Ever wonder what a tournament angler with over 50 career wins thinks about when not under the pressure of competitive fishing? For Okuma Pro-Staff member Joel St. Germain, it’s still fishing. Always looking to learn and to glean new information for sure, his approach shifts and focus widens, taking in many more of the simple pleasures fishing offers. We loved this article and wanted to pass it on. To judge a day simply by numbers of fish is to miss out on much of the available experience. Please enjoy!
Everyone says they love to go fishing, right? For most of us, there’s not much we’d rather do than launch boat and spend a day or part of a day with our friends, chunkin’ and windin’.
But there’s another breed, another level, of fisherman. These are the folks who go fishing whenever they can, and I mean whenever. The only reason these people look at the weather report is to just make sure it’s physically possible to launch the boat. Wind, rain, cold, ice – these are just variables, not obstacles to going fishing.
I can tell you, I have had some of my best days fishing in the winter. Being from New England, we’re used to bad weather. In New England, the winters are bone-chilling cold. By late November, most of the days are in the 20’s overnight, with daytime highs in the 40’s. We get a lot of wind, and the wind chill factor brings it down to the teens some days.
As a result, around here, tournaments end in late October. After that, the weather is just too unpredictable. On the other hand, for me I’m just settling into my next season and keeping my Okuma gear in my hands! I’m a firm believer the time I spend on the water in the winter will really help me hone my skills. Plus, it’s a lot of fun.
My favorite style of fishing is for deep smallmouth that pile up on humps and points in 30 feet of water. When we do this, I throw a drop shot or spoon. Both work, and both will catch fish after fish even when the water is in the low 40’s.
Many people ask….How do you catch them when the air is in the 20’s and 30’s and the water is around 42 or 44 degrees? I’m a firm believer… the key is finding the bait. You have to find the schools of white or yellow perch. The fish won’t be too far away. The water down at 30 feet is cold, probably even colder than the surface, but it’s always cold down there. Even in the summer, the water down there is in the mid-60’s, so for the fish, it’s not a huge change.
You have to fish slowly too. I spent many hours over the years working on mastering the art of spoon jigging, working it in small, tiny hops. Most guys yank on it like they’re jigging Cod. You have to just move it in tiny twitches, letting it flutter down. The fish usually grab it on the drop. Sharp hooks are a key too. You need to have the best hooks you can for this kind of fishing.
When fishing with a close friend “Jim”, we always have our rituals – we tell stories of the year past, talk about what trails we’re going to be fishing in the upcoming year, and exchange holiday greetings to pass on to each others families.
This past year I’ve had some fun memories fishing with Jim. For me, last year I caught my biggest smallmouth ever on December 20th and on the same day caught almost 50 fish in a half day, literally one after the other. At times, we had doubles and triples. Some were small, some were big, and some were just yellow perch. But it was fishing, and laughing, and a break from work, family, and responsibilities.
We learn a lot doing this, but there’s more to it than just putting in “time on the water.” For me, I just enjoy the fishing, with no pressure to find fish for a tournament, or put together a pattern. All too soon another tournament year will begin and I’ll be fishing my way back to the Bassmasters classic, looking for one more bite to seal a solid finish.
But for now, I’m just fishing… this is the way I like to think of it…..
“We are one day closer to spring!”