No coffee needed!

It’s a pleasure fishing with customers who book with Traverse City Bass Guide Service. I enjoy meeting new people and sharing in their special day on the water as we fish for smallmouth bass on the beautiful world-class waters of Grand Traverse Bays. Occasionally, opportunities that don’t involve bass fishing present themselves that I love to pass along to my customers.

Such an opportunity presented itself several days ago when there was a hard north wind for a couple of days in northern Michigan. Late summer typically means that salmon will make their way close to river mouths where they will run upstream to spawn. A hard north wind will often stack the salmon up in thick numbers, making them easy for boats not outfitted for trolling, such as a bass boat, to use techniques other than trolling to cast to, and catch, these awesomely powerful fish.

In Traverse City, the Boardman River empties into West Bay. Adjacent to this river mouth is deep water, known as "the hole." Salmon congregate in large numbers in the hole, bringing with them a set of opportunities for catching them that doesn’t have to mean trolling from a large charter boat. While trolling this is a terrific technique enjoyed by many, others prefer a more hands-on approach. I am definitely one of those-enjoying the challenge and adrenaline rush of catching salmon with rod and reel in-hand.

A few days prior to my bass trip with a couple of new customers, when I typically contact my customers, I knew that there would be an opportunity to vertical jig for king salmon in "the hole." My customer, Michael, seeking a thrill for himself and for his son, readily agreed that targeting salmon would be an interesting alternative to bass fishing. We agreed to meet in the pre-dawn hours, getting out early trying to hopefully take advantage of the first light bite.

Early morning fishing requires caffeine if you’re me. In fact, for me, every day requires coffee-especially if you own a coffee company, which I do. Deep Blue Coffee Company supplies coffee to Traverse City Bass for its customers to enjoy during their trip, often eliminating a customer’s suffering through hotel coffee. They get to show up at the boat ramp, and I’ll have a great cup of coffee waiting for them.

This day, I somehow forgot the coffee carafe, and sent my customer a text that I had dropped the ball and forgotten the coffee. "No worries," he said, "I don’t drink that much coffee anyway." Nevertheless, I felt terrible about my oversight.

We launched the boat in the pre-dawn darkness, and headed down towards the hole in hopes of being able to hook up with some salmon by jigging Jonah Jigs, which were designed specifically for vertical jigging salmon. Armed with my G.Loomis jigging rods, we were rigged and ready for business! After showing my customer and his 13-year-old son the proper techniques for jigging, we began our day by looking for schools of salmon on my sonar. Bingo, there they were!!! "OK, drop guys!" By dropping our Jonah Jigs to the bottom and reeling up to the depth that the salmon were holding in I knew that we were in a good position to hopefully get bit in short order.

It wasn’t long before I felt the telltale aggressive jolt from a salmon, but didn’t hook up. Shortly after my bite, Michael also got a bite, stopping his heart for a moment. "You weren’t kidding when you said that this was an aggressive bite!" Now we were on to something. No sooner had he finished sharing his experience about the sensation of the bite, he was hooked up, with drag peeling off of my Shimano reel. "Holy **Bleep**!" he shouted, "NO COFFEE NEEDED!!! THIS IS AWESOME!" After a 5-minute battle full of drag pulling and powerful thrashing on the surface, our king salmon was in the net, coming aboard for some photos. Perfectly hooked right in the jaw.

I’m pleased to say that we were able to boat 4 salmon, out of the 7 that we hooked up with. We had numerous other bites, including a dandy lake trout that Michael’s son, Justin landed. The entire time, Michael kept saying how exciting it was to catch a salmon with a technique that allowed him to feel the bite and fight the fish all on his own. It was a fantastic morning of fishing, and the added benefit was that they were able to take their catch home, something that we don’t allow when we bass fish. As a guide, it’s gratifying knowing that my customers had a day that far exceeded their expectations. And to be able to take advantage of a unique set of opportunities made it all that much more special. We can’t always jig for salmon, but when the circumstances present themselves…. Good things can happen!

Captain Ben Wolfe’s Deep Blue Coffee Company® is now a proud sponsor of the Outdoor Channel’s Hook n’ Look TV Show

Article from the November 14th edition of the Hook n’ Look newsletter:

 HOOK N’ LOOK DIVES INTO DEEP BLUE COFFEE!

Considering the names of some of Deep Blue Coffee’s hand-crafted blends, Traverse City Bass Blend, Anglers Blend, Great Lakes Blend, Hook N’ Look is especially proud to announce a promotional agreement with the Traverse City, Michigan based coffee company.  Each custom roasted blend displays a satisfying richness which will please any palate. Try some for yourself!  We’re thoroughly confident you’ll agree that Deep Blue Coffee is unforgettably delicious!

