By Nick Simonson
The rising sun heated the morning air like a fuse on the fireworks launched the night before and as it came up over the slightly rippled waters of the northern lake on Independence Day, the fishing exploded in the same fashion. Along the inside turns of the reed beds, under the mats of lily pads and off the small rocky points of the water, the smallmouth and largemouth bass took to my tubes with reckless abandon and by nine o’clock I had brought a dozen or so up to the boat that were 15 inches or better, including a couple of hefty bucketmouths that taped at 18 inches.
The coolest part of the summer experience playing out before me on the holiday morning was the ability to see many of the bites as they came in the clear water. The glint of the red flakes in the green plastic of the tube, which was slightly darker than much of the vegetation below, caught the sun’s light just right so that I could watch it disappear even in deeper waters when a fish would take the bait off of a breakline. The Texas-rigged bait would slip over or pop loose from a reed or lily pad stalk and slide out into an opening where a shadow would emerge and inhale the offering, bending my rod to confirm the take.
While there was no need for a fluorocarbon leader which I had often used on past summertime outings on the clear lake, due mostly in part to a long stretch of stable weather and aggressive bass mostly up shallow, or holding slightly off those feeding grounds, I did have a spool handy, just in case I needed to make the shift. However, it was a one-rod, one-bait kind of morning, where the only switches necessary were those of the plastic baits which took a beating from the fish and their environs. When a tube would slide up the line and split at the top, I’d either re-rig it, running the point of the hook through the less damaged side to try and squeeze another fish out of it, or toss it in the used bait pile which mounted at my feet in the bow of my little puddle jumper which I had hauled up north for just this experience.
In the crystalline waters, each hookset and side-sprinting bass looked like a monster, especially as the average size of my morning sampling was much better than in past outings at the same time of the season. This further amplified the pair of big bass that came to hand, as when they turned in the deeper water, they appeared to be even bigger, magnified by the six or eight feet of the clear column between us, their white-and-emerald sides shining brightly underneath the boat as they made bulldogging runs which provided a test to my drag that the morning’s other fish had not. The final one of the morning bookended the earlier 18-incher, and after setting it back and watching it disappear into the blue depths below I tugged on the pullcord of the motor and set back to the boat launch, the temperature topping 80 degrees before 10 am under the clear and sunny skies of the holiday.
From lake to lake conditions are always a factor. Down the road, the tannin-stained bog water turns other lakes in a creek-connected series to a reddish brown. In others nearby, summer algae turns them a greenish hue. But on the island-studded lake with the countless humps, reefs, bars and stands of vegetation which hold more than a week’s worth of mornings of good fishing, the water remained as clear as it had ever been, fueled by the springs and seeps below. From when I sight-fished bluegills through the ice in 20 feet a decade ago, to last Fourth of July when the lake seemed to absorb the evening sparkle of the first shots of fireworks overhead, the clear water provided yet another amazing experience to see it all happen before me, and set the hook on another fun outing…in our outdoors.
Featured Photo: A sizeable largemouth bass comes to boat in the clear waters of a small northern lake. Simonson Photo.