It was a crisp spring day in May of 2013. I was in Sturgeon Bay, WI with a couple of my buddies on a weekend fishing trip for smallmouth bass. We got out on the bay and I was somewhat in shock, it was glass calm. Anyone who regularly fishes the Great Lakes knows you don’t get truly flat calm days very often. I took this rare opportunity to cruise around in some deeper water (10-12ft) – most anglers were up in 5-8 feet chasing the higher concentration of fish.
After about 30 minutes, I had located a very subtle spot that had exposed boulder tops in the miles long sea of sand gravel bottom. We setup on one of them, my buddy through a tube at it, BOOM, 5 pounder! We all admired the bronze beast and after a few quick photos, measurements, and weighing it, we released the fish.
We turned the boat back around toward the exposed rock and I slung my football jig in there and then it happened…BANG…I set the hook and after a vicious battle I landed my personal best smallmouth, 6lbs 12oz. High fives, photos, weight, measurement, and she was happily released back into the bay. Already on an adrenaline rush, I picked my rod back up, checked my line, and made another cast into the same spot. The bait hit the bottom and it happened again… BANG… I set the hook. This fish made a big run and I finally got her in sight, she was bigger than the last one, well over 7lbs. She made a 2nd run when I got her toward the boat and the hook pulled out. A heartbreaker for sure but that’s fishing.
We went on to catch 5 fish over 5lbs that day off the same little exposed boulder top in the endless sea of sand gravel. We had roamed around and caught another couple dozen fish between 2-4lbs but every big fish we caught came off that one little spot that wasn’t more than 3ft wide. We were on the bullseye!
I was lucky enough to be taught the fine art of bass fishing at a young age. My father would take me down to Rend Lake in southern IL and we would fish with our dear friend, guide, and tournament angler, Cyril “C.B” Bowlin (God rest his soul). Something that will always stick out in my mind was his uncanny ability to call his shot, like the Babe Ruth of bass fishing. He would point his flippin' stick to one particular spot in a endless field of stumps and say “look out boys.” Next thing I know he was holding a largemouth in his hand. One particular day, in the spring of 1997, we were approaching a favorite stump of his, a big sucker on the edge of a creek channel swing, and he just stopped the boat, spent 10-15 seconds tidying up the trailer on his jig, gave it one last glance, then pitched it to the left side of the stump. He smiled, reared back, and put the screws into a 5-3. Seemingly not yet thrilled with his results, he tweaked the jig again and pitched to the right side of the stump and out came a 6-2. My jaw about hit the boat deck.
Calmly weighing and then releasing the beast he adjusted the jig trailer one more time and pitched to the front face of the stump and stuck a 7-1. Three fish weighing over 18lbs in just a hair under 5 minutes. C.B. knew that single stump on the edge of that channel swing had that potential and was prime real estate.
Every lake has these prime spots in them, places where the bigger fish that inhabit the lake are attracted toward. These spots are often very subtle and take a little extra time to find. They may not produce the numbers that other places do but they very regularly produce bigger fish. The key factor to look for is that they possess an abnormality from other cover and structure in the vicinity that also consistently holds fish. For example, if there are 5 boulders on a flat in 8 feet of water and another isolated boulder that is 10ft away in 12 feet of water, focus on the isolated boulder. Every boulder may have a fish hanging out on it but the one that is slightly different is likely to possess the biggest fish in the area, especially if it is closer to deeper water or a funnel point. As previously mentioned in a blog post and studied by big bass fishing legend John Hope – bigger fish are creatures of habit. They will inhabit the best locations that provide them easy access to forage with minimal use of energy. The larger a fish can become, the less susceptible it is to other predators. Minimizing movement while still having access to a steady food source aids in this task. The old adage, find the bait and find the fish, still holds true. Once you find that spot, find the spot within the spot, the prime real estate. Many times, this will help you land your lunker.