It’s a Small World

I had an interesting grocery shopping experience two days ago when I went to pick up some groceries at a Meijer’s in Traverse City. A super blustery day, where it was a pleasure to not have a guide trip on a much-enjoyed day off, I ventured out to pick up some groceries for upcoming guide trips as well as forage for ingredients for dinner.

As I was looking for a parking spot, in the always-busy Meijer’s, the friendly face of a long-time local customer of mine called out “Hello Captain!” This was a customer, Chuck, who has fished with me on two of my guide services. I have enjoyed fishing with he and his grandson, Logan, on my Traverse City Bass Guide Service, targeting smallmouth bass, and have also enjoyed fishing with he and his wife, Janis, with my Manistee River Salmon Guide Service down in Manistee, Michigan targeting king salmon.

Chuck and I chatted briefly, catching up on the fishing and life in general. It was fun running into such a nice customer, and glad to hear that things continue to go well for him in his retirement.

While getting a hot cider, a woman recognized me from my television segments on WWTV’s Michigan This Morning show where they highlighted my 3 guide services and my Deep Blue Coffee Company. She asked how the fishing business was, and we spoke about a friend of hers who is a fishing guide in New Zealand. She was happy that I had been highlighted, saying that she thought that I had done a great job. Much appreciated praise, thank you!

Overhearing our conversation was a gentleman who asked about my coffee company. It turns out that this guy’s family owns a coffee farm in Hawaii, and owns a coffee shop/roastery in Homer, Alaska. We spoke a bit about the coffee business, and as many of my conversations do, we also spoke about fishing. What a small world, because not only does his family own a coffee farm and shop, he is here in the Traverse City area to attend the Maritime Academy. His love is on the water, and Traverse City seemed to be a great fit for him.

Spending so much time on the water isolates me a bit, but it’s days like I had a couple of days ago that remind me how small a world it actually is, and how we are all connected. Running into Chuck prompted me to put up a photo of a trip with his grandson Logan and one from a trip he had with Janis, fishing for salmon.

Thank you everybody, for making my passion my job, and for making my job such a pleasure.

Chuck’s grandson Logan with a dandy smallmouth he caught while fishing with me at Traverse City Bass Guide Service.

Chuck and Janis with a king salmon caught while fishing with Manistee River Salmon Guide Service.

Hook N’ Look

What a difference a couple of weeks can make! 3 weeks ago, I was thrilled to film a tv show, Hook N’ Look over the course of 3 days with Kim and Danny Stricker. The weather was crappy—heavy winds all 3 days, and rain for two of them. Perfect for showing off raingear, but difficult to film in, considering the high-definition cameras and sensitive microphones. Sure, the fish are already wet, and we’re in a boat designed for water, but wow was it uncomfortable. Thank goodness we were also highlighting my coffee company, Deep Blue Coffee. Few things can warm up a chilly and wet day on the water than a great cup of hot coffee!

Filming a spinnerbait show, showcasing the Strike King tour grade painted blade spinnerbaits, we needed wind to help promote a hot bass bite. Well, we got wind—a little too much of it, however. We were able to connect on a few, and got a few more to chase and bump the spinnerbait, but overall, it was not a great bite to really show off this technique. As a full time guide, this was a little puzzling. The fish were shallow; there was the right water temperature zone; there was wind to help promote a shallow spinnerbait bite; and there were baitfish present. All signs that there should have been a phenomenal spinnerbait bite.

The fish, however, don’t always seem to follow our human best laid plans. And very often, in very frustrating fashion, they do their own thing. Given the seemingly perfect conditions for this kind of bite, it became very apparent that we would have to grind it out, taking an overly persistent mindset. Having confidence in an area was key for our shoot. I knew from years of experience where the fish were. Just getting them to bite on what we wanted them to bite on, for the sake of a spinnerbait show was the issue. Sure we probably could have gotten more bites using other baits or techniques, but if you’re going to film a spinnerbait show—you have to throw a spinnerbait! Not having confidence in the areas we were fishing could have led us all over northern Michigan’s prime smallmouth water, but at the end of the day—if you know the fish are there—don’t leave fish to find fish. Just fish, and make it happen.

In all, filming with Hook N’ Look was a great experience. Kim, Danny and my friend Capt. Kyle Buck (who was driving my Ranger Z-520 as the camera boat) all shared a lot of laughs, caught some fish, filmed a show, and drank A LOT of Deep Blue Coffee Company’s coffee. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat!

Kim Stricker and Captain Ben filming for Hook N’ Look.

