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so ... i was walking along this river trail, dodging spider webs and praying the ticks would stay away, when i saw a big ol' smallie cruising a relatively shallow run. of course, i scrambled down the bank as quietly as i could and eased my way into the water. it spooked the smallie a bit, but not abandon-ship spooked, if u know what i mean. i situated myself in a spot in the middle of the river, water right about my knees, and stopped moving, and eventually he came back in the neighborhood. threw a zoom speedcraw in his direction (everyone on this site seems to love those, so gave 'em a try for the first time today). he looked at it a couple times, but never seemed inclined to bite.

did catch another smallie (not big, maybe 9-10i) and a goggle-eye while standing there, and each time i reeled them in, the big'un came from nowhere and gave chase, as smallies are wont to do. a few more runs with the speedcraw and nothing else. so switched to a 3-inch fat senko, the magical lure that landed my 21-incher on the new river in southern virginia a couple years back. again, same thing. he acknowledged it a couple times, as if humoring my efforts, but never really looked like he wanted to bite. all of this is playing out within 20 feet or so from where i'm standing. by this point, it's been a good 15 minutes that he's been taunting me, casually coming in and out of eyesight, and i'm running out of options in my pocket (in my rush to get into the water, i'd left the backpack o' gear on the shoreline, and wading back there didn't seem like a good idea. had already pushed my luck.)

then i had a thought. had some of my 2-inch senkos in my pocket that i was keeping around for the light-action rod, for when/if even the sunfish stopped biting. figured why not? i've caught 20-inch trout on those before, and had a massive largemouth eat it once. so i tied that on, with the tiny size 8 octopus hook, on my medium-heavy spinning rod with 8-pound test. not ideal, but again, you do what you gotta do.

already-way-too-long story a little shorter than it could be, i dropped that thing a few feet in front of him, and he nonchalantly sucked it up on the first cast. after examining and shunning the bigger baits, i got the feeling he assumed this was just an itty-bitty morsel floating down the river, and never even considered something so small could be an actual lure. on that visual vacuum, i set the tiny hook, which somehow found its mark, and it the fight was on. first real "football" smallie i've caught in north carolina. so much fun. measured a hair shy of 18 inches, and was chunky enough to go at least two-and-a-half (side note: not sure why i keep bringing my scale with me when i always forget it's in my bag. maybe i like the uncertainty. who knows?).

that was the highlight of an excellent day that included a couple feisty largemouth and approximately 735 apparently starving redbreast sunfish with cannibalistic tendencies. i say that because they were all caught on 2-inch power grubs, with a pumpkinseed/orange combo that matches a small redbreast color pattern perfectly.

sorry for the wordy post about one measly fish. next time i'll use chapter breaks, or at least subheads ...
 

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Red X Angler
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Don't mind a long post when it's well written! Nice job on the big boy and it sounds like a great overall day on the river. I've experienced very similar situations with a big smallie. Downsizing the bait is frequently an effective technique. The secret is waiting about 10 to 15 minutes downstream of him without casting to let him settle down. Easier said than done!
 
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