So I’ve got these sweet new polarized sunglasses that come with foam-lined snap-in goggles. The insert is supposed to help prevent bass anglers from tearing up when they go tearing across the lake in their sleek, sparkly boats.
Since I planned to go tearing across a lake in a sleek, sparkly bass boat and didn’t want to be a runny-eyed wuss in front of a guy I was fishing with for the first time, I packed the shades with all my other gear last Friday night. But when I got to Western Washington’s Lake Tapps the next morning, there was no sign of them in my backpack.
MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND DAWNS BRIGHT AT LAKE TAPPS. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)
I checked all three of the pack’s pockets twice too.
Nothing, just a couple notebooks, an old issue of F&H News, some camera batteries, and the goggle part of the outfit. It was in the sunglasses case, where the sunglasses should have been, but weren’t.
And without the sunglasses, the goggles were as useful for preventing tears as an open screen door is at keeping flies out of the house.
And really, it didn’t matter, I was about to cry anyways. The morning had been a cluster from the get-to-the-lake-go.
If bass pro Randy Leininger hadn’t had to park his rig so far from the boat ramp, we probably could have gone back and grabbed his spare pair, the one he keeps for his nephews. But if you use the Allan Yorke Park launch – say, because you showed up at the north end park’s ramp at 5:30 a.m. and discovered the sign at the gate there says it doesn’t open for another “two hours” – you have to park your rig and trailer like 33 miles (or two city blocks) away.
And then there’s figuring out the launch codes at AYP. The two lanes are blocked by thick, 3-foot-tall yellow metal posts. You can’t lift them out, I didn’t think Leininger had a chain to pull them out, and nor can you snake your trailer around them. They only go down if you feed a machine your credit or debit card. If you’re coming here for the first time, hopefully a local pulls up to the ramp and explains this to you before things turn violent. That was our case.
So after spending 45 minutes worth of fishing time driving from the north end to AYP (note to Bonney Lake/Pierce County: Signs to the parks might help) and burning $8.50 JUST to put in, we weren’t in any mood to dilly dally over missing sunglasses. So I apologize, Mark Fisher at Wiley X, who set me up with the Blinks, I am unable to write a single thing about their tear-preventing properties.
Instead, I hunkered behind the windshield as Leininger, a 37-year-old fire-protection-systems salesmen by weekday, blasted out of the launch and then passed a slightly slower bass boat that had left the dock about half a minute ahead of us. They’d given us a report that cranks were working in the clearer water, plastics in the murky stuff. The gent driving said he’d caught eight over half a day of fishing.
BLASTING ACROSS TAPPS AT NEXT TO FULL SPEED. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)
Screw sleds, this is the way to roll. It took us less than five minutes to get from one end of the lake to other. Leininger estimated we were going 60 miles an hour on the glass-smooth water before pulling up on a point opposite the north ramp.
And he must have moved about as fast from the driver’s seat to the seven rods lashed to the deck. I don’t think I even got the spinnerbait I was going to try off my rod’s eyelet before he reeled in the first bass of the day.
Then again, this was a hot spot, according to the map marked up by local bass angler Todd Rock of Auburn Sports & Marine (253-833-1440) that appears in our May issue.
It didn’t take too many more casts with a spinnerbait before I was reaching for what Leininger was using, a jig of his own devising. Without getting too specific – he wants to keep some of his tricks to himself – it’s a leadhead that mimics a crawdad. He paints and ties up the jigs himself, then tags on the pincher end of a 4-inch Yamamoto craw in 176. Cast it out, let it hit bottom then drag/hop it back to the boat.
Speaking of boats, we were both chagrined to see that well before 7:30, rigs were pulling up and dumping in at the north launch.
Never mind, never mind, just concentrate on the fishing, I thought.
We quickly discovered that the smallmouth were holding on the west sides of north-pointing points. When we got too deep into coves or started picking up weeds with our lures, the bite turned off. Perhaps it was due to the slightly murkier waters in the back ends, or perhaps simply depth, but when we didn’t have dropoffs to deeper water nearby, fishing was slow.
From time to time we switched to crankbaits, spinnerbaits or drop-shots with minnows or worms and worked them off the rocky bottom structure, but nothing could match Leininger’s hand-tied jigs.
A diehard basser (his young son’s middle name is Banks, as in Banks Lake, and his daughter’s name is Marina as in, well, you know), he tells me he perfected the jigs in an aunt’s swimming pool, watching how they sat on bottom to get the design right. Right now, he’s giving them away, but in the back of his mind is the possibility of selling them. It wouldn’t be the first time: A few years back, he created and sold a jig for pink salmon anglers on the Duwamish River.
As the sun climbed higher through midmorning, we began to get as many bites by fishing the mainlake side of the boat as the shoreline side.
Truth be known, none of the bass were very big; they ranged in size from dinks to a bit under 2 pounds. But Leininger’s a big-bass catcher, winning a March tournament on Silver Lake in Cowlitz County, Wash., with a near-8-pound largemouth. He’s also been doing well on Lake Washington and Lake Union; you’ll see his tips for the latter in our June issue.
We also caught several rock bass, and Leininger had a big tiger musky follow a decent-sized smallie back to the boat. He also hooked one of the footlong mini muskies Mark Wells of the Cascade Musky Association and WDFW recently planted.
MT. RAINIER LOOMS BEHIND A DROWNED FOREST AS BASS ANGLER RANDY LEININGER WORKS A JIG BACK TO THE BOAT. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)
We called it a day a bit after noon, a successful outing, save for the hassles first thing in the morning.
If, by some miracle of god, you have plodded through all this blather to the end of my story, you may be interested to know that those damned sunglasses WERE in my backpack the whole time.
I found them in the front pocket when I got home.