Tom Fucini
Big striped bass at night.

As I am wheeling my kayak down to the water the sun is setting and the wind is blowing stiffly out of the southwest. It didn’t really occur to me how rough it was until I got out of cover and on my way to the rip line. With a consistent 2 – 3 foot swell out of the SW and a cross chop cutting across that it made for a bumpy/wet ride not to mention the occasional 4+ foot roller. After my first few drifts I became very comfortable, its not like I hadn’t been in these conditions before and it was forecasted to lay down just after sunset. Because of the conditions my fishing buddy decided it was to much for him in the dark and decided to try a more protected spot and then ultimately head back in.

The drift after he left I hooked into a hard fighting 43″ bass. It is always fun to fight a good fish in choppy water, it keeps you more on edge and you have to play the fish more than the typical “letting the fish tow you around”. As I catch my next 2 smaller fish the wind lays down and the chop is gone except for the still nasty rip line. I am quite pleased about this and know the rip will die as the current begins to slow.

Unfortunately, I spoke to soon and got my hopes up. The wind kicked back up and stronger than it was earlier. The seas built once again and conditions started to become marginal to even me. I decided I was going to finish up this drift over these numbers then make one final drift on another waypoint and then head in.

As soon as my eel gets over the rock on my second to last drift I feel a light tap followed by heavy dead weight. Once the fish feels the weight of the kayak drifting it gave a few large head shakes followed by a very long and hard run. Luckily the fish went the opposite direction of the rip line. I started to think the fish wasn’t THAT big when I’m reeling up on it quite easily. I glance over at my fish finder and notice I am moving at over 3mph  going against the current. I position myself directly over the fish playing a short tug of war when it finally comes up to the surface. I see a tail slap and then the fish darts off in the other direction towards the rip line. All I can think of is “damn this is a big fish”. I have caught numerous bass 45″ – 51″ with a hand full of them 48″ or greater and I have never seen a tail this massive.

The fish towed my right through the rip line. I pedaled full charge to blast through the waves while I am reeling up line as quickly as possible to keep tension on the fish. As I hit the rip line it was like hitting a wall of water that just blasted over my bow and the spray caught me in my face. Once we clear the rip it is another vertical tug of war between the fish and I. Finally, the fish gives up and I attempt to get my fish grip on its lip but the fishes lip is to thick for the grip to clamp. I recently started using 9/0 circle hooks for live eels and that wouldn’t have wrapped its lip, the gap was to narrow. Luckily the fish was hooked towards the corner of the fishes mouth.

I attempt to pull the fish into the kayak but its just to rough to get a fish that size into the kayak. I pedal back up through the rip towing the fish in hand catching a few of the waves. Knowing there is a sand bar near by pedal over and beach my kayak to land the fish and take some pictures. With the fish flat on the sand it passes the end of my 48″ sticker on my paddle and goes to the 50″ mark I made with a marker on the paddle blade. I do a quick girth check with a soft tape measure and it was 27.75″. I wade the fish out past the breaking waves into almost waist deep water to fully revive and release the fish. I was amazed at how much life the fish had in it still which was probably due to me slowly pedaling up current with the fish in the water keeping it oxygenated. After a few minutes of holding it by the tail it swam of quickly and strong.

Its always exciting to add another 50″ Striped Bass to the list! The IGFA equation puts the fish at just over 48 pounds.

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Ric Burnley
“Thank God my dad wasn’t a podiatrist,” jokes Ric about following in the footsteps of a famous outdoor writer. After graduating from Radford University and serving two years in Russia with the Peace Corps, Ric returned to Virginia Beach and started writing for The Fisherman magazine, where his dad was editor. When the kayak fishing scene exploded, Ric was among the first to get onboard. His 2007 book, The Complete Kayak Fisherman is one of the first tomes to introduce anglers to paddle fishing and hundreds of articles and seminars have brought countless anglers into the fold. When he’s not chasing every fish that swims, Ric teaches English at a school for at-risk teens.

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