Monday, June 29, 2009

Number 7

Even with a good plan, sometimes dumb luck comes into play. Sunday was one such day. The sweltering heat was about to break due to an incoming cold front. From experience, smallmouth bass in streams seem to put on the feed when a storm or cold front is about to hit. Bad weather is usually good, often very good.

Sunday I took a relative newb to smallmouth fishing out for his first real wade hitting the water around 7:15. Bret threw a 3" tube and 1/4 oz buzzbait most of the day. To his credit, he is patient, thoughtful, and willing to learn. I took my time and gave him a bunch of good spots to fish. At the first good spot, Bret fought a nice 16.5" smallie to hand!

I started to catch fish on a shad white Rick Clunn Lucky Craft Waketail crankbait 1.5. The bait is a fat bodied, jointed lure that swims an 'S' on retrieval. Enticingly dancing a white feather on the rear treble. It draws a lot of strikes shortly after splashdown. It can be retrieved up to 6" below the surface or just below the surface creating a wake. In faster riffle water, it excels being worked perpendicular to banks across the river rocks. This is how I caught an 18" smallmouth bass in a spot I always catch a 17-18" fish.

I was at about 7 topwater fish (2 15"ish on Rapala Surface walk) when I recognized the sun would soon end any shade on the next riffle. So we hauled ass through unproductive water to get there. Paused in a large pool. While wading up to our waists, we both caught fish on tubes. I had a 15"er jump over our heads to toss the bait. Sooo cool. I threw a 4" tube, Bret threw the 3". Bret largely swam his while I tumbled mine in current, let it sit at key points, or jerked the tube sporadically once in a while before letting it settle. The smallies I caught were significantly larger.

Bret continued to catch a dink here or there on his tubes. I caught a 15" on a crankbait at some push water.

My normal route on this next pool changed as Bret walked up the shallow right side, I was forced more into the middle. I was working the western eroded bank with a tube increasingly parallel to the bank, dragging my tube downstream almost on the bank. I had the idea the fish had gone deep in the burning sunlight. They had. I caught 2 and lost one.

The next cast hooked up again. Seemed like a 15-16"er as I stood belly deep. It made some runs but stayed down. It made a lot of short runs and wouldn't quit. I couldn't bring it to hand quick because of the steep deep bank to my left. So I started controlling the fish to swim all the width of the stream to bank her in some water willows on the right. Noticed the fish was much larger than either Bret or I had suspected. She measured to 20" by a hair

Bret had been casting across the stream perpendicular. In situations your jig is only in the strike zone for a couple feet. Usually a wasted effort in current. Even in bass fishing, numbers are everywhere. Perfect illustration of how wading down the deep side, keeping your bait down in the strike zone parallel to the bank fan casting the shoreline ahead catches more fish. I invited him over. As he caught the next fish, a larger bass tried stealing the tube away from it.

Caught a few more on splashdown on the wakecrank, including a 16" in a shade pocket I had hit. Bret was in the penalty box with tangled mono. His reel had a small diameter spool and 10lbs mono (big game?). No antireverse on the spinning reel=oof. Ok for crappie and short casts, not ok for a 500 cast day.

We both had fun and cut up. Started the filming of INSA bass handling movie for youtube. First take turned out unintentionally funny.

Headed home early as my hangover caught up from Saturday night. Action was better than it seemed as we had line to respool, filming time, took our good ole time.

BT 18 SMB (20", 18", 16", 4-15-15.75")
BH 11 SMB (16.5)

Friday, June 26, 2009

After Work Quicky 6/25/09

Got rolling out on a creek today by about 6pm. Disappointed to see stained water with about 1' visibility. It was hot and crazy muggy.

Mostly Lucky craft wakecrank. Plopped down, paused, retrieved a little, then smash!

I lost a couple decent fish. Managed 4 in about 3 hours

(17.75", 16)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Falling Behind

Recently looked at my fishing logs from 2008. Surprised to see I have to make up 175 smallmouth bass by the end of the month just to stay on last year's pace. Not going to make it grinding out 15-17 fish an outing. 2009 had started out so well. What happened?

