I often get asked why do I run guide trips for bass. I’m mean come on….bass, really? Typically my response is, “You mean the Green Trout” They look at me with a bit of confusion, like when a steelhead is lost at the boat.
Let me start by saying that I enjoy fishing for all species of fish. Each species has its own set of unique challenges and enjoyments. It’s really hard to compare one species of fish to another. The best analogy I can used to express that statement is, as a father I am, I love all my children equally, not one over the other.
Many of our clients want to fish for the migratory species such as salmon and steelhead. These are excellent fish to target, they can put one hell of a bend in your rod, you can hear and feel the drag scream and they can challenge and frustrate even the most seasoned angler. They are the Floyd Mayweather’s of the Great Lakes and her tributaries. Lighting fast, they pack a punch, and they can be difficult to control.
With that said, here is why I run guide trips for bass:
While the salmon and the steelhead may be the Floyd Mayweather’s of the Great Lakes, bass are the Mike Tyson’s. They are the heavyweight gangsters of the bayous, inland lakes and rivers. Trust me when I say there is nothing like reeling in a 5 pound bucketmouth out of the Grand River or one of its bayous. To watch them go airborne and pull like a semi truck has its angling rewards.
Unlike their cold water cousins, their range is pretty much most lakes and rivers of North America and they can tolerate water temperatures up into the 80’s before they move into deeper sections. This make them ideal to target without having to worry too much about their stress levels when water temps are in the 70’s like a trout.
Whether on a fly rod or with light spin gear and tackle, they are just as challenging as trout and can test even the most seasoned angler through all the stages of bass season, the pre-spawn, spawn and post spawn.
Like trout, they have some cool ink. Depending on their environment their colors can range from light green to dark green and even some black with yellow and orange mixed in their fins.
Lastly, there is that gangster look. Their signature underbite where the lower jaw extends beyond their upper jaw, that says don’t mess with me.
I’m sure there are many more opinions why people pursue bass. In the end, however, it comes down to them being the most targeted species in the nation. There are professional bass tournaments through FLW and Bassmaster, not to mention local tournaments all with cash money to win.
Bass are the working man’s brown trout. They are both simple and complex. Easy and difficult to target. They are the green trout and are so popular in our culture that real trout should be green with envy.
The Grand can arguably be called the best steelhead and smallmouth bass river in the state. There is also plenty of opportunity to catch other species of fish such as salmon, northern pike, largemouth bass, walleye and the occasional muskie.
It’s Michigan’s longest river at 252 miles and has several major tributaries that include, the Thornapple, Maple and Flat Rivers. In addition, there are several minor tributaries that feed into the system as well. Those include, Sycamore Creek, Looking Glass, Rogue, Plaster Creek and the Red Cedar River. The main stream rises in Hillsdale County and flows through Ionia to Grand Rapids and to its outlet at Grand Haven on Lake Michigan.
Many of the sections offer solitude from the crowds, boats and other fisherman.
The history of the Grand River is one of Ruin and Recovery. There is still this stigma that the Grand that is polluted and a wasteland. Quite the contrary, as there has been much focus and money dedicated to cleaning up Michigan’s largest and most iconic river.
The Grand River watershed is massive. It covers 5,572 square miles, 19 counties drain into it and 13% of the Lake Michigan watershed falls within it. Because of that, there has been a lot of federal, state and private dollars that have gone into cleaning it up and restoring fish habitat.
This coordinated focus has allowed the Grand River’s water quality to improve over the years as evidenced by the most recent Grand River Assessment from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources dated June 2017.
This brings us to today, the Grand has become a world class fishery and one of the best steelhead and smallmouth bass fisheries in the state. It now holds over 95 native fish species with a total 108 fish species inhabiting the watershed.
The Grand River has provided many an angler with Master Angler Awards for species that include carp and flathead catfish to rainbow trout (steelhead), brown trout, lake trout and chinook salmon.
