Friday, May 27, 2011

Eastern Shore Post-Spawn Bass on Ultra-Light

Where'd the bass go?
There they are.  Largemouth bass nests.  Sans largemouth bass.  It's been almost a month since I hooked my last bass.  Continuous rain, cool weather, and the spawn have made it almost impossible to track down largemouth, smallmouth, and striped bass unless you have a whole lot of boat and a whole lot of time to dedicate to their pursuit. 

My brother T was in town for 24 hours, structured around an Orioles vs. Yankees matchup at Camden Yards.  He showed up and the weather was atrocious. 

The Chesapeake Bay was like chocolate milk and most of the rivers and lakes look the same.  With a weather forecast that was sketchy at best (80% chance of rain), we headed up to northeastern Maryland to try fishing a long-forgotten spring fed pond and creek surrounded by forest.  I found this pond by cyberscouting last spring, although I'd driven past it a thousand times before that without even knowing it was there.  The fact that it's surrounded by forest is important because as I saw last year, the forest doesn't erode much soil into the pond at all. The springs also don't contribute any sediment.  And the old, old dam prevents the muddy high tide from the Elk River to climb back up into the pond.  It was worth a shot.  I was pretty sure the bass were still spawning.  And even if they weren't, it was mid-day and wouldn't be biting.  Wrong.
Biggest fish I've caught on this 4" BPS Crystal Minnow
T immediately lit into some subadult largemouth bass and proceeded to burn up a nice little spot.  This part of the Elk River is brutal compared to most coastal plain rivers - it has steep slopes, loose soil, and tons of thorns, rhododendrons, mountain laurels and ten million spiders between you and every fishing spot.  Boat access? Yeah, right.  The fish were being pretty particular about what they wanted to eat.  But as we changed from lure to lure, we occasionally "got it right."

First bass ashore in three weeks!
Boy, were the fish ever hungry.  Despite the weeks of rain, these post-spawn bass were ready to crunch some lures.  Interestingly, some just didn't work.  Switch color or size, and you could watch the water "bump up" behind your retrieve as big fish rose to pursue them. 

Bass, mostly 11-15" and less than two pounds, would occasionally find something they'd like and just punch it.  They were hitting surface lures. Beetle spins. Pink worms. Bumblebee worms. Crystal minnows.  Poppers. But in each case, the "right" bait had to be just right.

Rainstorms came and went and we kept fishing.  T didn't bring his boots, so he wore my LaCrosse agIon knee boots and I wore my Danner Upland boots and just accepted that I was going to swamp them, which I did. Think we had ideal casting conditions?

T works the edge of the reeds with a hot pink twist-tail grub
It was challenging fishing in the shoreline vegetation.  The water was high - well up into the Phragmites (reeds), which made casting a bear - even on my 5'0" Pflueger Razor Tip.  On the other hand, it gave us the chance to get right on top of bass who were hunting the perimeter of the grass.  Seemed like they were just working up and down the grassline.  Bringing fish to hand was no small feat, with ultralight tackle, fish flying through the air, diving under brush, and getting crammed inbetween reed stalks.  Not counting the fact that we were up to our knees in mud and water. I was really surprised that neither of us got a leech on our legs!
Like my first two trips to this spot in 2010 (here and here), we somehow lucked into some dinosaur-looking, monster-sized bluegill around the time the bass bite turned off (noon...can you believe it?).  I mean look at this monster:

Or this one!

Look at 'em!  And after another trip of catching as many bass like this as we wanted......

Big lure, tiny rod, mediocre fish

It finally occured to me that this "fishery" is not managed properly (actually, I'm pretty sure it's not managed at all).  I've fished here four times and have never had the problem I had a few weeks ago at Liberty Reservoir, which is that my lures get gobbled up by 4" and 6" long bluegill.  No sir.  Not here on the Upper Elk River!   On the other hand, I've never caught or even seen a bass over two pounds here.  The spot seems to be full of bluegills in the 8-12" range and bass in the 10-14" range.  I don't know what they're eating, and either I'm not fishing correctly for the even bigger bass that are out there, or they aren't out there at all.   Since it would be nearly impossible to get a kayak in here, I don't even know how to get out to deeper water (if it's really that much deeper at all).

Eventually we had to get moving to our "Outdoorsman Challenge" of my new Cooper Discoverer AT3 tires, so that mystery will have to remain unsolved until I get back to the Elk River again.

Generally known as the Bear Grylls of Southern Virginia, T scuttles up a steep mountain laurel bluff while eating termites for his breakfast


tugboatdude said...

hilarious!it was a good time,we usuaaly don't luck out and have everything fall into place but it all worked out.even the weather!

Sunny said...

Your blog makes me wish I knew more about fishing. Right now we are a worm on the hook, sink it in the water sort of family. It works out well at the dock near our home.

Kirk Mantay said...

Thanks for the compliment!

My blog makes me wish I knew more about fishing too. Fact is, you can have all the knowledge, experience, and gear in the world, but if you don't have TIME and LUCK, you are going to have some bad fishing trips. Unavoidable.

We grew up as "worm drowners" also, and it certainly was simpler. We definitely caught fewer and smaller fish on live bait, but we also spent a lot less time and money trying to find out where the fish were.

In a lot of cases, live bait saved us from our pitiful luck and atrocious timing (mid-day in July, holla!).

I fished with live bait in freshwater a few weeks ago. You'll enjoy my post on it. It did not go as planned, needless to say. Dare I say that I looked like a fool, catching hundreds of 3" bluegills while bigger fish lurked just below.

You do what you have to do. Especially if you are eating your catch. When we are doing something outdoors and those types of quandries emerge, I often ask whoever I'm with, "Do we want to take fish home or do we want to target big fish that we'll have to release? What's the plan?"

LB @ Bullets And Biscuits said...

You two are a mess! Looks like you had fun all in all

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