Monday, July 26, 2010

Beating the Heat on the River - 7/25/10

On Sunday, I decided that to do some fishing.  I was hoping to catch another striper from my yak.  The best bet would be to float a stretch of river south of Durham. With temperatures reaching 102 over the course of the day, I decided to head out and fish the late afternoon to early evening bite.

I launched around 4:30 PM and was on my way in the sauna like conditions.  I was regularly catching spots with some catfish thrown in as well. The first decent fish of the day was about a 4-5 lb channel cat. A few minutes later, I got a good bite in the same general area. I expected it to be a cat, but to my suprise it was a spot...and a nice one at that. The fish measured just over 15 1/4" - good enough for a North Carolina fishing citation. This would be my second trip in a row catching a citation size fish.

I continued catching decent fish and I lost another that felt good, but which I could not identify.
As the day dwindled we headed back up to a rapid area in hopes of landing a striper or hyrbid, but it wasn't to be as I didn't land any additional fish.  I left a little early since this particular area has a repuration for unruly characters and headed to get some Cook Out...the perfect ending to a great multi-species day on the water.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Chasing Chatham County Monsters

Friday morning, two good friends (Scott and Bob)and I hit a Chatham County river to chase stripers, hybrids, largemouth, spots, and anything else that happened onto our hooks. This spot had been very productive for us this summer so we had high hopes.

We had planned a 4 AM meet-up and 4:15 AM launch to try and get the entirety of the striper bite. However, the moon, which was a beautiful orange on the drive south, disappeared into the clouds around 3:45 AM leaving the morning nearly pitch dark. We launched on time, but the bite was slow. It proved quite difficult, throwing to the faint outlines of current breaks, boulders, and logs. I had a good blow-up on a buzzbait, but the fish never got the hook. Shortly after, I heard Scott let out a yell and he landed a chunky blue catfish on a topwater plug. We took our time until about 5:15 AM, when twilight came and we could actually begin to see where we were casting.

We spread out, fishing hard and switching baits as we saw fit. I landed my first fish rather quickly, a small spotted bass, and two casts later had a second spot in the boat. But the bite was a little slow. I had a nice blow-up on a Lucky Craft Sammy (which was the bait that landed the first 2 fish), but again the fish never drew hook. As the sun got higher I decided to switch to a Sebile Magic Swimmer swimbait. As I tied it on I realized that the hooks were smaller than I would have liked, but I certainly wasn't going to change them right then and there. Two casts later I hooked a solid fish in the current. I had made a long cast and the fish was pulling hard through the boulder filled channel. About midway to the boat he broke the surface and revealed himself to be a 20" (or so) striper. On the same jump, he threw the hook....I would go striperless for the day!

It turns out Scott and Bob hadn't had much better luck with a blow-up here and there, but no fish other than spots. We started working our way down river and I threw a mix of topwater and spinnerbaits. We got to a rocky area to find the bite much slower than normal. In fact, the area, which is typically littered with spotted bass, seemed nearly void. I decided to paddle down a side channel where a creek came in to explore a bit. This turned out to be one of the better moves of my day.

The channel, which contained a couple class 2 rapids, looked more like a trout stream. The most bizarre part was that even in the current, it was full of carp. However, some of the side pools looked awfully bassy. After navigating through the rapids I stowed my boat on shore and waded back up to some of the pools. Nearly every current break and eddy seemed to be full of spots and for the next 40 minutes I rarely went 2 casts without a bite. I landed 20 or more spots (the Kentucky breed) with numerous fish over 12" and one pushing 14".

At this point Scott turned around and I am not sure how the rest of his day went. Bob and I decided to explore further down river. This turned out to be more work than we had expected as the bite was slow, weather was hot, and haul back up river was brutal. After our unsuccesful exploration, which yielded only a few small fish, we headed back toward the area where we had started.

