Kayaks are perfect craft for catching spawning bass
Wherever you kayak fish across the Carolinas this month, the most emphasis will be placed on bass fishing. That’s especially true where a paddle boat and spawning bass come together in close proximity.
In waters that hold smallmouth bass, spotted bass and largemouth bass all in the same system, fishing for spawning bass can be a bit complicated. Generally speaking, largemouth bass prefer warmer and shallower water than the other two black bass species. This often makes them the No. 1 goal for kayak anglers, especially when sight fishing for largemouths.
On the other hand, smallmouth and spotted bass may spawn in shallow water — but water that’s too deep to see the beds. One way around this problem is fishing boat docks during the spawn.
For reasons known only to the fish, spawning near vertical standing cover is very common. An astute kayak angler can use water depth under a boat dock, especially if it’s a dock that is fixed position rather than a floater, to target bass beds. Cast your bait next to the pilings. Then work your way from shallow to deeper water. Take note of the depth of water where you get a bite.
Two of the hands-down best baits for kayak anglers to target bedding bass — whether you can see the bed or not — are a plastic crawfish and a plastic lizard. Bass hate lizards and crawfish with equal zeal this time of year. Both crawfish and salamanders will greedily consume bass eggs from the nest.
Crawfish trailers can be rigged on a shaky head jig or heavier jig and fished almost vertically around boat dock pilings or other likely structure. Plastic lizards can be Texas-rigged or with a weighted flutter hook to slowly crawl the bait across the bottom. Make sure to stop it and wiggle it anytime you see or feel structure that might be holding bedding bass.
Finally, don’t underestimate a kayak’s ability to get you into tight spaces that rarely see a hook. Overhanging trees, tight areas behind boat docks, or even weed choked ditches can hold some trophy fish this time of year.
WHAT — Largemouth bass
WHERE — Shearon Harris Lake
HOW — Shearon Harris has ample bulrushes and aquatic grasses where pre-spawn bass can be caught using weedless, shallow-water baits. Earlier in the prespawn, look for bass to stage on offshore humps in 12 to 20 feet of water.
LAUNCH — Two public access areas to Shearon Harris are Harris Lake boat ramp at 233 Crosspoint Rd. and Shearon Harris Boat Launch on Bartley Holleman Rd., both in New Hill.
INSIDER TIP — Largemouth bass at Shearon Harris are managed by a minimum size limit of 14 inches and a daily creel limit of five fish, with the exception that two fish may be less than 14 inches and no fish between 16 and 20 inches may be possessed.
WHAT — Spotted bass
WHERE — Lake Russell
HOW — It’s hard not to catch spotted bass on Lake Russell using a multitude of tactics. For larger spotted bass, fish isolated stands of submerged standing timber using 5-inch swimbaits or medium jerkbaits.
LAUNCH — For a listing of public boat ramps, visit https://www.sas.usace.army.mil/russell
INSIDER TIP — Don’t get caught up trying to fish all of the standing timber in Lake Russell. Dial in to the better areas by ignoring the trees and looking for typical bass holding geography – humps, points, creek edges, then target the timber in those areas.
Tips for bassing on small waters
Mike Johnson, general manager of the Clinton House Plantation in South Carolina, not only offers hunting opportunities to his guests, but also the chance to fish private, stocked ponds.
Fish in small ponds behave differently from their relatives in larger reservoirs. So Johnson has some advice on how to achieve better success when fishing any small ponds for bass.
“We have a lot of big largemouth bass in our ponds, some bream, catfish and crappie, too. But most folks come here wanting to catch bass,” Johnson said. “We’ve found that because our bass can only travel so far, they behave a lot different than if they were in a big body of water.”
While most anglers walk around the edge of a small post and cast out, Johnson said better access to fish can be gained by using a kayak or canoe to gain access to areas you can’t reach on foot.
“The smallest piece of cover — a single stump, tree limb or even a bush hanging over the water — is a big deal to a pond bass because they don’t have the same amount of room here,” he said. “Our fish use the shoreline a lot more than a big-lake fish would.”
Quiet is key
Being quiet is important anywhere you fish, but especially in a small pond. Your best chance to catch a big bass off a small piece of cover is to make a long, accurate cast that lands on the edge of the bank and then slides into the water.
“Soft plastics are probably your best bet — something with very little weight and is hooked weedless,” Johnson said. “Even a big bass will spook if something slaps the water right over its head. I like to land my cast on the bank and just slide it in. Being weedless helps you pull the bait off the bank, over cover and through shallow weeds where big bass like to hide.”
A final piece of advice is to match bait size with time of day. Smaller baits are better when bright sun is out and fish can see better. At daylight and dark, and even at night, bigger baits, even up to 10 inches, can catch a trophy sized bass.
Livetarget hollow body Popper frog
Designed by bass pro Scott Martin, the LIVETARGET Hollow Body Popper Frog was created to deliver loud, topwater commotion that will prompt heart-stopping blowups from bass. Featuring a cupped mouth that spits, pops, and chugs water, it is also very easy to “walk” for anglers of all skill levels, providing the best of both worlds.
The profile of the Popper Frog mirrors the small details like the tucked-in side legs of a live frog to help fool bass. It also features an aerodynamic shape. This allows long casts, and it is weighted to land upright so you can immediately start your retrieve.
Built around a custom, razor-sharp double hook, the body of the Popper Frog collapses when a fish strikes, providing better hooksets. Perfect for shallow water applications, it can be fished across mats or thick vegetation. And it excels in open water when more commotion is needed to trigger strikes from fish. The Hollow Body Popper is available in 10 colors.
MSRP is $13.49.
Available at livetargetlures.com
Native Watercraft Stingray Angler 11.5
The Stingray Angler rides high and dry and provides serious stability and comfort. The hull has a pronounced stern keel for excellent tracking and rides well in swells, waves and choppy conditions. The rockered and flared bow is at home in coastal marshes, bays, lakes as well as cruising the local river. With molded-in handles around the kayak and a simple deck design full of functional features, you’ll find it a breeze managing this kayak on and off the water. The framed padded seat system provides incredible comfort, adjustability, and control during a day on the water.
This kayak is available in four color schemes. It features a 375-pound capacity and 31 1/2-inch width for very respectable stability. The boat weighs 65 pounds fully rigged.
Additional features include hand-sewn seating on the removable framed padded seat, dual rod holders for hands-free fishing or just to store two additional rods. And a bow hatch keeps your gear dry when stored in the spacious storage area.
The kayak’s molded-in carry handles eliminate the hassle or wear and tear on straps or strings used to handle the boat on land. A reinforced skid plate helps increase the life of the hull. And to top it off, the boat comes standard with a paddle holder to secure your paddle to the boat.
MSRP is $699.
Available at nativewatercraft.com
JOIN THE CLUB, get unlimited access for $2.99/month
Become the most informed Sportsman you know, with a membership to the Carolina Sportsman Magazine and CarolinaSportsman.com.