Sportsman’s Corner: The search for the big one

Mike Roche with one of the nice crappies taken while fishing at Webber Pond in Vassalboro, Maine.

Mike Roche with one of the nice crappies taken while fishing at Webber Pond in Vassalboro, Maine. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Norm McDade with a fat largemouth taken while fishing at Webber Pond in Vassalboro, Maine.

Norm McDade with a fat largemouth taken while fishing at Webber Pond in Vassalboro, Maine. PHOTO BY MIKE ROCHE

Published: 06-13-2024 3:35 PM

Modified: 06-18-2024 11:39 AM

By Mike Roche

This writer spent the week on Webber Pond in Vasselboro, Maine, at a lakeside home which was found by my wife’s twin sister Pam on Airbnb. This trip was a repeat of an adventure we undertook two years ago when my wife and I were joined by Pam and her husband Norm McDade for a week at Whisperwood Lodge in Belgrade. Both places are close to the Augusta, Maine, area where the twins spent time growing up visiting her grandfather John Shipley’s farm. The land where the farm was is now the home of two 18-hole golf courses and Webber Pond is where they went swimming.

Another destination that is a “must” is the home of Maine Cabin Masters, a TV show that features renovations of waterfront properties in the area around Augusta. It is located very close to where Penny’s aunt and uncle lived, and they knew the neighborhood well. My wife is a big fan of the show, which is really interesting as you watch the transformation happen when the Cabin Masters crew undertakes a project. They do a spectacular job in creating so many wonderful waterfront cabins from what are often very dilapidated camps. Penny has an official Cabin Masters T-shirt and the first night we ate dinner at the Wood Shed, an eatery at the Cabin Masters’ site.

One of the reasons for the trip was to have a chance to put my fishing boat to work. The 2007 Tahoe Fish’N Ski is a really great fishing platform. Right after purchasing the used boat, the seats were redone by Topstitch Custom Upholstery in Shelburne Falls and it looked then and still does look like a new boat. Two of the rear seats double as fishing seats with both the front and rear decks outfitted with seat posts. The MotorGuide Xi5 24 volt trolling motor goes all day and is GPS-equipped. That includes the ability to set the motor on course to go towards a destination on its own and the ‘anchor’ feature, which uses GPS to hold the boat in the same place despite the wind. You would figure the fish have no chance, right?

Tuesday was our first day fishing and the action was fast and furious. We caught five bass off the dock before we even launched the boat! They were all small largemouth bass, 10-14 inches long. We had no experience on Webber Pond, so we just started fishing down the shoreline and we both had constant action. They were all small, so we decided to head across the pond, which has about 1,200 acres of surface water.

We were quickly into bass, and they seemed to like every color Senko soft bait we threw. Over time, this writer has shifted his preference in rigging Senkos from Texas rigs – where you use an offset hook and imbed the hook back into the plastic worm to make it weedless – to using a wacky rig. Wacky rigging means putting the hook into the middle of the plastic worm. Some clever person invented black plastic rings and a tool to place them in the middle of the worm, so you slip the hook under the ring. Since most fish take the worms as they drop after hitting the water, there is no difference in presentation. To me, the best feature is that you can use a circle hook and that translates into more fish being lip-hooked and not swallowing the worm. That makes unhooking the fish to release it much easier.

We did that a lot and Norm estimated that we landed about 40 fish by the time we quit at dusk. A terrific day but we were both amazed that with all those bass, not one approached three pounds in weight. We joked that we kept catching the same three fish and never had landed so many without one fish over three pounds. We caught them fishing on the bottom using topwater lures and swimming baits through the water column where the lack of vegetation allowed it.

The next morning we were back at it and tried a different shoreline, but ‘the bite’ was not on. We threw a variety of lures and caught a few bass, but nothing like the previous day. There was, however, a real high point. We returned to fish a rocky point where the only smallmouth bass we caught had taken a Senko and watched a mature bald eagle fly into a big white pine near the water’s edge. Lo and behold, there was a nest and a single eaglet waiting there for something to eat. Like all eagle’s nests, this one was huge, and the young eagle was nearly as big as the two parents. They posed together and this clueless outdoor writer never thought to take a picture! In my defense, at the time one rod was rigged with a perch finish floating Rapala and the bass, crappie and perch were hitting it regularly and there were fish breaking the surface constantly around us. Turned out that the big fish that we anticipated did not materialize and we relocated three times without solving the big fish puzzle.

So that leaves two days of fishing as this is being written. Hopefully we will figure out how to catch some bigger fish but either way, getting away to do some fishing has been quite therapeutic even without a whopper to pose with!

Mike Roche is a retired teacher who has been involved in conservation and wildlife issues his entire life. He has written the Sportsman’s Corner since 1984 and has served as advisor to the Mahar Fish’N Game Club, counselor and director of the Massachusetts Conservation Camp, former Connecticut Valley District representative on the Massachusetts Fisheries and Wildlife Board, has been a Massachusetts Hunter Education Instructor and is a licensed New York hunting guide. He can be reached at