Monday, October 22, 2012

Low Water, High Winds, and Short Fish

Saturday morning Evan and I headed off to Smith Mountain Lake to do a little prefishing for the Virginia Tech Bass Fishing Team tournament we had on Sunday.  On Saturday we ran all around the lake getting tossed around by high winds, but were not able to find bait nor fish.  We threw everything but the kitchen sink at them; we threw swimbaits, A-rig, jig, Texas rigs, drop-shot, and just about everything else in our tackle boxes.  Despite our best efforts though we only landed two shorts, and a couple green sunfish.
 When Sunday morning rolled around, we were the first team to launch.  We immediately headed far up the Blackwater arm.  The day prior we talked with some guys at the ramp who told us that the bait was in a cove passed the 4-H area, and that was our end destination.  After a 20minute run we reached the cove, and immediately saw striper fisherman in there and got excited.  I started off with topwater, but only managed a couple short strikes, probably from sunfish.
We continued to work the cove, and found bait stacked up in spots.  However, the bait was not holding fish.  Instead, we started catching fish off docks on drop-shot in <10FOW.  My first fish was 13.9in-14in depending on how you measured it, but we were too worried it wouldn't be long enough if placed on the board at weigh in so I tossed it back.
The morning quickly gave way to the afternoon, and we only had short fish to show for it.  We caught around a dozen fish 12-13.9in (a Claytor Lake limit!).  The afternoon went faster than the morning did, and soon it was time to head back to the launch for weigh-in.
I was relieved to hear that we were not the only team to struggle on the lake, not one of our teams caught a limit.  The winning weight for our tournament was less than 7lbs with 4fish and the Weekend Series Championship was ~12lbs/day.  Both pros and joes alike struggled to find the fish out on a low Smith Mountain Lake.
There were many tournaments over the course of the weekend, and I would like to blame the lack of fish both days on that.  However, I think the root cause of no keepers was the lake being down close to five feet from normal pool.  All the spots we would usually fish were high and dry, boats were on lifts that hovered over dry land, and floating docks in inches of water!  It was a tough two days of fishing, but we enjoyed ourselves nonetheless.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Check Another One Off The List!

Friday morning I was granted a morning of fishing; I had no classes, and I wasn't scheduled to work until later on in the day.  With a couple hours of fishing guaranteed, I retrieved my kayak from my girlfriend's property and slipped over to Whitethorne to chase some bronzebacks and try for a musky from the yak.
After I launched I immediately started paddling upriver towards Toms Creek.  On my way up I saw a monster smallmouth sitting on a weedline 100ft downstream from where the creek entered the river.  I tried numerous times with a green pumpkin grub, but couldn't even get a look from him, so I kept moving up river.
My next encounter was one I have been hoping for, for many months, a musky.  I switched rods and grabbed my rod rigged up with a Jake in "Walleye," but I was unable to make this big girl turn.  I tossed about fifty times before I decided it wasn't my day and kept making my way upstream.
Once I approached the chain of islands approximately .75miles from the launch I encountered some difficulty.  The current rips around the tips of the island and makes paddling upstream a hard task.  I hugged the shoreline and used anything breaking the current to my advantage, and after what seemed like an eternity of paddling I reached my fishing grounds for the day.
One of my favorite holes to fish on the New River is about 2miles upstream from Whitethorne.  There is a pretty quick drop in depth from 3-5ft to 8-12ft.  It's a perfect spot for smallmouth who tuck themselves underneath the many ledges.  However, once I anchored up the wind started gusting upstream and made it very hard to work my grub across the bottom.  After my second snag I decided to "unanchor" and fight the current.  I would cast out, fight the wind, and retrieve my grub.  It was getting aggravating, and I was getting ready to head back to the Toms Creek area when it finally happened.
Any of my close friends could tell you that I have had a goal for close to a year now to catch a musky from the kayak.  I have come close many times with follows and close encounters, but never had hooked into one of the "powerhouses" of the New River.  Today, my goal would be achieved...
I tossed my grub towards the dropoff and fought to reposition myself to retrieve it; once in "good" position I started to reel in the slack from the wind, and felt weight on my line.  However, it wasn't weight like a normal bass would have; instead, it felt like a snag.  I reeled the line tight and felt thumps; it was then I knew I had a fish.  For the first minute or two it didn't make any runs just eased along down the river.  I thought I hooked into a hawg, but once I saw the unmistakable silhouette of a musky underwater my heart started thumping!
I was using a light action rod with 8lb Flurocarbon and NO steel leader!  For close to ten minutes I fought the fish towards the shoreline.  It made several runs, and even went aerial in the middle of the river and again in the shallows when I was trying to land it.  After several botched landing attempts, I finally got my first kayak musky ever!  I was ecstatic, and took a couple pictures before reviving the fish for another day.
After checking that off my list, I began paddling back against winds that were close to sustained 10mph; the current was less powerful than the wind was on the return paddle.  I reached the ramp worn out, thirsty, and hungry, but I wouldn't have had it play out any other way! 
~37in New River Musky

