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Winding down the trips and prepping for winter

Not so many years ago, I procrastinated every fall on making the inevitable decision to winterize the boat and park it under cover until spring brought a fresh new fishing season.

The winds of autumn can blow cold and wet, but my experience taught me that November did deliver a few days with a bright sky, mild temperature and hungry fish. I often took the boat to favorite lakes in the week of Thanksgiving. One year I even stretched my luck with a December trip.

But that was then, and this is a season that has already concluded for the BassCat. I know I could squeeze out a few more trips in the boat, but I also know it’s wise to quit while I’m ahead – and that’s exactly where I find myself as I look back on my last three outings.

Ironically, just as the season was on the wane, the fishing was excellent. The final ’21 fishing trips were noteworthy for the action on the water on three different lakes. Three days, three lakes and three great outcomes. What more can an angler ask?

The first of the final three took me to Mosquito Lake, where summer’s lush grassbeds still harbored chunky largemouth bass. The vegetation, scorned by some who would like to eradicate it, has provided a huge boost to the baitfish population. That, in turn, has provided the food base for the thriving populations of bass, walleyes, crappies and northern pike.

The aquatic grass has changed Mosquito and the lake’s most successful anglers have learned new ways to catch the predator species. Those who have resisted adjusting, however, soon learn their tried-and-true locations and tactics are no longer productive.

I learned at the end of this season that the bass are as numerous and hungry as ever. I found a few grass lines on the west side of the sprawling reservoir and teased 15 keepers into striking buzzbaits and bladed jigs.

My penultimate trip was at Shenango Reservoir north of Sharon, Pa. I have always enjoyed the autumn fishing at Shenango. Pennsylvania’s fish bosses have declared Shenango a trophy lake and established a 15-inch size limit for largemouth and smallmouth bass.

The conditions during my recent visit were not exactly perfect for bass fishing. The sky was dark much of the day, which repositioned the fish away from the cover they had been using the week prior to my trip.

Bass, like many other species, feed aggressively as the days get shorter and cooler. So while they were not on the cover where I typically find them, they did track down and attack the topwater lures and crankbaits I worked out in front of the trees and stumps.

I finished my day with a dozen bass, half of which stretched past the 15-inch size limit.

I wrapped up my 2021 boat fishing last Sunday on the Ohio River, with fellow Bass Cat owner Tom Rolland. We worked the New Cumberland Pool, which runs from the Montgomery Lock and Dam above Midland, Pa., past East Liverpool and Wellsville to the New Cumberland Lock and Dam at Stratton.

Rolland and I settled in on a one-two combo punch, working poppers for the surface action and dropping soft plastic Ned rigs, tube jigs and Texas-rigged finesse worms.

We bagged seven keeper smallmouth bass and 10 or 12 short fish, as well as a dandy walleye and a sauger.

Now the boat is tucked away for winter and it’s time to start thinking big for 2022. I can assure you, however, that I will manage to squeeze in more fishing as I work on foot in warmer locales before the year is done.

Here’s hoping I can ride the momentum of the three days at Mosquito, Shenango and the Ohio River.

Jack Wollitz’s new book, The Common Angler: A Celebration of Fishing includes stories set on venues across the U.S. He enjoys emails from readers. Send a note to jackbbaass@gmail.com.

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