Sunday, July 20, 2014

Mississippi Bass'n

 Last week I got a call from a Russ P. asking if I wanted to go to bass fishing in Mississippi and take pictures for an article coming out in Bass Times/Bassmaster Magazine.  Well, being Bill Dance in my own mind, I jumped at the opportunity to make the trip.  Joined with us were Chris F., Nathan B., and Kent, all fairly new to the world of kayaking, but well versed in the world of largemouth bass. 
I left my house around 2 a.m. and met up with Russ at 2:30 and were on our way.  Now remember, our last excursion together, the everglades fiasco, ended in getting lost... and believe it or not, this one started out that way.  After 3 dead end roads, and I think 5 U-turns, we finally made it to the rendezvous point, where we could follow Chris to the launch site.
As we unloaded the yaks in darkness, you could hear fish slapping the water in the distance.  I felt like a kid in Candy Land, and all I wanted to do was get in my Outback and start pedaling.  As the sun began to rise, the lake we were fishing began to take shape, at least the part I could see.  We were surrounded by 128 acres of pure awesomeness.  I listened to stories about not one, but two 14 lbs bass that had been taken from this lake. Being I have only caught one bass that crept into the double digit range, you can't even imagine the things that were running through my mind while listening to these stories.
Then it happend, I heard Kent yelling, I got one, and then Russ, I got one, and then Chris, I just missed one, and finally Nathan, I got one too.  But, what I didn't hear was my own voice, I hadn't caught squat.  I know we were only on the water for 10 minutes so far, but geez, have I lost my touch?  I looked at Russ and grumbled that they must know something that I don't know, Russ only chuckled and agreed.  As if Russ isn't already a 7 foot man of giant proportions, now he is chuckling like the dang Jolly Green Giant, and NO, that didn't help my confidence at all.
Well as the next thirty minutes rolled around, the quad moved toward an island off of a point, while I tucked back into a small flat with some bream beds on it.  I sat there for about 5 minutes looking at all of my rods, while watching bass fly out from a ledge destroying bait hovering over the flats and beds.  I didn't have one lure tied on that I felt confident in.  With that in mind, I tied on my all time favorite, a Fluke.  First cast, fish on, second cast, fish on and with the next 10-15 cast I put 5 bass in the kayak and then released them. 
As I was bringing in the 5th one, I heard Chris yell that it was now time to move in to the larger part of the lake.  I was like, get on fish and now I have to go.  But it was all good, they knew this lake better than me, and technically, I was only there to take pictures, yeah right.. that's why I had 5 rods in my blackpack and the camera strapped on the back of Russ' Pro Angler.
As the morning moved on, I went on my own way and the group was supposed to let me know when they got on to fish or landed a good one so I could come get some photos and action shots.  But it seemed that the direction I went was the right one, kind of.  I got on fish at almost every point and stump I came across, the only problem was that they were 8 inches to 2 lbs fish and not the 8-12 lbs I was looking for.
I was able to land a 4 lbs bass and at that point was the largest for the day, and Russ was nice enough to take a few pics for me.  Then Russ landed one in the 4 lbs range, but because he's such a big guy, the minute he thumbed the fish in the water it magically turned from a great largemouth to a tiny bream.  I think a 14 lbs bass in Russ' hands would likely look like a 4 lbs bass in my hands.  The pictures don't lie, and neither does the scale, had I not witnessed the scale, I would have chuckled his chuckle at the said weight of the green pig.
