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Ron Hustvedt

Ramsey, Minn.

It's the most 'bassiest' time of the year

I pride myself on being a multispecies angler, but if I had to choose one species to go after in the summertime it wouldn’t even be a debate. This is the best time of the year to be a bass angler. I wouldn’t want to, but f I had to, I’d trade in all that time spent chunking muskie baits, cranking for walleye, and speedtrolling pike.

Trade it all for a summertime sentence of working the weedlines for largemouth and smallmouth bass. Better yet, give me a pair of polarized sunglasses and let me work the shallows for the most explosive action you can find on inland waters. Tarpon, redfish and other saltwater creatures might be tougher than bass, but why waste all that travel time when I could be bass fishing?

The cool shallows of lakes throughout northern Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan are perfect throughout the summer months, but no better time than in June. The lily pads are emerging and not yet so dense that you can’t see largemouth bass lurking through them. Smallmouth bass are still close by their beds and their dark silohuettes stand out so nicely against the sandy backdrop. 

Both conditions are great for throwing on an unweighted worm and doing whatever it takes to entice a bite. Sometimes a slow lift and drop retrieve does the ticket, other times it requires a more aggressive walk the dog. Either way, a tussle is awaiting.  Sometimes a Texas rigged worm on a 3/0 or 4/0 hook is best while other times those bass can’t resist a wacky worm wistfully wiggled in their presence.

            Fishing is so visual this time of the year and it’s fun to see your lure a work through the cover. Sometimes, if you are lucky, you see that bolt of lightning and watch the strike. Smallmouth bass swing in and hit it as they turn sideways while largemouth dart up and open their gaping mouth, inhaling your lure.

            As you work the miles of shoreline on a big lake like Leech, you’ll find little pockets of weeds and there are almost always bass cruising the area around it or hunkered down in the weeds. Either way, it’s time to slow down and fish the location thoroughly. If you spook one as you roll into the area, don’t worry about it. If that largemouth saw you, often they’ll tuck back under the cover and await your lure once you toss it out there.

            On a small body of water, like the hundreds of Forest Service lakes chock full of bass, you’ll find rock piles, sparse pockets of lily pads at the edge of a bog, submerged timber, and plenty of weedlines. If there’s a dock, skip cast under it and let that worm settle. If you don’t pull a fish from under there cast again. If you don’t pull one out on the second cast, curse under your breath and move on.

            The best worms are ones that fall nice and slow undulating the entire way down. Any self-respecting bass in the area is going to feel compelled to at least check it out if not absolutely inhale it. Don’t be afraid to use five or six inch worms, even in early June. Four-inch worms work great but bluegill and rock bass go crazy for these too and you’ll have to beat them off with a stick unless there’s a tough bite, then downsizing seems to be best.

            Cabbage is king, but don’t overlook coontail clumps. If you don’t know the difference, grab an aquatics plant book or google it and learn the difference. Cabbage weeds are like tall forests with a lush understory while coontail are like a alder swamp. If you deer or grouse hunt, you know which one is best even though it’s the tougher option. You must go where the beasts reside.

            When the cover is thicker then it’s time to throw on a skirted-jig tipped with a trailer of plastic. For jig colors don’t get too fancy. Clear water means black and blue while stained water is best with green and brown. For the best results, don’t follow that rule everytime. Just when you think you have it all figured out, bass will change the game on you so be versatile.

            Keep an eye on your electronics as you work those shallows and mark those spots with the best weedbeds. Oh sure, it’s a leisurely outing but when you need to cover water quickly you are going to want these spots pinpointed. Weedbeds that hold bass today will usually hold them tomorrow and the next day—especially coontail clumps.

            It’s amazing how many weeds you find across the hundreds of yards of a large flat. Each of them are going to be good to fish and especially take note of those that are away from the edge of the flat. Those patches are going to be the most under fished throughout the summer and if you mark them now, the more you can keep coming back again and again and pull fish off that structure.

            As the water warms up, those bass will begin chasing faster moving lures. That’s when most bass anglers toss spinnerbaits or horizontal swimbaits. My favorite is swimming a jig with a four-inch grub. This works great in the lake and phenomenally on the river.  

Warmer water also means a stellar topwater bite is sure to follow. Work topwater across the water’s surface and you’ll be rewarded with a bassy explosion of power.  My favorite topwater times are dusk and dawn, especially when the water is glass calm. Remember that jumping bass are awesome, but bass that slurp a topwater under are real trophies so keep your eye on that bait.

            The great thing about the summer bite is that on most lakes you can catch plenty of fish both shallow and deep. Some of the big bass slide up to the slop where they get most of their food and others move out to the breakline to cruise the deep weedline.

