I'd always heard that the fishing on the western end of the Erie Ocean was unlike any other place. I'd heard horror stories about monster waves, tube draggin' (one of my favorite techniques — NOT), and inconsistent fishing were just a few of the oddities of the region I had heard mentioned.
After spending 6 days sloshing around on the western end of the ocean, I've come to realize some of those horrors.
Can't recall any time in my recent past that I've practiced for as many days and caught fewer fish. We arrived on Friday afternoon and put the BassCat in the water on Saturday morning. I think that day I caught white bass, drum (lots of drum), and one 12-inch largemouth. Wow. Caught the LM on a dropshot off a reef in 23 feet of water. Dude was L-O-S-T, just like me.
Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday were carbon copies of each other; lots of seat time idling and running around looking for arches on the 1197. It's a big damn lake and there's a lot to look and throw at. Hundreds of pounds of drum, a few catfish, some perch, and the occasional white bass.
As I caught zero bass during those three days, I kept looking further and further away from Sandusky. Those first four days were all about the drop shot. I'm a much better 'shotter than I am a dragger, so I felt like I could score much better if I could figure out how and where to catch them with the shot than trying to learn the intricacies of the Erie Shuffle, AKA tube draggin'.
I lay no claim to being a smallmouth expert, but from what I've seen, when you find them — they bite.
That's one of the reasons the photos of fish up here show them as being just fat pigs. These fish aren't bashful about putting their lips around something to eat. They can be a little picky at times and seem to get pretty size-specific in their bait choice, but once you figure out what they want, the feed is on.
After four days in the Western Basin of the Erie Ocean, I felt like I hadn't been around a smallmouth, and if I had been around one, I had no clue what it was that they wanted to eat. Just how hard could this be?
Bewildered. At the end of my fourth day of practice, I'm not ashamed to admit that I was bewildered by the smallmouth bass in the Western Basin. The wife was bewildered by the fact that I had not boated a single smallmouth in four days.
Just how hard could this be? She opened up the map, looked at it for a few minutes, pointed to an area and said "You need to go to the Wagon Wheel." She then closed the map and handed it back to me. On Day 5, I went to the Wagon Wheel and caught them. Just how hard could this be?
We Headed out of Sandusky Bay on Derby Day One and were greeted by a nice northeasterly breeze around noon with some serious bruisers at the mouth of the Bay.
Of course, it was a lot worse since all of us were headed the same way at around half throttle with our noses stuck up in the air, straight into the waves. Made for some nice chop running across the face of the already rough rollers.
After we got out around Marblehead, it was much smoother running, in a relative sense, up to the Wagon Wheel. 18 miles — 50 minutes; this ain't a WOT place.
Got set up for my co-angler Matt, AKA Slim Shady, and I to make our first drift across some rubble. Within 5 minutes Slim has boated a decent smallie. On his first cast, no less. Hope that doesn't screw up the juju for him.
We drift on a few more minutes and he boats another one on the 4-pound range. I catch a drum. I catch another drum. I catch another drum. We sit down and I fire up the OptiMax to take us back upwind for another blistering drift.
Dragging a tube is so-o-o-o-o-o-o boring. It goes a little something like this:
(1.) Get the boat positioned upwind from whatever it is you want to drag your bait over
(2.) Throw your bait over the side of the boat.
(3. optional) If the wind is pushing you faster than you can keep your bait on the bottom, you throw out a few drift socks to slow your speed.
(5.) Hold your rod.
(7.) If you feel a bite, wait, don't set the hook immediately.
(8.) Wait. Let the brown bastard digest the tube for a little.
(9.) Wait a little longer.
(10.) If you think the tube might have gone all the way through the bass's intestine and is hanging out of his ... Go ahead and set the hook.
(11.) Pray that the smallie stays buttoned up to the boat.
(12.) Start again from Number 1.
As near as I can tell, that's pretty much all there is to dragging a tube. Course it helps if you drag the correct color and size tube across the correct depth at the correct speed in the correct part of the lake. Minor details.
On Day One, I was in all the above correctness for Slim Shady to catch himself four fat smallies that weighed in just over 15 pounds. Yours Truly caught 53 drum for a total of somewhere around 678 pounds — or something like that.
Not one freakin' smallmouth. Slim even set me up with one of his "special" tubes. No joy. Amazing how two tubes can drift across a pile of rocks and one will get bit while the other doesn't get a sniff.
Now it's Day Two, which was cancelled due to east winds at 20 and Small Craft Advisories being posted. Good decision, Chris. Day Three will be another full field day, which means I get to spend another day on my favorite body of water. Ooh, I just can't wait.
Can you read the sarcasm between the letters here? Coming into this event, I really had no interest in points; it's all about the Benjamin's this week. Looks like that got shot full of holes on Day One.
At 13th in the standings, I was a long shot to double qualify for the Classic and figured that I needed to finish in the Top 5 to even make that a reality. I reverted back to my Stevie mentality and went for the long ball and a homerun at Sandusky.
What's a "Stevie"? Stevie is a good friend from home, Steve Howard. We've fished together for several years now in team events. Stevie has the "20-pound" mentality. He wants to bring in a sack and blow everyone else out of the water no matter the conditions.
Stevie doesn't care about the points. Stevie wants the hardware and the big check. Points don't look very good hanging on the wall. As a result, Stevie is either at the top of the heap or you don't see Stevie. I like Stevie and his attitude, always have.
The first few years fishing the Tour, I had a bad case of the Stevie and swung to win every derby. Took me a while to realize that the Stevie doesn't work very well at the Elite level. Much more profitable to chip away at those points, getting those checks along the way, and swing for the fence AFTER you put yourself in position to win.
On Day One, I went for the Stevie and struck out. On Day 2/3? Realistically being 20-plus pounds away from the Top 30 and a decent check, I'll probably get to know the sights, sounds, and smells of Sandusky Bay a little better.
"Sore lips" anyone?
For more info on Kevin Short or to contact Kevin, check out his Web site at www.kfshort.com.