TACKLING THE SLAM TOURNAMENT
TALK MAIDEN VOYAGE
HOT FALL BITE:
CRANKBAITS FALL 2015 VOLUME 1 ISSUE 2
2016 Viking Kayak Profish Reload Length: 14.8’ Width: 29” Weight: 67 lbs Available In: Lava (Shown) Wasp (Yellow & Black) Sandstorm (Sand & Black) Custom colors available
WHEN THE FISH ARE
FARTHER FASTER AND YOU NEED TO GET THERE
VOLUME 1 ISSUE 2
CONTENTS THE SWEET SCIENCE OF CRANKBAITS Craig Dye
BIG BAITS FOR BIG BASS PHOTO ESSAY Mark Cisneros
FINE TUNING THE TEXAS RIG Alan Wiedmeyer
TACKLING THE SLAM Drew Haerer
BIG BASS BRAG BOARD Reader Submitted Photos
FAMILY FOCUS PICTURE BOARD Reader Submitted Photos
MAIDEN VOYAGE Ryan Jones
WHITEWATER CRANKBAITING Jeff Little
FIVE BAITS FOR FALL JUNK FISHING Drew Haerer
POST TOURNEY ETIQUETTE Corey Stansifer
REMEMBERING MY EARLY DIY DAYS Juan Veruete
FRIENDLY COMPETITION Matt Eikenberg
PREVIEWS OF UPCOMING MAGS
KAYAK BASS FISHING MAGAZINE STAFF EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: CHRIS PAYNE EDITOR-AT-LARGE: CHAD HOOVER ART DIRECTOR: CHRIS PAYNE PHOTO LEAD: MARK CISNEROS COVER PHOTO: TROY BRADLEY STAFF PAGE PHOTO: MARK CISNEROS CONTRIBUTORS: CHRIS FUNK, JEFF LITTLE, DREW HAERER, ALAN WIEDMEYER, RYAN “PADILLAC”JONES, JUAN VERUETE, CRAIG DYE, BILL KOHLS, JERRY LI, COREY STANSIFER MATT EIKENBERG PREVIEW CONTRIBUTORS: JARED ESLEY, RYAN “PADILLAC” JONES, TODD WEST, CHRIS FUNK, DANIEL SEAMAN, CAMERON SIMOT, TOD JOHNSON
COPYRIGHT 2015. CROOKED CREEK MEDIA, LLC
announced in June via Facebook that we would not be publishing any photos where a kayaker could be seen not wearing a PFD (life jacket). For the most part it was pretty well received and I am thankful for that. Obviously exceptions can and will be made if the angler is obviously on land and not on the water. A few different reasons exist but here is the gist of it: “I won’t be placing any photos in the magazine where the angler is in a kayak without a pfd on. It is not a judgment against your choices but rather a statement of safety without trying to be preachy. If we have newcomers to the sport they may assume it’s perfectly safe to kayak fish without a pfd. Those of us who have been around know there is MUCH more to it than that. I want people to make informed choices and don’t want someone to lose their life because they thought it was fine to go without a pfd because they saw Johnny X in KBFMAG with a huge bass and he wasn’t wearing a pfd. That’s a risk I don’t want to take. I hope you understand.” I am hoping that this safety conscious thinking is productive and encourages other publications to follow suit. Before July of 2015 more than 30 people had died kayaking without a PFD in the United States. Sure, that is a small number but is also 30 families who could still have their loved ones at home. I’ll leave my message on the topic as simple as possible. Please take care of yourself out there but more importantly set a good example for those who are new to the sport. Kayak angling is a lot of fun. Share the fun and share safety! Until Next Time, Chris
Astral Ronny PFD
GET LIT GET BIT
RAPALA DT6- One of Dye’s favorite go to crankbaits.
12 KAYAK BASS FISHING MAGAZINE FALL 2015
Sweet Science of
hen I was 12 years old, I was in Alabama fishing a small pond with my dad. I always loved looking in his tackle box for something shiny. Knowing I wasn’t that great with a baitcaster my Dad hands me a 1/2oz Bill Lewis Rat-L-Trap. He knew I could cast it far and will probably lose it anyway. My dad is more of a drag-a-worm kind of guy. A few casts later is when it happened. I actually remember making that cast past an overhanging tree and burning it through the shallow water. I recall screaming at my dad to come over as I reeled it in followed by dragging it on the bank. At the time I didn’t know this single catch would
make me an avid crankbait fisherman. Living here in Middle Tennessee gives me the opportunity to fish all types of water and a crankbait is my number one tool to locate fish from a kayak. From shallow backwater areas off the Cumberland River to the steep banks of Tims Ford Lake, I love hitting rocks and wood with these wobbling lures. Using crankbaits can be the most efficient ways to cover water and locate fish from a kayak. Many think it’s just a cast and wind technique but it can be much more than that. I want to highlight a few crankbait techniques that will find fish fast from a kayak.
The Art of the Angle
The most important factor for successfully running a crankbait as well as keeping the fish hooked is the rod set up. A medium action rod is a must. It does two very important things. The extra bend in the rod allows the bait to deflect off cover , which will trigger most of the strikes, as well as help prevent the fish from throwing the treble hooks.
