Baseball, fishing: the best pastimes

Grand slams are big deals in baseball, tennis and other sports, so it stands to reason that hitting a four-bagger in fishing is something to celebrate.

Break out the champagne.

Last Saturday at Shenango Reservoir, I caught four species even though I was fishing purposefully for bass. As the day progressed and each of the four different fish came aboard, it occurred to me that catching four species wasn’t exactly an accidental experience.

My grand slam was a result of working a pattern that revolved around baitfish behavior. The walleye, northern pike, largemouth bass and smallmouth that comprised my slam all came from similar locations and struck similar lures and presentations.

Each fish bit a crankbait that bounced along the rip-rap near bridges. Baitfish were evident, especially in the areas where current was generated by wind and the funneling effect of the narrowing of the lake near the bridges.

My crankbait looked like a shad to the pike, walleye, largemouth and smallmouth — a nice treat for fish feeding as the water cooled toward the 50-degree range.

The first hit in my grand slam was a 13-inch largemouth, followed 30 minutes later by a 20-inch walleye. A while later, a northern pike approaching 30 inches ate the same lure, a shallow-running Norman Mad N in a ghost gray color.

I moved up the lake and whacked another sub-keeper largemouth off a fallen on a point near a bridge. Suspecting another bass may be lurking elsewhere on the same big piece of wood, I dragged a jig down the trunk and connected with a 4-pound largemouth.

The very next piece of wood yielded a 2-pound bass. Then I fished for an hour without a bite before moving to another bridge. A cast to the point of the rip-rap at the channel side of the bridge attracted a hard strike from a big fish that pulled hard toward open water.

I turned the fish and worked it toward the boat. It was another northern pike, this one 3 feet long with a face full of teeth gripping my shad-colored Norman Mad N.

The day’s final fish was a spectacularly colorful smallmouth bass approaching 3 pounds. My Bomber 6A with a firetiger paint job was completely invisible when the smallie leaped from the water, its bronze sides glistening in one of last Saturday’s few rays of sunlight.

After loading the boat and starting for home, I settled into analyzing the factors that added up to my grand slam.

The water temperature was cooling and the shad were bunched up. Walleyes, pike and bass don’t typically intermingle, as they prefer different habitats. But everything kind of came together in the past week or two, and most of our lakes’ predator species are looking for concentrations of food fish to build their fat reserves for the upcoming winter months.

Fortunately for me, they all seemed to find the same schools of baitfish. If I had changed tactics a bit, it’s likely I also would have caught some dandy crappies. It wouldn’t have been too much of a surprise to also hook up with a hybrid striper.

Had I been fishing for meat, I’d have eaten well with a 20-inch walleye, 36-inch pike, two chunky largemouths and a braggin’ size smallmouth. But I’m a catch-and-release angler, and all of Saturday’s catch went back to the lake.

Perhaps they will contribute to your own grand slam the next time you fish Shenango.

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