This Month With A Susquehanna River Guide

By Lance Dunham 

My timing of this month’s article is a bit off and way late but I wanted to wait until the very last of June before I sat down to write because of a very special guest I had coming to fish with me. His name is Steve Parks, “Big O” to his friends, the creator of Rage Tail lures, produced by Strike King Lures. To the non fishing person I’m sure his name doesn’t ring a bell, but to the fishing community, if you haven’t heard of him or his lures you must be living under a rock! Over the last several years his lures have been on national TV with many of the fishing pros and popular TV shows. Why? Because they work and work well, but more on that later. Through my friends and sponsors, Matt and Nissa Wilson of Moaner Hooks, Steve and I had learned about each other last January, while at the Wild Pennsylvania with Alan Probst’s Outdoors Expo.  Steve had sent various packages of his lures to me when the Wilsons came to visit. I started to use them as soon as I could get back on the water in the spring and they worked amazingly well. I’ve never had plastic lures with so much vibration! I started to catch some really big smallies and better still so did my clients. We were also catching many walleyes with them and a couple of muskies to boot! I posted photos of the fish on my website and Facebook as I often do and through the power of the internet Steve had noticed them also from his home in Texas. He gave Matt a call in early June and said he’d like to fly up to fish with me for a couple of days in June and film the trip for a future TV show. When Matt told me this I scrambled to find the open days in my schedule. I had a cancellation the last week of June and a personal day right behind it so the dates were set. I e-mailed Steve to tell him that I had a place for him to stay and I also had a good freelance outdoor camera man in Jerome Sulkoski ready to go.

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Everything was ready and now all this old guide had to do was produce the fish that brought Steve up here in the first place. As you know we have had constant afternoon thunder storms all over the Susquehanna water shed making the river rise and get more and more dirty every day. Plus, the easy spring fishing for big fish had been over for some time now and we had to find the better fish the hard way in the dirty water using Rage Tail lures. Having never met Steve before, I had about a hundred questions for him about himself and his lures, such as the obvious, how did you get the name “Big O”? Well that comes from him being called by his friends “Big Old Steve” and shortened down to “Big O” because if you saw him, he’s about 6ft 5in and in great shape, not round like yours truly. His patented flange tail design on his lures that gives off all that fish attracting vibrating movement came from his start as a fishing guide and wanting to improve the standard plastics we all have used in the past. Steve pays great attention to detail when designing a lure and to the packaging for the fishermen. His lures are packaged in a clamshell style so that each lure is secure and will be in its very best shape when we get ready to use it no matter how hot it gets in the boat. Now I have only had the chance so far to use a few styles on my charters but my favorites at the moment are the Baby Craw, the 4” Grub, and the Twin Tail Menace. The colors depend on the water and sunlight conditions of the day. To use the Rage Tail plastics as a jig I used the stand up Predator jig from Moaner Hooks which has the bent wire fastener on it to hold the plastics. I cut off most or even all of the weed guard because I have a tendency not to set the hook very hard and I use light weight rods. I sometimes will also put a rubber skirt on the jig to enhance the profile and slow down the fall rate of the jig. A slow lift is all that’s needed to make the claws or tail vibrate like crazy in the river current and just pick up the slack on your reel as your rod tip points back down to stay in constant contact with the jig. There are many other ways and jigs to use with the Rage Tail lures that we can get into at a later date.

We started off the first day maybe a little late for the end of June at about 7:30AM. I suggested we start with a spinner bait tipped with a 4” white Rage Tail grub over the shallow rocks. With the second cast I had a medium size smallie and on the third a 23” walleye. Steve immediately had a bass on the next cast and a sigh of relief came over me for I knew we would catch fish in the dark stained water that day.  Steve brought with him two heavy 7ft plus flipping stick Rage rods made by St Croix to Steve’s specifications. Flipping with a jig is what Steve does best and does a lot in Texas and Mexico for those monster 10 to 15lb largemouth bass they have. For those that don’t know what flipping is, it’s an underhand cast made so a soft quiet landing or presentation of the lure can be made in the rocks or under those lure eating trees we all know about. I have since ordered a flipping stick rod from my sponsor, All Pro Rods, and Steve gave me his rod to use in the meantime. We went on to catch many smallies during the day but not some of the real quality ones I had been getting used to catching. So the next day we were on the water at 5:30AM in a different part of the river that should produce better fish and it did. Steve landed some very nice quality smallmouth bass and I managed to land one or two nice fish myself. With my light rod I will have to admit that when it came to lifting the nice fish into the boat I had several come off at the boat. I had the wrong weight rod for the job at hand and the fish won. It got so bad that Steve was going for the net anytime when I got a nice fish on and those of you that know me also know that I never use a net to land my own fish.

We had a great time fishing and Steve is a great guy to fish with. His attention to detail shows not only in his fishing ability but also in the fishing lures he created. If you’re ever around to catch me with my truck and boat, I’d be glad to show you what we were using and may even have a spare lure to give away. However, if you’d like to see them in action, come with me on a charter and I’ll show you how it’s done.

Well that’s all for this month and remember to practice catch and release fishing for the future of our sport, boat safe, and I’ll see YOU on the water. For further reports, photos, and charter information, please visit me on my web site at www.ldguideservice.com or on my Facebook page.