When the weather heats up for summer it is time to break out the Carolina Rig to catch bass. Finding the bass can be difficult in the summer and getting them to bite can be even more challenging. One thing I really like about Carolina Rig summer bass fishing is how versatile it can be – allowing me to fish it quickly in areas to locate bass, but also can really slow it down to entice a bite.
For my Carolina Rig summer setup I use a fairly lightweight and downsized rig. For the weight I’ll use a 1/2 oz Reins tungsten slip sinker. Using a tungsten sinker allows you to really feel the bottom to detect cover, and the Reins slip sinker comes with an insert which reduces abrasion of your fishing line. For line, especially at night I like to use the extra strong P-Line CXX co-polymer line with t blacklight visibility.
For the hook, I use the super sharp Owner hooks, and the size will vary from 3/0 to 5/0 depending on what bait i’m adding to the Carolina Rig. Add in a swivel, beads and a mono leader and you are all set. Leader length also varies, but I’ll generally have a longer leader in daytime and a shorter leader at night. Type of rod can vary to taste, but overall I will use a Dobyns jig rod so it is stiff enough to cast the rig as far as possible.
Plastics for Carolina Rig Summer Bass Fishing
One of the great things about a Carolina Rig is how many options you have for plastic baits. Although I have some favorites, it can be good to have a few options available and cycle through them until you can determine what the bass will bite. Some of the YUM bait options I’ll use include a Ribbontail worm, YUM Dinger, Christie Craw or a Wooly Hawg Craw.
Good luck with your Carolina Rig summer bass fishing!
Predictions prior to this year’s river focused event said that there would be a lot of fish caught, and some big limits turned in. These predictions were mostly correct regarding the Natural State Kayak Angler’s River Road Runner from the weekend. Due to the heavy canoe and tube traffic on some area rivers in June this should be called the “Ya’ll catching anything?” event. For the most part, NSKA fishermen were able to say “Heck, yeah!”
In the tournament preview article, Jeff Malott and Sam Philip almost hit big bass on the nose, while Sam was ultimately the closest in predicting the winning length.
On a sunny, breezy, day in June, 26 of 38 (64%) anglers were credited with a limit. Although there were some big fish caught, there weren’t very many. Only five fish 17″ or larger were caught, by a total of four anglers. Having a good kicker was key to placing near the top in this event.
I was lucky enough to finish 1st for this event with 81.5″, Dwain Batey 2nd with 78.75″ and Jonathan Brewer 3rd with a solid 76.25″ limit. Big Bass was won by John Evans with a 20.25″ largemouth, while I won runner-up Big Bass with a 20″ largemouth.
The Top 10 looked like this:
Jason – Not knowing hardly any rivers in the area at all, I went to the Elk River, the one with which I had at least some experience. Started out throwing my favorite baits (topwater) but only caught a few small ones. After switching to a squarebill I caught a 17″ off a log, and was catching some others off wood with a ned rig. One of these bass had a large craw claw (2.75 inches! Who knew they had crawdads that big in the Elk?) in its throat that had a blue/green color to it. This clued me in to what they were feeding on, so at this point I pulled out a YUM worm in blue laminate with a claw-like tail. From that point forward I spent most of the rest of the day dragging that worm slowly around logs and wood.
My biggest fish, a 20″ largemouth bass came off some submerged brush and when I hooked it I was sure it was a gar or catfish or something because it just would not surface. Once I caught this fish a bit after noon, I knew it might be possible to contend. About 30 minutes before the end of regulation I hooked a 15.25″ to cull a 13″ and was hoping at that point that I had enough to place a top three. Four of my top five fish came from that worm imitating the craw claw, so I was very fortunate to spot that and have a great YUM bait to turn to. The rest of that rig setup was a 3/8 oz Reins slip sinker, Owner all-purpose worm hook, 12lb P-Line CXX Floro, Shimano Curado70 and Dobyns rod.
