Unexpected fireworks

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Blake Becker caught a 7-pound bass in three feet of water over the weekend in Lake Coeur d’Alene. The fish had not spawned, Becker said — which is unusual because July is usually considered the post-spawn season. Courtesy photo

July brings firecrackers and bottle rockets to the forefront of things verboten, but relished for their bang.

In the arena of pike and bass catching — also savored for its explosiveness — fishing success can decline in the seventh month after spawning activity has ceased and temperatures, not unexpectedly, jump into the brow-sweat range. That’s when pike and bass seek deeper, cooler water.

Last weekend, however, in a wooded bay rimmed with the greenery of aquatic vegetation, Blake Becker cast a plastic worm at a drowned tree along the shore and fireworks happened.

Becker, the owner of Becker’s Tackle Shop in Coeur d’Alene, was surprised.

“She was under a tree in three feet of water,” Becker said.

He used a mostly average bass rig to catch an atypical largemouth.

The hooked, 7-pound fish rocketed into what structure there was, jetted under the boat and unsuccessfully tried shaking off the Senko. Less than a minute later Becker had the fish in hand for a snapshot before dropping it back overboard into the still chill water of Coeur d’Alene Lake.

“I reefed on her a little bit,” Becker said. “She kept peeling off drag.”

Until then, the day hadn’t turned out as well as he wanted. The doldrums of the post spawn seemed to have set in, a time when fish are less aggressive, but the 7-pounder was still preparing to spawn.

“She was prespawn,” Becker said. “She hadn’t spawned yet.”

He thinks the cold weather that followed a week of heat earlier this season may have mixed up the spawning rhythm in the bays of some of the deeper, colder Panhandle lakes.

For the most part, however, outside of nooks and crannies like the spot where he hooked the 7-pounder, spawning is done, he said.

“It wasn’t that great of fishing,” Becker said. “The post spawn blues are happening right now, and that makes it tough.”

Bass angler Jess Pottenger, fresh off a win at last weekend’s Twin Lakes tournament with angling partner, Lane Robinson, doesn’t usually catch pike, but when he does, it’s often incidental.

Pottenger, who works at Black Sheep Sporting Goods, said smaller pike still hunt the flats, while bigger pike swim deeper as the sun climbs and shadows shorten.

“There are still pike on the shallow flats,” Pottenger said.

Younger fish may hunt the flats’ weedy areas ambushing perch and bluegill in water six feet or less. Bigger pike will be along weed lines at depths of 15 to 20 feet. Coeur d’Alene’s northern bays including Wolf Lodge, Blue Creek and Beauty Bay have good pike habitat, as do Kidd Island and Cougar Bay.

In the southern lake, a weed line that runs intermittently from East Point on Lake Coeur d’Alene’s southeastern shore to the trestle at Chatcolet contains almost 12 miles of pike hideouts.

Pottenger recommends big spoons in the ¾- to 1-ounce range with five of diamonds, or perch-colored patterns. Big bucktail spinners that barely fit in the palm of your hand, Johnson Silver Minnows and Husky Jerks work too.

Anglers who don’t ambush a big fish in the shallows at the crack of dawn during the post spawn blues, and instead try enticing pike from the weeds, might keep in mind a long-repeated axiom:

“Keep it simple, and keep your line wet,” Pottenger said.

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