Ugly Stick Rod for Short River Trips

Powerteam Lures Watermelon Grub on a 1/4oz Head

Wind Before Heading Downstream (To the Right)
Do they make bigger hawg troughs?!?!?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Starting off the Year

Last weekend I joined the Virginia Tech Bass Fishing Team for the first club tournament of the year on Claytor Lake.  I had prefished on Friday, and caught a decent fish on a double fluke rig, but that was all prefishing provided for me.

When Sunday morning rolled around, my partner, Evan, and myself got up and made some sausage and egg biscuits to give us some energy for the long day.  We arrived at the launch, and I was feeling anxious as we motored out to mouth of the cove with the rest of the team. At 7:00AM everyone blasted off and headed up-lake, but Evan and I made our way straight across the lake.

I started off looking for the topwater bite with a Lucky Craft Sammy, but only had one take a swipe at my lure with no hook up.  We kept fishing, but we struggled for the first hour and half with no keepers and plenty of shorts.  The shorts kept tearing up our roboworms (Martin's Madness & Oxblood), and it was getting annoying!  While Evan was rigging up another worm, I flipped my drop shot up against the bank.  I worked the drop shot off the bank and began to move it by a dock when I felt weight.  I instinctively set the hook, and was hooked up with what I knew would be our first keeper.  The fish went a little over 2lbs, and would prove to be our only fish for a while.

Hour after hour ticked by with nothing but missed fish and shorts.  We moved from cove to cove losing numerous drop shot rigs looking for the elusive bait, but never managed to find it.  On Friday we had been in the same coves and bait balls the size of our boat were everywhere you looked; however Friday they seemed to have moved up lake.

With only two hours left we decided to make the run to Peak Creek.  We fished for an hour with one fish that was 11 3/4in...  0.25in short of 12in (the minimum length requirement).  We threw the fish back, and Evan and I looked at each other.  We knew we had to start heading back towards the ramp, but we figured we would fish our way out of Peak Creek.

We "power-dropshotted" our way out of Peak Creek, and with thirty minutes to go I hook into our second keeper.  It was short, around 12in, but it was a keeper nevertheless.  We fished for the final thirty minutes, but could not manage to catch another keeper for the tournament.  Winning weight was under 10lbs, but most of the top finishers fished up-lake.

All in all though, I had a great time on the lake.  We were graced by a beautiful day on the lake: blue skies, warm weather, and an off and on breeze all day.  We caught many fish other than our two keepers, saw a small water spout, and saw what I believe was a beaver!  Can't wait till we head to Smith Mountain Lake in October!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Storm Warning

This evening I decided to hit up my local pond before the severe thunderstorms hit.  I rigged up with a donkey rig and football jig.  I opted to only take out a bag of flukes for replacements; this would cause me to dedicate my limited fishing time to fishing and not retying.