On my first cast I landed a 13" spot on a spinnerbait, which I thought was a sign that the bite would be hot. 2 casts later I had a fish blast the spinnerbait, but didn't hook up. However, the next 30-40 minutes was spent casting numerous baits without a bite. We decided to pack it in and head for the trucks as we were beat and the temperature was quickly rising toward triple digits. As we paddled for the bank I threw my spinnerbait in a fishy looking chute where I had thrown probably a dozen or more casts throughout the day. As the bait got within about 8 feet of the boat I saw a big mouth and head appear behind the lure. The bite was awesome and it felt like the rod would be jolted from my arm. Upon seeing the fish, my brain was trying to process what it was. It wasn't a striper or hyrbid, nor a largemouth or spot. It wasn't a was a bowfin.

For those of you not familiar with bowfin, they are a unique fish. They have been around for over 150 million years, have extremely hard scales and mouths, and rows of sharp teeth. I had only landed 2 bowfin previously and only hooked 3 that I could positively identify. However, until today I didn't have a picture of one because I never had a desire to bring one in my kayak with me.

After a good fight and multiple jumps the fish came to boat side. Thankfully Bob saw the aerial display and turned back to help take pictures. He also lended me his Boga grip (I need to get one of those!) to clamp on the fish while I removed the hook with pliers. My spinnerbait was stucky squarely in his upper lip, but popped out of the bone hard upper jaw like it was nothing. Upon removal from the water, we noticed the fish had a split lower jaw and looked like it had been in some battles. The fish measured around 25" and 5 lbs. This bowfin was my 3rd from this river and 3rd largest, and it was big enough to qualify for a North Carolina fishing citation. It was a great way to end a day that had its ups and downs. In hindsight, we have been really spoiled by this river this summer because when a 30 bass day topped off with a citian bowfin and lost striper is considered slow, you know you have it good!

Fish were caught on a Lucky Craft Sammy topwater, Storm Chug Bug, River2Sea Buzzbait, J&M Spinnerbait, and Sebile Magic Swimmer with the J&M spinnerbait being the most productive by far. And as usual, the scenery was awesome, having carp, gar, and catfish cruising under the boat, multiple birds roaming the banks/skies, and watching panfish sip bugs off the surface all day long. Thanks again to Scott and Bob for joining me. Tight lines!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Floating the River with Paul

Last weekend my neighbor Paul and I hit the river for a Saturday morning trip. I love fishing with Paul for many reasons, but the two biggest are 1) he has a newborn and I know his free time is rare and 2) Paul and I know more random facts than anyone should ever know, so our conversations typically lead anywhere and everywhere.

We hit the water around 6 AM and began our float. It was Paul's first time in a yak in years, so it took him a little while to adjust to the 10 foot sit-on-top. I started throwing a Lucky Craft Gunfish while Paul threw a topwater frog. I had a small fish boil on the Gunfish and Paul had another boil on his frog, but we had no real takers. I then switched to a combo of a Cotton Cordell Big-O crankbait and a Deep Creek Lures worm and Paul switched to a white spinnerbait. The first bite of the day was a big one as a nice largemouth pulled drag from Paul's spinning combo. As the fish breached the surface, we could both see that it was well over 4 lbs and possibly over 5. He fought the fish for another 10 seconds (although it seemed like minutes) before it threw the hook. This fish would somewhat epitomize our day.

I caught my first fish of the day on the crank, a 1.5 lb bass, to get the skunk out of my boat. We continued up river and hooked some fish on the worm and spinnerbait. We had boated a few, but nothing to brag about. I actually caught my first catfish of the summer on the Deep Creek worm, but even he flopped off as I pulled him from the water. We arrived at the top of our float landing only 5-6 fish and we were both a little perplexed and frustrated. While wading a shallow pool, Paul and I did manage a double as he landed as small bass and I a sunfish who ate a worm nearly as big as him.

As we turned and headed down river the bite started to pick up. I switched from a Deep Creek worm to a Gary Yamamoto worm in one of my favorite shades of green and it seemed to make a difference. I caught 7-8 bass in a short stretch, including 3 on consecutive casts at one point. However, the big bite still escaped us.