Dwain – Last year was my first year to fish kayak tournaments and the River Road Runner event last year was by far my worst finish, so this year I really wanted to make a better showing. I had intended to pre-fish some rivers in the year between these events, but never did. So I got on trusty GoogleEarth and tried to find an area within bounds that looked like it was deep enough to use my pedal drive and might hold larger fish. I settled on an area of the Illinois River in Oklahoma near Watts that looked like it would be a good fit.
I started off the morning throwing a buzz bait, and it paid off quickly with a limit of fish, including my best of the day a 17.75 inch largemouth. I milked the buzz bait bite most of the day, but shortly after catching my best Smallmouth bass of the day on it I discovered an area that I could catch fish on a crankbait. It was an area about 200 yards long that was around 4 or 5 feet deep from the shore out to about 10 feet from the bank, and then also had a flat where the water became shallow between two pools. I first found the fish in the shallow area, and then followed this area up the bank. I was cranking the Skirmish Baits MP7 (a small squarebill), and it was producing both Smallmouth and Spotted Bass. I caught about 10 fish on my first pass, and one of them was a nice Smallmouth that gave me a decent cull. A second pass produced more fish but no culls, so I switched to an M9 squarebill which is a larger profile, and caught a very nice Spotted Bass on the same run with the larger bait. That was my final cull of the day, and I was more than happy to get a 2nd place finish in a river event since 99% of my fishing is on lakes. The area I found happens to be really close to my house, and I’ll probably go back during the year and refine my knowledge of the area, and up my river fishing game.
Jonathan – I chose the Elk River to fish this event this year, and started off fishing a topwater bait. Caught a limit within the first 30 minutes and two of those I was able to use for my best five. After that they were still busting the topwater but I think they were seeing it too well so I switched to my personal go-to bait on rivers and creeks (the Wiggle Wart). I was able to add three more decent fish to my limit on that bait. Overall, I couldn’t tell you how many fish I caught – it was a blast.
River Valley – Lee Creek
On the same day as the NWA event, those in the River Valley had an NSKA river event on Lee Creek. I’ve fished there twice now, one time was good, one time was really bad. Looks like they had a tough day out there, with only four of 16 entrants turning in a limit. The winners were:
First round of night fishing for the year and hit a jackpot with this FAT 21.25″ largemouth. Caught in transition from deep water to spawning areas by hopping the YUM Thumpn’ Dinger along the bottom. Gear setup: 3/0 Owner Worm Hook, 1/4 oz Reins tungsten weight, 15 lb P-Line CSX, Dobyns worm rod, Shimano Citica reel.
Last week I competed in the Kayak Bass Fishing National Championship on Kentucky Lake for the first time, which was also my first time on Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake. During my days pre-fishing and during the tournament itself, I came to a few conclusions. (admittedly, some more obvious than others)
These lakes are huge, particularly for a kayak angler. We knew going in this was the case and would need to do a lot of scouting. During pre-fishing I probably spent almost as much time in the Tacoma as I did on the water. This is a lesson learned for next year, narrow the scope of water and spend more time scouting fewer areas.
There are a lot of parts of Kentucky and Tennessee that look like the good parts of Arkansas. And…a lot of parts of Kentucky and Tennessee that look like the bad parts. We appear to all be in this together.
362 kayak anglers is a big field, even on Kentucky Lake. Every angler there is a good fisherman, which meant they can also read a topo map. The result was that anglers weren’t as spread out as I had hoped, the good water in many cases was very crowded with kayaks pounding the fish for a week. Those that found good water away from the crowd were rewarded.
Top baits for me on Kentucky Lake during the week were a Bomber Deep Flat A crankbait, Booyah Buzz 1/2 oz buzzbait, Rebel Teeny Foxy Shad Pop-R, ned rig, Goldens Paddletail on drop shot and YUM Thumpn’ Dinger texas rigged.
Ledges. I’d heard a lot about ledges and ledge fishing. I think this worked for a lot of folks, but I just really couldn’t get it to happen for me. Might be the wrong time of year, so may try it again my next trip over there. Still was fun to say I’d fished the famous ledges on Kentucky Lake.
