The ultimate achievement for bass anglers is hitting a three-fish slam. There are several species of bass and multiple locations across the nation to target a slam. In the rolling waters of the Flint and Chattahoochee rivers in southwest Georgia, Kayak Angler contributor Chris Funk shoots for a shoal bass, spotted bass and largemouth. “Anytime we are on the water, our goal is to catch all three species,” Funk says. Fishing with his son, Ethan, Funk hits the local river at every chance. “Catching a slam is always on my mind.”
One of my favorite slams came last year. After fishing most of the morning, I had caught several shoal bass and spotted bass and was looking for a largemouth. Ethan had a largemouth and spot, but no shoal bass.
We worked our way back towards the takeout when I split off and crossed the river. I made a cast across a sizeable log. As my buzzbait passed the wood it disappeared in a flash.
After a short fight, I lipped a chunky largemouth and finished out my slam. Shortly after, I heard “I’m on” echo across the river and turned to see Ethan’s rod bent over.
I grabbed the camera and triggered the shutter just as a decent shoal bass jumped next to Ethan’s kayak. While he was fighting the shoalie, I saw him grab another rod and do a one-handed flip. I knew there must be another bass following the fish he had hooked.
With his left hand, Ethan fought one fish and with his right he pitched and pitched to the follower without a strike. I kept shooting, capturing his effort to land two shoal bass at one time.
When I paddled over to him, he was unhooking a nice shoalie to cap off his slam. He looked at me and said, “The fish that came up behind this one looked like a submarine.”
I reminded my son, we don’t always win and the fish aren’t always big, but catching a river slam is a great day to remember.
The hardest part of catching this slam is the shoal bass; they have a limited range and like rapids and moving water. Our fishing areas tend to be a mixture of slow moving river and swifter shoals with gravel and boulders. We find largemouth in the slower water and the rocks and rapids hold shoalies. Spotted bass like everything in between.
We fish year-round, but if you want a monster shoal bass there is no better time than spring when the rivers are running hard and the fish are spawning. “The bass are thick and beautiful in the spring,” Funk lusts.
The Chattahoochee river is regulated by several dams that release water depending on the required power load. Whether they are operating can seriously change how the fish act and make access to certain areas difficult or even dangerous.
If the release is later in the day, we will paddle upstream and then ride the generation flow back to the launch. Through the summer, the water can get clear as a mountain stream. I keep my eyes open for shoal bass in the shallows and in pressure waves around boulders.
I look for a kayak that handles moving water well and allows me to stand and sight fish. The Jackson Liska is light and maneuverable with less rigging to get in the way. I often drag the kayak over shoals, so I leave electronics at home.
An anchor running through a trolley system helps me stop on a dime and make several casts to a potential hot spot.
I take three rods., each rigged for a specific tactic. First, a seven-foot medium-heavy baitcasting rod with a soft tip for buzzbaits and topwater. Next, I use a medium-action baitcaster for jigs and soft plastics. The third rod is a six-foot spinning rod to skip a weightless soft-plastic under trees.
The reels are spooled with 20-pound braided line. I keep spools of leader from six to 20-pound test. If the water is clear and the fish are skittish, I’ll downsize my leader and take my chances with the snags.
I can throw a topwater lure all day, my favorite is an all-white or black-and-blue buzzbait. I also like a Zara Spook or a River2Sea Whopper Plopper.
I use a jig or weighted soft-plastic to dredge deeper holes. Any soft-plastic shaped like a crawfish is welcome on my kayak.
A wacky-style, weightless worm or fluke is my meat stick; I cast it under overhangs to search for fish. I like dark colors on an overcast day and realistic colors on sunny days with clear water. Chris Funk
Catching a largemouth is the first step in a bass slam. | Photo: Chris Funk