Sunday, September 26, 2010

Voodoo River Bassin' - September 26, 2010

I am going to try a little something different this week by walking you through my morning on the river as it happened - so here goes!


5:08 AM - climb out of bed, get dressed, & round up last minute gear for the trip. I loaded the car with most of my fishing stuff and kayak the night before. It was warmer than I had expected.


5:45 AM - pick up Mary May. I could barely see her in her camo outfit.


6:18 AM - arrive at the launch. It is still dark. Meet Gary who loads me up with Deep Creek baits. My car will smell their like garlic scent for weeks.


6:40 AM - launch the yaks. The water feels pretty chilly on my feet. It is still rather dark. We begin heading down river.


6:45 AM - 2nd cast, 1st fish - a 2+ lb LMB that ate a Deep Creek creature bait rigged on a Carolina Custom Rod. Mmmm, yep, gonna be a good day!

First bass of the AM who bit light on the Carolina Custom Rod

7:15 AM - Gary gets on the board with his first bass then lands a chunky 19.5 incher that hit a Deep Creek bait.

Gary's second fish - a chunk


7:30 AM - Mary May boats her first fish - another fat LMB that hit a plastic worm. She gave the cheese face.

Mary May's first bass of the day!

8:15 AM - I hook into a solid bass and reel in a 20.75", roughly 5 lb LMB on a plastic worm. This fish proceeded to give me the pseudo-cheese face.

A 20.75" Piedmont largemouth

9 AM - At this point we decide to turn around. Altogether we have landed about 10 bass with 2 over 4+ lbs and 2 more well over 3 lbs.

Deep Creek Lures were irresistible to these fish


9:05 AM - 10 AM - We are landing 1.5 - 2.5 lb bass with general regularity - mainly on plastics. I lose a gar on a swimbait. Gary begins telling stories.


10:15 AM - Gary hooks into a nice bass on a Deep Creek bait and Scrounger head combo. He lands a healthy 20.75" fish. He even smiled for the picture!

Gary with a 4.5 lber

Mary May holding Gary's fish

10:30 AM - Mary May loses a couple fish on the way to the boat. One of them even splashes her on his return to the depths. She is sad.


No caption necessary!


10:45 AM - The bite is pretty decent, but it is getting warm and we were running out of energy. The chilly water is tempting me to take a dip.


11 AM - Gary gets a bite from a BIG bass. He breaches the surface and throws the bait. Weight estimate - well above 5 lbs. Mile radius from which Gary's scream was heard - well over 5 miles.


11:05 AM - We turn around and head back to the launch. We all look tired, but are smiling. (Except Gary who is still half pouting from the one that got away)


11:15 AM - I get a huge bite from a fish I first thought was a log. The fish wraps me up and I thought I lost him. The hook pops out and he hits the worm again! I miss him again...uuuggghhhh! Insert F-bomb here!


11:30 AM - The bite is pretty consistent with fish at every 3rd or 4th lay down including a few 2.5 - 3.5 lbers. Mary May realizes that fishing in MA can't hold a candle to NC.


Lots of healthy 3+ lb fish were out and about



11:45 AM - One last fish to end the day - a chunky 2 lber that hit a plastic worm! Man...these fish pull hard!


Noon - hit the launch, load up, and hit the road after a very fun and successful morning.


Totals - LMB for 3 of us: 20-30
3+ lb LMB: 8-10
4+ lb LMB: 3-4
5+ lb LMB: 1-2
Giants that got away: 2
20 minute silent treatment: 1 (Better than a 5 lber!)

The scenery, as it often is, was tough to beat!

We caught fish on plastic worms, creature baits, scrounger heads, and chatterbaits. I was really happy with the way some new gear (a Daiwa Zillion HSA and Carolina Custom Rod) performed. We put a hurting on some bass and came away with some photos, sleigh rides, and smiles! Until next time, tight lines!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Triangle River Bassin' - September 19, 2010

On Sunday morning I got up early and headed to a local flow to try for some river bass. I haven't been on a river in a couple of weeks, so I was anxious to get out. I was joined by good friends Gary Ribet and Wendy Tonker. It would be one of Wendy's first trips in a kayak.

It was definitely one of those foggy, mystical, beautiful mornings!

We launched around 6:45 AM, just after first light. I decided to head down river to hit a couple lay downs where I have had a lot of luck, while Gary and Wendy headed up river. I fished over the first log with no luck, but shortly after (and about 10 minutes into the day) I got a good bite. The fish nailed my plastic worm and ran hard down the bank. It took everything I had to keep him out of the river-side brush and trees as well as keep him from pulling me around. After a great fight, I boated him....a 21", 5 lb bass. It took me a while to get a good photo because there was no good place to access the bank. After sinking up to my knees in silt and sand, I finally managed a couple of the 'voodoo' bass. What a way to start the day!

