Saturday, March 30, 2013

Pig Wrestling

     After last weekends Smallmouth trip so successful, Alex and I were itching to get back out after 'em. The water level and flow continued to drop, while the clarity got better and better all week, so when we both got off early Thursday there was no question how the afternoon would be spent. We loaded the Stealths and hit the James in search of a citation Smallie. 

     The afternoon started out slow with no love from the fish. We were working the same areas that had been productive a few days before, with the same lures, but were not getting the same results. As the sun began to sink in the sky, I started to become less optimistic and thought we both might leave with the dreaded skunk. As often is the case, just when you think your day is over, you feel that subtle bite, the line comes tight, and your whole attitude changes in an instant.   

Such was the case today and I was rewarded with a fat 18" Smallmouth.
     With a new found sence of confidence, we continued our drift back towards the ramp. It didn't take long for my Jig n' Pig to get crushed again. I could tell right away this was a heavy fish and he began to strip a little drag as he tried his damnedest to get away.

     I thought I had my paper Smallie when he finally surfaced, but he came up a just short @ 19.5". I was still pumped to have caught a new personal best Smallmouth Bass- in fact, every trip out here I had stepped up my PB. Alex wasn't as lucky and ended the day without a bite, but with plans already made to get back out there Saturday, he knew he'd get another chance.


      The plan for Saturday was to meet up with Rob Choi and continue the search for a citation Smallmouth. He had morning plans for a YakAttack rigging party, and Alex had some daddy duties, so we figured we'd be doing good if we launched around 12 or so.... that was the plan anyway. After dealing with a flat tire, (Alex's wife's, not mine) we launched around 3 and headed up river to meet up with Rob. We only had a few hours til the sun went down, so we wasted no time in getting down to business.  
                                                                             Photo Credit: Rob Choi     

 We were all confident we would find the fish, but after hours of fishing, we were within sight of the launch, and my confidence started to wane. It seemed as though the change in conditions mandated that we change our tactics, and at some point Rob made his way out to open water, I moved out to slightly deeper water, and Alex continued to work the shoreline. Just as I'm starting to think the day is over, I just barely hear Rob say Whoa! As I turn to look I see a big ol' Smallie come flying up out of the water and Rob shout WooHooo! By the time I paddle to him, he's landed the fish and its a PIG.
                                                          Rob's new personal best Smallmouth @ 19.5"
As it turns out, this fish had crushed a spinnerbait and skied twice- it seemed as though the fish had finally gotten active. All was not lost yet, so Alex and I quickly tied on similar colored spinnerbaits and went back to work. I made about 5 casts, backlashed, and popped it off.... DAMNIT! All hope I had of catching a lunker was gone.

      After sulking for a few minutes, I grabbed a rattletrap and  started throwing it around just to pass time- I figured I might as well keep casting even though I had already come to terms with the idea of a skunk. I found a good eddy, posted up and figured I would kill the last 30 minutes we had before the day was over. Much to my surprise, it wasn't long before my slow rolling rattletrap stopped dead in its tracks and the fight was on

                                                         18.75" Chunker! Photo Credit: Rob Choi

The day ended shortly there after. Alex was unable to get that skunk off his back for the second trip in a row, but vowed he would be back for revenge. As we packed everything up I couldn't help but be amazed that even though we aren't catching great numbers, we were consistently catching trophy class fish with most between 4-5lbs. Had I know this great fishery was in my back yard, I would have spent alot more time out there, but rest assured that will change.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Hometown Hogs

     I haven't had a chance to fish much since the weather got cold, so when Billy called to say he and Tommy Dewitt were coming to Richmond to fish for Smallmouth Bass 15 mintues from my house, there was no question Alex and I would be there. Growing up in Richmond I spent alot of time at the James River, but literally no time fishing it- mostly just hanging out drinking and such.  I have never been much of a freshwater guy, but driving to the salt is time consuming and costly, and hey, any fishing is better than no fishing, Jack!

     The water level had finally come back down after all the rain/snow we've had lately, and the water clarity looked pretty good, but I still didn't have expectations for the day when we launched, accept to have a good time. I had only targeted Smallmouth once before, and it was late summer it totally different conditions, so I figured if I caught anything it would be a successful day.

