Okay, so Lake Superior's Chequamegon Bay isn't my usual stomping grounds. In fact, I had never fished there until last week. After four days of playing ring leader at the Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers' annual conference in Ashland, WI, I finally splashed the boat for two hours last Friday morning.
My angling companion was Hobie Cat Company's Fishing Products Manager, Morgan Promnitz. I met him earlier in the week entering his hotel room with a 6-wt. flyrod in his hand. We struck up a conversation about fly fishing and how Morgan had never caught a smallmouth bass. We made plans to fish for a couple hours on Friday morning before his flight left for San Diego.
Since we had a limited amount of time, we opted to leave the fly rods behind and went straight to bait. Like desperate junkies needing a fix, we eagerly fished 4-5" sucker minnows on 8-lb. spinning gear while our fly rods gently wept beneath the gunwhales. The minnows were fished on simple split shot rigs with circle hooks along a break that went from about 13 down to 17 feet. The bait and the general fishing location came courtesy of Capt. Roger LaPenter at Anglers All in Ashland.
Chequamegon Bay's big SMB are between 15 and 20 years old, so treat them kindly. If you fish them with bait, use circle hooks if possible. If you opt for traditional J hooks, there is a technique you can use to safely remove a hook from a "gut hooked" bass that involves cutting the line well above the hook and carefully pulling the line down through the gill opening. If you apply downward pressure on the line, the hook will turn over at the back of the fish's throat. You can then grab the bend of the hook with a pair of long pliers and pull the hook out while maintaining some downward pressure on the line. Doug Stange has an article on this through the gills hook removal technique on the In-fisherman website. Learn this and you may never kill another bass.