Conditions continued to change as early afternoon storms were blowing in. The bite ran hot and cold, but we got bites somewhat consistently. I was landing fish every 10-15 minutes, but they were all fairly small or coming unbuttoned. Finally, I threw my worm along the base of a tree and it got hit hard. The fish took off toward deep water and I could feel the head shake of a nice bass. Seconds later the hook popped out and my tough day continued. Paul was also getting some bites, but having trouble putting fish in the boat too.

We approached the launch knowing that we had to soon call it a day in order to avoid the dark clouds that were blowing in. It was then that I got a good bite and finally landed one of my best bass of the day.

For the next 30 minutes we fished in fear of getting rocked by the storm, but the bite really picked up. We started getting bit every other third cast and were landing some 1-2 lb bass. I lost a nice fish in a mess of trees and Paul soon boated a 2.5+ lb bass. He then hooked another that was a little camera shy and flopped off before he could land him.

Paul hooked a couple more before we had to call it a day. We put the gear in the Escape, threw the yaks on the roof, and jumped in the car. By the time I turned the car on the rain started and within seconds it became a torrential downpour. I have to credit Paul for that as I wanted to fish another 10-15 minutes.

Paul caught fish on a spinnerbait as well as a wacky rigged plastic worm. I caught all of my fish except 1 on plastic worms and, although I love supporting local products, the Yamamoto worm outfished the Deep Creek worm (both the same style) approximately 17 to 3. While I believe the changing weather conditions had something to do with those numbers, it is hard to argue with success!

Thanks again to Paul for joining me on the water. Until next time, tight lines!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Durham River Bassin' with Gary - July 15, 2010

Wednesday I got a call from a good friend, Gary Ribet (aka froggy...aka froggy waters). He asked if I wanted to hit a local river the next morning - so how could I refuse. It was an area I had never fished before, but of which he spoke highly. I made my way down the dusty, dirt road and met him at 6 AM. After shooting the bull for a while we launched and began down river.

After fishing a few lay downs I threw my buzzbait along a fallen log and had our first fish of the day - a 1 lb bass. A few minutes later Gary hooked up with a chunky bass on a scrounger head with a Deep Creek lures trailer, but the fish threw the hook at the boat. A short time after I flipped my Deep Creek Lures Sink n' Catch worm to a downed tree and landed a 2.5 lb bass. Already, we knew it would be a good day.

We turned around and started making our way up-river. Gary quickly landed a solid 2+ lb bass on a 5" worm. Our excitement was running high as I got a hard bite, but lost what felt like a solid fish. A few casts later I hooked into what would be my biggest fish of the day on the DCL S&C worm. It was a fat 19.5", 4.4 lb bass.

Shortly after, I heard Gary let out a holler and turned to see a nice bass leave the water. After a fight which included some teamwork, moving sticks, and some gentle persuading he landed a 20+", 4.0 lb bass.

Over the next mile of river we fished hard through laydowns and rock ledges with plastic worms and swimbaits. We landed fish fairly consistenly ranging from 1.5 to 3.5 lbs. We reached our turn around point with 12 fish. In one of the first pools after we turned around I tossed my DCL worm along a laydown and it was 'fish on'. A chunky 3.3 lb bass gave my spinning combo all it could handle before I could land him. Thankfully, I was out of my yak at the time, which helped me untangle the fish from a pile of branches which he quickly found his way into.

We fished back down river in the sun and heat. Fish were holding closer to the deeper river channel, but we were still catching fish regularly. As we approached the launch we had landed around 20 fish between us and I was hoping for one more good fish before the day ended. I cast my worm along a downed log and felt the stereotypical "thump" of a good bite. The fish headed for the channel initially and then quickly bent back around toward the bottom of the log. It broke the surface of the water multiple times and put up an awesome fight, as most river fish do. I landed the 3 lb bass with a smile on my face. It would be my last fish of the day. We paddled slightly farther and Gary managed two more decent bass.

As we pulled up to the grassy launch I was exhausted from the heat and was wishing I had brought some lunch. But the feeling of a good day on the water always trumps the other stuff. We were content with our day, full of chunky, quality fish, good conversation, and of course a couple "mystery fish" that got away and will keep us coming back. I always enjoy my time on the water with Gary and I look forward to fishing with him again soon.

