If you want to fish the Detroit area for bass in May with Dearborn, Mich., guide Gerry Gostenik, you had better have made a reservation in December. Spring fishing here is as hot a ticket for bass anglers as Oscar night is in Hollywood.
So when Gostenik asked if I'd like to join him and local WJBK-TV weatherman Wyatt Everhart on a rare afternoon he had open, I jumped at the chance.
Everhart grew up in Maryland, where he mostly fished saltwater species like striped bass and bluefish, and later for other saltwater species as a U.S. Coast Guardsman in Key West.
This was new to him, and as Gostenik rigged the rods mostly with subsurface plastics, Everhart asked, "Don't you fish jerkbaits now?"
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Gostenik said, "We did until a little while ago, when the water warmed up. Things like jerkbaits and Rat-L-Traps are good in cold water and we use them until the fish start bedding."
"Then we're sight-fishing with plastics to bedding fish and using topwater (plugs) until the end of June. After that it's mostly tube baits and plastics again until the fall, when we get another good topwater bite,"
We had left the Wyandotte boat ramp with on-shore temperatures in the 80s and the wind under 5 knots from the northeast. Gostenik had fished earlier that day on the Detroit River and caught bass off the beds and on grass flats, so we went back to that area.
Gostenik set Everhart up with a Texas-rigged Senk-O, a fat plastic worm heavy enough that it can be cast on a spinning rod and twitched slowly over the bottom. While Everhart worked the Senk-0 over a flat in about 6 feet of water, Gostenik cast a swimbait (a soft plastic lure that looks like a small fish), and I tossed a 4-inch-long surface popper in baby bass colors.
During the first half hour, Everhart got three fish on the Senk-O, Gostenik one on the swimbait and me not so much as a look on the popper.
"The fish don't grab a Senk-O it the way they do a crankbait," Gostenik said. "I like to just lift the lure, move it a couple of feet and let it drop. Most times the fish takes it as it falls, and all you feel is a little more weight. That's when you set the hook."
It took only a few minutes for Everhart to pick up the subtle feel for fishing plastics, and Gostenik moved us to a shoreline about 100 yards away to sight-cast to spawning bass. The bass beds were easy to see, white patches about the size of a garbage can lid where the fish had cleared debris off the dark bottom. The trick was spotting bass on the nest in the ripple and low, slanting sunlight.
Gostenik switched Everhart to a wacky worm, which looks like a plastic French fry and is simply hooked through the middle with the wiggly ends dangling free. Don't ask_it works under the right conditions.
Nesting fish are males, guarding eggs or young, and if they see something that might be threaten their offspring, they attack it or pick it up and throw it out of the bed.
Once again, Everhart quickly picked up the subtle technique of dropping the lure in just the right place, far enough from the bass that it didn't spook it and close enough to get it interested.
After missing a couple by striking late, he cast carefully to a bass, teased it into picking up the lure and landed a 3½-pounder.
Meanwhile, the light wind that had been rippling the water died off entirely about 6 p.m., and I began to get strike after strike on the surface popper. The temperature also was dropping quickly, and Everhart said, "That front's coming through faster than I expected. I thought it would be here about 9 or so, but it's so calm now it must be right on top of us."
In about 2½ hours of fishing, the three of us released 26 bass from 2-4 pounds, two thirds of them smallmouths and the others largemouths.
As we stowed the tackle for the run home, Everhart asked Gostenik, "Don't you get burned out when you're out here day after day?"
Gostenik shook his head and said, "Sometimes, but a lot of it depends on the people I'm fishing with. Some are real pain, but most of them are fun to be with. But I know that this (sightfishing) is what I'm going to be doing every day for the next five weeks."
Gostenik can be reached at 313-319-0100, or on the Internet at www.greatlakesbassfishing.com