Today in Smallmouth magazine – Volume 2 Issue 1 we continue our look back into the only magazine devoted to our favorite ol’ brown fish. This issue would mark the second year of the rag and with that, the issues went from between four and six pages to six to eight pages in length. Although still a newsletter, it was obvious that Tom Rodgers had filled a niche and his readership would stand beside him to help move the newsletter into a full-blown glossy magazine within the next year.
This magazine starts out as a six-page issue, which makes sense since it was a January issue. The lead-in article really grabbed my heart, though. Titled, Big California Smallmouth, the article stepped away from the southern and eastern states and gave the first look at what the west could produce.
This piece was written by Bob Robb and was centered on two fisheries in northern California, Lake Shasta and Trinity Reservoir. The reason this article hits home with me is because I grew up reading about the two famed fisheries located in the northern-most part of the state.
Shasta has always been the reservoir that hosted big bass events including Bassmaster, FLW and the various western organizations, due to its size of 30,000 acres. In decades where water is plentiful, the fishing at Shasta was always good, especially in the 70s and 80s. Shasta was always known as a lake that produced a lot of smallies and quality largemouths. But between the introduction of spots in the late 80s and drought conditions over the last 20 years, Shasta is a shadow of what it used to be.
Trinity, on the other hand, is an entirely different story. In 1976 the California state record smallie was taken out of the lake and at the time, it was common to catch fish in the 5- to 6-pound class regularly with fish in the 7- to 8-pound class caught every year. The crazy thing is not many anglers ventured to Trinity compared to Shasta, which I attribute to the fact that no big events were held on Trinity all those years.
The reason the fish grow so much bigger in Trinity than in Shasta has to do with two things. One, the limit was two fish a day for Trinity compared to five at Shasta and two, trinity is loaded with kokanee salmon. Once the smallies get above that 3-pound mark, they turn to eating the small land-locked salmon. It’s a great article for those of you who are unaware of the smallie options outside the south and eastern parts of the country.
The second page of the newsletter features a piece by Tom Zenanko where he talks about finding and catching smallies close to home. Of course, that’s easy for him to say living in the brown-fish-rich state of Minnesota. Zenanko talks about doing research in the winter months to find waters that had smallies in them to try that next season. He recommended talking to fisheries departments and such to find out if there were any new waters where the fish had been stocked. For me this was an underwhelming article but maybe for the time, it was good info.
On the same page were two other shorts, one describing the smallmouth situation in west Texas lakes and the second offered a bass identification sheet for those not familiar with identifying the species of bass.
A flip of the page and we come to good old Mr. Smallmouth himself, Billy Westmorland, and an article on the Blakemore Roadrunner. Really, the story is about a recent trip he’d taken to his famed Dale Hollow where nothing, but the Roadrunner, produced for him.
Westmorland set the scene for the day and explained his method of how he got to throwing the crappie jig. In the end, he ended up having a good enough day to produce a good show and have the experience to tell his readers. Billy may not have been that good with words but he was definitely good with teaching his disciples how to catch fish – and that’s all that matters.
Page 4 provided another article by Zenanko, this time on how to choose smallmouth hot spots. Zenanko hits the nail on the head right off the bat when he says, “Choosing hot spots for your smallmouth action is indeed a complex action.” For those of you who have had the pleasure of fishing smallies for any amount of time, you know they are a mystery fish. There one day and gone the next.
Zenanko goes into his logic on how to find smallies, which is pretty good for starters. He stresses equipment, season, wind, shoreline, and work. He gives good examples of what he means by each term. Still any smallmouth master can follow this logic and go out one day and be a hero and go out the next day and blank. It’s just the nature of this crazy fish.
The next page has another feature by Westmorland, this time on fishing the Silver Buddy. What I found interesting about this article is Westmorland didn’t spend much time talking about how he fished the bait. Instead, he talked about a recent event he’d been the weighmaster at on Dale Hollow and wrote about how the top-5 teams, who all used the Silver Buddy, fished the blade bait.
I loved how Westmorland didn’t focus on how he uses the bait but how others caught their fish and place 1st through 5th. But what I found most comical was, and this is pure conjecture on my part, most of these anglers probably learned from Westmorland himself how to fish it.
Westmorland then goes on to give some pointers on the use of the bait and stressed not to get caught in that awful trap of fishing the past or getting in a rut.
The final page hosted the Letters to the Editor as well as the growing list of sponsors who were climbing on board Rodgers’ new publication. I don’t know about you but I can’t wait to take a look at the next issue and what it has to offer.
At this point I have a request. I only have the first two years of Smallmouth in my library to share and once those are gone, I’m afraid this column will end. If any of you out there reading this have any of the other issues, please contact me. I’d love to keep this going and if you’re willing to lend us your copies to scan and share with the community, we’d be honored to have that opportunity. If you’re interested, please leave a comment below or hit me up at email@example.com.
In the gallery below you’ll find the entire issue. Click on the first image and use the arrows to scroll through the newsletter.