Saturday, August 24, 2013

I Learned My Lesson

I got out in my kayak again.  Back at the same catch and release lake as last Saturday.

Tonight I got to explore more of the lake.  I paddled more than I did last time.  I'm sure my arms and shoulders will let me know about it tomorrow morning.  That's not the lesson I learned however.

I started off with a third-cast bluegill.  

It ate the same finesse presentation as all fish did last week; a Berkley 4" Power Worm, a #4 Gamakatsu Octopus-Circle hook, and a single split shot.

I paddled around a corner into a shallow, weedy area.  The weeds were too thick to fish through but there were dips and holes.  Polarized sunglasses helped me see the minnows, small bluegills, and bass that came up top to feed on them.  I saw all of these as they were scared by the presence of my kayak and scooted away to hide.

A few bass came once I cleared the edge of the weeds.  I had a bite that I pulled steadily on to set the circle hook when I felt a loss of tension.  I reeled in to see my line broke.  You can tell when your line breaks versus when your knot slips visually.  A clean break means the line snapped, a squiggly bit of line tells you to tie better knots.  I tied another circle hook on and re-rigged a Power Worm.  Flipping back toward the weed edge caused my line to go tight again.

I had my shirt off to try to get less pasty white not show off like Putin.  Still this bass was over two pounds and looked nice and long; worthy of a photo before being released.

The next area I fished had a small clump of weeds right in the middle of a deeper, clear area.  I cast to it and caught the bass above.  I cast back to the same spot and felt the tug of a fish then nothing.  Reeling in my line I found another clean break.  I cuss myself out for making a cheap, lazy mistake.

Fishing line manufacturers say you should replace your line every year or as you notice it getting roughed up.  My line on this reel was last years line.  No wonder it was brittle.  I'll tie on another hook and hope that I won't break off again.

Casting my rig over a clump of floating weeds caused me to feel a dead or spongy feeling when the Power Worm sank out of sight.  I know this can mean a fish has your bait so I pulled for a hook set and pulled up this nice crappie.

Another quick cast brought up a 2.75# largemouth for a photo.

One more cast to the same spot.  My line stiffens, I pull, the circle hook sets.


Oh!!!!!   This is a big one!!!


It's pulling drag straight down trying to get deep.  Ok, just keep tension on it, you don't want to lose this  *crap*

Line snapped cleanly, just like the other two times.  *sigh*

I didn't retie.  I paddled back to the spot I entered the lake, pulled out and packed my kayak into my RAV4.  

I learned my lesson. I stopped at the nearest store that had a fishing section to buy a spool of 6# Trilene XL monofilament fishing line.

My public service for today is to share two videos.  One that will help you learn how to tie an arbor knot used to join your fishing line to your spinning reel spool. The other is a video that shows you how to position the spool of line while winding to minimize line twist and other spinning reel related annoyances.

Please learn from my mistake.  Replace your mono each year.  It will keep you from learning the lesson I had to learn today.  

Saturday, August 17, 2013

First Kayak Bass

I made plans with Chunsum to kayak fish today.  We were going to meet at Lake Patterson when the gates opened, be the first on the lake, and get me on my first kayak bass.

A few weeks ago I turned 41.  For my birthday present to myself I took advantage of a great deal on a decent sit on top (SOT) fishing kayak. The Lifetime Tamarack Angler Kayak was a quality SOT priced well below the other SOT kayaks available.

Back to fishing this morning; It stunk.  I have spotty luck at Patterson and today I had no luck at Patterson.  Chunsum caught one 12" largemouth bass but he had to work his tail off to get anything to bite.  I got off the water at 11 to wait out the heat of the day and head home for some lunch.  

I was back on the water in the 6 o'clock hour but in a different pond a bit farther west.  I started out throwing a swim-jig with a plastic-chunk trailer on my custom casting rod.  The weeds grabbed on to my jig and my line and made it impossible to throw this lure.  I put the rod back behind me in the flush mount rod holder.  I reached behind me on the other side to pull out the first rod I made; a 6'6" MH Spinning rod.

I was already rigged with a Gamakatsu #4 Octopus Circle hook and a single split shot 12" up the 4# mono fishing line.  My finesse bait of choice for this rig is the 4" Berkley Power Worm.  I flipped my rig next to a weed clump and let the worm sink a count of at least 5 before lifting the rod tip up two or three feet then dropping it back down while reeling in your slack line.  On the next raise of my rod tip I felt tightness and a wiggle, then my line swam sideways.  I was going to catch my first kayak bass!!!

Or was I was going to catch my first kayak fish but it was a nice big bluegill!  I'll take that! A nice solid fish that fought well.  My next three casts I caught bluegill roughly this size.  That was nice but if I knew I'd only be catching bluegill I'd have brought my ultra-light rod to make it that much more fun.

I changed spots on the pond, paddling until I saw a feature that looked interesting.  In this case I saw the weeds that had been a foot or two below my kayak had dropped off to a darker bottom deeper than I could see.  I pitched my Power Worm into the water along the depth transition.  

Hooray!  A bass!  Not huge but fun to catch.  After lipping and unhooking I released the bass back to the pond, adjusted my worm and pitched it back at the depth transition.

A better bass!  I didn't think to weigh this one but it was worthy of a picture with me! 

Back to the transition and back to catching bass.  The 4" Power Worm is the perfect size when the bite is a bit finicky.  Daniel Byrne (aka Pondboy) taught me this technique.  I think it's like humans saying I don't want that plate of food but this cookie is just perfect for my appetite right now.

