Monday, April 14, 2014

Better Late Than Never

Ordinarily I would have fished for river smallies a dozen or more times by April 13, but everything is starting slowly this year. I visited a spot that is convenient to walk from the bank and always produces in March and April. The fish seem to want a very slow presentation and apparently don't like plastics hopped or speeding crankbaits. It's no surprise, the water is still very cold. My technique was to cast a tubejig just a couple feet off a clay undercut bank and let the current slowly push it in, even letting it stop for several seconds at a time. While it sat motionless just a foot from the bank in a nice long eddy formed between two points and a tree stump, I felt steady tension almost like I was hung up, but luckily had a 17 inch bass attached instead.  Another smallie came out of almost the identical structure further upstream, and a 14-15" spotted bass was found hanging at the mouth of a small ditch.

The nice smallie came out of this eddy. I casted below the stump, but dragged it in and let it settle in a steep drop about a foot off the bank.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

It was a long and busy winter, and I completely skipped winter fishing. Finally I was able to get out and goof off at a pond yesterday, but I still haven't gotten any river fishing done in 2014. That should start very soon.

Phil and I visited a lunker pond yesterday. He was able to find some fish and I walked around to join him. Bass were boiling on Phil's spinnerbait just a couple feet from shore, and I got into some very nice crappies throwing a rattle trap and working it slowly. After first striking out at a deeper pond, the lesson was to focus on shallower ponds with warmer water early in the spring.

Here's a typical bass from this pond.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Fast Action on Warm November Day

I had about an hour to fish late Saturday afternoon. As I drove to my home river, I sorted through several spots in my mind, thinking where I might efficiently use that hour. At the last minute I turned toward some river property I own, thinking of a pool that is often productive late in the fall, about 300 yards downstream of my access point.  This is a big and deep pool and it appears that fish collect here in late October, and likely spend the winter there.

It was about 60 degrees on November 9, and as I made a few casts on the bend just below my access point and caught a couple fish, I was given the correct impression that the warm weather had fish ready to bite. After about 15 minutes of wading downstream, I stood at the top of the big pool. Current flows from a fairly strong riffle down the middle of this pool, and leaves circle back revealing eddys both to the left and to the right of the current. The right side, when facing downstream, has a harder bottom and usually produces more action. There is a nice drop from the bank, and some scattered wood on the bottom. After a few searching casts, I hooked up with a nice 15 incher, and caught 3 more similar ones casting to essentially the same place. Then I missed a couple, and eventually this location slowed down. Fan casting the pool yielded 2 more fish.  In a total of about 30 minutes I had 6 fish out of this pool to add to the 2 I caught to begin the wade.  The pool can be a little perplexing, and I have struck out here many times. However, it always seems at its best in November and early December, so I always try to visit during those months.

All I need this time of year is a bag of tube jigs and 1/8 oz and 1/16 oz Oldham tube insert jigheads with a weedguard. The 1/16 oz helped me avoid leaves on this trip. They were piled up exactly where the fish were, but I managed to get maybe two-thirds of my casts through without dragging a leaf. The fish were aggressive, and many hit before the tube ever reached the bottom.

The view from my access point

First fish in my big pool
 On the next cast

Steady supply of 14-15 inchers

 All the tackle I need for late fall

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Late Fall Lunkers

We are getting into the time of year when numbers slow down, but you can really get into some big ones. For our latest trip, Chet and I visited a spot that has all the characteristics of a good late fall location, with some deep and slow water with a good amount of wood. It turned out to be a crazy day for lunkers. We caught 15 bass in about 3.5 hours of fishing, and I'd classify 9 of them as very large fish. For me, that means a smallmouth that is at least 16 inches or a spotted bass that is at least 14 inches. Four of our smallies went at least 17, with one big 19 inch brute.  They were hitting tube jigs very aggressively, and Chet even got a deep diving crankbait going, picking up 2 nice spotted bass and a big smallie on it. We won't be wading this location for the foreseeable future, but that's a long story that isn't appropriate for this forum.  We have a few weeks before we are in winter fishing mode, so maybe there will be some remaining opportunities for both lunkers and numbers in 2013.