Mom and Pop’s Pizza in Big Sandy is AWESOME. Definitely what is needed after a long day on the water. Check them out next time you are near the south end of the lake. Protip – pay the extra $1 for cheese on the breadsticks.
The captains meeting the first night was a good event and was important to hear the rules and such. The captain’s meeting the second night seemed completely unnecessary, particularly when they moved it back from 4:00 to 6:30 and people had to wait around for an extra couple of hours instead of getting rest and preparing gear for the next day.
I’ve never encountered a bigger bunch of rude, obnoxious and aggressive boaters than I did on Kentucky Lake. I’m hearing this as well from many other KBF anglers. Stories of invading fishing space, attempts to swamp kayaks and dangerously close fly-bys were common. Come on man.
I made a huge mistake this week and really did a lot of exploring to get to know the lake’ instead of my usual strategy of looking for a particular type of water. Although I do know the lake better by fishing in about 10 different areas, it kept me from learning the area I needed to as well as I should have. Lesson learned for next time.
Day one, I roll up an hour early to my selected spot, 449 miles from home and after a week of looking around for the prime location to begin. What do I see? Fellow Natural State Kayak Anglers member Jeff Mallot sitting there in the exact place I’m headed. Small world. If only I’d gotten there two hours early…ha!
Lake Barkley looks really really good. People had told me to go fish there and I tried it. Loved how it looked. I just couldn’t catch fish there. Maybe next time.
If you lose your assault paddle out of your yak on the crest of the big bridge crossing the lake, it will be gone by the time you go back to get it.
Crazy Chicken night (every Tuesday) is definitely worth the $9.43 at Paris Landing State Park Lodge.
There is a lot of talk about how long it took to judge fish and get final results out. I agree that this was a bit frustrating, but really, if you aren’t in the top contenders, it doesn’t matter that much to get your rank after a day or two. I’m more concerned about talk I’m seeing from some about wanting to implement a cut day after day one, or raising the fish limit to 15″ to limit the number of fish to be scored. In my opinion, this is supposed to be a fun, rewarding event, and both of those changes could really reduce the fun of the overall event for most anglers. People like to catch and card fish, and people like to know they will be fishing two full days before they travel. These changes would depress attendance, I know I may not pay the entry fee and travel over there for only one day. For the ‘hardcore’ anglers asking for these changes, guess what? Fewer participants means less entry fees which means less prize money for you to win. Hopefully everyone will see the big picture that a huge event where everyone has fun is the best thing for the sport.
Winter had one more blast of icy air to launch the Natural State Kayak Anglers into the 2017 season on Swepco Lake. With air temperatures at 29 degrees at take-off and water temps ranging from 68-75 degrees across the hot water lake, it was an interesting setup for the day.
As discussed in this previous article, historically Swepco Lake has not been friendly to recent kayak tournaments. This year was a different story as many fish were caught, including several big ones. Of the 61 anglers who entered, 85% turned in a score-able fish and 44% turned in a limit. Overall a great day of fishing on Swepco Lake, evidenced by 260 fish caught which included eight big fish at 20+ inches.
First place went to Rob Barnica with 89″ and second to Baron Meek with 88.5″ who both fished most of the day up around the discharge area near the power plant. I came in third place with 87.25″ while David Preston took fourth with 83.75″ and Ethan Dhuyvetter with 82.5″ was fifth.
Rob, Baron and David did not provide a tournament recap, but here are mine and Ethan’s look back at the day.
Jason – A week or so out from the tournament I was feeling pretty solid on a game plan, but that was thrown out when the weather took a nasty turn that weekend. Knowing they had the generators running most of the night before it was clear that bass would be feeding early up toward the discharge but I decided to avoid the crowd and to try and find more unmolested water down on the dam end of the lake.