Sure you can catch fish throwing crankbaits around brush and docks with a crankbait, but I think what gets more fish in the kayak is the casting angle. There have been many times where I’m fishing behind someone on the same bank, and I see them miss the “sweet spots”. Presenting the lure quietly into these “sweet spots” will really get you bit. Being in a kayak allows us to hit certain spots on docks, timber, and rocky areas that boats For fishing 1’ down to 15’ the most versatile rod is a 7’ 3” AllPro SMG medium action rod. can’t get. For example, on the Cumberland The longer length helps with casting as well as River, one of my favorite techniques is running a Rapala DT-6 crankbait parallel to the directing the bait around dock corners, shallow timber, and through other cover. For riprap. cranking 15’ and deeper my choice is a 7’ 10” AllPro APX Blaster medium action rod. With With a kayak, you can get next to the rocks this rod you can cast a mile which helps you and keep the bait in the strike zone during the cover water while helping get the lure down to whole retrieve. When fishing around docks, those deeper depths. Use the crankbait to keep you can put the kayak against the bank and you moving. the hit the dock corners at an angle bass boats can’t. Also, it’s easier to cast under the steel cables that hold the floating docks in place The number one reason I prefer cranking in from a kayak. A simple underhand roll cast a kayak is the ability it gives to cover water does the trick. I try to run my lure into the and find fish quickly. One of the advantagdock corner posts as well as logs or and brush es for throwing a crankbait in a kayak is that to trigger the reaction strike. Another trick is you can control your kayak angle and movement with the lure instead of the paddle. The to tune your crankbait to the left or right so it will travel underneath floating docks, which crankbait will act as a trolling motor pulling can be deadly certain times of the year. the kayak eliminating paddle strokes which keeps the lure in the water longer.
WORDS AND PICTURES B 14 KAYAK BASS FISHING MAGAZINE FALL 2015
Follow the Current In the warmer months, fishing around current with a crankbait can be a killer way to put a few in the boat quickly. There are two things to focus on when fishing current, whether it’s wind current or natural current: Where will the fish be staging and how will they be feeding. I really look at where bass can ambush prey before I make a cast. In most cases, they will be facing upstream holding in slack water close to moving water so they can attack prey as it comes by. When I set up to fish a spot I will always cast upstream and retrieve crankbait just fast enough to bump the cover. When fishing bridges with pilings close to the bank, my first cast is always in between the two. I have had tremendous success doing this. While the current is a great place to locate fish, it can be tough to efficiently fish these locations from a kayak. My go-to technique is to use the wind or current to help hold me in place. If I’m fishing a brush pile in 15’ with current, I will cast upsteam or upwind and let the wind counteract the pull of the crankbait. The most important thing to remember is if you aren’t hitting anything, you aren’t getting bites. So don’t be scared the get those baits in the thick stuff; it will pay off.
BY CRAIG DYE
18 KAYAK BASS FISHING MAGAZINE FALL 2015
BIG BASS A Photo Essay by Mark Cisneros
Chris Fowler showing off his swimbait arsenal
Fowler with three of his favorite baits on Lady Bird Lake, Austin,TX
Launching a nine inch bait takes a good amount of loft
Checking hooks and connect
Left: Berkley Power Worma popular choice for decades to work on a Texas Rig Right: Zoom Brush Hoga go to creature bait for many across the US
tions are especially important when hunting for giants
Bass love to eat other bass
FINE TUNING THE TEXAS RIG by Alan Wiedmeyer
f there was one rod I always had with me on any given kayak outing it would be rigged up with a Texas rig. The Texas rig has been extremely effective throughout the entire season for me, especially in the fall months here in the Midwest. The biggest draw I have to the Texas rig like so many others is the feeling of the bite. That uncanny “thunk” of a bass taking the lure and the bullet weight bouncing against the line is addicting to say the least. You feel like Babe Ruth calling your shots before the ball even leaves the mound….once that “thunk” happens you know you have that bass before you even set the hook!
that have a little more bulk in the body, and offset straight shank hooks for worms and stick baits. The two styles give you the best amount of hook exposure during the hookset without having “too much” beef to the hook, and the light gauge wire gives you better hook penetration with less hookset effort.
My sweet spot for hook size seems to be a 4/0 hook in most cases, but as rule of thumb for creature baits you always want the hook to be about a quarter to a half inch from the end of the bait, and on worms a little less than half way through the length of the body. Although the hook lays the ground work for the entire set up, sensitivity plays a bigger role and There are many variations of the Texas rig that all starts with your line choice. are used by bass anglers today, but to keep it simple I will focus in on a weighted Texas rig. Line choices are endless now with braid, coTo be successful with this rig an angler should polymer, fluorocarbon and monofilament, but be cognizant of what the bite feels like, the if I only had one choice to fish with a Texas type of cover you should be throwing it in, rig, I would choose fluorocarbon. Besides its and the gear used to increase the amount of higher density and being virtually invisible bites and minimize the amount of fish loss. in the water it offers much more feedback to the angler because of its “whip effect” as I like I’m a gear junkie at heart so I have been to call it. To explain, say if you took a length through quite a bit of gear to fine tune the of braid and grabbed it from both ends and way I fish a Texas rig. The rod, reel, weight, pushed the two ends together. In this case the line and hook choices all play a critical role. braid would stay in the same position and not To start, the hook styles I stick with the most straighten itself out to its original shape. are thin gauge wire, offset EWG hooks or an offset straight shank hook. Offset EWG On the other hand if you did the same thing hooks for creature baits and beaver style baits with fluorocarbon the length of line would go
Left: Berkley Power Worma popular choice for decades to work on a Texas Rig Right: Zoom Brush Hoga go to creature bait for many across the US
tungsten’s density and compact size you definitely get more sensitivity in a smaller presentation out of this setup. I also don’t peg my bullet weight which allows it to slide freely on the line. This is a major part of the “thunk” that you feel when the fish eats the bait which wouldn’t be as noticeable when the weight is pegged. A free sliding weight also creates separation with the bait allowing it to hover and walk differently than if it was pegged. As far as the amount of weight to use, for shallow water presentations under 10 feet I’ll stick with a 1/4 or an 1/8 ounce weight and for Pegged or unpegged, lead or tungsten, poldeeper water over 10 feet I would lean towards ished or plastic inserts are all terms you need to know when picking out a bullet weight for a 3/8 or ½ oz. Some situations may call for your Texas rig. Every angler has their person- heavier weight even in shallow water if the al preference, but I tend to choose a polished bass react better to a fast fall rate. tungsten bullet weight more often than not. Don’t get me wrong, I cut my teeth on lead There may also be that situation too when they are really hugging the bottom and a bullet weights and did well with them, but pegged bullet weight may be the right aptungsten takes it to a whole new level. With back to its original shape essentially recoiling or creating that “whip affect”. When you fish a Texas rig you naturally have a bow in your line giving the bait some slack, so once that bait gets sucked in the bullet weight bounces and essentially makes the line recoil back to the tip of the rod. That’s when you feel that “thunk” of the bait getting hit. Although the line plays a big role, the weight and how it’s rigged brings that “whip effect” one step further.
