Spots inhabit the small, secluded waters that touch my soul and bring peace to my mind. They are beautiful, clad in green with brown camouflage that rivals a smallmouth. They are ultra-aggressive apex predators that take on prey larger than themselves. My passion for these fish is much like the fly fisherman and his affinity for chasing wild trout. So, how do I even commit to a body of water with such unbridled passion for chasing both species?
Luckily, most of my home waters hold both striped and spotted bass in similar habitat. On this day, I launched my Jackson Kayak “SUPerFISHal” in a typical southeastern flow littered with logjams, rock gardens, swift rapids, and hungry predators. Armed with only my Dobyns “795 Champion” swimbait rod and a handful of Bull Shad swimbaits, I began methodically picking apart prime river real estate. That is what I call structure that most often holds feeding fish: rock gardens, deep holes, and log jams near current and highly oxygenated water. Bombing long casts and grinding a swift, steady retrieve through prime real estate are the keys to swimbait fishing.
My first striped bass came from the head of a deep hole adjacent to swift water. I noticed some surface activity - soft splashing baitfish fleeing in panic, and the swirling whirlpools left by the powerful fins and tails of angry predators - in my peripheral vision, and fired a long cast upstream. My steady retrieve was violently stopped by the tell-tale strike of a striped bass, much like a freight diesel striking a brick wall head-on. Then followed the drag-peeling, rod-bending, kayak-spinning fight typical of striped bass battles.
The key to whipping a striped bass close to your boat is a controlled seesawing waltz with your rod tip that turns the fish’s head in alternating directions. After the strike, a striped bass will make a long initial run that cannot be stopped. After that first powerful burst, the bass can be directed by leaning into the rod and turning the fish’s head. If you simply put pressure on the fish, it will run the opposite direction and bull dog its way towards structure. When the fish turns, simply switch the rod to the opposite side and apply pressure, thus beginning a dance that keeps the fish in a relatively small space while quickly using up energy. Boating the fish with a face-full of treble hooks is another matter altogether. Use caution and patience; 2/0 treble hooks are not to be trifled with. This fish, a solid 10lb river beauty, put up an admirable fight and was quickly returned to the depths to fight again.
After notching a striped bass, I focused on typical spotted bass structure and quickly boated several quality Alabama spots. Fishing from the SUPerFISHal feels like standing on the deck of a “glitter rocket” bass boat. Standing all day long is truly an asset. It is not just the view from above that is so beneficial, but casting range and accuracy opens up entirely new options and angles not possible from the seated position. Aside from that, who else can “boat flip” a 3lb spotted bass like the bass pros do on TV?