I wasted some time throwing a bit of topwater and tried a few other different things but did not really get settled in until mid-morning and figured out that a combination of some different YUM plastic baits (Thumpn’ Dinger and Kill Shot) on Owner hooks was the way to go. Most fish were in 12-8 feet of water and bit on a slow-moving presentation. The bite was good until about 11:30 when the clouds began to break up and then once the sun fully emerged the bite shut off for me. As a last gasp effort to pick up a couple of inches I went up to the discharge area for the last hour but couldn’t cull a fish.
Ethan – I decided to fish this event because I thought it would be a great way to meet people and get out on a lake I’ve never been to. I was very hesitant because of the cruddy weather we had the day prior but opted to fish last minute. Having never fished a kayak tournament, I was a bit nervous that I would screw something up, but Jeff explained everything well so I had no issues.
When I got out, I figured an A Rig would work but after hearing the water temp, I quickly put that down and started tossing a jig. A football jig and a drop shot Roboworm accounted for all my fish. The fishing seemed to be best when there was cloud cover. I was catching my fish on transition banks in 5-10 ft of water, they all seemed to be pre-spawn to me which I found odd with the water temps as high as they were.
This past weekend I competed in my first tournament of the season. The 2017 Razoryak Tournament Trail Kickoff Classic brought together the top kayak anglers from around the state of Arkansas for a three day online event open to fishing any public waters. This a brief recap of my 8th place finish out of 56 anglers.
First of all, congratulations to the top finishers:
Dwain Batey – NSKA
Rob Barnica – NSKA
Terry Brown – KBA
Scott Acord – KBA
Justin Brewer – NSKA
The tournament was a bit disappointing to me because I felt like I had really dialed in Lake Swepco in Gentry, Arkansas, in recent weeks, catching a lot of quality fish. After a week of record high temperatures, a windy cold front moved in and turned everything upside down and I just couldn’t adjust well enough to be a top competitor. I also made some mistakes that cost me early on a couple of big fish.
Friday – Day 1
I hit Swepco on a day of very high winds and temps in the 40s steadily dropping into the 30s later in the day. Even with this, I stuck with my plan to start out with some topwater (Heddon Zara Spook) on this power plant lake and although it generated some bites, I lost the first six fish that I hooked, including a couple of large ones. It wasn’t the hooks, clearly something was off with my hookset and technique which was resulting in the bass pulling off. After this setback I was pretty dejected but remembering my pre-tournament plan I transitioned to a Norman Mad N crankbait and picked up a good sized and a mid-range keeper fairly quickly. Later on l I hooked into an absolute monster (using a YUM Dinger) which I fought for what seemed like forever…until I pulled up a 4-5 lb catfish and I literally went on a verbal anti-catfish rant. Not wanting to give up, I stuck with this YUM Dinger approach and picked up a couple of keepers to add to my total but still only had one good sized bass. Now was the time of day where I was ready to go to my bread and butter approach with a Norman Deep N crankbait, which yielded me a 17″+ and 18″+ to round out my limit for the day, finishing with 77.25″ for day one where I was feeling pretty good in the standings until my buddy Dwain Batey submitted 90″+ that evening! For a great recap of his eventual tournament win, go give this a read. This pushed me down to 3rd for day one, which was good but I was frustrated about missed opportunities that day.
Saturday – Day Two
The cold front had really set in and temps were below or at freezing until late morning so I didn’t hit the water until around noon. As expected, nothing that worked for me on Friday was working today and I really scrambled to try and increase my limit total, trying all sorts of techniques. A pretty neat (but bittersweet) experience was sitting on the water within just a few feet of Rob Barnica as he was pulling in big fish after big fish. He was on fire with those bass and kept pulling in one after another…I believe I saw him catch four between 17″ and 21.5″ in about an hour. Although I was in the same place and throwing a very similar bait, they didn’t like my technique and didn’t bite for me. A big mistake I made on this day was spotting a big bass on a deep bed that was hard to get to, but I didn’t stay there and try to get it to bite. After putting in a bit of time on it I moved on not wanting to waste my day, in retrospect I should have stayed as long as it took since that one fish would have made my Saturday successful in upping my total. As it is, I only added a few inches and finished with 84″ on the day, culling with a couple of mid-size keepers that I caught on topwater again. (People say I’m addicted to topwater baits…) At the end of day two I’d dropped to 5th place.