(This might be my favorite picture of the to enlarge!)

Weightless plastic worms and swimbaits were the ticket today - typical of mid-summer trips on the areas small rivers. We also threw t-rigged plastics, jigs, and a variety of other plastics with no luck. Until next time....tight lines!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Carolina Yakfish Tournament - Lake Mackintosh - July 10, 2010

On Saturday myself and the rest of the Carolina Yakfish competitors headed to Lake Mackintosh near Burlington to tangle with some warm weather bass. This was one of the only tournaments I have ever not pre-fished, but I had spent a couple days on the lake before - one of which included a fourth place finish in the Get:Outdoors tournament in early April. Although I knew the fish would be in different areas, I had a few places in mind where I thought I could find some bites.

We launched right around 7 AM and headed different ways in search of our 4 bass limits. I bypassed an area where I had a lot of luck in April in order to get a little more water to myself at the far end of the lake. I stopped mid-way and fished in a little cove where I saw some shad activity. However, there was no feeding activity and I kept paddling. I pulled up on a rocky bank with a steep drop into 10-20 feet of water. I pulled out a crankbait and a jig and went to work. I fished down the bank with no luck. I switched to a shallower crank and fished back down the rock face. About 8:00 AM I hooked into my first bass on a Lucky Craft Skeet Reese SKT MR crank in gun metal shad. The fish went 14 1/4" and was a solid start.

I continued fishing down the bank and came up on a spot with a long point and a deep drop. It also had a big bush hanging over the water. It was one of those spots where you know you are going to get bit. Sure enough, the fish hit a Case Plastics Jacks Worm on the fall. He ran right at the boat, but I caught up to him in time to land him and upgrade to 2 fish for 30 inches even.

I decided to head into some slightly shallower water with a lot of overhanging trees and bushes and also a fair amount of cover. As soon as I got back into shady areas the bite got hot. I caught a limit by 10:15 AM and had 6 by 10:45 AM. Unfortunately, my 3rd fish only went about 9", my 4th was 10 3/4", my 5th was 10 3/4", and my 6th was 12 3/4". 3 of those fish came on the same Case Plastics Jacks Worm and 1 (a 10 3/4") came on a 10" Berkley Powerbait Worm.

That put me at 53.5" a number which I knew would contend, but I wasn't comfortable with. I headed back out and started cranking a long point. I hooked up almost immediately on another small bass - 10.5" would not help me. After a few more casts with no takers I decided to head back toward the launch and hit the deep drops near the bridge where the wind was really funneling the baitfish. It was also in the low 90's at this point, so I thought I could find some fish deep.

I set up cranking along a rip-rap wall of the bridge/road. I tied on shallow, medium, and deep diving cranks as well as a carolina rigged worm and went to work. About 15 minutes in I got my first bite on a Spro Little John DD crankbait in about 18 feet of water. It was another 10 3/4" fish that was one of the darkest largemouths I have ever caught.

2 casts later I hooked another 10 3/4" fish on the same crank on the same ledge. I was hoping that would ignite a school of fish, but that was my last fish of the day. I was stuck on 53.5" and just had to cross my fingers. As we gathered at the launch I heard rumors of giants and skunks. After it all got sorted out (official results here) the winning total was a very impressive 72.25" by local guide and Native pro-staffer Philip Ruckert. 2nd place was originally awarded to Scott Inge who got some nice bites trolling to end with 57.5". However, Scott was deducted length due to violation of photograph criteria and ended up in 3rd place with 56". Therefore, Joey Sullivan was bumped to 2nd with a 57" day. That put me in 4th place for the day. The big fish was caught by Philip at 20.5", but he did not enter the big fish pot, so it went to Scott for his 19" largemouth.

It was a really fun and challenging day in the heat and wind. At the end of every tournament I like to reflect back about what I would have done differently. In this case, I should have spent more time fishing the long points in Mackintosh. A carolina rigged plastic would have probably been the best bet, but man are they boring to fish. I should have thrown medium and deep cranks over some of those spots too. I also wish I would have decided to skip the topwater "bite" in the morning and fished a jig and spinnerbait a little harder early.

