Fall kayak trips can be the most relaxing and productive of the year. Yak bassers encounter less boat traffic and, usually, fish on the feed as cooling water triggers them to bulk up for winter. Here are three of the many wonderful places to cast from plastic boats during the harvest moon. We’ve included a few ideas for family recreation, too.
Harper’s Ferry, W.Va.
The Shenandoah and Upper Potomac rivers in West Virginia offer superb floats for kayak anglers looking to tussle with smallmouth bass.
Your guide: Zak Wortman, a guide for White Fly Outfitters in Harper’s Ferry
Where to fish: Two downriver trips are especially good for kayak anglers. One starts six miles above the Melville Dam on the Shenandoah; Wortman advises casting to shady areas and rock or wood structure along the banks. The other begins on the Potomac at the 340 Bridge. Here, Wortman recommends probing upstream and downstream pockets of big boulders and tail-out areas below islands and riffles in this wider waterway. White Fly Outfitters offers a shuttle service to get you back to your launch site.
What to throw: Topwaters work summer and fall, says Wortman. Buzzbaits, Spooks, Texas rigged Senkos and a Super Fluke with a 2/0 circle hook through its nose are top choices. Crawfish-imitating tubes and jigs are reliable, too.
Area attractions: Take in Civil War history at the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. See more challenging stretches of rivers from a whitewater raft or take a thrilling zip-line ride. There are lots of other options for family fun nearby.
This narrow, winding lake of 19 square miles offers kayakers a place out of the wind blowing from any direction and is arguably the best smallmouth lake in Texas. There’s good fall largemouth fishing, too.
Your guide: Chris Payne of Temple, Texas, editor of Kayak Bass Fishing Magazine and owner of KayakFishingBlog.com.
Where to fish: Launch at either Frank’s Marina or Arrowhead Point for quick access to the main lake and its big boulders and points that hold fall smallmouth feeding heavily on shad. Riprap banks with timber are another top target. Take long casts, as fish can be skittish in the ultra-clear water.
What to throw: Payne recommends shad-imitating spinnerbaits in white or shad colors and walking topwaters, such as the Strike King KVD Sexy Dog or the RePo Man (sweaty Betty color pattern is Payne’s favorite) from Paycheck Baits.
Area attractions: Catch a concert at Bell County Expo Center. Trek 10 minutes from the lake to go underground at Inner Space Cavern in nearby Georgetown or visit Georgetown’s large outlet mall, which has a Bass Pro Shops store right beside it.
Lots of ramps offer close access to the burgeoning population of big largemouth bass throughout the sprawling 1,000 miles of shallow channels.
Your guide: Matthew Brannon, a Sebastopol, Calif., kayak tournament competitor
Where to fish: The whole Delta is a flip-puncher’s dream, with mats of yellow algae that locals call “cheese.” Thick hydrilla and places where the wind blows hyacinths against the tules are also punching territory. Many areas also offer docks and rock banks.
What to throw: Use tungsten weights of 1 1/2 ounces with creature baits to punch. Many bigger fish fall for frogs with favorites such as the Savage Gear 3D Frog and River2Sea’s Bully Wa and Spittin’ Wa. “And I guarantee no boat will be without a River2Sea Biggie Poppa Squarebill in red for covering the areas between the inside of weedbeds and riprap banks,” says Brannon.
Area attractions: Old Town Sacramento offers dinner cruises, a great shopping district, theaters and concert venues.
Originally published in Bassmaster Magazine September/October 2016.