Sunday was the third day of the event, but after seeing the leaderboard after day two I could see that a win was no longer possible I decided to sit it out and spend some time at home. When the tournament ended I had fallen to 8th and finished in the top 10 which is a minimum goal for every event I enter.
A couple of equipment/setup keys I’d mention that I believe really helped in this event:
Was able to really give my new Shimano Citica 7:2:1 reel a workout as my main topwater and crankbait reel. It was smooth as silk and was really impressed with it.
As usual I used Fish Allure scented tabs on my hard baits which helped give me a good confidence boost, particularly on topwater baits.
Two of my keepers in my best five came on a crankbait I had never used before, but had ordered a Norman Mad N for this event to match some baitfish I’d been seeing shallow while prefishing – this definitely paid off.
All in all it was a good warm-up for the year which got me back into tournament mode and also let try out some new equipment and some new rod/reel setups under pressure.
This recent spotlight features one of the most exclusive kayak bass fishing tournaments in the country, a product feature, tips for fishing with kids and one of my favorite tackle sources:
The Yak4It Tournament of Champions at Lake Fork, Texas, is coming up in November and I’m excited to have qualified again this year to compete. This tournament is by invitation only and qualifiers are selected from tournament circuits or events around the country based on how the anglers have performed in those events. This is the second year in a row I will be competing representing Arkansas along with other qualifiers from the state. The tournament is held at famous Lake Fork and Lake Fork Marina and Motel serves as the epicenter of the event. Last year was my first time on the lake, am hoping for a better finish this year.
Heddon is an old school fishing brand that I love to throw because I simply catch fish with these lures. Here is a nice video from Heddon showing off some pond fishin’ with a Pop’n Image.
Kayak Fishing Blog is my favorite website for reading about kayak fishing topics and once again they have a great article, this one on 15 Tips for Kayaking with Kids. Taking kids out on the water is a great way to create a legacy and grow the sport. Make it a great trip by using the tips in their handy infographic.
If your local big box store doesn’t carry some of the plastics or lure variations you need, check out Lurenet.com for baits. This site carries only certain product lines (including some big ones like YUM and Booyah) but has the deepest selection from within their offerings. For example, I like to use the YUM 10″ Ribbontail worm in Black/Blue flake, but this is a hard one to find. Lurenet.com has it and a lot more.
Organizing soft plastics in the limited space provided on a fishing kayak can be a challenge. I tried a few different methods before settling on the one that works best for me.
When bass fishing from a relatively small kayak with little
storage space I had to find a system that ensured I had the right plastic worm, creature bait, trailer or swimbait with me at the right time.
Lurenet.com Article on Organizing Soft Plastics
Lurenet.com recently wrote up an article about my system using temperature and technique to keep the right baits with me on the water in an easy to manage way:
While fishing from a kayak offers many advantages over angling from a boat, copious storage space is not among them, which means a smart kayak angler has a well-thought plan before venturing onto the water.
“Without some type of system, you’re always having to swap tackle and reorganize gear before every trip,” said Jason Kincy, YUM brand ambassador and host of the Kayak Fishing Focus website. “Because there are so many types, sizes and styles, soft plastics can be a particular challenge.”
What gear do you need for a successful run in a kayak fishing tournament or kayak bass tournament series? The dog days of summer are about over and it is almost time for fall tournaments and year end championships to take place. Whether a first time tournament angler or a seasoned pro, you have to make sure you have what you need before a day on tournament waters.
I have competed in different types of tournaments and tournament trails – including single day events, year long trails, weeknight yakpots and online kayak fishing tourneys.
