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Largemouth bass to Tolkien: Lighting up fishing after-hours

Dave Holmquist checks out one of the largemouth bass caught last weekend while night fishing.
Dale Bowman/Sun-Times

Dave Holmquist and Ryan Baranowski tossed around “Murder House,” “Disco Dock,” “Mud Lake,” “Bay of Giants” and “Football Bay” as we pushed off last weekend for night fishing of largemouth bass.

The stories were as good as the names. I could feel myself relax and settle in. Guys who name fishing spots that well were going to be all right.

Night fishing is a pull on the unknown, and often means bigger more aggressive fish. Holmquist has it down to a science.

I love night fishing, but rarely do it. When Holmquist suggested I come along on a night outing when the bite kicked in, I was in. Last week he emailed that it was time.

“We’ll be fishing my equivalent to Mercury Marine’s Lake X,” he emailed.

Lake X was the legendary Florida lake where Mercury tested marine products.

Sounded good to me and I dug out my headlamp. Holmquist wanted to meet with an hour of daylight so we could go over the ABC’s of what he likes to do at night.

“This outing is to show the power of bladed jigs at night, so even though we do use other baits, I don’t think we’ll need to use anything else and we won’t have time to slow down and pick apart structure with jigs and worms,” he emailed.

He had two sets of black and blue Jack Hammer (3/4- and 1/2-ounce) with Strike King Rage tails ready for me to tie on. I had a box of black spinner baits, the traditional night-fishing bait, but Holmquist noted, correctly, his method was better. Spinner baits stayed in my trunk.

Dave Holmquist explaining his lure choices in the daylight before a night outing last weekend.<br>Dale Bowman/Sun-Times
Dave Holmquist explaining his lure choices in the daylight before a night outing last weekend.
Dale Bowman/Sun-Times

“If there is a bite at all at night, this is it,” he said. He uses a wire leader all the time on 30- to 60-pound braided line.

The wire leader is partially because of northern pike and tiger muskies, but mainly because of the expense of the lures (more than $20 each). That’s why he ties his wire leader on with a double Palomar knot.

Holmquist gave me a 3/4-ounce lure to tie on my main rod with a 1/2-ounce on a lighter rod.

“How often do you hear of a 1/2-ounce being light,” Baranowski quipped.

“When fishing shallow, I will go to a 1/2, 3/8th once the weeds come up,” Holmquist said.

He’s serious about upsizing,

One reason for favoring this presentation at night is simple, “Bladed jigs are noisy.”

He had the night bite down to three main bites. First was the rod-ripper.

There was the pressure wave, which is when the fish comes up behind but doesn’t hit. “Just keep going, they will either hit or they won’t,” Yoda Holmquist said.

The kill is when fish come up and smack the lure. “These will almost always come back and get it,” he said. “Big baits, they hit it to kill it.”

In another Yoda move, Holmquist said, “If there are short hits, upsize the size of the trailers.” And he means upsize. He had upsized baits bigger than some muskie baits I’ve used.

“Night casting, you don’t have to be super specific,” he said. “Get it close, within four feet. They will come out after it if they are feeding.”

With that, we loaded the boat at dusk and Baranowski pushed us off.

“It turns on at night, there is less pressure and they come out to play,” Holmquist said. “That’s what I am hoping for tonight.”

Baranowski got us started at with a couple quick largemouth. As we moved, Baranowski kept his bait in the water and Holmquist said, “Another trick is to troll between spots.”

My rough count was that we caught four or five and missed that many trolling between spots.

We stuck with our basic blue and black baits the whole night. I caught my first while hints of light hung in the air. It was not a rod-ripper, but a loading up of the rod. As night thickened, we picked off largemouth. Baranowski and I had the only double of the night. “Mud Lake” was the most productive stop of the night.

Ryan Baranowski (left) and Dale Bowman show off a double catch of largemouth bass on a night outing last weekend.<br>Provided by Dave Holmquist
Ryan Baranowski (left) and Dale Bowman show off a double catch of largemouth bass on a night outing last weekend.
Provided by Dave Holmquist

At midnight, after working the “Northern Ledge,” they dropped me off.

It was time. At least for me.

We boated two dozen bass in four hours, most around 2 1/2 pounds with a couple over 3 pounds. They went back out and caught several dozen, best going 4.03 pounds, in the light at “Palm Bay” (my contribution for their naming) and “Disco Dock.”

A few days later, Holmquist texted, “Idk if you’re a Tolkien fan but regarding the Jack Hammer, I’ve said this before, `One bait to rule them all, one bait to find them, one bait to bring them all. . . and in the darkness bind them.’

“Yeah, I’m a nerd.”

And a night-fishing master.

A bass jumping out of the water on a night outing last weekend.<br>Dale Bowman/Sun-Times
A bass jumping out of the water on a night outing last weekend.
Dale Bowman/Sun-Times