Stockade Lake has become a favorite target of mine since this past fall thanks to a good population of big bluegills, perch, pike, and bass. Since last ice season, however, I'd been trying to catch some of the bigger smallmouths there without any luck. I'm still learning how to fish for bass here in the Hills since up until last fall, I'd never really gone after them specifically. Trout and panfish have usually been my go-to species with walleye mixed in as well. So it's been a lot of trial and error which any fishermen can attest to when trying something new. There's also been plenty of YouTube and TV show watching and magazin
articles on the subject. And it's always great when the homework pays off.
With walleye and trout action in the Black Hills at a bit of a midsummer standstill thanks to the heat of the last few weeks, temperatures have returned to more normal highs now with early mornings in the high 50s, low 60s area. It has brought welcome relief from the high 90s we'd been experiencing since the beginning of July. My hope on my outing to Stockade this week was that the lower morning temps would bring the bass and pike into shallower water to warm themselves in the morning sun.
I was going to primarily use Northland Tackle Reed Runner Tandem spinnerbaits in 3/8 oz. as I could control their depth easier in the thick weeds that were blanketing the lake now. I would also employ wacky rigs using 3/16 oz. weedless jigs paired with Northland's 5" Impulse Dipstick plastics. I hadn't caught anything on wacky rigs yet, but I wasn't giving up on them. On my pontoon, I would position myself off of rock wall areas or along multiple weeds, drop anchor, then fish each area for a bit before moving on. At the second location, the spinnerbait struck pay dirt and I finally caught my first really good smallmouth! The fish was only in about five feet of water and crushed the
bait after a few seconds of reeling it back. After a few quick pictures, I got to watch this beautiful bronzeback swim away and I was ecstatic to have finally caught one of these extremely hard fighting fish of a good size! It was the only smallie I caught, but I wasn't complaining.
At the next spot, the spinnerbait didn't produce so I tossed in the wacky rig. I tried pitching it as close to the rock walls as I could, sometimes bouncing it off the wall. The depth dropped quick at these walls, going from 4' to 10+' in just crank or two. Letting the rig sink for a few seconds, then popping it up a couple of times, I would let it drop again for a two or three count before repeating the process. On my fourth cast, it had just starting sinking and wham! A big bass slammed it. I was a little shocked at first because, remember, I hadn't caught anything on this setup yet. But it was a great fight with a good sized largemouth and I was just glad to see the technique work for me. Nothing else would take the wacky the rest of the morning, but the Reed Runner would catch several more smaller largemouths before I left. It was a good morning for sure, especially since catches of fish have been very difficult over the last few weeks. Hopefully the return of more seasonal weather will continue to improve fishing in other areas, but I'll be back here soon for sure. A hard fighting bass is definitely a big pull!