Wednesday morning I met my retired firefighter friend, Charlie Hill, at our ramp. Tuesday I had asked him if he wanted go fishing. Like most of my retired friends they, or him, don’t just jump and say yes when I suggest getting up early to take a cold winter lake ride.
Charlie said it depended on how well he slept. Now his last name, Hill, makes me ask every time I call him if he is up or down Hill. Most time he is down Hill in his recliner.
I told him to meet me at our ramp at 8 a.m. Now I would have liked to start a little earlier but I have to give the boss her morning tour of the Hood a little early. If she doesn’t get it she is in a snit all day, especially if I’m not around the house.
Back at the house I let her in, got a cup of coffee and left for the ramp. Just as I got there here came Charlie. We loaded his gear in the boat, he backed me in and parked my truck.
Now another thing both Charlie and I have in common is we are tight with our money. Among the things he had put in the boat was a bath towel. I figured it was to wipe his hands on. As I got to no wake buoy I looked at him and he had the towel wrapped around his head, neck and face and looked like a cowboy mummy with his western hat topping it off. His hands were wrapped in it also as he didn’t have any gloves.
I was laughing when I hit the gas and we took off. He had no idea which way we were going because his eyes were covered. He said it was a cheap way to keep the cold wind from his face and going down his back.
I ran into a cove and made a quick idle around looking for bait or fish, but there was nothing so we took off again to another of my winter spots. Idling in toward the back I began to see bait balls and fish arches. There were loons and a couple of pelicans around.
He tied on one of my favorite cold weather baits, a Blakemore Road Runner on his light action spinning rod with eight-pound line on it. I positioned the boat and we started strolling using the dead stick presentation. That spot was also bare.
After about 30 minutes in the small area with only maybe one bite I moved on. This kind of fishing works best for me in winter but you have to be patient. It’s a slow, dull way to fish until you get the tap or your rod just loads up.
Moving again to a spot I like this time of year also saw us fish for another 30 minutes or longer without a hit. Suddenly Charlie’s rod bent in a tight arch. He began playing with whatever it was he had hooked up with letting his drag that was slipping and his rod take all of the work on. He was cool and handling the fish well until this big smallmouth came to the top, rolled around, and went down striping the eight-pound line off his reel.
His eyes got the deer in the headlights look as he played the big fish he had just seen. Later, after we got the fish in the boat, he admitted he was nervous as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs, afraid he might lose it. It was a solid six, maybe seven-pound thick healthy bass; my scales battery was dead.
About 20 minutes later in the same area he got another big smallmouth on and we put it in the boat. I took pictures of both of them. It was a runt compared to the other one, probably only weighing over five pounds. Another 45 minutes there saw us get one more hit.
I made one more stop at another favorite spot and dang if Charlie didn’t catch a big Kentucky. Hey, I am the guide, my friends are supposed to catch the fish. (I never caught a fish.)
I can give you the tips for winter bass fishing the way I do. Look for deep water. I like shelves dropping off into it. I fish mostly sand and rock now. I throw a variety of soft plastics that resemble shad. I use the 3.5 inch YUM Money Minnow in any color resembling a shad on a Blakemore Road Runner head.
My other bait I keep on the deck is a 3/ 4 oz. Cotton Cordell Jigging spoon. I douse everything I throw with YUM F2 Shad fish scent. Just don’t get in a hurry retrieving.
Dress for the conditions or keep a towel in the boat to wrap your head in. I’m still grinning every time I think about how Charlie looked. Fish with a partner now since the water is cold enough that you can get in big trouble if you fall in.