Friday, April 26, 2019

Steve's New Boat, a Maiden Voyage Big Bass Story

When I first considered writing about my big bass stories, I pretty much had a few of my bigger bass in mind.  As I pondered my plans for blogging these stories in the future, it occurred to me that I need to include my fishing buddies big fish stories as well (for those trips that we shared).  After all, it's our fishing world, not just mine.  So, from now on, I'll tell their tales as I saw them, with pictures, if I have them.  Not only can I share our experiences with you, but my fishing buds and I can look back and enjoy these memories.  This particular story tells of two memorable bass caught on the same trip.

March 19th, 2012 marked a new day in the history of Captain Steve Kelley and his fishing career, the maiden voyage of his brand new Mako boat.  His boat is similar to a bass boat, with a front deck and a strong trolling motor, but has a center console.  It has a 200 horsepower outboard and is pretty fast for a bay style boat.  He likes to fish saltwater as well as the tidal waters of our state.
Steve's boat is a perfect match for what he loves to do, fish the tidal rivers and the Chesapeake Bay. 
After launching his new rig, on our way out from the ramp, we debated whether to fish the main stem of the river, or fish a nearby tidal creek.  Just a couple days earlier, I fished with another buddy of mine in the creek and did well, so I convinced Steve to give that spot a shot, and then try the main river later.

A chrome/blue back Rat-L-Trap was my lure of choice to start with.  In my opinion, this lure somewhat resembles a blueback herring or other flashy shad like baitfish.  The chrome coloration, tight but heavy vibration, and lots of flash on the retrieve are irresistible to hungry springtime bass.  I felt it was a good choice for a sunny day.  Actually, I did well on that lure a couple days prior, therefore, I had confidence in it, more importantly, it was already tied on, and I was too lazy to tie on anything else.  Meanwhile, Steve had a Yo Zuri version of a lipless crankbait tied on in the same basic color scheme.

The tide was low, water visibility was about 2 feet or so.  Water temps were in the upper fifties.  It was a beautiful, seventy degree, sunny day with just a small amount of wind.

Our plan was to cast lipless crankbaits and focus on the vast emerging weed beds.  The wind is our ally when fishing like this because if you position your boat correctly, you can use the wind to your advantage, drift, and cover quite a bit of water, saving juice on the trolling motor.

We started along a deeper channel where it met a large weed bed that was at least four or five acres in size.  As I rearranged the weeds with my crankbait, Steve hooked up on his very first cast, and landed his biggest tidal river largemouth as of that date, a stout twenty one inch hawg that I’d say weighed about six pounds, although we didn’t have a scale.  How's that for a start on the maiden voyage of your boat?

He worked the lure back, and made sure to just tick the top of the weeds with the lure. When the lure hung up slightly on the weeds, Steve ripped it off the weeds and the bass hammered his crankbait.  Most of our bass that day bit when we jerked the lures off of the weeds.  The trick was to not snag the weeds so much that you had a glob of weeds on the end.  Rather, your lure had to barely touch the weeds and maybe grab one with a treble hook, and then you had to rip it off with a sharp jerk of the rod.  The bites mostly happened when you ripped the lure off of the weeds.
My friend Steve with his personal best (at the time) tidal river largemouth bass, caught on his maiden voyage of his new boat, on the first cast of the day.
Just a few casts later, Steve tied into and landed a fat eighteen and a half inch chunk of a bass, using the same technique.  Of course, we were pretty pumped to find that the bass were still attacking crankbaits.

Meanwhile, as Steve boated nine pounds of fish in just a few casts, I politely used my retrieving technique to clear a path through the weeds so he could work his lure more effectively.  I had trouble with not snagging too many weeds.  In other words, Steve was catching the protein, and I was collecting the salad.  

He proceeded to catch another nice seventeen inch bass a few casts later.  Not long after that, I was on the board hooking into a less than massive twelve inch skinny male largemouth.  Hey, it was a dink, but, at least the skunk was broken.

Then, the tide stopped moving, and although we both had a few more hits, the water was lower and it was difficult to work that pattern.  The tide was so low that the weed tops were nearly up to the surface.  We tried different lures and worked the weedy surface and the channel edges without any luck.  We knew that if we stayed in the creek, it would have eventually produced, but Steve was itching to play with his boat and run it a bit, so out of the creek and off to main stem of the river we went.

