Northwest Alabama holds some great fishing opportunities especially for kayak fishing the backwater.
Never have I ever kayak bass fished in the spring – true statement. Having just ventured into kayak fishing last October, I did enjoy some late fall/early winter fishing which has me eager for this coming fishing season. I have some great friends that kayak fish who have helped me with some basic information for bass fishing our local back waters which hopefully will improve everyone’s fishing experience.
First and foremost, review your equipment. From your kayak to your PFD to fishing line to lures. All of it needs a good once-over. I can draw a parallel from my years whitetail hunting and trust me, you do not want to find out something is non-functional when you hit the water!
How should you determine water clarity? Big question. The Team over at Bass Fishing Gurus explain this quite well. Basically a brightly colored lure reeled to the end of you rod and dipped into the water until you can’t see it will tell you how clear the water is in feet. They also provide the following guidelines:
- Water clarity 6 inches or less, bass will be less than 6 feet deep.
- Water clarity 6 inches to 1 foot, bass will be less than 10 feet deep.
- Water clarity 1 foot to 2 foot, bass will be less than 15 feet deep.
- Water clarity 2 foot to 6 foot, bass will be less than 35 feet deep.
- Water clarity 6 foot or more, bass will be less than 55 feet deep.
But wait, what if the water we plan on fishing is only 10-15 feet deep with over 2 feet of visibility? In that case, structure that provides shade would be your best bet.
Knowing water clarity will let you more effectively select a lure color but that alone will not ensure you catch fish. You must also consider water temperature in the equation. Most bass fisherman agree that between the water temp of 55 and 85 is going to be a fairly active feed. Obviously, some days are simply better than others. Fish are cold-blooded, so their body temperature is going to be that of their surroundings. Keep in mind this spring that bass will be spawning which usually means moving to shallower water since the eggs will need sunlight and warmth in order to grow and hatch.
Environmental conditions should also be considered. Is it sunny, cloudy, windy, rainy, etc. These conditions can contribute greatly to how, where and what you fish with. An overcast day changes the clarity of the water as does a sunny day. A sunny day will create warmer surface temperatures whereas a windy day will cool off the waters surface. You should also consider your kayak as part of the environment. Is it visible to the fish? Is it loud when you bang a lure on it? Sometimes a longer cast is needed so you, the angler, don’t spook the bass inadvertently!
Let’s put this together and see what we need to fish with:
- Dingy 0-2 feet: Loud and splashy in dark colors such as grape, black or blue baits with chartreuse, red or orange tails. Also, spinnerbaits with chartreuse or yellow skirts or crankbaits in a “fire tiger” pattern — orange belly, chartreuse sides, dark green back yield good results.
- Semi-Clear 2-5 feet: This can be the hardest to fish. The bass will use a combination of their lateral line to detect vibration and their eyes to see their prey. Many environmental conditions come into play such as cloud cover, sunlight, overhead canopy, etc. With no sunlight hitting the water, go with darker colors but if sunlight is hitting the water, go with the lighter colors.
- Clear 5+ feet: A more natural color seems to work better in this situation; think crawfish, pumpkinseed, motor oil, strawberry/smoke, black/brown and pumpkin pepper/green. Also, soft plastics with metalflake in them work well. Bass will be feeding by sight in clear water.
Ultimately, any color pattern that you have that mimics the local baitfish whether that be threadfin shad, golden shiner, or fathead minnows is a winner. You can never go wrong with matching the food that they are currently eating! This is where swimbaits shine! Swimbaits have become a deadly weapon for catching fish. The brand Kietech has really taken the swimbait market by storm. Crawfish are also one of the primary foods of creek bass. This means jigs, beavers, brush hogs, etc. are always a good choice. We also can’t forget bladed baits, even Rooster Tails can catch some big bass, especially smallmouth bass. But those are a whole other subject to write about later.
The Spawn Cycle
There are three segments to the spawn cycle of black bass: Pre-Spawn, Spawn and Post-Spawn. Depending on the species, some details may change.
Pre-Spawn: As winter gives way to spring, the bass will start to move in to shallower water and begin feeding slowly at first. Bait fish tend to be the target food. The water is generally around the 50 degree mark about now so your retrieve should not be too fast. A stop-and-go approach with a big blade spinner bait, big crankbait or chunky jig are great choices now especially around newly emerging foliage. Jerkbaits and swimbaits are great methods for trying to imitate the bait fish.
Spawn: As the water temperature gets into the 55-65 degree range, male bass begin to build their nests. These are going to be in shallow flats generally 1-6 feet deep and at least 10 feet from shore with good sunlight. The selected area will be easy to defend and near some type of cover (log, boulder, bulrush, etc.). As far as spawning areas go: smallmouth love rocks, spotted bass love rocks and stumps, and largemouth can build a nest in any cover. The nest area usually will also have easy access to deeper water and will not be within 30 feet of another visible spawning bed. Also, bigger bass spawn in a little deeper water than smaller ones. Bluegill are the biggest threat to eggs right now but soft plastics look fairly threatening as well. Fish a brighter color here since the bass will be in protect mode and the strikes will be more reactionary than out of hunger.
Post-Spawn: There is about a two week lull after the spawn as the bass recuperate. The water temps are 70-75 degrees about now and the bass will be more likely to strike jerkbaits, topwater baits and swimbaits hungrily, especially in the early mornings and late evenings. This can be some of the most fun fishing anyone can have!
What is presented here is simply the beginning, the basics. There is so much more to bass fishing especially from a kayak that we couldn’t begin to cover it all in one article. Bass fishing is unique because it is both a relaxing and rewarding sport as well as a scientific study in biology and ecology. As a well armed kayak fisher, you should have both physical and mental attributes in your arsenal. The more you get on the water, the better you become at assimilating these inputs into an output that is the perfect lure for catching big bass on any given day. That, my friend, is easier said than done considering the limited storage capacity of a fishing kayak. This requires not only planning but experience. Speaking of experience, while you are planning your next fishing trip and racking your brain for what lures to take with you, be sure not to miss the experience of finding yourself Halfway Home where you can reflect on just how perfect the day was and how much fun you had. Better yet, take someone fishing today and help them find their Halfway Home Adventure.