Once on the lake I immediately started fishing the shallower water with only one dink on the donkey rig.  A bit discouraged I switched over to my football jig.  I hopped it and dragged it across the bottom, but never got a hit.  I slowed my retrieve down, but still could not get any takers.  I looked up towards the sky and saw I had 30minutes, at most, before the storm would be upon me.

I then saw bass busting baitfish in about 10FOW.  I grabbed my donkey rig and danced it right through the school and paused it.  When I started reeling the slack out I felt weight and set the hook.  Immediately the fish took off running and I was getting towed around for a nice sleigh ride.  After about 30-40seconds I got it yakside and got excited.

Up till this time I had only caught bass in the 8-12in length in this lake, but this was a solid fish.  Instead of opting for my fish grips I reached down and heaved fish, weeds, and water into my kayak.  It was my first decent fish at 17.5in.

After a couple pictures I released the fish and looked for the school again.  My first cast back into the school yielded another fish.  This one fought harder; it had longer runs and went aerial more than once.  Once I got the bass yakside I did the same thing as the previous fish; I heaved everything into the kayak.

This one was much broader than the previous fish and would go a shade over 19in.  I was elated, and took some pictures and released the fish for another day.  Despite working the donkey rig hard in the school for my final 15minutes I could not find another fish before the storm snuck up on me.

Although I only landed three fish, I learned a lot about fishing the donkey rig and my local pond.  Catching those fish has renewed my faith in the lake, and I know I will be fishing their a lot more before heading back to school.

Monday, July 16, 2012

HOW I Spend My Weekends

This past weekend myself and another member of the Virginia Tech Bass Fishing Team volunteered with the Heroes on the Water - Tidewater.  The two of us found ourselves racing around in the morning Saturday before the event to get a kayak for me and some GULP!  We got to the ramp and everything was set to go and after a short pep talk we headed out in search of some flounder and trout.
All Lined Up
We prowled the inlet with a couple hits, but I could not manage to hook up.  As lunch time neared the whole group started to have trout splashing all around them.  I tied on a mirrolure and worked it quickly back to the kayak.  I hooked up on my third cast and landed a short 10-12in speckled trout, but with lunchtime and heavy rains forcing me off the water that would prove to be the only fish I landed.
 It was a great time out there with awesome people, and I learned a few things that would help me for future saltwater outings.
Sunday rolled around and it was off to Lynnhaven for some flounder.  Evan and I got out of the launch and immediately started fishing the grass.  We had numerous hits from blues, croakers, and a few flounders, but couldn't get anything into the yaks.  After moving around Evan landed his first flounder of the day; a 13-14in flounder.
We then paddled around the inlet waiting for the tide to turnover.  We found a spot and tossed our gulps around, but during slack-tide we had difficulty getting any bites.  Once the tide started rolling in I hooked up, but it was a shorter flounder than Evan's.  It was super small, but it was my first flounder I ever landed and I was proud!
My Super Small Flounder Held High and Proud!
A couple minutes later I had a solid hit and set the hook.  Fish on, but it was significantly bigger than my first one.  It splashed around yakside and I got my first look at it; it was a solid flounder.  Evan screams at me to land it without losing it, and after several failed landings I got it into the yak.  I paddled to the shore and threw him on the measuring board.  My first "doormat" (despite it being a small doormat) went a shade over 20 inches.  I was elated, but struggled to hook up with any other flounders for the rest of the outing.
20.5in "Doormat"
About an hour before we decided to head in me and Evan started hooking up with little tiny puppy drum.  They were 5-10inches, but fought like a freight train!  It was a blast fighting them, and was yet another species I was able to check  off my saltwater check sheet.
I cannot wait to head back down and get in to more saltwater species, they taste a lot better than the freshwater fish I am accustomed to catching.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Dink Fest 2012

Wednesday morning I set out with my girlfriend, Lilly, and her parents.  The four of us loaded up the truck with kayaks and a canoe and set out for the New River; we were off to float from Eggleston down to Pembroke.  The area is known for its precipices lining the length of the float, and made this float particularly picture worthy.  I struggled through the first half with no luck with cranks, topwater, or spinnerbaits.  Lilly was having luck on her Rebel Pop-R for smallies.

