Sunday, December 28, 2014

AT Paddles Exodus Fishticks Review

In the past, I admit, I haven't paid much attention to paddle quality. I bought a paddle in the 100$ range that was light. Was it the right length, was it light? AT Paddles was kind enough to let my try out the Exodus Fishstix model kayak paddle designed for fishermen and kayak fishing. I used this paddle for the last 6 months on rivers, creeks and lakes.

First impression, the camo color scheme was way cool. Useful if you ditch your boat in the woods for a shuttle, or making you really hard to spot on the river when "stealth" fishing. Fish might have a harder time spotting this as you paddle through the water as well. Matches my camo colored Commander 120 kayak. Next thing I noticed was how well built and unbelievably light this paddle is. AT Paddles website claims less than two pounds (30oz). Light. What this meant as I tried the paddle out, fishing is less taxing on my shoulders and arms throughout the day. I could easily one handed paddle to maintain position. 

When used to propel the kayak forward the carbon fiber paddle would kick or flex, as water was pushed out of the way. In wider kayaks produced today the paddle can be extended another 5cm via a ferrule system that locks into place.

Everyone who tried the Exodus Fishtix really enjoyed the lightness and the bend in the shaft to keep the paddle rolling off your kayak. The Fishstix stays in place. No reaching for a runaway paddle when the wind hits it.

By far the best paddle I've ever used kayak fishing. If you can afford one get one, if you can't afford one, get it anyways. AT Exodus Fishtix  paddle retails for around 350$. An absolute joy to paddle with.

Another December 30+ Smallmouth Bass Day, Hog on Hair Jigs 12/27/14

Float down, fish, drag and paddle back. Use Commander 120's ability to stand and fish to spot the "spots within a spot". River rising from slow drizzles, I knew this would push fish closer to banks, warming trend would have the bass in relatively aggressive feeding areas in the slow water. IE, on the slow seams. Water visibility to 18". Almost no sun. Again. Air temps in the 40's. Water temps seemed warm too. Employ float and fly as search or slow my  fishing mechanism. Turned out the warmer temps had fish wanting some movement. Fly jig fish on the bottom with lots of long pauses was the ticket.

First fish fell to a float drift along slower water near boulders, 14" and FAT. I hung a cast bad in a fallen thorn tree and had to retrieve, so no idea whether more were there as my boat floated over the hole. I had a feeling the normal position was mostly abandoned, so I floated down to where a water willow cleft diverted stream flow. In the dead of that eddy, a 11" fish hit right away on the jig. Next cast, I threw over by the seam. Quickly hit and a large headed fish fought like crazy, bending the 8'6" noodle rod to and fro. 17.5", then a 17", then a 15", some 13-14"er's, a fish rubbed me out on my own anchor line. My line broke on a decent one. 45 minutes later, I had 7 and a couple lost bass. These kinds of double current diversions can be a real attraction to smallmouth bass in the Winter.

Float down to the next spot took 10 minutes. Just a small cut to one side with a small eddy and undercut bank. I tossed the tiny jig up near the roots courageously, landing an inch or so from tangling roots. Inhaled quickly and a crazy battle ensued. Another 17"er eventually to hand. I climbed out of the yak and walked bank, in order to keep the jig presentation parallel to the back eddy the fish were facing downstream on. Two more bass in the 14-15" range. You don't want your line being swept along changing your presentation. Keeping out of crisscrossing fast current, crossing winds etc, is really important. Try to fish with the direction of the current and wind. Keeping the jig under total control helps to sense more bites. Before you leave a spot, always try the against current option as well. Got tired of the cell phone selfie face here:

Floated down to a major pool. It had changed. A 12" on one side (where they used to be), then just downstream a log pile on inside bend with depth. 15", dink, dink, dink, 16", 16.5". Time to head back (nearing 4PM with 5:30 "the get dark hour"). Long paddle and drag against the current. I used side channels to drag and paddle back up with less effort. The Commander 120 does this really well. I can swing my legs over the side to get out easily and it paddles upstream efficiently. Why use those rod holders so many kayaks come with? Keep your reel out of the water at the bottom of the boat. By the time I got back to the original hole, my reel had started to bind up.

