BASS HANGOUTS. Hello all of fishing lovers, Today’s post is “BASS HANGOUTS”. i hope that this informative article is helpful for you, all fishing lovers.
Before I discuss rivers, I would like to apologize to the Suwannee, Shoal, Guadalupe, Spotted and Redeye bass for omitting you from this book. It was not meant as a slight to you or the anglers that give chase. The river may be a kayak bass fisherman’s best friend or worse enemy. Unlike other habitats that offer consistent patterns and predictable fishing behavior. A river can break your spirit just as quickly as it ignited your passion. The larger the river and its system of tributaries and creeks, the more maddening it can be. However, even small rivers with little contrast can have you pulling your hair out at times. For me, that is half of the appeal and makes the rewards that much greater. I have not caught the majority of my biggest fish from a river, but they put up a better pound-for-pound fight.
River fishing has one guarantee: it is never quite the same. I have often heard older folks quip, “You never fish the same river twice.” There is a lot of truth in that statement, but there are things that you can do to catch fish more consistently in the river. I will focus on sharing ideas on how to maximize your success while fishing from the kayak.
TIP: Spend some time to educate yourself on the river fishing tactics used by boat anglers. Most of the approaches are the same. The difference is that places that you can get into offer the advantage of fishing less pressured fish. Because the fish aren’t as wary, you can get away with presentations that may not be working for the majority of people fishing. Try to hide your smirk when you overhear sob stories at the boat ramp after having a banner day.
Largemouth bass generally avoid areas with strong current. They do feed aggressively near current breaks, structure, cuts, chutes and shoals. Bass will most likely be in the slow-moving areas with access to still, deep water from late fall through the end of the spawn. These areas will resemble lakes in many ways and serve as overwintering locations in colder climes. Throughout the summer and most of the fall, bass will hold near chutes and cuts or behind shoals in areas with some current movement. This current movement is especially important during the summer dog days where it provides the source of cooler, oxygen-rich water. These chutes, cuts and current breaks serve as food conveyer belts serving up baitfish to gluttonous bass.
The major areas that I have success fishing in rivers are creeks impassable to boat traffic, getting right in the middle of lay downs (submerged logs) and finding isolated lakes in flooded timber. Using an aerial photography website like Google Earth, MapQuest or TerraFly will help you considerably. By “flying” over the length of river you intend to fish, you can quickly identify potential areas that meet these criteria. Speaking with guides, marinas, tackle shops and fellow fishermen can help identify some potential honey holes. Fishing reports can be great sources of information as well. Just be sure to consider the discussion in Chapter 2 before relying on them too heavily.
Fishing an impassible creek can also lead to discovery of isolated lakes and major lay downs. In the South, some of these creeks have been opened up by anglers yielding chainsaws. However, there are still thousands of these available throughout the country. Most don’t get fished because it simply isn’t worth the effort for many boat anglers to venture up a creek that doesn’t offer room to turn the boat around.
These creeks are bass magnets when the fish are feeding-up during the pre-spawn and post-spawn periods. They are also places where bass seek refuge from excessive boat and personal watercraft traffic. When vegetation is present these creeks offer better water quality as an added bonus. I have routinely found bedding bass well away from the main river and further up the creeks than I had previously considered possible.
I have a favorite tactic for fishing falling water from a river that had previously swollen outside its banks—it is fishing run-outs. A run-out is an area where logs and other debris stacking up against the trunks of trees forces water to flow through narrow openings. These areas are effective ambush points and can be deadly during the spring rains. Water beetles, crayfish patterns, creature baits, Chatterbaits and bulky jigs are very effective for this type of presentation. I have had a lot of success by finding areas where the water levels are different and debris has formed a natural damn. By dislodging materials and causing water to flow, you can create your own run-out and fish this area in as little as 15 minutes. Using a fly rod and small minnow or crayfish patterns on a short leader with a floating line is ideal and very productive.
All gravel pits are not created equal. The gravel pits that make exceptional fishing honey holes are the ones that interact with a larger body of water. This can occur as part of the way the gravel pit was made or through flooding or shoreline erosion. Most large gravel pits are made near rivers so barges may be used to transport the materials removed to create them.