After She Switched to a White Grub
After we finished lunch Lilly's parents were off to the races.  They started floating and never turned back for the rest of the trip, but me and Lilly decided to take our time beating the banks and pushwater/eddies.  I finally got dialed in to a solid pattern that I would use for the rest of the trip.

First Decent One of The Day
I noticed that anything chartreuse they were going nuts over chasing.  I tied a 1/8oz jig head with a 3in Zoom curly tail white grub onto my 4'6"ft mini ultra-light; I dipped the tip of the tail in chartreuse spike-it.

I threw my grub everywhere from the banks to deepwater ledges and everything in between, and had lots of luck.  My first fish were dinks ranging from 8-12in, but I did manage to land two 15+in smallmouth bass before reaching the takeout.

Those Cliffs are Home to Lots of Hawks
Overall it was a great day on the water.  I saw a big ~45in musky, and a handful of "C" class smallmouth cruising the shallows with little interest in anything I threw at them.  I cannot wait to float this stretch again and hook into some true New River "footballs".
Another Average

Monday, May 21, 2012

Swinging for the Fences

On Thursday May 16, I loaded up my Ride 135 and headed off to a small neighborhood lake.  The day prior I was shore fishing and had lots of luck with a spro frog, and Thursday would be no different.  I launched the kayak and began fishing mats right next to the launch.  First cast I hook up, nothing big, but starting the day with a 14in bass would set the tone right!
I worked the entire bank fishing every mat I came across with my frog.  Almost every spot I pulled up to I pulled off a half dozen 12-15in bass, and although they were nothing huge, I had fun with the topwater bite.  There are very few places where I can fish for three hours and have over a hundred fish blow up on a frog!  I then had a fish "slurp" my frog.  I reeled down and swung for the fences.  It was on, I had a giant fish, for this lake, on the end of my line.  She jumped twice and my heart was racing.  A little less than a year ago I landed my PB which was over 8lbs; today I found myself with a new PB on the end of my line.  I managed to keep her down for the rest of the fight and got her yakside and was trying to be fancy and get fishgrips into her mouth (I should've just grabbed a fistful of fish) when she decided to make another run.  Deep into the weeds she went and got a split second of slack line; that was it.  I lost my new PB.  My best guesses put the fish between 23-25in and FAT!
After getting tired standing in the yak frogging, I decided to switch techniques.  I started throwing pieces of senko from 2-4in that I had used the week before smallmouth fishing on the new.  Although they were not full length, the fish did not care one bit.  I had four leftover senko pieces and managed to pull out 15-20 bass on a wacky rig.  It was a great way to use the torn senkos (They cost too much to not get every penny out of them!)
After running out of senkos I switched back to my frog and continued to have amazing luck.  Cast after cast was producing fish; I missed a lot of fish while attempting to set the hook, but that's how topwater goes.  Towards the end of the day I had something sneakily take my frog; there was no blowup or "slurp."  Instead, my frog just disappeared.  I reeled down and felt something entirely different than anything I had caught.  It seemed to squirm around more than fight.  I got it yakside and was surprised to see a 30in eel slithering around with a spro frog dangling from its toothed mouth!
I had a great time and managed to catch well over 100bass 10-15in, a slab crappie, and an ugly eel.  I can't wait to get back out there and chase my PB that got away.  All frogging was done with a St. Croix MH Mojo and Abu Garcia Revo S with 30lb braid.  The wack rigging was done on a St. Croix M Triumph and Shimano Sedona with 20lb braid and 8lb Flurocarbon leader.

Ready to Launch


Perfect Hookset!