Buffalo Black Bass on the Big Bite!

Drop Shot Rigs are Snag-Free Key

When giant bronzebacks begin to gather on Labor Day weekend for their fall feeding binge, look to fish the bottom, the top and in-between for fun and thrills with leaping bronzebacks. Forrest Fisher Photo

For most folks, Labor Day marks the end of summer fun and back-to-school for kids. In a sense, some say it’s a sad time, but if you’re not yet ready to store the boat and hang up the fishing rods, taking an hour or two away from the grill can provide a most enjoyable fish-catching time.

Black bass, both largemouth and smallmouth, while not particularly vulnerable to easy hook-ups, usually do often provide the ultimate gift of a ready connection when the offering of the angler is placed right and is irresistible.

buffaloblackbass2My grandson and I are anglers that usually fish artificial lures and plastic bait imitations for nearly every species. On this day, we decided to make a switch to live bait and direct all of our efforts to catching smallmouth bass near Buffalo Harbor in Lake Erie.

We visited Tony’s Bait and Tackle on Niagara Street in Buffalo for two dozen live crabs, the cost was only $7. Affordable fishing! We also purchased some size 2 hooks and ½ ounce sinkers that we planned to fish drop-shot style using 8-pound Stren monofilament. Simple fishing style, usually is snag-free and the rigs don’t cost much even if you do snag up or break off your sinker on the plentiful zebra mussel farms that cover the bottom of Lake Erie shoals.


The crabs were lively and not very big, about 2 to 2-1/2-inches long or so, but they were of the hardy variety and two dozen of the fleeting critters fit comfortably into a small container with a nice containment cover provided by Tony’s Tackle free of charge.

We tied up our rigs using a Palomar knot for the hook, then taking the down line and putting it back down through the upside eye of the hook so the hook point always pointed up. This is key to hoking the fish first time and every time.

The sinker was tied on 15-18 inches below the hook and we were set to fish. Using light 6-1/2 foot long Carbon-X graphite rods (IM7), we had good sensitivity and feel with the bottom in 30 to 35 feet of water.

We headed for the Number 2 buoy on the NOAA lake chart, locally known as Seneca Shoal, only to find the area was being worked pretty hard by at least four charter anglers with a full crew. We steered clear of the pack and move southwest toward Myers Reef where we found a nice rock pile with serious hooks in 37 feet of water.

We deployed the new MinnKota Ulterra electric bow motor and returned to the spot, set the automatic anchor lock on the unit and rigged up a live crab (through the tail) for the drop-shot rig.

buffaloblackbass4On the very first drop, my grandson lowered his rod tip to allow the crab to appear helplessly falling to the bottom and then lifted gently. Wham! “Fish on!” he yelped. “This is a big one!” His drag was screaming to protect the line and he was being patient with not forcing the fish to the top. It took about two minutes before the hefty smallmouth went airborne twice, then quietly surrendered to a hand lift, belly style. Fun.

On our way out, we had realized that we were signed up for the last day of a summer bass contest and there was even more anticipation and excitement added to our Labor Day journey. The contest was at Bison City Rod and Gun Club in Buffalo, New York.

This fish tilted the Normark digital scale at 4-pounds even. We flipped on the live well and aerator, and the first cast of the day already made this adventure on the water a huge success. You see, my grandson has Lyme disease and he is still fighting to find energy and remission from the nasty Lyme bug. This fish, however, had brought the biggest smile – ear to ear, that I had seen in a long time. Good medicine!

We caught seven more hefty bass from that one rock pile before the fish seemed to be tired of watching us lift their buddies of the bottom. The biggest fish was 5 pounds -1 ounce, a fatty.

Because the drop-shot rig with live bait allowed us to hook all the fish in the jaw, not the gullet, we released all the fish where we caught them and only keep the two largest for the weigh-in at the contest.

The end result was a first place and third place finish! Ah, the difficult labors of Labor Day! These proved to be fish-filled fun for the both of us. The switch to live bait was new for us and it also provided a baseline we may have forgot always using lures, there is something about scent from live bait, movement from live bait, and for the understanding between predator and prey, when the prey is live bait.

A membership to the view of the underwater community that we will respect and cherish for all time. We observed catch and release from nearly every boat. Nice to see cooperation and respect for the fishery like that!

Share life with others, make new friends in the outdoors, lead by example.