The air is cooling and the sunrises are magnificent. It's time to head for the nearest lake and try your luck.

Lake Manatee, a 2,500-acre body of water near my home, is my choice. The worst day I've ever had on the lake was pretty darn good. It has the reputation of being tough, but I've not found it that way at all.

I've made two trips in the past week. Last Friday, I did very well, catching 60 bluegill and speckled perch (crappie). I also hooked three fish that I couldn't handle. I suspected they were channel cats. But my 1-weight and 3.6-pound tippet weren't up to the task.

So, today, I beefed up to 4-weight and 8-pound fluoro tippet.

I caught 80 fish. Most were bluegill (about half were hand-size), but I also caught shellcracker, bass and stumpknocker. I also solved the mystery of the tackle-busting fish. They indeed were channel cats. I hooked on and landed one. It was big; it was 3 pounds on the Boga Grip. They fight was great.

Lake Manatee truly is a great lake. Most of my fish came on No. 10 bead head nymph under and strike indicator -- what a great producer.


Speckled perch:


Channel cat: