When the gales of October come early October 2014Is it possible to be on a Great Lakes waterways on a cold windy day without at least humming a few bars of Gordon Lightfoot? Ok, it was St. Clair not Gitche Gumee. The calendar said October, not November, but there was no denying the 10-20 MPH winds, the gray clouds and the low 40ish degree temperatures. It felt more like November 10th than October 5th. As I walked toward the boat, Kevin (Long) asked if I had any more layers. Two, I responded. "Put them all on", he said, "You'll need them."
When you plan a fishing trip, one you look forward to for weeks, it takes a lot to cancel. Rule #3, A Diehard Fisherman plays the hand he is dealt. I have been trolled through a snow squall on Lake of the Woods and fished huricane-like conditions off the coast of Mozambique, so I was not going to let some unseasonably cold and windy weather keep me from a date with Ms. Musky and her wing-et Ms. Smallie on Lake St. Clair.
I was excited about musky fishing..... the fish of 10,000 casts. I had caught one before but only one- never a monster and not for a lack of trying. I was pretty well convinced of the need for 10,000 casts. After this trip, I have certainly made a dent in that total. I used a heavy musky rod with an Abu Garcia baitcaster- a reel I do not commonly use. I was able to get the hang of it and managed to only create one bird nest- which I was able to untangle fairly quickly.
When it comes to musky fishing, big baits are the ticket. In the tradition of lures catching more fishermen than fish, these big baits have names that must have been developed in the ice shack after the third six pack was gone- Bull Dawg, Musky Killer, Big Flash Jake, Jointed Stalker, Sneaky Pete and Cisco Kid to name a few. Each of these baits would equal the size of a rainbow trout suitable for the table. On this trip I would be slinging Medusas- a lure in the image of the snake-haired temptress that turned unsuspecting anglers into stone.
I heaved this treble laden, multi-tailed behemoth over and over until my arm felt like concrete- cast reel sweep, reel sweep, reel sweep, figure 8 repeat- Medusa had taken her toll on another fisherman. The weather conditions were far from Fishing Friendly- not only didn't we hook a musky, we did not even see a follower. Weather 2 Fishermen 0. Kevin was confident. he had been in this situation before but my confidence was waning. Of the three C's, color and clarity don't matter when confidence whithers. So, having struck out with the prom queen, it was time to hit on the wing girl.
In October, St. Clair smallmouth are feeding heavily. Perch, gobies, bluegills are typical forage but the emerald shiner is their filet mignon.. Therefore, swimming lures are preferred and for me that means crankbaits. In shallower water lip-less rattling baits- Rattlin Raps, Rattle Traps and their cousins work well. On the slightly deeper rocky flats lipped cranks- like the new square lip or the classic Bandit 200- tend to work better.
With the weather being far from ideal, varying the retrieve was necessary to find exactly the presentation that would trigger the bite. Fast, slow, jerk, pause and various combinations finally enticed a few bass to the boat.
So, in the end, we overcame the weather. But there was one casualty. Fishermen are nothing if not superstitious. I remember one old guide, when trying to offer advice after it had been a while between fish, asked me if I was tilting my head the same way I was when I caught the last fish...... yeah, superstitions can be like that. I have worn my lucky hat all over the world and it has been featured in a lot of fish pictures. As you can see from these pictures, as if to promote a rally, I took off my lucky hat after striking out on the musky. Now I must contemplate that age old question, "Can the luck run out of a lucky hat?" Tight lines.