The Everglades: Chasing Black Bass (Day 1)
Well after reading Steven’s report which encapsulated the entire adventure I considered just throwing a few photos up but decided I needed to write a report for my own records and post it anyway. Unlike the “gentleman” who awake during daylight hours I am a bit of an early bird and decided to head up early and fish on the way up to the camp site and allowed the others to catch up on the way.
So an early start to the day and I was on the water at just before 7AM. The river was much wider than I expected and the waters were heavily stained with tannins making it look like it rain with tea. To be honest the water was closer to inky black and the abundance of structure made me almost dizzy as I couldn’t pick where to cast first.
One bank was already exposed to the sunlight and I knew I could not cast at everything so I decided to target the opposite bank from the launch as it was still protected from the rising sun. Paddling over I was soooooo keen to get that first cast in and I spotted my first stand of timber to cast at. I send the Sammy 65 sailing into the back of the snag and after a few twitches began to walk it back to the kayak. Half way back and my first cast of the day was belted off the surface and I managed a 34cmFL bass on my first cast. The first thing I noticed was how dark the colouration was compared to the bass I typically catch in my usual streams. What a way to start the trip, I was ecstatic and could not believe how good this place was going to be when I was 18km away from the public launch.
Heading upstream I managed another six bass and all seemed to be around the 28-34cmFL before I saw a flotilla of kayaks round the bend. At the time I just happened to be photographing my sixth bass for the morning which was a promising sign for all of us so close to the main camp ground.
The highlight of my morning’s fishing had been a cast into some structure that was belted by what I originally thought was a solid bass until it launched 4 feet in the air. As the fish landed after its spectacular aerial display I realised I had hooked up a tarpon that instantly bricked me upon landing and required some careful negotiation to extract it from the sub surface structure.
We all headed upstream and I decided to keep fishing on the way up and Wayne decided to join me while the other boys decided to head to camp and set up before chasing a few bass. The fishing was awesome with the bass climbing all over the lures and although not all of them hooked up it was great entertainment. At one point we set the challenge to see how many hits we could get on a single cast before the bass hooked up and at the end of the day it was a fish that hooked up on its fifth attempt.
For me my two biggest bass came from completely different structure. As we paddled up a long straight stretch of river we came upon a massive tree that had fallen almost halfway across the river. With the overcast conditions the bass seemed to be happy to hit the surface lure anywhere in the river and so my technique was to target the most exposed parts of the structure and move tighter to the bank if this proved unsuccessful. First cast into the edge of the structure and it was belted multiple times before it gave up and I reeled the lure in for a follow up cast.
Casting into the exact same spot at the outskirts of the tree I twitched the lure unsuccessfully before beginning my retrieve. Moments later the Sammy disappeared and I came up tight on what would have to be my biggest bass for the morning. Fishing the edge the tree I had chosen a line that gave me al the advantage and the bass was quickly played out into open water and netted. She was over 40cmFL but as I didn’t take a larger fish measure except for my brag mat which was packed away I didn’t get an accurate length.
Wayne and I continued upstream and eventually reached a tight S-bend in the river. These sections had extremely steep banks that provided protection from the wind as well as a huge amount of timber submerged throughout the river. The canopy provided quality shade throughout the bend and was mirrored in the perfectly calm tannin stained water. It looked amazing and the next 40 or so minutes provided some of the best fishing Wayne and I had seen. Every cast was hounded by a bass and the number of times they would hit the lure in their eagerness was amazing. In this area of the river we must have managed possibly 20 retrieves that were belted by bass. Although many were missed were managed to net a good number with the biggest going 38cmFL.
After our epic little session we pulled up at the mouth of a side creek and stretched out a bit and had some food. The decision was made that we should just paddle the final two kilometres back to the campsite and set up our gear. It wasn’t long before we arrived and set up our camp in one of the most tranquil settings I have ever camped and fished.
The river was a far cry from the natural habitat I usually fish which includes river valleys and high up in catchments where the streams are filled with granite boulders and rainforest vegetation. At he camp the banks were composed of sand and vegetation that was very different to the rainforests further inland. The standard Melaleucas were common as were coastal banksias along the unstable banks. The pre-dominat vegetation were large gums that formed the forest surrounding the river. although this vegetation was alot easier to walk through than the typical rainforest. The unstable banks meant that any strong flow down the river quickly eroded the bank and caused huge amounts of timber to fall into the river and create ideal habitat for bass. In some parts of the river there was a species of reed that was able to grow on the shallow banks intermingled with a type of sedge like Lomandra but not as bushy and did not provide the same level of cover as Lomandra did on inland streams. There was also a huge amount of baitfish present and especially around our camp where a couple of crumbs from biscuits would quickly cause a feeding frenzy. Wayne commented later that they would pick away at your skin any time you went for a swim.
After a bit of a chin wag we decided to hit the water again to chase a few more bass in the fading afternoon sunlight. The fishing continued to impress with multiply fish caught again around the 30cmFL mark. As much as we were eager to continue on into the night the exhaustion of the days paddle finally started to make its presence felt and so we all headed back to the camp for a feed, friendly banter and planning of the following day’s adventure