By Ron Schara
A north wind was howling across Minnesota the other day – well, actually since the May fishing opener. Once again I was trying to catch a bass – largemouth or smallmouth – and not catching much since, well, opening day in May.
To paraphrase W.C. Fields, there never was an angler so unfortunate that he (or she) couldn’t serve as a good example. Allow me to stand up and volunteer. In a sentence, the fishing season of 2020 has been awful. I mean, awful for me. I ain’t blamin’ nobody, except maybe the wind – and the wind don’t care.
Please, no sympathy cards, phone calls, text messages, and the like.
I used to be a pretty fair hook. At least I thought so. Now it seems I can’t even catch hell. What happened? I’ve asked myself. It’s true, I’m no puppy anymore. Getting old and feeling it some. Maybe my jig-worm technique is old-fashioned? What are the young bucks throwing? You know, those dudes in the rocket bass boats with twin Talons and 300 horses in the stern. Maybe they know something I don’t or I forgot.
On Facebook, all of my friends are holding up huge smallies – err, I mean toads, or hawg largemouths or trophy 29-inch walleyes or 52-inch muskies. And they’re all smiling like, ‘’god, I’m good,’’ while I’m wishing I had a fish to post.
Yah, it’s been that kind of fishing season. Bad luck showed up on the morning of opening day in May. When it’s 28 degrees, you know it’s gonna be bad.
Well, it wasn’t bad for my daughter, Simone, who was in the bow of another boat, pitching jig and fatheads into 8 feet of water. I was throwing the same combo, a tried-and-true walleye-getter in May. The only difference was that Simone was catching walleyes; I wasn’t.
Did I pout? Of course not. I’m proud of my fishing daughters. At the end of the day, if I’m outfished by one of my kids, I’m actually tickled about it. Where’s the bottle of Crown?
Following the opener, my fishing experiences went downhill even faster. Extreme winds canceled a May trip to Upper Red Lake. In hindsight, apparently I was the only fisherman in Minnesota who didn’t go to Upper Red to overload the public access.
When the Epping/Schara Memorial Day ‘’Who Can Catch the First Walleye Contest’’ ended on Leech Lake with three of us competing, I finished third. Good grief.
The next day I roamed Woman Lake’s rock reefs and flats for gullible smallies – after which I learned there’s no such thing as a gullible smallmouth.
Starting in June, my fishing luck took another turn for the worse. In about 30 seconds after launching my 16-foot jon boat, the 25-hp jet onboard lost its power. I called the dealership and raised hell. They pushed back. They said I never asked for a tuneup. I got the feeling the dealership won’t be disappointed if I’m no longer a customer.
I hung up and immediately noticed something odd. When I had started the jet outboard, unbeknownst to me the intake sucked up a plastic bag that was floating underwater. The plastic bag fit perfectly over the intake, in essence eliminating jet power.
I yanked off the trashed bag and, presto, the jet power was there. Dang, who’d-a thought?
As the summer of 2020 continued, the number of only fair fishing days quickly outnumbered the good. I also had a few almost-skunked days. And I recall leaving lake after lake with no clue what the bass were doing or what I was doing wrong.
When that happens, I like to blame cold fronts (high, blue skies with a northwest wind). Lordy, did we have cold fronts this summer!
Oh, did I mention the day that, with my clothes on, I had to wade up to my chest to fetch my boat? Oh, yes, the tie rope slipped off the dock cleat, which became apparent as I pulled away with the trailer. I leaped out of my truck, only to see my wonderful Ranger slowly floating out to sea without me.
Just as I reached the boat (about 10 yards out) and just after I could breathe again as the chilled lake water went above my crotch, I heard a voice. It turned out to be a curious neighbor who wanted a closer look at my fishing machine and was amazed to see me in a boat-fetching exercise.
He lent a hand and said he enjoyed watching my TV show, “Minnesota Bound.” I said thanks, suggesting that he never saw me wading for a boat with my clothes on.
Oh, I could go on. As for the number of humbling days, I can’t remember them all and … I don’t want to.
I had a little luck one day. Fishing legend John Peterson, the founder of Northland Tackle, and I spent a day in search of chunky largemouths and we caught a bunch.
Turns out, the two biggest hawgs ended up on the end of my line. Sadly, they didn’t end up in the boat, however. One giant spit the hook. The other broke my line. Johnny hinted that a busted line is an amateur mistake. About that, I could not argue.
As the days grow shorter, the 2020 open-water fishing season is winding down. All I can say is, “thank the Lord.”
Did I mention how I installed a new starter battery in my boat the other day and attached the black wires to the positive post and the red wires to the negative post?
Is that a symptom of COVID-19?