Much of the focus that has helped bring the Grand to where it is today continues. There is still a lot of money being poured into its continued restoration, particularly with dam removal. Currently, there are over 232 dams on the Grand River and is tributaries. This removal has started with Sixth Street Dam, in downtown, Grand Rapids. $45 million is in the process of being raised and once removed, migratory routes will open up for salmon, steelhead, trout, sturgeon, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, northern pike, walleye and a variety of other species to quality spawning habitat. Hopefully, over time, other dams can be removed which will open up more migratory routes to more spawning habitat and improve the fishery even further.
So if you want to take advantage of all the Grand has to offer then give us a call or send us a message.
Fall is one of the best times of the year to fish. The hot days and warm nights turn to warm days and cool nights. The green leaves turn to oranges, reds and yellows and the salmon start their annual pilgrimage into the Muskegon, Grand, White and Kalamazoo Rivers as well as and other tributaries. Smallmouth bass and northern pike become even more aggressive as they fatten up for the long winter.
With the salmon pilgrimage the fall steelhead follow as they find a food source, salmon eggs, in the rivers along with other aquatic insects and smolt. They stay in the systems until they migrate back out into Lake Michigan in the spring after they spawn. Trout are on the prowl as well, fattening up for winter on the abundant biomass in the area river systems.
During this time it’s important to use multiple techniques to maximize your success on the rivers. There are various techniques that can be used but here are some that we prefer.
Crankbaits & Plugs:
What ever method or technique you use, make sure to get out on the river and enjoy this time. It only comes once a year and life is way to short to not enjoy it and catch fish. Tight lines all.
The Grand River continues to run stained in the middle sections but it is coming down. Hopefully, if the rain can hold off for awhile, clarity should improve. Water temps were in the low 80’s this past week but with the rain we had last night and couple of cloudy days the water is now back in the upper 70’s
River traffic is next to nothing. As a matter of fact, many days we are the only boat on the water and only share it with a few bald eagles, osprey, king fishers, herons and some deer.
With that water being as stain as it is you’ll want to use streamers, articulated ones are working best. Color combinations include, yellow brown, orange and green. 300 grain sink tip on an 9 ft 8 wt with a 4 foot 10 lb. leader has been working the best to get the fly down to where the fish are. It’s a bit aggressive, and you may get lodge in some wood or rock, but it’s what’s producing right now.
When stripping, use slow, irregular retrieves so the fish has time to see the streamer as it goes by. It’ll be difficult with the stained water but look for contours, seams and pockets to find fish. You may have to make a few casts before one hits. Remember, be patient, you want to cover as much water as possible and move as much water as possible to get the fish’s attention in these conditions.
As the day progresses toward early evening switch to poppers. Us a 4 ft. leader with floating line on a 6 wt with a fighting butt as your combination. Yellow and green poppers seem to be working the best. You’ll want to cast right up to the bank with these, as many of the fishing are tight up against it.
The Grand River has many different fishing opportunities for smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, and northern pike. At Werkman Outfitters, we take full advantage of that by chasing after multiple species using multiple techniques. So come join us on the river and fish different.
We are excited to announce that Phil Cusey has joined the team at Werkman Outfitters. Phil is a veteran fly fishing guide of 25 years on the Grand, Muskegon and Kalamazoo rivers where he pursues salmon, stealhead, trout, smallmouth bass and northern pike. Phil is the past president of the West Michigan chapter of Trout Unlimited and the Michigan River Guides Association and enjoys introducing first timers to the sport of fly fishing. Phil and his wife live in East Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Werkman Outfitters has partnered with JJ Sportfishing Charters to provide their clients a one stop shop for guided fishing trips. Werkman Outfitters is owned by Tom and Max Werkman and JJ Sportfishing Charters is owned by Jim Swanezy.
“We are excited about this partnership” says Tom Werkman. “Jim and his crew bring a wealth of knowledge and experience with big lake fishing that few can duplicate. To me it just made sense. Our clients now have the opportunity to pursue salmon, steelhead and trout year-round from the river to Lake Michigan and back again.”
Salmon, steelhead and trout are migratory species and spend part of their life in Lake Michigan and then annually migrate into the river systems to spawn.
