Reflections & Results: Port Aransas IFA Tournament

Days two and three of my marathon tournament weekend put me in Port Aransas (City Marina) for the tournament check-in and captain’s meeting for the August 2015 IFA stop in Texas.  The tournament entry fee is only $50 with an optional extra $50 for the “Angler Advantage” pot (which has 100% payout back to participating anglers).

This is a well run CPR (Catch, Photo, & Release) tournament with a hefty payout for the top three anglers; with a few other methods of payment going out to participates in the “Angler Advantage” pool and other side pots.

1st place = $1500

2nd place = $1000

3d place = $500

Dinner was catered and provided at the captains meeting.

I found two things disappointing. First and foremost was the unexpected change to the tournament weigh-in. It was moved 45 minutes south to a location located in an entirely different town (Corpus Christi).  This caused many anglers to scramble for new plans at the last minute. The second issue with the tournament is the traffic associated with the ferry crossing onto and off of the island. It took me nearly two hours to board the ferry.

Tournament launch was not permitted until 6:45 AM. In order to keep all anglers honest your first picture of the day must be dated, time stamped and include your kayak, ruler and custom token.

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Required Pre-tournament photo

I’m not too familiar with the area and was not afforded the opportunity to pre-fish. I decided to gamble and launch at the Fin and Feather Marina. This would grant me the opportunity to fish the proximity of Hog Island and also allow me to explore an area known as “The Trenches”.

Aransas Pass

Aransas Pass satelite view

I hit a couple of spots in search of trout but was unable to find any. Along the way to “The Trenches” I did find a rat red measuring a mere 17″. I continued until I arrived at “The Trenches”. As soon as I arrived I saw some birds working. I made a few casts with my trusted Rapala Pink Skitterwalk and found it was a large school of lady fish. They proved to be fun to catch but worthless for the tournament. I continued working the area and finally landed a 17″ trout. Unfortunately, he was fouled hooked with both sets of treble hooks lodged in his back. The tournament rules disqualify fish that are fouled hooked so I was forced to release him with no picture. He would not count.

I drifted the area standing on my Hobie Pro Angler in search of schooling fish and finally drifted over a school of about 15-20 slot redfish. I quickly made a cast and somehow pulled out a small 12″ trout and the school scattered. I was perplexed.

I worked the area over thoroughly.  I talked to a few boaters that mentioned the topwater bite was awesome early in the morning (before I arrived. Just my luck.) After a while with no further action, I made my way back towards Hog Island.

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I worked the shoreline and was becoming worried I might have made the wrong choice in locations.  I was daydreaming and checking out nature when suddenly on one of my many blind casts an explosion erupted. A giant fish sprang clear out the water totally inhaling my topwater plug. The drag ripped and I became excited thinking I had hooked a monster trout.  After an exhilarating fight I saw the fish up close and realized he was only a redfish, but a BIG redfish. I landed him and quickly took his photo.

Todd Hart IFA Redfish 8-16

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Nearly 30″ redfish

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In most redfish tournaments a fish this large would not count. However, in a CPR type tournament such as this an oversized redfish counts and is greatly desired.

Now the stress was on. I had a really nice redfish but no trout to complete my two fish aggregate  of one speckled trout and one redfish. I hit a few more spots fishing hard during my last hour or two. I was forced to go in a bit earlier than I had expected due to the move in weigh-in locations.

I finally called it a day with only half of the species required.  I pedaled back to my truck loaded up and made the 45 minute drive to the weigh-in in hopes of possibly winning the “Big Redfish Division”.

2015 IFA

Texas IFA 2015 results

As you can see from the results above (the top 25) many anglers had far better results than myself. I was forced to depart the weigh-in with no prize money. I didn’t even win a door prize from the drawing. All I left with were a stomach full of hot dogs, chips and sodas.

There is always next time. This just means I have to fish more. I have to inform my wife I need more practice; more time on the water, and more time fishing.

Operationfish.com signing out,

Todd Hart

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BWKC Reflections (A Texas Offshore Kayak Tournament)

This past weekend was the Blue Water Kayak Classic (BWKC) hosted in Corpus Christie, TX. The main target species was King Mackerel, however there were smaller divisions for Cobia, Spanish Mackerel and reef fish.

It would be a busy marathon weekend for myself. I departed my west Houston home around 3 AM on Friday morning. I decided to stop and bay fish around Port O’Connor in an attempt to pre-fish for Sunday’s IFA tournament.  I eventually made my way to the BWKC tournament check in around 6pm.

