By Nick Simonson
Rocked by the waves generated from the wake board boats closing out their weekends on the water, my brother and I drifted around the patches of weeds on the long point extending into the lake. Here and there, loons would cluster and then spread out as jet skis and pontoons wove their way around the main basin and back across it. On the otherwise still day, the motion of the water would linger with me well after the trip, and I’d feel the slight rocking as I settled in back at the cabin. Along with the sensation would come the addition of a new bait that answered the call on the warm summer day for everything swimming underneath us.
Abandoning bass plastics and the docks which had held those largemouth earlier in the summer, my brother speared a paddle tailed swimbait on a 1/4-ounce jighead as we headed for the edge of the steep rocky bar on the far side of the lake. Painstakingly slow, he reeled it in, keeping contact with the bottom every so often, as he explained was his go-to fall presentation for walleyes on his lake back home. I joined him and, unlike the other watercraft buzzing around us, I had to check my speed, turning the handle way too fast to start. A slow retrieve was all that was required to trigger the slight shimmy of the swimbait and the pulse of its circular tail for it to give off that injured baitfish vibe and stay low in the strike zone. With all the buzz on the surface, and the warm sunny skies above us, we were not optimistic that fishing would be fast, but were hoping the bites would be big.
It didn’t take long and my brother’s rod was doubled over with the weight of a hefty fish. It had hammered the bait like a freight train; a notable take on a slow-moving offering that made the hookset come easy to him. Pulled from the edge of the weedline around a large patch of cabbage, the expected largemouth turned into a huge walleye and the lone angler in our area stopped his trek to watch my brother battle it up and into the net. We figured we were on to something, and that even if the conditions and the traffic might limit the numbers of fish we caught, fish of that size would be worth it. After a few photos and a quick release of the walleye trimmed in a blue green iridescence, we hopped to the next patch of cabbage and cast out and around it, hoping to duplicate the success.
It was my turn to do so when, half lulled by the warmth and the rocking of the boat, my rod slammed backward toward the plastic offering and the slow reel turned into an instinctive high-speed reaction of leaning back on it into a bowed hookset. The four-pound bass thundered below and came to the top in rocket launch style, flipping across three feet of surface before crashing down next to the boat and running under the hull for a few more powerful charges. If the take had awoken me from the hypnotic slow reeling process, the fight was a depth charge of adrenaline for my system. We started to put the pattern together as the big bass went back in the water.
As expected, the bites weren’t frequent, but the fish were quality from both sides of the species spectrum. The subtle swimbaits did their job, wiggling, wobbling and pulsing their way back to the boat teasing the neutral fish into coming out of their weedy hiding places and biting under the midday sun. A mixture of a half-dozen fish came to hand and were released, including two walleyes over five pounds and a handful of largemouth bass no less than 16 inches. It wasn’t fast fishing, nor did we expect it to be, but the quality that came fueled each cast out over the open water around the vegetation and served as a spot check for just how fast each of us was reeling our offering in.
With the mid-afternoon sun fading and our own family trip around the water requiring our return to the cabin, we reeled up for the last time and headed in. We were content with the quality, and what really ended up being a reasonable quantity of fish for the conditions, as the summer day melted away and the swimbaits made the list as a summer catch-all for big fish…in our outdoors.
Simonson is the lead writer, editor and managing member of Dakota Edge Outdoors who doesn’t mind trying new things on the water, as long as they catch fish.
The author’s brother, Ben Simonson of Valley City, N.D., connected this 27-inch walleye on a slow-rolled swimbait worked off the breaks around large stands of weeds. Simonson Photo.