BIG BAY DE NOC AT SUNSET
Once again another fun trip to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan fishing on Bays de Noc near Escanaba. We stayed at Lindberg's Cove Resort, near Gladstone, MI for the 2nd time in 3 years. We love that place! The prices are great for cabin rentals, the cabins are right on the waterfront, they include free docks, and a free private boat ramp. There are a lot of northern pike that can be caught right off his docks, and just out from his resorts are some great spots for walleye and smallmouth fishing.
This was our 3rd year in a row vacationing out here, and we get a small amount of fishing in each year as well. I have learned a lot every single trip, and probably learned the most last year, even though it was my least productive trip. Trying to understand Great Lakes bass fishing in clear water is so different than fishing stained reservoirs with laydowns all over the place and heavy vegetation like we have around Western Wisconsin. I think a huge reason why I love this place so much is that I can use my favorite way to fish out there and catch some good ones - JERKBAITS!!!
Instead of going with our James Gang Fishing lures, I chose to go with the KVD DEEP JERKBAIT for this trip. Our jerkbait is only designed 5-7 ft, and with 25 ft water clarity, I felt better running a little deeper. Last year I ran our 4" Bass Jerker and did land a 3 lb beauty at the Gladstone Lighthouse, but I had schools of trophies following it and not committing to hammering the bait. I think it ran a little too high for them to feel safe in that clear water. The year before I ran a Rapala X Rap DEEP #10 (we did not start making Bass jerkers until 2015.) I landed a 16.75" smallmouth and a 21" smallmouth in 2 casts that year. The KVD DEEP was supposed to get down 11 ft.
I tested out my new lure, and on the 3rd cast I landed a very nice 9 lb Pike on Little Bay de Noc in horrible waves. There was a small craft advisory out so I had to be super cautious as always on that big water. The 16' Lund Big Lakes did very well in nasty 2-3 foot waves. I tried a little trolling with the KVD DEEP and no doubt about it that it went at least 11' down with great action. Not as good as the bass jerker and smaller jerkbaits, but very impressive for its size and diving ability. I landed an average Pike on a troll near Hwy 2 weed line between Gladstone and Escanaba. When I fished near the Wells town shipwreck, I landed another small pike. To my disappointment, the first pike bent the crap out of the factory hooks, and the 2nd one actually busted a hook completely off! Later a secret hole (I found last year) north of Kipling hooked me what felt like a pretty nice smallmouth in the waves, but my battle ended at the boat. It dove under the bow and threw the jerkbait. I found a pile of them there on the bottom tight to some cover 25 ft down but drop shots failed and boat control was impossible. I then ran back to my starting point where I had the pike and I had a 1-2 lb smallmouth swipe at my jerkbait 3 times in clear water at the side of the boat, missing on all 3 snaps of the lure. As it was getting dark, I threw a LOVERTAIL 2 in Smokey Shad, and a pike drilled it as I was lifting it out of the water. The jerk bit the tail off and the action sucked so I had to replace the Kalins Sizmic Grub to make it look awesome gain for the next day. Night time came and I had to head back and charge my troller after the brutal abuse my boat and body took during the horrible waves I dealt with. If you are wondering why I would go, well it seems like they prefer to bite in that crap and HATE calm water out there.
9 lb Pike little bay de noc on KVD Deep Jerkbait
Pike caught trolling a KVD Deep Jerkbait
The next day, I had to run around town while waiting for my batteries to charge. The winds were pretty calm, so I made to run to Garden Bay on Big Bay de Noc to battle the really big water. It was not bad at all, I couldnt go 100% throttle but I was running around 75% while keeping the prop in the water. Much better than having the prop out of the water constantly at 5 mph like the previous day. I went right to my fast dropping ledge spots from 2014, and there were 2 boats on my waypoints. I continued south fishing my butt off with jerkbaits on fast dropping ledges with no luck at all. The water clarity was down to only 15 ft this time. The other boats didnt reel any in, and I worked that ledge north for FIVE hours on the KVD Deep, drop shots, tubes, spinners, deep diving cranks, with NO follows and no sighted fish at all!! I gave up on smallmouth and went to the mouth of the river near Garden in 6 ft of water in very dark water with some weeds. I was bumming that my boy was at school and not with me and saw his BABY SQUID BAIT in my tackle box. I thought, now is the time to try it on a nice pike out here. First cast I felt a hit. Next cast another hit, I slow rolled the blade and WHAM! fish on!!! A sub-legal smallmouth. I was pumped. Next cast, another one in the boat. 3rd cast another one in the boat! The dock owner, and 2 others were watching me catch bass after bass trying to guess the lure. I was laughing since my little boy's invention totally saved this outing from disaster. 7 smallmouths landed in 5 minutes!!