“There are times that our clients would like to try something different and now we can work with Werkman Outfitters to make that happen.” Swanezy stated. “We are very happy with Tom and Max and what they offer.”
Werkman Outfitters is a full service guide company in Grand Haven, Michigan whose home waters include the Grand River, the White River and the Muskegon River. Werkman Outfitters not only pursues salmon, steelhead and trout but also large and smallmouth bass, northern pike and walleye using multiple fishing techniques and gear.
Swanezy has been a charter boat captain since 1995 and has over 35 years of experience fishing Lake Michigan. He and his crew have many top finishes in fishing tournaments through out the Lake Michigan basin.
JJ Sportfishing’s home port is Yacht Basin in Holland, Michigan. Jim uses a 34 foot Pursuit that is fully equipped for the ultimate fishing experience. He pursues salmon, steelhead and lake trout from April to September.
Thank you Michigan Out-of -Doors Magazine for publishing my article on Spring Trout and Steelhead fishing. As a guide and outfitter, I feel that west Michigan has some of the best rivers around to pursue my client’s addiction to chasing these fish. The tug, is definitely the drug. I am proud to call The White River, The Muskegon River and The Grand River my home waters.
We are proud to be associated with Patagonia, Bell’s Brewery, Brewery Vivant, and many other great businesses, in the Great Lakes Business Network in our efforts to shut down Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinaw. Line 5 is owned by Enbridge and is beyond its useful life. If a spill were to occur in the Straits, it would have a negative effect on the environment and the local businesses that are tied to clean water in the Great Lakes.
As a company, we feel it is important to make a commitment to the communities we serve. We believe, that as we benefit from a healthy environment we should help to ensure that it stays that way. That’s why we donate to the preservation and improvement of Michigan’s wild fisheries and this cause falls within our commitment.
Why has Werkman Outfitters lent its support. Here is our statement:
“Being from southwest Michigan, we saw the ecological and economic damage that occurred as result of Enbridge’s Line 6 B spill in the Kalamazoo River. Although the clean up has restored the habitat we feel a spill in the Straits would be far worse and more difficult to clean up. For us, having a healthy wild fishery in the Great Lakes is critical to our livelihood. If a spill were to occur it will effect wild populations of salmon, steelhead and trout not only in the Straits, but as they are migratory, through out the Lake Michigan / Lake Huron basin. In addition, the native smallmouth bass and carp populations that live along the flats in the area will be negatively effected.”
Check out Great Lakes, Bad Lines for more information. Will you join us in this effort to protect the the Great Lakes?
I’m not one to really talk about politics and I would rather just fish but this has caught my attention. If you are not aware of this Nestle has applied for a permit form the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to increase the amount of ground water it can withdraw from its plant near Stanwood, Michigan. Currently, they can withdraw up to 200,000 gallons per day and if the DEQ approves the new permit that amount could go to 576,000 gallons per day. Just to put things in perspective, that’s 210,000,000 gallons per year.
What is frightening and disturbing about this is the aquafer that Nestle wants to pump this from feeds the Muskegon River. The Muskegon River is home to world class runs of Chinook, Steelhead, Coho and Trout. Not to mention Smallmouth Bass, Walleye and Muskie and Northern Pike.
Now I am no “scientist” or “engineer” but it seems to me that if you draw 210,000,000 gallons per year from an aquafer that supports the Muskegon River it will have adverse impacts on the fishery, which will impact those of us that make a living on the river from guiding.
In addition all of this just smell like rotting dead salmon. The computer models that the MDEQ uses spit out that, if approved, the withdrawals would adversely impact the watershed. So once the DEQ had this information what did they do, not deny it but overrode the models and approve the permit, until the public found out about it. Oh, that was sneaky. Maybe that’s because Nestlé’s chief spokesperson on this is Deb Muchmore, who is married to Gov. Snyder’s former Chief of Staff and is a registered lobbyist.
Given MDEQ’s history of handling water in Michigan all I can say is….contact the DEQ at email@example.com and tell them to not approve the permit . If you don’t or this gets approved, we can all stay thirsty my friends.