BRAINERD - Absent a boat, some anglers remain couch-bound, thinking more about fishing than doing it. This needn't be, particularly when the target is largemouth bass, and especially not in late spring and early summer, when these fish inhabit shoreline haunts.
Bill Marchel and I were talking about this the other evening as we pulled on our waders and slapped the odd mosquito. Wade fishing for bass has long been a favorite pastime of Bill's, and over the years I've joined him on a few forays into shoreline slop -- bait-caster in hand, its spool wound with heavy line.
"Wading for bass is about as much fun as you can have fishing," Bill said.
Of course, many waters that can be fished on foot can also be reached by boat. But not all. Vegetation we waded the other night, for example, was too thick for even the most powerful electric trolling motor.
And too shallow for the shallowest running boat.
Also in their waders, and fishing with Bill and me, were my son, Cole, and his pal, Max Kelley, both 16. The three of us had been bassin' on the Whitefish Chain last week, and took a break from that action -- all undertaken in a boat -- to wade with Bill.
"The key to wade fishing for bass, as in all bass fishing, is to make long casts, to get the lure as far from you as possible," Bill said. "On occasions over the years I've waded for bass on the edge of hard-stem bulrushes or lily pads, and have had fishermen in boats come close to me after they see me catching fish.
"But often they don't catch anything, and it's because they're disturbing too much water with their boat. You have to make long casts."
In the Brainerd area, and also in and around the Twin Cities, there's no shortage of lakes and rivers that can be waded for bass. Some scouting is involved. But little effort is needed to find fairly thick stands of shoreline vegetation, combined with waters of wading depth.
"Let's give it a try," Bill said. And we waded in.
Experienced bass anglers, Max and Cole were well accustomed to chucking baits great distances, whether plastic worms, buzz baits or -- as was the case when we fished with Bill -- Scum Frogs.
These last are weedless, a necessary component of lures used to fish vegetative slop. Also to their advantage, Scum Frogs are heavy enough to cast, and light enough to retrieve while skimming atop lily pads.
Fanning out, the four of us sprayed lures hither and yon, though not so far from one another that we couldn't share in each other's excitement when a bucketmouth rose from the depths to hit a bait.
Which after all is the attraction of top-water bass fishing: seeing the water boil below a lure before a fish explodes topside, its mouth agape, to inhale what Mr. Bass thinks is a frog or other terrestrial.
But instead is a hunk of soft plastic. With hooks.
"Son!" Bill said, as he took one bass, released it, and soon reefed back on another.
Max and Cole were into fish as well, casting stout wands of graphite and unspooling yard after yard of braided line before finding bass lurking just below the surface.
"It's getting a little late in June for this type of fishing," Bill said. "It's still good. But it's not as good as when more of the bass were still along the shorelines, in shallow water."
Over the years, Bill and I also have wade-fished for sunnies. Fly rods can make this sport still more fun, provided they're cast along the edges of vegetation, not in the middle of it, as we did the other evening.
"A fly rod just can't pull bass out of the heavy stuff," Bill said. "Particularly not 3- and 4-pounders. That's why I use 60- or 80-pound line on my bait caster."
Brainerd-area lakes are so popular that sometimes multiple boats crowd favorite walleye and bass haunts.
That's rarely, if ever, the case while wade fishing.
The other night, Bill, Cole, Max and I occasionally heard a personal watercraft whine in the distance, or a vehicle motor atop nearby blacktop.
Otherwise, striding through thick slop, we were so alone we could have been in the boundary waters.
Casting, and casting again.
Dennis Anderson • firstname.lastname@example.org