As tired as I was that Friday evening I was still not able to get a good night’s sleep. I guess I was excited to hit the water and target some offshore fish. Shortly after sun-up I found myself pedaling out to the helicopter pad located 5 miles down the Padre Island National Seashore.

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Nice Sunrise

The weather was great and the water conditions were even better.

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Sea Turtles were plentiful

 

The first 1/2 mile or so I trolled out a silver spoon in hopes of catching a nice Spanish Mackerel. That would not be the case. Therefore the rest of the way I switched to trolling ribbon fish. The bite was a bit slower than expected but I did find some fish.

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First King Mackerel of the day

The first two hours I was unable to find any action. However, sometime close to 9:30 am the king mackerel showed up.  I had quite a few strikes but only managed to put four in the kayak.

Todd Hart BWKC 8-15

 

Here is a picture of the helicopter pad.  It is located just five miles south down the beach. And only about 2 miles off shore.

Todd Hart fighting a kingfish 8-15

The water here is quite clear and clean compared to what we find in the Galveston area.

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Trying to fit the entire fish onto the picture can sometimes be a challenge.

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At one point I had a double hook-up which posed a small challenge.

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Two large fish at once always is a fun adventure.

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I ended up losing the second fish. however, the one I landed would prove to be my largest of the day.

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My largest king mackerel of the day

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I learned my lesson on my last trip and this time I was prepared with a much larger fish bag. The fish cooler I’m using now is roughly 60″ long. The only problem with such a large bag is where to store it. Good thing the Hobie pro Angler has plenty of room behind the seat.

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I brought my two largest King Mackerel back to weigh-in. This year each person was only permitted to weigh in one King Mackerel. After realizing my largest King Mackerel would not break into the top three (the top three were all over 50″) I chose to weigh in my smaller fish in hopes of winning the “Average Joe” prize.  This is awarded to the person weighing in the fish that is closest to the average weight of all King Mackerel weighed in. I missed this award by nearly a pound. The average weight was approximately 18 lbs and the fish I chose to weigh in was approx 17 1/4 lbs.

The tournament was well organized and run well.  There was a captain’s bag for all participates which included a nice shirt. Meals with adult drinks were provided at both the “pre-tournament” check -in and the weigh-in.

The tournament has grown each year. I think there were roughly 130 people (estimated) entered this year. I highly recommend you try this event out next season. You won’t be disappointed.

Operationfish.com signing out,

Todd Hart

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One Weekend: Three Texas Kayak Fishing Tournaments.

Kayak fishing is rapidly growing. Can you believe on this weekend alone there are a total of three kayak fishing tournaments in Texas waters. Saturday has two to chose from.

If inshore bay fishing is what you desire then sign up for the Hook Spit Lonestar Kayak Series on Saturday 8/15/15. The LSKS is a a well organized and fun redfish tournament that generally has participates numbering around the 100 mark.

LSKS

If you are busy Saturday there is another inshore/bay tournament scheduled for Sunday 8/16/15. The Inshore Fishing Association will take place near Rockport, TX. The IFA is another well run tournament series that is long lasting and travels the southern coast of the USA.

ifa kayak

If you desire a more extreme tournament with a bit more risk and larger targets, then the Blue Water Kayak Classic might be more to your liking. THE BWKC is scheduled for Saturday 8/15/15 in Corpus Christie. This is an offshore tournament that targets kingfish with other “blue water” fish in separate categories.

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This will be a fun filled weekend. I plan to fish two of these tournaments. It will be a grind I look forward to.  I hope to see you there.

Operationfish.com signing out,

Todd Hart

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King of the Mackerel

Team Anglers Elite filled their monthly quota for a couple of species frequenting the northern Texas coast, so myself and another team member packed our gear and made a road trip south to the barren beaches of Padre Island National Seashore. We stopped along the way and picked up 4 dozen ribbon fish and hit the surf shortly after sun rise.

Our main target was kingfish.

Todd Hart holding a monster Kingfish2

The surf was fairly flat and the winds were calm. The conditions looked excellent.

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We paddled out a couple of miles towards some structure.

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Shortly after launching, I realized I had left my camera behind in the truck. I turned around and went back while Grant paddled out to begin his day of fishing. By time I made it back to the rig, Grant had already landed 3 nice kingfish.