So, a couple casts in, I'm fighting this dynamo of a bass all over the place. Fish goes under the boat, makes for my anchor rope, Nope.  Gets in the current. Nope. Unbelievable fish. 20" The Bass Pro Shops Microlite Float and Fly rod is a ton of fun to fight cold water bass on. I like the 8' and 8'6" versions.

Another 9 bass come to hand on the small black jig after the bruiser from dink to 15". Finishing out with 31. My second 30+ bass day this December surrounded by a string of mid teen outings. Shaping up as one of the better Decembers.

31 SMB (20", 3-17"-17.5", 5-16"-16.75", 5-15")

Thursday, December 18, 2014

25 Degree Smallmouth 12/17/14

5th interview on Thursday, I set out to sow my Winter fish seed some more, before my time is taken up. 25 degrees. Water should still be warm from several days of 40's. I wanted to hit something I hadn't in a long time. I walked through the woods to a nice beaver hole. The wood on the inside bend was no longer there, but the deep (8') hole was. Caught a couple free lining on the back eddy with my 1/16th oz minnow head hair jig. One was short of 15". That was it. Too many leaves on the drop made presentation tough. I knew they were on a back eddy drop off, but that pile of leaves foiled repeated presentations. I mostly stayed warm. Another gray day, at times cold wind kicked up and I was glad I had sought a wooded stretch or the wind would have been much worse. Tried the eddy on the other side of 'beaver hole' to no avail.

Classic beaver hole report with JB: [url][/url]

Not far above beaver hole is a choke point that causes an eddy to one side. I did a Hail Mary Float and Fly cast 25 yards to the still spot in the eddy. It dunked and a 14" came to hand. Nothing more for a while, so I started free lining. A dink then an 18.25" came off a near shore log. Catching at least one fish in the 18"+ range really helps me feel like the trip was a success, fires me up for a couple more, I begin to put together a hole hop que in my head, budget the time to do so, etc... Depends on the rate of catch and presentation speed.

3 spots fished and one more bass. I hit another and things get interesting. I find the school with a drift, then move to free lining the small hair jig. 7 more bass to hand including the below 17" and a 16". The last 2 bass pull free as my guides are ice and my reel is ice and my hands are ice and my feet are ice. Gear failure.

13 SMB- (18.25", 17", 16")

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Winter Smallmouth Report 12/16/14

How to make these all exciting when I'm going again the next day?

Another good day. Hair jigs on the bottom. Two different spots.

15 smallmouth bass ( 17", 2-16.5", 5-15"-15.75") 4 rock bass, one golden redhorse.

Hot Winter Smallmouth Action 12/13/14

Got out with Gstump for some Float and Fly wade action, his first try. Smallmouth cooperated, if not the pigs.  Back eddies and lots of small dinks and 15"ers eating today.

BT 32 SMB-(2-16"-16.5", 6-15-15.75") Shiner, Goog

Gregg had at least 6 and 2 Rock bass, largest 15"

Monday, December 15, 2014

Successful Float Down, Catch Winter Smallmouth Bass, Paddle Kayak Back 12/11/14

Why do I enjoy fishing for smallmouth bass in the Winter? First, it's great to get outside and enjoy the outdoors. The actual fishing rewards attention to detail. It's different from the rest of the year, fish are concentrated, and if you've done your homework, rewards a very slow presentation. Dealing with all the weather can throw at you and still catching, no catching even more bass is a fun challenge.

Set out for a traditional float down/paddle back solo fishing event, or FLODPAB, if you need an acronym. I've done this in the Winter a few times on this very stretch. Each time successful, but often the distance is very much a challenge solo, paddling dragging back up. The best two holes are about 2 miles down. Large 100-300 yard pools, filled with boulders. I would paddle back, testing my WS Commander's ability to paddle against current. 32F, partly cloudy.

I paddled up and hit the first two eddies. Not much going on. Current was fast. I got to the next couple spots really fast. One was this side slot. The current seam flows right over a bunch of large boulders, which fish use. I knew from floating over one such eddy, that bass could be on the seam as I thought I saw one spook off. I parked the Commander above this notch, and here the open top kayak made an easy exit emergency beach storming the water willow jut.

 I got out and tossed float and a gray/chart/ white jig about 40" below the float. Cast it out into the fast water and dragged it into the slower current where I knew the boulders lay. Had problems focusing from the anxiety they may not be biting today, when the float sunk and my rod bent double on reaction. Win. I try to get the bass higher in the water column to avoid spooking any others. They rarely jump in Winter. This nice fight produced an 18"er.