After they are excavated, the small canals that are used to access them are abandoned and become overgrown and difficult to navigate in a couple of years. This situation is ideal for kayak anglers because the result is an isolated, difficult-to-access smaller body of water that interacts with another larger body of water. Gravel pits often have firm rocky bottoms that are ideal spawning habitat. This also creates a spawning environment that is usually free of pressure or interference.
Finding one of these areas is simple. Using your favorite aerial photography service, locate a river in your area and work your way down the river until a small offshoot body of water appears. The canal or access may be obscured by overgrowth, therefore you have to put in the time to find a nearby access and go do a little exploring. It is best to drag your kayak through the woods to get there rather than cut a trail that will alert other anglers to your find. During the spring and fall these deep, featureless pools become a haven for wary largemouth that are very aggressive and have their guard down.
As a kayak fisherman, I have a love–hate relationship with large lakes. I really concentrate on lakes within a lake. By employing a strategy similar to the discussion in the river section, I tend to concentrate on creeks and areas of the lake too shallow for access by large bass rigs.
To fish big lakes, I study a bathometric map along with a topographical map along and cross reference them with a fishing hotspots map. These maps are available regionally and can be ordered online. I start by identifying winter holding areas and work my way out from there. I can easily get tunnel vision if I can identify expansive shallow areas. By concentrating on these areas for much of the year I can find fish that are not pressured and much easier to catch. After identifying several areas with desirable characteristics, I begin to crosscheck these areas with aerial photos and look for things like visible cover, sandbars, lay downs, lily pads, etcetera. Once I have confirmed the area warrants further exploration, I lay out a customized route on my GPS that takes into account all the variables discussed elsewhere in the book.
Finding overlooked and subtle characteristics is the formula for success when fishing areas that are also frequented by boat anglers. The inherent nature of kayak fishing allows you to fish slower and observe things that are usually overlooked.
One very effective tactic is to thoroughly explore an area with the kayak and your depth finder after you have fished it. You will probably readily determine why you did or didn’t catch fish. Better yet, you may find something you were unaware of and fish it more accurately the next time. Sometimes bass fishing is a game of inches and keying in on structural subtleties can be rewarding for years to come. It is very rewarding to paddle down a shoreline behind a bass boat emblazoned with logos and catch fish after fish that were left behind or just didn’t bite because they were put on edge.
An oxbow lake is formed when a bend in a river is isolated. This bend can be isolated by sediment, debris or just the natural process of a river changing course. I really like finding oxbows by using aerial photography and getting into areas that are isolated and receive little pressure. In some cases, the oxbow still interacts with the river during periods of tidal influence or weather phenomena that produce extremely high water.
In some cases these areas are not true oxbows because they are not truly isolated or disconnected. These conditions produce a body of water that is still connected so the river can “breathe life” into the lake periodically. During high spring waters the baitfish will infuse the lake with forage just before the water recedes and they become trapped in the lake. The same is true for largemouth pursuing them.
Oxbows come in a variety of shapes and sizes. New ones will continue to form as long as water flows. In the river section, I discussed fishing run-outs. Keep in mind, some areas that appear to be a run-out may actually be that early stage of oxbow formation and should be on your list of places to revisit.
Short Story—The Perfect Oxbow
I found one partial oxbow in early May, a while after it had been cut off from the main river by the receding spring flood. The bass were trapped in the lake, they had eaten most of the available forage and they were aggressive. It was very near the new moon and just before the primary feeding time for the day. After sitting and observing for nearly a half-hour, I began to see slow-moving wakes. Then they began to crisscross. As another 20 minutes passed, the wakes went from really subtle, gently curving wakes to very pronounced, fast-moving bulges of water. Suddenly, the wakes began to coincide and the lead wake would speed up. This was followed by the second wake growing larger while giving chase. My first thought was, “There must be some really big bream in here!” Then reality set in—they were chasing each other!
An hour and a half passed and I still had not made a cast. “Come on big girl, show me where you are!” raced through my head. I strained to detect any indication as my ears yearned. This level of heightened awareness gets my adrenaline pumping and I have to coach myself to relax and slow down. My hand gripped the rod handle with the trigger depressed and the lure dangling ready to snap off a cast. Suddenly, the familiar toilet flush announced her presence. After the swirling water and resultant foam ring subsided, I convinced myself, “There you are!”
