- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Three hundred years ago the French trappers, known as coureurs de bois, made note of the fact that nowhere during their journeys did they encounter so many bass as when their canoes entered the wooded coves of Wisconsin's Door County peninsula, the state's "thumb" jutting into Lake Michigan.
The coureurs are gone now, but not the bass. Early each summer they troop shoreward to spawn, and then from the cove called Little Sturgeon on north to Death's Door near the peninsula's tip they furnish smallmouth fishing which is unexcelled anywhere in the world.
This lovely land of the leaping smallmouth bass is bulwarked by sheer limestone cliffs against Lake Michigan's wicked storms. It is a little country apart. Cross the bridge at Sturgeon Bay and you enter a leisurely world where even the fishing, in some harbors, is by appointment only.
Cross that magic bridge at the first big bay and no matter how torrid the day, the temperature-gauge needle of your car drops back to normal. Cross the canal which severs the peninsula from the rest of the state—the rest of the world, and forests of solid cedar gradually converge along the few roads, only to open at intervals for the cherry orchards.
Here there is relief for the hay fever sufferer. Here is the summer home of the theater. Here is a land a little like New England, Norway, Sweden—a strange country, in some ways, where people boil trout instead of broiling them.
But, more than all of these, this is the home of the red-eyed, coppery-sided smallmouth bass. Here bait companies send representatives to try new lures, and boats come from all the Great Lakes to troll or put off skiffs and spin or cast or fly fish for smallmouths.
It is a land of flaming sunsets of unbelievable calm shattered with little warning by violent squalls which drive snowstorms of gulls to the beach and shred the smoke flags of the steamers. It is a fishing place where perch are measured by the bushel basket, and there are no bigger northern pike south of the Canadian border.
Here, in Rowley Bay, I met the largest smallmouth bass I have ever seen. He was an old bull guarding a nest. Nearby, but not too close, were lesser bass like boats at anchor. In another week they would have fled. Now, guarding spawn, they stood their ground. The big one weighed maybe 9, perhaps even 10 pounds (the world record is 10 pounds, 8 ounces).
He struck an orange and black streamer on the first cast and with a sharp maneuver snapped the leader. By the time another streamer was floating from the leader, the bass was back, but repeated casting failed to rouse him again. Finally I knotted a bunch of reeds to mark the spot and Joe Liston and I continued our fishing marathon which consisted of taking and releasing one smallmouth after another until we ached with the effort.
A NEW SEASON OPENING