Well for one thing, I hit some great post spawn bites last year. The two consecutive trip reports below amounted to 116 Smallies.



Been looking for a similar phenomenon this year. Hasn't happened.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

June Swoon

Just as my Phillies have recently faltered (10-0 lead on the Rays notwithstanding), so has the smallie fishing.

Blame it on the rain. I don't mind traveling an hour to an hour and a half to fish something I haven't in a while. Saturday we went north to a very pretty medium sized creek that hadn't gotten any rain the night before.

18-24" visibility. 5th visit for me to this creek. Fishing was slower than expected with decent fish to start; 6 from 13-16"(3ea). Pattern was fish tight to cover in choke points below or above riffles. Tubes. We discovered this pattern, then quickly left the wider open stretch.

Drove to stretch we remembered from 2007 for lots of narrower branches of creek with laydowns. It worked for Mike. My patient tumbling approach wasn't working but Mike's normal too much movement on the tube worked well for him. He outfished me 2-1 on the day. I cried mercilessly until I caught the last couple copying his mojo.

Oh, "I hurd the Channa Cats is biting."

On the drive back we spotted the river we would have wanted to fish running green up north of the rain. Gauges lie. We had seen it south running muddy.

Friday, June 19, 2009

After work wade 6/18

Got on the water by 5:45PM after work. Visibility was 14-16" range. Good enough. Fish were in slower current near faster current. Medium depth boulder fields.

Caught smallmouth on black chatterbait, crankbait, tubes, and LC jointed wake bait. Most fish were very thin, some had body injuries. A little worried about that. Should mean they will be eating like crazy this weekend to get post spawn healthy as water clears up. Sounds like an excuse to fish.

Mostly threw the wakebait, run and gun up 'til almost dark. Fun.

Biggest fish came where I always seem to catch a 17"ish fish on topwater, a boulder filled run below a riffle. It went airborne about 5 times. The smallmouth were all nuts. Light, fast, and airborne.

14 SMB (17.25") 3 Googs in 3 hours 45 minutes.

Mike C also fished a couple of stretches down from me. He got 12 SMB and 2 Googs in 5.25 hours topping out at 15". His were on the wakecrank and a buzzbait.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Smallies can get large in creeks

Looking through the pic archives, I found this:

Didn't post it before because of the stupid face. That pic needs showing.

Rough day 6/14/09 float

Mike and I floated a 9 mile stretch of creek on Sunday. Water was dirty with visibility 8". Water was up. Bites came when anchored and tube was fished slow parallel to current seems. Don't anchor, didn't get bit as the lure moved too fast.

I caught a few on crankbaits, Mike got one 16.25" on a spinnerbait.

One of the worst days fishing I've had in a long time. Call it kayak rust or being worn out from the sun and yakking. I pulled the tube from two nice + bass without ever hooking them, then looked to see it was texposed too tight to expose the hook. The second felt like a monster.

I found some clear water running down from a feeder creek. The 3' of slack water along the bank the creek came in from was running clear. I tossed a black tube under a bush at that clear water and got bit. I fought a 17" or so on a couple runs in current, the fish surfaced then was gone. Tube flopped out of his mouth. Didn't help the yak was drifting downstream in full current. I anchored and threw back under the bush. Thunk. Brought a 12-13" SMB to hand which quickly flopped off the hook. (fish were head shaking like crazy) Next cast, lose another 12" on a jump. A few casts later, I hook a pig who gets in current, then rubs off my tube in my anchor line. I then whiff the next two strikes.

Bad day. I haven't been worn out like that by fishing in a long time.

I will say I was surprised how active the fish were in the muddy water. Fish were jumping and hitting the surface all day. If water had been clear, we would have killed them. As is, we did pretty well for the lack of visibility and all the fish I lost. I'll just take my lumps wonder what could have been come back stronger next time having learned something.

Mike went on a good run at the end and ended up with 10 SMB.