15"er then, a fiesty 17" fish came not long after that. Seemingly picked off the shadow of a boulder I could barely make out.

Took the yak out on that seem and added another 15.75" smallie and a dink. It died not long after, So headed down to a series of two large pools. The first produced a dink and some carp spook puff clouds so I set out to the last pool, another notch in the side of a long pool. Dink LMB, then a 14" on float and fly. Lost one free lining the 1/16th oz hair jig along the current seam in slightly faster water than I'd drift. Headed back to the first large pool. Snagged 3 Quillback carpsuckers (one in the mouth). free lining. I stuck to this dead spot thinking smallies would be in there. Soon enough, my tiny jig got inhaled by a nice fish. Love the fights on this noodle rod. This bass was just short of 17". It was after 4PM. I had to paddle 2+ miles back to my car.

I soon realized there wasn't the usual eddies to paddle back upstream in. The Commander handled them well, when they were there. It was bank to bank blasting, at times, I had to wade directly against that and it was tiring. I was so happy to get back the first notch, I managed another 15"er and a second 17"er in the same spot. Ended up being an 18", 2-17", and 3-15-15.75" fish from that same spot.

Made it back to the take out with a herculean drag, paddle effort. I'm wasted today. Ahh.

11 SMB (18", 2-17", 16.99", 3-15-15.75") 3 Quillback carpsuckers to 16" (one hooked in the mouth)

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Bushwacking Winter Smallmouth Bass 12/10/14

Fished a stretch I'd waded a couple times in Summers past. Good for numbers, but nothing huge. Wanted to see if I could find Winter holes and maybe a pig or two that went uncaught. Creek used to give up 20-22" smallmouth on a semi regular basis, but has seen a drop off by all accounts since 2008-2009. It's fished ok for me, but seems a shadow of it's former awesome self. Still, worth a look in Winter for that 20" plus potential.

You have to be able to fish undercut banks and tree scour holes. A lot of silltation fills in most else. So I thought I'd gallop up to a few holes and try them out. Water was pumping (nearly 200 CFS), clear to about 2.5-3'. Air temp 36 degrees. Once again, not much sun. Stunned my first high fish population area seemed to have no slow water. Bank to bank fast current. I kept going, maybe a mile. Found a pile of long dead downed trees. Out in the middle, I faintly saw some very large carp spook away and come back around. The only slack was at the tip of the roots upstream and under the logs downstream. Pricker vines thick as my hair made it difficult to get the under the downstream tree trunks. Didn't seem as deep as upstream anyway. I climbed on the middle of the logs and free lined a float and fly jig parallel to the trunk. The stillest part just down from the upturned root ball.

Finally, a thunk brings an 11" dink to hand. I had already burned too much time. Tried to get the little jig under the trunk as much as I could in the still water there, only 4-5' from blazing current. Another thunk. This time a much bigger bass, run after run and trying to unhook on roots and branches. Nope. Not while I see your every move from just above. Fat and yellow, in my hand, and 18". This changes things. Look for wood and back current.

Ahhh, was hard work, but stumbled across them. A quarter mile upstream, in an eddy created by outside bend and downed trees, my float sinks twice. First a 14"er. Then a 16", fat, goes hog wild and jumps 1' out of the water with 30's water and air temps! Crazy fish got in the current and put on a show. A micro dink and I head back to the wood, pulling another 14". I slog back and try another spot. Walking on a tree again, this time my luck isn't there. I see a couple decent smallmouth jet out from under the upstream rootball as I step down it to get a better look. Close to dark I call it quits. Lots of walking, kept the numbers down. Pretty pleased anytime I can find new wintering spots.

6-SMB (18", 16")

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Sandy gets a December Smallmouth Bass 12/8/14

Took Sandy fishing for the first time in a couple months. We hadn't gones since it got too cold to wet wade. Turns out my waders DO fit her. Sure the feet are sticking out the tops of her boots, but she's DRY! Was concerned she might be worse with mono casting a bobber rig, but this didn't turn out to be the case. I did have to switch out the braid for mono on my rod as it was s disaster to cast.

