Fishing & Boating News

Babe Winkelman Fishing .....

If I could fish only one species the rest of my life, it would be the smallmouth bass.

by: Babe Winkelman, Babe Winkelman Productions

(Wednesday, May 27,1998 - Brainerd, MN) Using the old pound-for-pound rating system, the string-stretching smallmouth scores high on any list of light-tackle brawlers. A hooked smallie always seems to be going two directins at once, diving and tail-walking, zigging and zagging, all at the same time.

While Southern anglers would find this hard to believe, the incredibly entertaining smallmouth suffers from "Rodney Dangerfield's disease" up north. It "just don't get no respect" in walleye country.

Why? I've heard northern anglers complain that the smallmouth fishing isn't as good as it used to be. Baloney. Check this out: Of the 20 line-class record smallmouth bass listed by the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame, nine were caught in the 1990s and only one was caught before 1985. I've also heard it said that all the best smallmouth waters are in the South. Again, a glance at the record book dispels that notion. Twelve of those line-class records were caught between the Mason-Dixon Line and the Canadian border.

Anglers from New York to Washington have access to smallmouth fishing that's every bit as good as anything available in the South. In fact, most bronzeback aficionados rank Lake Erie as the continent's Number 1 smallmouth fishery. Eastern, Central or Western basin, it doesn't really matter. Erie's Western and Central basins produce exceptional fishing all season. And if you're looking for a stringer that will average over five pounds, look at the Eastern Basin around Erie in late fall.

The Mississippi River in Minnesota has always provided great smallmouth fishing. The species has expanded dramatically on the Missouri River, too, most notably in reservoirs like Fort Peck, Lake Sakakawea and Lake Oahe. And the Columbia River in the Pacific Northwest is notorious for its jumbo bass, even though smallies are still considered a "trash fish" by many guides.

Michigan anglers should check out Lake St. Clair. Wisconsin and Minnesota smallmouth wannabes can head for Chequamegon Bay on Lake Superior east of Duluth or Mille Lacs north of Minneapolis/St. Paul. You wouldn't believe the size of the summertime smallmouth in those two fisheries.

And while this lecture is aimed at northern readers, no discussion of smallmouth bass would be complete without a mention of Tennessee's Dale Hollow Reservoir, home of the world record.

So there you have it, a coast-to-coats tour of northern smallmouth waters. No more excuses. It's time to forget about walleyes and muskies-at least for a weekend-- and give old red eyes a try. A call to the fisheries division of your state fish and wildlife agency will produce the name of some good nearby smallmouth lakes. Just grab a handful of jibs, some plastic worms and a few little crankbaits and head for the nearest rock pile.

Once you do, you'll understand why the smallmouth is one of my favorite fish.

Tune into Babe Winkelman's award-winning television show "Outdoor Secrets" on Superstation WGN at 1:00 a.m. Friday night, 9:00 a.m. Saturday morning and 2:30 a.m. Saturday night (all Central). For informatin regarding Babe Winkelman's new club, "Society of Outdoor Sportsmen," call toll free 1-800-333-0471 (Monday-Friday, 8:00 am - 5:00 pm Central) or write to: S.O.S., PO Box 407, Brainerd, MN 56401.