There are few things that have eluded me more than a 20” river smallmouth. It’s borderline obsession of mine to break that mark. The anglers that know me will back that up. Now before any of you “master” anglers out there start droning on about how easy it is to break said mark I’ll say this. SHUT IT! I live in central Indiana where a fish of that caliber is a trophy in anyone’s eyes that fish the waters I fish. Now back to the story. With no expectations planned for the day, as this was a fun fish day just to clear the mind. I met up with a fellow local angler, a young man rather one of the few high school students shaking up the local club tournament scene, for a leisure fish float on the river. Both knowing that the post spawn was well underway we didn’t expect much.
We started the float from a launch I had never used before. I nice, hidden, small public launch with a 100+yd drag to the river’s edge, which for a guy that fishes out of yak that weighs the better part of a buck fifty was tons of fun. Anyway, we launched, I was throwing my favorite spinnerbait (shout out to 412 Bait Co and the amazing Phase III) on my first ever baitcaster. While just randomly casting to gain more practice with the reel it what was probably less than 100 yards from the launch I got my first bite. Immediately I knew what I had, a smallmouth and a nice one to boot. The air show quickly ensued shortly after the hookset. The fight was fun and being the first fish ever on my new reel was something special. After landing the fish and taking the obligatory Hawg Trough measurements, to which she measured an impressive 18”. Not too shabby for the first fish of the day. After some photos and the release the wheels of obsession started turning and burning. The desire to catch a 20” fish reared its ugly head. I started making quick decisions like this spinnerbait is the ticket.
Hours pasted with not a single bite on the spinnerbait. The grind had kicked in, frustration had erupted. I’m not what made me decided to throw a jerkbait, but I did. It could have been the fact I always have one tied on or some other worldly outside force told me. Whatever the reason I did and was I glad I did. Fish after fish after fish. Given nothing of size but it was almost a fish every cast. It got to the point where my cohort commented that he was switching to a jerkbait if I caught another fish, as I caught another fish. On a side note not 5 minutes after tying on a jerkbait he lost it to a tree and had to borrow one of mine. As we drifted along catching fish after fish with no discernable size we came up to a small pool with a large tree over hanging it. I noticed some surface activity just under the tree. So I fired the bait to the area, two twitches of the rod I felt a swing and miss, a couple more twitches another swing and a miss. Four misses on the same cast the fish finally connected, a nice 17.25” fish was boated.
Nearing the end of our adventure we came to a small chute that ends in a deep pool. Being stealthy I took the chute wide as to not spook what might lurk in the turbulent current at the bottom in the deep pool. I skirted passed, did a 180 and fired a perfect cast at the start of the shoot smack dab in the middle. Working the Marilyn colored size 5 X-Rap back to the boat at a blistering pace something happened that I have only heard rumors of ever happening. What can only be described as a wolf pack of giant smallies race up from the depth and converge on my bait. Instantly smallmouth fever sets in and I forget how to fish as the pack frantically attack my bait, missing at every hit. As the bait moves closer and closer to the boat I see her, or I should say them. Deep within the pack are two of the biggest smallmouth I have ever seen. As if to be waiting for the best moment to strike, hanging low within the school. Now boat side I’m pulling out a move from the musky angler’s handbook figure eighting hoping for a bite. Suddenly one of the giants race up to my bait, time slows, joy overcomes me. Then, it happened……. A smaller fish comes out of nowhere and gets hooked up…. The school spooks and disappear into the dark abyss of the pool, along with it the fish that would have broken the 20”. I was down but not out, I was still blessed with a nice fish just shy of 19”. We ended the float with childish glee as we both had a stellar day, my personal best three fish day to date, on the water. On the drive home I gave one to the fishing gods for keeping the quest for 20” alive for another season.