A well placed cast slightly to the side and beyond the stump was almost immediately met with ill intent and the frog violently disappeared. The rod bowed and I heard the epoxy under the cork and reel seat crackle under the strain. A few moments later a gorgeous behemoth cleared the water, shook her head and bucked. “Stay hooked, stay hooked, stay hooked!” The commotion slowed and I reach for her jaw as she did a lazy tail-walk next to the kayak.
After dragging her into my lap, my heartbeat drowned out my thoughts and I felt my pulse bulging in my neck. The fish pushed down the lip grip weight to just over 9 pounds. Not a trophy by some standards, but without a doubt the biggest fish in that small lake.
Reservoirs are usually littered with access points and do not have many remote sections, so they tend to get a great deal of evenly distributed pressure. For this reason, fishing reservoirs from a kayak is most effective at night. If regulations permit, target shallow areas in the spring and fall at night when the fish are less wary and pressure is light. The most effective techniques are large, bulky jigs, topwater lures, large plastics and big thumping spinnerbaits. Lipless cranks are a good all-around technique and make very effective search baits for targeting bass after dark. After locating bass with the lipless crank, it is beneficial to slow down and fish the area more thoroughly with a slow rolled spinnerbait or jig.
Fish reservoirs in the late fall and winter after most anglers have begun to pursue other endeavors or simply don’t brave the cold to probe the deep. Cold and wet does not appeal to everyone, but putting in your time during the winter can produce some remarkable catches. Focus on the deeper areas of the reservoir and target these fish with subtle, finesse techniques or cover a lot of water with swimbaits during warming trends.
Reservoirs are big bass factories when they are in their prime. Reservoirs go through a relatively predictable lifecycle. It is somewhat counterintuitive, but older is not necessarily better when it comes to reservoirs. Early stocking year groups grow exceptionally well for several years and usually at above average rates in newly created reservoirs. Eventually, competing year groups reduce the available forage base and reduce advantages the senior class enjoyed for the first several years.
To satisfy my own curiosity, I performed Internet searches to try and substantiate this theory. I found that southern reservoirs peaked between seven and 10 years and northern reservoirs had a tendency to top out a little after 10 years. This is undoubtedly a gross oversimplification, but the trend of record catches in those periods was confirmation.
To further satisfy this curiosity, I continued this search for reservoirs out west in California. California was a little less definitive as relatively young reservoirs produced bass approaching 20 pounds while older established impoundments continue to pump out fish nipping at the heels of the world record. More research into the makeup of California reservoirs revealed possible explanations. The first and most obvious was the quality of their forage. The rainbow trout present in the reservoirs were continually replenished through state stocking programs and breeding populations. These swimming protein shakes had an unbelievable effect on bass growth rates and the sustainability of those rates. Another contributing factor to this sustainability is the depth of the western reservoirs with some reaching several hundred feet. These factors combine with a temperate climate and long growing season to create some unnatural monsters. I am convinced that the world record would have already fallen in California if it were not for the coexistence of striped bass in many of the reservoirs. My retirement plans include spending a lot of time in Southern California.
Ponds come in various shapes and sizes. They are often overlooked by “serious” bass fishermen. I can honestly say that I would much rather fish a 20-acre pond on a weekend than get out and deal with jet skis, wake boarders and other pleasure craft operators on a large lake or popular reservoir.
Ponds tend to have a personality and fishing them takes a little figuring out. I have established patterns in certain ponds that made absolutely no sense according to conventional wisdom (not that I ever really listen). I fished with a friend once who is one of those one-lure-all-time types. He swears by a Texas-rigged worm and will fish it no matter what. The water was in the low 40s. Not only was he fishing a lizard but he was fishing it fast. I was thinking, “What the hell is this knucklehead doing?” At least until his rod doubled over and he let out a “booyah!” He went on to boat two small fish and a 6-pounder. I dug through my tackle box so that I could posture a little, knowing for sure that I didn’t have a lizard with me. I swallowed my pride and yelled, “Got any more lizards! I musta left mine in the truck!”
Fishing ponds is an exercise in experimentation. Sure, certain patterns will always produce but you really have to experiment and use some good old fashioned trial and error to get dialed in on most ponds. These little pieces of heaven are scattered across the country and many never get fished outside of casting distance from a clear spot on the bank. Flying around with your favorite aerial photography program will reveal some of the hidden treasures. Doing a little research and knocking on a few doors often leads to exclusive permission. Keep in mind, if someone allows you access to their property, do not abuse it. Offer to help them out with any upkeep of the property and you can solidify your position there.