I had 12 of no size and 8 big googs.

Next few days could see a post spawn explosion if water clears up and rain holds off. Rainy season is almost at an end. Hope the fry survive.

Only a couple weeks from examining my 6 month Indiana 2009 smallmouth bass fishing stats. 2009 has been great for plus sized smallmouth bass, but not for numbers. See what I can do about posting an example log.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Forgot one

Waded a wide stretch of creek more akin to a medium sized river. I did get two fish at the put in on a white spinnerbait. The spinnerbait bite died quick. Fished the stretch slow. Took 6 hours to fish a mile and I still didn't touch all the places bass could have been.

Why did it take that long? The bite I discovered was a topwater one, along the slow rocky sides of the wider pools. However, I had to work the Sammy 100 with many long pauses and painfully slow walk the dog to get bit at all. In eddies behind water willow islands, I predictably got smashed by good 15-16" smallies. It was cool. I did get a lot of dink action on the Sammy 100 that just couldn't hook up for long. Hitting maybe 8/19 strikes on the day. Lost one good fish on the fight, all the other misses were probably dinks. These fish are thin. They are going to want to eat hard soon. This next week could be good if the rain holds off a little or sun burns up some water.

Picked up a couple on tubes and moved to another skinnier stretch via car.

There I picked up this 18"er on a tube nearly under the bridge. Cool fish, it went airborne twice. Surprised at it's length. Sometimes an 18"er isn't all that substantial after spawn. They sure do increase in acrobatics and speed without that added weight. Nabbed a couple more on tubes. Sammy 100 bite didn't continue in the smaller water.

Man, am I ready for some hot action. Good sized smallmouth have been consistent all year no matter where I have fished. A lot of effort has been needed to put up decent numbers.

17 SMB (18, 2-16.25", 3-15", some 14"'s) 2 huge rock bass around 10-11"- one on Sammy 100 another on a chatterbait.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Fish don't always want what you want them to want 6/6/09

Mike C and I went for some smallmouth this Saturday on a small-medium sized river. The river was stained with initial visibility a chalky brown 14"-18". Turned out to be a really nice day, not too hot, not too cool. Just about right. Water was cool at first from colder nights we have been having.

I got a 14" bass and goggle eye on a black 4" tube early on. Mike caught two on a spinnerbait. All the bass were near likely spawning areas early...still. We worked slow up a wide, deep pool, throwing tubes, letting the lure tumble in the current and the nicking bottom continuously. I caught two more smallmouth, one was a pregnant 10.5" smallmouth that looked ridiculous.

We neared the top of the pool, a right angle bend, the deep side was lined with rip rap. I was casting quartering upstream and letting the bait tumble in the strike zone as long as possible, imparting little action. My rod loaded, several powerful runs and a crazed smallie that stayed deep so much we thought it was a catfish. Was a bit alarming to have this beserk fish running circles powerfully around me in belly deep water. Finally got the first plus fish to hand of the day (17.5)It had some fin damage:

We worked carefully to the top of the bend where the river split into three forks. All three forks came back together again about 65 yards upstream. As we fished up, Mike caught another on a spinnerbait. I added three more smallies on a 4" tube. One went nearly 15".

At the top of the three forks upstream, was a logjam island that had been covered over in silt and more logs forming an grassy island. I threw straight upstream 40' on my first cast. The tube was quickly picked up by a thick, powerful, brown smallmouth that made a run for the underneath of the island we were standing on. Turned it away at the last second, stopped two more runs then hosited her up. The fish was a beautiful brown copper. Not a common pattern seen around these parts. Unfortunatly, the picture shows a yellow smallmouth. It must have color changed in the minute or so it took to photo. It also went 17.5". Fully pregnant, stuffed.

I picked up another 14"er on a tube at the front of a second logjam. We moved upstream through some wide shallow pools. The irrgaition ditches nearby had obvioously been dumping fertilizer in the stream because downstream from these the snot grass and algae clumps were pretty bad.

