Monday, July 22, 2013

Another New River - Another Great Day - Another Giant Bass

Last week, I got an email from Bill about helping with some reviews of Biovex baits for Bass East and a new project of theirs.  I was more than happy to help - excited in fact.  Bill is going to be doing the bulk of the reviews for the new project, so we kicked around different formats, pictures, videos, etc. that would make them stand out.  We knew we wanted to do underwater footage, so a clear body of water was a must.  If you have read any of my other blogs this spring, you know how rainy it has been here in central North Carolina - resulting in high, muddy water.  I knew that finding something clear would be a chore.  I made a few calls and found that none of the local lakes were going to work.  But I kept my eye on the river gauges and after 5 days of no rain, a few were starting to look pretty good.  So on Friday evening I drove by a few spots, searching for the clearest.  The decision making was difficult.  A couple areas looked perfect for fishing, but not for filming.  Others looked perfect for filming, but did not look like great places to wet a line.  Then I remembered a stretch of water I have wanted to fish for over a year now.  It is a very small river with a couple tributary creeks that only run during high water.  The rumor was that it was almost always clear and was a decent fishery.  The problem with rumors is that you never know what you are going to get.  This rumor turned out to be more than true.


Another small water trophy this summer
(Photo by Bills Kohls Media)

I met a guy two summers ago who had first told me about the stretch.  I had fished the lower part of the river before, but never up as far as he had talked about.  He said that access was tough and parts of it were a chore to get through, but that fishing was often good.  Unfortunatley, I couldn't remember his real name or his NCangler screen name.  So, I made a call to the one person I knew might remember.  And as he typically does, he came through.  In fact, he not only remembered his name, but he passed along his contact info.  Thankfully, the contact remembered meeting me, so I sent him a message asking about water clarity and access.  He said it was fairly clear and got us an access point.  Although intrigued, I was still hesitant.  So, I pulled up a map and called Bill.  He brought up a map on his computer as well and we went over 3 or 4 different stretches of different rivers, trying to decide where to go.  I had fished most of the stretches before, but for some reason, the intrigue of the unknown kept drawing us back to the new spot.  We decided we would go there first and if it wasn't clear enough, we would turn around and go to option 2.

8 AM rolled around and Bill showed up right on time.  I had loaded the yaks the night before, so we hit the road in anticipation.  We got to the launch around 9 AM and immediatley headed for the water.  It was clear.  Not gin clear, but clear enough to get the footage we needed.  We unloaded and bushwhacked our way to the river - carrying the yaks through high grass and around downed trees before maneuvering down large boulders to the rivers edge.  We were cut up, tired, and covered in mud - and it was only 9:30.  But our adrenaline was pumping.  The excitement that a new, unknown river holds is unmatched. 

We fished through a few pools that looked awesome - flipping and throwing topwater around trees, bushes, and boulders.  But we went close to 30 minutes without a bite.  We came to a small shoal and I had a 13" bass blow-up a Rico Popper in the push water.  Then Bill landed a bass on the Biovex Face 70 topwater bait.  But the action was inconsistent.  We had a couple small blow-ups and landed a few sunfish before I finally landed another largemouth - this one on a plastic worm.  Then we came to a long pool.  That pool changed everything.

I love exploring small flows - not just for the fishing, but for the scenery too

Immediately Bill caught two bass on the Face 70, including a solid 3.5 lb fish.  That prompted us to stop and shoot some footage of the underwater fish releases as well as some bait footage.  I helped him get shots of each bait and we took video of how they looked from above the water.  While Bill was snapping shots of the Stangun DW, I picked up the Amp Mid Runner crankbait and took a few casts.  On the second cast, the bait got crushed after deflecting off an underwater rock ledge.  I landed the chunky, 15" bass and we got some photos of the bait, wedged completely in its mouth.

Then we did some underwater footage.  We started with the Amp MR.  After a bunch of takes, I made a longer cast than I had been - this time toward a nearby log.  As the bait came over the log a bass inhaled it and took off straight toward the camera.  Bill - shirtless and snorkeling with the GoPro 3 - had no idea that I had a fish on the hook as it trucked toward him.  I envisioned a treble hook pierced through Bill's chest, but thankfully, the fish just missed him.  We got some really cool footage and kept filming.  Two casts later, I hooked up again.  This time, I made sure to yell loud enough that Bill heard me.  This fish was smaller and easier to handle, but he still fought hard and ran directly into the camera at one point.  After getting all of the footage we needed of all the baits, we started focusing on fishing again.