At the first pool, on like the second cast, this fish made the float disappear right in front of where we were wading. Bingo! Fish on. Sandy didn't notice her float was gone. Too be fair the dunk came in the last 20% of the drift. Even I thought the area too fast to hold Mr.Smallmouth. Fun to watch the fight. I always get so excited when she gets one. Going to be awesome when Sandy catches a real pig someday. 16" is her largest in maybe 25-30 hours of fishing this year. She loves to cast and be outside, doesn't get too hung up on not catching.
We managed two holes. The second was the one that I thought would produce on this small creek. I hooked a fish and handed it to Sandy to fight. Later this 17"er came to hand from up in the v of an eddy. I was hopping the float. Picked a couple more off bottom on a freelined hairjig. Nice to get out and fish in what has been a gray December so far.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Rising Water, Cold Smallmouth Bass 12/6/14

Rained hard everywhere the previous night, enticing a nice pre rise bight at dark. See last report. Not so bad up north (I thought). At the first pool, three dink to 12"ers on FnF. Couldn't find the big ones this deep pool produces during high water, so moved out and hopped holes. Visibility was 18"early , but water was coming up, up.

 Visibility 12". On the other side of the current break, a Hail Mary was sunk by this nice 17"er.
Second spot, I picked a 14"er in the first eddy on the float and fly, maybe 4' off the bank. Just minutes later the slack this fish was in was no longer slack.:

This fish struck next a foot from the steep, root lined bank. Great fight ensued as the bass tried in vain to tuck under the roots at my feet, and I let my 8.5' noodle rod bend nearly in half. 18.5".  Sandy was texting me and got pics of both of these fish in a 3-4 minute period as they happened! A 15"er was next, nearly right on a tree trunk.

I set out to hit a couple other spots, but the flow had risen even higher. Visibility around 8". I headed home early to see flow had nearly reached 2000 Cubic Feet Per Second from the mid 200's! Had I known I would have brought a tube rod to fish tight on steep banks with undercuts. A black 1/4oz tube with 20/6# braid is just the ticket for cold dirty water bass.

Several of my "go to" Winter spots have been destroyed by last spring's ice flood. This could make hole hopping ineffective compared to the past as I try to stay in the bigger stuff in the hope for more 19-22" SMB.

7 SMB (18.5", 17", 15")

Trying Something New 12/5/14

There was a wade back in July over some shallow bedrock that produced a few 17"ers, Friday I thought I had a good idea where they might winter. Already raining, I set out on foot. problem, I could see creek bottom. No fish. I thought. At the first hole I discovered crystal clear meant camouflaged fish in 3.5' feet of water. Not much light, so disguised them completely. I finally waded into them in my investigation. Pool blown, no bass.

Headed upstream a quarter mile, just above a riffle, what appeared to be a shallow bedrock pool with water willow growth to the left side. On the first drift, my float dunked and this nice 17"er came to hand:

Picked a dink and a 16" free lining. I headed up to the only other hole on this stretch I knew, but the water was too fast and too deep to locate any smallmouth. I kept marching even though I knew it was all bedrock, I thought I might spy something out. Got all the way to a bridge up like a summer wade. Caught a 13"er in an eddy under a covered bridge. Now I had burned a lot of time not fishing. Headed back the mile and a half to the productive pool at about 5:15pm. 2 dinks on FnF, then a 13". It got darker and I landed 6 more from dink to 17" and 2 big rock bass. All free lining a black fly along the bottom. The incoming storm had the fish feeding. 11 SMB and 2 Googs from that flat. No idea there were that many there. Wow. Here's the 2nd 17". Makes me wonder what could have happened had I hit some pig water instead of shallow stuff during that feed.

Always exciting to have success finding winter fish in an area for the first time.
13 SMB (2-17", 16", 15") 2 Rock bass 8-9"

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

December Starts with a, 'BANG!'

On Monday, Sandy and I loaded the kayaks up to go do some fishing. She managed to fit my over sized boot feet into her wading boots and we were off on the road to catch some frozen smallmouth popsicles. Excite. Didn't notice the wind in Bloomington because of all the trees. When we got out on the highway, I was a little concerned about the kayaks on top of the car. I should have been more concerned. In Martinsville, the wind blew both kayaks, still tethered together, Yakima rack system still attached to the boats. It all seemed surreal. Could this really be my kayaks those cars are dodging out of the way from a la a Jerry Bruckheimer film? I saw the boats bouncing down I37 with minivans swerving out of the way. Amazingly, the cars managed to avoid the kayaks.

