Monday, June 4, 2012

What a Road Trip! - Quest for the BASS Slam Part I is Complete

It was an incredible week - to say the least.  Our journey challenged and exhausted us, but was worth every second.  It had ups and downs, but in the end, it always came back to us, our kayaks, and the rivers beneath us...and those back home supporting us and rooting us on.  We left North Carolina on May 25th and spent the next 8 days traveling the southeast in pursuit of the majority of the 9 black bass species that inhabit US waters.  We traveled over 2300 miles, fished 7 rivers and creeks, and caught 6 species of black bass plus the Bartrams Bass.  You will have to wait until the first episode of our web series comes out to find out how we did, but I will give you a few tidbits from the trip.

One of the hundreds of turtles we saw on the Santa Fe River in FL

What can you expect from the web series?
We have hours upon hours upon hours of video footage to edit.  But, you can expect it to be a shortened version of a typical fishing show...except more adventurous.  It will include commentary, scenery, fish ID info, catches, and clue you in on how we were catching them.  Expect the first episode in the next 2-3 weeks.  Note that we will typically give general locations where we fished rather than exact launches or even rivers.  Planning and logistics for this trip took a lot of hard work and we expect anyone else chasing a slam to put in the same work.

What were our favorite rivers?
My favorite river, so far, is the Santa Fe River of north-central FL.  It's clear water, springs, ample cover, and hard fighting Suwannee bass really set it apart for me.  Bill's favorite river was one in northwest Georgia where we targeted Bartrams Bass.  It looked more like a trout stream than bass waters and was a challenging place to fish.

A Redeye Bass from north Georgia

What was our favorite species to catch?
My favorite was the Suwannee Bass.  Maybe that is also why I enjoyed the Santa Fe River so much, but man these fish pack a punch.  I think they were the hardest fighting fish we caught - and we had some fantastic fights.  If I had to make a guess, I would say Bill's was the Alabama Spotted Bass.  They hit like freight trains and put up a heck of a fight as well.

What kind of cameras did we use?
We used 2 GoPro Hero cameras as well as a Canon S100.  We did everything on a budget, so we couldn't spring for the really fancy stuff.  However, I know we were both really happy with the quality of the video from these cameras.  A big thanks to Sean Brodie of Canepole Adventures for his help in choosing the camera and recording equipment.

The Canon S100 helped us capture some amazing this photo of the teeth on a shoal bass

What kind of gear did we use?
We used a wide variety of gear, but I will touch on 3 pieces of equipment that exceeded expectations during the trip.  First was my 6'9" spinning rod from Carolina Custom Rods.  The rod is made for fishing drop-shots, shakey heads, and weightless plastics.  All I can say is WOW....I will be getting a second one of those rods in the very near future.  Second would be my Crack of Dawn Black Diamond paddle.  The carbon fiber paddle arrived at my house just 2 days before the trip and after 8 days of paddling hard, smacking off of rocks, and grinding on river bottom - it looks almost as good as new.  Plus, I know it's super light weight made it easy to swing...even on day 8.  Third is the kayaks themselves- Malibu Stealth 12s.  These boats got an extreme test - tropical storm Beryl, high winds, torrential downpours, rocky shoals, class II+ rapids, shallow name it.  They were overall impressive - speed, stability, handling, etc.  If you are looking for a great all-around boat, I just can't say enough about them.

Fishing the lily pad filled rivers of central FL was great, but the 11-12 ft gator we saw did make us a little nervous

What is left?
On this trip, we actually caught qualifying largemouth bass, but did not photograph them properly to qualify for the slam.  So, we still need to catch qualifying Largemouth, Smallmouth, Northern Spotted, and Guadalupe Bass.  We might also have to make a decision as to whether or not we want to head south again before May 25, 2013.

How much time and planning does the slam take?
Preparation for this leg of the slam was tough.  Since NC has only 3 of the required species, it meant we had to do a lot of research to track down the other bass.  For a few of them, we ended up on very stereotypical waters, such as chasing shoal bass in the Flint River.  Others we ended up fishing small tributary creeks that most people overlook.  Either way, be prepared to put in the leg work if you plan on doing in on your own.  Although I did the huge majority of planning by myself (mainly via Google), I did reach out to other members of the river fishing community for advice and ideas.

A big thanks again to Mary May and Misty for loving and supporting us through this craziness and thanks to the following folks who helped us in one way or another:  Broad River Outpost (GA), Gordon and Helen Haerer, Drew and Ange Waligora, Drew Gregory, Evan Howard, Todd Unzicker, Tim Perkins and his family, Sean Brodie, Pat Kellner, and Tony Hart.

Also, before I forget, we apologize for the tardiness of the giveaways.  We had very spotty internet when on the road and have been exhausted since.  We will get all of that sorted out and announced this week.

If you have any questions you would like to ask us about our adventures so far, please feel free to email me at and I will answer them in upcoming blogs.  Until then...tight lines!

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