An impending cold front, 12 hours away, added a sense of urgency but also a touch of optimism. I usually do well shortly before a strong cold snap, so I had reason to be excited. With high hopes, new dad Justin Mayer and I followed Forrest to the lake he grew up fishing. Unfortunately, after four hours - even with signs of promise - we were facing the dreaded skunk. Shortly before Justin had to get back to his newly-acquired parental responsibilities, Forrest found a massive school of 6"-10" crappie in less than two feet of water. Our attempts at getting them to bite were futile, and we ended up snagging a few as our lures grazed their backs.
We got off the water, and after Forrest shared some great fishing stories about that lake, Justin took off. Phase Two of my day was initiated, and I found myself following Forrest to another lake in Yorktown. Within a few minutes of launching, he was showing me how it was done.
I absorbed the knowledge he was generously sharing, and it didn't take me long before I got into an altercation with an aggressive pickerel of my own.
Giddy after my chain pickerel initiation, I expressed my sincerest gratitude, appreciation, and admiration toward my guide. I always enjoy locating fish on my own, but it was still very sweet to catch a new species with the help of a friend. Thank you again, Forrest.
Over the next 4.5 hours, we worked our crankbaits in 4’-8’ of stained water and continued to have ourselves an excellent time. We landed well over 20 fish, with several largemouth bass in the mix.
One of the highlights for the day included a chubby 21" bucketmouth that went a hair over 6.5 lbs on my VAC-certified scales. It tied a personal best I set over seven years ago. The other highlight was a feisty, acrobatic, and very pretty 23" chain pickerel pictured up top as the main article image.
I also met fellow Hook1 prostaffer Marty Mood, and a relative newcomer to the area from Wisconsin, Richie Bekolay. They were off to a late start, but quickly got into the fish. Richie also had a really nice 21.25" bucket.
I stuck around a little later than Forrest, but just before I thought about leaving, I got a call. Apparently the cold front was closer than we thought. Forrest called to make sure we were on our way in because, "It was lookin' like Armageddon…" As I hung up, it started raining. Then the wind machine went to full blast. Within a couple minutes of paddling, we were being pelted by frozen rain, and a few minutes after that our kayaks had a layer of snow on them. Luckily we weren't too far from where we launched. I tried to get footage and photos of the madness, but moisture on the lenses made the shots unrecognizable. As we begged our fingers to finish strapping the kayaks, big fat snowflakes caked our cars, then thunder clapped just above our heads. The three of us looked at each other, and then laughed in disbelief. It quickly went from nice light winds to full-on thunder snowstorm insanity.
What a day! I got to fish with an angler whom I have great respect for. I tried two new places. I tied a personal best bucketmouth that was just an inch short of citation. Not only did I catch the new species I was after, but lots of them - and one of those was just an inch shy of citation, too. At the end, I actually enjoyed what felt like a joke from Mother Nature. It was as if she was saying...