116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
I could have gone someplace exotic and hired a guide and I would not have had more fun than I did fishing the local rivers earlier this month.
From July 7 through 13, a succession of cool, calm, cloudy days, coinciding with low, clear flows in the Wapsipinicon and Maquoketa rivers, made fishing especially productive and pleasurable.
No wind to blow my casts off course and put a big bow in my line. No blazing sun to burn my neck and expose fish to their predators, making them skittish and hard to catch. No murky water to hide lures from fish and underwater obstacles from wading anglers. No brisk current to disrupt retrieves and hinder my movements.
Warm, calm, shaded water, which prevailed during that weeklong stretch, presents ideal conditions for bass to strike top-water lures — a presentation that thrills an angler’s senses of sight, sound and touch.
Throughout the week I fished almost exclusively with my new favorite lure, the Strike King Mini- Pro buzz bait — at $3 apiece one of the least expensive lures in my arsenal. It can be flung great distances with minimal effort; its single hook facilitates quick releases with no trauma to fish or angler; and, foremost among its many attributes, it is at times irresistible to bass.
The weather and river conditions, aligned with abundant hungry smallmouth bass, yielded several memorable outings.
The first occurred July 8 when I hooked seven lunker bass from 10:30 a.m. until noon — hours during which I would not have even been fishing had the sky not been overcast. Though three of those bass unhooked themselves prematurely, I had few regrets since I’d already had the fun of hooking and fighting them, and I did not need any more big fish photos. At the end of a cool morning, I was surprised to notice that I had been sweating profusely.
The second occurred July 10 on an exertion-free Maquoketa River float trip with Mike Jacobs of Monticello. Float trips can be a bit grueling when the fish don’t bite, and especially so when an upstream wind overpowers the current, at times making you paddle hard just to stay in place. We covered two miles of river without paddling at all. We just scuttled downstream with a gentle current, fishing as we went, catching bass simultaneously at least a dozen times.
About halfway through the trip it dawned on me that I was “in the zone” — that I could sense where the bass were holding and time after time put my lure in that exact spot. For those few hours, as my lure zinged untouched past logs, rocks and overhanging willows, I could imagine what it must be like to be Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, throwing into double coverage to complete touchdown passes.
The third occurred Monday, when the little buzzer enticed three more whoppers to pose for their photographs.
I expected more of the same Tuesday but was disappointed when two hours’ effort yielded just five half-grown bass. Just before quitting, at a spot I normally pass by, I decided to try a few casts in hopes of salvaging something from the day. As the buzzer gurgled across the water, a large fish surfaced beneath it, radiating an impressive wake, but it did not touch the lure. It rose beneath the lure on a subsequent cast and then disappeared.
Thinking that a more aggressive top-water lure might trigger the fish to strike, I made several casts with a lure that churns the water like a little motor boat. Nothing.
OK, I thought, maybe a top-water-averse big bass will hit a plastic worm swimming along the bottom. I tied on a jig and ring worm and on the first cast — toink. I set the hook hard and as the big fish thrashed, another football metaphor crossed my mind — how New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick must feel after game-planning another Super Bowl win.
Then my line broke and I went home feeling like one of the many college football players who dropped the ball before crossing the goal line.