This big girl got things started, sucked in a tubejig and felt like I was snagged on a rock, until the rock swam a big wide arc

Chet with a nice one that wouldn't sit straight for a photograph

A couple minutes later Chet hooks up with another lunker

 Look at the colors on this one!

Chet was smoking on spotted bass with his crankbait.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Brief Trip in the Cold Wind and Rain

Chet and I had just a couple of hours to spare, so we fished a ditch in the outskirts of town. We have some new connections there, some colorful folks who are quite friendly and have many acres of wild country on the very edge of town.  With the wind at our backs and the rain beating down, Chet and I probably fished a little too fast because of our limited time. Probably that was my fault, and a couple of times I worked up to a decent hole too fast, likely spooking the fish. Nevertheless, we did get some action with our usual 1-2 punch, with Chet hitting them high with his Rebel craw crankbait, and me hitting them low with a 3.5" Yamamoto tube jig.

We caught some spotted bass and some smallies, as well as a hybrid spot/smallie that was fairly large, had some attitude, and emerged from the water singing Cher's Half Breed  This is an intriguing section of the ditch, and I plan to return in the spring.


Friday, October 18, 2013

New Discovery Close to Home

Part of my fishing philosophy has been shaped by my association with Phil and Chet, that part being to cover as many river miles as possible, always searching for new water. This has benefits from an educational point of view, but it's also simply fun to explore. With this philosophy in mind, it is surprising how many miles of unexplored smallie waters there are within 45 minutes of home. It's possibly due to the fact that I consider a particular river my "home river", and another stream as a nearby familiar stream, but there is a third that I have somehow ignored, despite the fact that it is considered by some as the superior smallmouth stream in the area. I suppose I disagree with that assessment, but a recent trip with Chet convinced me that we have a couple of years worth of exciting exploration of new water in this stream we have ignored for too long.

We were on our way to our planned destination when we crossed over this stream and decided it would be fun to utilize some easy access we found for a quick side trip. Turns out it turned into the entire trip. We probably waded 2 miles of river for a 4 mile round trip. Much of it was very shallow where we would be lucky to find a small hole under a log, or maybe a small slot along the bank. Chet was tearing them up with the little rebel crawdad crankbait he has been using all fall, and I was striking out with a tube jig. Eventually fished turned on to the tube and we put up some good numbers, maybe 40 smallies.

The habitat is good, with plenty of wood and rocks, but depth was scarce.  Wherever we could find a hole 3 feet or deeper, we could count on several fish. We managed to hook up with 2 nice ones under a bridge, which actually had a very soft and unappealing bottom, but did have some depth with scattered wood debris.
Sometimes a little debris is all it takes.

It was exciting to cover a few miles of new water so close to home, and now we are determined to explore neighboring stretches of this river. So many miles to fish and so little time! It's hard to visit all the spots in a year.

 Just looking for a little depth along the bank, maybe under some roots

Nice one from some wood debris on a soft bottom

A second nice one from about the same location

Friday, October 11, 2013

Crazy October Action

My latest trip was with Chet to a nearby location that we like to visit once or twice each year, usually in the fall. It's perfect habitat for smallies in fall and winter, and apparently they are already finding their way back to these holes. It's also one of the best stretches of the river for lunker smallies and spots. We consistently have good days here, and this trip might have been the best. Fish of all species were chasing Chet's Rebel Craw crankbait. Big smallies were aggressively hitting tubes on the bottom, and spinnerbaits through the middle of the water column. Spots and smallies slammed my Zara spook on top, one coming back to try on five consecutive casts before hooking up. For whatever reason, the fish in this river were on a feeding frenzy.

Final tally 60 fish  (23 smallies, 18 spots, 5 largies, 11 longear sunfish, 1 striped shiner, 2 rockbass).

   Big spots go crazy for spooks

This big girl had 2 crawfish in her throat, but still wanted my tube

Chet with a fat spotted bass

We fished plenty of wood

This smallie kept coming back giving Chet plenty of chances

Another big smallie on a tube, lots of 16 and 17 inchers

Chet with another nice spot

Spinnerbaits are fantastic in October