Ahhhhh, “The Slump.” It happens to all anglers at some point. It might be mid-summer or mid-winter, when air and water temperatures force the bass to move deep and get finicky. Those times of the year can definitely be tough to put fish in the kayak consistently. For me, it happened this year post-spawn, at a time when formerly-fat fish are hungry and gorging on anything they can get their big mouths on. I’d had a good late-winter and early-spring, but once temperatures started to warm up, my fishing cooled off. For the first three months of 2017, I was fishing in the “zone.” I was reading water well and putting fish in the Jackson Coosa HD. Then mid-April, “The Slump” hit me.
Like a baseball player who lost his swing, I struggled through a three-weekend tournament stretch that produced two “O-fers” and one small largemouth. The “O-fers” came at home, on water I knew and had always produced good fish for me. The one small largemouth came on the road, at the River Bassin Regional in Rock Hill. This past weekend was back on home waters – the Chattahoochee River – and the start was much of the same. After four hours, I had nothing to show for my efforts and started to wonder if I’d done something to anger the fish gods. That’s when I recognized my problem – I’d gotten in my own head. I’d allowed my recent results to creep into my head and it had been affecting my fishing.
I’d started off four weeks earlier throwing what I thought I knew would work. When that didn’t produce, I expanded my tackle selection. After a few weeks of tough fishing, I found myself midway through my day, with a cross-section of all my tackle, and way too many rods. I knew then it was time to push the “reset” button. For me, that means one thing: a spinning rod and a Texas-rigged trick worm. Growing up, my brother and I did a lot of bank fishing. Getting snagged meant losing a lure, something we had to replace using our own money earned by doing chores around the house. We quickly learned that a 20-pack of worms lasted a lot longer than a lost crankbait. The other thing we learned was a lot of confidence in Texas-rigged worms.
My preferred setup for fishing a Texas-rigged trick worm in moving water is a longer (6’10” – 7’2”) spinning rod with a fast tip. I pair it with a higher speed reel, something in a 6.1:1 or above gear ratio, so I can pick up line quickly to set the hook if the bass hits with slack in the line. I prefer fishing braided line on my spinning rods with a 4′ fluorocarbon leader. My leader strength is between 6-10 pounds depending on water clarity. When it comes to the action of the rod, I like a medium-light rod, because I need something that can handle casting lighter weights. With this setup, I want the lightest weight possible that allows me to maintain contact with the river bottom. Most of the time, a 1/16 ounce is my go-to. It allows me to just bounce along the bottom without being so heavy that it gets caught between rocks. I like a bigger hook, something with some beef behind it, so I’ll typically go with a 3/0 EWG, but if I’m in big largemouth water, I’ll upsize to a 4/0 or even 5/0. The color of the worm is going to vary by where you’re fishing, but here in Georgia, if you have green pumpkin, junebug, and black in your kayak, you’ve got your bases covered.
I moved to an area I expected would hold post-spawn bass. There is a shallow stretch along the bank that quickly drops off to 6-8 feet in depth, just below a shoal. This is a prime area for post-spawn river bass since it gives them two options for easy meals – the drop-off just below the shoal and the drop-off along the bank. I started with a few casts to the tailrace, looking for bass holding in the deep pool below it. With no takers, I turned my Coosa HD toward the bank to work the drop off. My first cast up river was just inside the drop-off along the bank, putting my trick worm right along the line I wanted to work.
After a couple bounces along the bottom, I felt that familiar “bump” I’d been missing these last few weeks. I reeled down until I felt tension on the line and set the hook, met immediately by a run to deeper water. I reeled her up to the kayak ready with the net, only to have her make another push toward deeper water. Recovering and reeling her back up, I guided her into the net and lifted her into the kayak. Measuring 20+ inches and over 5 pounds, she’s the fish I needed to break out of “The Slump” and get my confidence back. I put a few more fish in the kayak that day. While none were as large, I’m ready for to step to the plate at the next event.