Lake Erie bass keep busting out all over.
Another special, early bass season passed with the statewide opener June 16, and with Ludlow, Pa., angler Andrew C. Kartesz still in the record book as the modern-era bass entry, a smallmouth caught June 4, 1995.
"I confirmed the species after the weight had been officially recorded," said Don Einhouse, Lake Erie unit leader who was an aquatic biologist when Kartesz caught his record fish.
Einhouse noted that an early bass "trophy" season was established in 1994, but that official state record entries did not come in until 1995. Kartesz was third in a series of record bass that year.
"It was a sunny day with mild winds and about a 2-foot chop," Einhouse recalled when asked yet again how he caught his 8-pound, 4-ounce fish. "That winning fish was the 30th bass caught that morning, one of 101 fish caught that Saturday."
Using a quarter-ounce tube jig, he kept drifting and casting along 2-foot depths east of Barcelona Harbor, waters close to the spot where a perch fisherman had caught the previous state record bass earlier that season.
"Jig weight all depends on the winds," he said of his lure and his presentation a dozen years ago, and much of the gear and presentation features could easily apply for anyone fishing for Lake Erie bass today at all competitive or recreational levels.
Kartesz and his two sons -- Andrew of Roanoke, Va., and David of Jamestown -- regularly fish bass circuits, mainly the FLW (Forrest L. Wood) weekend bass league. This weekend, dad and David competed in the Lake Champlain BFL (Bass Fishing League) competition.
"Some things have changed [in the last 12 years]," he noted, pointing to new artificial baits and environmental shifts.
While he remains a devoted jig caster, he strongly recommends use of the newer drop shot goby-type baits.
A drop-shot rig consists of a weight at the end of the line with a lure set some 18-20 inches above the weight. This rig gets to the bottom fast and allows anglers to reach bass near bottom at depths of 50 feet or more.
Right now, before bass head to deeper waters during prolonged periods of summer heat, Kartesz suggests using 8- or 10-pound test line. He prefers browns and greens for colors to simulate hues of round gobies, which have moved into area waters since the 1995 record bass catch.
Bass boats equipped with elaborate front- and rear-mount trolling motors add to precise boat placement, but he thinks the average angler can just drift along and cast over 18- to 21-foot depths at the start of summer.
"Try to find humps [reefs, shoals, rock piles, sunken islands], because bass stack on them," Einhouse said of bottom-structure selection.
"There are a lot of them [bass] out there," he said of Lake Erie, adding that New York State in general has a tremendous fishery for smallmouth bass statewide. He said with humility that he is happy to still hold the state record, with all the good bass waters open to anglers.
As the early summer season progresses, he offers these hot spots for bass along the Erie shoreline: From Buffalo, head to Myers Reef off the Hamburg shoreline; at Dunkirk Harbor, turn west and look for shoals east of Van Buren Point and around the point itself well into July.
Closer to his home base at Barcelona Harbor, Einhouse works along Brockton Shoals east of Barcelona, searching for the many "hump" areas -- the largest span of small and larger reef structures in New York State waters.
A devoted, life-long angler, Einhosue likes to get on the water early and fish until dark, especially for bass. But he also shares a casual, recreational side in his views.
A walking storehouse of bass info, he summed up his decades of Lake Erie bass fishing experience with the comment: "That lake has gone through a lot of good and bad changes in the past 50 years. It's just great that things have cleared up and we can simply get out and enjoy it."