March kicks off the prespawn for bass across South Carolina, and regardless of whether you are a fan of largemouth, smallmouth or spotted — or perhaps all three — it’s a good time to catch them, and often big ones. Bass fishing brings its own form of March Madness when fish move shallow, followed by a lot of fishing pressure.
Much attention has been given to kayak fishing as the sport continues to grow in popularity. Various reasons are cited for the growth, ranging from the financial ease of entry into fishing to presenting a challenge to catching fish without all of the burden of a large powerboat. Here’s one that frequently gets over looked: I catch more and better sized bass from a kayak than any other way I know of.
What?!? If you thought the goal of kayak fishing was just trying to keep up, you’re missing the boat, literally.
Bass fishing shares similarities with public-land hunting in many respects. With expanses of public water being fair game, those who put in the time and effort to get close to the quarry reap the biggest reward.
Fishing larger rivers keeps Stewart Venable of Fort Mill catching lots of big largemouth bass on a year-round basis, but especially in March. By fishing where other boats can’t, it’s just a matter of figuring out the best pattern.
“March is bladed/vibe jig time in the rivers,” said Venable. “The early stages of spring feeding means targeting big bass and often finding lots of them. Find deeper holes and slow-roll a Bionic Custom Baits Thunderbait with a swimbait trailer off the upcurrent side of the drop-off, or hold them suspended in the pool at the bottom of current just above the deepest slack water.”
Chip Bragg of Columbia couldn’t agree more. Bragg prefers Texas-rigging a Zoom Ultravibe Speed Craw with a 1/4-ounce weight.
“That’s the only bait I throw for smallies in the Broad River,” said Bragg, who fishes stretches of the river around the town of Peak as well as behind the Riverbanks Zoo in the Gervais Street vicinity of downtown Columbia. “We catch a lot of smallmouth, largemouth and even striped bass in these areas. Stripers will hit the Zoom (bait) as well.”
Jason Saledas from Lexington, one of the founders of the Midlands Kayak Fishing Club, said he and many of club members target smaller lakes for bass in March. Being in the Midlands gives kayak anglers a lot of choices about where to fish, but the group generally seeks out smaller waters.
“Our state lakes here are man-made, which means structure from cut trees, and these waters are loaded with great ramps, whether public or just tiny put ins. The ponds, however, can be hard to access for larger boats,” said Saledas. “In the case of Gibson Pond near Lexington, it only has one ramp, and the majority of the fishing folks do is from the bank. Even they can’t get to the back part of the pond. We also find that some of these public ponds do not allow boats with motors, making them a Yak paradise.”
J.D. Desrosiers of Simpsonville loves both March and April for bass because he finds largemouth hungry and willing to bite. His go-to baits are jerkbaits, anything topwater, and shaky- head jigs. Fishing public water at the head of Lake Marion, Desrosiers fishes where many other anglers have a hard time following: the Sparkleberry Swamp.
“We put in at Sparkleberry Landing, and we follow the trail blazes; these markings are kind of like a hiking trail. I love it in there,” he said. “It’s probably over of my favorite places to go for both largemouth bass and big shellcracker.”
Even when fishing larger bodies of water that anglers in powerboats can reach, Andy Thompson Jr. of Cairo, Ga., said the stealth of a kayak gives him a distinct edge over bigger boats.
“How many more fish can one sneak up on with no trolling motor involved?” he said. “Even a bass boat drafting a foot of water will be bumping and banging thru a shallow stump field, where a kayak is deadly silent. Add this kind of stealth without noise, and the lower-to-the-water sight angle that allows closer presentations, and it’s no contest who’s going to get the bigger fish.”
Rather than looking at a big impoundment as one body of water, Thompson breaks it down into smaller segments he can learn and pattern the fish on without feeling like he has to run all over the lake.
“I always fish small bodies of water, because all big bodies of water can be broken down into smaller bodies of water,” Thompson said. “Just find a portion that fits your style, learn how the fish use it and pattern them.”
Large bodies or small, moving water with no access, still water with limited access or unlimited access on large reservoirs, kayak anglers who pay attention to what the fish want definitely have some advantages this month. With the water temperatures warming and all species of fish, including bass, moving shallow, it’s a great time to be on the water with a fishing rod and paddle in hand.