April 22, 2021
Setting the hook in a Florida largemouth bass from a kayak can be challenging. It’s like launching a kite while running downwind. A “rip their lips off” type of hookset can move the kayak more than the lure. Adding heavy braid and a big rod to the mix just increases the velocity your kayak enters the brush on the shore where bass hide. We enjoy the other end of the tackle spectrum; using only 10-pound braid with a foot of 20-pound fluorocarbon leader for finessing a lure around heavy shoreline cover.
PLASTIC FROGS WORK GREAT
We do most of our kayak bass fishing on small creeks and canals around Southwest Florida. These tannic waters hold both bass and panfish for kayak anglers. Spring through fall, it’s hard to beat a weedless plastic frog for top water action. Our favorite presentation involves casting the frog onto the shore or floating vegetation and “tickling” it across the plants slowly while a bass tracks it from underneath. Depending on the thickness of the cover, the bass will either blast through this vegetation or wait until the frog slips into open water to attack. Like most topwater lures, this works best around sunset or sunrise.
In our experience, many hollow plastic frogs with double hooks over the back do not have a wide enough gap for a solid hook-up. This can result in missed strikes or thrown lures and the loss of a good fish. Our favorite “frog” is actually a Zoom Horny Toad in watermelon red rigged on an Eagle Claw Lazer Sharp 5/0 wide gap hook. This rigging results in a secure hookset yet is weedless enough that we can usually get away with errant casts into shoreline shrubbery.
SETTING THE HOOK
When possible, wait a second or two after a strike to set the hook. This lets the bass turn to the side and yields a better hook set. Often the bass sets the hook itself as it turns and burrows back into cover. In either case, an extremely sharp 5/0 wide gap hook gives you a good chance for a solid hookup.
As the bass digs into cover, so will you. The harder you pull, the faster you hit the bushes. If you had time, in the midst of this chaos, you could deploy an anchor but, in a narrow creek, this is not an option. So, plan “B” is to prepare for impact. This entails pointing your rod towards the back of the kayak to avoid breaking it in the bushes. At some point you may need to grab the leader to lift your bass out of the weeds. We refer to this part of the battle as “hand to hand combat.” Or, if you get lucky your bass could head out under the kayak and back into open water leaving you and your kayak tangled up behind. Having fun yet?
TROPHYCATCH CELEBRATES 10,000 CATCHES
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) bass conservation program, TrophyCatch, has reached a huge milestone having approved anglers’ catch, documentation and release of more than 10,000 largemouth bass weighing over 8 pounds since the program began in 2012. The concept for TrophyCatch emerged from the Black Bass Management Plan and was shaped following discussions with anglers, guides, bait and tackle companies, fishing retailers, and fisheries management and research biologists. The nearly 85,600 active participants in the program have collectively caught and released over 91,500 pounds of bass. TrophyCatch anglers are truly citizen-scientists for providing valuable data and are rewarded by the program’s conservation partners, like Bass Pro Shops. This data influences FWC research on such topics as genetics, proper handling, habitat parameters, and life history aspects of largemouth bass.
The main goals of the TrophyCatch program are to encourage catch-and-release of the largest and most valuable bass and promote Florida’s freshwater fishing, while collecting important data to inform management decisions. Florida remains the Fishing Capital of the World and it ranks number one with fishing participants 16 years old. TrophyCatch anglers Jean and Don Oehlstrom have been participants in the program for years. Jean’s first trophy bass was caught this season and she even helped the FWC with a fish attractor study. TrophyCatch would not be possible without partners like the Oehlstroms. FS
Florida Sportsman Magazine August/September 2020