We worked the long pool - landing another dozen bass on a mix of baits.  Then we came to the next run, which had some mixed grass, boulders, and eddy seams.  There we landed another 5 or 6 bass on topwaters and crankbaits including a few topwater blow-ups that we got on film.  This river - smaller than many creeks - was turning out to be awesome!

Most of the freshwater baits from Biovex, although some of the new models are not pictured
(Photo from

We pressed on and explored some side channels.  One tributary creek was dry.  Another was too low to have anything but small fish in it.  Then we spotted a channel that looked like it had potential.  The water flowing from it was signficantly colder than the main river temperature and we could hear whitewater of some sort.  We trudged through mucky silt, grass, a downed tree, and smelly algae before coming to a spill pool.  It looked like one of those spots that could hold a big fish.  But our efforts were all for not....well, all for a bream.  So we trudged back down the channel and back to the main river. 

It was nearly 1 PM by then and a cloudy morning gave way to full sun and high temps.  The river channel significantly narrowed - looking much like a trout stream in most sections.  But we continued to find holes, chutes, and eddies that held fish.  By the time we left the river - around 5 PM, we had caught upwards of 50 fish - 5 bream, two crappies (on topwater), 5 catfish, and 35-40 largemouths.  Most of the bass were in the 12"-14" range, but man did those fish fight like freight trains.  And of course, we caught some nice ones too.

The highlight of my day came toward the end of the trip.  After working a hole with a crankbait and topwater, I switched to a stick worm.  I threw the worm toward a current seam and let it sink.  As I picked it up off of the bottom, I felt it catch on a few small pieces of grass.  I ripped the bait free and let it fall again.  As I picked up on it, I felt a fish and set the hook.  Immediately line started peeling of my reel.  I cranked down the drag and the fish began pulling my kayak all over the place - a fantastic kayak sleigh ride.  Then she went aerial and Bill and I both shook our heads in disbelief.  She pulled and pulled before I finally got her in the net.  My favorite rod - the Carolina Custom Rods Finesse Special - had struck again.  At 22.5" and 6 lbs 10 oz, she was a giant - gorged on river minnows and bream.  I bet she would have pushed 8 lbs earlier this spring.  Even with my affinity for catching big fish in small rivers and creeks, I could barely believe a fish of that size lived in that flow.  We snapped some photos and sent her on her way.

Note the "I can't hold her up much longer" grimmace

Thanks to the big girl, our best 5 bass for the day would have went around 21 lbs.  Bill also landed a beast of a creek catfish on a jig - well over 10 lbs.  The crazy thing is that we caught fish on just about everything in the box - topwaters, jigs, spinnerbaits, buzzbaits, crankbaits, plastics, and swimbaits.  All of the Biovex baits we tried were not only productive, but impressive - and I was skeptical at the start.  Their new jig (not yet on the website) has some flashabou tied into it as a long, trailer type tail.  We were both extra-skeptical about it, but it definitely outproduced all of the other jigs we threw.  As well as the baits mentioned above, I also got to throw their new swimbait.  It looks sick in the water and I landed mutliple bass on it while burning it down foamy, current seams.

A big thanks to everyone who helped us research this spot.  As usual, it was a blast fishing with Bill and shooting photos & video for his company - Bill Kohls Media.  Until next time, tight lines!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Little Rivers, Big Flows, & Monster Bass

It has never been a secret that I love fishing small flows and targeting big bass.   A couple of years ago, I put together a short article about fishing creeks and small rivers.  I also have a popular video - Gone Creekin' - on my YouTube channel.  And a few weeks ago I blogged about catching bass in high, muddy water and detailed some of my small river successes.  It is weird because I went from cursing the rain to crossing my fingers that we get more every time I see the river gauge drop below a certain level.  The even crazier thing is that level is roughly 2 feet above normal for this time of the year.  These conditions have forced me to adjust, learn new patterns, and find new areas on some of my favorite flows.  But this past week, it paid off again.

