flies were sinking into the zone down deep.  I varied my stripping speeds creating different actions for my flies.  Finally, with a quick strip, strip, strip then about a five second hesitation, I was on to one.  I dredged up Mr. Lake Whitefish on the fly.  Let’s just say, I was getting some funny looks casting out there, but then I showed them!

 

This whitefish species (Coregonus clupeaformis) is the same one I occasionally pick off on dry flies on Canada pike trips but different from the commonly known, mountain whitefish of the west.

 

Lake-SuperiorIt was work but I landed two nice whitefish.  I kept hoping to get the herring for my species list but I’m certain he will come in the future.  It was time to move, however with so many options Howie couldn’t make up his mind.  I wanted to hit his spring smallmouth bass spot.  He felt the area would be too warm.  I twisted his arm.

 

yellow-perchThis section of Chequamegon isn’t much unlike the flats of Lake Michigan.  The only difference is that instead of being knee deep it was 4-6 feet deep.  We spooked a couple smallies immediately and even a carp that got me very excited.  The shallow feeders went off the edge into trenches, 8-12 foot deep fingers between the flats.  That’s where we’d end up fishing the next few hours.  At first, our most common catch were these small yellow perch.

 

smallmouth-bassSometimes small fish action around your boat attracts other species of fish.  We were almost annoyed unhooking numerous undersized perch, but a few smallmouth began to show up to the party.  They were finicky and my first few presentations sent them running.  But on my third try I let my white fly drop to the sand.  The smallie I was watching tipped on the concoction like a bonefish on a crab and sucked it up.

 

flyfishingThat was the technique for the rest of the morning and I went on to catch five sturdy smallies like the one pictured.  I also learned Howie didn’t bring a fly rod today.  It wasn’t by choice but his daughter recently broke his favorite bass rod fly fishing in AK.  I offered one of my extras but he was set on tossing jigs and lures.  The smallies were not into it.

 

We were fishing shirts off before noon.  I’m guessing it was warmer than 80°.  There won’t be many more days like today as far as hot so we soaked it in.  In early afternoon we moved to some of his trout and salmon hot spots all the way over near Bayfield.  We saw a few fish and huge schools of bait on his fish finder but action was slow.  However, not so slow that Howie didn’t jig up a respectable steelhead from 35 feet down.  This fish put on an insane fight!

 

Matt-NortonThe steelhead caused us to spend more time deep for trout but it turns out there were no more to be caught.  I enjoyed watching some nearby baby loons learning to hunt.  There were also a few boats fishing an area Howie wasn’t familiar with.  We decided to check it out after they left.

 

Our explorer move was a superb idea.  We literally cut the motor and on my first cast in came three fish.  The light was tough for good identification but the three fish looked like smallies – but it seemed impossible because they were so big.  They took a good look at my white fly but refused.

 

bass-on-flyThe suspense of these fish kept us in the area but they disappeared.  We were on a slow drift and soon over weeds and rocks.  This time five of the mysterious fish showed.  And this time they were close enough we identified them as giant smallies!

 

Huge-Smallmouth-bassFish in Lake Superior grow slow and the big ones are old and wise.  These jumbo smallies have seen it all.  Each cast I had one charge only to lock up the breaks.  Howie experienced similar reactions.  But then on his first crank on a long cast he went tight.  Howie landed a 19” fat-boy smallmouth.  Huge!

 

We figured long casts were the ticket but not the case.  All we got were long follows.  I changed flies furiously trying to crack the code.  But it seemed each time I changed I got less interest rather than more.  After over an hour of this, I was back to my white fly.  I spotted a big fish cruising and cast to him.  My fly dropped about 3 ft ahead of him.  He was six feet down and started raising for my fly.  He intercepted it like a brown trout sipping a hopper.  Beast on!

 

Currier-huge-smallmouth-bassI’ve been smallmouth bass fishing for over 50 years.  Smallies gave me my first fishing thrills and I’ve loved them ever since.  I hear about 20” smallies all the time, but somehow I’ve never for sure broken the 20” barrier.  Well now I officially have.  I’m not a quarter inch or half in measuring nerd, but in this particular case, Howie pointed out on his measurer crate, 20 & ¼ inches.  It was real.  Not only was this my longest smallie ever, but he was just plain large all the way around.

 

catch-and-releaseAfter I released my dream fish it was the end to a spectacular day for me.  I cracked a Sierra and kicked back.  A lifetime of smallmouth bass fishing and I caught my biggest ever.  Spectacular!  I still can hardly believe it.  Howie kept working it.

 

pikeI’m glad Howie kept casting.  We caught a lot of species today but somehow not a pike.  That changed and it took some luck.  Howie was not using steel leader.  But he lip hooked this 26” pike.  Now we were both done.

 

It’s been an incredible summer of fishing.  As for WI, today may be my favorite.  The fish of a lifetime and I caught it with Howie.  Stay tuned, Howie and I have a musky day on the books for next week!

 

Jeff Currier Global Fly Fishing

5 Comments

  1. Numzie

    The new lund is dying to get up there, Mid to late Sept for some lakeTrout?

  2. Jeff

    Hell Yea Numzie!

  3. Thomas Cappiello

    love those days when fishing stops due to extreme satisfaction, yep yep, got THAT fish!

  4. Thomas Cappiello

    you are probably well aware, but there is some fantastic fishing for whitefish in Alaska that is virtually untapped by sport fishers. After 30 some years of being here, I recently got into them, hard fighting and taste good too!

  5. Jeff

    Thomas, me too especially when there’s a cold refreshment waiting!
    Are you talking the giant whitefish – the sheefish (inconnu)? If so, I had the great privilege of catching a few up there on the Yukon last September. Awesome fish

Welcome to the Blog of Jeff Currier!

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I started fly fishing at age 7 in the lakes and ponds of New England cutting my teeth on various sunfish, bass, crappie and stocked trout. I went to Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin, where I graduated with a Naturalist Degree while I discovered new fishing opportunities for pike, muskellunge, walleyes and various salmonids found in Lake Superior and its tributaries.

From there I headed west to work a few years in the Yellowstone region to simply work as much as most people fish and fish as much as most people work. I did just that, only it lasted over 20 years working at the Jack Dennis Fly Shop in Jackson, WY where I departed in 2009. Now it’s time to work for "The Man", working for myself that is.

I pursue my love to paint fish, lecture on every aspect of fly fishing you can imagine and host a few trips to some of the most exotic places you can think of. My ultimate goal is to catch as many species of fish on fly possible from freshwater to saltwater, throughout the world. I presently have taken over 440 species from over 60 countries!

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