So stoked!

Pretty bass to start the day!

I then wanted to fish one more laydown and figured I would turn around and catch up with Gary and Wendy after. However, my plans changed. I caught fish on the next 2 laydowns using a buzzbait, then the next log with a plastic worm. I spent the next hour or two fishing down river and catching fish with regularity. None of them were over 2.5 lbs, but it was fun. I ended up with 4 fish on a buzzbait, 6 on a plastic worm, and 1 on a jig by the time I decided to turn around. I also had a beaver pop up only a couple feet from my kayak. I am fairly sure I interrupted his Sunday morning beauty sleep.

Wendy with a solid bass

I headed up river and asked how the other two had done. Wendy had caught a couple nice fish, including one just under 3 lbs and another over 4.5 lbs. Gary had lost a bunch of fish and was still skunked. I briefly conversed with them before Wendy had to head back. Gary and I proceeded up river and I picked up two more small bass on plastic worms.

Wendy with a 4.5 lber

We then got to an area I had not fished before. We beached the boats and waded through a long, shallow stretch until we got to an area with a high and open bank. Gary and I climbed up the bank and started fishing. Shortly after we started, I spotted and sight fished a 2-2.5 lb bass. We were also seeing carp, tons of sunfish, and a lot of gar...including some giants. I had never actually landed a gar, so I decided I was going to give it a shot.

The gar were acting aggresively toward a minnow bait that Gary was using, but they just weren't getting the hook into their bony, rock hard mouths. I decided to switch to a Sebile Magic Swimmer swimbait and give it a try. I spotted a gar, threw the bait past him and used a steady reel, jerk, pause retrieve. The small fish slashed at the bait numerous times, but I just couldn't hook him. I then threw another cast along the far bank and felt a good bite. I thought for sure it was a small gar, but it turned out to be a pretty 3 lb bass. I then saw a nice gar and jerked my swimbait in front of him....it was on! The fish was big and he initially went on a strong run. After tiring the fish a little, we realized there was no way to land the fish on the high bank, so we would have to walk him about 50 yards down river. At first, the fish was cooperating. But, after a couple of minutes he decided to turn and make another deep run. As he shook his head, the hook popped out of his mouth and he swam away. Gary and I estimated the fish to be 36+" and easily over 10 lbs - possibly pushing 15+ lbs.

Me holding a solid 3+lb LMB

I hooked a couple more gar for short, but sweet moments. Unfortunately, I just could not land them. I also managed to lose another bass on a worm before we left that area and headed back down river. Somehow, Gary was still fishless and he was eager to get on the board. We began fishing back down river and I managed 2 quick bass. After another 15 minutes, Gary got on the board with a small bass. Shortly after, I heard a splash and looked over to see his rod doubled over. A fish was quickly pulling him toward the bank. After a nice fight, he landed the bass - a pretty 5 lb 3 oz fish.

Gary's pig!

As we fished the rest of the morning, Gary and I managed a few more bass. I ended the day around noon having landed 20 fish - all bass. Most of them were caught on plastic worms as well as a few on a buzzbait, swimbait, and jig. I think there will be a return trip to this area in my near future - to chase big bass and a giant gar! Tight lines!

This guy was waiting to meet us at the take out...fall is near!

Friday Night Catfish at Jordan Lake - September 17, 2010

On Friday, a group of friends and I headed to Jordan Lake to try and catch some catfish. The group included some old friends like Gary 'froggy waters' Ribet and his wife Pam. It also included Chris and Jeremy, two returnees to the Duke Fishing Club. However, it also included a number of new friends from Duke. Some of them had been fishing for years and others are fairly new to the sport.

We first arrived at the lake around 7:45 PM. People would continue to trickle in and out between then and about 2 AM. Armed with chicken livers, nightcrawlers, and cut bait we gave it a go. The bite was slow to begin with, but about 20-30 minutes after dark the bite began to really pick up. Mary May put the first fish on the board - a chunky channel cat, which although not a giant, would be the biggest fish we landed all night. However, we were all pretty sure it was the good luck of Jun, who had just arrived, that helped land that fish!



For the next 2 hours the bite was fairly regular on chicken livers and we were landing decent size channel cats every couple of minutes. Then the bite began to slow down significantly and we moved down the bank about a hundred yards toward some rip rap. We set back up there and waited patiently. Unfortunately, the bite there was hot and cold and a lot of smaller fish were stealing our bait. However, on a couple occassions 4-5 rods would hook up at once. We were still landing channel cats mainly, but also had some flatheads (mud cats) and even a white catfish thrown in.