I paddled back to a weed line since I had drifted away from the area I was fishing.  I cast right by the weeds and let the worm fall for a 6 count.  One-onethosand, Two-onethousand, Three-one...hey, why is my line swimming away from me.  

Slack reeled in the circle hook found lip and then a nifty thing happened.  The bass started pulling my kayak.  I took my time and finally got my thumb in the mouth of this lovely largemouth that weighed in at 3# on my Boga Grip .

I would catch more fish but this was the best size wise of them all today.  When the sun started to set I paddled my way back to the launch area, dismounted and pulled my kayak up onto the grass and then a quick drag later I was beside my car.  Gear and kayak were loaded in and I was on my way home.  

The sun set behind me as I drove back to my house.  I'm excited to say I enjoy kayak fishing as much as I thought I would.  I'm happy to be stealthy and human powered.  I'm always happy to catch fish but today I was happy to catch my first kayak bass.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Watching PWoody Catch

Last week I saw PJ (PWoody on DuPage Angler) post that the transmission in his car blew up.  I replied we should go fishing to get his mind off the car.

Plans were made and Tuesday and Thursday of this past week I went to ponds and watched PWoody catch.  

We went to a good sized pond I know that has big bass that roam the weedline.  We were working the same style and color crawdad plastics with a bullet weight but his was getting bit and mine wasn't.

Now the bass weren't huge but he was catching consistently.  It took me until dark in one of the last casts of the night to hook up with a bass.  I had abandoned the craw and weight instead throwing a Chug-Bug topwater popper.  The water calmed down and I slung the popper what seemed like a mile.  I was using my custom Medium Heavy power spiral-wrapped casting rod I had just finished building paired with a Lew's BB1 casting reel and the one-pound bass whacked . 

Too dark for a picture we packed up and headed home.  Plans were made for Thursday to hit some ponds PWoody had found near some office buildings.  

We arrive, stop, pick a spot to stand in and start working the same plastic craw baits in the same ways.  PWoody starts out nailing a decent largemouth.

I had not even felt a bump on my craw.  PJ threw his out past the lily pads and showed me what he was doing.  Slowly pop and drag the craw back to the pads.  If it gets to the pads pull it up to the surface and drop it back like a yo-yo for a few strokes.  Just as he yo-yos the craw he gets hit again and hooks a bass.

I walked the rest of the pond throwing craws not getting hit so I thought I'd try something completely different.  Something I bought two years ago but hadn't used.  I took off my craw and texas-rigged a Yum Money Frog on the same setup with a EWG hook and a bullet weight.  I wanted the bait to be on the bottom and the tungsten bullet weight would get it down there.  I wanted something to mimic all the frogs I was scaring into the water as I walked the pond edge.

I cast the Money Frog onto a lily pad on the other side of the pond thanks to my Lew's Speed Spool.  I pull the frog off the pad and into the water.  I tug, jerk, and move it and feel the plastic legs kicking.  Then I felt something else.  I felt the THUD of a bass clamping down on my plastic.  

PWoody had turned away for a minute.  He turned back in time to see me reel down and SLAM the hook home.  My rod bent in a graceful arc I wrestled the fish up onto the lily pads and dragged it up for a close up.

PWoody put it well the next day on his status on the forum.

I may have gotten lucky.  It could be the bigger bait caught the bigger fish.  It could be my t-shirt that declares "Fish tremble when they hear my name".  I don't care what the reason was.  I just know it felt good to latch into a decent largemouth.  It felt good to spool on 50# Power Pro braided line and go drag bass over a field of lilies.  But I did what I set out to do; to help a friend in a time where his mind needed to get off blown transmissions and other worldly problems.  I got to watch PWoody catch, and that was fine by me.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Creek Fishing with Chunsum

Chunsum contacted me mid-week.  We discussed wading a creek that was new to me that Chunsum had success in last weekend.  Plans were made and we met at 5:30 AM, donned our breathable waders, and walked to an entry point to the creek.  

I like so many things about creeks.  Tall trees, rock walls, formations man-made, and natural.  I find I feel a sense of calm wash over me as the sounds of traffic give way to the sound of moving water, the breeze moving the leaves, trees, birds and other animal sounds.  I'm already in my happy place when we reach the first fishable hole.

Tall limestone walls look imposing but show they have given way to water and have pits and under-cuts.  A gentile current flows against the surface of the wall then down stream.  Chunsum pointed out the water line a foot above the current one.  That's how much the creek had changed in a week. 

Chunsum and I each caught a small smallmouth when Chunsum's Raven Specialist float went down.  A hookset only made the float shoot down stream and his drag squealed with the strong pull of a three and a half pound channel catfish.

We drifted this hole until nothing else bit before moving to the next deep area.  

I had a little success and caught a few species here.  All small but I was able to see even the most tentative bite of the creek chub with my Raven Specialist float.

All fish landed today had something in common.  They all were thick and had big bellies.  They were all eating well as the current carries food to their waiting mouths.

In the last hole we tried I wasn't able to crack the code as well as Chunsum was.  I scored a few small fish.  Chunsum figured out there was a portion of the hole where current created a deep pocket.  Drifting minnows four feet down and more put them right in the face of some lovely smallies!

The second fish measured 16.5" long, 10.5" around, and weighed 2.5 lbs on my Boga-Grip.

We checked the time and walked back downstream toward our entry point.  We picked up a few small channel cats and bluegill drifting our way back to our cars and reality.

I needed that. I really needed to take a walk in the water.  I needed to lose myself in nature and I can't think of a better place to do that than in a creek.