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proach to keep the bait on the bottom. A good starting point though would be to use a ¼ oz weight and leave it unpegged, and go from there. The rod and reel are the last two components that really anchor your whole set up. The reel should be a higher speed ratio in the 7 to 1 range and have a good amount of drag in the 10+ pound range. A good tip for choosing reel speeds…if you are using the rod to work the bait use a faster ratio, and if you are using the reel to work the bait go with a slower ratio. The higher ratio helps you take up slack faster and will allow you to save some time in between casts reeling in line.
using a casting rod as opposed to spinning. As far as the power, action and length go it really depends on the lure weight you are throwing and the type of cover you are fishing. In heavier cover and heavier weights I will choose a medium heavy power with a fast or extra fast tip and I may even bump to a heavy power rod if it warrants it. In open water situations or lighter weights I will drop down to a medium power and a fast or extra fast action tip. In either case though I like to have a rod in the 7’ to 7’ 5” range because I get more leverage on the hookset, and I can take up more line when working the bait. Sensitivity is the other big player when choosing a rod but with all of the name brands available it can be a hard thing to find.
The type of rod I always lean to then is always a casting rod. Some guys prefer using a spin- I tend to spend more money on my bottom contact rods because they are built with highning setup, but there is a clear advantage in er end rod blanks that are crisper and more presentation, sensitivity and versatility when
“If you are using the rod to work the bait use a faster ratio and if you are using the reel to work the bait go with a slower ratio.”
Photo by Chris Funk
sensitive due to their construction. You can find pretty decent rods in the $80-$100 dollar range, but you definitely get more for your money with some of the nicer rods available. Now that you have your setup complete, where and how do you use a Texas rig and what does the bite feel like? Weed lines, weed mats submerged wood, rock ledges, rock banks, lily pad pockets, brush piles, docks, and bridge pilings are all types of structure that you can target when throwing a Texas rig. It’s extremely versatile and can be used in a variety of situations, and that’s what makes it so effective. You can swim it, hop it, drag it, and crawl it…there is no wrong way to work it. The fish will tell you what they like. I think a clear advantage too that most kayak anglers don’t realize is the angle at which we are able to fish our baits from. Sitting lower to the water line keeps that bait more in contact with the bottom which in turn can cause more reaction bites. Bite detection however is what takes some practice and experience to learn. When you feel every rock and log as you drag your bait along it becomes difficult sometimes to tell what is what. Paying attention to the area you are fishing, watching your line and recognizing uncommon situations will start to give you a better feel for the bite. The uncommon situations I am referring to would be feeling taps when you’re not moving the bait, when your line stops sinking sooner than you’re expecting it to, your line swimming away, and increasing pressure on the line. It’s always good practice in these cases to slowly raise the rod tip to take in the slack and check to see if the pressure of the fish is still 30 KAYAK BASS FISHING MAGAZINE FALL 2015
there, then reel down and set the hook in an upward motion. In one case the bite may feel like several taps which usually means that the fish is gradually taking the bait, and I will wait until the taps stop to set the hook. In other cases when you feel one big “thunk” or just a mushy feeling of pressure it is usually safe to say that the bait was completely inhaled and to set the hook right away. Hooksets are free so check for pressure and set the hook! Fall is approaching fast and the bass will start putting on their feed bags for winter. Make sure to have a Texas rig set up and start learning what baits work well for your area. When in doubt always reach for something in green pumpkin or black and blue and build on it from there. I can guarantee though, once it rings home that you just got bit with a Texas rig there will be no turning back!
Photo by Mark Cisneros
t is deemed “The ultimate angling challenge” - at least for bass anglers. The B.A.S.S. Slam is a challenge developed by B.A.S.S. that involves catching each of the 9 back bass species. It must be completed in one year, and all bass must meet minimum length requirements and be caught within their native ranges. Some of these ranges span the country, while others are unique to the southeast or Texas. In 2012, fellow kayak angler Bill Kohls and I attempted and successfully completed the Slam. It wasn’t easy, but it was one of the most fun and rewarding fishing experiences of our lives. Since completion, numerous folks have reached out to me and asked about how to best complete the Slam. Although, there is no perfect formula, these seven tips will get you well on your way.
