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Written by- William Strasburg
Spend enough time around fishermen or women and the conversation will eventually turn to preferences in lures or tackle. One of these conversations will go along the train of thought, “If I could only have X number of lures to take with me. What lures would top that list?” It was this nugget of an idea that took hold in my mind that lead to my latest adventure.
I sat back when I thought of this and shook my head. It is springtime in Georgia, the bass are in post spawn mode, which means they are hungry and ready to play. How hard could this be? The past two weeks my days have seen double digit catches of quality bass. The weather has been stable, water has warmed up to help the fish feed. This will be less a challenge and more just another day of great fishing.
I looked at my selection of over 50 tackle boxes and knew I had a wide assortment of “go to” lures. I could just pick the two that I knew would produce, pick up a matching rod and reel combo and hit the water for an epic day. That one word haunted me. “CHALLENGE” Was it truly a challenge if I could put the odds in my favor? No! I would have to find a way to pick lures that I was uncomfortable using and that didn’t seem to be “right” for the conditions. I reached out to my kayaking community family. I’ll let them tell me what two lures I’ll have in the kayak.
First up was Hop Nguyen. Hop and I met on the water three plus years ago. We have been fishing brothers since that first meeting. He hit me this time where it hurts. Chatterbait. My heart sank. Hop loves using his chatter and is constantly letting me know how easy it catches bass. I have three in my tackle box, all virgins. I’ve yet to catch anything on these demon spawn lures. The suggestions kept coming. Spinners, swim jigs, assorted crankbaits, spooks, ploppers, poppers, and a dozen types of plastic worms or craws. Then the second shoe dropped. Pete Anderson, another near and dear friend, dropped the “duck”. I tried to brush this one off saying I didn’t have a duck or giant spider lure in my tackle. Pete countered and said I could borrow his.
My two best friends on the water sabotaged me. It was decided, a chatterbait and a duck. Lucky for me I hadn’t required input of a rod and reel combo. I figured I’d have to match up the lure choices so I wasn’t trying this with a microlight rod and reel with 2 pound mono. I looked over my assortment and felt the best combo would be my Fenwick Silverhawk II, a medium heavy 6’6” rod with fast action. This was paired with my Sixgill Krave 3000 reel spooled with 15 pound Power Pro braided line. I also added a 6’ leader of 12 pound Seaguar fluorocarbon line.
A quick charge on my batteries for both the Raymarine Dragonfly Pro fish finder and my Bixpy Jet motor. I started to load up the truck for the next day. NRS Chinook life jacket, landing net by JPayne Custom Landing Nets , Bending Branches Angler paddle, my two lures, my one rod combo, and my Vibe Sea Ghost 110. Light load compared to my basic loadout for a fishing trip. I checked my ANGLR app and looked at my past few trips and came up with what I thought was a pretty fair game plan.
Hollis Q. Lathem Reservoir is about 40 miles from my driveway to the kayak launch point. The morning of the challenge I got up and went outside to let the dogs do what dogs have to do. The wind was already blowing, I could see my breath, and the calendar had been run back 60 days. NNW wind with a temp drop overnight of 20 degrees. Lathem is noted for having winds of 5 to 10 mph when the weatherman says calm beautiful day. Too late to change, things were set, I’d just have to make due.
I arrived just as they automatic gate was opening at 8am. One look at the water and the waves already building and I knew that topwater duck action was going to be also impossible. I rigged out the Sea Ghost and tested the Bixpy. I fired up my ANGLR app and headed out on what I was hoping would be a fair fishing day. Blue skies, sunshine and a blasted NNW wind had me wondering just how the day was going to progress. I looked at the fish finder and cruised over a few humps and drop offs to see what the fish were doing. This was going to be a long day. No bait, no marks, just me and the bottom of the reservoir. I decided to just go with it. It’s a challenge. I’ll win. About this time a heron fly over squawked once and headed to a sheltered cove. A shadow past over the water near me and I looked up hoping to see one of the bald eagles that nest in the area, three turkey vultures were circling.
I arrived at my planned spot. The NNW wind was somewhat reduced by a long point that blocked the full force of the wind. I broke out the paddle and started cruising around the cove watching for any signs of surface action or what the fish finder was telling me. A splash here, a splash there. Generally 10 to 20 feet off the bank, I knew from past experience this was in 20 to 25 feet of water. A good sign. It means the bass are still looking for shad and actively hunting. I decided that the duck would get first crack at this topwater action.
The Savage Gear 3D Suicide Duck is strange. A treble hook on the bottom close to the front of the lure and a treble hook on the back of the duck close to the rear. It’s two “feet” are actually made like props to churn the water as it is retrieved. It cast a mile and the retrieve can either be steady, burst or just stagger forward and stop. After 45 minutes of throwing this thing I wanted to just throw it into a tree branch. Not one swirl, not one blowup, not a single fish.
Time to change to my dreaded enemy the chatterbait. I’ve been told a dozen different ways of fishing this contraption. It’s hook has tasted no blood on my account. Imagine my surprise when suddenly there was a smack, the fluttering line straighten out and the tip of my rod was bent. Hook UP, FISH ON. I’m sure they heard me two counties away. I brought the fish to the side of the Sea Ghost, grabbed my custom net and dip and lift. My first spotted bass or anything on a chatterbait. Not overly big but it was hard to clear the smile off my face as I got the camera ready for the money shot. I forgot I wanted the shot with the bait still in his mouth. He wouldn’t mind if I just laid the lure on his nose for this shot? Shot taken, kiss given and the bass was heading home. Now to do something with this duck.
The wind had picked up, shifted a bit and I was going to have to find a calm cove to work the topwater. I looked out at the main channel and saw that the wind was playing up some pretty impressive whitecaps. I pulled into a sheltered cove and decided it was safe to change out lures. I removed the chatterbait and put it away. In my mind I thought about just dropping it overboard, but maybe I could gift it to some poor unsuspecting soul. I started to tie on the duck when 8 feet from the front of the Sea Ghost a bass was hitting shad and hitting them hard. I quickly tied the duck, and pitched it into the mass of swirls and bam. Ducky dinner. A quick net action and bif. My line went loose. The fish and lure were in the net, but my quick line knot just unraveled. Another picture, I removed the lure. And the bass was on his way to find more shad.
My adventure was complete. I decided with the winds picking up it might be best to head back to the dock. The trip back was uneventful. Riding two foot waves, seeing the eagle crash the shallows and fly off with a fish, and just somewhere in the back of my mind, “Challenge Accepted”.