Any time you can knock off a new milestone in fishing, it’s exciting. Sometimes, you knock off several in one go.
I had volunteered to work the copy desk on the Fourth of July, so I had my holiday the following day and got ahold of my good fishing buddy, Brendan Handy, about doing a little dock fishing at my uncle Dennis’ pond. He said that day worked perfectly and that his wife, Emily, also would be able to go, so I packed an extra pole for her and headed down to the pond.
I was the first one there, so while I was waiting for them I got out my baitcaster with a Booyah Pad Crasher frog lure on it and started working the weedlines. I got a couple of blowups on the northwest corner but couldn’t get one to stay on — I’ve always had that problem with frogs and hadn’t ever caught a fish on one — but I was determined.
As the Handys rolled up in Brendan’s car, I started working the southwest corner and got a nice blowup from a relatively decent-sized bass. He took the lure underwater, which is what I’d been waiting for, and I waited for what felt like an eternity — but probably five seconds — until I could feel the pressure of the fish on the line. Patience is one of the most important things to getting a good hookset, regardless of lure, and if you wait until you can feel them on the line or see the line moving, you usually will get a good one. I hammered back on the hookset and got him right in the side of the mouth, then put the 6.4:1 gear ratio on my Abu Garcia Black Max to work and reeled that sucker in as fast as I could, swinging him up onto the dock for my first-ever froggin’ fish.
I tossed him back in after snagging a picture and got Emily’s pole set up. I put two jigheads under a bobber and tipped them with waxworms. While she was eating her chicken nuggets on the dock, I tossed the jigs about a foot off the dock and handed her the pole.
“Hold on,” I said.
About 10 seconds later, the bobber was under and she was reeling in a big bull bluegill before Brendan had even got his pole in the water. She cast out again and soon had another nice one on.
Emily and I panfished early on, while Brendan worked a plastic worm in search of bass. I hooked into several bluegill on the wax worms before hitting on a pair of smaller crappie that were probably about 8 inches apiece. I threw out some catfood and we soon had good-sized catfish swirling and splashing all around us, enjoying the tasty meal. Brendan switched to nightcrawlers on a crappie hook and soon had two bluegills to match the two that Emily had caught. I caught a little-bitty bluegill on my crappie jig and bobber setup and decided to leave it on the hook and cast into the grassline, hoping one of those nice catfish would take a bite at it.
In all the time I’ve fished that pond, which Dennis bought back when I was in junior high, I’ve only hooked into one catfish, and it got off at the bank. For whatever reason, they just never go for our baits.
Sure enough, as I was sitting there popping my other pole around the dock looking for panfish, I saw my big bobber take off toward deeper water and disappear in an instant. I dropped my panfish pole, grabbed hold of my other rod and hammered down the hookset. Keep in mind, the hook was a half-exposed crappie jig that was attached through the lip of the bluegill, not some big circle hook or wide-gapper with a ton of room to hook into a second fish.
However, the hookset rang true, and my pole began to bend. At first, because of the weight on the other end, I thought it was a big channel cat, but I soon realized the fish had dived into the heavy cover of hydrilla to try to escape. I kept the pressure on the fish and reeled through the weeds, and pretty soon out came one of the biggest largemouth bass I’d ever seen in that pond, complete with a bluegill tail and plenty of extra salad coming out of her mouth.
Emily snapped a great photo of the fish and I quickly got the weeds out of her mouth and got her back into the water to fight another day. I still had the bluegill on the crappie jig despite all of that, but a few casts later it either freed itself or was taken by a catfish.
My uncle drove up soon after that and we told him about the big bass. We were chatting for a while when my big bobber, now rigged up with a nightcrawler on the crappie jig, took off running.
It had been fairly unmolested by the catfish this whole time, while Brendan and I kept getting bites on our other poles. I joked that it would be the one that wasn’t getting any action that would get the catfish — it always goes that way with channel cats — and I was right.
As soon as I felt her on the other end of the line, I knew it was a big channel cat. As I got her in close, she dove several times and refused to get up on the dock, but I finally wore her down and got her on the dock.
With the sun down now, Dennis and my other fishing buddies headed home, but I was getting ready for the night-time crappie bite. I had purchased an interesting slip bobber from VMC that lights up when it hits the water and then turns off when you take it out. The company says the battery will give you 30 hours of fishing time, which is pretty impressive considering how short-lived many battery-powered night bobbers on the market are.
I fished the glow bobber in deeper water and my crappie float up close to the dock so I could see it, and I pulled out about five more crappies (I’d say 10 total on the day, each between 8 and 12 inches) and a bluegill using those setups. I fished until 1:20 a.m., then headed home and passed out on the couch.
It was a great summer night, but that being said, I’m really starting to look forward to the fall. Lower temperatures, calmer lakes, beautiful scenery and great fishing for walleyes, wiper and rainbow trout make it one of my favorite times to go. Plus, some of the best bass and crappie fishing of the year takes place during autumn.