Reflections: Meeting of the Waters

Reflections: Meeting of the Waters

Jun 24, 2012

Smallmouth Bass and Memories at the “Meeting of the Waters”

By Mike Pehanich

He grinned when I called it “the meeting of the waters.”

Big Water Adventures teams with Small Waters Fishing today,” I proclaimed to Mark Davis, host of the Golden Moose Award-winning television show and Bob George of Buck Knives as we suited up in several garment layers and our most dependable rain gear to tackle the rugged “seas” of Lake Erie.

The day marked the fifth anniversary of my first spring trip to the Buffalo-Niagara area, and Davis had been my captain on that day as well. Erie rocked and rolled on that day, too, but the fish didn’t mind at all.

Mere minutes after we had dropped our lines on that inaugural outing, we had a 6-pound, 12-ounce smallmouth in the boat.  Then I made my first and last attempt to shoot a serious photo in the wind and spray. “Let her kick!” I laughed, yielding my spirit to our mixed fortune of wild water and giant bass.

They call the Buffalo area of Lake Erie “The Smallmouth Capital of the World.” That’s for good reason. Yes, you may find several southern waters that occasionally produce bigger smallmouth, but, when it comes to extraordinary numbers of big fish, the Eastern Basin of Lake Erie and adjacent Upper Niagara River are just about impossible to beat.

Davis hunted trophy bronzebacks on the rocky offshore humps and flats and around the breakwall “gaps” of Buffalo Harbor in the spring as much as responsibilities permitted before his Big Water Adventures days. He worked the Buffalo-Niagara area for king salmon, coho, walleye and steelhead on occasion, too, but the smallmouth have always been his marked targets.

We needed that blend of experience — along with the virtues of the 24-foot “Blue Wave” sea craft he had brought up from his South Carolina home — as we rocked and rolled on Erie.

The bass did not come easy, but come they did! With the help of a fine flurry of action in the outer harbor at day’s end, our catch numbers pushed into the 90s. The tally included my five-pound walleye and a solitary sheepshead. But that’s a lot of smallmouth no matter where and when you fish!

Small tasks become minor challenges in rough water. And boat control can become an exercise in self-preservation when waves range from four-footers to the “who-knows-how-big-that-was” wall of water that crashed across my knees at the back of the Blue Wave on our trek back to Buffalo Harbor that evening.

“I’m beginning to feel like 30 mile per hour winds are following me,” said Davis, irked by his abnormal run of bad luck with the “big blow” beginning with his past Big Water Adventures shoots and the recent days on Erie.

Still a ‘Small Waters’ kind o’ guy

Now Davis’s current fame rides his battles with goliath grouper, giant billfish, high-flying tarpon, bull redfish, and the more than occasional hair-raising encounters with sharks, as seen on his Big Water Adventures television series. But his angling career began in south-central Indiana on small creeks and reservoirs – experience he waxed nostalgic about as we talked fishing on our drive to dinner Friday evening.

Behind the Wylie X sunglasses and snarl he flashes for sharks and, occasionally, their human counterparts, he drifts back comfortably to his small waters roots.

“I probably still know portions of those streams where I learned to fish back home better than anyone,” he says with fond recollection.

He made the transition from boy angler to trophy bass hunter early on. Then he started taking on jumbo members of just about every fish family he could find.

Mark Davis on one of the lakes at Great Southern Outdoors that he has helped to manage. He shed a couple of layers of clothing for photos, but glance across the column for a glimpse of how we really dressed that day.

The wind mercifully died at day's end, but we were dressed for ice fishing most of this bitter cold day when the thermometer didn't top the freezing mark until mid-afternoon. I've never seen him dressed like this on Big Water Adventures, but here's proof he will do it for small-waters bass!












That drive to catch the biggest specimen, no matter the species, eventually carried him to sea, where he makes his living today. But you’ll find him returning to his freshwater roots on lakes big and small when he’s not chasing sea monsters, deer hunting, or enjoying time with his wife and three-year-old daughter.

The whisper of giant bass in a remote 50-acre lake can set off his imagination like the prospect of catching 650-pound goliath grouper off a sea dock. (He will deny that claim, but what else explains us towing a 21-foot Skeeter down a sloppy path through two-foot deep mud ruts to a lake with a primitive ramp?)

He likes to plant cover in small waters and pitch a fisheries management plan for little lakes with big bass potential.

He introduced me to a truly special brand of small waters bass fishing at VIP Adventures in Summerville, SC and at the small reservoirs on the Great Southern Outdoors (GSO) acreage in Alabama.

I remember that first morning at GSO.

Like our morning on Erie, it started out with a lot of wind and lock-jawed bass.

We connected on 35 big bass that afternoon, but we had earned our reward with the uncommon cold that froze our bathroom pipes the night before, the snowflakes that flew off our baitcasting reels in the morning, and the howling winds that bit our faces and hands all day long.

Now that I think about it, he’s right. Those 30 mile per hour winds do follow him!

Read more  Lake Erie adventures in “Mike’s Excellent Buffalo Niagara Fishing & Dining Adventures.”

Follow Mark Davis’s “Big Water Adventures” series on the Outdoor Channel.

Mark Davis and SWF at Great Southern Outdoors

Also see “No-Lips Catch Staging Fish” (includes exclusive Small Waters Fishing video) and “Xr to the Rxcue:Winter Remedies for the Bass Fishing Blues


One comment

  1. Thanks, Louis. Just sign up on the website for our regular email alerts, and you will be notified regularly about new posts and videos.

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