/ Opinions / A great day on the water with good results
To say it has been a weird year for fishing would be an understatement, as I believe I have said previously in this very column. The post spawn funk seemed to go on forever, and the water temperatures shot up to what I would consider a sustained unusual level on many lakes. It was just a strange spring and early summer. In the last few weeks, though, things seemed to level off and fish were a little more reliable.
I really hoped that was going to be the case going into the weekend, as the memorial tournament I hold every year for Rod, my late husband, was on Saturday, and I wanted anglers to have a good time. But more so I was looking forward to Sunday. One of the clubs I fish with, the Park City Bass Anglers, was having a club tournament on Mohawksin. That is probably my favorite body of water, although there are many close seconds.
Of course, I was hoping to do well in the tournament, but more than that, I would have guests that day, and I wanted to be sure they had fun, too. Toward the end of last year I was lucky enough to meet a young, aspiring angler named Nate Matuszewski. He loves hunting and fishing and all things outdoors. He makes his own lipless crank baits, he told me right off. Wow! Most adults I know do not have the attention span to do that. But at 12 years old, he has decided that is something he really likes to do.
I asked him if he wanted to fish the Mohawksin tournament with me. We would be taking off at 6 a.m. For most kids that age, getting up that early on a Sunday is not a “thing.” But Nate jumped at the chance. Not only did he jump at it, he asked if he dad, Joey, could come, too.
Normally, fishing three people out of a boat for a tournament is kind of a pain, but I was approaching this one a little differently anyway — with more of an attitude of having fun in the boat with a kid I admire and see as a friend in the fishing world, and less as a competitive day. Looking back, perhaps I should approach more tournaments that way, but more on that later.
I am not sure how Nate felt about the first ride down the lake. We left Sara Park in Tomahawk and headed down past the Hwy. 86 bridge. Now that is not a long run by any stretch, but for a kid who had never been in a boat in all his 12 years, I was not sure how he would take it.
“Are you going to start chumming?” his dad asked as the front end of the boat lift before hopping up on plane. The look on Nate’s face told me a lot about what he was feeling. His eyes were wide, but there was still a big smile on his face as he sat on the step to the front deck, facing the back of the boat. I told him to hang on to his hat before hitting the gas a little harder. I knew having his dad there with him made him more comfortable, and I was happy to have Joey along as well.
We slowed down to a no-wake speed for the Highway 86 bridge, which is customary with tournament anglers, although not required, where I killed the motor and jumped up on the front deck. Father and son commandeered the back deck and we were fishing. For a kid who had never fished from a boat before, I have to say there were really no mishaps, although he and his dad did get their lines tangled a time or two. I did ask him not to bring anything with treble hooks, and he complied.
Fishing was not hot and heavy, as it often is not, at least the places I normally fish. However, I do tend to catch good fish, even if they are not numerous all day long. The first two places we stopped produced one fish each for me, and I felt pretty good about the day.
We hooked into numerous northern pike, of course, as is customary for bass anglers. But, in that day, that was OK. It was fun. It was just fun to be with friends and to have some action on the water, no matter what was biting.
The duo had me cracking up most of the day, with banter back and forth. They would flick slime at each other from their lures when they pulled them out of the water, slap each other with vegetation — there was always something going on, but the love between father and son was always apparent, even in their banter.
“You know what sucks?” Nate asked once, messing with a bait on his hook.
“You?” Joey’s response came without a moment’s hesitation. Their comebacks were rapid fire all day and, at times, had me paying more attention to them than to my line in the water.
Both of the Matuszewski’s were able to get at least one bass to the boat during the day, which I was happy to see. I could not say how many fish we missed over the course of the day, or their size. An angler always wants to think the fish was so small it could only grab the tails of the bait, just to make ourselves feel better. But, in reality, some of them could very well have been three-pounders. The senior Matuszewski lost three fish in a row on a finesse set up, which can be easy to do in the excitement of it all. I remember telling him at that point that if I were to look up “consternation” in the dictionary, I would likely see a picture of the face he was making. Nate said he would look up the word when he got home and let me know.
With half an hour left, I sat with four fish in the box. They were decent fish, but I knew I would need a fifth to have any chance against the guys in the club. My biggest fish of the day came out of Lilly pads in just over two feet of water. That in itself was not strange. The fact that it was a smallmouth, though, had me shaking my head. It was probably the meanest fish I caught that day, as well, and put up a big fight on the way back to the boat.
We decided to fish a little stretch of vegetation, knowing most of our fish during the day came off of the outside weed edge. Just as I thought, “there’s no reason I can’t catch a fish in this little stretch,” a fish just about ripped the rod out of my hand. I expected a northern, as that is how they typically act. They attack and run, mostly straight under the boat that day. But I thought “what the heck,” it will be fun to see if there is any size to it. As I got it to the side of the boat, I realized it was my fifth smallie of the day. Nate’s eyes were wide once again as he saw it come up. He asked if I was going to net it or flip it, as I had boat flipped all of my fish that day.
“I don’t know, Man,” I told him. “I’m kind of freaking out.” We all started laughing, and I did flip it into the boat, attempting to slap him in the back with it — but he moved too quick. I told him he would have made a good backboard.
In the end I wound up with a 10.27 pound limit, but was beat out for first place by Andy Dassow of Medford, who had 14 pounds, as I remember it. But I did still “cash a check,” as they say. I was awarded $60 for my second place finish.
But that was not the award of the day. What made me really happy was to spend a day with a father and son who shared a love of fishing, and who stood shoulder to shoulder on the back deck of my boat, fishing and having a good time. Nothing can replace memories like that.