3 of the 7 smallmouth caught in a few minutes on the BABY SQUID BAIT
I made a second pass around that hot dock and had zero action. I tried some weedless inline spinners with no luck either. I then decided to go north to Ansell Point and Kate's Bay where the underwater deep point comes in near the boulder ledge. I thought if they were holding shallower, maybe our BASS JERKER would be the way to go. I didnt have my custom painted "BLOODY CISCO" ones with, all I had was one in factory-painted GHOST SHAD, which I never tried but figured may work great in clear water like Lake Michigan. After just a few casts, the jerkbait gets pounded, and again, and again. I marked my way points, worked north and it died right off. I looked at my chartplotter and saw the contour that I liked and tried to duplicate it for a pattern. I then fired up the old 1976 Evinrude and hammered on it about a half mile to the next similar looking contour. 3 casts in a row, 3 more smallmouths, plus a few lost during the retrieve during acrobatic jumps on the surface. Once again it died off when the contour straightened and I continued my pattern a mile north again. Then it was lights out. Bite after bite, a few lost a few landed, and as the sun started setting, the fish finally got better sized. a 2 lb 2 oz was boated then a crazy explosion by a 17-18" 3+ lb smallmouth caught on video. He did it again and jumped several times, as I was netting him he made a huge leap, shook his head and tossed the lure. It was possibly the toughest fighting smallmouth of my life, he blew away my 21" I caught there 2 years ago. The drag was screaming on my spinning reel. I would have released him anyway, and I got one just like it last year so it didn't bother me much to loose him. The battle was incredible. Right after him I landed another fun one not quite legal. It shut right down about 30 minutes before darkness and I packed up and hauled booty across Garden Bay to get to the WRX and load up with some daylight left. The drive back was just gorgeous. The Hiawatha Forest is full of thick pines and wildlife, and the sunset was one of the best I ever seen. I truly felt like I was on vacation listening to that old Evinrude scream across Lake Michigan with so much scenery after I landed 17 smallmouth in one hour after the worst 5 hours of fishing I ever had. The store bought lures were useless that day, and our BABY SQUID and BASS JERKER not only saved the day, it turned it into my best day for smallmouth fishing action in 2.5 years. I had to adjust a lot from 2014, and it shows that you can't get stuck with the same presentations and locations over and over. You have to learn fish movement and get on them with the lures that they wanna hit or react to.
Less clarity pushed them shallower , but they still would not go shallow enough to be seen. They were on ledges that dropped into 14 ft not 30 ft and in very dark 6 ft water with poor clarity. They were clearly near sparse weed growth in all my successful spots too, 2014 there were no weeds around where I found them. Every trip is a huge learning experience and I am so happy I figured it out in the final hour. What a feeling having your son's invention totally save your fishing trip. I did not want to go home skunked on smallmouth for both days of fishing!!! And one thing I was really impressed with - our VMC red trebles did not bend or break after battling about 22 smallmouths that fought very hard, just lost some paint on them. And the feather dressing I tied on was still holding together. I am sure KVD changes out every hook on his own lures for a tournament. Probably to triple-grip Mustad Elites.
BIG BAY DE NOC SMALLMOUTHS CAUGHT ON OUR BASS JERKER AT SUNSET
Jesse James is an avid fisherman that loves smallmouth bass fishing, loves spending time with his family, with other family-orientated people, and loves seeing children fish. A huge fan of BASSMASTER Elite Mike Iaconelli, like Mike, he is known to be a little strange, and obnoxious, but only to have fun and make people laugh.