Saturday, June 13, 2015

Fishing the Mentor Lagoons is the Real McCoy with long-time fishing friend

Mike McCoy had at least three legitimate excuses for why the Mentor Lagoons’ largemouth bass were being so tight-lipped.

And the professional bass angler (  from Mentor could have added a forth if the blizzard of cottonwood duff drifting into the lagoons’ water were part of the long addition tabulation that included a contrary northeast breeze, the passing of a late spring cold front along with the fishes’ biologically explainable post-spawn lethargy.

“It’s not like the last time we fished the Lagoons, is it?” McCoy asked as he dumped with oh-so-perfect-pitch a drop-shot bait into a Lagoons boat slip alley.

True enough, and it was something that had played on both of our minds for the past two years.

Between some serious nasty health issues and some seriously nasty resolution treatments my ability to fish the storied 450-acre Lagoons complex with McCoy was at low tide.

Similarly McCoy’s been busy moving up the chain of command with a full-time executive type job, raising a family and working on perfecting his craft as a part-time professional bass-fishing angler.

Yeah, I know, “part-time” and “professional” do sound like an oxymoron, but it is an applicable merge for McCoy - and a lot of other anglers for that matter - trying to stake a claim on being able to declare some fishing-related prize money on their annual 1040 federal income tax form.

Truth is, our Lagoons’ bass fishing has been as much about the fishing as it has been about the catching.

“Shame we couldn’t do it over the Memorial Day weekend,” McCoy said.

E-yep on that score, too. In the past – and I do believe that past numbered at least four times; maybe five times – our outings always fell somewhere within the Memorial Day holiday’s three-day bracket.

This year’s outing came a couple of weekends later; a Sunday morning exactly. Now, normally and usually I don’t do much hunting and fishing on Sunday morning, though they’re not especially rare events, either.

A special dispensation was made in this particular case because McCoy and I had skipped out of the past two Memorial Day holidays because of the fore-mentioned issues.

So we met at the Lagoons’ boat ramp at 7 a.m., climbed aboard McCoy’s Ranger bass boat and proceeded to flip and pitch plastic baits into every likely looking Lagoons boat slip cubbyhole or another. And there are a lot of them, too, with the Lagoons being one of the entire Great Lakes’ largest natural harbors.

A very long time ago the Lagoons’ natural harbor features were surrendered to the placement of boat slips. Many of these slips lie horizontally to the Lagoons’ fingers. Meanwhile, many other slips were dimpled into the Lagoons’ earthen fabric, creating natural fishy hiding holes, bass egg-laying nursery waters and post-spawn recovery rooms.

A component of the expansive 450-acre Mentor Lagoons Nature Preserve and Marina, the boating part has always something of a white elephant ever since its purchase by the city of Mentor in 1997 for $8.9 million.

It’s aging infrastructure is in dire need of repair and a study done for the city said it would take $27 million to repair the dikes, bulkheads and such that form the human-induced changes to the Lagoons’ natural harbor features.

Operated at a loss of more than $524,000 annually the City simply can’t keep managing the Lagoons at such a high cost.

Still, the largemouth bass found here – just like the crappie, the sunfish, the freshwater drum, the carp, the northern pike, the bowfin, and even the smallmouth bass that hang around the Lagoons’ Lake Erie outskirts – no even less about what’s going to happen than do Mentor’s city fathers and mothers.

Nope, the Lagoons’ largemouth have enough to worry about just laying eggs and guarding the fry from other hungry bass.

Plus dealing with the likes of McCoy who relishes each opportunity to pitch soft plastics into the Lagoons’ scooped-out hollows or toss a grub or hard plastic bait parallel to any bulkhead not converted to a dock space.

 According to McCoy, the Lagoons have become such a magnet for bass anglers that it’s one way point on a special and still-small Lake Erie largemouth bass fishing circuit. And (I believe) also a stop on a newly formed kayak bass-fishing tournament circuit.

I wasn’t paying as much attention to that part of McCoy’s address as I should have; I’m a bit ashamed to say.

Mostly I was pitching my own drop-shot rigs, the top hook tied with a palamor knot about 12 to 15 inches above a ¼-ounceblack-colored jig. The top hook held a four-inch Berkley Gulp minnow while the jig was a fixture for a four-inch-long Zoom Dead Ringer/curly-tailed soft plastic worm (my favorite when poured in watermelon seed finish).

So we talked as we fished, pitching our offerings underneath the wooden eves added by some of the Lagoons’ 500 or so dock renters. Other times we flipped our baits into the corners of the Lagoons’ unoccupied and even, occupied alcoves.

None of the boaters who were up and at ‘em that Sunday morning cared all that much that we were using their rented space for our fishing pleasure. Those that paid a mind would simply ask how we were doing and a few of them even offered suggestions.

We picked up some fish, for sure; a half-dozen bass or maybe a few more, a couple of eating-sized crappie and one whopper of a freshwater drum that first fooled McCoy into thinking he finally had hooked a photo-worthy bass.

Or maybe even a good-sized northern pike. That happened a short number of days earlier when McCoy had taken out a local bass-fishing tournament director.

We also spoke about McCoy’s desire to become a full-time professional bass angler, an itch that he’s been scratching for several years and for which the salve likely will prove to be a high-ranking tournament win on a BASS tournament trail stop.

McCoy has begun the equal need and probably even more difficult challenge of feathering his fishing nest with the all-important sponsorships that provide a steady stream of paychecks.

Among the ones McCoy has lined up include long-time hitching post Ardent rods and reels, Hobie Sunglasses, Middlefield Village-based Flambeau as well as the likes of Frogg togs, LubriMatic, PowerPole, Z Man plastic baits, Great Lakes Tactical, Rat-L-Trap hard baits, and Picasso Lures.

Newly arrived is Cleveland Whiskey.

“That’s in product,” McCoy said with a wry smile.

McCoy also is closely working with a Mentor-based company that has an angling sidebar product line called “Fish Allure.” These are scented adhesive back amino acid-impregnated scented taps that can be attached to hard baits. The amino acids are released only when exposed to water with the scent lasting up to one hour, says McCoy.

All in all, the Fish Allure concept is a pretty cool idea.

Then again, so is our (mostly anyway) annual Memorial Day Or Close Enough Mentor Lagoons bass-fishing outing.

Maybe next time the bass will be more cooperative. And if not, well, that’s okay, too. Just catching up with the always engaging McCoy and learning about his upward climb in the world of professional angling is about as fine a ways to spend quality time with a friend as this gimpy and aging angler can handle.
By Jeffrey L. Frischkorn


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