Daydreaming of returning to angling

As my summer of recuperation grinds on, I’ve memorized every crack in the sidewalk, every leaf on the holly bushes and even named the chipmunk that scurries to and from its den under our landscaping.

For an angler, a few weeks away from the lake is difficult. For an angler on the mend, a few months is excruciating.

So I turn to my imagination, based on more than 50 years of exploring our Northeast Ohio and Western Pennsylvania lakes. It’s a better diversion than you might guess.

July is one of my favorite months on nearby Shenango Reservoir. Created by a high dam in Sharpsville, Pa., the lake is filled by the Shenango River to the north and east and Pymatuning Creek, which flows from the west out of Orangeville.

By mid-July, Shenango’s largemouth bass settle into one of three patterns of summer behavior. Some meander out over the main lake flats and channels where they feast on shad along with the schools of hybrid striped bass. Others drop to the deeper haunts and prowl old foundations, roadbeds and other hard-bottom areas flooded since 1966.

A third contingent is the fish that elect to summer in the shade under the numerous hardwood trees that have toppled into the water where the lake meets the shorelines. Those are the areas where I would be concentrating my fishing efforts if I were able to launch the BassCat tomorrow.

Soon I will, of course, but in the meantime, I can dream of the days when an accurately pitched jig or Texas-rigged beavertail bait glided out of sight along the trunk of a deadfall in four feet of water and the line jumped.

A mighty hookset is required in that situation where the fish has the advantage of a tangle of woody branches to leverage its strength versus my stout flipping stick and 20-pound-test fluorocarbon line.

Sometimes, the fish win. More often, however, I succeed in plucking the bucking bass from their watery hangouts.

Sophisticated sonar makes the off-shore fishing for bait-chasing bass and deep structure schools more efficient than ever. Anglers equipped with today’s new electronics easily can identify gamefish 100 feet from their boats and line up their casts based on the digital information displayed on their unit’s screen.

Still, I prefer to ease along a sun-splashed bank and pitch my lures to the cover I’ve learned holds bass nine months a year. Jigs and Texas-rigged soft plastics are my go-to lures, but I also keep a topwater bait and square-bill crankbait ready to cover water efficiently as the electric motor pulls me to the next toppled tree.

Shenango never fails me in the summer, and it only gets better as we slide toward September. The lake is loaded with smallmouth bass, which anglers catch throughout the season. But by Labor Day, the water is starting to cool and the smallies move up to rock and sand-bottom areas to feed.

Summertime, in fact, can produce a combo of smallies and largemouths for anglers who get out at sunrise and stay as the sun rises high. I’ve often started my Shenango outings with a few 2- to 3-pound smallmouths on topwater plugs before turning to the shallow wood for the chunky bigmouths.

It’s a good way to pass the time, even if it’s only in my mind.

Oh, that chipmunk? We’ve named it Mario.

Jack Wollitz’s book, “The Common Angler,” explores the fun stuff that makes fishing a passion for so many people. He appreciates emails from readers. Send a note to jackbbaass@gmail.com.


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