Although the bass opener was more than a month ago, my largemouth season officially began on Friday, July 3. It was the day of my annual Fourth of July weekend outing with my good friend, Dave Altman.
We have gone every year on or near the Fourth of July for a number of years and we kept that tradition alive on Friday. The morning started on Lake Calhoun and switched to nearby Cedar Lake in the afternoon. It was a beautiful day and we were hoping the bass were into their summer patterns, which involves hanging out on the weedlines.
There definitely were small fish active in deeper water, but the bigger fish hadn’t yet congregated in their summer haunts. The weedgrowth was very prolific on both lakes and it won’t be long before the lunkers start hanging out on the edges. We caught a few fish in the 12- to 14-inch range on Calhoun, then headed north to the channel that would take us to Lake of the Isles. From there, we went through another channel to get to Cedar.
That last leg turned out to be a lot tougher than I would have ever imagined. First, because of the lack of rainfall, the channel is much lower than usual — only about a foot in some spots. Second, a large tree fell across the channel, leaving only a small opening on one side to get a boat through. We actually had to get out of the boat and pull it past the tree. The only boats that can still get through easily are canoes and kayaks, which explains why we didn’t see any other fishing boats on Cedar.
In fact, Dave thinks the channel will be impossible for fishing boats to get through before long. He may be right, which would be a real shame. For sure, the large, eurasian watermilfoil harvesting boats cannot get through, which means the weeds are a lot thicker than normal.
Usually, by now, the harvesters have cut a layer of the fast-growing weed and created clear spots on the lake. Now, the milfoil is heavy everywhere, forming thick mats on the surface anywhere the water is shallow.
That can be a daunting sight for anyone who likes to fish for bass, which often live in shallow water. But, I have learned that largemouths love heavy weed growth and actually thrive in it. I have heard bass experts say this and I believe it. It’s just that the thick growth is challenging for anglers.
Fortunately, Dave and I are used to fishing in these kinds of weeds and are used to fishing on Calhoun and Cedar. After staying at it for a while on Cedar, we each connected with one nice bass apiece. Both were 18 1/2 inches long, but Dave’s was a lot fatter than mine. I think his probably weighed close to 4 pounds, which is a nice bass on any lake in Minnesota.
One thing about Dave that really impresses me is how skilled a fisherman he is. As I work my boat along the outside edge of weeds, he knows right where to cast and usually puts his cast right on the money. Thus, I am never surprised when he catches fish. In fact, he outfished me on this day, as he has done on many other occasions.
That is just fine with me. I was happy to see his face light up when he hooked his nice bass and fought it for several minutes. When we saw it was a nice one, I grabbed the landing net.
Actually, I have found that 18- to 19-inch bass are usually the strongest fighters, so I really like catching fish that size. I have caught bigger, but they don’t necessarily give you a better battle. What they will do is stay down near the bottom longer, which makes them feel heavier. That is certainly a feeling I like — setting the hook and having the rod double over as the fish sits stubbornly on the bottom.
That feeling should come soon enough. I plan on revisiting these two lakes over the rest of the summer. I sure hope I can get through the channel to Cedar. I believe some big fish await.