Around 2 AM we decided it was time to call it a night (and we were out of bait). Chicken livers were far and away the most productive bait. We ended up keeping about 6-7 cats to eat. Since she caught the biggest, we all agreed it was only fitting that Mary May got to hold them for the last photo of the night.



A huge thanks to Gary for helping me out and everyone else who came out to join the crew. I, personally, had a ton of fun. Until next time, tight lines!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Teaming Up With Carolina Custom Rods

A couple of months ago I began talking with Brett Hinson - owner and operator of Carolina Custom Rods based out of Chapel Hill. Although he is a Tar Heel fan, he makes up for it by making awesome rods - a craft he has been at for over 20 years. Brett and I have decided to team up and get some rods publicized both in the kayak bass fishing world and in the collegiate fishing ranks.



I picked up my first two rods from Brett last Friday. They are a 7'10" deep cranking rod and a 7' jig and worm rod. Both have cork, split grips, spiral wrapped microguides, custom wraps, and are Duke themed. They certainly passed the looks test...and I couldn't wait to try them out, so the jig and worm rod came along for the Carolina Yakfish tournament on Shearon Harris.



Immediately, I noticed how light the rod was. It is significantly lighter than my 6'6" St. Croix Mojo Bass rod, which I had been using to fish jigs and worms. The first test was a casting test. I texas rigged a 1/8 oz bullet sinker above a 4/0 Gamakatsu hook and 5" Yum Dinger. I was casting the bait further than I have ever thrown that light of a bait and in windy conditions at that. I was quite impressed and I really think the spiral wrapped microguides help. The accuracy, although mainly a function of the caster, was also impressive.



Now the two biggest things I demand from a jig and worm rod are sensitivity and fighting power/back bone. And again, I was really impressed. The rod was really sensitive and I could feel the worm pull through small clumps of weeds and over rocky points. Unfortunately, I only landed one fish on the rod, a 17" pickerel. But, I handled the fish with ease and can't wait to hook into a big bass!



If you want to get in contact with Brett (and trust me, if you are a serious fisherman you do), he can be reached at carolinacustomrods@nc.rr.com or by phone at (919) 240-5422. You can also check out his website (currently being built) at this link: Carolina Custom Rods. He will build you the exact, custom rod you want. And he can do saltwater rods and fly rods too! Do yourself a favor and give Brett a call.....Tight lines!

Carolina Yakfish Tourney #4 - Shearon Harris Reservoir - September 11, 2010

This past Saturday, the Carolina Yakfish Series had it's 4th tournament of the year at Shearon Harris Reservoir. Shearon Harris (Harris for short) is famous for hydrilla, big fish, and feast or famine results. The tournament was set to launch from the Cross Point ramp on the south end of the lake, an area that had been good to me last November. However, early August and late November are much different times to chase bass, so I knew it would be challenging.



I was able to practice a week before the tourney with my friend Santosh, the president of the Duke Bass Fishing Team. We fished from about 7:15 AM to 12:30 PM and did a fair amount of scouting. I lost one nice fish in the weeds, had about a 4 lber come unbuttoned at the boat, and landed a healthy 13.5" spotted bass - all in the same creek arm. All of these fish were caught on plastics fished over the hydrilla in 4-10 feet of water. Unfortunately, none of my favorite techniques were working, so my confidence level was not extremely high. Regardless, I decided I was going to start my tournament in that creek.



We gathered for the tourney a little before 7 AM and were on the water after a brief word from one of the tournament directors and a prayer. I headed for the creek and suprisingly only found 2-3 bass boats in there and no other kayakers. Within 5 minutes of casting I felt a characterstic thump of a bite and lifted my rod tip, but the fish wasn't there. I shook my worm again and felt the fish pick it back up. I set the hook....and missed the fish, who stole my worm to add insult to injury. Two casts later I got another bite on the edge of the weeds and thought things were really looking up. I fought and landed about a 17" pickerel, which would not help my cause.

I then got to an area with a beaver dam, where I had caught the 4 lber the week before. Unfortunately, unlike my practice session when I saw 2 beavers who weren't very aggressive, this time there were 4 beavers who were slapping their tails on the water every 1 or 2 minutes and swimming all over. Needless to say, any bass nearby wanted nothing to do with them (or me) and I paddled to the next cove fairly quickly. There I landed my first bass of the day, a 10 3/4" fish that at least got me on the board. I landed a second pickerel, about 20" long, in the same cove. I then got a solid bite on the next point, but couldn't get a hook in the fish. In the next cove I landed my second bass, a monster 8 3/4" fish, and a 3rd pickerel. At that point, I would have gladly traded my 55" of pickerel for a couple nice bass! From then on it was all down hill.



