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  • Rob Baker

Just keep fishing...just keep fishing...


I recently visited the Withlacoochee River in Dunellon just east of Lake Rousseau, hoping to try for bass somewhere new and in colder spring-fed waters. Unfortunately in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma most waterways in Florida remained in flooded stages with strong currents. This was the case at my launch point.

My tactics for bass in the few hours I had was to find a spot where I was not in danger of meeting a large gator in mating season (this was a priority as they were swimming mostly above the waterline and chortling to each other like undergrads at a hookup bar) and where I could anchor my kayak against the shoreline out of the current. Then I was going to float my line downstream with the current and try to present it to bass lurking in the still and sheltered waters just downstream from me.

fishing position and casting area

I used 3-4 different lures for topwater and deep presentations, but didn't score a nibble. I think my positioning was all wrong, but I had few options to ground my yak and have access to dead water. Everything was moving pretty fast and that made casting/retrieving and paddling simultaneously quite difficult. On my way back to the boat ramp I let the current take me while I launched at the shoreline. It was fun fishing, but no catching.

A few days later I went south of St. Pete Beach to Fort Desoto Park, located at the southern end of Tampa Bay.

Tampa Bay in the morning

The wind was strong that day, maybe 20-25mph sustained out of the east. I decided not to launch my kayak into the usual backwater places, and set out from North Beach instead. North Beach faced west into the Gulf, and was somewhat sheltered by a few sand bars just offshore. The tide was outgoing, so I headed south along the shore to a small lagoon and paddled in through the inlet.

lagoon inlet just south of North Beach

There I was, doing everything right for a change. I found myself in this small little restricted bit of water that was just plain loaded with fish. Mullet of all sizes were jumping everywhere. Some were quite big and catching one of them would have been fun and challenging. The big prize for me though was found in the grass-filled pot-holes that are visible in the aerial image below. Those pot-holes were loaded with rather large (say 5-6lb) fish with a white belly and a reddish-orange top....I'm thinking it was Red Drum, or Redfish, one of my chosen fishing targets (but it could have been something else)! My fish ID skills are not so good without a clear visual, and so I needed to catch one to be sure of what it was.

kayak fishing tactics in North Beach lagoon

My only option was to try and position my kayak downwind from the pot-holes and cast back into the wind at the school. These fish were all hovering more or less on the windward side of the pot-hole and looking into the wind...my guess was they were waiting for bait fish to be swept toward them by the wind and waves. I tried to launch my lures beyond the eastern edge of the pot-holes with a low side cast, and then drifted them through the school. Most of the time I didn't need to reel in to drift the lure, as the wind would grab my yak and send me careening toward the mangroves along the western sand bar. For each cast I had to recover from that drift and reposition myself. On one occasion I overshot my spot and found myself drifting right into the school, and naturally they scattered in a hurry. After hours of angling in a fish bowl I gave up with no catches, not even a nibble! Arrrrrrghgghghgh!

The only answer I have for that day in Tampa is that my lures were not right. I did not present to these fish something that they wanted to eat, nor did I irritate them enough to strike at something that was annoying even if it seemed unappetizing.

My friends all laughed at this story, and told me to hang in there. I can't deny that I had a great time kayaking in these places, but I sure wish I had a better feel for the fishing.

Onward.

#basskayakfishing #bassfishing #fishingtampabay #redfish #saltwaterkayakfishing

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