ANYTIME ANYONE THINKS they know everything there is to know about anything, they usually are just setting themselves up to look like a fool or at the very least, a know-it-all who really doesn’t know that much at all. 

Take me for instance. Though I hardly think I know everything about anything there is to know about, I always figured I knew most of what there is to know about the fishing holes to be found in my immediate bailiwick.

Well, thanks to an unsuspecting fisherman who wandered into a certain sport shop to buy a carton of night crawlers recently, I now have another lake added to my go-to list. Not knowing I am an inveterate wild goose chaser, this young fisherman carelessly blabbed the news about a little lake I have passed by hundreds of times without ever throwing a lure in it.

I had never sent one cast upon its waters because, in my all-knowing mind, I knew it contained nothing but a bunch of stunted bluegills, perch and largemouth bass, none of them worth an afternoon of fishing. How wrong I was.

Thanks to a young man’s naïveté I found out that while there are a lot of stunted bluegills, perch and largemouth bass swimming around in this little lake, there also are a goodly number of sizeable fish of those species sharing the lake. I became privy to this information three weeks ago, but was only able to put it to use a couple days ago. It was good information.

The wind was in my favor to fish the entire west shore of the pond, and setting forth for the first time on a fishing expedition in my new fishing kayak, I enjoyed calm water plunking. Using my favored ultralight rod and reel spooled with 4-pound test, I soon found myself getting all the bites a fisherman could want. Whether bobber fishing with a chunk of beavertail, jigging with my favorite bass/panfish lure, a tiny jig with a wiggly-wobbly, brightly-colored tail or working a beavertail slowly across the bottom with a floating jig and sinker rig, I caught fish.

Sure, probably two dozen bass were of the 10- to 13-inch range, but four were quickly measured at 15 to 161⁄2 inches before being released. Perch were mostly in the 6- to 8-inch range, but a half dozen that topped 9 inches went in my floating fish basket. Most of the bluegills were small, but six of them that were 8 inches or better went in the same basket.

It was about the most fun a person should be allowed to have that two hours I fished. It certainly changed my mind about fishing this quiet, seldom-fished little gem of a lake.

It also was another lesson that teaches a person not to believe something without knowing it. Here, all these years I passed by this lake on the way to other bigger and supposedly better, more productive lakes, I could have been putting a bunch of tasty bluegill and perch fillets in the frying pan.

Over the past 10 or 15 years, I have drastically altered my fishing habits and desires. Growing up, my first love was trout fishing and in many ways it is still my greatest love. Catching my first legal muskie was like chasing after the Holy Grail through my adolescent, teen and early adult years. After catching a dozen or so legals, most of them on spinning gear while fishing northerns or walleyes, I lost all interest in muskies.

During the bulk of my fishing years, I mainly chased walleyes and northern pike and if I do say so myself, became proficient at catching them. Something happened about a decade ago and though I still love chasing those species and eating them, I found myself experiencing a second childhood in which fishing for perch and bluegills is a whole lot more fun. 

Along the way, I discovered bass. Sure, I had caught plenty of bass in my lifetime of fishing, most of them while fishing for something else, but it wasn’t until recent years that I fell in love with fishing for them.

For the pure joy of fighting a strong, powerful fish, no other in our northern lakes measures up to the bass, especially smallmouth. In the time since I became a bass fisherman, I have personally landed dozens of them ranging from 3 pounds to my personal record of 61⁄2 pounds. I have kept none of them, preferring panfish and northern pike to eat.

I also have come to the decided opinion that if one were to tie a 7-pound smallmouth tail-to-tail with a 20-pound muskie, the bass would tow that muskie all over the lake without using even half of its strength.

Actually, you could say the same about bluegills. If there were such a thing as a 5-pound bluegill, it would blow almost any fish out of the water with its fighting qualities.

So now, I am a dedicated panfish and bass fisherman. No offense to muskie addicts, but I think my new favorites are pound for pound, ounce for ounce a much better fighter, are a whole lot prettier and abound in such numbers that every fisherman, no matter their skill level, can catch them in abundance.

I have been a firsthand witness to a bunch of children and novice fishermen I have shared boat space with over the past 10 years who had the time of their lives catching these species by the score. Children shrieking with the joy of a rod tip bending, adults and children alike in seventh heaven when they land a 4-pound bass; you simply cannot ask for anything better when it comes to fishing.

Oh, I’ll still catch some walleyes before my days are done and likely, I’ll catch another muskie or two on 8-pound test line while fishing for pike, as was the case with the last four muskies I landed, but for the rest of my days, you’ll find me spending my time chasing panfish, bass and northern pike.

And be careful with what you tell me, for the merest slip of the tongue may have you sharing your secret hot spot with me the next day. Don’t worry though, I won’t tell anyone else.