If there’s a better way to spend an early-summer weekday than watching largemouth bass explode through lily pads to smash topwater baits, I’ve yet to discover it. And let me tell you, as much as I enjoy my job as OC’s associate editor, spending six hours on our new Kingfisher Flex 1925 SC compares very favourably to the average day in my fluorescent-lit cubicle.
On Thursday, editor-in-chief Patrick Walsh, managing editor Bob Sexton and yours truly headed out to Sturgeon Lake, near Lindsay, Ontario, to carry out vital field research on the effect of casting floating frogs and weedless spoons into the lake’s expansive weed beds. Our remarkable discovery: you catch fish.
Although Patrick spent a day on Sturgeon Lake last week, we don’t know the water especially well. So we simply launched from Snug Harbour on the west shore, and headed into the weeds already choking off the lake’s shallow southern end.
Cruising maybe 50 feet off shore, and firing casts in all directions, Patrick had a couple of bass hit and briefly hold onto his hollow-body Livetarget Frog, before finally got a good hookset, and hauled in a nice largie. Well actually, the fish dove into such heavy cover that Patrick didn’t reel it in, so much as take the boat to the fish and lift it—plus another pound of weeds—into the boat. It was a fine way to start to the day, not to mention some impressive multi-tasking boat control from the boss.
Throughout the morning and early afternoon, Bob and I had been getting sporadic hits on our Scum Frogs, and we each had largies on the line long enough to bend the rod, but found it tricky to get solid hooksets. As advertised, both of these topwater floating frogs are almost 100 per cent weedless, and slide over the pads and across mats of vegetation beautifully. However setting the hooks requires a small-but-difficult adjustment.
When a fish clamps down on a topwater frog, the lure’s hollow body collapses to expose, and hopefully sink in, the hook. But this actually takes a moment, making it easy to jerk the bait out of the fish’s mouth. In fact, the Scum Frog package reminds anglers to wait two seconds before striking. But believe me, after years of training yourself to set the hook, holding back is really hard to do—especially after watching your bait disappear with a splash into the gaping maw of a big largemouth.
I felt like I was getting the hang of it, but about 2 PM the surface action seemed to slow down. Coincidentally, we also happened upon a bay dotted with bathtub-sized gaps in the weed, so I switched to one of my favorite lures: the good ol’ weedless spoon. These baits are a little out of fashion, but use them a lot, usually tipped with a big twister tail, which adds a seductive wiggle, and slows the spoon's fall through the water column. In Canada, the best known is probably the Johnson Original Silver Minnow, but yesterday I was trying out—for the first time—a variation called the The Secret Weedless Spoon. I picked up a few of these over Christmas when I was in South Carolina. Down Dixie way, they use 'em for redfish in brackish creeks, and The Secret is extra-weedless due to a little rubber cone that slides over the swivel-to-line connection.
I bet you know where this is going, right? I started heaving the spoon beyond the weed gaps; pulling it across the pads, letting it flutter down into the open water and swimming it a foot or two deep. After one drop, I pulled but the spoon was stuck into what felt like a log or stump, but wasn’t. It was one of, and maybe the biggest largie I’ve ever landed. It took me a good few minutes to get it in, especially since there was a wad of weeds the size of a honeydew wrapped around its head, but what a hawg. I wish we’d taken a picture of its open mouth, but I bet you could've fit a large Tim Horton’s cup into it, with room leftover for a handful Timbits. We released it with a splash, and not 10 minutes later I had another smaller, but still very solid bass. Bob and Patrick connected with a few more fish as well, but for once I had the hot stick. Not a bad way to begin the bass season.