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Blood on the rod, joy of bass, quixotic quests: Braidwood opener

Before releasing the second biggest bass of opening day at Braidwood Lake, I took a selfie and thought, ``Girl, we look good together.''
Credit: Dale Bowman

At one point Wednesday morning, I looked down and saw blood splattered on the rod butt. My blood. Not sure if it was from a hook nicking my thumb or a slicing pass by a fin or a gill plate.

But all of a sudden I was channeling Muddy Waters from “Mannish Boy,” (lyrics via azlyrics.com)

But now I’m a man, way past 21
Want you to believe me baby,
I had lot’s of fun
I’m a man
I spell mmm, aaa child, nnn
That represents man
No B, O child, Y
That mean mannish boy
I’m a man
I’m a full grown man

Actually, a morning like Wednesday made me think I am more B-O-Y than M-A-N.

Corey Greenan had three largemouth bass caught in the first 15 minutes of fishing Braidwood Lake on opening day. Credit: Dale Bowman

Corey Greenan had three largemouth bass caught in the first 15 minutes of fishing Braidwood Lake on opening day.
Credit: Dale Bowman

Some days, you just get the feeling from the git-go that it was going to be a good day. I had that on opening day at Braidwood Lake, the cooling lake in southwestern Will County.

As I walked out from the parking lot, Corey Greenan (right) of Diamond landed a decent largemouth bass on the parking lot point. He had caught three in the first 15 minutes on lipless crankbaits and was justly proud.

I walked in just far enough to be out of casting range of him and fired a long cast with a topwater popper. Second cast, baby, second cast, no-doubt-about-it slam by a largemouth and I had my first topwater bass of the year.

I love quixotic quests. And that fulfilled one of the two I had for day on the second cast. Caught my first topwater bass of the year.

Yes sir.

My plan for the day was to focus on bass on southwest corner of Braidwood, opening with topwater casts, then following up with a ChatterBait. I was man with a plan. And it worked.

Second bass came on the ChatterBait. Third bass, a good one, came on the popper again.

That one I decided to do the selfie at the top with the iconic slag heap hill in the background.

For some reason, I channeled Ariana Grande in the T-Mobile “Road Trip” commercial and thought while taking the selfie, “Girl, we look good together.” Then I released her, the bass.

If you’re wondering why I ran a selfie with the second biggest bass instead of the biggest, the answer is simple. The bass were so aggressive they hooked themselves. And the biggest one engulfed the ChatterBait so deep, I was more concerned with getting her unhooked and released than with taking a photo.

braidwood03-01-17brianpentecostSo I had three bass in my first half hour and was feeling pretty pleased with myself.

Then I bumped into Brian Pentecost (left). All he had done was catch 14 in the first hour on ChatterBaits. That included a couple big bass.

He sent a photo and said he caught a few more before he had to leave.

How aggressive were the bass? Let me tell you. I am no pro fishermen, but I went 6-for-6 in the first three hours of fishing.

The wind built to what our youngest kid would call “Savage.” That wind drove a light rain.

The wind also kept the south ramp closed. But the more protected north ramp was open and some of the boaters tested themselves and their boats by driving to the warmer water of the south end. One boater told me he had 67 degrees.

Speaking of kids, my hero for the day was the dad who allowed his little kid to bag school to go out opening day. In my world view, that’s bringing them up right. Yes, I do as a matter of fact thing a day spent fishing with your dad on opening day is more educational in the long run than anything learned in a day of school.

I digress.

I kept walking after I passed them and completed my second quixotic quest and reached the farthest point open to shore fisherman, a little more than 1.5 miles from the parking lot, by 8 a.m.

Still life scene at the farthest point, 1.5 miles or so, for shore fisherman on the western riprap at Braidwood Lake on opening day. Credit: Dale Bowman

Still life scene at the farthest point, 1.5 miles or so, for shore fisherman on the western riprap at Braidwood Lake on opening day.
Credit: Dale Bowman

I don’t know why that matters to me, but I think once again I was the first to reach the fence and sign.

Usually, I pick off a few bass there. But not this year.

In fact, one odd thing this year is that the bass were much more stacked on the south riprap where the building winds were piling on shore and not nearly so active in the calmer area by the riprap on the western shore.

Fishing was good enough that I didn’t pay as much attention as usual to the tangential stuff. But I did notice the usual bunch of red-winged blackbirds. The bonus for the day was a flock of American white pelicans coasting around by the iconic slag heap hill on the south end of the lake.

Coming back, I made the good call to walk hard down the western shore so I could focus on fishing the southern riprap where the wind was driving the water, setting up a classic wind-blown shoreline fishing scenario.

It was a right call. I picked up a couple more bass on the return.

I took half an hour to warm up in the family van with coffee and a perfect cold-weather sandwich of leftover meatloaf topped with leftover thick-cut bacon. I spell M-A-N.

The guy parked beside me said they had picked up some hybrid striped bass by the launch area. Another guy walking out said he caught a good hybrid to go with a big largemouth he caught in the opening few minutes.

My plan was to switch and fish for bluegill. But the savage wind toyed with the light line and jigs so much that I conceded after about five casts.

Instead, I made a short drive south to check in with Jon Meder at Jon’s Bait & Tackle–(815) 237-2822–in East Brooklyn or South Wilmington, depending how you call it. I needed to buy some wax worms if I was going to try for bluegill on the north end (cold side) of Braidwood. BTW, Meder runs a 22-inch bass contest that has not been won in several years.

But that plan was changed by real life.

In the savage wind, I did not hear my phone. When I checked it there was a call from the youngest’s school. He had messed up his wrist in gym and I needed to get there to check him out.

It was time.

Whether I wanted it to be or not. So I did not get to fish the north side for bluegill. Gives me a good excuse to go another day. Glorious day all the same.

Braidwood is open daily, 6 a.m. to sunset, currently 6 p.m.

BTW, fossil hunting also opened up today, March 1, at Mazonia/Braidwood State Fish and Wildlife Area.