Kayak Fishing Tournament Checklist
Hawg Trough and camera – The cornerstone of kayak bass fishing tournaments is that you measure the length of your fish instead of the weight. This Catch Photo Release (CPR) approach requires you to have an approved measuring device like a Hawg Trough on board along with a way to take photos such as a camera or phone. Be sure to understand what is allowed in the tournament rules for submitting pictures and choose the one that works best for you. Tip…practice, practice, practice taking and submitting your photos!
Tackle appropriate for the waters – When hitting the lake or river for a fishing tournament in a kayak, space is at a premium. Think about the water condition. Is it clear or stained? Rising or falling? Temperature? Spending some time here can make sure you have the right baits on your yak throughout the day. Some of my go-to baits on board include Heddon Zara Spooks, Booyah jigs and spinnerbaits, YUM plastics and Norman crankbaits. For an extra boost take a look at Fish Allure scented tabs for hard baits.
Safety gear – Make sure your kayak is lit, has visibility flag, whistle and that you are wearing a PFD. Here are articles by Paddling.net and NRS about safety gear. Tip…if it is a roadrunner style event or a big body of water, make sure someone else knows where you generally are in case you don’t make it back to weigh-in.
Miscellaneous items – Some other items I always take into a tournament include a watch or clock I can see to monitor time, extra reel and line, snack and drinks, net, sunscreen and foul weather gear from Stormr.
Make Your Own List
Every kayak fishing tournament angler is different and likely has additional tips, but this list hits on some of the main items I’d advise someone to consider having on board as they launch in the next tournament.
Here is an article from Lurenet.com describing kayak night fishing during the dog days of summer. This article explains my approach to find night-time bass. I’ll use a YUM Thumpn’ Dinger or YUM Ribbontail on a Texas rig with a 3/8 Gambler weight and a 4/0 hook. On the weight I’ll add a Fish Allure scented tab to help trigger the bite. My full rigging setup is an 8:3:1 reel on a Dobyns Fury 7’0″ 704C rod with 14 lb line.
Here’s the article from Lurenet.com:
The dog days of summer are neither comfortable for fishermen nor fish. But while anglers have the option of retreating to the air conditioned indoors, largemouth bass can only seek deeper water or thicker cover. In either case, it makes them more difficult to find and catch during the heat of the day.
Jason Kincy, YUM brand ambassador and diehard kayak angler, solves both problems by fishing at night on the lakes near his Bentonville, Ark., home. “It’s hot and muggy and water temps are running at around 94-degrees right now,” he said, “so I’ve been starting my fishing day at about 8 p.m.”
Angling after dark isn’t particularly unusual on southern waters during the summer, but for Kincy, who hosts the Kayak Fishing Focus website, it means first pinpointing the most promising spots to make his 3 or 4 hours on the water as productive as possible.
“The ideal is a rock bank, or a bank that has some rocks on it, that’s fairly steep and close to deep water,” he said.
When kayak night fishing, Kincy targets depths from 15 feet up to the shoreline at night and a steep bank, he explained, often means the fish will simply get there earlier in the evening. “If there’s sunken brush in that 8-to-12 foot range, so much the better.”
When his kayak is sitting a good, strong cast from the shoreline and in 20 feet of water, Kincy knows he’s in the right spot for a YUM Thump’N Dinger Texas-rigged behind a 3/8-ounce bullet sinker. “It’s a good nighttime lure because the U-shaped tail adds vibration bass can zero in on after dark. I usually start with Watermelon/Red Flake and Black/Blue Flake as it gets darker.”
A 7½-inch Texas-rigged YUM Ribbontail, or a Bad Jamma on a Booyah Bankroll Jig, are other solid options for his drag/hop presentation, which is fast, but not too fast, he explained.
“The fish can be anywhere from the shoreline on down,” he said, “so I want to cover water, but at a pace that allows the bass time to react.”
– See more at: http://www.lurenet.com/blog/fishing-dog-days-at-night/#sthash.m1xuqY1n.dpuf