I got to a weedline that I really like and started fishing it hard. It had hydrilla and a lot of primrose and quickly dropped into 10 feet of water. I got what felt like a bite (I'm still not positive about it), set the hook, and the rod slipped in my hand. If it was a fish, he was gone. 5 minutes later I saw a small bass chasing shad, which were busting the surface. I went to heave my plastic worm toward them and it went sailing...unfortunately the force of the cast had torn it from the hook. By the time I grabbed another rod and threw it to the area, the fish was gone.

I continued fishing the weed edges with nothing to show for it. The water temp. was rising quickly and the fish seemed to be shutting down. Finally I saw a nice bass break the surface chasing baitfish on the other side of a cove. I reached behind me and pulled my crankbait rod from the rod holder. I wound up to make a long cast to the busting fish, brought the rod forward, and the lure didn't move. It had wrapped around the rod tip while behind me in the holder and I hadn't noticed. I tried shaking the bait free, but eventually had to unwrap it by hand. I made the long cast to where the fish had been, but 5 casts resulted in zero fish. I fished until about 11 AM in that creek arm with no more bites. So, I decided to move for deeper water and try my luck there. I was hearing reports from others that they were having really tough days, with lots of skunks (zero fish). This made me feel a little better, but certainly not comfortable with 19.5" in a big bass lake.



Over the next two hours I fished carolina rigged plastics, texas rigged plastics, deep cranks, medium cranks, shallow cranks, spinnerbaits, and just about everything else I could throw...I just couldn't buy a bite. Finally I got to a stump in about 6 feet of water and got a good bite on a worm. I set the hook into a fish that felt big enough to put me in contention and possibly win the big bass pot. The fish made a deep run and was even giving ferocious head shakes. Then I saw him flash near the boat, and recognized the white belly of a catfish. Shortly after, I boated the 5-6+ lb channel cat.

Finally, I decided to head back toward the creek arm and fished a smaller arm next to it. All of my bites had been around hydrilla, so I headed to the weed edge. After 15 minutes of fishing it hard I got a small bite. I set the hook, but couldn't hook up with the fish. I reeled in and checked my worm. In the process, I noticed that my hook was bent at a funny angle from when I had used my pliers to remove it from the hard cartiledge in the mouth of the catfish. I bent it back into shape, but wondered if it hadn't cost me a 3rd fish. I continued fishing until 2:30 with nothing more to show and headed for the launch with a whooping 19.5".

As I pulled up to the launch, I noticed that lots of guys had already left. The day had apparently kicked everyone's butts. Out of 21 entrants (and a couple more 'fun fishermen'), only 9 managed to catch fish. As the lengths came in, I realized that my 2 little bass may actually place. Lots of good fishermen put zero's on the board. Somehow, despite what I considered a terrible day with some bad luck thrown in, I hung on for 3rd place.

1st place was taken by Scott Inge, who ran away with it on an early topwater bite. He caught 3 for 51" including the big bass at 20 1/4". Bob Dainton took second with 2 bass for 21". My third place finish was good enough to at least take home some cash and prizes as well as move me back to the top of the angler of the year standings.

I caught every single one of my fish on plastic worms fished over the hydrilla. In hindsight, I probably should have fished topwater in the morning, but in practice it just wasn't working for me and I was getting bites on plastics (both during pratice and in the tourney) all morning long...just not the big bites that I know are there. Check out the full results at the Carolina Yakfish website.


This tourney was also my first as an official representative of Carolina Custom Rods. CCR is owned and operated by Brett Hinson from Chapel Hill. Although he is a Tar Heel fan, he makes up for it by making really nice, sensitive, light weight rods. He made me a custom, Duke themed baitcasting rod that is 7', split grip cork, spiral wrapped, & has microguides. It really impressed me on the water and I will have a post up shortly with some pictures and a review. He also made me a deep cranking rod, which I can not wait to try out! If you are interested in a rod (and you should be), including saltwater rods, give Brett a call at (919) 240-5422 or email him at carolinacustomrods@nc.rr.com.

It will all come down to the final event on Jordan Lake to determine the angler of the year. The best 3 finishes count toward AOY, which makes it a 4 horse race for the title. Counting all 5 tournamenst would benefit me more, so I really need to lay it all on the line. Thankfully, I have had a lot of success in the fall on Jordan (including winning the Inaugural Carolina Yakfish Tourney there last year), know some good areas, and can really fish to my strengths. Until next time, tight lines ;)!