Catching smallmouth second stop on retirement tour

Column by Brandon Butler

After an amazing day boating trout on a fly rod, the second day of my mid-life retirement was spent catching smallmouth bass out of deep holes with soft plastics pitched from spinning outfits. We had the river all to ourselves and caught more bass than we could keep track of.

Billy Smith has been a river rat his entire life. When retirement arrived for Billy, and I mean real retirement not a week and half off like I experienced, he knew he wanted to find a way to continue to promote the rivers he loves so much while having fun.

He decided to start an outfitting business, and named his business Scenic Rivers Guide Service and Tours.

Smith caters to fishermen primarily, but he is just as willing to take folks out for a boat ride to look for wildlife, especially bald eagles, of which there are many making their home along Midwestern rivers these days. When I meet bird watchers who don’t hunt or fish, I like to tell them most of my time outdoors is spent watching birds. Only to be momentarily interrupted by catching fish and taking game.

Nathan “Shags” McLeod and I met Billy for breakfast at 7:30. After filling up with hearty meals, we headed out to launch Billy’s jet boat. We headed down river quite a ways and started fishing immediately. Billy normally spends his guide trips instructing and focusing on client enjoyment, but since this was more of a friendly fishing trip, Billy started showing off right away. With each fish he boated, his big, beaming smile shined brighter from the bow of the boat. He certainly knows how to catch the smallmouth on cold, winter days, and it only took a few seconds for him to prove it.

Shags and I competed in rock, paper, scissors to see who got to start in the back of the boat. He won the two out of three battle, throwing scissors to cut my paper and breaking the one to one tie. We switched each time someone caught a fish. We moved around a lot, because we caught more fish than we could keep track of.

I’ll tell you what, Shags is one of the best fishermen I’ve ever met. He is as serious about fishing as anyone I have ever met, and boy he can catch fish. Much of it is due to effort. I’ll regularly sit down and kick my feet up. I can sit back and just soak in the sun for long stretches of time. Not him. That dude is throwing, reeling, throwing, reeling, throwing, reeling every minute we are on the water. It truly is impressive. He’s like a 7-foot tall seven-year-old who is trying to catch his first fish every time he goes out. His enthusiasm for fishing is infectious.

No fish fights harder than smallmouth bass. They are so much fun to catch, and when you can catch as many as we did, it’s hard to argue that anything could be more fun. Wading streams in the summer may be my preferred wat to target these fighters, but I’ll take a cold winter day on the river over one on the couch. Smallmouth are a four seasons fish.

See you down the trail…




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