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I got out there just in time to see him photographing and releasing his third one. I had my work cut out for me since I was already three fish behind. I quickly baited my kingfish rig and began trolling.

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It was pretty much none stop action from 7:30 AM- 11:30 AM. Those four exciting hours were packed with action. I landed 11 kingfish in that time.

Todd Hart fighting a king fish

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This was my first kingfish of the day (pictured above).

Todd Hart kingfish underwater

The water was beautiful, calm and clear.

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Todd Hart landing a king fish

Todd Hart holding a king fish

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The action was steady all morning with kingfish measuring from 37.5″ to 47″.

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Around 11:30 the bite seemed to slow.  Then Grant hooked up on something rather large and feisty.  He forgot his gaff so I pedaled over to assist.

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It turns out, he landed a nice 48″ cobia (ling).

We then explored another close by structure. Where I landed this decently sized, tasty red snapper.

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Unable to catch any others we trolled our way back to the first rig.  It was here I tied on a new lure and shortly after had a screaming run.  I thought for sure I was getting spooled. I managed to turn my kayak around and set chase in hopes of gaining some lost line.  After an exciting fight I reeled in a monster king mackerel.

Todd Hart monster Kingfish

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The kingfish was so large I had no way to keep him cool. He wouldn’t even come close to fitting in my fish bag.

We fished a bit more and Grant caught another Cobia (smaller than his first).  I tried to get in on the cobia action and then an over zealous boat motored right up on top of the three schooling cobia I was pursuing and that was it. They were gone.  I shared some choice words with the boaters, but it didn’t help bring the fish back.

We tried a bit longer and we each landed a blue fish.

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The kingfish seemed to have stopped biting for the day so we pedaled towards shore.  I landed 12 kingfish and had a huge one tied to the back of my boat. I was anxious to get back to shore so we could measure the beast.

When we got back to shore I was able to take a few more pictures of my monster king.

Todd Hart holding a monster Kingfish

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He measured roughly 58-60″. According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife you are allowed to bend the tip of the tail when measuring.  I never did that but I’m sure that would have granted me at least another inch.  (By this picture, I didn’t do it justice by making sure the nose was accurately aligned with the zero mark. I think I cheated myself out of another fraction of an inch.)

We cleaned up and loaded our equipment.

Starfish on a Kingfish

We made way back to civilization. I was hoping to check my fish in at one of the official weigh stations. To my dismay they were all closed before we could find one. I wanted to enter him in the CCA star tournament.  By time we got back to Corpus Christie we weren’t even able to locate a place to purchase large cooler for the monster king mackerel.

It wasn’t until the next day we found out he was close in length to rivaling the current Texas state record. It was a sad day for me as my fish didn’t tolerate the hot Texas sun. My chance at the Texas state record or a place in the CCA star tournament was lost.  At least I got a great fish story to share during our adventure and some great pictures to boot.

I can’t wait to get back out the there and try again.

Operationfish.com signing out

Todd Hart

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Shark Fishing off the Texas Coast

Myself and three friends all forming the Kayakwars team, Anglers Elite, decided to hit the coast near High Island Texas in search of bull reds and sharks.  We made our customary stop at the Sea Pony bait and Tackle shop (in winnie, TX) to pick up our needed supplies; large circle hooks, leaders and bait.

I like to use size 10 Eagle Claw hooks attached to heavy cable. These I just tie onto 30 lb mono. No weights are needed.  Just bait the hook with large chunks of cut mullet, cast it out and let it drift. Once in a while I’ll float my bait under a balloon.

On this particular day we paddled out to about 13′ in depth. We all spread out and cast out our bait. It wasn’t long before we all hooked up.

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Before the day was over we landed 17 sharks between the four of us.  I landed six myself.

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The sharks were not to terribly large. Most measured about 4 to 5 foot in length.

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Even small sharks possess great strength. They are made of all muscle and cartilage. You must always be careful with these creatures. They are flexible and powerful.

small shark7The tail whips can be painful. Be careful when holding the leader. When a shark decides to run that leader can rip right through your skin, trust me.  Gloves would be recommended.

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I’m not sure where all the bull reds have located to. this stretch of beach along Mcfaddin Wildlife reserve ahs been know for producing large numbers of redfish, but lately they have be MIA.

shark close-up

It has been just none stop sharks. And the sharks seem smaller then years past. The bigger sharks are probably hanging out with the missing bull reds (my two cents).

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Even 4 to 5 foot sharks could cause great harm to the fisherman not giving them the respect they deserve.