Scout and Scout Some More I spent months prior to the trip scouring Google Earth, websites, forums, and social media looking for info on various species and bodies of water. I spent the most time on Google Earth, pin pointing key stretches that looked productive. Although I tried to complete the majority of the scouting without outside help, I did reach out to a few kayak fishing friends across the country, including Alabama native Tim Perkins and Texan Pat Kellner. Without them, the Slam would have been much more difficult, especially catching pure strain Guadalupe bass in the Texas Hill Country. However, it felt gratifying to know that I had scouted most of it on my own. The one thing we learned – always have a Plan B and C, because you never know what will happen out there.
plan, so be flexible and enjoy the ride.
Become a Species Identification Expert I consistently see bass incorrectly identified, either because people don’t know better or simply assume without doing their homework. Before our trip, I studied bass identification nearly every day, and carried a quick ID book with me during the trip. Although unofficial, B.A.S.S. Slam guru Lance Coley put together a guide called, “What the heck kind of bass is that”. It is a must read for all bassers, specifically those attempting the Slam.
Find a Good Fishing and Travel Partner
Finding the right partner may have been the most crucial part of the entire trip. It needs to be someone who you can spend a Logistics are Key lot of time with in close quarters, as well as someone who can keep We had an 8 day road on which you optimistic and upbeat, beto catch 6 species. After that, it would require a special trip, which cause there will be some deflating I wasn’t sure I could afford or get moments along the way. They also need to be an equal partner off of work for. Since most of us – sharing the water and various don’t have unlimited time or fiduties, such as camera man, video nances, plan out each trip hour by hour. I created an hourly fish- editor, driver, or navigator. ing-travel plan, a back-up plan, and a detailed budget. Although it is difficult to stick to the plan Put Together a Smart 100% of the time, it will help Tackle Box immensely in regrouping when things get thrown off schedule, No road trip is complete without and they definitely will. Traffic, a packed vehicle - and ours was no crazy weather (in our case, a trop- different. Therefore, packing smart ical storm in FL), and navigating is key. Instead of carrying all of some remote areas will inevitably your tackle, focus on your favorite throw some wrenches in your baits – those in which you have 34 KAYAK BASS FISHING MAGAZINE FALL 2015
Article by Drew Haerer Title Photo: Drew Haerer with a nice Suwannee Bass. Photo by Bill Kohls. Bottom Right: Drew Haerer shows off a nice fall bass. Photo by Jerry Li
the most confidence. Include key colors and Go Above and Beyond sizes, catered to the specific bodies of water you will be fishing, time of the year, predicted Donâ€™t get me wrong, the B.A.S.S. Slam is weather conditions, and target species. a pretty big challenge, but it never hurts to push yourself a little more. So before we attempted the Slam, we added a few rules of our own. We decided to only count pure strain Splurge a Little on Good fish (no hybrids), which eliminated a lot of Camera Gear water based on state fish and biology surveys. The best purchase I made before the trip was We also only fished flowing water (rivers and creeks) and added a Redeye subspecies, the to upgrade my camera to one that shoots HD photos and videos. We also outfitted our Bartrams Bass, to our target species list. You kayaks with GoPros. Utilizing these multiple may want to try something different, like only using one lure or adding the Choctaw Bass, cameras, we documented our entire trip and which is currently fighting to be recognized as captured most of it with sound. Along the a new species, to your hit list. journey, we had too many memorable moments to count, so having photos and videos Drew is a kayak fishing guide, blogger, and pro-staffer for Wilthat we can look back at and laugh makes it derness Systems Kayaks, Bending Branches, Carolina Custom even sweeter. Rods, Columbia Sportswear, Smith Optics, and others.
READERS’ PHOTO SHOWCASE
BASS BRAG BOARD
Photo by Ron Gerber
Photo by Chad Hoover 36 KAYAK BASS FISHING MAGAZINE FALL 2015
Photo by Troy Bradley
Photo by Wade Nichols
Photo by Casey Reed
Photo by Mike Keating
FOCUS Photo by Nik Brown
Photo by Chris Funk 38 KAYAK BASS FISHING MAGAZINE FALL 2015
Photo by Rob Milam
Photo by Gregg Crisp
Photo by Jeff Malott
Photo by Mike Eady
Maiden Voyage by Ryan Jones
he trip started like so many others. I woke up early to give myself plenty of time to have breakfast and deal with issues that were guaranteed to come up. I also needed time to throw the kayak on top of the truck, and the gear in the back. This trip was special and needed a particular set of gear. Instead of the normal assortment of bass rods and soft plastics, I loaded a pink life vest, folding chair, and a princess rod. The trip was my daughterâ€™s maiden voyage riding in, and fishing from, a kayak. At three years old, she is already a seasoned fisherwoman, as she calls it. She previously bank or dock fished in Tennessee, Florida, and Texas. I taught her the mechanics of casting using her princess pole and a small rubber fish for weight. Once she became comfortable with casting, we transitioned to a hook and safety bobber system, or a weedless rigged worm to keep her safe from the hook. Hooks are one of the obvious hazards associated with youth fishing, but water safety is critical to minimizing risk on the water. Prior to her voyage, I enrolled her in pre-school swimming lessons through the local Red Cross. The lessons gave her confidence in a life vest, and she learned to get to safety if she fell in deep water.
Once safety and basics were established she helped with the customization of the Wilderness Systems A.T.A.K. A couple of the Kayak Bass Fishing stickers may have wrinkles or bubbles, but to her they are a thing of beauty. Her eyes literally lit up once the Supernova lights were installed and she was able to turn them on and off, and on and off, and on and off. After thoroughly testing the lights, we installed the rod holders where she deemed necessary on the slidetrax.