We then moved to another section of the lake to take part in Nathan landing a long and lean 6 lbs largemouth, the fish jumped and splashed like it had a hook in its mouth. Guess that's cause it had a hook in its mouth. It was a beautiful fish to say the least, and was even more awesome to watch her swim away.
 After that show of acrobatics, I was now ready to hunker down and chase down a beast of my own.  The sun was up and the shad were beginning to make their way to the surface in the middle of the lake.  This is a site I know all too well from growing up on the Tchefuncte.  I immediately dug in my box and grabbed an old school favorite, the Little George.  I tied it on, pedaled as fast as I could to 15 feet of water and made a cast that seemed to have traveled 200 yards.  I let the lure reach the bottom, stood up, reeled up on the lure until my rod tip touched the water, and with the largest swoop I could, I raised the rod tip, straight armed, as high above my head as possible getting on my toes at times, and then let the lure fall, and then BAM, fish on. It was a solid 3 lbs bass, and it didn't stop there.  I landed somewhere between 10-15 bass within the next 30 minutes doing this technique.  I know the others were looking back at me doing this insane looking jig & jive move, but as it has in times past, it was working, I can only imagine what I looked like out there.  Growing up on the river and knowing the ledges and holes, this technique always yielded me big bass and I can recall the day my dad taught me this move.  I can hear me saying it today, "what the heck are you doing? Are you trying to scare everything in a 2 mile radius?'' But that day was a lesson in humility, he schooled me like a 3rd grader going into a college organic chemistry class.  After that day, I rarely questioned my dads fishing knowledge or abilities, I just learned to watch and listen.  About three weeks after perfecting the move,  I remember fishing a tournament and in less than thirty
minutes, landed a 5 fish stringer that went over 20 lbs to win the event, but on this lake, the big girls weren't falling for it.  The only conclusion I could figure out was that the water hadn't warmed up enough, the sun wasn't high enough, and the shad weren't as active as they would have been later in the evening.  Unfortunately I had to be in the truck by noon, so today I wasn't going to find out if my theory was correct or not.
Before leaving I eased on over to another point covered in lilies and dropped a Texas rigged worm right in the mouth of another 4 lbs largemouth.
Although I didn't land the fish of a lifetime, I had a blast, and I was able to accomplish the goal of what we came for, getting pictures.  I just wish I would have had the camera close as Russ was struggling to get what would have likely been an 8 lbs plus bass untangled from the matts of lilies that he was working his frog across.  The look of disappointment and the sound of frustration was a devastating, I know Russ has landed some big fish in his day, but you could tell, he really wanted this one.
Overall, it was  great day, the sun shined at times, but was overcast most of the time, the rain didn't hit until I was loaded and a mile down the road, the air temps stayed in the upper 80s to low 90s with the water temps staying around 86 degrees.  I landed fish on crank baits and worms, but the real producers of the day were a Zoom Fluke in silver and grey and a 1/2 ounce Little George in white and gray.  Special thanks to Russ for the phone call, and I huge thank you to Chris F for putting this all together and making it happen.  I look forward to my phone ringing again in the near future (hint/hint), hopefully on a day that I don't have to rush home, and a day were the shad are schooled up in the deep.