Rack was trashed, so I had Sand drive one kayak back to B-town and return for me. I sat in that median on my commander's perch contemplating whether I had locked the locks on the rack system. Two people stopped to offer short rides, but not back to Bloomington. Discovered the Commander 120 fits in the rear hatch pretty well with a strap to keep the hatch down.

Caper foiled.

Tuesday with Commander in the hatch of my Prius, I set out to fish again. I knew water would be down and cleared up quite a bit.

First stop produced nothing. In fact, the water was so low, I could see there were no fish schools where they normally would be. Out and scattered in the pool. Next stop, I floated down 3/4ths of a mile. I planned on standing in the yak to spot out boulders and such. Fish must have been deeper than light would penetrate. I saw nothing. Managed a 12"er on FnF and a 14"er on a slowly dragged fly jig. Disappointed. I did note I can anchor and spin completely around and face the other direction sitting in the WS Commander's commander's perch. This came in handy for fishing without having to pull anchor and possibly spook wintering fish with paddle strokes. Nice feature.

Paddled and dragged back to the car, made easy by the longer, better tracking boat. Still had an hour before dark on this gray early December day, I walked through the woods to another spot leaving the yak sticking out of my vehicle.

Quickly pulled a 14"er on freelined hair jig. Affixing the float about 30" above the jig, I let it drift downstream on the slow side of the boulder field, letting my bail stay open to allow the flow of line. A very nice presentation if I do say so myself. Was thinking I was slightly too far out when the float dunked. The fish tore up  8'6' noodle rod, even going slightly airborne in that 32 F air temp. 5 or 6 really good runs for a woodpile, then back upstream towards a boulder, turned aside at each, I had the fish to hand in the splishy mud of last week's thaw. The bass taped 20.5", my largest of the

What did I learn here? Clear water, seek slow areas you can't see bottom of. If there is cover, fish can be in some current, but not much. I love the way the float dunks on a drift. Exciting. 6lbs test breaks off a lot of hung jigs, so bend the hook a couple times first to have any hope getting the jig back. Get rear anchor installed for windy days.

I moved downstream of the spot and picked up three more bass, a 15"smallmouth,  and the odd green bass, all freelining. My "never be pleased brain" ponders if it might have been a late bite, first spots should have been better.

It was cool to stand up and site fish in the kayak, it wasn't ground breaking information this time, because my sunglasses weren't polarized and there wasn't much light to peer into the depths. Not enough flow to make fish location easy to predict in large pools.

7 Bass 6SMB (20.5", 15") 1LMB

Fisherman's Journal September 2014

Whoops, forgot to post this. I'm in the September 2014 issue of Fisherman's Journal. Check it out! Click on 'expand' and use arrow buttons.

 Full article can be read here:

Monday, December 1, 2014

Floating for Float and Fly Smallmouth Bass 11/29/14

Got a late start, finally fishing by 1PM. Took a while to figure out how slow a presentation and how slow of water the fish were in. Broke through with this 15.75" smallmouth who dunked float after several squibb moves followed by pauses. Almost no movement to the flow there. 


Was fishing 300 yard by 50 yard pool by myself, the battle was with impatience with water up to 8'. Stood in my Commander 120 through much of the pool to target fish bolders. Fishing was made very difficult by a 20-30 MPH upstream wind. The wind made it difficult to read slow water and locate smallmouth bass.




Felt really great to have fighting bass running all over the place on my 8'6" BPS micro lite. I downsized to 6lbs test, so far it's held up well and definitely allows the light jig to be cast further. Another key was standing up to spot discolored bottom contours, found a couple of bass that way I wouldn't have caught otherwise. Of note, the float being sucked a couple feet under, really makes it hard to tell how big the fish will be until you get the float above the surface. Second, If I sit on the commander's perch on the Commander 120, I need to wear a neoprene glove or bring a net, as I am at least a foot higher off the water.



Second to last fish was a beastly fat 19", tore all over the pool. Only one bite after that.

Finished with 7 SMB (19", 16.75", 16.5", 3-15-15.75")