The plan was to head upstream a good ways and float back down while we fished. The current was more swift than it looked, and the paddle would prove to be a serious workout. Tommy made his way to a large log jam and began fishing the eddy behind it, while the rest of worked various rocks are sections of the shoreline. It didn't take long before I heard Tommy yelling, and knew he had a good fish on. If this was any indicator of how the day would go, it was going to be well worth the work.

                                                                       Tommy breaks the ice with a 19" Pig!

     Alex and I continued to fish that log jam for almost another hour, but couldn't find another fish. Tommy and Billy had already headed further upstream, so we decided to follow suit and move on. The group of us spent the next few hours making our way up river and stopping to fish everything that looked like it might hold a fish..... nothing. After making it as far up as we had planned to paddle, we took a quick break to relieve ourselves and stretch, then decided to fish our way back down to the launch. We were worn out and the leisurely float was going to be a nice change. 

    Alex and I took one shoreline, while Billy and Tommy covered the other. After about 25 minutes I heard Tommy yell out again and Alex and I made the paddle across to see what he had. Half way there I could make out some of what he was saying... something about this ones a HOG!!! He was right and we were blown away as he lifted this Smallie out of his kayak....

                                                                                                               Tommy's 21" Citation Smallmouth Bass

                                                                                                                Look at the war paint on this HOG!

     We were fired up now and everyone was confident the fish were there, we just had to get the lure infront of them. Both of Tommy's fish hit a dark colored jig, so werolled with it and everyone started pitching jigs. We continued to work our way down working anything that looked fishy, while Billy made his way back to the log jam where Tommy had picked up his first fish. As I floated past a couple large boulders at the rivers edge, I knew there had to be a fish there, and decided to focus on it for a few minutes. The current made it difficult allowing only one cast before floating away and having to paddle back up- it reminded me of fishing the CBBT. Even once you paddled back up, the cast and bait placement had to be perfect to get the correct presentation. I finally got it right and felt a solid thump before the line started moving away from the rock. I reel the slack in, set the hook and felt the weight of a solid Smallmouth Bass.
                                                                                                                        An 18.25" Pig of a Smallmouth

     Meanwhile, Billy's trip back to that big log jam had paid off with a 17.25" fatty. I made my way down and tucked in beside him in a large eddy to take a break and relish in the fun of these bulldog Smallmouth Bass- we had figured we might catch a couple fish 10-14", but never expected this caliber of fish. It seemed as though there were no small fish around, only Hog Johnson and his cousins! Just as Billy was saying how he was surprised he hadn't picked up anything on a crankbait he was casting, it got crushed!

                                                                                                                       Billy with a  healthy 17.5" Smallie

     At this point we all had a fish, accept for Alex. He rarely looses his cool, but he was on tilt and just couldn't seem to get his head back in the game. I kept telling him to stick with it, but breaking off jig after jig wasn't helping the situation at all. We kept floating our way down working everything that looked good. I got my jig snagged up and after trying my damnedest, I broke off the only one I had. Somewhere in the process I got that line badly tangled with another rod I had laying in my boat, so I verbally expressed my discontent. It seemed as though Alex's bad joojoo had made it way to me and as he laughed at my struggles, he felt that thump he had been waiting on...

                                                                            Alex's hard work had paid off with a 19.5" Pig with some war paint of his own

     Alex was elated and it was laughs and high fives all around. We had come here in search of the elusive Smallmouth Bass and boy had we found 'em! We weren't far from the launch now and though we were still fishing, no one was taking it too seriously. Billy made one last pitch of his jig before calling it a day, and BOOM- there he was! 

                                                                                 Billy finished the day strong with a 19" Hog!

     As we pulled the kayaks out of the water and reflected on the day, we couldn't believe how successful we had been. Although we hadn't caught buckets full of fish, the quality of fish was way above and beyond what we had expected. Billy was reminded of a Beastie Boys lyric- something about "if I had known the party was gonna be this good, he would have put something in the mashed potatoes....." Had I known trophy Smallmouth fishing was so close to home, I would have been targeting them a long time ago.

The weather is finally starting to warm up, and spring fishing is right around the corner. Until next time, Tight Lines!