Thursday, April 25, 2013

Round Valley Pond Bass Fishing Lost Nice One, Sighted Eared Grebe

Hooked my first plastic worm bass of the season, lost to a bad knot. Felt it. Really good size. Hit about seven feet deep along the less weedy, sharply sloping shoreline. Had little time to fish and when I blew that, felt sure that's all I'd connect with. Water's pretty chilly, not over 60 I'm sure, and sunshine abundantly saturated very clear water.

Felt really good to be out fishing for bass again. So it begins and each new season I anticipate a really big one. Guess I'll never know how big is the bass I lost today, but it probably still has my seven-inch Chompers attached to its maw.

Eared grebe, not a common sight.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

New Jersey Largemouth Bass Fast Pond Fishing

Hedden Park Lake is Good for Bass


         Small waters like three-acre Hedden Park Lake may be deceiving since lakes, obviously, contain more fish by sheer volume. The by-word to describe ponds and small streams is “overlooked,” and this state of affairs is as eternal as death and taxes. Plenty of anglers graduate to expensive boats and famous lakes, never looking back, and looking away when they happen to drive past a pond or over a small bridge. But I think of Ernest Hemingway in Key West, pursuing marlin with manic persistence for periods lasting months—then suddenly needing to go fish from one of the many Keys bridges for snappers and grunts alone.

          Hedden County Park shadows Dover in Randolph Township a couple of turns off Route 46, but the best access to the pond is from the back of the park, directions easily accessed online. If you like the manicured ease of a county park, it’s a good place for young families or a picnic, but serious anglers have no need to feel out of place. Just focus on catching some of the many bass, and smile and wave if anyone takes interest when you do. It’s a place I have visited for no more than an hour at a time, but I once caught close to a dozen bass, gingerly unhooked and released.

          The truth about New Jersey largemouth bass fishing is that many ponds will yield more bass in less time than any other type of water. A private pond I have access to often yields about 10 bass—on average between a pound-and-a-half and two-and-a-half pounds—in a half hour’s fishing. I would get tired of any more.

          Ponds fish easier than lakes, which is why I fish lakes often. But I have a need to scale way back—bring a single rod and a single lure—and simply catch a fresh zing of pure action.

          Hedden Park Lake typically can produce bass any time of day. The dog day dictum against bass hitting in 95-degree afternoon heat may spare anglers who prefer an air conditioned room, but fish a weightless plastic worm like a slow-sinking Chompers or Culprit to prove opinion wrong. I don’t recommend fast-sinking Senkos except to get casting reach (they are heavier). You need to make the plastic seem very lazily lifelike. A Senko makes for the bottom fast by comparison to other plastics.

            I once walked to the edge of the pond shortly after noontime in a blaze of summer sun to see bass everywhere. The perfectly calm surface invited them to slowly cruise inches to a foot deep in full view. This happens in ponds frequently. Pay attention and you may discover that the bass are interested in the damselflies alighting on any vegetation or sticks that break the surface. I once directly watched a bass score. An amazing sight, the bass leapt in front of me, mouth wide, engulfed a damselfly and dove under.

          Sight fishing with plastic worms of four to seven-inches will occupy you with complicated moves. To try and get these stubborn, heat-phased bass to take the worm is not as simple as just casting to those you see. It’s better than a screen game because you really do slip into what you are—a mortal being requiring food. That the bass is released doesn’t matter. The experience of being part of reality involving relations does. This makes you feel at home in the world just by fishing. Releasing the bass makes you master because you are not bound to the need to actually take it as prey, although on seldom occasion I take a walleye or trout home from elsewhere in place of what my wife would have purchased at Shop Rite.

          Speaking of trout, Jackson Creek flowing from pure springs and feeding Hedden Park Lake has native brook trout.        

