Bass opener gaining local popularity

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 26, 2006

By Garret Felder, staff writer

If a family of four goes to a movie, it usually ends up spending more than $40 dollars for two hours of entertainment. But if the same family decides to go to the bass opener of the fishing season Saturday, the family could spend less for a whole day of outdoor excitement.

&8220;Bass fishing is a little more expensive than walleye fishing, but it is still relatively cheap entertainment,&8221; said John Stevens, co-owner of The Bait Shack in Albert Lea. &8220;You go out and spend maybe $20 on lures and a fishing rod, and you can go out and have a great day of fishing. So as far as entertainment-wise it is still relatively cheap, and it is something you can use over and over again.&8221;

Although the local lakes have been known for their walleye fishing, Stevens said, more fishers are coming to the Albert Lea lakes for the bass fishing opener and the excitement of reeling in a big largemouth bass.

&8220;A lot of people around here don’t fish a lot of bass, but the ones that do really do well with it,&8221; Stevens said. &8220;They have been catching a lot of largemouth bass around here when trying to catch walleyes. So I think a lot more bass fishermen will start fishing bass down here.&8221;

Yet, as bass fishing can be entertainment for the whole day, local taxidermist Gary Hanson says this kind of entertainment is not meant for the short attention span.

&8220;I don’t know anyone who is as avid of a bass fisherman as me,&8221; Hanson said. &8220;But usually I end up going alone because no one is willing to sit in a boat for 14 hours to catch a trophy fish.&8221;

Hanson has gone out for the Minnesota bass opener for more than 20 years and he said that bass fishing may be more difficult than walleye fishing, but it also is more fun.

&8220;You need to finesse your worm. You want to jig it but not too fast ,&8221; Hanson said. &8220;Surface bait is a lot more fun, but also more difficult because if you jerk [your line] too fast you’ll take it right out of the bass’ mouth.&8221;

So how can bass fishing be synonymous with a full day of excitement? It all starts with the fighting nature of the species.

&8220;You get a lot more action off a bass,&8221; Stevens said. &8220;Bass are real aggressive and when they actually strike the lure they are going to take off and jump out of the lake. There is a lot more excitement. It’s that splash on the surface that makes them more exciting and that’s why they are becoming more popular.&8221;

But for those not experienced in the ways of bass fishing, Stevens offers a few tips to improve a rookie’s early experiences with this territorial sport fish.

First, he advises going to the right environment for bass fishing. Stevens recommends Brookside Channel by the Brookside boat launch because bass like shallow water with little current. Along with Brookside Channel, Stevens suggests checking out Katherine Island and the west side of Albert Lea Lake.

For the tools of the trade, Stevens recommends using spinner baits with worms or using any sort of artificial bait that can be used as surface bait.

And lastly, patience is the virtue for bass fishing, Stevens said. Along with waiting for the big hit, making a lot of casts can also help you toward breaking the state record for largemouth bass.

&8220;Basically what you are trying to do is aggravate the fish to hit (your line),&8221; Stevens said. &8220;So you keep trying to cast in the same spot four or five times to see if anything is there, and then you move over two feet and try there.&8221;

Whether it be for a long-time angler or someone who has never made a cast with a fishing pole, bass fishing is expanding into Albert Lea and the largemouths should be biting during Saturday’s opener.