Bass on the Road
It isn’t about the destination. It’s about the journey and the struggle.
By Bob Bramblet
After many years kayaking, fishing and guiding on the flats in and around Southwest Florida, I was ready for something different. I have caught many largemouth bass, and even some smallmouth, but there are many more species of bass out there. Maybe that's the "different" I needed – to find some Bass on the Road.
I called longtime fishing buddy Jim Van Pelt. He was in before I could finish telling him the idea. Filmmaker Rob DeVore of Yaktastic Adventures and cameraman Chris Patricella joined up, and we had a crew.
Blindly attempting to find fish in an unfamiliar area is a tough prospect. Stewart Venable, Evan Howard and Eric Hughes of the Riverstalkers agreed to guide us to the fish.
At 3 am that first day, we crammed Jim's SUV full of kayaks, tackle and no less than five cameras. Our schedule was tight. We launched right onto the Catawba River with Stewart after a twelve-hour drive.
The Catawba flows briskly through Rock Hill. Normally semi-clear green, the water turned into chocolate milk just after we launched. Bad luck. We came up empty. The same thing happened the next day at the Broad River, all due to a tropical storm the week before. With more than a little anxiety dogging us, we set off for Cartersville, Georgia and Lake Altoona.
Early the next morning, we met Evan and Eric at our next fishing spot at Olde Rope Mill. This little Lake Altoona feeder creek holds hybrid bass as well as white bass. It too was running brown and ugly. We paddled upstream through beautiful scenery and Evan finally scored the first fish of the trip, a hybrid bass. Soon he caught another, then a spotted bass. Jim got one too.
Exhaustion set in. We'd been driving and fishing and filming nonstop for three days with only a couple of fish to show for it. Morale was low. Turning in early helped. When we set off for Alabama's Terrapin Creek we had a little more energy.
We arrived at the Redneck Yacht Club, a little kayaking outpost right on the creek. Finally! The water was clear, the best we had seen during the trip. The folks at the outpost loaded up our kayaks and gear and we drove several miles upstream to begin our six-hour float back down. We began catching rock and spotted bass right away.
They were small but they were fighters. Then came the rapids. They started small, but they grew in length and intensity. We pulled the Mirage drives to navigate the shoals by paddle. Then the highlight of the trip, the rare red eye bass. Between the four anglers that day, we easily caught more than one hundred fish. As we reached the outpost we were sorry the day was ending. We were hot and tired, but finally successful.
A sense of relief settled over us. We spent the evening downloading video and relaxing. On the long drive back we talked about the trip, our experiences and the new friends we had met. Stewart, Eric and Evan were fantastic guides and have become good friends. For Rob, the work was only partly complete. He worked tirelessly on the video. Bass on the Road was ready a month later.
Watch Bass on the Road
Reflecting on the trip, it was a success. We caught new bass species, and made our movie. It often looked like we'd get nowhere. Sometimes it isn't about the destination. It's about the journey and the struggle. The memories will last a lifetime.