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Their teeth are sharp.

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Trying to remove the hooks can be hazardous.

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Sometimes the hooks just won’t come free or sometimes the sharks just won’t cooperate while removing the hooks. Always try to cut the leaders as close to the hooks as possible. A good pair of wire cutters is recommended.

Operationfish.com signing out,

Todd Hart

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Two Days, Two Spots, Two Types of Fish

Summer school is done and I have a bit of free time to fish. Unfortunately, my poor truck caught a sickness and has been getting treatment at the Ford dealer.  I have been forced to beg, grovel and tag along with my friends just to sooth my fishing bug. I have become “that guy”. The mooch.

Monday we went south towards the middle coast and fished along mixed shell and sand. Over shell we caught a couple of trout but mainly red fish. All fish were caught on topwater plugs.

Todd Hart Sun rise redfish2

The reds varied in size from tiny undersized to 26.5″.

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I landed four scoring slot reds.  All using pink topwater baits.

We found a few trout scattered throughout the bay system.  My buddy found one tiny location where he landed three nice sized trout between the sizes of 21 – 26″. I made my way that direction and landed one just around 18′. Then continued my trend of smaller trout. I think it’s a curse. (We jokingly laugh about how he can catch big trout until I get there, and then, they just disappear, instantly.)

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It was just that kind of day he landed most of the larger trout and I landed most of the smaller ones. (Someone has to do it.)

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(One of Grant’s many trout.)

My largest trout of the day was a mere 20-21″.

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The second day we tried fishing on the upper coast in the Galveston Bay area. We spent much of the morning fishing some structure with pink topwater plugs once again.

I landed some smaller trout and reds at first before finally landing my first scoring slot red of the day.

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I continued to grind it out and finally caught a couple of decent trout.

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Todd Hart Red F

 

And a couple more reds.

Todd Hart Trout F

As the day went on we decided to fish some shallow sandy areas mixed with grass.  I immediately landed a rat red and within a few more minutes landed this beefy fellow.

Todd Hart late moring red

He measured a nice 25.5″.

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The key has been the same for us the last couple of weeks. We try to find shallow areas containing a mix of shell, sand and grass. We make numerous drifts over the areas throwing our favorite topwaters. We could follow the tend that many other anglers enjoy this time of year, bouncing plastics off shell reefs and then moving into deeper water as it warms up, but we are searching for larger trout. Our quest for a 30 incher continues.

Operationfish.com signing out,

Todd Hart

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Summer Trout

Let’s face it, summer in Texas is hot. I mean real hot. Unbearably hot. However, natural laws of weather and climate mean its relatively cooler near large bodies of water, so pack up your kayaks and head to the bay.

I was sworn to secrecy and vowed not to give away my buddy’s favorite summer trout hole, but what I can do, is share with you the pattern in which we find fish on these terribly hot summer days.

Most people move to deeper waters and bounce plastics off the bottom while drifting over reefs. That’s fine for schooling trout, but if you want bigger trout try this advice. We still stick to the shallows. Often times we find trout over shell, but the bigger trout seem to be found scattered over areas with a bit of shell, sand and grass all mixed together.

Todd Hart trout 7-12-15

We cover a great deal of water casting topwater plugs like the Rapala Skitterwalk. Our favorite color is pink.

pink skitterwalk

Once locating some fish we make drifts over the area time and time again until we get a couple of drifts that no longer produce fish.  Then we move from that area in search of a new fish haven.

Future trophy trout

Here’s a future trophy trout. He wasn’t much larger then the lure he hit.

Try to find areas with cleaner water. That is not always easy when the winds are strong, but even slightly cleaner water in certain areas can hold trout.  Sometimes the conditions just make it impossible to find that “trout green” water.

I watched as my buddy showed me his honey hole. It was only the size of an average living/family room but it held numerous fish. (He has pulled out a number of beefy trout up to 29 inches out of this small hole over the past month.) The fish were easily spooked. After watching him catch one or two, we had to leave for about an hour just to wait for the trout to bite once again. The key to his honey hole was the mixed terrain on the shallow bottom. It held mixed sand, shell and grass.

Sometimes we search areas so shallow I’m forced to push pole. (I like to use the 8′ Yak Attack Park-n-Pole.) The wide platform area in the Hobie Pro Angler is prime for this type of fishing /hunting. You only need a couple of inches of water to displace the large flatter bottom of a Hobie Pro Angler.

