Wind Swept

A Northeast wind bore down the river like a freight train, but we found the bass despite it—two fishing fools in a boat that shouldn’t have been out there.

This 3-pound smallmouth was ample reward.

This 3-pound smallmouth took aggressively under adverse water conditions because we were in the right place.

When the owner of Fish-N-Fool Lures called me mid-morning to see if I wanted to fish with him, I couldn’t say no. I’d attended one of his seminars in Spokane at a General Store sport shop a couple of nights before. I was primed, impressed with rich notes from listening to an innovative thinker. In my opinion, Rick Lawrence fishes well-outside the normal paradigm of accepted techniques. So I said “yes” and was on the road by noon to meet him an hour later.

We knew weather conditions were less than favorable, but we’re persistent fishermen. A hefty Northeast wind, not common in the Panhandle of North Idaho, had blown in over night carrying weatherman predictions of 25-mile-an-hour strength. Holding a boat steady in rippling currents with an electric motor under that kind of wind could prove impossible, but we had to try. We hoped for shoreline pockets where the wind would have less control over our profile.

We had to work for these fish; let me tell you. In the spring of the year one of our favorite crankbaits is the medium diver Rebel Crawfish because the river system is loaded with spawning crayfish. Rick took a 15″ Westslope Cutthroat on that crankbait, and I took one smallmouth, a full pound of fighting flesh. Using pinched barbs, we released both. But the wind was fierce and the currents near the small town of Priest River were excessively strong as the gates at Albany Falls Dam west of us were open to prepare Pend Oreille Lake above for possible flood conditions.

Anybody in his right mind would pass up a day like that, but when Fish-N-Fool calls you, you don’t turn him down. We fished first a small private lake for largemouth bass, skip-casting beneath willows thinking the trees would protect us, but with only two small fish landed and few strikes, we left for the river hoping to find shelter from the wind along Pend Oreille River’s steeper banks.

A mile or so downstream from the boat launch at Priest River, we realized no part of the channel was free of that ghastly wind. Sand blew off the low-water beaches as if we were in the Saharah Desert. You had to whip your rod tip to cast into that wind. We shifted from crankbaits to tube jigs, him using Gitzit Tubeworms and me, my usual Strike King Tubeworms, favoring 1/2 ounce over 1/4 ounce in those conditions.

Fishing the current lines and eddies we found pockets of smallmouth in various places. Rick proved to be a master handler of his Minn Kota Maxxum 101 lb electric trolling motor and we needed every pound of it to hold us in the powerful blend of wind and run-off current.

By the end of 2 hours under severe conditions, we took 12 bass apiece for a 24-fish total catch, the largest being the one in the photograph posted here, roughly 3-pounds–all released. When you’re a Fish-N-Fool like Rick and me, there are no bad conditions. Some are just worse than others. There’s always a way to catch fish if you can figure it out. First you have to find them, then you have to offer something they’ll take. I like it that way, and so does Rick. You’ll read more about him in future postings on this blog.

All in all we had a good and memorable wind swept day. #