A day to sit in a boat to, well, to talk, catch up and fish smallmouth bass on the Kankakee River

A morning fishing with Matt Mullady on the Kankakee River was good for catching smallmouth bass on topwaters (and other ways), to listen to and watch the birds and to catch up on family and life.

SHARE A day to sit in a boat to, well, to talk, catch up and fish smallmouth bass on the Kankakee River
The first good smallmouth bass by Dale Bowman in dense fog that started a good morning of fishing the Kankakee River with Matt Mullady.

The first good smallmouth bass by Dale Bowman in dense fog that started a good morning of fishing the Kankakee River with Matt Mullady.

Matt Mullady

KANKAKEE — Some days are meant to sit in a boat, discussing life and family, spottng a bald eagle, listening to Baltimore orioles, and watching the Kankakee River flow. And fishing.

I had that Thursday with Matt Mullady.

My first smallmouth bass came within a couple casts in dense fog.

“When that sun comes out, the party is over,” Mullady said.

Instead, unbelievably, at all five pools I caught smallmouth on topwater, including the best (18 1/2 inches) just before noon in full sun.

After leaving Bird Park, at the first pool, Mullady switched my Skitter-Pop to a bigger Chug Bug. I noticed he didn’t use a Palomar knot, instead a double improved clinch knot.

“That way I don’t have to put all those hooks through,” he explained.

After my first cast, Mullady suggested an adjustment.

“As Leo Pachner told me, `Never be afraid to chug and pause. It’s not a rip and twist, it’s a subtle chug,’ “ Mullady said.

The Hall-of-Famer Pachner was notable for fishing products, including “The Minnow Saver Hook.”

We fished each pool until the fish quit chasing. I’ll fish topwaters until I can’t. Mullady experimented more, using a ThunderStick, Chug Bug, fluke, homemade topwater and hand-tied white streamer.

At our second pool, he said, “I turn off the outboard when I approach these pools, then use my trolling motor and put down the anchor quietly. These fish will spook.”

Even after the fog burned off, fish remained active.

When one spectacularly missed, Mullady said, “If you slowed that down to slow-mo, you would see that it whacked at it with its tail, like dolphins do mullet to stun them.”

Matt Mullady boats a smallmouth bass he caught on the Kankakee River in full sun on his own hand-tied white streamer. Credit: Dale Bowman

Matt Mullady boats a smallmouth bass he caught on the Kankakee River in full sun on his own hand-tied white streamer.

Dale Bowman

When Mullady moved us to full sun, I caught my biggest smallmouth of the day. Even better was Mullady backhanding a cast with his fly rod under shoreline branches, then boating a good smallmouth.

“My day is made,” he said. “I put it in there where I wanted, and I was rewarded. And on my own fly.”

His artistic side—lure making, fly tying and now nature artwork—struck me.

“I’ve gotten into art, especially since the pandemic,” he said. “As a kid, on rainy days, I had a sketchpad for something to do. It has helped me in my painting business, too.”

It was time.

We hit one more spot and caught two to total 14 on the morning.

Mullady no longer guides, but he may be reached at (815) 932-6507.

STRAY CAST

Johnny Cueto pitching is like a buck steelhead navigating a high rapids.

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