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River and stream smallmouth bass tactics

By DICK MARTIN • Sep 8, 2018 at 8:00 AM

There are few Norwalk area fishermen who don't yearn, at least occasionally, to enjoy virgin or near virgin fishing for fish that seldom, maybe never, see a lure.

Usually, we find such fishing in the northern reaches of the Canadian provinces or Alaska, or at least the Wyoming high country or the vast reaches of Colorado. But we have such places right here at home, seeking a hard fighting and beautiful fish that strikes violently, fights hard, and leaps again and again. That's the smallmouth bass and it's waiting in many Ohio rivers and streams.

For some reason, very few of us seek stream bass, preferring to go for largemouths in our many lakes and reservoirs, though they're out there and usually almost untouched. But you have to work for them, and luckily most anglers don't want to do that. One of the earliest trips I made for this lovely fish was on the Kokosing River, one of Ohio's premiere smallmouth steams. I drove to the Kokosing Valley Camp & Canoe east of Mt Vernon on U.S. 36 (740-599-7056), rented a canoe, was taken miles upstream and dropped off to paddle my way back to the canoe livery.

That was a great day, I worked the straight stretches with small pearl grey Roostertail spinners and the deep holes with black jigs whose twister tails resembled leeches and four inch worms, alternating occasionally with little crankbaits that resembled crayfish, and caught somewhere between 20 and 25 smallmouths, all released to fight again. I saw no other canoers, but I did see suspicious groundhogs glaring at me from shoreside burrows, wood ducks with their flocks of younglings, occasional rabbits and distant deer. It was a wonderful trip, one I repeated several times and will again.

I've enjoyed similar trips many times, usually with my own canoe and a friend. We'd park one pickup at a likely place along a chosen river, drive upstream and park the other, then paddle quietly down river working the pools, small tributary mouths, and long, rocky stretches with much the same gear as I used that day. And rarely saw another fisherman, other than right near bridges where access was quick and easy. We picked up rockbass too, and now and again, largemouths in backwaters or hungry channel cats which will often strike a lure. And we found them on the Sandusky River, the Olentangy, the Huron, and other waters clear down to Ohio Brush Creek.

Wading can be even better. Years ago I spent a number of summer days wading stretches of the Vermillion River well inland of Lake Erie with landowner permission. That was wild country indeed, territory that I usually traveled with an old timer friend. We'd leapfrog with me working a section while he walked ahead and fished his stretch, then I'd hurry well ahead of him and wade in again. We caught dozens of bass, literally dozens.

I should point out that they were never big fish, many a half pound or so, going up to a pound, or even rarely two. But they were great fighters and on our light tackle doughty opponents. I still remember going alone one day and actually seeing another fisherman a mile or so from my entrance point. We stared at each other, mumbled a hello, and hurried on past. You can find this fishing from Lake Erie to the Ohio River, and even tiny steams hardly ankle deep in places, can produce fish. If you don't mind walking, wading or paddling and like strange, often wild country, this sport is for you. You'll like it.

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• Anglers and boaters looking to launch at the Mazurik boat launch near Marblehead should be aware that the boat ramp and parking lot area will be temporarily closed beginning at 8 p.m. Monday, Sept. 10 The Division of Wildlife will be seal coating the parking lot, work that is scheduled to be completed by 8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13. During this time, no vehicles will be permitted on the access.

• For outdoorsmen particularly, knowing how to tie knots can come in handy, and Lucy Davidson would like to show readers 40 of them. In 40 Knots and How to Tie Them ($16.95) she shows with hand-dawn diagrams and step-by-step instructions how to transform knots into useful projects. The book will be available in September at Amazon.com.

• Readers who don't mind a modest drive might enjoy an event being held by the Crawford Park District, a canoeing jaunt on the Amann Reservoir at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 25. The reservoir is located at 4977 State Route 309 near Galion, and after a lesson on some canoeing basics, paddlers will take to the water. Pre-registration is required by Sept. 24, so call 419-683-9000 to do so.


Dick Martin is a free-lance writer from Shelby. Reach him at [email protected] You also can visit his blog at outdoorswithmartin.com.

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