Mary was going to be gone from Thursday to tonight, so I had a choice to make...do I watch the NCAA tournament and overdose on basketball, or go fishing? I didn't make any real plans, just decided to go if the urge struck me. A couple months ago, after I'd gotten up at 5 AM to go play basketball from 6 to 7, with boat trailer already hooked up on the truck so that I could leave for the river right after basketball, Mary was telling her sister Tina what I was doing, and Tina said, "you know, it must be nice to have two things you are that passionate about." So really, although there is not much that would override my passion for fishing, this was basketball...but...I don't love watching basketball quite as much as I love playing. So when I woke up Friday morning, knowing it was going to be a nice day and the trolling motor batteries were already charged, I headed for the Meramec.
This is usually the toughest time of the year for me to figure out the bass on the Meramec. They are leaving their wintering pools and heading for spawning areas, but they are so much in transition that sometimes it's hard to find them...or at least find some that are willing to bite. I headed up the river to a certain wintering pool, and then went right on by it to the next riffle upstream, which has a big slow eddy right up against the fast water. Sometimes, that kind of current seam seems to gather the moving fish. Sure enough, using a deep diving crankbait, I hooked a nice smallmouth on about the third cast. A couple casts later, another one. I ended up catching a half dozen there. Okay, got that figured out. But I was curious whether there were any fish left in the wintering pool, especially toward the lower end where I'd found a pile of them earlier in the year.
A half hour and two small bass later, I concluded they were gone. So, find more eddies at the bottoms of riffles? I drifted downriver, fishing smaller eddies along good banks with some current, catching a few more small fish...and then a 17 inch male on the crankbait in one of those little areas. So I kept fishing down one more similar bank. Then I hooked a fish that felt much bigger. It came to the surface, and I was excited. This looked like my first 20 incher of the year. I played it carefully and lipped it...well, maybe not quite 20 inches, but it was a heavy, thick female. I put it on the ruler on the front of the boat...18 3/4th inches! Wow, I couldn't believe I'd misjudged the length of that fish so much. Still, it was a great smallie.
But then...I KNEW I needed to replace my trolling motor batteries. They had gotten to where they were only putting out half the power they had when good, but that had been enough the last trip I made before spending five weeks in Montana, and I'd kinda forgot about their deterioration. They had supposedly charged up okay the night before. But by the time I caught the big fish, they were about done. A half hour later, I was done...no power. So I headed back to the ramp, and decided to spend the rest of the day working around our cabin on the river, where I'd spend the night.
Saturday morning was just too nice. I had to get back on the river. So as soon as the local boat dealer opened at 8 AM, I was there buying trolling motor batteries. I put in at the nearest access to the cabin and headed upriver, hoping the crankbait bite would continue. First spot, two small bass. Second spot, nothing. I tried a couple of riffle bottom eddies. Nothing. Headed upriver as far as I wanted to fish back down, and stopped at a pool that usually produced both winter and summer bass. Two more dinks.
The next pool downstream has one of the best riffle bottom eddies of any pool on this stretch. The riffle is fast and dumps into the pool at a near 90 degree angle, with a smallish but beautiful eddy that drops off into 12 feet of water abruptly. First cast with the crankbait--16 incher. Second cast--a heavier fish struck. After the bad guess the day before, I figured when I saw this one that it was probably 18 inches. But it was another heavy female, and this time when I put it on the ruler, it came to 19 inches. The eddy produced four more fish, each one a little smaller than the last, the last one barely 11 inches.
I fished down the pool below, catching one more small fish. By that time, you could tell it was a spring Saturday...the jetboat motorheads were showing up, people buzzing up and down the river joyriding, and I was getting a little annoyed. It sure is nicer to fish during the week. I came to a marginal riffle bottom eddy, and caught a marginal fish from it. Next one didn't look as good, and didn't produce anything. I couldn't find any more that looked like they would hold fish. I caught two more little ones, and then it was 4 PM and I was ready to call it quits.
But it was nice to get into a couple of good fish, anyway.