Lake Erie smallmouth
MIDDLE BASS ISLAND, Ohio - Michael Simonton has been splashing along the shoreline of South Bass Island since he was a youngster, casting for smallmouth bass or any fish eager to chase a lure or gobble his bait.
"I grew up in Fremont, Ohio, and we would visit South Bass Island every summer, " Simonton said. "I was already a fishing fanatic, and would climb the shoreline rocks to wade and cast. The Bass Islands have always been my favorite fishing hole."
Simonton called recently because he wanted to invite me to see how the smallmouth bass numbers around the Bass Islands have rebounded. Perhaps not to the levels of the 1990s, when the bass population was at an all-time high and trophy fish were the norm. The bass fishing has become so good lately, said Simonton, that a long boat ride to Canadian waters where fishing pressure is far less is no longer a much-needed option.
Simonton, 35, had given up teaching full-time in the Sandusky schools to compete on the Bassmaster Elite circuit for three years, and found success. He had a trio of top 10 finishes and a solid group of sponsors. Fishing national tournaments is extremely rigorous and expensive, though, and last fall Simonton felt he needed a break from long days on the road and on the water.
"I decided to go back to teaching, but keep my hand in tournament fishing by entering three Bassmaster Northern Open tournaments this year on the James River, Oneida Lake and Lake Erie at Sandusky, " he said. "That's where I got started in tournament fishing. I cashed a check in all seven of the Open tournaments I'd fished and qualified for the prestigious Elite Series."
Simonton is now a sixth grade special education teacher at Margaretta Elementary in Castalia.
"I thoroughly enjoy the challenges of working with the kids, and being able to fish on Lake Erie all of the time, " he said. "I live a stone's throw from the Ballville Dam on the Sandusky River, where I can cast a lure in the morning or evening when I need a quick fishing fix."