How To Make A Big Fish Look Small

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I know. You’re saying, “What the hell is Bowman talking about now? Why would anyone want to make their fish look small?” 

Well, I had a recent fishing outing with a couple of buddies. Not only do they starkly contrast with each others’ looks, when you add me into the mix, it’s like night and day.

The Hitman Syndrome

Now, there’s a reason I start with this. One of my buddies on this trip is a man I refer to as “the Hitman.” You can’t miss the Hitman when he walks into a room—or pretty much anywhere he goes. He’s actually shrunk with age to a mere 6’7” (used to be 6’8”). “Hit” loves fishing as well as hunting. 

My other fishin’ pal for the day was good ol’ Rusty, a machinist by trade with the grip strength of a snapping turtle. He also loves fishing—when he can get out!

We wanted Largemouth or Smallmouth Bass but would take anything.

The fishing started relatively slow (as it has for me pretty much all season long). I don’t believe it was due to the fish not biting; it was us trying to figure out the fish. That is a huge stepping stone during a day of angling that I’m assuming happens to everyone (or at least I’m hoping so).

Hit’s biggest fishing problem is that he needs to catch and then photograph absolutely gigantic fish of any species to make them look even remotely substantial. 

Rusty doesn’t have nearly the hard time that Hit does. And me, I can make a perch look big.

The Fishing For The Day

I guess I should get to the meat and potatoes of this day. We all presented different baits until something clicked. We fished typical deep weed edges and the odd shallow shoreline, but it wasn’t until we got to the intermediate depth areas that things started to happen.

After pretty much blanking out on the deep weed lines and deep flats (I’ve never seen my Garmin LiveScope screen so void of big fish, a tell-tale sign to keep moving), we decided to go towards the inner edges of the weedbeds. No sooner did we get there than the fish started to bite.

Now for the “daily surprise” (as always happens in fishing). The main biters were Smallmouth. They had moved from the main lake basin and the deep edges of the weeds into the shallow edges of the weeds—totally opposite of where they were a couple of weeks prior. We expected largemouth and maybe musky (we did get a couple of these), but smallies?

Not to let a good thing pass by, we salvaged what was looking like a poor day for a rather fun one.

Our Best Bass Lures

When fishing the inside edges of weedbeds for either Smallmouth or Largemouth Bass, slow, methodical soft plastic baits and jigs play a significant role, as do shallow, fast baits like a spinnerbait.

I stuck with plastics, Rusty fired the blades, and Hit tied a jig on his gear.

A jig for Smallmouth… why not?

All three of us caught some Smallmouth in various sizes, some of which were very decent fish. The fish seemed random, as smallies often do. I believe they are one of the most active feeding species of fish on any water body that they reside in. Yes, Smallmouth Bass do rest, but they are on the prowl like a true predator when they’re hungry. This especially goes for shallow smallies (in my experience, of course; others may have a different opinion). 

Smallmouth Bass seemingly have no set standards for moving singularly or in packs. I’ve seen many loner smallies working along a shallow, clear water piece of cover or structure. Having said that, I’ve seen even more small wolf-packs of smallies cruising together, working the same types of areas. A high percentage of the time, these shallow fish are in feeding mode. If you’re stealthy with your boat, careful not to spook them, shallow Smallmouth Bass are not that difficult to catch. Landing them, though, that’s a different story.

We ended our inside weed line Smallmouth Bass day with some great fish, including a five-pounder that the Hitman landed and, of course, made look like a much smaller fish (trust me, it was a fiver!). I swear that fish jumped at least four feet in the air—and it was only in four feet of water!

Brent, the Hitman. He sure can fish. He loves to hunt. And the women… well, he is six-foot-seven, you know!

Other Fish Species

The Hitman is a musky nut and treats his little babies like they were his own newborn! He caught a couple of small muskies that day, and I couldn’t help but make jabs at him because of the care he was taking with his precious little rockets. If only because he would, conversely, just drop bass back into the water. “No problem, they are tough.”

One of his muskies did the same acrobatic jump as his smallie. A thirty-something inch musky jumping four feet in the air is a spectacle for sure.

As the day came to an end, we cruised by a couple of shallow trees that I couldn’t pass up. I pitched in for a possible Largemouth Bass. (I could hear Rusty mumble to Hit, “The guy just doesn’t give up.” Ha! It’s a problem, I admit it.)

I fired my Texas-rigged plastic in, and two trees produced two Largemouth Bass. Not big, but definitely ended my day on the right note!

The perils of a bass living in the same waters as a muskie.

Just as we were about to call it a day, Rusty fired a finesse-rigged wacky worm next to a dock. I know he was using light line because it was my rod and reel he picked up from the floor of the boat! 8 lb. fluorocarbon it was!

Well, wouldn’t you know it, my rod, reel and bait were now connected firmly into a gorgeous largemouth. That fish came from the same dock we just pitched with the heavy stuff. Go figure. Way to clean up, Rusty, my man!

Sean, aka Rusty, with a beauty largie he caught on a finesse wacky worm.

Fishing Buddies Combined with a Learning Experience

Fishing with family or friends is something that we, as anglers, are blessed to experience. In my biased opinion, it’s the best place to spend some time together. This outing was long overdue. Thanks, fellas.

My lessons for the day were:

  1. If they ain’t deep, then I better look shallow. Fish like Smallmouth Bass do what they need to do to survive. If a move to the shallows is necessary for their daily intake of calories, I need to be there to take advantage of that fun bite.
  2. Always wear polarized sunglasses when fishing shallow for any species. On this day we could see some of the Smallmouth Bass we caught.
  3. If I get a double-header of twin four-pound bass with the Hitman, and we take separate photos, I believe mine will look bigger.
  4. Finally, I need to start fishing with the opposite-handed reels of Rusty so he can keep his machinist-mitts off of my $%!+.

Thanks for reading. Have a great day.

Pete Bowman

Pete, one of the most revered and popular anglers in the nation, has a tremendous love for the game… the fishing game. Pete’s vast knowledge of angling and ability to articulate it to audiences worldwide has endeared him to his fans who still see Pete as just “ONE OF THE BOYS”. Pete is also an accomplished and published outdoor writer and photographer as well as a sought-after speaker. In 2012 another of Pete’s ultimate fishing career highlights occurred when he was inducted into the Canadian Angler Hall Of Fame, something he never thought would happen. A Canadian fishing icon.

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