I surely don't have to tell any outdoor enthusiasts how wonderful the weather has been of late. I took advantage of that burst of spring early last week when I made my annual spring pilgrimage to fish for smallmouths with my old friend, Ken Penrod, on the Susquehanna and lower Juniata rivers.
Penrod guides there from mid-March until the first of May and is typically booked solid during those six weeks because the fishing then is often nothing short of spectacular. Last year proved to be one of the best for trophy bass, as Penrod's clients landed over 25 smallmouths measuring 20 inches or better, in spite of lousy weather and high water most of the spring.
Over the past couple of years, I've met Penrod for the first couple of days he sets up shop on the river, just before his first guided trips of the season. Our base of operation is the Riverfront Campground in Duncannon at the junction of the Susquehanna and Juniata. We usually do a lot of moving around on both rivers, checking familiar areas and looking for new spots that might be holding bass. Water temperatures were 47 to 49 degrees most places on the river, which is almost ten degrees above average for this time of year. When the water nears the 50-degree mark in the spring, I usually will catch some nice bass on crankbaits but didn't hook as single fish on a crankbait this trip. As usual, soft-plastic tube jigs were the number one bait.
Overall, the size of the smallmouths we caught both days were impressive. I landed two 19-inchers the first day, both on a 2 "teaser" tube in a color called Troy's Trigger, which also accounted for several of my biggest river bass last spring as well. That's one of several great colors in the Campground Special brand of tubes, available at the Riverfront Campground, 717-834-5252. Other springtime favorites include KP Rose, Buzzkill, Juniata Treat and Black Crawbug. For more information on booking a Susquehanna smallmouth trip with Ken Penrod's Guide Service, see his website, www.penrodsguides.com, or call 240-447-2206.
With the continued forecast of balmy weather and already warmer-than-usual water temperatures, this could be a great year for early-spring smallmouth fishing. I'm itching to get on some of my favorite haunts on the upper Juniata to test that theory.
A couple of weeks ago, a press release about a new state record largemouth bass that had been caught recently in Arkansas drew my attention because I have enjoyed fishing in Arkansas several times, and I always like to hear of record fish being taken just about anywhere in the U.S. or Canada. According to the report, a monster bass weighing 16 pounds 5 ounces was caught on February 28 and after being weighed and certified by a biologist with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission was determined to have eclipsed the former state record, which had stood for nearly 36 years, by just one ounce. The huge fish was 26 1/2 inches long with a girth of 22 inches and was the only bite the lucky angler had all day.
Sadly, this story doesn't have a happy ending. Last week, the Arkansas Game and Fish disqualified the big largemouth. Apparently upon further investigation, it was found that the fellow who caught the bass was found to have bought his fishing license three hours after he claimed to have landed the big fish. Fishing without a license is a violation of the law, of course, and fish taken illegally are not eligible for a record. So instead of having the honor of catching Arkansas's biggest bass, he will be subject to a $1,000 fine and 30 days in jail.