It’s the start of your kayak fishing season and you have all of your kayak safety gear, fishing gear and your ready to go hunt for some fish on your yak. Largemouth bass fishing can be some of the most rewarding that you can do from your kayak. They’re very aggressive and abundant in New England fresh water ponds, lakes and river systems. They fight well, are acrobatic, pretty easy to find and can entertain with awesome top water strikes. Whether it’s fly rods or light tackle, targeting this species is guaranteed to put a smile on your face! First things first, early season the water is cold - very, very cold! I know it’s 60 degrees out and it feels like 80 to you because of the long winter, but you need to consider your environment. If the water is in the 40’s you wouldn’t last long swimming in it and should dress accordingly. A Dry top, PFD & chest waders at a minimum. You should be familiar with self rescue on your kayak. (http://newenglandkayakfishing.com/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=6348)
Now let’s take a look at the gear your prepared to catch your fish with. I personally use a low profile bait caster and a 7’ medium/heavy action 54 million modulus graphite rod. My rod is rated 8-17lbs and does double duty as my light saltwater striper and bluefish setup as well. My line is 30lb power pro braid. I love the feel of braid for its sensitivity, zero stretch = solid hook sets and fish pulling power through heavy cover and submerged timbers. It has the equivalent diameter of 8lb monofilament so you won’t lose any of your line capacity, there is no memory and it will last longer than mono as well. I will typically get 2-3 seasons out of a single spool. At the end of my line I tie my leader directly to my braid using an Albright knot for its ease on passing thru my guides (http://www.animatedknots.com/albright/index.php). My leader material is 20 or 25lb Ande Fluorocarbon for its near invisibility under water, low stretch and high abrasion resistance. I tie on a 5-6’ length and change it when it’s down to about 2’ from retying and changing baits. Always check your leader for nicks and abrasions after snags and fish. Retie as necessary – it’s tough to watch a 6lb fish come to the surface, go back down and break your line because you didn’t re-tie. Sharp hooks are a major factor towards increasing your catch count as well. I keep a manual hook sharpener on the yak at all times, it’s a great investment.
Chasing “Larrys”- I like to throw larger sized plastics and 4-6” floating or suspending hard baits at them. My go to worm is the 7.5” Yum Ribbon tail in tequila sunrise. This worm has great action on the drop and retrieve. My hook is a 3/0 or 4/0 mister twister keeper hook in red, weighted or un-weighted. Very sharp out of the package and has increased the life of my plastics 3 fold due to their design as the worm releases from the top of the hook on hook sets. I also like the 6” and 9” Sluggo in black as the season grows warmer.
Where to look for the fish? -
I find early - mid April most fish seek out the warmer waters. If you own a compass or GPS you should use it, this will help you identify these areas. These areas will be the east (sunrise) facing banks and shallower water mud flats and coves. You want to fish the water that sees the sun for most of the day. I find it unnecessary to get out there early morning – the fish tend to be too lethargic with the cold nights. Save your efforts for the afternoon & evening. This time of year if you can find some down timber on a sun drenched bank your chances on finding a bass will go up. Another thing to keep in mind is any of these down timbers usually extend out from the bank a little further under water then you expect. The bigger fish tend to camp at the end of these timbers so keep this in mind before you position your boat. The smaller fish tend to school up and stay pretty tight to the banks. You should cast tight to or even up on the bank and pull it back into the water. Early in the year the smaller fish are a bit more active (aggressive) than the larger fish. So if you catching the smaller fish you have a good chance at getting another. Keep in mind your chances of catching large fish with smaller fish are pretty low so if you aren’t happy with the size of the fish your on, you’ll need to move a little to get out of them. Personally I like getting into the smaller fish early in the season as you tend to catch more of them. I’ll target larger bass after I shake off the cabin fever. Early in the year I like to target the aggressive fish – what this means is I will make a lot of casts throughout my day – I tend to not let my bait sink far in the water column and I retrieve it with a slow steady crank on the reel to keep the bait around 4-6” below the surface of the water unless I’m working some timber and I’ll take my time working the entire water column. Rainy days are great tools in raising temps in those colder water areas. Warmer rain days are more effective at increasing water temps than all day sunshine, so next time your thinking “damn this rain stinks – it’s been two days” or “every weekend it rains” – just think about how much better the fishing is getting with every drop!