We stopped at the mouth of another creek to see if the weeds had emerged yet.  If we found weeds, were were likely to find willing bass.  This spot had always been good to us, but on this day, the weeds weren't there yet.  Fishing was slow, but Steve managed to catch a white perch on his crankbait, but no bass bites.

Steve changed tactics and worked the woody shoreline with a Texas rigged plastic worm.  He caught a couple chunky largemouth and a couple yellow perch with that rig.  I continued to work the crankbait, but it didn't happen for me at that spot.  

After a while, I decided to try something different, and do a bit of finessing.  I pulled out my trusty spinning rod rigged with a 1/8 oz. jighead, a Mann’s Sting Ray grub dabbed in Smelly Jelly (that actually smells pretty good), and proceeded to snag on my first cast with it.  I tried to straighten the hook with my strong braided line, but must have had a nick in it and broke it off…I could have waited for Steve to move the boat as he was willing to do so, but got impatient.  So I tied on another jig and proceeded to catch a yellow perch and a couple fifteen inch fat largemouth.

As we moved toward the creek mouth, we noticed that the tide was coming in, so I switched back to my Rat-L-Trap, and hooked up with a nice chunky bass that would have been about three pounds.  Would have been?  Yes, would have been.  I lost it while trying to yoke it in the boat,  Bassmaster style!  Dumb…fishing was tough, and I should have thought to be more careful to make every bite count.  I had a couple more hits and misses, but at least the activity picked up.  

We decided it was time for a spot change and to find some different weed beds.  We pulled up to a spot that my friend, Mark, and I found a couple days earlier that held fish.  I finally hooked up and landed a decent bass that crushed my Rat-L-Trap, that was just shy of nineteen inches. 
I finally hooked into a decent bass after having a tough morning.
I caught a couple more smaller keeper sized bass over the next half hour.  After that, we moved to check out another large weed bed.  I started to get some consistent action, and landed some more fat bass that were scattered among the weeds, but really had to work for them.  

Steve decided to fish the bank and work the wood with a green pumpkin plastic worm.  On his first cast, he landed a fat seventeen inch bass, followed by a yellow perch.  A few casts later, he hooked into a fish that catapulted out of the water on the hook set.  This fish almost performed a back flip.  I yelled out, “snakehead”!  Sure enough, Steve landed his first snakehead ever.
Steve hooked into an extremely acrobatic northern snakehead.  Man, did that fish ever fight!
I’m not sure if it was the next cast or not, but he hooked into another one shortly after, not quite as big.  We wondered if they were pairing up to spawn, and, perhaps he caught the mated pair.  
Steve's second snakehead of the day.  What a thrill these are to catch!
I also really wanted to catch a snakehead.  At that point in time in my life, I hadn't caught one.  I tried to fish a plastic worm and caught a couple yellow perch.  But, really wanted to catch a snakehead.  I had a bite and the fish bit me off, so unless chain pickerel are in there, my guess is that may have been a snakehead.  I guess it just wasn't meant to be on that day.  I was still snakehead challenged by the end of the day.

By then, it was late afternoon, and we wanted to get back and finish where we started the day.  We knew that the fish were there.  So, we went back to the spot where Steve caught his big bass, and worked it thoroughly.  The tide was up, so it was much easier to work our crankbaits over the tops of the weeds.  We had a couple hits, but no fish landed, then decided to let the wind drift us toward the Northern shoreline.  

We noticed a bass, definitely a bass, in shallow water, doing some sort of evasive maneuver, leaping out of the water several times like baitfish fleeing a big bass.  It didn’t look like it was feeding.  Rather, it appeared as if it was leaping for its life.  We thought it might have been chased by a snakehead, gar, or perhaps a large blue catfish.  I'd never seen a bass behave like that before.

Both Steve and I managed to catch a few more fat bass on the trap while probing a different weedy area, a place that we vowed to keep in mind for next time.  We drifted to a point that dropped into deep water and after a few casts, I hooked into another big bass.  I landed it, and noticed that the beast was barely hooked by the back treble of my crankbait!  She measured twenty one and a half inches long, my biggest bass in the past few years.  Man, she was fat and heavy.
This bass was twenty one and a half inches long.  Although it wasn't my personal best, she was my biggest bass caught in quite a few years.
To sum things up, Steve started out with the hot hand, and landed his personal best tidal river bass.  He also landed his first two snakeheads, ever.  Despite my tough start, I also caught my biggest bass in several years.  We each had a blast.  We caught several big bass as well as decent numbers of fish, and a mixed bag of species as well.  Not bad for the maiden voyage of his boat!  What an epic day it was!