Many of our interviews bring you advice from anglers that have mastered a particular body of water. John Cook is an angler who has mastered a lot of Pennsylvania bass fishing waters. But in this interview, I throw him a curve ball by discussing a lake that he admits to having a love-hate relationship with. The struggle is real for John on Lake Wallenpaupack in Northeastern PA. I think many of us can relate to his love-hate relationship for Wallenpaupack as all of us have a lake just like it for us. Though many days on Lake Wallenpaupack have been a grind for him, he still catches a few and shares some good insight on fishing the lake.
How has your overall fishing season been this year?
Although I did not fish as much as I would like to admit, I did have an awesome year. I caught my personal best this year, a 7lb 8oz largemouth in a small public lake in the Poconos. Also spent a few days reminding myself how amazing smallmouth fishing can be on Oneida in July.
I have been to Wallenpaupack twice. Despite watching a deer swim across a cove, it was not very exciting from a fishing perspective. But yet this lake holds intrigue for me. I know you have love/hate relationship with the lake. Why do you keep going back?
Haha probably the same reason as you! Something about that place calls me. Nockamixon in southeast PA was always the same way for me. For some reason, these 2 lakes can kick my butt over and over, and I still come crawling back. The biggest thing for me and Pack is I want to be able to compete there, so I go back so I can build towards that. I also feel that if/when I can unlock the secrets that I’m currently missing, the lessons learned will be worth the struggle.
What fishing trips have you had on Wallenpaupack that make you love the lake?
Most of the time when I fish Pack its with a good friend I don’t get to see often, so that alone makes even a bad trip fun. We have had plenty of good trips but I think my favorite 2 were watching him catch his first ever smallmouth, and one morning where the top water bite was nonstop on buzzbaits outside of grass lines. It is hard to beat smallmouth on top-water!
Why the hate for the lake?
My frustration here is the mental game. I know I am doing something wrong and just can’t seem to figure out what it is. After a while that wears on me. I believe I need to learn the deeper water better in the warmer months and that’s a weak spot for me anywhere I go. Normally on other water I can ignore my weaknesses and focus on shallow where I am stronger, but this lake doesn’t seem to allow that most trips for me.
What weight for a best 5 fish would you be satisfied with?
For tournaments I feel 12.5 lbs will cash a check most days. Sometimes it’ll even be enough to win but 15+ lb bags aren’t uncommon on Pack. But my minimum goal any day there is 12.5. I’ve never landed a smallmouth worth weighing there. I would guess my biggest was around 3 lbs. I’ve seen some giants, but like any good fishing story they were the ones who got away.
I’ve caught 2 largemouth there around 6lbs, but I can’t remember the exact weights. I believe the one I caught in a tournament a few years ago was 5.9lbs if my memory is correct.
What is the level of recreational boat traffic on the lake during the summer?
Boat pressure is awful there in the summer. A lot of Pack is very narrow, and with the traffic there it is dangerous. I do avoid it in the summer, especially weekends.
I consider myself a decent boater, and I’m a safety consultant in my professional life so I take safety very serious. Pack scares me! PA does not have a lot of lakes that allow unlimited horsepower, so the places that do get crowded as a rule.
Take your time and look every direction, including behind you. Even on a calm lake its rare I’m running over 35 MPH, but on Pack in the summer I go as slow as my boat allows me while staying on plane.
When would you say is your favorite time of the year to fish the lake?
As a rule, I love the fall for any lake, and it doesn’t change here. Fish are schooled up and feeding…can’t go wrong. If the buzzbait bite is on in the summer though, I will fight through any boat traffic to get in on that action! So I guess that is my favorite time, early summer.
Do you prefer to fish for the lake’s largemouth or smallmouth?
If the numbers are the same from years ago, it was published that there is 9 smallmouth per 1 largemouth. So this lake is a smallmouth lake to me. Smallmouth are my favorite fish in general, so they take top spot here for me.
As always, favorite baits and presentations depends on the time of year and conditions and blah blah blah. For me, my favorite overall is early summer with buzzbaits as mentioned above. Slow and steady around docks that have grass near will normally pay off early morning. Have something ready to throw at the ones who blowup but miss. I use a senko wacky rigged.
When and how do you target largemouth bass on Wallenpaupack?
Once the sun gets up though my struggles begin with smallmouth in the summer, so I go looking for largemouth. When I am fishing largemouth, especially in the summer and the morning top water bite is finished, I am finesse fishing. I do a lot with a shaky head and drop shot around grass. Keitech swimbaits are always great there as well for both largemouth and smallmouth. The Keitech swimbaits tend to be my go to over spinnerbaits and cranks personally.
Overall, what are 5 pieces of advice that you have for those who want to try and fish Wallenpaupack?
1. Boating safety is a must! Be alert and extra careful, its up to us to set an example because the pleasure boats aren’t doing so.
2. Finesse. Just because the bait isn’t big and moving fast doesn’t mean big fish won’t eat it.
3. You will do better if you are close to grass.
4. If you have confidence in fishing deep/offshore, you will likely have the upper hand over guys like me.
5. Natural colors are a must because this lake is often very clear.
Thank you John so much for the candid interview and great advice about fishing Lake Wallenpaupack. I will be following John and all of his fishing, hunting and life pics on Instagram @hiphopjohncook as well as seeing pics from what I believe will be a very successful 2018 for him on Lake Wallenpaupack.