One Man's Trash is Another Man's Treasure
By Josh Dolin
When it comes to river kayak fishing for bass there are a many techniques that differ greatly from fishing for bass in lakes. Targeting riffles and eddies, fishing various current breaks, and taking advantage of rising water levels are all tactics that are almost exclusive to the world of river bassin'. However, one of the craftiest techniques for finding hungry bass in a river is the utilization of clear water and large schools of feeding carp.
This technique was taught to me by one of the old river rats that I often run into on my home waters of the James River in Richmond, Virginia. You see, the James is gin clear for the majority of the year, almost 10 months straight, in fact. That ultra-clear water can be intimidating to a lot of anglers as fish can get very spooky on even the cloudiest of days. Still, for the select few that choose to use it to their advantage, the clear waters can help an angler land the largest fish the river has to offer.
If you come across a group of carp grazing like a herd of cattle on the sandy river bottom, it is key to pay close attention and to keep your distance so as to not agitate them. Try to not make your presence known as you may have just stumbled upon a golden opportunity.
Once carp get into a feeding frenzy they tend to kick up the occasional crayfish or insect from time to time; thus prompting any opportunistic bass in the area to take advantage of any easy meal that might shoot out from the large plumes of sand and silt. With that being said it is not at all uncommon for bass to follow and orbit schools of the feeding buglemouths.
Generally speaking carp have a pretty distinct size, shape, and profile...so if you happen upon a school keep a keen eye out for any fish that may seem out of place. Though they could be similar in coloration, even the largest of river bass will usually always be much smaller in comparison to a carp. It is also important to note that the bass in the group will usually swim around much more freely and with an added patrolling aggression, whereas the carp's movements are usually more sluggish, labored, and glued onto the river bottom.
If you come across this situation don't hesitate, capitalize on your good fortune. Throw a tube, shaky-head craw, or wacky rigged Senko into the mix, but be sure to cast beyond the school, dragging your bait toward them. Landing a 1/16- or 1/8-oz. lure into a pod of carp is a surefire way to spook and send them running full steam in every direction. I generally prefer to use neutral colored baits for this technique, Watermelonseed or Green Pumpkin are my favorites. The movement of the bait alone will be enough to trigger a strike, there's no need to go full "sensory overload" with too bright or too dark of colors on fish that are already ultra-aggressive.
That's about all there is to it. It's a pretty simple, yet, very handy trick to have in your river fishing arsenal. Keep it in mind and always be ready to take advantage of the situation. Chances are that small that smaller carp you think you see is a jumbo smallmouth or largemouth Bass ready to hammer anything that moves.
Josh Dolin of Jackson Kayak Fishing is a member of Team Yakattack.