I once asked for permission to access a large pond on an elderly widower’s property. She lit up like a Christmas tree and asked, “Could you bring me a few bream every now and again? I used to love to catch ‘em out there, but I can’t get out there anymore!” After a few trips, I broke out the beetle spin and a popper on my 5-weight and brought her three nice slabs. After filleting them and bringing them to her, I started getting calls from her asking me to fish. She also asked if I could pick up a few things from town here and there and I gladly obliged. Sadly, she passed a few years later and her children would no longer allow me to access the property because of their heated legal dispute over the will. However, these types of situations exist everywhere and for a few years I caught several really big bass from a pond less than 30 acres. Two of those bass were over 10 pounds and I saw one bass three or four times that dwarfed both of the ones that I caught.
I seriously considered omitting this section for selfish reasons. A borrow pit is similar to a large pond that is created when municipalities or government agencies need to “borrow” soil to create highway overpasses, levees, embankments, raised roadways, and so on. They should probably just be called “pits” because the soil is never returned. You know, like that friend who asks if he can “borrow” a dollar when you know he really means can he “have” a dollar.
Borrow pits are normally very symmetrical and featureless. Their unassuming characteristics are the reason they are overlooked. Borrow pits have a major feature that differentiates them from ponds of similar size or surface area. They are very, very deep. Their depth-to-surface-area ratio makes them ideal habit for producing big largemouth and sustaining healthy forage populations. I have fished borrow pits that are less than two acres that have 60- or 70-foot-deep areas within them. They also almost always have a prominent ledge where machinery and trucks were staged to haul out the dirt during their creation.
These features and the layout make fishing them fairly easy and the fish are usually easy to find. With the help of your depth finder, finding suspended fish in the summer and winter doldrums is good filler for your other fishing activities. Most interstates, railways and major highways have borrow pits along their paths. They are usually near the overpass or project they were used to create and most have become overgrown and relatively inaccessible. A machete and some determination can solve that problem.
TIP: I must offer a word of caution. Be sure that you get permission to fish these areas or at least research the legality in advance. The judge does not accept the “I didn’t know it was illegal” defense in most cases. I have to admit that tying a white cloth to my door handle and slipping in seemed like a good idea until the trooper pulled up while I was still unloading my kayak. For what it’s worth, I can tell you from experience, I-95 is not the best place to try and fish these pits (especially in South Carolina).
Strip Mines and Rock Quarries
I stumbled across this unique fishery by accident. While on a road trip, I asked a few questions in a tackle shop in central Ohio and the owner said, “If I had a kayak like that, I would hit the strip mines!” My curiosity was piqued and after a thorough information exchange, I was off to do some exploring. The difficulty in getting to the strip mines alone had me excited about the possibilities. What I found was a very unique fishing experience. These deep, mineral rich and remote lakes were similar to many highland reservoirs with one major exception: the only access was in a few areas open for bank fishing. Beyond casting distance were virgin waters loaded with bass. Though my experience with them is limited, I am always on the lookout for strip mines or rock quarries. I haven’t taken a true trophy from them yet, but the consistently large average fish, deep water and impressive forage base indicates the potential definitely exists. I also believe that finding one of these strip mines with a spring-fed area would be a gold mine for winter fishing.
On one trip through Ohio, I thought that I had found such a place. It was relatively cold and the weather had been warm for a few days. I dragged my kayak about 100 yards into what I thought was an isolated strip mine. I found an area on the opposite bank with a slight bubbling on the surface. I got excited because I thought I had found the spring that I was looking for. I decided to start with a Carolina rig and a floating worm to work the area. I was easing the lure along the bottom and my line went limp. I re-rigged only to have the same thing happen again. Then, the bubbles turned from a slight trickle to roar as Jacques Cousteau surface next to me with a rather bothered demeanor. He handed me both my rigs back and said, “The bass are on the other side, suspended off the bluff. Carry your ass over there!” I pulled three bass off that bluff wall before heading back to get on the road. Again, you never know what you are going to run into in a kayak. By the way, this is where the scuba for bass idea was born.
This is an excerpt from Kayak Bass Fishing by Chad Hoover
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