Until next time,
 Stay Safe & Catch1


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Clean Water = Sore Muscles

 With all of the reports surrounding SE Louisiana of fresh and dirty water everywhere, as a result of the continued West winds and rain filled days, I decided it was time to get out and explore some new grounds with hopes of finding clear and salty water.  That being said, I rarely explore new grounds alone, so I reached out to Ty Hibbs to see if he was interested in making a long trek in new waters, I could hear his excitement on the phone.
With Ty in agreement on the plan of a 20 plus mile day, I had to leave my house around 1:30 a.m. so we could arrive and paddle through the darkness to what I had hoped would be a day of new beginnings.
Apparently though, Ty's alarm clock didn't get the memo, so after umpteen text and several phone calls, Mr. Ty "sleepy Head" Hibbs showed up at our meeting point, about an hour late might I add.  With us loaded up, we headed south to Grand Isle. 
As we arrived it was still dark, and we had to hurry if we were going to make the run in time to get to our destination for an early morning topwater bite.  With the incoming tide and the north winds, peddling the two Outback's weren't as fast as what I was hoping, and before we had made it a quarter of the way, the sun was breaking above the horizon.
As we altered our plans due to the sun starting to come up, we quickly turned course to hit an old hot spot, but unfortunately there was a 24 foot boat anchored up on top the structure I was hoping we would be able to get started on.  From there we took a mile long run slinging lures in every direction with no luck.  The sun was now up, I continued to run through my topwater arsenal as Mr. Sleepy Head continued his jigging and topwater. And then it happened.  A flock of birds showed up about 400 yards away and Ty turned his bow and headed for them, while I chose to stay closer to moving water.  Within minutes, I had a trout in the yak, it wasn't big, but it was a trout.  Next cast, another, and another and another.
I kept wanting to call Ty and tell him to come back, but my phone wasn't working for some reason, and better than that,, every time I looked, his rod was bent over fighting fish. 
The water was green clear, the water temp was 86 degrees, we were sitting on the near end of a rising tide, the dolphins where everywhere, the birds were everywhere, the wind was out of the north, shrimp were jumping from one side of my yak across the hatch and in the water on the opposite side without ever touching the kayak, and as long as you threw a lure that sunk fast, you caught trout.  Eventually Ty made his way back to me, we continued to fish within two hundred yards of each and sat there anchored in the tide.  By 10 a.m. I had tagged and released more fish than I did in all of 2013.  I tagged 43 trout before I finally ran out of tags, and I had a bag full of  trout on ice.  Most of the tagged and released trout ranged from 8-12.5" and I didn't keep one that was below 13" with the largest easily surpassing the 20" mark.  Before we left the area, we had both landed over and around 100 specs each, it was a day I wish I had my kids or wife with me. 
Used Matrix and Vortex Shad
I was using matrix shad in every color they made, but the Kamikaze seemed to produce more consistently, and I could only catch them on a 3/8 ounce jig head, I tried a quarter ounce time and time again, but apparently they only wanted a fast falling bait.  Mr. Sleepy Head was throwing the same, but at times he was throwing a double rigged, 3/8 and 1/4 ounce headed matrix shad and was bringing in two at a time. 
With comfortable winds, and the tide stopping we decided to move another three miles in an attempt to find some reds and flounder.  At this point, we could have gone home having a perfect day, one rat red, more trout than we could handle, and not a catfish in site.  As we made the run and entered into some skinny waters, Ty yelled, "Watch this," and then he dropped his line off the side of the grass and within a second set the hook.  The next thirty minutes or so became comical.  Ty had just hooked in to a giant Black Drum using his rod lined with 14 lbs monofilament.  I have never seen a "big nasty" with this type of endurance, he pulled Ty what seemed like a half mile, from the tiny canal deep in the marsh to more open water where he could then roam free.  Finally after several failed netting attempts, by yours truly, Ty was able to get the beast yak side and bottom out the Boga grips.
I've been asked several times since this trip, where did you fish, and to give a definitive answer, the best I can say is Grand Isle.  We fished the south side, the north side, in the marsh, in open bays, and beyond.  The one thing that mattered no matter where we stopped or where we launched was clean moving water.  Sometimes we had to paddle a couple miles, sometimes we had to pull over land, or get back deep into the marsh to find it, but when we did, the fishing was hot.  It may sound like a lot, but we only ended up paddling just over 10 miles.  Our original plans would have netted us well over 20 miles, so I guess the alarm clock fail helped us out in the long run.  One thing I do know, is that I got to explore areas of Grand Isle I have never been too, and likely would have overlooked had we been on time.
High tide was around 10 a.m., the winds shifted from north to southwest around 10:30 to 11:30, tidal range was around 1.2 feet, and water clarity was an easy 3-4 feet when we found clean water.  Very few fish caught on topwater, but the ones that were, made the bag.  Nothing caught under a cork, although we didn't try it much, Matrix and Vortex Shad without a doubt owned the day.

Leaving at dark and getting home early is always nice, but arriving home to a rainbow sitting over a true pot of gold, my family, made for a memorable ending.

Until Next Time,
Stay Safe & Catch1