Until next time, tight lines!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

BPS-RiverBassin' Tournament - Charlotte, NC - June 26, 2010

My anticipation had been growing for some time for the RiverBassin Tournament based out of the Bass Pro Shops in Charlotte. I grew up fishing for bass on the rivers of central Pennsylvania and spend a ton of time on the rivers and streams of North I was pumped.

Unforunately, my favorite river was just out of bounds for the tournament and I wrestled all week with exactly where to fish. The day before the event I headed down toward the South Carolina border to check out a stretch of the Pee Dee River. I had never fished here before, but I had faith and it looked like it had potential. My mistake was getting out of Durham late, which put me on the water around 11:30 AM in 98 degree heat. To make matters worse, the dam above this stretch was running no water and the river had dropped a few feet over the 24 hours prior. Needless to say, the bite was slow, but I managed a handful of largemouths with my best three going 19", 16", and 12" for a respective total of 47". However, that was not the number I was hoping for.

I headed to BPS-Charlotte as confused as ever. Would the fishing be really good in the morning if the dam was releasing water? Would I be able to get a few decent fish during the morning bite? Should I stay close to home and stick to my guns?

In the end, I decided to fish with my good friends Bob and Joey as well as Bob's dad Parker. The river was one I know well, but I had never fished this particular stretch and going in blind would come back to cost me. After the captain's meeting, a long drive home, an hour of prepping gear, and 3 hours of sleep I was on the road again headed for the river.

We launched at first light, which I guess is debatable depending on who you are. For me, if you can see the sun coming up, identify the color of your boat from 15 feet away, and make your way safely down river....then it is safe light.

My day started slow and for quite some time it only got worse. In the first hour, my only bites were 8"-10" largemouths, none of which I could bring to the boat. Although I knew they would do me no good at the end of the day, it was still frustrating. Finally, I hooked into a good fish on a 10" Berkley Power Worm. I boated him and got him on the ruler - 16" and finally things were looking up....until the fish flopped off the measuring board and back into the water before I could get a picture. Two minutes later I landed a bass and got a picture. 12" was nothing special, but it was 12" more than I had all day. I was just starting to feel good...then three casts later I had what felt like a good fish run me into some heavy, heavy cover and come off. The bad luck continued!

At this point, I realized having never fished that stretch before was catching up to me. Long stretches of shallow, swift water were clearly void of larger fish and it made me regret not focusing more on some areas I had quickly fished through earlier. I paddled to the other bank and after navigating some rapids found a creek that came into the river. On my first cast a fish blasted a 7.5" Culprit Original Worm on the fall and made a run for it. I knew it was big and a couple minutes later I had boated a 20" fish that was right around 5 lbs.

I took a deep breath, and knew a couple more like that would put me in good shape. But, the big ones never came. I continued on, catching numerous fish in the 12" range on plastic worms. And, my bad luck continued, as I lost 4 fish that were all 15" or bigger. Before I knew it, we were at the end of the stretch and I was having second thoughts about numerous aspects of my day as I sat with 44". I decided at that point it was all or nothing, so I tied on a 5.5" swimbait and my favorite Strike King jig with a Paca chunk trailer. Over the last hour I was able to upgrade with a 12.75" and 15" fish.

I was frustrated with my showing, but at least it was respectable given the brutal heat. In the end, 47.75" was good enough for 6th place in the Avid Angler division, which consisted of talented anglers from all over the southeast. My good friend Bob won with a total of 55.75" (special congrats to him) and second place was 52"...a total I would have surpassed had I caught a few breaks during the day.

Thanks to Drew Gregory, BPS, The River Bassin Tourney Trail Crew,, Bob, Joey, Parker, and everyone else who made it a great event!

Kickin' it off right....

I am finally getting this site off the ground - with the main goal of sharing my fishing adventures. All of my trips (barring special occassions) are done from a kayak or wading, hence the man powered edition. I hope to share my experiences, knowledge, triumphs, and sorrows....because we know there are always a few that get away.