We spent a long while walking past wide pools. Mike got discouraged. He didn't want to throw a tube. Many times he gets in chuck and duck mode and makes too few casts to a spot, then assumes fish aren't there.

I caught 4 more on tubes and another goog. We finally arrived at the best part of the wade.

You can see a nasty fast choke point behind Mike and his fish in this picture:

We were fishing just above the riffle where a water willow island served as a current break above it and to the left. Mike had been reluctantly throwing the tube jig near the current. After about his fourth or fifth cast, he popped the tube off a rock. When he reeled in his slack, there was a powerful fish on the end of his line! His rod bent double and the fish swam fast in the current right towards the shute behind him. It came full out of the water, then we knew it was large. He turned it just before it got into the super fast water, trapping it on its side in some semi submerged willows. Awesome fish.

Nearly perfect in every way. 18.5" Chunk



That pretty much made his day at that point. But a funny thing happened. Mike started concentrating and whipping the tube in close, skipping it under brush and logs. Fearless like you need to be. Working the bait slower, keeping it in the zone longer. He nailed another fish shortly upstream to about 14-15". We worked some clay bank for a couple more tube fish. Mike was making multiple casts to each good spot and not giving up on the good spots until a fish bit.

To cap it off, he pulled this nice 16.5" smallie from the other side of a laydown next to deep water and fast current. In between the laydown and the other bank. The only thing to do was force the fish up and into the air. It was sweet, the bass hopped the log and Mike was in the clear.

Many times in Indiana, the jig/tube bite is the effective tactic regardless of what we want to throw. By believing fish are there and imposing your will on them to bite via repeated presentations on the bottom. Keeping the bait down in the strike zone catches more bass. Patience and persistance wins. Tubes are darn fun to cast skip, hop, drop, and pitch. You can be really accurate with them, cast them a long way control, and the entry noise easily. It was good to see MC really pick up on this at the end of the day.

BT 17 SMB (2-17.5", 4-5 14-15") 2 Rockies
MC 9 SMB (18.5, 16.5, 15")

9 hours

Bite wasn't fast. Very few missed strikes or lost fish. Lots of walking past large pools after a couple large pools proved fruitless

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Reading the USGS Gauges to your Advantage.

One very important tool for the river smallmouth bass fisherman is the USGS River Gauges. Simply find the river where you intend to fish, find the gauge closest to where you intend to fish and check the gauge height or flow speed CFS (cubic feet per second).

Here is a graph that shows this stream at about 780 CFS:

CFS and gauge height match. For example at 5.2'high, the CFS will always be 780 CFS and so on. Pick one to remember or write in a log somewhere. It will be your note keeping which helps you be informed when to fish most effectively. Getting out on the stream and observing are still key. You need to have a mental image of what it looks like at that height. In comparing different streams, 780 CFS may be low for Giant River A, but for Creek B is a blowout condition. All depends on the size of the stream.

Here is the corresponding graph that shows the gauge height in feet:

This graph shows a gauge height of about 5.2'. Up more than 2' in the last couple days of rain. This means the creek is probably muddy. Of course, there are other factors. You can find streams with little surrounding loose soil that rise with very little turbidity.

Keep in mind, the gauge height does not pertain to actual depth on the river. It will give you an idea how much above or below average the flow height is. If you study these charts often, then you can compare what a comfortable fishing height is to you.

Even though the creek is up 2', if it normally runs very clear and has great surrounding habitat, you may find very fishable areas during high water. High water tends to push bait fish towards shoreline eddies and so the smallmouth bass. Big fish can be caught at times when they'd be hard to target in summer low water periods. Problem is usually one of visibility. The fish are right at your feet along the bank. Another factor, is how long since a rain event. Water can be high but clear because the rain was from several days previous.

Not all rivers and creeks have gauges. In this case, look at the closest river or creek for an idea of rise or fall of your target river.

Studying and logging your river gauges will help you avoid danger on the water and fish the conditions you want to fish. Reading and having a record of many different streams will help ensure you find somewhere to fish on those precious weekends.