It was a great day of fishing with enough action to keep me warm even with the air temps dipping into the low 40′s. The highlight of the trip was a 20″ fat fall bronze back. Despite the cold water, the fish made several leaps and even cleared the water once before I could bring the fish to hand. The fish was a fitting exclamation to an action filled late fall trip.
I hit the Juniata river today for a single access trip in a section of the river with one major wintering hole and several lesser wintering areas. It was a VERY long paddle but well worth the trip. Good news is…I didn’t have to travel as far as expected. I hit 2 solid wintering areas. One of which produced the vast majority of the fish so I decided to stay put in that area and really work it over. Smallmouth were stacked at the top of the wintering hole just as the water dropped sharply into a deep channel.
I fished for 5 hours (10:00 a.m. – 3:15 p.m.) with the first two hours being the most productive. I landed 20 smallmouth bass and lost 6 fish on the way to the kayak. The biggest of the day was a hard fighting 20 inch “C” class smallie! It was a VERY light bite today. Most of the fish were hooked JUST inside the mouth. I even hooked a couple on the outside of the mouth. That was a good indicator of how light the bit was.
All but four of the fish were caught on Winco’s Chillee Willee. I switched up baits a few times but this was what the fish wanted. It was also an ideal bait for the light bite because it is rigged on a 1/8 football head. I prefer exposed head hooks in light bite situations. The hard jighead combined with braid and a quality graphite rod transfers every contact with a rock as a subtle but CRISP tap. Sometimes there was the tell tail “tap tap” of the fish or a “mushy” feeling but most of the time today the bites where even more difficult to decipher. I really feel that today the exposed lead head was a critical part of my technique. I would feel the tap..tap…tap…tap of the head ticking off rocks and then “nothing” … not even mush. It was more like the “lack of weight” on the end of my line… as if the bait had lost contact with the bottom. When I felt “nothing”….I reeled up and set the hook. More times than not, there was a fish.
The chillee Willee was the ticket today. Problem…heck, I didn’t realize that I only had two left!! The first CW, with some TLC, finally wore out after the 12th fish. I lost the second to the river gods in about 8 feet of water. My backup was a Tastee Tube Jr. The tube was definitely producing but not at the same rate the Chillee Willee had produced. I actually called and placed an order while I was on the water so I wouldn’t forget! Yeah, I know…I’m a fanatic.
It was a classic late fall/early winter day. Overcast most of the day. 43-45 degree air temps. Water temps were below 45. The wind was a real factor with fairly constant breeze blowing at 14 m.p.h and gusts up to 22 m.p.h. straight down river. Given the wind and the concentrated location of the fish, I wanted to be as stationary as possible so used my home made stake out pole at various points (about every 10 yards) as I worked my way down river hugging the bank pictured below. The edge of the channel was about 10 yards off the bank.