By Jeff Samsel

 

“Ninety-nine to go,” Doug Teel said with a grin as I twisted a Rebel Wee-Crawfish’s hooks from the mouth of chunky Penobscot River smallmouth.

Teel, who operates Northridge Outfitters and guides on the Penobscot River throughout each summer, was only half joking. He doesn’t start a normal day expecting to catch 100 smallmouth bass, but he does know such a feat is possible any given day on the river, and river conditions were good.

From there, we began counting backward, “98, 97, 96 …” with each fish, stating the count aloud with a catch to make certain we remained accurate and in agreement. We didn’t call out the count during a couple of stretches when Teel went “Live” on Facebook with me catching smallmouths on camera, but we were able to go back and look at those videos to confirm the count.

Early in the day, Teel caught a big redbreast sunfish. “Does that count?” I asked. He shook his head. We ended up catching a few sunfish and several pickerel, but only smallmouth catches affected the count.

We started late – a little after 9 a.m. – and the bite began slowly for the river. When we were only saying “88” a couple of hours in, reaching zero seemed highly unlikely.

The bite heated up as the day progressed, though, and was accelerated when I tied on a Rebel Wee-Crawfish in the new Flaming Junebug color. Eventually, we hit a few flurried stretches when it seemed like there was a willing smallmouth behind every rock.

The goal began seeming more attainable as the day progressed and eventually became more a matter of “when” than “if.” We called out “zero” on a Flaming Junebug bass that hit at around 6:30 p.m., with the boat about half a mile from the ramp. Without a word we both hooked our lures to the keepers on our rods and set the rods down. The way the fish were biting and given the stretch ahead of us, I suspect we’d have caught another 15 or 20 bass just by fishing the rest of the way to the ramp, and I don’t even have a guess at the total we could have reached had we fished hard until dark.

We were content to hit the 100-bass goal, to wrap up three great days of fishing (other two on a lake for largemouths, pike and more and in brooks and beaver ponds for native brook trout), and to go grill some cheeseburgers.

I’d never before counted down fish, but I’m glad we did. It added a fun game to the day and helped quantify results of a super fun day on the river.