A few weeks ago Tom, my son-in-law, Sam, my grandson, and I were out on Madison, Wisconsin’s Lake Mendota. Tom knows the lake and he has a number of flats, weed beds and ledges marked on his GPS. I had my hand-held GPS along, and I entered the spots we fished for future reference in the event I would be fishing without Tom.
While I’m not much into technology (I don’t even own a cell phone), a GPS is especially valuable on the water for relocating structure, etc. I’ll admit that I probably would not have purchased a GPS on my own. My Garmin GPS was sent to me by a former Parkston student, Dan Bartel, who rose to high places with Garmin. I’m forever grateful to Dan.
Getting back to Lake Mendota, we were out very early that morning, and we began the day by trolling spinners and crawlers. Our trolling efforts were fruitless, and we decided to anchor on a weed line and still-fish with crawlers and leeches. The action picked up immediately. We caught smallmouth bass, walleyes, rock bass, drum and big bluegills.
Though I always have a great time when I’m out with Tom and my grandkids, I was frustrated. I was getting bites, but I wasn’t catching fish. My two rods were in rod holders on the port side. One was rigged with a slip-bobber and a piece of nightcrawler, the other was fished straight down over the side and 6 inches above the bottom using the same bait. For whatever reason, ninety percent of the hits were on the bobberless rig, and every time the rod bent, I’d try to slip the rod out of the holder without spooking the fish. I’d lose most of the fish while trying to free the rod from the holder.
All three of us were landing a few fish on slip-bobber rigs, but it was that bobberless rig that continued to get the most action. For days afterward, I tried to think of a solution to my “spooking” problem. It finally occurred to me that I already had the answer. They were on a shelf out in the garage. I’m talking about old bait-casting reels from the 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s. Today, they can be had at gun shows for a few bucks apiece.
I have a half-dozen old reels, some from my early days and some I inherited from Betsy’s Grandpa Bill. They still have old braided line on them and on most the line is reasonably strong. Two are on ice fishing rigs and they’ll stay there. I put two on old casting rods, tied 10 yards of 8-pound test monofilament line to the old line as a leader, and tipped it with a snap swivel. I was ready to go, and it didn’t cost me a nickel.
When I put these lines over the side, I put the reel on “click.” There’s enough resistance to hold the line, but not enough to spook the fish. I use snelled hooks. If a nice fish, especially smallmouth bass, swallows too much hook, I cut the leader and release him. The hook will rust out in no time.
I like still fishing. It’s a lot better than you think on our own Francis Case, you never know what’s going to come along, and it’s easier for me to handle with my tremor problems.
A fishing shirt?
When it comes to sportswear, fashion, and looking good, I am the absolute last guy to look to for advice. I like old faded blue jeans and half worn out T-shirts. I shave about every five days. I’m a grub.
Now, in spite of this, I’m going to recommend a shirt. I call it my “fishing shirt.”
If you follow this column on a regular basis, you know that I had a bout with skin cancer, and that I’ve made a point of protecting myself from the sun while fishing. With this in mind, my daughters gave me a long-sleeved shirt for Father’s Day. Because I call the shirt expensive at $64.50, I would never have bought it for myself. Now that I’ve worn it, I would buy it without hesitation. It’s that good!
The shirt appears to be almost weightless. Other than long sleeves, it has a collar. Wearing it feels good. It feels air-conditioned — like it’s breathing! The Duluth Trading Company calls it the Armachillo Cooling Shirt. This cooling shirt is 53 percent nylon and 47 percent polyester. Normally I resist synthetic fabrics. Not this time. The blue check design is also attractive. It could be worn for casual occasions.
As always, I have no deal whatsoever with Duluth. When I come across a great product, I’ll pass it along. I certainly support shopping locally and one might find a comparable shirt with a Columbia or Cabela’s trademark.
Next week, we’ll talk about the coming duck opener.