One hop—two hop—SET THE HOOK! The line heads straight to the bottom, the click of the spinning reel’s drag rings out as the rod tip bends to a point that looks like it could snap in half. A bronze bulldog of a fish appears, head shaking mercilessly below. Then—POP. Jig flys back at the boat as time slows. She shook the hook.

Blind Spot

Smallmouth bass are just something Nebraska doesn’t have. There may be a couple swimming in a puddle or two but due to the habitat and structure of Nebraska lakes, largemouth bass just make sense. Being such, my experience with smallies was limited; having only chased them once before. Needless to say, when moving out west, the first thing that came to mind for fish species was trout and the last thing was bass.

Nebraska largemouth bass caught out of my Hobie.

Photograph @Nebraskamuskiegirl

But like many things in Utah, this place is full of surprises. Little did I know, there are miles upon miles of river systems that smallmouth thrive in. Perhaps it is the cool, flowing water or abundance of crawfish that keep these fish chunky and happy. What made these rivers so special, I do not know, but what I do know is, I was in for the best day of bass fishing I had ever had.

“Arriving at the lake after coffee was gulped and the sun was up, we were met by what we call “The W”. Waves blew hard and swelled into white caps.”

Failure to Launch

Waking up in the wee hours of the morning was no stranger to me. The old adage, “the early bird gets the worm” holds true and waking up early was the plan after all. However, after filling an old phone with fishing photos that clogged its memory like cheeseburgers to an artery, I had finally caved and upgraded. Unbeknownst to me, along with the upgrade came alarm volume settings that would do little to wake a sleeping tiger. So snooze we did.

5 AM hits and I jump awake. Realizing I had missed my alarm I fumbled to get dressed and throw my remaining tackle in the back of the truck, only adding to the growing butterflies in my stomach. Arriving at the lake after coffee was gulped and the sun was up, we were met by what we call “The W”. Waves blew hard and swelled into white caps.

“This will be a blast”, I said sarcastically. After a wind blown launch, we made a run to the first spot ever so slightly protected from the hurricane that brewed out further. Leaping up to the front deck, rod in hand, it was time to get ‘er done.

New personal best smallmouth! Why yes, MC Hammer pants can be stylish…

Photograph @nebraskamuskiegirl

Jigging It Out

Tossing a ½ ounce football jig trailed with a Berkley chunk craw trailer, it didn’t take more than a few casts to feel my line get smacked with what could have damn near been a freight train.

Setting the hook, I yelled to Cole, “I’m on! It’s a TOAD!”. Watching my first big smallie in years come up in the water column and she nosed down to escape made my heart lurch.

You know that moment… that moment a fleeting thought slips into your mind, “I am not going to land this fish.”  That was the very same moment that washed over me. Whether it was the way she was running down and under the boat or my doubt in the quality of my hookset, I had that premonition. Which proved to be true.

Visibly disappointed Cole looked at me—and laughed.

Looking at him with a side glance, and then a smile, I picked up a different rod. Scouring through bass tackle that had been long since neglected since my last bass trip in early April, I picked out a black wobble head jig and got to work.

Hop, drag, hop—pause. hop, hop—pause—WHAM! I suddenly had another very angry smallmouth. This time, however, I knew I had driven that hook home. Suddenly in the net, my pulse beat out of my ears.

Breaking PB’s

Staring at the bronze fish, with sunlight glistening off gold scales, I couldn’t believe it. I kept her overboard in the water while quickly pulling out a measuring tape. A smidge over 18 inches, she broke my personal best smallmouth.

Smiling from ear to ear, I put her back in the water. With her powerful tail, she gave one flick and zoomed off.

The sun was hot and heavy overhead, but so was the fishing. It must have been that perfect storm because over the course of the trip I broke my personal best smallmouth two more times, finally landing at just over 20 inches.


Forced to get off the water early we had the task of finding BLM land to camp on, which proved to be a harder fight than battling an angry smallie.

Backcountry roads that lead nowhere, maps that spoke of roads long since abandoned, we finally found a spot along the river and sat around the fire till the moon was long overhead reminiscing on the catches that made the day more than memorable.


About The Author

Die-hard muskie & trout angler with a passion. Kayak fishing, Hybrid chasing, Sunrise ↠ Sunset,

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One Response

  1. Nicole Stone

    Great write up lady! Fishing goals right there. Oh, and SUPER CUTE photo of you and Cole. You make quite the team!