The Lone Star State is famous for its trophy bass lakes. Few are aware the solid gold water extends to the rivers, some of which wind all the way across the state.
Shane Davies knows. His River Run Guide Service offers kayak-fishing trips on 120 miles of the middle and upper Brazos and several other Texas rivers, but don’t bother asking after his honey holes. He's not telling.
The Brazos receives very little if any state or private fish stocking support. The brood stock is vulnerable to over fishing. It's one reason Davies is notorious for keeping details close to vest. "Some kayak folks don’t recognize the big fish opportunity that exists on rivers because it’s dressed in overalls and looks like work. That’s fine with me," Davies says.
That's what he was doing in the mid 90s, when he tried blasting a 500-horsepower Panther Airboat customized for fishing up and down the rivers. It wasn't a good option. "It was a certain fail from the eco-friendly standpoint. I could see the fish but they could see me too. When I went to paddlecraft everything opened up," he says.
Now he's the master of stealth. He disdains electronics. His fish come from reading the river. And what fish they are, a procession of 24-, 25- and 26-inch long beauties, lean, mean and strong from living in the current. "If they came out of an East or South Texas lake, they'd probably weigh closer to 13, 14 pounds," he thinks.
Don't fear unconventional setups. Like many bass men, Davies is a believer in the wacky-rigged Senko, with a twist. He threads them on snelled circle hooks with the business end hidden in the bait. "I catch a lot of my biggest fish deadsticking around structure. The wood is soft and the limestone is porous," he says. It snags exposed hook points. Hidden in the plastic, a circle hook pushes through when a fish hits.
Try double and triple flukes on droppers to wake up sluggish fish. Or try a jig or a craw with a fluke behind it. Davies feels the multiple baits fire up a competitive feeding urge. You might also score a dual hook-up on the 'Flukehndropper.' "Don't believe you won't," he says.
You can't be too sneaky when approaching a fishy run. The rivers he favors flow gin clear, with little water deeper than three feet. The fish spook easily. Davies believes in long, accurate casts, and isn't above low-crawling down the bank to make a presentation. "Kayaks are stealthy but one bump of a paddle or gravel scrape on the hull and the only thing your going to catch are rays of sun," he says.
This one is way out there. Use live bait. For the ultimate lifelike offering, Davies casts a custom 14-foot net for shad. He carries them in a homemade 18-gallon live well with a pump and filter system. "Empty, it weighs two pounds," he says. If you think it borders on crazy, consider this: Davies made national news in 2009 when he hooked a trophy river bass on a live rattlesnake.
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