BROOKLYN, Mich. - Water temperature 70 degrees on top, gentle southerly breeze riffling the surface in errant puffs, and on the limits of hearing is the muted roar of hopped-up NASCAR V-8s being pushed to the blowing point on test runs at MIS at Cambridge Junction.
Such are the ingredients for a late spring morning on a bass lake in southeast Michigan's Irish Hills.
Of course, a few largemouth looking for an angling joust don't hurt, either, just to make the fishing trip official.
For Marion Garber, a Temperance, Mich., bass master, and yours truly, the bass did not disappoint. We were on Evans Lake, on the Washtenaw/Lenawee county line along U.S. 12 at midweek, enjoying the conditions mentioned above. It was the way a bass trip should be.
About 30 largemouths, one to three pounds or so, constituted the main event. Not bad action for five hours of easy angling, especially with a rock bass and a northern pike or two thrown in, just for variety.
Sometimes you may tangle with a few slab-sided crappies or farmhand-sized bluegills as well. You never know.
This year is a mite mixed up, weatherwise, and it seems that at Evans at least the bass already are done spawning but the bluegills are still on the beds, guarding nests. Weed growth is not all that fast, either, which made for fun fishing in shallow water in the early morning hours.
Garber started by targeting three to five-feet depths with oncoming weed growth. Light spinning tackle and Smithwick Rattlin' Rogues - the floating models in black/silver or blue-silver, with and without orange bellies - were the tackle ticket. Good time. The master likes the Rogues, which run at one to three feet, on days when the surface is rippled. In dead calm he may play the wounded minnow act with floating Rapalas.
As the sun got higher and started to glare into shallows, however, the bass developed a decided distaste for hard plastics fished with the slow, wounded-minnow retrieve - slow winding with an occasional twitch of the rod-tip. It was time to fish the "breaks," where the shallows drop off into 10 to 16 feet of water with long-time reliable, four-inch Slider worms on 1/16-ounce Slider heads. Black color with hot pink or chartreuse tips attracted the most attention, and in the high sun Sliders were as productive as the Rogues in the early morning cool.
Marion Garber, a veteran bass fisherman from Temperance, Mich., hefts a largemouth bass hooked on Evans Lake in the Irish Hills, using a treble-hook-filled crankbait. A Rattlin' Rogue is a popular and successful bass crankbait.
Garber figures this kind of action will hold sway another week or so, depending on heat and weed-growth. As the weeds thicken and the water warms, he'll shift to Carolina-rigged purple Plow Jockeys to get down and dirty, using eighth-ounce egg sinkers. Or he'll cast tube jigs, again with eighth-ounce heads, and he'll make use of various spinnerbaits.
Evans Lake is among those in the Hills that have no public launch-ramp. But Evans Lake Resort on U.S. 12 near Tipton allows launching for a $10 fee. The number of "outside" boats allowed on the lake is limited, so it may pay to call ahead, 517-431-2233.
In addition to the ever popular largemouths and the aforementioned crappies and rockies, some lakes are stocked with walleye, such as Sand, which has a public ramp. Most lakes in the area also have northern pike - which you'll soon determine are present when a plastic worm gets bitten in half.
A few lakes, such as Sand, also have some smallmouth bass, and all have the run of popular panfish - redear, bluegill and other sunfish. Two of the Irish Hills lakes, Allens and Deep, are stocked with rainbow trout.
The heart of the Irish Hills lies in northwest Lenawee County, but it laps over into Jackson, Washtenaw, and Hillsdale counties as well. Most lakes are 60 to 90 minutes' drive from Toledo.
Some of the lakes with public ramps receive a lot of recreational boating traffic, including waterskiing and personal watercraft use, which can interfere with optimum fishing. Devils, Wamplers and Sand especially see a lot of traffic, so it may be better to try them during the week or start very early in the morning.
Following is a summary of some of the more highly regarded Irish Hills area lakes:
Wamplers: Just north of U.S. 12, east of M-50, public access from Hayes State Park; largemouth bass, some walleye, redear.
Sand: On Pentecost Highway between M-50 and U.S. 12; state ramp; largemouth, some smallmouth, walleye, some pike, crappies, bluegill.
Devils: Just south of U.S. 223, southeast of its junction with U.S. 127; bass, walleye, pike, bluegill, sunfish.
Allens: Part of the Killarney chain of lakes, south side of U.S. 12 two miles east of M-50; rainbow trout, bass.
Deep: Off Brix Highway, about 1 1/2 miles south of U.S. 12, just west of M-50; rainbow trout, bass, bluegill.
Vineyard: Along M-124 just east of M-50; fair numbers of bass, some walleye, good numbers of bluegill and sunfish,
Iron: On U.S. 12, just east of M-50; bass.
Two Brooklyn, Mich., area baitshops can provide current fishing reports. Knutson's, at M-50 and M-124, can be reached at 1-800-292-0857 from Michigan and 1-800-248-9318. Three Lakes Supply, on M-50 south of U.S. 12, can be reached at 517-467-2468.
The annual catfish tournament at Mary Jane Thurston State Park, west of Grand Rapids on State Rt. 65, is set for tomorrow from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Meet at the park's day-use area to register.
Prizes are offered for the largest bullhead, channel catfish, and flathead catfish. For questions call naturalist Natalie Miller at 419-348-7679.
A workshop on applying chemicals to control plant growth in ponds is set for Tuesday, 6:30 p.m., at 29608 Allen Rd. in northeastern Defiance County. Scheduled speaker is Bill Lynch Jr., a specialist in aquatic ecosystem management with the Cooperative Extension Service of Ohio State University.
For other details call Greg LaBarge at the Fulton County Extension office, 419-337-9210.