Friday, Apr 20, 2018
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Decades-old lure has been outfoxing bass

TIPTON, Mich - Well, it seems that largemouth bass haven't learned much in 50-odd years, despite the in-your-face, latest-greatest promotions from the tackle industry.

Behind that observation is the Plow Jockey, an anise-scented purple plastic worm rig dreamed up by the late Glenn B. Kelly in the late 50s, still catches late-summer, deep-water just fine, thank you.

Kelly, an inveterate bass fisherman, rigged up some of the triple-hooked artificial worms for himself. They worked so well he started making them for his family, friends, and fishing buddies at International Harvester.

The demand was so high that Kelly started selling the rig commercially as the Plow Jockey and the rest was bass fishing history. The Plow Jockey remains a standard and a standby, and the bass still are lured to it.

Witness the experience on Wednesday of Marion Garber and yours truly at Evans Lake here in extreme northwest Lenawee County, heart of the Irish Hills, near the Washtenaw County line: three and a half hours of easy fishing, 20 largemouths, including a 25-inch, 6 1/2-pound beauty that Garber insisted I pose with, since I caught it.

"I've had all the fame and fortune I can stand," said the 79-year-old Garber, a many-times world and Olympic champion caster, as he grabbed the camera. The big girl, of course, grabbed our attention and conversation regularly the rest of the trip.

But the other bass, ranging from nine-inchers just cutting their teeth, to feisty 3 1/2 pounders, shared much in common with the exceptional old big fish: They were taken in relatively deep water, 14 to 23 feet, off shallow weedbed breaks, on purple Plow Jockeys.

In all, it was a noteworthy performance for the dog days of summer, the month of August, when surface lake temperatures were 74 to 77 degrees. It was fun too.

"I've been using them since 1956," said Garber of Kelly's old worm rig. "They're the best deep-water bait going."

To qualify Garb's statement, know that he includes certain footnotes, such as proper rigging and presentation. He uses the Plow Jockey on a Carolina rig with just a 1/8-ounce barrel weight on eight-pound test line on a spinning rig. He keeps the rig simple by slipping the barrel sinker onto the main line and pegging it 24 to 30 inches above the Plow Jockey, which he knots onto the main line. He uses the shorter-lengths of "leader" from the weight in heavier cover and longer lengths in more open water.

The idea was to drift off shallow breaks, within casting distance but over the deeper water. After the cast you count the rig down to a six-or-eight count to get down to where bass, hanging out in deeper, submerged weed beds, can see it and strike up at it.

This time of year the fish tend more to finesse the worm, nibbling or inhaling it more than banging it, so you need to focus. But it paid to pay attention. Thank you Glenn B. Kelly.

[If you try Evans Lake, you should know it has no public launch ramp. But Evans Lake Resort on U.S. 12 about five miles west of M-52, offers use of its ramp for $10.]

On western Lake Erie - Good walleye fishing is reported by the Ohio Division of Wildlife from the chart area marked Gravel Pit, east of the Toledo Ship Channel, west of West Sister Island, off Crane Creek and Metzger Marsh, and west of West Reef and Rattlesnake Island.

Yellow perch fishing is improving, the division said. The best areas have been around the Gravel Pit, 1.5 miles east of the Toledo Water Intake, 20 feet of water off Ward Canal, around Kelleys Island, and off Cedar Point.

Further east, trolling for steelhead trout in the lake's central basin can be hugely productive. Just ask Bryan Johnson, of Oregon.

He and several buddies at work recently chartered a trolling trip with skipper Ron Johnson, of the Thumper at Fairport Harbor, and they had a steelhead field day. Johnson said they probably hooked up with 60 and landed 32, plus a couple of five-pound walleyes and 15 to 20 sheepshead. The steelies ran as large as 10 and 11 pounds.

The rest of the crew included Dale Ellis, Brian Fodor, Skip Brynelson, Gary Mercer, and John Benson.

All hands wore smiles in the catch-of-the-day photo at trip's end.

"We had a great trip and we're probably going to go back down this fall," Johnson said.

Contact Steve Pollick at:

or 419-724-6068.

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