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Friday, 23 March 2012 02:00

Springing Forward

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Springing Forward Photographs by Nate Free

It had just been too long since I’d been fishing seriously. Since I started kayak fishing in 2007, I’ve pretty much fished every weekend that it was nice. This past winter, I went ahead and got the gear required and tried to fish twice every weekend. Then in February, I had to deal with some things that kept me off the water. It was miserable. I really missed fishing - a lot - but I felt I needed to take care of other matters, both professionally and personally. I did get out a couple of times in February, but the trips were short and unproductive. I felt like I was fishing out of spite. I didn’t care for that too much at all. Kayak fishing has become a really big part of my life and who I am. I was really bummed that I wasn’t getting out.

On March 3, my wife insisted that I go fishing. It was pretty much a direct order. It was a nice day, and there was nothing else I could get done anyway. It had been a while since I’d been out, and I was full of anticipation as I pointed the trusty old Jeep Cherokee toward one of my favorite launches. The temps were in the 70s and there was very little wind. I got on the water around noon.

spring kayak fishing

When I arrived at the launch, I was glad to see that things were beginning to get green. It won’t be long until I’m able to wear my summer gear. There were a lot of people there, but I knew where I could go to be alone - at least I thought I did. There were quite a few bank fishermen, but there was a place for me to park and get started. As I was rigging the kayak, a game warden drove up. It’s unusual to see a game warden here, but I was glad to see him. I think this launch would be well served by a little more law enforcement presence. The game warden began checking the licenses of all the people with lines in the water. I was almost ready to go, but I knew the game warden would make his way to me, so I got my dry box with my license in it out and sat side saddle on my kayak in the water, waiting my turn to be checked out. As he walked by, he asked if I had done any good. I told him I hadn’t started yet and had just got finished rigging and getting ready to paddle up river. I said that I was waiting on him because I figured he’d want to see my fishing license and check my gear. I usually draw the attention of the lake patrol in the summer on the larger lakes, and I didn’t figure he’d be any different. He then gave me what I took as a compliment to all kayak fishermen. He said, “Nah, I saw you walking around wearing your PFD when I drove up. Your registration numbers and current sticker are on the kayak. Anytime I see one of you kayak guys wearing a life jacket, it’s a pretty sure bet that you’ll not only have everything in order, but also have extra safety gear.” I smiled quietly to myself as I thought about my SPOT messenger clipped to my PFD and my ditch bag behind my seat. It was really nice to hear the game warden talk about “us kayak guys” in a positive light. It’s one of the things I’ve always really enjoyed about the kayak fishing community. Not too many jerks are willing to do the extra work required to land fish from a kayak.

I paddled up to the first of my more productive spots along the river, and decided to start out with a jig and craw trailer. I’m a jig fisherman at heart. Most bass fishermen will tell you that their favorite bite is a topwater bite. Not me - I love fishing a jig. I love feeling the contour of the bottom with the jig. I love feeling the fish swim off with the jig, and I really love the hook set and fight that follows. But, nothing was interested in my jig, so I switched up to a Gene Larew “Biffle Bug” on a Biffle head, a go-to bait on this body of water. This is the river that feeds Tommy Biffle’s home lake, and this is where he developed the bait. It’s also the lake where Biffle won the B.A.S.S Elite tourney using the Biffle Bug. It’s one of my favorite baits to fish here and I always catch fish on it. In the steamy Oklahoma summer heat, it’s a big-fish bait for sure on just about any body of water. Today, however, no takers on the Biffle Bug. The next bait I switched to was a Zoom “Magnum Trick Worm” on an Owner “CPS Shaky Head”. That bait saved me this winter. Just about all of my fish were caught on it throughout the cold weather.

After not getting any response on the Trick Worm either, I decided to move into more shallow water. Just as I had decided to move, the two guys in the aluminum boat that were launching as I left came right up next to me and started fishing. My decision to move was right. I’d have to line my kayak into my next spot, so I figured I’d be left alone. I paddled up river and lined the boat through the shallow runs up to where the river gets deep again. I call this place “The Cliffs” and it’s a great place to get out of the wind. It’s also a swimming hole for a country club where people live along the water. You can see in the picture how clear the water is.

I fished all the way up to a spillway on one side and began coming back down the other when I heard a loud banging noise. It was the two guys in the aluminum boat fighting to get up to the cliffs. They went right to where I was heading next. I went ahead and fished the side I’d already fished again. They were throwing Alabama rigs and getting some big bass. They were also keeping them. I wasn’t real happy about seeing all of those big fat bass go into their cooler, but it is legal.

After seeing that I wasn’t going to have this place to myself either, and checking the time, I decided to work my way back to the launch. I fished along the way, but only caught one smallish bass. I didn’t even land him. He spit the bait as I went for him with the net. It was time for me to go home, so I headed in. I had planned to be off the water well before dark. I had to be home to get ready to leave for a trip. On the way back, however, I saw a fish break the surface in an odd spot. There’s a gravel bar that runs down the middle of the river. It’s about 10 feet deep on either side, and shallows up to just inches deep on top of the bar. Usually, I’ll park on top of the bar and fish either side. I’ve never seen fish on top of this bar before, but today they had chased something up there, most likely shad.

I saw the fish break the surface again, so I picked up the rod that happened to be lying in my lap. It was rigged with the Zoom “Magnum Trick Worm”. I threw past the fish a pretty good distance and waited for the bait to hit the bottom. It wasn’t more than two feet deep there and my bait never hit the bottom. I tried to set the hook but missed the fish. I let the bait stop right there, rather than hurrying to reel it back in to make another cast. He couldn’t stand it and took it again. It was a nice bass that was really fat and measured over 19.5”. Apparently, this fish had been feeding well.

spring kayak largemouth

After snapping the quick picture, I released him and started fishing the gravel bar within sight of my Jeep. The next thing that hit the worm was a rather small bass, but I had landed two. I really needed to get going. I had stayed later than I had time for. My wife always jokes about me saying that we’ll leave “after one more cast.” It’s never only one. This time, however, I didn’t even have time for the one cast, but did it to get my line back on the reel a little tighter. I threw as far as I could, to get the line spooled back on the reel better, and got hit again! This time, it was a bass around 17.5”.

I’d had my fun, but absolutely had to leave. There was no more time to fish. Unrigging and loading the kayak would have to be fast and I’d have to drive faster than I like to get home. It was worth it, though. I had fished most of the day and didn’t catch anything until the last fifteen minutes. It sure felt good to get back on the water when it wasn’t below 40 degrees. It certainly felt good to put a few fish in the boat!

Read 7590 times Last modified on Thursday, 22 March 2012 08:42
Nate Free

About the Author: Nate Free is an avid kayak angler who primarily chases bass in Oklahoma's lakes and rivers. He is a member of the YakAngler.com ProStaff, and enjoys sharing his fishing experiences with others. When not on the road driving his semi or taking care of his small ranch in Northeast Oklahoma; Nate Free is on his kayak fishing. Nate grew up paddling canoes and fishing, but took a 20 year break from fishing to pursue hobbies including rodeo and flying. In 2007, he began looking for a quiet, peaceful, and less expensive hobby. That's when Nate returned to fishing. Originally looking for a small solo canoe to use as a fishing craft, Nate discovered sit on top kayaks and hasn't looked back. Since 2007 Nate doesn't go kayaking unless he fishes and never fishes without his kayak.

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