Last week I was lucky enough to travel over to Minneapolis on a business trip. Leaving the UK on Sunday afternoon, not to return until the following Sunday. As Minnesota is known as the Land of 10,000 Lakes*, it’s probably understandable that my thoughts turned to fishing when deciding what to do on my spare day on Saturday.
Greg, a college from our Minneapolis office was kind enough to arrange a guide to take us both out, with large mouth bass as our quarry.
Prior to the fishing, the guys over in Minneapolis did a great job of keeping me busy – with meals out to some fantastic restaurants, baseball games and many bars the week flew by.
We headed out on Friday to buy me a state fishing licence, not entirely prepared for the spanish inquisition required prior to handing over my cash – passport number, address, tel no., height, weight, eye colour, inside leg measurement and IQ were all required (the last two I may have made up) by the sales guy before he could issue the 24 hour licence.
Finally with licence in hand, the only thing left to do was arrange a time for Greg to pick me up from the hotel in the morning.
Ordinarily the time Greg suggested (5am) would have been hard work at best for me, I’m not a morning person. However, due to my body still finding it hard to get to grips with the time difference 5am was perfectly fine, I’d likely have been up for an hour by then anyway.
Saturday morning, early
Greg arrived outside the hotel bang on time, and with a very welcome cup of strong black coffee sat waiting for me. We headed off towards the lake, sky still lit by the moon, sun just starting to lighten the night sky on the horizon.
The weather was decidedly parky. From the very warm and muggy temperatures of earlier in the week, we were now getting some of the coldest July weather Minneapolis had seen in a long time. It wasn’t expected to get much higher than 16° all day.
As we sat in the car finishing off the coffee, the horizon off to our right was ablaze with the orange glow of the sun, Greg mentioned how red sky in the morning, fisherman’s warning…
Not long after we arrived Kevin Kray, our guide turned up in a huge pickup truck towing a very smart looking fishing boat. I’m not sure what had the largest engine, the truck or the boat!
Kevin is a Minnesota guide, specialising in Muskies (look similar to our Pike, but bigger as all things American are!) in the lakes around Minneapolis. We’d gone out after Bass as it’s more ‘instant’ fishing. From what Kevin told me, they’re a superb fish when you catch one, but they’re difficult to catch in the first place.
Chocks away! (wrong transport?)
The truck was backed up to the slip, boat off and truck and trailer parked up out of the way in no time. It was no more than around 5 minutes before we were in the boat motoring to our first fishing spot.
We started out with plugs and lures designed for the top of the water, fished on short spinning rods with fixed spool reels. Ordinarily this would have been the standard approach for this time of year, resulting quite quickly in hooking up with one of the many Bass in the lake.
Unfortunately, due to the cold weather Kevin was becoming increasingly concerned that the Bass may have dropped down in the water and become a little less enthusiastic for chasing a lure off the top.
Getting a wriggle on
We persevered for a little while longer with no success. Kevin then produced what can only be described as a packet of plastic worms. These worms were around 3 or 4 inches long, with a green top and light coloured bottom. They are fished by hooking them straight through the middle so the (large) single hook has half of the worm on either side.
The advice was to cast in, and reel back a little slower than with the lures, and also impart vertical movement into the worm by rising and lowering the rod.
The advice from Kevin was spot on, soon after making the switch we were into our first Bass. They’re an unusual looking fish – a little like a Zander that’s swam at full speed into a brick wall. You certainly know why they’re called “large mouth”!
For the next few hours we moved across the lake finding pockets of fish, Greg was also doing a sterling job of emptying the lake of weed, one cast at a time (sorry Greg!).
The weather really wasn’t covering itself in glory, the sun was out but the wind made it feel very cold. I hadn’t considered the temperature could get so low when packing my case back in the UK, so had brought none of my various jackets and coats for fishing in the cold. Fortunately, Greg had a very warm (and bright!) two piece jacket we shared for the day. Obviously dayglo orange isn’t a colour that Bass get spooked by.
The bass, though appearing a little stupid in there enthusiasm to chase a plastic worm, and inability to spot a 6’2″ bloke stood over them in a boat wearing a fluorescent jacket, were not daft when it came to evading capture once hooked. The lake was thick with weed in places. Give the bass even a hint of slack line and they’d dart off for cover under weed and shed the hook. Several times I had a fish swimming directly at the boat, reeling in as fast as possible to try and keep in contact with him was easier said than done.
In what felt like no time at all it was noon and time to call it a day, and as quickly as Kevin had put the boat in the water he’d got it back out, secured and ready to head off.
If ever you head out to Minneapolis I would strongly recommend getting in touch with Kevin. Muskie fishing looks pretty amazing, and he’s certainly got the skills to ensure you have a successful outing, the Bass fishing was great fun too – give it a try, you’ll not regret it!
*Apparently this figure is a little misleading – it’s actually a land of 11,842 lakes (classing any lake over 10 acres, god knows how many it’d be if you included the ones below 10 acres!).