Driving to the boat ramp for the first time of the new season. Anticipation is high, the boat is cleaned up after sitting all winter long…
Driving to the boat ramp for the first time of the new season. Anticipation is high, the boat is cleaned up after sitting all winter long, and the fishing gear is stowed. Even remembered to pack those new crank baits the guys down South have been getting the big ones on. The ice has finally melted and the snow has given way to warming days. Everywhere you look you can see the outdoors coming back to life. Grass is trying to push its way up though the winter thatch. The daffodils in the flower gardens are already blooming. Robins have been around for a while and now it is time to get on the water. It has been a long, hard winter of watching Bill Dance on TV catching lunker after lunker and thumbing through the Bass Pro Catalog so often the pages are memorized. This is finally the day after waiting all winter long for it to get here. All those big bass are going to be lined up just waiting to be caught. This is the first fishing trip of the year and there is something special about it.
The road down to the ramp is steep and winding. The lake is barely visible through the trees. Briefly my mind goes back to other seasons and the fish that have been caught. What will this year bring? The anticipation grows as I round the corner, there is just light enough to see the ramp and parking lots are empty. Getting up extra early was worth it. No worries now about some one tying up the ramp that forgot to charge his batteries or did not get his boat ready for the new season.
Before easing the boat in the water I make a final check. Double-checking to make sure the drain plug is in, remembering back to a time or two when this little detail had been forgotten in the rush to get on the water. The fun times of getting it back in reaching into 40 or 50-degree water up to my shoulder, but not today, this is going to be a perfect day.
After launching the boat and making the short walk across the parking lot in the brisk morning air I get settled in the drivers seat of the boat and turn the ignition key for the big motor. What a sweet sound when it fires up. The timing is perfect, there is just enough light to run. After snapping the kill switch to my life vest and dropping the throttle, the bow lifts and then the boat levels off. As much of a thrill running down the lake wide open is, today it is too cold and already my face is numb from the barely 40-degree temperatures. The run is short to a favorite early season cove. I shut the big motor down and ease the trolling motor in the water when suddenly the peace and quiet of the early morning overwhelms me for a moment. There is something special about being on the water first thing in the morning and being able to watch the world wake up around you.
Looking down on the deck it is time to figure out what rod and bait to use. The jig and pig is already tied on from last nights rigging in the garage. A soft stick bait, jerk bait, spinnerbait, and tube are all rigged and ready to go. A quick glance at the water temperature on the Lowrance tells me the water temperature is fifty degrees. Might be a bit cold, but I reach for my old faithful buzzing frog. I make a few casts and watch as an Osprey catches his breakfast. Finally something boils on the frog, dropping the frog rod I pick up the softstick bait and cast to the boil. Watching the line as the bait falls it jumps just a little. Rearing back to set the hook I feel the weight of the fish. First one of the year and it feels good. A few moments later a small buck bass is being admired and released. The first fish of the season has been caught and released.
After I take a few sips of my coffee the feeling is coming back to my cold fingers. The sun has started to slowly climb in the sky and I can feel the warmth of a new day. After few more sips of coffee and no more action on the buzzing frog. I work my way out of the bay and to a rocky point that over the years has held many battles with some of the “biggest ones that got away.” There is no question about my weapon of choice for the upcoming battle. It will be an old standby that works year in and year out, the jig and pig. The water is cold, a one forth ounce black blue jig and a black real pork frog will give a good but slow presentation. The rod is an old faithful seven foot Avid medium heavy, a Revo reel that is starting to show it’s age and thirty pound Power pro braided line. Have been here many times before and know about the big rock that lies in about eight feet of water to the left of the point and the old log that lies against it. Slowly I get the boat into position and make a cast just beyond the spot. I watch the line as the jig falls until it hits the bottom and work it painfully slow back to the log. Feeling it crawl over it and fall I watch for a telltale twitch in the line, but none comes. After the jig settles to the bottom again I move it in slow gentle hops and then stop. Still nothing. I feel the jig contact the rock, I try to slowly drag the jig over it and then I feel weightlessness. My years of fishing tell me something has picked up the jig and I set the hook. At first I think I have hooked into the log, but the line starts to move off and the battle is on. This time it is a good size female bass, the water is cold, but she comes to the surface to jump just the same. The battle is short and soon a female fat with eggs is held while I remove the jig. I take a quick look and see she is healthy and no marks and gently release her back into the water.
Throwing a jerk bait in the traditional jerk-jerk-pause only get the attention of a Northern Pike as I pass over the top of a newly growing weed bed. Coming up on a small island with some deep water on the backside I throw a crank bait and find several smaller bass more then willing to come and play. None of any size, but still fun to catch. With the sun getting higher and the water starting to warm I head into the back of a spawning bay. Some male bass are already moving around, but still too early and too cold for them to start bedding.
Saved the best place for last, a long rock and gravel shoreline with many trees that were blown over from a bad storm several years ago. The sun has warmed the shallow water a few
degrees. Time to try a four-inch watermelon seed tube. The eighth ounce weight is pegged to the fifty-pound Power Pro line. Pitching to the deeper ends of the blown down trees pan fish, also hungry from the long winter, peck away at the tube. Moving up toward the bank and the shallower water I find a couple bigger fish willing to hit the tube that were basking in the warmth of the sun. Easy pickings now, but after they see several hundred boats and thousands of baits they will smarten up.
The sun is starting down on a good first day on the water. Tried a lot of things and most worked. Did not catch any lunkers, but caught good quality fish. As the days go by and the water warms the bigger ones will come along. For now it is time to head back to the ramp and reflect on another “first day on the water” and think how lucky I am to be able to enjoy it. We never know how long we might have and each day on the water is to be enjoyed to the fullest. I heard someone once say ”If there is no fishing in Heaven then I ain’t going.” For me, a day like today is probably the closest thing to Heaven we can have here on Earth.
By Dave DeRemer aka Baron