116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
WABASHA, Minn. — Some people call these the dog days of summer.
The weather is hot, the water temperature is warmer than bath water and the walleyes on the Mississippi River are as difficult to catch as a stray cat. For me, it's time to shift gears and chase other species like crappies, bluegills and bass.
Last week during a brief trip to the Mississippi, I was determined to catch a bass or two so I enlisted the expertise of my buddy, Mike Wirth, who has caught so many bass in Pool 4 he's on a first-name basis with many of them. Even if I don't catch many — or any — it's a good bet Mike will show me how it's done.
I even had an advantage for this morning on the water. Mike is only weeks removed from major elbow surgery and probably shouldn't be fishing at all, but he can't help himself. He can't attack the water with his usual intensity, so there was a chance he wouldn't catch every fish we found.
The morning dawned with a smoky haze hanging over the hills that rise in the background along the river. As we motored toward our first stop, Mike explained the type of structure where he'd been catching his bass. Basically, we'd be fishing shallow current seams where parallel rock intersects with wingdams or weedlines come together with rock.
For the most part, we'd be throwing bone-colored Strike King KVD Sexy Dawg topwater lures and five-inch white/chartreuse Zoom Super Flukes.
I started out throwing the fluke on my spinning rod because putting a baitcasting rig in my hands to throw a topwater is like giving a right-handed golfer a left-handed club. It's not a pretty sight.
Pitching a fluke is easy. Just cast it upstream, let it sink a few inches and twitch it back to the boat. Most of the time, the bass can't resist what must look to them like an injured shad.
Mike fired his Sexy Dawg to the sweet spot off the corner of some rock structure and began his retrieve in standard "walk the dog" fashion where you twitch the lure back and forth, left and right. It didn't make it far before the water erupted as a bass attacked. That fish missed its target the first time, but it wouldn't be denied. It charged the lure again and Mike set the hook on what turned out to be a 3 1/2-pound smallmouth bass.
Then he did it again … and again.
"OK, so that's how it's gonna be," I said as I reached for my baitcasting rig.
There's a knack to executing and controlling a cast with a baitcasting reel that's unlike firing a crankbait or even a fluke.
My first cast traveled about 20 feet, hit the water hard and resulted in my first backlash of the morning. When I got that backlash sorted out, I tried again with only slightly better results. I managed a softer landing, but I came up 30 feet short of my target area.
When at long last I coordinated a decent cast, my attempt to "walk the dog" looked more like I was pulling the dog down a sidewalk on a leash.
And then it happened. I sent out a long, arcing, incredible cast that plopped onto the water's surface just beyond the current seam we were fishing. I twitched it masterfully and the water exploded as a 3-pound smallmouth crushed it. I was on the board.
As we bounced around from spot to spot, Mike began to catch fish on his fluke, but I wanted one more of those unbelievable topwater bites before we called it a day.
Summer bass fishing also can be like road hunting. Keep your eyes open and sometimes groups of bass will blow up on the surface and show you exactly where to cast.
That's how I finally found another smallie that couldn't help itself. Several bass showed themselves during a brief feeding frenzy, and Mike landed another 3 1/2-pounder on his fluke. My Sexy Dawg was close behind and barely hit the surface before it was violently attacked. In fact, that bass might have even seen it coming. At roughly four pounds, it was our biggest fish of the morning.
We fished a total of about three hours and estimated that our five best bass probably weighed around 18 pounds.
While "dog days" are actually a reference to the constellation Canis Major, for many of us anglers they infer a hot, uncomfortable and unproductive time to fish.
The answer is simple. Turn them into "dawg days."