I learned quite a lesson my last time out. I mean, I knew the answer but I rarely get what I want out of the practise so I've not been trying as hard as I should. The lesson was - big fish hide in small holes.
The day started out like every fall fishing day should. The boat ramp was almost bare, the wind wasn't too bad - just enough to gently drift the boat around and the weather was just perfect, not too hot and not quite cold enough to wear a jacket.
I launched at the top of Lake Couchiching and messed around in the flats that surround the main waterway known as "The bowling alley". I was able to get a few smaller fish on them but nothing exciting. I was tossing the Berkley Leech, which has become my new favorite drop shot bait since my big fish loss this spring. The thing with these leeches is that EVERYTHING bites on 'em - big or small.
While I was sitting at home one night I had been looking over the lake maps on my phone. I had just finished watching a video from Tactical Bassin' about fishing the fall transition and was looking for some of the areas they had suggested. One of them was a point, with a quick drop off into the main lake basin. I decided I had enough of fishing these flats and decided to take a look.
As I approached I noticed another boat fishing that area so I decided to hang back for a bit and fish some nearby drop offs. As he started to move away, I started to troll closer, fishing along the way. Another bass boat zoomed into that area - you can tell it must be a good spot! I veered off to some near by outcroppings and waited for him to move down the shoreline a bit.
I figured with the few boats that had already gone down this section, I wasn't going to really catch anything - also, my leeches had run out and I didn't bring any other soft plastics with me for some odd reason. I was digging around in the bottom of my red bucket (where I happen to toss stuff when I'm not using it or change baits) and found an XZone Fat Finesse Worm in a watermelon color. I ripped the top half off, leaving just the speared tail on about 4" of worm and hooked it up.
I threw it around the point, following the other boat down the shoreline - making sure to keep my distance. I hate it when people are too close to me so I figure others feel the same. I hooked into a nice smallie, seemingly out of nowhere. I turned off the trolling motor that I had set to a constant speed and hoped the wind wouldn't take me too far so I could find out what he came off off.
After the release I fixed my bait and stood back up. The wind had died down for a few minutes and the ripples went away, leaving me with a clear view of what was below the surface. There it was. I perfect set of rocks with weeds between them. I moved up to them and saw a tall section of weed that had cast a shadow over the large flat rock that it surrounded. For whatever reason, I just tossed my drop shot in there. I know it sounds obvious that I should do it, but normally there's a noted thought that "hey that looks fishy, I'm gonna see if there's anything in there" but this time, there was no thought - I just did it.
I let the line drop in fully slack. There was an "S" shape bend in the little bit that laid on top of the water. I closed the bail, staring at that "S" shape. The it pulled tight. I reeled up the little bit of slack and set the hook - immediate load up and drag. If not for the movement of the line to the side, I would have thought I was hung on the rock. There was no head shakes, just a tug of war. I could see him as I pulled him to the surface of the spot he was hiding - he looked big but sometimes the water plays tricks on your eyes. I watched him dart into that thick clump of weeds and had to start reeling, the drag was buzzing as I did it but with so much weed, I couldn't take the chance of him digging in deep.
As the fish neared the boat, I could see he was big. I could verbally say it and know it was true. I reached down and grabbed my net, his head poking out of the water. The only thing I could think of was how that lower jaw looks just like those ones you see in those online videos - you know the ones where they're running a bait over the surface and it sucks in 2 inches of water to pull the bait into its mouth? I don't think I've seen a mouth that big for a while.
I got him into the net and let it out. I was ecstatic! I haven't caught a fish this big in years! I spent a few minutes admiring him and let him go, back to that shallow clump of shade, no bigger than foot.
I spent another hour there, working that grass without a single bite but that one sure equaled 3 or 4 of the smaller ones I was catching earlier!