June 21, 2017

Spring Time Bassin - Ozark Style

Enough of Trout Spey! It's Bass Time...

If you follow my articles you know I'm into trout spey, but here is what some of you might not know. My real passion is bass. Warmwater is what I grew up with and bass is what I chase.

I know many anglers don't understand. I also know many have never experienced bass the way I do. Anyone can catch bass but I don't want just random average fish. I hunt big bass! I hunt the biggest in the pool. It takes years for bass to get big and only the smart ones make it into "big" class. Of course "big" is relative according to watershed. Tell a Lake Erie angler you've caught a 5lb smallie and he'll grin and tell you he caught three 5 pounders before lunch.

I have been bass fishing all my life and just in the last few years fly rod bassin has taken big leaps forward. Rods and lines have improved greatly but today's flies are what is really fueling the movement. Flies such as Boogle Bug poppers, Swinging D's, Game Changers, CJ's Slug Go's and my own personal pattern that for now, will remain unnamed.

I got a late start bassin this year due to a long winter boat project which involved several repairs, modifications and carpet replacement. My intentions was to be on the water over a month ago but the project ran long with some unforeseen repairs that put me behind schedule. Thanks to some great friends who volunteered their time my boat is now completed and looks better then ever.

Can't tell from this picture but that rod box on the left now can hold up to eight 9 foot fly rods assembled

Meanwhile this winter I had booked some days in the Ozarks. Originally a three day float trip on the Buffalo River but a spring flood and other complications put that one back in bucket list status. Since the time was already set aside I chose to go to the Ozark's anyway. This region has many possibilities including the infamous White River Trout fishery. I would find opportunity to fish somewhere when those dates arrive.

I drove in on some solid rain and the next two days where to be spotty clouds and more rain. Plenty of water in the rivers with smaller streams up and off color, but not blown. Could you get better bass conditions?

So many anglers I talk to have this idea that high, off color water is not good conditions. I have such a different view. Sure I don't want blown out conditions but personally I find high off color water to be great fishing. I think the key is knowing where to hunt them. This is not a random game. One needs to be able to identify and cast into holding / feeding bass habitat to find success.

Still too cool for any topwater action so streamer ripping and bottom dredging would be the program.

By third day sun was shining and stream was clearing and receding. Sounds great right? Not really, by that afternoon in the high sun the big girls retreated to their boulder basements. To coax them out you've got to slide your fly in to that small basement window and even then it better wiggle just right.

In recent times I've heard multiple accounts of a bass streams that no one knew they held big fish until an angler with the correct understanding went in and extracted them. I know of one such stream. Do you have a piece of water like this in your back yard?

Three days of solid fishing racked up some great stats. Four bass came to hand that went over 17" with one that topped 18". Four bass species in all including many of the native Ozark bass which can only be found in the White River watershed. The Largemouth pictured was only 16.5 but what a chunk! Various species of sunfish kept you alert at all times. Shamefully I let a Crappie get away without a picture. It could have easily gone 15". Total catch count...no clue! Too many to count and I don't waste time counting anyway.

(left) Spotted Bass - (right) Ozark Bass
Big Thanks to Steve and the guys at Dally's Ozark Fly Fishers. Also big thanks to Gabe Levin, Ben Levin and Chad Johnson for guiding these great days on the water and sharing their passion. Hopefully next year we'll meet again and get that Buffalo River trip checked off the old bucket list.