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Open Season: Bona fide bass bonanza

Andrew Thill of Fargo hoists one of several largemouth bass caught during an excursion to a secluded lake near Detroit Lakes, Minn., in early July. Tyler Shoberg / West Fargo Pioneer1 / 2
Looking down the gullet of a big ol' bucket mouth bass. Tyler Shoberg / West Fargo Pioneer2 / 2

After we'd caught a dozen bass or so, the morning undoubtedly was a success.

By the 24th, the day was a bit beyond successful.

But when the 50th bass was horsed out of the lake and into our landing net, one thing was made as clear as the water around us: this was dumb.

By utter happenstance, Andrew Thill, of Fargo, and I had stumbled upon a venerable bass bonanza; the bass mother lode; a giant, seemingly endless tide of big-ol' bucket mouths. We were in the Twilight Zone of fishing experiences, and were it not for the stinging, bleeding pain of an insane bass rash on my thumb from lipping dozens and dozens of fish, I'd have thought the whole occurrence an incredibly amazing dream.

It finally reached a crescendo when we began expecting bites on every cast and, more often than not, weren't disappointed by a lack thereof.

It was as if we'd suddenly been transported into a Saturday morning fishing show, where the host effortlessly hauls bass in for his at-home audience. The only elements missing were commercial interruptions every five minutes and a 250-horsepower motor on the back of Thill's forest green Old Town Canoe.

But as far as I know, we weren't on a TV show, we weren't in the Twilight Zone (at least, I never heard that creepy theme music), and the small trolling motor whirring us along wasn't even a full horse. By the time we called it a day - at 11 a.m. - the only thing certain was that we'd both participated in a truly remarkable experience. In all of my 27 years, I've never witnessed bass fishing quite like that, and I doubt I ever will again.

The day hadn't started so smooth, however, as a storm the night before and ashen-grey skies threatening rain made me rethink getting out of bed at 3:30 a.m. Come to think of it, 3:30 a.m. by itself is enough to make me rethink getting out of bed.

But lured by the promise of some good topwater action on a secluded Minnesota lake, I was inclined to dismiss my yearning to crawl back under the covers. Instead, I forced a pot of hot coffee down my throat and decided to grind it out.

It's tough work, this fishing business, but somebody has to do it.

I met up with Thill at his apartment in Fargo and we quickly packed up gear and the canoe into his blue Toyota pickup truck. Before I knew it, we were traveling east on Interstate 94 to Thill's touted "Lake X."

Our hope for a good topwater bite soon turned sour, however, after a couple casts failed to produce hits. The strong east wind made controlling Thill's light canoe difficult, and the rippling water hindered any lunkers from the temptation of exiting their underwater ambush points.

Switching to spinnerbaits finally produced the first fish of the day, but the action soon petered out and we again were left scratching our heads in confusion.

About that time, Thill suddenly saw two bass swimming directly for the canoe. Like a seasoned fishing pro, he grabbed a rod pre-rigged with a plastic worm/bullet sinker combo and plopped it daintily in front of their noses. One hit almost immediately, and Thill swung upwards for the hookset.

But his epic miss nearly capsized the boat, and set forth a slew of curses from the fisherman's mouth.

Not one to be out of the loop, I borrowed some gear for a similar worm rig and lobbed the works toward a line of flooded timber.

A couple short swoops of the rod and I soon felt the telltale tap-tap-tap of a fish taking the bait. Unlike Thill's, my hookset found its mark, and soon a scrappy bass flopped on the canoe floor.

I looked at my watch. It was 9 a.m., and for the next two hours, we delved into an almost eerie world of fantastic fishing.

Cast. Set. Fight. Net. Repeat. Innumerable times; with oblivious largemouths, sometimes two or three at a crack, chasing a hapless victim back to the boat in hopes of procuring a meal.

In any instance of incredible fishing, one is often disheartened to have it come to an end. But with things to do back home, we decided to leave on a high note, and grudgingly began the journey back to the truck.

I was tempted to make the customary "last cast," but knew that wouldn't be enough. Besides, I didn't want to be disappointed if a fish failed to take the offering.

We were spoiled, I admit, but we were tickled to death.