Welcome to Panfish

Part Five


Slightly Larger Than "Panfish"

by Randy Fratzke

Okay, you've caught enough of the smallmouth bass to satisfy you for a while, the crappies are getting too easy, and the blue gillies have all been taken by the kids with the worms and bobbers. Your looking for a little more of a challenge in the warm water species, but still not quite up to taking anything with teeth big enough to take your fingers off. Must be time to try for "ol' bucket mouth", the largemouth bass, the bigger relative of the smallie.

I,ve managed to get out four of the last five days and it's been well worth it. I've found the first good thing to happen from the famous El Nino of 97/98 . . . The fish are all spawning late this year in our area. Usually by now the spawns are pretty much over and we're into the summer style fishing, but to the fish, it's still spring time!

Last Thursday night, three smallmouth in twenty minutes; Friday night, tornadoes... no damage in our area, but no fishing either; Saturday night, five smallmouths in an hour; Sunday, three walleye, two smallmouth and a "misguided" channel cat in an hour; Monday night, too many small mouths to count, a couple of crappies and something that just ripped up the reel and broke off in a matter of seconds...Like "take the candy and run!" It didn't feel like a walleye or northern pike which have a tendency to roll when they're on the line. It definitely wasn't another channel cat, which head for the bottom, dig in, and try to out wait you. That left one alternative, a largemouth, and a decent sized one at that!

I'd been using my normal bass lures, relying mostly on the Clouser Minnow, but now felt that maybe something a little larger was in order. Something a little more buoyant, but able to dive. Something like a Dahlberg Diver. Now the big choice, a Diving Bug, a Diving Minnow, or a Rabbit Strip Diver, and what colors. I decided on a weedless Diving Minnow, 4x tied on a #1 hook. I use the patterns by Dick Stewart for the most part, modify them occasionally to fit the situation, but I've found his book on Bass Flies to be a tremendous reference.

I tied it on to my 4Xt tippet, lined on my 4wt Elkhorn and prepared for battle. I caught a couple of more smallmouth but nothing special. Strip the line to make the dive, pause to let it float to the top, strip the line again, over and over. Recast towards the brush pile where the first hit came from, strip and pause, strip and pause. Suddenly, just as the lure broke the surface of the water and I was getting ready to strip again the water exploded. Monster Mouth, gills extended, a mouth big enough to put my fist in, totally engulfed the Dahlberg.

It immediately turned and headed back for the brush, a place I did not want it to get to, but with only a 4Xt tippet I also didn't want to try to "horse it around". We came to terms, and it turned around towards shore. After a few minutes I landed her, 18" and 4.8lbs. Nice size for an Iowa largemouth. Not a trophy, but respectable. She was obviously full of eggs, so after quickly weighing, measuring, and photographing, I gently slipped her back in the water. She swam off like nothing had even happened, heading back to her brush pile.

Fun, exhilarating, and satisfying. Descriptive words that, to me, just mean one thing: I had a darn fine time that night. Later I'll write on how to handle those warm water monsters with the sharp teeth I mentioned earlier, and keep all your fingers on your hand.

~Randy Fratzke

Panfish Part 1 | Panfish Part 2 | Panfish Part 3 | Panfish Part4 |

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