Call of the lake already beckoning

I have been tempted. The upper Rainy River has shed its ice, and the rich blue water gives a glimpse of the coming season.
I have combed through the fishing catalogues with a vengeance. I have puzzled over the new colours and how I might use them.
Maybe it’s the jitters from thinking about this year’s Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship. I will be fishing it this year and like every novice, I am looking for anything that will give me an edge and hope that I can find it in the catalogues.
It’s not as if I don’t have enough “stuff” (as my wife refers to my tackle boxes). It’s not as if I don’t have enough rods and reels.
Mike Baranowski planted the first seeds of passion for bass fishing. With him I chased smallmouth bass on Rainy Lake and largemouth on Lake of the Woods.
Wayne Howard took me on a trip onto the north arm of Rainy Lake and, as only Wayne can do, plunked us on reefs in the middle of bays without a GPS. I learned about the after-dinner mint bait from him.
Phil Bangert took pity on me and offered several suggestions on presentations. I learned from him the value of a white double willow leaf spinner bait.
Gary Lake showed me the secrets of using a Rapala jerk bait. The late Al Meline took my brother and me fishing on Lake of the Woods and showed us how to use a Rebel crayfish bait to catch smallmouth.
John Maffei reintroduced me to Mepps spinners when a mayfly hatch erupted on the lake. I will fish with John in this year’s tournament.
When I thought I knew that you only would fish with hard baits, my world was turned upside down with soft plastic ones. And a whole new problem of colours, hooks, and weights was turned loose on me.
When I thought that smell didn’t make much difference in soft plastics, I learned about salt, garlic, banana, and now natural fish scent.
And every time I had a lesson, my tackle box grew by another tray of baits or tub of plastics used by the instructor of the day. Confusion grew as different instructors only believed in their lure colors.
I picked up a Storm minnow bait at a flea market, and it wrestled with every fish in the water until one day it lost a battle with a great northern pike. It was a one-of-a-kind bait.
Storm replaced it with a new, sleeker model with slightly different colours, but the new lure just didn’t perform the same. The company eventually returned the old lure to the lineup, though it just doesn’t have the same sexiness in the water.
Back when the tournament was getting underway, I took up rod wrapping as a hobby—the argument being it would be less expensive to make rods than to buy them. It really isn’t.
Still, wrapping rods became a passion. As each one was finished and tested, modifications were made.
Sometimes when fishing, I would break the rod. I then reclaimed the guides.
Last weekend, I stripped the guides from two fishing rods I managed to break last summer. One was a spinning rod, the other was a bait-caster, and both were broken through carelessness on my part. I had built both several years ago.
Over the course of years, I have assembled several rods, which has allowed me to play with different styles and feels of rods. I like split grips on my rods. The spinning rods have more guides than what you might find in a store while the bait-caster guide style is known as a revolver.
The line starts on the same side as the reel and revolves around the rod to the underside.
It takes time to assemble the rods, but the satisfaction of fishing with a rod you make for yourself makes fishing rewarding. Every one is unique and, after a while, each has a story about a fish caught with it.
Some have now been built for spinner baits. Two are set up for crank baits. Two shorter bait-caster rods are designed for top-water baits.
The spinning rods keep getting longer. The added length gives you greater casting distance when you want to sneak up on a bass with a grub or worm. Others have become lighter using much smaller line, making every fish feel like a monster.
The more I keep learning about fishing and equipment, the less sure I am about what I should use. I have abandoned successful lures for new equipment. And now the thicker catalogues offer a whole new set of temptations.
I’ve been hooked.
When will the lake go out?

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