Jim Bennett

Early spring shore fishing is all about timing: you have to be in the right spot and the right time. Water temperatures are rising, weeds have yet to explode so shore fishing is easy. Just as important is that you have to give the fish just what they want in just the right way. Finally, and just as important, is that you don’t want to hear these words: “You should have been here yesterday,” because that’s “The Guy” or “The Gal” you want to be!

People speak about that one angler with a certain reverence as if he or she is the Great Master or The One who gets a fish on almost every cast. I’ve been on both ends of that line, the observer and the one observed. Like the other day when I got to the lake. It’s a small lake with a road running alongside so close to the water that it is “The Ditch!” As I approached with rod in one hand and a bucket in the other I saw The Guy reeling in a fish. As soon as he cast out he had another fish. In the time it took me to walk 25 yards this Guy had caught a half dozen fish. Everyone else there, 6 of them, were all watching The Guy out of the corner of their eye.

I stood there for a moment observing him. He was using a small white ice fishing lure with a plastic hook less than two feet below a bobber. A quick cast to the same spot and a little pop and boom he had another, and then another as if the fish were committing suicide. Another guy caught a couple but no one could come close to matching him in technique or success. I tried and caught a few fish but he had found a structure near shore adjacent to weeds that were producing fish. He was spot on and everyone else struggled to catch anything. Live bait didn’t work either, these fish wanted plastics. 

I was back at this spot a week later and realized the sunnies had moved from that spot.  I was there for the crappie run so I put on what I knew was a proven plastic, my go to lure set under a rocket bobber about 3 feet, ready to launch that bait far out from shore. Only one other guy was fishing and he hadn’t caught a fish since I pulled in. On about my fifth cast, reeling in slowly, I hooked a nice crappie and then another. In minutes I had 5 crappies swimming around in my bucket. It was my turn to be The Guy being observed on this trip.

All of this takes me back to images of kids riding on bikes with a rod and reel draped over their handlebars with a can of worms held in the other hand. These kids were racing down busy roads because they knew the fish were biting. Somewhere else a family out on an adventure--dad, mom and the kids, younger ones barely able to walk fast enough to keep up--are out looking for fishing fun. Soon they’ll be at The Spot, get settled and catch fish with help. One parent will help the little kids while the other parent and the older kids find the fish and the right bait. Happiness will evolve around treats, a sandwich and some fish in the bucket to eat later. I just wonder who is going to end up being The Guy on this Ditch fishing trip.

Jim Bennett is an outdoorsman who lives and worked in the St. Croix River Valley and can be reached at jamesbennett24@gmail.com

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