In fact, I’ve had several readers comment on that part, and one even seemed upset I never write about boat fishing. Well, unless The Capital-Journal lets me put down a new bass boat on the ol’ expense report — a move that legend says my predecessor, Jim Ramberg, once attempted — I’ll probably be spending a lot more time fishing off the bank.
I’m not complaining about it, either, as some great fishing can be had from an old lawn chair next to a cooler on a rocky point at night.
That being said, I actually have a good deal of experience catching fish from the back of a boat. I spent most of my childhood weekends during the summer riding shotgun with my dad in his Ranger, vertical jigging for crappie or dropping soybeans deep in the Hog Trough at Lake Perry.
This week, I got to relive a little bit of my childhood when my dad and I went fishing up at the Shawnee State Fishing Lake near Silver Lake.
I arrived at the lake first, so while I was waiting for him to get there, I took out my finesse pole and started fishing the bank. It was a pleasantly warm, sunny day, so I expected the fish to be hugging the shoreline near shade or cover.
I tossed out a Z-Man ShroomZ Micro Finesse Jig with a TRD trailer near some grass, and on just my second cast I hooked into a good-sized warmouth. As I reeled it in, the fish got caught up in some reeds below, and I had to climb down some big rocks to the vegetation and pull it out by hand. As soon as I got the hook out of the reeds, the fish shook free and swam off.
While climbing back up, I lost my balance and fell sideways, tearing up my right flip flop. Luckily, I had a pair of lake shoes in the back of my truck, and I put them on as my dad rolled in with his boat. I moved my gear over into his boat and we soon were out on the water, heading to the rocky banks on the west side where I’d hooked into a nice walleye and some other species of fish during a previous trip with my fishing buddy, Brendan.
The lily pads had grown even thicker since then, and the open path through the middle of the pads was now gone. We trolled parallel to the bank, and there were several overhanging trees that offered a good spot for fish to hide.
On my second or third cast with the Micro Finesse Jig at this new spot, I cast out and flipped open my bail to let the bait “deadstick” for a bit, or just sit in place. I closed it and started to reel, but I felt a bite as I tightened my line and stuck him with a quick, deliberate hookset. The bass immediately went up to try to shake the hook loose above the water, and all the splashing behind him must have surprised my dad, because he turned around and asked “What’s that?” I laughed and dragged the bass across the water and flipped it into the boat. It was the first decent bass I’d caught on that lake since last summer, and I had to laugh because it was the exact spot we had gone fishing the last time.
I took a photo and threw it back — it was probably in the 13- to 14-inch range, maybe a pound-and-a-half — and went back to fishing. I had a second pole out that I was dragging behind the boat with a slip bobber and a worm. About a minute after I threw the bass back in, the bobber went under and I dropped my finesse rod and went to set the hook, but whatever took the bait had already gotten off. The commotion again must have startled dad, because he asked, “What are you doing?!”
“Got a bite on the worm!” I responded, and he just shook his head.
“He’s got two bites already and I haven’t got anything yet,” he said to himself.
“Three,” I replied. “I caught a warmouth at the dock while I was waiting.”
He just laughed and said he didn’t count that since he wasn’t there.
Dad finally got a fish on his curly-tailed jigs when we trolled over to the lily pads, but it came off at the top of the water. He thought it might have been a little bass, but it looked to me like a crappie snout when it breached the surface. They’ve been showing up more in that lake recently, but there’s not a lot of size to them.
Dad eventually got an 8- to 10-inch bass to the boat while fishing near some weeds. We kept working the bank for another hour or so until it got dark, then headed out to a deeper spot in the lake and set up for catfish.
We were fishing night crawlers off the bottom in about 25 feet of water. Dad hooked into three eater-sized catfish right off the bat, each time hearing the pole hit the railing as the fish tugged on the line. I watched my line move around for about 10 minutes before finally deciding it was a fish and setting the hook on a roughly 2-pound channel cat that had inhaled my setup — half a nightcrawler on a crappie jig with an egg weight I was using as a dropshot below it. It didn’t put up much of a fight, so I was surprised it was as big as it was.
Dad didn’t have to wait much longer before a nice keeper — about 3 pounds — had his rod bent over double. Then I had another fish on my line, but it took off before I could set the hook.
Finally, after about 30 minutes, Dad thought he saw his line moving and hooked into a small channel cat — probably a half-pound — that had tied up both of his lines and one of mine.
The bite shut off after that, and at about midnight we decided the head in. We docked the boat by moonlight and he took a livewell full of catfish — we threw the small one back, so he had five good keepers — back home to fillet.
We were overall pretty happy with how the night went, especially considering the fishing conditions weren’t the best in the world. My Fishing Calendar app listed the Fishing Efficiency at only 16 percent, but when fish are hungry, they’ll eat.
We’re hoping to go out on the boat again at some point, probably at Lake Shawnee. At the very least, I’d like to try trout fishing from the boat this fall. I’ve already had pretty good luck from the bank and the heated dock, so I imagine it would be good from the boat, as well.
Here’s what worked
• Micro Finesse Jig with TRD — This small Midwest Finesse setup is like a regular Ned Rig but with a skirt. Throwing it up into the rock and under trees was a big key for me.
• Dropshot rig for catfish — Using a heavy sinker under an extra wide gap bass hook or crappie jig allowed me to get my bait down quickly in the water column and suspend it just off the lake floor where to catfish could see it.
Here’s what didn’t
• Spinner with swimbait trailer — I tried using a white spinbait with a matching white, 3.5-inch B&P Jighead “Ripper” swimbait as a trailer. I got a lot of action out of the swimbait but it may have been oversized for the small wire spinner. I cast it up under the trees several times with no bites but I did see something big chasing it as it came in close. I’m not sure how many shad are in that lake — I may have been better off with a darker color to imitate a bluegill.
• Deep-water slip bobber for catfish — I started off experimenting with a slip bobber on one of my poles for catfish since it was already on there and I didn’t want to mess up my rigging. I was hoping to set the stopper tie high enough on my line so the worm would hang just off the bottom, but I don’t think I had enough weight to get it down all the way to the bottom. Adding more weight would have dragged the bobber under. I switched to a dropshot with a big egg weight and soon caught my catfish. Save the slip bobber for less than 25 feet. It works great in shallow water.