A monster river bass from a small flow  (Photo via Bill Kohls Media)

I had another mid-week guide trip with a father and son and I really wanted to put them on fish.  Everything was muddy and blown up, limiting my options.  They also didn't want to go too far from home, which limited the places we could go even more.  I decided on a river that I knew would fit my high, muddy water pattern.  The gauge read 3.1 feet above normal when we launched.  It was a little higher than I wanted, but definitely doable - at least I hoped so.

Long story short, they landed some nice bass, pushing 4 lbs, and chunky catfish.  We again targeted eddies and grass lines with crankbaits and spinnerbaits.  The Premier League Lures River Series spinnerbait was the star of the day.  It was a really fun day on the water and the Malibu Stealth 12 did great with the son riding up on the front.  In fact, he walked all over that kayak without a problem as we paddled and fished.  When I got home, I again looked at the river gauge.  It had actually risen about 6-8 inches while we were out there.  Rising water conditions are not my favorite and that may have hampered the bite.  Looking back at some of my fishing logs over the past few years, even if all other conidtions were ideal, I have consistently done better in falling water than rising.  Keep that in mind when planning your next trip because even within a watershed, tributaries and different parts of a river will rise and fall at different rates.  The USGS river data site is your friend!

Froggy Waters Outdoors has been a lot busier this year, limiting my personal fishing trips.  And although I don't get to actually fish very much, they are great scouting trips for when I do get to go chase some bass on my own.  This past Sunday was finally one of those days.  I turned 30 on Friday and got to celebrate with great friends and food well into Saturday morning.  I woke up Saturday afternoon (yep, afternoon) feeling every bit of 30 after 3 late nights in a row, but was excited to have my good friend Bill Kohls coming into town to hang out, hit the water, and take some photos for some companies he is working with.  A huge thanks to him for the shots from Sunday!

We launched around 9 AM on another local river that was about a foot and a half above the median level for early July.  After some failed exploring down river, we turned around and headed toward some shoals.  Bill lost a bass on a crank, but the bite remained slow.  We were fishing weed lines, eddies, chunk rock, wood cover, and chutes with no luck.  Finally, we came to a rock bluff with a chute and long eddy.  Bill was throwing a swim jig and nailed bass on back-to-back-to-back casts along a grass line.  The third bass ripped his trailer off the hook, so while he grabbed a new one, I stepped up to the plate with a crankbait.  I didn't get them on simultaneous casts, but I had three bass of my own in no time at all, including one long bass that was over 4 lbs.  That brings me to another crazy thing about this year so far - I haven't even been photographing 4 lbers because I have been catching fish over 5 lbs on every trip, often more than one.  It has just been insanely good.

A 4 lber and my LSD Designs bag  (Photo via Bill Kohls Media*)
*Cropped...the original was way better

We rotated between cranks, the swim jig, swimbaits, jerkbaits, and spinnerbaits and landed a dozen fish from that short stretch of water.  We kept moving up-river.  Some spots we passed looked perfect, but we couldn't buy a bite.  We fished on, eventually getting to another quality area.  I hit three quick bass on a crank and Bill lost one on a jig.  I switched up my bait to a crank that dove a little deeper and 5 casts later the bait got crushed.  I saw the fish flash and it looked big, but in the muddy water it was impossible to tell how big it actually was.  She ran past the yaks and down river before going aerial.  We knew it was a good one, although I still didn't think it was bigger than 5 lbs.  Pulling drag along the way, she eventually got closer and jumped again.  This time, we knew it was a special fish for such a small flow.  I was able to turn her in the current with my 7'6" Carolina Custom Rod and get her in the net.  Her body was every bit of a 7 lber, but immediately, we both noticed that she was on the short side.  We snapped a few photos and got some measurements.  She pulled just under 6.5 lbs on the scale and I would guess she was in the 21"-22" range. 

One more shot of the 6.5 with the MK and CCR  (Photo via Bill Kohls Media)

We went on to catch 6 or 7 fish on Rico poppers, cranks, and jigs up to that weighed up to about 3.5 lbs.  One thing I noticed again on Sunday is that the rain has kept the water cooler than normal and flat sided cranks are significantly outproducing square bills and cranks with a wide wobble.  Keep that in mind next time you pull out a crank in cooler water. 

Eventually, the heat started getting to us, so we floated back down river to the launch - catching a few more along the way including a chunky bass Bill caught on a jig.  Given the conditions, we certainly couldn't argue with over 20 bass up to 6.5 lbs.  I just can't get enough of these wet conditions!  Until next time, tight lines!