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Younger man leading an older: Chasing smallmouth on Lake Michigan

Bobby Bergren holds one of the 4-pound smallmouth bass caught Friday on an outing on Indiana waters of Lake Michigan.
Credit: Dale Bowman

PORTAGE, Ind. — I once told Bobby Bergren he had an old soul and meant it.

In real life, though, he’s a true 20-something. It showed Friday, when he patiently explained the Fitbit on one fishing rod and the ANGLR app on his cellphone.

But some things — such as boating a dozen smallmouth bass, including some 4 pounds and heavier, on southern Lake Michigan — are ageless.

We left Portage Public Marina (because East Chicago Marina is closed) around 6:30 a.m. Bergren motored west to Lake Street, north of U.S. Steel and east of Gary Light.

‘‘Lake Street is a great place to start fishing Lake Michigan,’’ Bergren said.

The anomaly of the good fishing for smallmouth bass and the industrial shoreline of Indiana on Lake Michigan.
Credit: Dale Bowman

As we pulled in, Ryan ‘‘Ski’’ Kwiecinski, another young rising member in fishing, called us over to see a 5-pound-plus smallmouth.

It was delightfully bittersweet.

Bergren is the greatest young tackle guru I know. He started us at a numbers spot so I could get the feel of a new swimbait, the 2.8-inch Jackall Rhythm Wave. It should be in some local shops shortly. He puts them on sixteenth-ounce Owner ball head jigs.

‘‘Just reel in real slow, as slow as possible,’’ Bergren said. ‘‘It’s one of my favorite ways to catch them out here, nice and easy. I love to feel the bottom, then that hit.’’

He had a hit and catch on the first cast. I had mine within 10 minutes.

‘‘Nice to get the cadence down, creeping and crawling, feeling the bottom,” Bergren said.

For working them, Bergren uses 6-pound Seaguar fluorocarbon or 12-pound braided line (PowerPro) with a fluorocarbon leader on a medium0action G. Loomis NRX 7-6 rod.

That’s the tech side.

Once I had working the bait down, Bergren moved to where he really wanted to fish.

The water was 54 degrees and clear when we started, but it stirred up as the winds shifted and blew. The winds shifted from east-northeast to due north, then south at another point. Windblown points were by far the most productive.

Bobby Bergren holds one of the keeper-sized smallmouth bass before release Friday on the Indiana waters of Lake Michigan.
Credit: Dale Bowman

I caught the first keeper (2 1/2 pounds) of the morning working the drop off a point. At 10:15 a.m., Bergren boated the first good one of 3 1/4 pounds. Less than an hour later, he caught the first 4-pounder.

‘‘You can catch them out here, but you have to work for them,” Bergren said.

As we moved to one of the tougher-to-fish community spots to end the day, we boated — and also lost — a couple of truly big smallmouth.

It was time.

A 15- to 20-pound snapping turtle paddled around as we idled in. I tried to divine meaning from it but couldn’t.

Portage Marina ($10 launch fee) is at 1200 Marina Way, north of the Route 249 exit from Interstate 94.

The next full moon is next Wednesday.

IHSA bass fishing

Illinois’ innovation in fishing competition reaches its ninth year. Sectionals for IHSA bass fishing are scheduled for Friday. Area sites are Braidwood Lake, Busse (Main and South), Chain O’Lakes, Des Plaines River (Big Basin), Heidecke Lake, Lake Holiday, Shabbona Lake and Skokie Lagoons.

Stray cast

2017 White Sox? Catching a 28-inch walleye at the mouth of 31st Street Harbor. 2017 Cubs? Catching a 15-inch yellow perch at the back of Belmont Harbor.

Follow me on Twitter @BowmanOutside.


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