How To Catch Giant River Bass | Kayak Angler Magazine | Rapid Media
A kayak angler holding a huge largemouth bass. Photo by Drew Gregory

Expert tips to learn the geography of your river.

Remember grade school geography class? If you're like me, you were staring out the window dreaming of big bass while the teacher was droning on about the coastal plain, piedmont and fall line. Well, you should have paid attention. That lesson could help you catch the bass of your dreams.

Had you paid attention, you would have learned that the fall line lies between the mountains and the coast. This is where rocky rapids turn into a meandering river. With highly-oxygenated, swift-moving water flowing into deep, calm pools, the forage and the fish grow extra large. The water is warmer, too, losing the icy cold of the mountains before cooling into slow pools, so the fishing season can stretch through the winter. Moreover, the convergence of coastal water and mountain water brings a wider variety of prey to the predators. In many places, the fall line goes un-fished because it is too dangerous for motor boaters. All of this allows fall line bass to grow bigger without getting smarter.

The first secret to catching these geographically placed fish is using a big lure. The growing season is longer in the warm, fall-line water, so the bass get big by eating large meals. Don’t be afraid to huck a 10-inch swimbait. Look for a stretch of river where hasty, shallow water meets deeper, slower water. To locate fish, make a lot of long casts with a Z-Man Project Z Chatterbait and six-inch Swimmer Z swimbait. To really zero in on a productive spot, switch to an eight-inch soft plastic rigged weedless on a weighted hook. Cast up current and let the water move the lure through the strike zone. You can also use a SPRO BBZ-1 Rat or Whopper Plopper; both lures imitate a full-size rodent swimming across the surface of the water.

Another hot spot is around deadfalls and heavy structure that break up the current. Change lures and tactics and pull the kayak into the thick of things to take the fight to the fish. Drop a jig-an-craw into the rough stuff and bounce around for a bite. Or work a swimjig and paddletail around deadfalls; the heavy skirt and big tail keep the lure from snagging in the structure. Imagine a crawfish scurrying through the wood and match that action with short jigs and quick drops.

The trend towards larger and larger lures has challenged rod and reel manufactures to keep up with heavier and heavier tackle. A seven-foot, 11-inch conventional rod with a high speed 8:1 reel will make long casts and fast retrieves to cover a lot of water. For technical work in heavy structure, a shorter seven-foot, three-inch medium heavy stick and 7.3:1 reel is more accurate. Spool up with 30-pound braided line tied directly to the lure. The stiff rod and powerful reel combined with heavy line makes it possible to cast and work a huge lure. The sturdy combo and low-stretch line also makes it easier to drive the hook home on a big bass.

When choosing a kayak, first look for a stable boat with shallow draft like Jackson’s Coosa or Cuda to scoot through rapids and scurry over rocks. Horizontal rod storage is another plus. Sometimes I’ll carry a half-dozen rods rigged with different lures. Keeping all those sticks organized and out of overhangs requires rod tubes and adjustable rod-holders. Add a PowerPole Micro Anchor or drag chain to throw on the brakes. A tough but light paddle is critical in the rock gardens; check out Bending Branches Navigator with a carbon fiber shaft and all-wood blade to absorb the shock of striking river rocks.

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