“No matter how much you plan, things can and will happen...” I walked in her room to get her ready, and she was lying awake with an excited grin. She instantly asked if it was time to go fishing. We did the normal toddler preparations, loaded in the truck, and headed to the water. After answering a multitude of questions and doing the loading procedures in reverse, it was time to put her in the kayak. My daughter was full of trust and excitement ready to spend time on the water, in between the bathroom breaks of course. After getting comfortable casting from her chair, we scouted the lake for structure and good water temperature. I was in the middle of teaching her how to cast under a dock when the wind took her favorite hat for a ride and placed it on top of the water out of reach. She became concerned as the hat slowly sank, taunting us. I gave her instructions to stay in her chair and not lean toward the water. I quickly paddled to the hat and narrowly caught it with the 42 KAYAK BASS FISHING MAGAZINE FALL 2015
paddle. As I scooped it closer to the boat I was relieved knowing that I was going to save the princess’ favorite hat. Just when things were starting to look up, SPLASH! The hat, the chair, and the girl were all in the water. She reached out to help save her hat and that was all the chair needed to go overboard. I quickly pulled her back into the kayak, but the hat and chair now belong to the lake. I immediately reassured her that she can get a new hat and chair, and have
since made good on that promise. She sat in my lap and helped paddle for the rest of the trip slowly forgetting about the lost items and was thankful her fishing pole didn’t make the plunge.
it wasn’t a perfect trip, and they often aren’t even if you don’t have a kid with you, we both had a great trip. Despite being skunked, wet, hatless, and chairless she was only upset about the trip being over.
Miraculously her trademark fancy sunglasses stayed on her face. We headed back to the boat ramp where she informed me she couldn’t wait to tell her mom that she got to swim in a lake!
No matter how much you plan, things can and will happen, but do not let that deter you from any trip. I encourage you to take the time to take someone fishing, and make the trip about them if they are new to the sport.
Gather your facts, gear, and patience in order She fell asleep soon after getting strapped in the truck, and I was too deep in thought to re- to equip yourself and a guest for the trip. But alize I was still listening to kid music. Though be prepared for a swim. 2
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We didn’t INVENT life jackets for kayak FISHING, it just seems like it.
ast month, I purchased over three dozen crankbaits. Most of them are now stuck at the bottom of the Susquehanna River. I was fighting for what would end up being a third place finish in an online tournament. Over fifty anglers targeting largemouth or smallmouth in five states tried to amass the largest three fish total. My final tally was the largest smallmouth total at 62.5 inches; a 20.5 incher, and two 21 inchers. The pattern that landed me a check wasn’t even close to covering my crankbait bill.
The winning pattern: whitewater crankbaiting. The fact that it’s an expensive pattern to chase doesn’t really bother me. The rush of a smallmouth smashing the bait, then turning into the strongest jet of water in the river, then using that current to peel drag is worth almost any price of admission. It requires whitewater paddling skills, pinpoint accuracy with your casts, and a willingness to not go in after a snagged bait. Doing so would result in a loss of more than a $12 Live Target Crawfish Crankbait – it would flip a boat in a heartbeat.
through a turbulent maze of jumbled ledge rock and boulders can’t be easy for a fish to navigate.
The largest of any species of fish get big by identifying feeding stations that yield them the most food with the least amount of effort. There’s no way I would have guessed that the powerful class 2 and 3 rapid ledge drops would constitute an easy meal for a smallmouth. That much water slamming
I had already caught two 18 inch range fish out of the rapid, when I saw a much larger dark brown profile appear from the depths below the tongue of water curling forcefully over a three foot ledge drop. So here comes the mind bending part – that huge fish was facing downstream, with his
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Of course, that assumption is based on how difficult it is for me to navigate. One afternoon while fishing one of these ledge drops in particularly clear water, I got to watch several big smallmouth interact with the powerful hydrodynamic forces. They did so in a manner that caused me to put my rod down and just watch. What I saw just didn’t make any sense to me.
WORDS AND PHOTOS BY JEFF LITTLE
body turned at a flattened angle. pinching was their endgame from their behavior. It found the sweet spot where his required caloric input was I routinely take my kids to the almost nothing. river on fishing trips that seem to always turn into snorkeling Watching the ledge drop for over an hour, I understood why excursions. Through putting on a mask and going into that was the spot for him to lesser rapids and riffles, we have hang out. Crawfish after all seen the impressive array of crawfish climbed the food in these whitewater areas: downstream side of the ledge madtoms, hellgrammites, rock, clinging onto whatever crease or crack they could with crawfish, aquatic insects, sculpin and darters all stay in these their legs, waving their claws into the screaming fast current whitewater areas. But drift into an easy shallow gravel flat, and zooming over them. the biological cache thins out dramatically. I never saw one grab ahold of one of the many minnows that Grassbeds are another forage darted in and out of the same bonanza, but they are still spot, but I know that minnow
second to the fastest, most rambunctious whitewater you can find on the river.