Todd Hart push pole

Who says Hobie Pro Angers can’t traverse skinny waters?

These types of areas also hold nice red fish.

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Of course, I would catch a tournament sized redfish on a non-tournament day.

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I’m as wimpy as the next guy when it comes to tolerating the Texas summer heat. I’m from Michigan where it doesn’t get this hot in the north. I was ready to go but my buddy insisted the bite was better mid day when the temperatures were the worse.

Every time he hit his “little honey hole” he pulled out trout ranging from 23-26″. And he was correct most trout came in late morning – early afternoon. I fished close to his secret area but just outside as so not to disturb or steal “his spot” and I did not have nearly the same luck.  Don’t get me wrong I caught some fish but not as many or as large as his.

Operationfish.com signing out,

Todd Hart

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Short Film Catching a Kingfish

Operationfish.com signing out,

Todd Hart

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New Favorite… Daiwa Arid Coastal

I fish. I fish a lot and I fish hard. My equipment suffers a great deal of abuse, especially my baitcaster reels. I use both baitcasters and spinning reels, however I use a low profile baitcaster when throwing a topwater plug and let’s fix it, I’m addicted to topwater action, therefore I spend 80-90% of my timing casting and retrieving topwater lures.

Most of my time is spent in the vast saltwater marshes of the Texas/Louisiana coast where I spend 8-12 hours per day casting and retrieving my favorite topwater baits, because of this I go through a large number of baitcaster reels. I have tried different strategies. I have purchased some moderately expensive reels that I often times have to take in for service and cleaning and I have used many cheep reels that I can just throw away when their preformance begins to falter.

My search for the prefect long lasting , well working baitcaster reel seems to be never ending. That is until I ran across the Daiwa Arid Coastal saltwater baitcasting reel while shopping at Fishing Tackle Unlimited. (By the way, they have a huge selection of reels and very informative actual fisherman/employees that can answer many of your questions.)

Arid coastal

It seems to handle the abuse I dish out as well as the extreme wear and tear afforded by extended saltwater usage.

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I have my Daiwa Arid Coastal spooled with 20 lb Power Pro braid. I can attest it casts a country mile, smooth and far.  The retrieve is fast and consistent. This has not changed in approximately two months of my hard use.

Daiwa specs

The carbon drag washers have done what they promise. I have yet to find an inshore fish it couldn’t handle.

Daiwa carbon drag

And it comes with a 100 mm “power handle” for cranking those hard fighting, larger saltwater fish in.

So far I give this reel a thumbs up and it will continue to be my go to reel. You can purchase this extraordinary reel for anywhere between $80-100.

Operationfish.com signing out,

Todd Hart

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Topwater Bassin’

Tropical Storm Bill passed through and the weather laid down so I took a friend out for an evening  trip of bass fishing after work.  We loaded up and left my house around 4pm and pointed the truck towards Lake Fayette. We passed through the last of rains on the way. As soon as we launched our kayaks the rains stopped and fish began to bite.

I caught all my bass on a pink Rapala Skitterwalk.  The first few bass I landed came over thick grass.  The extra water raised the lake level slightly so I could throw the Skitterwalk over thick areas that are usually off limits to such baits.

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My friend, Chris, followed my lead and cast into the same area and instantly pulled out a nice bass himself.

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There was bait everywhere along the shore. The bass were having a feast. You could hear and see bass hitting bait all along the shore line.  We continued working the shoreline casting wherever we heard or saw bass working.

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Most bass seemed to be in the cattails.   If I heard or saw a splash I just pedaled close and cast right to the edge. Most times I had to work the Skitterwalk very slowly.  A few twitches and pause. I tried to imitate a wounded fish. It worked quite well.

 

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I ended the evening with ten nice bass measuring from 16″ to 20″.

Todd Hart Bass 2 linecutterz

 

I missed 16 fish.  For a while, I was in slump and began keeping score.  Number of fish landed to number of lost fish/missed blows.  My score for the night was 10 landed and 16 lost or missed.

Todd Hart Bass linecutterz

 

Some areas held numerous fish. in one location under a low hanging branch I landed 2 and missed or lost 5.

 

 

 

Todd Hart Bass

It was a great night of fishing. Anytime I can have that much action using a topwater bait, I’m in heaven.  I love using topwater bait and that often leads to my downfall in the competitive fishing world. I just can’t seem to put the Skitterwalk back in the tackle box.

Operationfish.com signing out,

Todd Hart

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