Friday, June 5, 2015

Grubbin’ for Smallies with Mr. Musky

It was Friday night of Memorial Day weekend.  We were sitting around the fire ring enjoying flame roasted Italian sausages with grilled onions and marinara sauce on Amoroso rolls.  It was a beautiful pre-summer evening.  I had spent the day getting the boat ready for its maiden voyages on the Delaware planned for Sunday and Monday, so naturally we were talking fishing. Suddenly it dawned on me that I would have a free weekend for fishing smallies on Lake St. Clair May 30-31.  I quickly dialed up Kevin Long of LongCast Charters and left a message to see if he was available. I knew Marcel Veenstra was booked and I had a feeling Kevin would be too which was confirmed when he returned my call. Kevin offered that he had a friend who should be available and asked if I would be interested. Sure, I said.  Within minutes I was making arrangements for Saturday with Jason Quintano. In no time, it was all set. Saturday morning Blossom Heath boat ramp 6:30 AM.

Mr. Musky Jason Quintano
The Blossom Heath ramp was closed for rescue training so we met one mile north at the St. Clair Shores city ramp.  Turns out Jason and his brother run Fins & Grins Musky Charters. Jason had just had his last walleye charter of the season on the Detroit River and was preparing for the Musky season opener June 6. Jason is an all-around angler with a particular expertise and passion for musky and great knowledge of Lake St. Clair. Jay, as he prefers to be called, is the reigning Musky tournament champion on St. Clair and no charter service has boated more muskies over 50” than Fins & Grins.  Jason is very personable and offers his vast knowledge readily for the benefit of his charter guests. The day passed very quickly with great stories and easy conversation, and, oh yeah, we caught some nice smallies on a day when other boats were struggling. One thing is for sure, I am booking a musky trip with Jay for July 2016 as soon as the January booking season rolls around.

The gear was top notch. St. Croix Avid rod paired with a Shimano Sustain spinning reel loaded with 10 lb braid and 10 lb fluorocarbon. Just like fishing on my boat. I had my St. Croix Mojo Bass hat on for its maiden voyage. If we did not do well it might be the first and last wearing of the hat.  F&G has two boats both of which they use for different types of musky trips depending on whether clients prefer trolling or hurling the big baits. We fished their Triton V-hull with a 200 hp motor- the casting boat- and it was absolutely perfect for fishing smallmouth on St. Clair. It was a welcome change from the shallower draft Rangers I fished on windy wavy days with Marcel and Kevin. Maneuvering was a breeze. Also, as a Musky guide, Jay guides from the back of the boat wanting to see everything that is happening with his clients so he can be quick to offer any needed assistance or advice. This meant I fished the front of the boat which I really enjoyed.  Jay had had a rough walleye trip the day before with clients who not only showed up an hour late but also chose to ignore much of his advice, all making for a frustrating outing. I promised I would make it an easy day for him.

We rolled down the ramp and out onto the lake and were on the zebra mussel flats off Grosse Point in no time. It was a beautiful sunny morning with light winds producing just the right conditions for grubbing. We were prepared to fish both grubs and tubes, but having had success with grubs on St. Clair before, it was an easy choice for me- a Zoom pumpkin swim grub on a 5/16th rounded bullet nose jig. Jay used the same set up and was reeling with a slow steady retrieve to keep the jig swimming back to the boat. Having had success with “the pause” during the jerk bait bite, I decided to throw in an occasional pause and sink to my retrieve.  This turned out to be the ticket again.  I boated the first three smallies two of which were +/- 5 lbs.  True to the Fins & Grins tradition I also boated a toothy critter, a Northern Pike. Not to be outdone, Jay had a trick up his sleeve and it did not take him long to catch up and we proceeded to  steadily add to the count. Turned out the “trick” was a bottle of liquid scent, not really sure what brand, but it made a difference on the short strike bass and the ones who mouthed the grub without taking it. As my son Steve likes to say, it was “the wabi-wasabi” that turned a good day to a better one. By the time a sudden thunder storm drove us off the water, we had pulled in something like 35 smallies. Not bad for a day when many around us had few to none.

The morning also featured a number of appearances by “Rocky Balboa”, Jay’s name for the Rock Bass which also seemed to like the Zoom grub. We ran for cover approximately 12:30 but were back on the water for a final hour of fishing from 1:00-2:00 after which the weather continued to deteriorate. I managed to  hook another 2-3 smallies all with the same jig and grub combo. Jay tried the tube once or twice but after little success switched back. It was just a good day for grubbin’ it out.  It was my fourth trip on St. Clair, a lake I am growing to love more and more with world class populations of smallmouth bass and muskies. I am looking forward to my next smallie trip but what I am really looking forward to is catching my first trophy musky with the St. Clair Musky Man, Jason Quintano. Shout out to LongCast Charters, Kevin Long for the referral!  

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