Smallmouth on Feeding Binge at Dell

By Ted Peck - July 1, 2012
Smallmouth bass are on a full-blown feeding binge right now downstream from the Wisconsin Dells dam on our namesake river.

Extremely low water levels have concentrated baitfish by the gazillions close to rocks in shallow water, close to much deeper water and near riffles several miles below the dam where a sign cautions "no rentals beyond this point."

Thousands of smallmouth bass are working like tanned, finned border collies bent on corralling three inch long river shiners, chowing down on the slower members of these vast schools of baitfish.

Understanding the predator/prey relationship is a major key in consistent fishing success. At the Dells success on smallmouth is a simple matter of finding river shiners and casting something with a hook the bass will think is easy food.

Guide Nick Olson attacks these bass with a combination of small topwater lures, crankbaits, wacky-rigged senkos and Berkley Gulp! Fliptail minnows-with white and silver colors catching most of the fish.

Olson is fairly new to the fishing guide craft, with his Reel Good Guide service now in the third year of helping clients realize their fishing dreams.

This 41 year old angler from Reedsburg said he is "livin' the dream", supplementing guide work income with stints as a substitute teacher.

His favorite classroom is a Tuffy boat, which can be seen on an almost daily basis at fishing venues like Lake Redstone, the bog lakes around Warrens-or the tea colored waters of the Lower Dells.

At the Dells Olson is the heir apparent to legendary river guide Dave Ehardt, who has been forced to curtail his work due to health issues. Ehardt and I used to probe the mysteries of the Dells together over 30 years ago. We have both aged. The Dells hasn't. At least not much.

Smallmouth still cruise the run of rocks near Hawk's Beak just like they did back when Jimmy Carter was in the White House. It has been that long since I've seen the Wisconsin flowing so low that these rocks were exposed in late June.

A clear Heddon Tiny Torpedo still fools fish near these rocks, just like it did when gasoline was breaking the buck-a-gallon mark.

Wacky-rigging senkos wasn't even on the radar back then. Lately, this soft plastic worm with heavy salt content has been the bait of choice wherever smallmouth swim.

Berkley Gulp! Is another effective bait Ehardt didn't have access to when he was the guide king of the Lower Dells.

One of my favorite old time smallmouth baits is a Helin Flatfish, especially in a yellow pattern with multi-colored dots. Olson had never seen one of these lures, which must look like a small banana in need of seizure medication to the fish. It still works.

A half mile stretch of shallow riffles holds the most exciting potential for smallmouth anglers at the Dells right now. This pattern should remain hot throughout the summer, or until the river sees significant rise.

These riffles are located about two miles below a new free boat launch in a county park off of County Highway A, just upstream from River's Edge Resort.

How hot is the bite? When is the last time you caught smallmouth bass on every cast at high noon on a topwater lure? Fishing simply doesn't get much better than this.

Author Ted Peck
Ted Peck
Cap'n Ted Peck has over 30 yrs. guiding experience, specializing in multi-species fishing on Pool 9-10 of the Mississippi from Genoa, Wi. to Prairie du Chien. Cap'n Ted is a pro staffer for Lund, Northland Tackle, MinnKota, Bill Lewis Lures, Evinrude, Uncle Josh, HT Enterprises and Custom Jigs & Spins. When not guiding Cap'n Ted communicates the outdoors experience via newspapers, magazines, TV, radio and through seminars. This work has taken him all over the midwest, Canada and beyond... but he always returns to the upper Mississippi which he considers the most diverse fishery in North America. Click here for more info on Ted's guide service. Cap'n Ted's new book Mississippi Musings with the Old Guide is a personal account of his long career as a professional fishing guide on Old Man River.