The lake stretched before us, long and narrow. A light breeze ruffled its surface and as I watched an eagle soared out from behind a pine covered island and banked steeply, the sun brilliant on his pure white tail and head.
Nate, my grandson, saw him too and pointed, grinning excitedly. Eagles are common in Maine and every lake and pond seemed to have its own resident pair. Then, far off down the lake, a loon called, the distinctive sound wavering over the water. The seductive, slightly eerie call of the loon is so closely associated with the northern woods and wilderness as to be literally inseparable. It’s a magical call that encompasses vast forests and endless lakes. In the evening when the loon’s soul searching call echo’s across dark waters, it becomes seemingly symbolic of life itself, both beautiful and haunting.
The loon continued to call for some time and as we stood and listened, a peace filled us. The waters sparkled, the sun shone on the tall majestic white pine, birch and maple lining the shores as small waves lapped happily at the rocks lining the water’s edge. What a morning to just be alive and part of nature at its very finest.
Before Ozzie Morgan and I could load the square stern canoe and slip it in the lake, Nate had already caught two smallmouth from shore. Though on the small side, the scrappy little fish had his UL bent and throbbing.
Oz started the 2.5 horsepower motor and it moved us briskly across the lake to the far shore. Here scattered lily pads and reeds dotted the surface. The bottom rocky with occasional, scattered large boulders clumped together. Obviously, this was prime looking smallmouth habitat.
I dug through my tackle box and found a small Yo-Zuri, minnow shaped, crank bait some two inches long. The top was a coppery brown and I didn’t know it at the time, but that tiny lure would be the day’s top producer.
I snapped the Yo-Zuri on Nate’s UL and put a 2 hook, black and silver Rapala on mine. Oz used a wide variety of lures. Usually, a small Phoebe spoon was a killer, but today it was a total bust.
Ozzie killed the motor and the canoe drifted to a stop. Nate cast and his lure barely touched the water when a smallmouth blasted it straight up in the air!
“Wow!” he exclaimed, setting the hook, a shocked expression on his face.
”Did you see that!”
Before I could answer, a smallmouth smacked my lure and I was fast to a feisty fish matching Nate’s. We soon landed identical bass some 10-inches long and released them. It seemed impossible to make more than four or five casts without catching a smallmouth, but none were the minimum 12-inch length we were looking for. It was great fun though; bass were everywhere.
I saw a single reed sticking out of the water in deeper water and fired a cast at it. The Rapala settled, I twitched it twice and it vanished in a sizable boil of water. I yanked on the rod, felt the fish for a second, then the lure came free. Darn! That had been a nice fish.
Casting back immediately to the same spot, a four-inch smallmouth grabbed it and somersaulted crazily out of the water, hardly bigger than the lure. He jumped five or six times somehow and when he was beside the canoe I was just about to pick him out of the water when a huge smallmouth shot up and grabbed him.
Somehow keeping my head I let the big bass dive down beneath the canoe where the small bass’ white stomach was visible in the clear water. When the stomach disappeared I set the hook and felt the weight and power of the bigger bass. He came right up beside the boat and then turned away. I set the hook as hard as I could and was horrified to hear a sharp crack as my UL snapped in half.
Unfortunately, that sharp jerk against a bass of that size was too much for my light rod. I was sick, but grabbed the line and began working the bass in. He took off, turned, shook his head and was gone. Drat!
Nate cast out and had a hard hit. After a fierce little battle he landed a keeper and slipped it in the cooler. Then he caught another keeper, then a third. Rubbing it in, he wondered what our problem was, the bass were hitting fine.
True, but the bigger bass didn’t care for Oz or my lures and the few legal fish that hit managed to shake off. Our hooks were razor sharp, but wouldn’t stay put. Breaking my rod seemed to jinx me and Ozzie, as well.
Oz started the little motor and Nate cast just as we began moving. To our surprise, a big smallmouth shot from the depths and grabbed his lure. The little rod bent terribly and Nate pulled too hard, but somehow everything held together until the big bass was within arm’s length, then shook the hook. It was almost straightened out. The kid almost cried.
We finished with 10 keeper bass, but must have caught 100. Not only was this lake beautiful, it was crawling with smallmouth. A combination I find irresistible.