By Eric Boyd
My tournament partner and I were having a tough day during the Charlotte leg of the 2010 RiverBassin' Tournament. With time running short and nothing happening in the main stem of the TK River, we threw everything into one last-ditch effort. On a hunch, we dropped our kayaks about a mile up a feeder creek. The water was shallow and the outlook was dim, until my partner set the hook on a big fish. I flipped right in with my soft plastic stick bait and hooked up with a 20-incher. Since then I've been a firm believer getting away from the crowd. Instead I paddle up creeks for spring and early summer largemouth.
As Old Man Winter begins to loosen his grip, largemouth bass become more active in anticipation of the spring spawn. This time of year, boaters think alike. They stake out secondary lake points and hunt staging bass. This is when kayak anglers should exploit the advantage of their smaller, stealthier craft to ambush bass just inside the mouths of feeder creeks. It's the time for search baits. Tie on spinners and cranks, but don't forget the bait that produced for you during the winter—the jerkbait. Just increase the cadence a bit. Start shallow and work deep. Once you catch the first fish, keep fishing that same depth.
As water temperatures continue to warm, many fish will move onto their shallow spawning beds and often further into the feeder creeks where boaters can't reach them. That gives kayak anglers the edge. The typical tricks are effective; you've no doubt heard of most of them.
"I don’t like to target bedding fish, but if I do, I typically fish with small profile tubes, weightless stick worms, a drop shot or very realistic looking crayfish plastics," says kayak bass man Drew Haerer.
"Depending on the phase, I might also be able to work a large topwater very slowly over the beds." Remember, bass don't all spawn at once. Recheck secondary points for late bloomers.
Early summer hot spells heat the water. Look for shallower, cooler and more oxygenated water well up the creek arms. Anglers should concentrate on lay downs and shady pools while up the creek. This creek pattern is great for topwater frogs, but don't forget the jig. "You can flip it, hop it on bottom, swim it, and even burn it on top," Native Pro-Staffer Matthew Frazier says. He favors the Craw D'oeuvre from PowerTeam Lures.