marker could turn a goofy fluorescent orange and red crankbait into a dark brown or dark green one in no time. Trips to Bass Pro Shops Fortunately, the Susquehanna where I fish it in allowed me to swap out treble hooks with Central Pennsylvania is where the east coast’s tips rounded from river rocks, and shanks biggest river crosses the Appalachian Mountain bent and snapped by the acrobatic air shows range. Wherever a mountain and that mile of 20 plus inch smallmouth. wide river intersect, look for whitewater, and look for a place to lose some crankbaits, I mean The key is to deliver the bait to the nastiest, catch the biggest smallmouth in the river. whitest whitewater you can find. This requires getting reasonably close – hence the The set up I use is geared to winning that 15 lb braid for long casts. You might even tug of war with the rocky bottom more often cast into the tongue of water pouring over than not. Smallie Stix Custom Rods made my the ledge to make sure that you grind bottom crankbait rod on a St. Croix blank of medium at the base of the rapid. heavy power, and moderate action. That means that the spine of the rod bends deeply down the length of the rod before it really starts pulling. When I feel the crankbait abruptly stop, and I think it’s a snag, I can hesitate instead of wedging it harder between two rocks. That brief pause allows the bait to float up, free of the snag more often than not. Moderate action also plays heavily into keeping hooked fish from avoiding my Hawg Trough and tournament photo. The main line is 15 lb braid, with a 6 foot long 20 lb copolymer leader. The braid allows for long casts, and the copolymer helps with abrasion resistance. The presentation to these areas requires a willingness to break off a $12 crankbait without missing a beat. During the course of the month long tournament, I would run out of a certain color and certain depth of the square bill Live Target Crawfish Crankbait, and know that I needed more before my next trip. A search online for more might yield some in a different color, but I didn’t mind – dark colors always worked, and a permanent 52 KAYAK BASS FISHING MAGAZINE FALL 2015
I made use of a rudder cable steered Torqeedo motor to hold me in place. This allowed me to deliver many more casts to the base of a rapid than just charging the rapid, picking up a rod, letting it fly, then having to repeat after losing much ground by the time the crank was back to the rod tip. But you do what you need to. Positioning in an eddy to the side of a chute is another good option if you can find one. This pattern isn’t for anglers without whitewater skills. It isn’t for anyone who anguishes over lost baits. It is however a great way to deliver a lure to the biggest smallmouth in the river. 2
“The presentation to these areas requires a willingness to break off a $12 crankbait.”
hey don’t call fall bass fishing “junk fishing” for nothing. Rather than one dominant pattern, fish may be scattered and respond to various baits, colors, speeds, and techniques. Often, the key is to find baitfish or other forage on which bass are snacking before winter sets in. Following the bait and using key lures can often turn so-so days of fishing into epic memories. Check out these five tried and true fall bass catchers on the following pages which will help put more bass in your kayak.
Norman DD14 Crankbait
CRANKBAITS Iâ€™m a cranking fanatic, especially in the fall. I often start my day with numerous crankbaits tied on, which combine to cover the top 15 feet of the water column. Typically, you want to choose a bait that runs deep enough to be consistently contacting and deflecting off the bottom. These deflections will trigger reaction strikes from fall bass chasing baitfish. However, donâ€™t overlook lipless crankbaits either. They can often be worked vertically around baitfish schools, ripped through weeds, or thrown around rip rap banks. I typically prefer natural baitfish colors and patterns on my fall crankbaits, such as shad, shiners, herring, or others. 56 KAYAK BASS FISHING MAGAZINE FALL 2015
Jerkbaits are often overlooked by fall bassers, but they can really shine, particularly in the late fall and early winter. The key to fishing jerkbaits is depth and cadence. Often, fall bass feed up toward schools of bait. However, how far up can vary from hour to hour. So, you may need to try jerkbaits that dive and suspend at multiple depths. My rule of thumb is to start shallow and move deeper as needed. Cadence, or the speed and pattern at which you retrieve your jerkbait, is also very important. The traditional cadence is reel, jerk, jerk, pause, repeat. However, the length of the pause and number of jerks can be the difference between a good and great day. I typically start my pauses at about 1-2 seconds and add time from there until I start getting bites. As always, let the fish tell you what they prefer.
FINESSE WORMS Some days, the fish just don’t want to Santone Flipping Jig cooperate. On those days, pick up the spinning rod and try a finesse technique. This may include dragging or hopping a shakey head jig, dropshotting dock or weed Admittedly, this is a broad category, edges, or throwing a weightless stick but that is because bass in different worm. During the fall, I try to throw bodies of water will prefer different baits. The most popular fall big bass these baits to specific targets in areas bait is a jig and trailer. I prefer to use with active forage. jigs around rocks, docks, wood, and areas with large crayfish populations. One of my favorite techniques is dragging a 1/8 oz. shakey head jig However, by altering your jig and trailer, you can make it look like just with a Junebug colored Zoom Trick Worm attached. Start by dragging about any kind of forage. In areas and lifting or hopping it off the with abundant sunfish, I may use a bottom. Then, change the speed and beaver or creature bait in a natural action of the retrieve as needed. The color. Or in finesse situations, I will key is to keep all of these baits as often pick up a 3.5” tube, usually close to key areas or strike zones as in green or brown pumpkin. When possible, so often you may only work flipping, the key is a quiet, smooth, the bait in a very small area before accurate entry into the water – something that takes a lot of practice. reeling it in and making another cast.
Zoom Trick Worm
SPINNERBAITS Spinnerbaits are a traditional fall workhorse, especially in windy conditions or stained water. This is because they mimic multiple types of bait and are easy to use. I usually start with a 3/8 oz Premier League Lures tandem blade spinnerbait in either white, chartreuse, black, or some combination. I cast to specific targets or around baitfish schools, let it sink based on depth, and use various retrieves. Sometimes, I slowly reel it back to the boat, while other times I jerk and yo-yo the bait erratically. Eventually, I may upsize or downsize the bait depending on the bite. Despite the big lures-big bass theory, on some days big bass want a smaller profile bait. You can also experiment with different blade types, blade sizes, skirt colors, and trailers.
Strike King Bleeding Spinnerbait 58 KAYAK BASS FISHING MAGAZINE FALL 2015
Drew Haerer is a kayak fishing guide, blogger, and pro-staffer for Wilderness Systems Kayaks, Bending Branches, Carolina Custom Rods, Columbia Sportswear, Smith Optics, and others. Title Photo by Drew Haerer Below: Mary May Haerer shows off a nice fall bass she tricked into taking her bait. Photo by Drew Haerer.