As the water warms to the mid 50’s or so the bass start spawning. These beds are usually pretty close to shore and generally in 1 to 8 feet of water. The fish are very protective of their spawning areas. As a result anything that doesn’t belong in their bed usually gets eaten or moved and no two beds will be immediately next to each other. Your early season techniques of casting close to shore will work just not restricted to the warmest areas now that the water temps are where most bass like them. A slower retrieve right at or close to bottom is most effective. You want your presentations to land around, in or pass through these beds so these spawning fish will try to relocate or eat your baits. These bites can be very subtle so keep this in mind and try to keep most of your slack up and ready for a hook set. Some of the best chances of the year at catching a big fish are during the spawning season. The early morning bite can be ok, but your evening efforts will produce more results. When the water gets into the upper 60’s and 70’s you find the spawning bass moving away from their beds. This can be some frustrating catching. Fish that have just left their beds tend to eat less (bad breakup?). Thankfully this only lasts a week or two. You might not even notice it. Depends on where you fish, not all of the fish are on the same schedule. The places to find fish are shaded areas over hanging trees and land points, lily pads, weed beds, down timber and feeder streams – pretty much anywhere that looks fishy to you. This is a good time to start using your top water techniques and big numbers of fish can be caught with regularity.
“The dog days of summer” When the water temps climb into the 80’s the fish are very conservative and don’t want to expel a lot of energy, although they will eat everything they don’t have to work hard for, I like to call em “couch potatoes”. You’ll still be fishing the same areas as mentioned above but you’ll need to cast around more. You’ll find plenty of fish to catch, just be patient. It’s not uncommon for me to cast a worm and let it sit for 10-20 seconds only to watch my line start moving around the 20 count. Again it’s early (false light) to mid morning and early evening till dark. A rainy day can be very effective at cooling the water and fishing activity tends to go up. If you find it raining in August and you want something to do – go fishing. The occasional bigger baits for me this time of year. I will breakout the un-weighted 9” Sluggo looking for a monster bass on a drop off, steep bank or weed line edge close to deeper waters as well as the 10”YUM Ribbontail. Top water is effect at dusk and dawn.
In the fall the bass are actively feed again because the water temps are coming back down. You should see some high catch numbers if you find fish. Not uncommon to have days were you catch fish all day long in the fall. Especially overcast days.
It’s in the details –
Have your rod handy and rigged to cast before you get out on the water, don’t spend your time rustling around with your tools and banging things off your hull. The least amount of noise will definitely increase your fish count. Especially early season. These fish feel vulnerable up on the flats and in shallow water areas. They will hear and see you coming if you aren’t considerate of the noise your making out there. You don’t want to turn off the bite before you even get started. Remember hook sets – hook sets can be less effective on a kayak. Your kayak will move when setting up on a big fish. These big bass have very hard mouths and a solid hook set is crucial to landing these good fish – set that hook 2-3 times.
If you can take any one tip from this article it should be this one: Use your kayak to your advantage. I personally feel the best tool for catching numbers of fish is you and your kayak’s ability to sneak up on these fish. Take into account the wind direction and speed when approaching an area you want to target. The fish will consider your offerings with a lot more enthusiasm if they aren’t feeling threatened by your presence. Try to consider how your paddle enters and leaves the water – as quietly as possible around your hunting waters if you can. Be careful with it– try not to bang it off your boat (ignore this if you’re a peddle pusher ;-).
Please play it safe out there, have fun & tight lines…..