Growing up bass were noted by many of the old timers simply as “trash fish.” While angling for trout or salmon it was a major disruption to hook into one of these fish that many times ended up in the bushes. Many of the older anglers that I fish with growl with disdain when a bass ends up on their line. However, this trend has seen a shift. Not just with the angling community, but also with my own way of thinking.
For me that shift began on my home river many years ago. This river was full of landlocked salmon and that was the main target on each trip. One late spring day I cast my streamer into a calmer section of the river near a gravel bank and hooked into a really nice smallmouth bass. I was shocked by the strength and tenacity of this fish. Everytime it would get closer to me it would rocket away peeling line from my fly reel. After releasing this strong fish I quickly duplicated that first result with a similar fish from the same area. It wasn’t until a few years later that I realized that they were on their spawning beds and were in a protective mode against any intruders. Unfortunately that section of river where the spawning beds were located is now silted in and inadequate for spawning habitat.
Fast forward to many years later and I can honestly say that I am obsessed with bass fishing and more specifically fly fishing for bass. I love that these fish are available during the warmer parts of the year and are usually found in higher numbers, which gives anglers a better chance at hooking at least a few. When you have young kids in the boat on a guided trip it really doesn’t matter what fish you catch as long as they are catching something.
The real treat for me is fishing for bass that are on their spawning beds. There are some in the sport that say that this practice is unsporting. I couldn’t disagree more. With a thriving population in many of the lakes, ponds and rivers in our state I find the argument that pulling them off the beds for a moment hurts the overall population as unfounded. Many argue that by pulling them off the bed other fish will prey on the newly hatched fry. They also argue that the ones being caught will die from exhaustion with being caught in addition to continuously chasing other predators off the beds. I find watching these fish on their beds doing what they do very exhilarating. However, many of these fish just move the lure or fly off their bed and may not be hooked enough to land them. Either way it is an exicting aspect of bass fishing that I yearn for.
Topwater is a whole other category of fishing for bass that will rival any other type of surface activity. I do not know if you can equate a surface take from a trout or salmon with the explosive take from a smallmouth bass. When the conditions are right it seems like nothing could go wrong. Dan and I experienced this last September and it was phenomenal. At one point I had flipped my bass fly over the side of the boat, no more than 10 feet, and an eager bass exploded on it. One thing that I need to keep reminding myself is that in many circumstances less is more in regards to moving a topwater bass fly or lure. On that same day in September with Dan we found just getting it close to where the bass had previously rose and letting it sit was the ticket. No use in getting too excited with popping and bringing it back quickly to recast again.
Maybe many of those old timers that scoffed at bass fishing need to experience bass fishing as I have. I have seen at least one old timer smile when a scrappy bass took his fly and for a small moment I maybe thought there was hope for him. That was until he forced a smile when I was taking a picture of him with his fish and he growled “trash fish!” At least he was smiling.