POST TOURNAMENT ETIQUETTE by Corey Stansifer
ou’ve spent days studying and reviewing maps. You’ve reorganized your tackle and retied all of your lures. You’ve even reviewed your previous fishing trips in the same area and read through numerous reports from other anglers. The day finally arrives after an insomnia-filled night. The pre-tournament preparations either pay off or not. Now that the tournament is over, what’s next? We often seen a great deal of articles on how to prepare for a tournament, but seldom do we see suggested etiquette after the competition.
Thank Your Tournament Director While you were prepping for a successful finish in the tournament, your director was checking and re-checking every detail to ensure a smoothly-run tournament. From liability forms and spreadsheets to weather patterns and identifiers, the director focuses on the success of the anglers instead of their own fishing preparations. On tournament day, the director will arrive early to set up and if he/she is fishing, will often be the last to launch. Lost identifiers and questions during the tournament also take away from their fishing time. After the results are compiled and prizes and cash handed out, it’s time to break everything down and pack up. Most tournament directors are not getting paid for their efforts. For them, it’s a labor of love. They are using their personal time to organize and host the tournament. If they fish the tournaments they host, they also sacrifice some fishing time. Let the tournament director know you appreciate all they have done to put on a successful tournament. A simple “thank you” and a handshake goes a long way after a long day on the water.
Congratulate Fellow Competitors Whether you came in first place or last, congratulate those that fished against you. The kayak angling community is not lacking in camaraderie. Many bass boaters turned kayak
anglers mention the lack of “community” as a reason for switching from power to paddle.
We all need to do everything in our power to keep this culture. For me, the post-tournament check-in is where new friendships are built. After a tournament, the focus shifts to telling stories of losing monster fish and sharing techniques that were able to land the winning bag. Keep the culture and congratulate those that share the passion of kayak fishing.
Thank Tournament Sponsors Tournament sponsors give a piece of their business away in the form of product or gift certificates. Most will not ask anything in return other than some acknowledgement and pictures after the event. If you win a prize during a tournament, raffle or by placing, let the sponsor know that you appreciate them. With the power of social media, reaching out to sponsors is easier than ever. If it is a product you already have or may not use, share it with a fellow competitor and help the sponsor grow their business. Fishing kayak tournaments is a great way to meet fellow anglers and try out new products. As the sport continues to grow, help new and seasoned tournament anglers understand the importance of giving thanks and keeping the positive culture of kayak fishing tournaments. 2
Remembering My Early DIY Days by Juan Veruete
few weeks ago I was flipping through some of my old kayak fishing photo’s on facebook. I skimmed quickly through a number of photo’s until I came to one that brought back memories from the “early days” of my kayak fishing career. I chuckled out loud and thought to myself, “I look like a dumpster diving bag lady”.
just put it this way. I don’t have a degree in engineering but some of the design marvels adorning my kayak would have made NASA engineers feel incompetent..
The photo was taken in the fall so I was wearing old neoprene waders that had more patches than a clipper ship full of pirates. There was no fancy high tech paddling gear for me. It was a bargain basement “no name” perforMy rod selection was hodgepodge of brands mance shirt and a wading jacket from one of and colors primarily driven by what was on sale or what I could buy used from my friends. the big box outdoor stores. My crate was actually a real crate with homemade rod holders zip tied in place. Pool noo- The photo provided a stark comparison between the my humble beginnings in the sport dles were fashioned into all sorts of useful kayak fishing accessories much the same as a and my current good fortune. Now I cruise carnival clown twists and bends balloons into the rivers in prototyp boats. My quiver of rods poodles and flowers, I made everything from rivals that of any tournament angler. I wear a fish gripper float to a floating live net. Let’s top of the line paddling gear and I even have Far Left: Juan Veruete’s current setup, a far cry from his DIY roots. Left:Juan Veruete shows an early version of his rigging. His anything to get on the water style has evolved into something more organized and purposeful.
1. Stadium Seat Cushion 2. DIY Milkcrate 3. Random Plastic Boxes 4. Homemade Anchor Trolley 5. Patch Filled Neoprene Waders 6. Sideways Mounted Hatch 7. DIY Brush Clip 8. Bass Boat PFD
from a myriad of backgrounds. The common thread? We all share a passion for pursuing the fish that we love to catch from a small water craft that has the appeal of putting us in our queries world in a very intimate way. For some it’s the thrill of chasing cobia or redfish in the salt. For others, it’s casting for crappie in a local lake. In my case, it’s hunting down trophy The truth is, however, that very little has changed. I still have trouble sleeping the night smallmouth bass in flowing water. before a float because my mind is racing with As I’ve reflected on my progression in the promise of another day on the river. The ensport, I arrived at a very simple conclujoyment that I get from sharing my passion sion. Kayak fishing is far more than a sticker with family, friends and newcomers to the adorned boat or shiny new gear. Kayak fishsport still fuels my own enthusiasm for the kayak fishing. The anticipation of a potential ing is defined by the pursuit of our favorite strike on every cast keeps me wide eyed and query and the relentless pursuit of our shared laser focused. A crisp hook set, a doubled over passion for kayak angling. The boats we paddle and the gear that we tote around in our straining rod and the thumping slow head shake of a trophy bass is my drug of choice. kayaks makes no difference to the fish. 2 a custom engraved “store bought” crate solution. Some days I feel like Charlie the character from the movie Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It’s a true rags to riches scenario that I could never have predicted the day I launched my first fishing kayak into a local lake.