Kim catches a fall smallmouth on a Strike King spinnerbait

Captain Ben and Kim Stricker throwing Strike King painted blade KVD spinnerbaits for fall smallmouth in the Traverse City area

Michigan This Morning

What an incredibly busy month we have had this past month. Fishing every day, and flip flopping between my two guide services, Manistee River Salmon Guide Service fishing for king salmon on the Big Manistee River and my Traverse City Bass Guide Service guiding on Grand Traverse Bay in Traverse City. We have attracted some media attention, which is always welcome.

We filmed 6 small 2-minute segments with “Michigan This Morning”, a local morning show. During the filming, we highlighted both my coffee company, Deep Blue Coffee Company, and my 3 guide services. Despite beautiful weather conditions on the Manistee River, we struggled to get bites casting crank baits for the king salmon lurking in the deep holes. Bring out the cameras, and the fish get shy! Typical stage fright on the part of the fish, I’m guessing.

Not to make excuses, here, things were set up a little bit against us. For casting crank baits, we as anglers and guides rely on a couple of things to help us. First, we need plenty of fish in the system to really make the crank bait bite shine. Lots of fish makes the salmon even more territorial, and we did not have a lot of salmon in the deep holes that day. Secondly, due to the filming, we needed lots of light to allow the high definition cameras to do their best. The ultimate crank bait bite occurs the first half hour prior to first light through the first hour after sunrise. For this morning show, we were taping live, so we didn’t even get onto the river until 9am! Not an early start at all.

On the day, we filmed with my Wolfe Outfitters head guide, Matt Dunn, and Kalin Franks, the host of the “Michigan This Morning” show. Stephanie Adkins did all of the camera work, as well played producer. It was a great experience to pull in to the parking lot at Bear Creek, one of the launches where we have Federal permits, and have all of the other boats already well on their way, leaving the parking lot and ramp empty for us to film.

Kalin started out by interviewing me, introducing Deep Blue Coffee, talking a bit about the coffee company prior to launching our boat. We chatted about how I got into the coffee business, and what I offer my fishing customers each morning with my coffee.

After launching the boat, we ran to a few different spots, where I showed Kalin and Stephanie how we cast crank baits to the king salmon that inhabit the Big Manistee River in the fall. We did a few more interview segments to fill out the segment times, discussing everything from casting basics to cured egg presentations, to the great fisheries we enjoy in northern Michigan. Despite not having a good bite to really showcase, we had a terrific time fishing with Kalin and Stephanie. We shared stories and laughed a lot—much of which is probably good not to have captured on film! Thanks Kalin, Stephanie, Matt and “Michigan This Morning”.

And last but not least, it was fun and interesting to watch the segments the next day. I used my DVR to record the segments, since I was out on another guide trip, and watched the “Michigan This Morning” show that evening with my parents and wife. Exciting to see it all come together.

Kalin Franks introducing Deep Blue Coffee.

Kalin and I discussing the finer points of cured salmon eggs for bait.

Plugging the Deep Blue Signature Blend; the Cottage Morning and Great Lakes Blends.

Deep Blue Coffee Company

There were a few reasons why I decided to start my coffee company, Deep Blue Coffee Company. First and foremost, I love coffee. Or maybe a better way to phrase it is that I need coffee. A lot. And I do happen to love it. In my opinion, there’s no bigger letdown to start a day than to have a lousy cup of coffee. A great cup of coffee, on the other hand, can start the day off just right!

In my life, I’ve been tremendously fortunate, and have been able to fish all over this wonderful country that we live in. And not just fish in tremendous places, but to share that experience with my brother as we filmed a television show spanning my culinary career and my fishing.

One thing that always came up, no matter our location, was that of coffee. In a new and strange town, where could we get a good cup of coffee? Finding a nice coffee house wasn’t usually a problem, but since we were fishing, we were often out on the water well before the coffee houses opened for business. Sure, fast food places have coffee, but that’s not very good, and in many of the towns that we were visiting, this fast food option wasn’t even a choice. Those dinky coffee machines in hotel rooms just wouldn’t suffice, either, not to mention that the coffee itself is always stale and rancid tasting. I even considered buying and travelling with my own coffee maker.

So my thinking was, as I guide every day with my Traverse City Bass Guide Service, why not offer customers the coffee that I’d be happy to drink in my own home. After nearly 6 weeks of testing, tasting and refining working with a local master coffee roaster, the Traverse City Bass Blend was born, and along with it, a viable coffee option to begin each and every guide day. And best of all is the fact that customers can now worry about getting to the boat ramp and not worry about having a quality cup of coffee in a new town.