            A few anglers I know like to eat bass, and more power to them. Don’t beat anybody up if they put a knife to a legally caught fish because that’s what limits are for. Unless I am in a survival situation, I myself will never put a knife to either species of bass. If catch and release isn’t your cup of tea, at least practice selective harvest and let the big ones go back.

            It’s summertime. Get out there and do some bassin’!

Hustvedt: Don't overlook these details during your September goose hunt


Hunting the early goose season is not as complicated as brain surgery but it is definitely tougher than some hunters make it sound. There are a lot of young birds in the sky for the first time with hunters around, but they are flanked by wise old geese who have survived many seasons.


            The devil is always in the details and early goose hunting is no different. Here are a few often overlooked details to consider when the season opens statewide on Saturday, September 6. Most of them might not make or break your early season, but they’ll definitely enhance it or help fix a persistent problem.

            Prevent short-stopping: It can happen anytime but it seems like early season geese are notorious for landing well ahead of your decoys making for a difficult shooting scenario.

            “Most hunters, myself included, use smaller spreads in the early season, but I think the biggest mistake hunters make is not spreading those decoys around enough for a good landing zone,” said Dave Tuttle, an avid early season waterfowler.

            Tuttle likes to use a U-shape for his decoy spread and nothing but his best looking full bodies. Not one to use more than 18 decoys during the early season, Tuttle said he’ll put one family group right by where he’s sitting but the rest go far away.



            Use realistic flyers: Flagging is a tried and true tactic, but as the birds close in you need to stop and invariably give yourself up to the geese. The “Goose
Tree” is a product that lets you have three flying decoys in the air that look like landing geese. Not only does it bring more visibility to your spread from the air, it also works so well that geese will land right behind the tree.

            “From the birds-eye perspective of a goose it’s a realistic looking set-up that draws them in tight so you can take up-close shots,” said Goose Tree creator Larry Juhl.

            Smart scouting: This wouldn’t be a goose article without talking about scouting but the key here is smart scouting. “Don’t just find the fields those birds are landing in, watch how they approach, see how they move once they land there, watch for other groups to join them,” Tuttle said.

             If you can mimic what’s naturally taking place each day you can vastly improve your success in that field.

            Watch the weather: Pay attention to the forecast regarding wind direction and intensity so you set up your spread properly and are aware of forecasted changing conditions.

            On a more personal note, pay attention to the forecasted temperature. Early season goose hunting can involve frost, but more often than not it involves sunburn and sweat. Dress accordingly, pack sunscreen and bug spray and keep yourself (and your dogs) hydrated.

            Put the sun at your back: Use it to help conceal yourself. Always play the wind, but position yourself so that you can utilize the sun to your advantage rather than the other way around.

            Look for water: Bryan “Beef” Sathre of Fathead Guide Service said he loves a field with water nearby for the geese to use as a loafing pond. “I’m not talking about the roost. I mean an honest to goodness pond or flooded portion of the field that the geese will feel comfortable utilizing. It’s amazing how much more productive fields are with some water,” he said.

            Be sure to take along a few floating decoys and place them in the water for added confidence. Even if you aren’t hunting the edge of the pond, a few “loafing” birds will give incoming geese a total sense of security.

            Pack a cooler: Keep water in it for the hunt but then be ready to put your field-dressed birds inside later on. Much like you use a cooler for transporting fish in the summer, consider a cooler for your goose meat.

            “So often guys are used to putting their daily bag in the back of the truck and driving home. If you have a long drive, your meat will lose its freshness and possibly even spoil,” Sathre said.

            Concealment is critical: Some hunters dress casually in the early season but Tuttle always holds true to his finest warm weather camouflage clothing.


            This is true of your hunting blind as well. That new blind looks pretty but its an eyesore from the sky. Be sure to properly mud it to get rid of the glare. Be sure to also use as much surrounding natural vegetation as possible to hide that blind.



            Practice makes perfect: This means: getting your calling skills back to true form ahead of time; making sure your gun is clean; putting several boxes of shells through it before your hunt; and, review your checklist. 

            It’s probably been at least several months since you last hunted so take the time to make sure everything is ready to go. In a lot of cases, it’s better to stay home that opening weekend than hit the field and becoming frustrated.

            Hold the roost sacred: Shooting the roost ruins your hunt, not to mention the hunt of many others in your area.

            Check the checklist: If you don’t have a checklist then its time to make one. A truly effective checklist takes time to create and perfect so plan on starting this season. Include such things as visiting the sporting clays range, cleaning your gun and practicing your calling besides just gear essentials.

            Get a notebook: Keep detailed records of your hunt and its very interesting the trends you’ll notice over the years. Details like date, location, hunters, weather conditions, the birds you saw, the birds you shot, how they came in, and a sketch of the spread you use—having all that information will let you analyze your hunts and become a better waterfowler.   



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