By Steve Weisman
Just this past week, my son and I spent a couple of days fishing for bluegills in West Okoboji. Even though we had been getting our share of slot walleyes on Big Spirit, we both yearned for something different. Plus, this time of year the gills usually move out off of the deep weedlines, sometimes even suspending in large schools out in deeper water.
So, our first day was going to be one of exploration. John Grosvenor (JTG Expeditions), who spends several days a week guiding on West Okoboji, gave me a few spots to start.
So, on Day 1, Curt and I hit the water armed with two lure choices based on Grosvenor’s recent fishing trips: Shuck’s Little Jiggers tipped with Belgium worms and a slip bobber and plain hook tipped with a leech.
However, we also learned that the gills were more scattered than usual and that we would probably have to move around several times. Our plan was to hit a number of deep weedlines (17-20’ of water) in Emerson Bay, Millers Bay, Hayward’s Bay and at the north end. So, we would spend 15-20 minutes in a spot just trying to get a successful pattern started. Each place produced some nice gills up to 9”, but not a lot. Just a few here and a few there, along with a few perch and several nice largemouth and smallmouth bass up to 17 inches.
About mid-morning we set up on a deep weedline in Hayward’s Bay. It was actually Curt’s choice, since it was his boat. At this certain spot, Curt found a nice bunch of deep weeds and what appeared to be some gills.
It was a case of right place, right time. A few yards one way or another and what would happen probably never would have happened.
First, a gill here and a bass there…then one of Curt’s slip bobber rigs tipped with a leech went under, and Curt set the hook.
Right away the rod bent under a heavy weight. Curt looked at me and said, “This is a good fish, but it isn’t a gill.”
So, as Curt played the fish, we went through the process…smallmouth bass? Largemouth bass? Sheephead? Northern pike or musky?
In response, Curt shook his head, “All I know is-it’s big.” Big enough that he did not rely on the drag, but back reeled the heavy fish as it stayed down, grudgingly moving closer to the surface.
We peered down trying to be the first to see what it was. After nearly 10 minutes, we caught our first glimpse: a huge walleye. What a beauty, but after the first sight, down she went, Curt backreeling to keep just the right amount of pressure.
Up she came a second time just a few feet from the boat, but then down she went again. Finally, the third time, she came to the surface, but just as Curt moved her toward the waiting net, she rolled and slipped just past the net.
I re-set the net, and the second time was the charm. What a beauty, a beautiful gold color and obviously a healthy, healthy fish.
Curt took a quick measurement, and I snapped two quick photos, and Curt had her back in the water, but she was strong and with a flip of her tail, she was gone!
Oh, her length? Well, just over 28”! Right place, right time. A few yards any other direction, and Curt might never have had the chance to catch the trophy fish!
Two days later, Curt and I went again, also taking along a former teacher and friend of mine, Bill Elling. No, we did not catch any walleyes, no trophy fish. Oh, but we caught our bluegills. In less than five hours we kept over 60 gills, perch and yellow bass, and we threw back another 20 or 30 or so. We found a deep weedline (18’) on the north end of West Okoboji and only moved three or four times along the weedline.
The Shuck’s Little Jigger tipped with a Belgian worm worked the best.
One of the things this shows is the more you can go fishing, the better chance there is of having success.
For us, both days turned out to be successful, and I think it a lot of it had to do with right place, right time.