Monsters lurk in dark waters. Nocturnal bass hunters chase them under the light of the stars. That's when Ryan McDermid, a father of two, is free to follow his obsession—"When the kids are in bed," he says with enthusiasm. At night, McDermid and the lunkers have Town Lake nearly to themselves.
"They don't let you power up big motors out there. We'll see a couple kayak anglers. Sometimes we won't see anyone," he says.
At night, the fish don't see McDermid coming. They rely on their lateral lines to find food. The bass are unwary and unpressured. McDermid cashes in, but not the way you'd expect. He rejects the old saw 'big bait, big fish.'
"My first focus every time I go out is not getting skunked. If I have to throw small baits on light line, I will," he says. He'll break out 4.5-inch stick worms on silly string, flossy 8-pound fluorocarbon. "That's my go-to when it's tough. Last summer I caught 7- and 8-pounders on it. I throw weighted wacky rigs. If you can get the bait to the bottom, you'll catch bigger fish," he says.
McDermid is quick with examples of thinking small for bigger bass. A couple months before he caught his 10-pounder, he was tossing big Norman DD22 cranks. "They were too much. I needed something more natural," he says. A smaller profile Strike King 5xD was a better match for the forage. "It didn't pay off at the tournament, but at my Father's Day trip with my son, first cast, little fish. Five minutes later, boom, 10-pounder."
Here are more of the night watchman's thoughts on the big bass waters of Central Texas.
Slow down and focus. Powerboat anglers can buzz around. Kayakers need to embrace their lack of range. McDermid looks at it as an advantage. "If you know where the big fish are, you can focus on those spots," he says.
If you want to catch trophies, you have to put in the time. Many of Austin's most successful big bass anglers keep their 'yaks on their trucks and fish every day. "To establish a pattern, beat the snot out of an area. It's only a matter of time until you catch one that's solid," he says.
In Austin, the lakes are impounded sections of the Colorado River. There isn't much deep water. Much of it is in the 7- to 10-foot range. "You don't need a diving crankbait that gets way down there. There isn't a lot of definition to the bottom. We throw at any little change we can find. If you can find a couple different types of structure together like a tree on a bulkhead, a rock pile on a depth change, or a grassy dock that’s usually where you find the big fish," he says.
Develop a system and focus on perfecting it. McDermid hits the water with four to five rods rigged up with the standards: a Texas rigged worm, wacky rig Senko, a crankbait, and his favorite, a dropshot worm. "I use it as a search bait. Everything eats a worm," he says.
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