Monday, April 22, 2013

Round Valley Reservoir Smallmouth Bass on the Rocks

Round Valley Reservoir Smallmouth Bass on the Rocks 

          Last summer, Fred Matero and I caught a lot of smallmouth bass and one largemouth at Round Valley Reservoir, thanks to Fred’s 14-foot deep V-hull boat. I'm posting this story well ahead of time. For any who read it now, get psyched. It's a chilly day today, but gladly a long winter is gone that didn't even allow us much ice fishing.
           In recent years, I have not managed to catch any bass after Memorial Day from shore, and abandon the reservoir until late April. But Fred catches plenty through the summer. The place to be is the back shorelines; find rocky bottom in about 10 to 15 feet of water and you may be in for some action. Ancillary aquatic vegetation ensures that largemouth may be present too.                  

          Fishing such structure seems deceptively easy. On occasion, I sight-fish largemouth bass in shallows. Simply casting a plastic worm to the bass usually isn’t enough. Years of trial and error have taught me how to anticipate where to place the worm. Nevertheless, failure to get a hit is the rule, although I try to trim the margin of error. So when fishing for bass you can’t see, the inference is that most of the time they ignore an offering near them, but subtle attention to presenting a lure may make the difference. Sight is not your only sense and sometimes it seems that hunches lead the way, whether they are feelings about where to cast or how to retrieve. Persistent pays, but the kind of persistence that pays best is attentive.

         That recent evening on Round Valley, Fred was successful with eighth-ounce jigs tipped with quartered nightcrawlers. Enthusiastic about the huge sunfish that sometimes frequent strips of shoreline in pods, he is prepared. Both smallmouth and largemouth bass eagerly take the bait, the jig tapping rocks lightly, emitting sound that gamefish register perhaps and are drawn to. Always allow the jig to make bottom contact in any case. Few lures get lost to snags here because the rocks are small without edges for a hook to wedge against, but on occasion it happens, and simply using the electric to back behind the hang up usually allows you to pull the lure free. The mistake beginners often make with any type of lure is to just cast it out and retrieve it back. In most fishing situations, the lure should be fished on or near bottom.

          Obviously, topwater plugs offer bass a chance to dramatically break this rule. After sunset, we moved closer to the bank, and caught bass in water as shallow as five or six feet. Coming upon reeds standing in shallow water, my senses became aroused, I reached for a Hedden Torpedo topwater, and suggested to Fred we close in. No sooner had I spoken, a great, audible gush of water belied a big bass devouring forage right up in those reeds.

          No matter that the plugs failed us, or we failed the plugs. Fishing is opportunity, and usually you have to try something else. Dusk set in and we continued to fish as dark enclosed us, making for the ramp under a nearly full moon and stars.

          Nevertheless, the Torpedo is my favorite plug, period. And for over a year I have used only a Torpedo with complete chrome finish because no other color or pattern of colors makes a better lure. This is only personal preference, but go with what gives you confident because only confidence arouses those senses you need.

           Most of the outing, I casted a Senko-type worm, the 10 and 12 foot depths just right for that fast sinking action, in fact a higher vibration pitch is emitted by more mass to possibly arouse bass at some distance in the gin clear Round Valley water. I hoped that with any large bass present, they would go for this chunky offer of a five-inch, fat-bodied plastic that smells good to them.

          Round Valley is full of good-size bass between two and three pounds, and although ours were smaller, Fred lost a smallmouth that may have been two pounds. I have spoken to two separate scuba divers who have spoken of huge bass. Also, I spoke to an angler who told me about a largemouth he estimated at nine pounds, which wouldn’t hit. The state record smallmouth bass, seven pounds, two ounces, got caught here, but the potential for larger seems to exist despite the reservoir’s notorious low fertility, which explains the gin clarity, very desirable otherwise. Bass are numerous, but not everywhere, even though fishing pressure on them isn’t very high and most release their catches. Despite a certain lack of forage, the ecology seems to trade numbers of bass for size.     

       Your outing should be contemplative if you want to catch fish. Openness of mind is what allows attention scope, but fishing is a game, so every cast counts to score.