Kayak fishing is a special sport. It brings rapidly growing numbers of anglers together
Juan Veruete with a nice bass from early in his kayak DIY days. Notice the cooler, random smatterings of rags, bags and other needed equipment.
64 KAYAK BASS FISHING MAGAZINE FALL 2015
FRIENDLY COMPETITION STORY AND COVER PHOTO BY MATT EIKENBERG
We all hope for a successful trip every time we go out, but catching the biggest fish of the day adds a little something extra. This usually makes for an interesting ride home and exciting stories for years to come. So why not take it one step further?
Now it was on to the duration of the events. 8-10 hours, that’s all? My weekend trips are usually no less than 12 hours depending on the time of year and how close my wife is to losing it with our three young girls, bless her heart.
Competing in local kayak fishing tournaments puts you against other anglers in your area that are out for a good time and a little friendly competition. Most local tournaments have a low entry fee, usually with a price point between $20 and $30. Depending on the turnout, you can walk away with a nice chunk of change and memories that can last a life time. Tournament fishing is not just about the competition for me, it’s about meeting new people with the same interests and establishing great friendships.
Ok, so I can give up one weekend away from the Susquehanna River and fish a body of water I may or may not go fish for fun. But if I want a shot at winning, don’t I need to fish it one or two times before the event? I don’t regularly fish there so going in blind probably isn’t a very good idea. I now have two or three days dedicated to these event. Each tournament is four to six weeks apart so now this is really starting to cut into my “fishing for fun” time if I choose to fish multiple events. What are the other anglers going to be like? Will they welcome newcomers or will they be divided in to
Mallows Bay on the Tidal Potomac was the first event I competed in. The tournament was a week or two out when I stumbled upon the local kayak bass fishing series that was hosting it. They were a few events in to their series when I started to consider giving it a shot. I had so many questions racing through my head and I started to become overwhelmed before the event was upon me. Fishing for me is about being on the water with friends, relaxing and catching fish. I played a lot of competitive baseball as a child and by the time I reached high school it was no longer enjoyable. Much of my childhood was spent traveling throughout Maryland playing ball on the weekends rather than playing with my friends. I was always under constant pressure from teammates and coaches to do well and not make mistakes. Was competition going to do the same thing to fishing? 68 KAYAK BASS FISHING MAGAZINE FALL 2015
already established cliques? Needless to say, the next few nights were spent contemplating whether or not I was going to give it a try. So after a few conversations with my long time fishing partner Chuck, we decided to enter the tournament. Going down to the tournament with a buddy took some of the edge off.
to the check in about 45 minutes before the launch to try and shake the butterflies and get everything in order. The tournament director was excited to see new faces and was very welcoming.
Many of the anglers were also extremely welcoming. Everyone was very personable and we were all there for the same reasons, to have All of these questions would soon be answered a good time and catch fish. Those of you that are new to the sport will quickly realize how the day of the event at Mallows Bay. The mentality I had going into the event was very awesome the kayak angling community really simple. This competition was going to be man is. Many anglers were offering up information vs fish not man vs man and any pressure I felt on how the area had been fishing and some of would be self-inflicted. At the end of the day the lures that had been working. It was pretty neat walking down a row of kayaks ready to we were all out to catch fish, not outsmart launch and see all the different rigging ideas. other anglers. Some of them were as simple as a crate with a I decided I was going to pre fish the weekend couple pieces of PVC zip tied to them while before and go into the event with no expecta- others were very complex and riddled with innovative ideas. tions. Whatever happens, happens. I arrived Photo by Mark Cisneros
Minutes before the launch we went over all the rules and soon after we were on the water and the event was underway. It wasn’t long after that I found myself fishing fast, checking my watch constantly and jumping from spot to spot. By 10am I had a pile of soft plastics in my boat and no fish to show for it. This was the perfect opportunity to stop, eat a sandwich and regroup. I was not doing well with being timed. I had to figure out a way to calm down and fish slower. I decided I would set an alarm and not check the time until my alarm went off. This seemed to calm me down a bit and I was more inclined to thoroughly fish each spot. I did not check the tide charts for the day so finding the fish was tougher than it should have been. Soon after my much needed break I landed my first fish. It was no trophy but it was the much needed icebreaker. Moments before my alarm sounded, I was able to land one more fish. It was time to paddle back and see how well everyone else did. My two fish may have only totaled around 30” but the sense of accomplishment was much greater than that. I may not have won the tournament or even placed but that wasn’t the only thing I was hoping to take away from the day. I met a
lot of great people and developed a few more friendships. Do I think tournament fishing is for everyone? No, not everyone enjoys competition. Would I recommend it? I think everyone should give it a try if it peeks their interest. Did I have a good time at my first event? Absolutely! I worried about tournaments cutting into my “fishing for fun” time, well that’s no longer the case. Competing in tournaments is nothing but added fun for me. Not only that, I enjoy every bit of the preparation. My preparation has gotten a lot more complex than just pre fishing a body of water a few times before events. So do I think I am missing out on anything? No. Did adding competition to something I enjoy so much ruin it? No, but that may not be the case for everyone. I feel like fishing in unknown waters and sometimes less than desirable conditions is turning me into a well-rounded angler. If you are thinking about competing in an event, grab your buddies and get ready for a fun day on the water. Look at it as a group of anglers out to catch fish and maybe win some money in the process. 2
Photo by Mark Cisneros 70 KAYAK BASS FISHING MAGAZINE FALL 2015
Photo by Mark Cisneros Angler: Gio
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Photo by Roland “Bones” Jimenez, Austin Canoe and Kayak Angler: Ryan Herzog