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Tanner Spiedel – Photo by Jay Randall  

I’m off again, heading west for Sigourney, Iowa. I’m meeting up with my fellow Jackson Kayak Fishing teammate, Tanner Speidel  for a tour of some of his favorite waters to catch some hawgs. I departed around noon out of the Chicago suburbs to avoid the traffic and made great time and saw some interesting things as I rolled through the small towns of Iowa. The Amish reside in this part of the country and seeing  a horse drawn carriage has become a common sight in my travels in the back country of the Midwest.  I remember seeing an Amish child around 12 years old, plowing a field behind 2 mules barefoot (yes you heard me…barefoot) on the top of the plow.  It was truly incredible. Oh, where was I?  Yes, that’s right…on to rest of the story, haha.  The corn is high and are showing a mixed hue of brownish gold and a dark green. The soy fields are lush and ready to be harvested. The grape orchards are scattered about but are thriving in the hilly terrain at its finest. The air is cool in the 70s making for great driving weather with the windows down.  After 4 hours of transit I pull up to the Belva Deer Inn.  Nice place and the desk clerk was a nice elderly woman who was kind and helpful. She even got  a room for me  that had a window facing the parking lot so I could have line of sight of my kayak. This place is great for any kayak fisherman that may or may not have a trailered kayak. There is plenty of room to accommodate a trailer of any size judging from tractor trailers and the pickup trucks with bass boats. I’m staying in tonight to get some rest since I’m to be up at 4:00AM to meet Tanner at the south ramp of Belva Deer Lake at 5:30AM. This should be interesting with it being a holiday weekend and a popular lake. 

   Belva Deer Lake is a magnificent fishery that has a healthy community of largemouth bass. The lake was first a recreational area that had silt ponds of various sizes when the water began to fill this lake. Keokuk county has done a wonderful job in helping to design and promote the flourishment of this body of water. The structure in the lake is riddled with culverts, rock piles and pallet structures as well as the underwater mounds, roadways and trenches that provide many spawning beds for  the fish in this lake. 


It’s Saturday morning and the air is a crisp 61 degrees. My kayak is wet from all the summer morning dew. Tanner and I get our gear together for the morning hunt. We get to the boat launch and there aren’t that many people there.  The sun is starting to rise and we’re in the water paddling to our first spot to fish. Along the way we stopped a few times hitting some prime spots in the trees close to shore. Tanner is throwing a top water bait that has a propeller at the end that is churning up the water like a racing speed boat called the Whopper Plopper. I on the other hand chose another tactic. I figured out the bass were liking the 1/4oz. white Booyah Pond Magic spinner bait and the wacky rig. Along the shore is where the wacky rig dominates. The Crabby Bass Whacker in black with blue/purple glitter and chartreuse scented tips was unstoppable. Bass were grabbing it up either on the 1st decent or on the 3rd decent. It worked well in the trees too.  I was throwing the spinnerbait at various spots to see what the reaction bite was like and it was slow at first but then it picked up a good deal as the day moved into later morning.  I had most success in the submerged trunks of the trees that were sitting in 10-16 feet of water right off the creek cut.  The fight of the fish was surprisingly more than what I had expected. You never knew what size fish you had until it surfaced.  They would thrash like a Northern Pike at the water’s surface in true acrobatic fashion. Tanner was catching like crazy. He was still working all the shorelines with the top water ripper. The fish were slamming that lure at a high rate of speed. He was also casting a plastic worm Texas rigged and a soft plastic frog.  He out fished me but together we still landed upwards of 60 fish. We had been looking for a 20” or bigger to satisfy our hunger but they seemed to elude us that morning. 

Jay Randall – Photo by Jay Randall

   Later that evening we decided to hit this smaller body of water called Yenruogis Lake which is an old coal mine that filled with the clearest spring water you have ever seen. You could see down 10-15ft with the greatest detail.  At first I didn’t see any fish but then the Crabby Whacker made an appearance it got all the bass into a frenzy. Tanner was tossing the top water ripper lure again and killing them just as much. Again we caught around 40 fish between the two of us but none were the lunkers we so desperately desired. We left this oasis but had appreciated the chance to fish such a pristine location. We were heading back the hotel soon as the sun started to go down on the lake.

Tanner Spiedel – Photo by Jay Randall

   Sunday morning the weather was a bit cooler this time around. It was at 58 degrees when we left the hotel. The wind was making its presence known and the sky was overcast for most of the morning. It was cooler out and that seemed to get the fish pumped once again. I was a little slow going this morning and had to still set up the cameras and other things so I told Tanner that he should go ahead of me and get fishing. Tanner paddled off into the forest of sunken trees. I decided that I would stick with Saturday’s tactics and throw the Crabby Bass Whacker and the Booyah Pond Magic spinnerbait (since the weather was textbook for it) but this time I would trade in the smaller white one for the ½ oz Fish Mob White Storm spinnerbait in the color white with oversized Colorado cupped blades for maximum vibration. This spinnerbait has caught me many bass in the past and I could think of no better lure than the Fish Mob White Storm. I started working the trees and crept into the depths of this wooden labyrinth. Then BANG, caught my first bass of the day. I would start with the spinnerbait and then work the plastic wacky rig after that. That system worked well in this part of the lake. I was very impressed with the results. I tried other lures but these two seemed to be calling them in. I continued to throw the spinner bait through the trees bumping it off the sunken timber when I could resulting in some awesome battles. There were so many trees and it was like heaven for any bass fishermen. The trees began to thin out a bit and allowed for some open shore fishing which was probably the slowest for me. I didn’t seem to be able to locate a bass as I worked my way towards the where Tanner was but then I hit pay dirt. As I turned left there was a little cove off to the left that was just screaming for me to fish it. I skipped the Crabby Whacker all the way to the back of the mess and BAM! There was another bass. A keeper yes, but not quite the fish I was looking for. I saw there were more trees sticking out of the water in the center of this inlet and I started throwing the spinner bait once again. This was an interesting part of the lake because the river that runs through the lake makes a deep cut right through where the trees are.  They loved that white spinner bait. That color was killing it for me (which happens to be my favorite lure color). My confidence soared and I could see Tanner working that Whopper Plopper crazy fast on the shorelines spitting up that wave of water off the tail end. Fish after fish crushed that thing. I honestly never even thought of working a top water that fast but that was key for Tanners success. 

    We headed back to the dock after a great day on the water thinking of the day’s action. Tanner and I were very happy with our results even though that 20” seemed to be out of our grasp this weekend.  All in all it was a great experience and I got to enjoy it with a great friend. That is what fishing represents most for me, the comradery and connection with nature is absolutely the best way ever to spend a day on the water.