Like college students on a bender, bass migrate each spring to gorge and get busy. And, like spring break coeds, party-crazy bass will make stupid mistakes and get caught. Striped bass hold in the turbulent water; largemouth hang in calmer water below. Here’s how to crash the party.
Where to Go
Just like their bipedal adversary, two things motivate bass: food and sex. Black bass migrate farther than most people realize. Auburn University biologist, Steve Sammons says bass, especially smallmouth and shoal bass, can migrate more than 40 miles to spawn. “We’ve tracked shoal bass migrating 160 miles,” Sammons says.
Largemouth may not move as far as smallies and shoalies, but they will follow their stomach to find migratory baitfish. In the spring, the fish move upstream until they hit a dam, then it’s party time.
Don’t get the idea fishing below a dam is like shooting fish in a barrel. Throngs of anglers come to the party. Johnboats, bass boats and jet boats dart in and out of the current. The solution is to arrive early and remain patient to get in on the fiesta. Fish early in the spring, before the crowds arrive. Or, go early and stay late. Don’t forget, a kayak can be dropped in anywhere, look for locations other anglers can’t reach.
Of course, always obey warnings and monitor river levels before and during fishing. Check for scheduled water release and keep an eye on the water levels. If the water rises unexpectedly, keep an exit strategy in mind.
When I fish in less than eight feet of water, I use a Power-Pole Micro Anchor to hold the kayak in the current. The Power-Pole offers a higher level of safety. When I push a button on the remote, the kayak immediately breaks free. In deeper water, I use an Anchor Wizard winch and a 24-inch drag chain. Never anchor in swift current, instead pull into an eddy behind a rock or island.
Weapons of Choice
What are the best lures? Big ones. First, staying a safe distance from the best fishing requires a long cast. A heavier lure will fly farther. Also, the swift current requires a ½- to one-ounce lure to swim below the surface.
My favorite weapon is a ¾- to one-ounce ChatterBait with a four- to six-inch Z-Man SwimmerZ trailer. Big soft plastic jerk baits like a Z-Man StreakZ XL on a ¾-ounce Striper Eye jighead or belly-weighted swimbait hook are the perfect imitation of an injured shad.
Throwing a big bait a long distance requires a specialized rod and reel. Choose an eight-foot, heavy-action stick with stiff backbone and fast tip to launch a heavy lure. Pair the rod with a high-speed reel like 13 Fishing Concept Z. The Concept Z replaces ball bearings with a polymer producing less resistance for the greatest distance. Swift current and heavy structure require a strong line, I like 30-pound braid to prevent break-offs.
The long rod and high-performance reel combine for deadly accurate casts. Land the lure close to the whitewater below the dam then let the lure tumble naturally in the current.
Where to Look
Striped bass will hide in the whitewater while black bass hang on the edge of the turbulence. Focus on current breaks behind rocks or downed wood. Float up to two miles below the dam as concentrations of fish will spill downriver from the obstruction.
Navigating swift river current and tight eddies is easiest in a kayak less than 13 feet long and 32 inches wide. River fishing is best with a paddle kayak to cross shallow shoals and turn on a dime. My Jackson Kayak Coosa is fast to paddle into the current and quick to weave in and out of rocks and deadfalls with enough stability to stand and fish.
As river water warms in the spring, bait and bass gather at the base of dams. In a feeding and spawning frenzy, the action can get wild. With the right boat and fishing gear, you can get in on the party.
Jackson Kayak team member Drew Gregory hosts River Bassin’ Tournament Trail and Hooked on Wild Waters show.
The end of the road for spring break bass. | Feature Photo: Brooks Beatty