Spring was here yesterday but today it’s freezing rain, such is the weather in northern Wisconsin this time of year. There is a lot for me to do to prepare my Skeeter, reels, and tackle messes before opening day but I will get it done for sure prior to the opener. I’m very excited to start my career as a guide and look forward to teaching people how to catch bass, which are plentiful in many lakes in Vilas and Oneida counties and underutilized as a sport fish.
Three years ago I was back in Wisconsin for the first time in five years for the opener. I had retired from the Navy just five months before. For three years I was overseas and another couple in San Diego which kept me away from my boat for the opener, even though we had a cabin up by Eagle River. So I was excited and was on the water before the sun peeked over the horizon.
I hit a shoreline anticipating the fish to be shallow looking for spawning locations. I cast for a few minutes, but had no action with a favorite top water, so I paused to look at five other rods that were rigged on my deck to see if I should switch my approach. As my lure sat motionless in a foot of water 40 feet from my boat, I started to reach for a jerk bait rod when I heard a swoosh. I looked up to see a swirl where my bait had previously been. I quickly grabbed that rod and set the hook into a decent fish and boated it before the sun was fully over the horizon. I measured the smallmouth to be 17 inches and quickly threw him back as I was eager to catch more.
The next cast, instead of working it back briskly from the start, I let sit on the water as I counted to 30. Nothing, so I gave it a slight twitch and let it sit another ten seconds before it was gently sucked into the mouth of another smallmouth. The fight was on and I think I quickly discodvered a pattern for the start of the day. During the next hour, I boated 20 more fish in pretty much the same way. I had to stop then to pick up my dad from my pier. He didn’t believe me when I told him I had caught 22 in under an hour, but after a five minute boat ride and a couple of casts, he was a believer. We each caught about 10 more fish before the bites slowed and we headed for another spot. He looked at me and said, “You should be a guide”. It wasn’t the first time he mentioned that and it wouldn’t be the last.
The first time he told me that was while we were fishing in Southeast Wisconsin in early June. I rigged a wacky worm for him and told him to cast it out and let it sink for about five seconds, twitch it and let it sink again. He looked at the rig with a very skeptical eye. I was pitching a jig looking for big fish but thought he would do well with the wacky rig. Within a few minutes he was on a fish, a nice 2 ½ -pound largemouth. He caught many more about that size while I was catching fewer but bigger fish on the jig. After a couple hours he had 16 fish to my five, and he was having a ball. He could not believe that rig could catch so many fish. That was the “first time” he told me I should be a guide.
A couple years before that, during the opening week in Eagle River, we were out walleye fishing. It was a beautiful day but the fish were not cooperating. We caught a few but it was slow. So after a few hours I told him walleye fishing is fun, but I love to catch, let’s go get some bass. He said okay and I took him to a little spot on this lake that I thought would be a good spring bass spot. We worked our way through the area with jigs and tube jigs but didn’t get a bite for about 20 minutes.
I changed the color of my tube and worked back through the promising areas again. After a few minutes, I got my first strike from a big-fat-football smallie. When it came three feet out of the water I thought it was a state record. After a tough fight I finally got it to the net for length and weight. It was 20 ½ -inches and 6 pounds even. A beautiful fish that was quickly released. During the next 90 minutes, we caught another seven smallmouth and one largemouth and every fish was from 18” to 21”.
I had a new boat that year and asked him to take a picture of me fighting a fish from shore. He agreed and I dropped him off at a sandy bank. He pushed me out and I dropped in the trolling motor, picked up my rod and pitched to a piece of brush within range along the shore and immediately my line was swimming away. I set the hook into another nice fish and fought it while my dad stood on the shoreline saying “I can’t believe you hooked one on your first cast. I thought I’d be waiting here an hour.” He didn’t tell me I should be a guide that day, but he did say something about having a TV show.
I really enjoyed opening day with my dad, my sons or my tournament friends. My dad passed last year so I won’t be out with him. I’m so thankful I retired when I did so we could spend a couple good years fishing and hunting together. This year I am not fishing in tournaments so I can build up my guide business. I do have a new grandson this year but he’s probably about five years away from being up north on opening day. So right now I am looking for someone to book for opening morning and the opening week.
My boat is fully rigged boat, have been fishing the Eagle River area since I was eight years old, and have caught bass in more states than most people visit. Also, for this week, I will guarantee you’ll get your five fish limit or you owe me nothing. But, likely you will catch a lot more. A lot more. Give me a call for some fast action and big fish