Trip Report: Kayak Fishing Riverbend Regional Park Early Spring

Ahh, the first smallmouth bass of the season caught.  That’s a good feeling.  I didn’t even realize it was the first until after I’d already been on the water some time.  I just slipped right back into my natural routine.

The water level on the river has been high, as usual and expected in early Spring.  I haven’t hardly had a single opportunity to put in on the Upper Potomac yet.  But, because it was my birthday a few days ago (ugh), I had lots of Bass Pro gift cards to spend (yes!).  So I went with Dad up to MD in the morning to the Arundel Mills Mall Bass Pro.  I came out with about $180 worth of new gear. I wanted to help Dad get his first snakehead before I leave on our trip, but I didn’t think we would have time for that on this day.  So we decided to hit Riverbend.  My rationale was that the water downstream wouldn’t have as much current as other places on the Upper like Algonkian or further up around the mouth of the Goose Creek like my buddy, Marc, had fished the day before and said was pretty swift current.  I had two strategies in mind.  Either the bass would be in the shallows like many of the largemouth are right now.  And I did catch a couple in shallows behind rocks making eddies, but I wanted to try the rock outcroppings in the river channel too.

I have not fished Riverbend since my last trip report from last Fall.  I finally feel like I’ve started to really figure this area out.  I think there is just such a unique mix of conditions and structures here that the bass’ behavior is rather unique.  There are some very deep pools and large structure in the form of huge boulders and tree trunks.  BUT, the areas that offer the best results for me are the rock outcroppings (with a little grass) that have a ledge system on the up and downstream sides.  And the ledge system is parallel to the river flow, not perpendicular like you would usually think.  On this day, the water was a little higher and there was some current so the majority of smallies seemed to hold on the downstream side in the eddies, but still within the ledges ready to ambush a bait going over top.  Again, I can’t emphasize enough how important it seems, to me anyway, to get 90 degrees to these structures and pull your bait across.

I only planned on two baits today.  A Ribit frog which they killed the last few times.  But, maybe the clarity wasn’t good enough for them today.  I used the frog on my Medium power, fast action, KFS 100 kayak fishing rod with 15 pound braid and a 6 foot 12 pound mono leader.  But, no luck.  I use the heavier mono or flouro leader (in this case mono because it floats) here because of the sharp ledge rock.  If I get a big fish, and they dive right back in, I could get broken off immediately.  Normally, for smallmouth, I use 8 pound flouro leader.  But, again, the conditions dictate the technique here so I go a little heavier on the leader for that reason.

I immediately went to my next suspect in the pattern and that was the Koppers Live Target Shallow diving crankbait.  This is what they hit right away.  I picked up a couple small ones in the shallows, but went out to the river channel to try the rock outcrops and sure enough, got a couple of quick decent ones.  I could tell I was onto a pattern.  The reason I chose this bait is that it is a wake bait.  It will only dive 6 inches or so.  Maybe a foot if you really crank fast.  So if the fish weren’t hitting the frog on top, I tried this bait which runs immediately subsurface.  It has a wide wobble so if the clarity wasn’t great, maybe they could feel more in water disturbance.  This particular bait is important because, although there are the deep pools, the end quickly and the ledges where the bass are hiding can be only 4 inches below the surface.  So I was either running a true top water bait (frog) or this subsurface bait directly over those hiding spots.  Even a crank bait that dives 2 or 3 feet probably would not be appropriate here for this technique.  I paired this bait with my Medium light power, moderate action, KFS 300 swimbait/crankbait kayak fishing rod with 12 pound mono on a high speed 7.1:1 Quantum bait caster.  This was just the right tool to get them out of there.

Koppers “Live Target” Shallow Diver Crankbait

crawfish crank





I wanted to get Dad on the pattern too, but didn’t have another Koppers in my tackle box.  So I figured it’s more of the action than anything here and we went with the Mann’s Baby 1 Minus. And sure enough, he started hitting them too even though the color of his bait was not exactly the same as mine. In this case, it was more about action, the right depth, and water disturbance it seemed.

When all was said and done, I ended up with 12 even and Dad had 4.  Not a bad trip for half a day.  I was a little surprised to see the fish holding to those same spots at this time of year, but again, I think it’s the unique set of conditions that kind of dictates their behavior in this area somewhat.  Another thing to note is that because of the shallow rocks and ledges we are pulling these fish out of, they are JUMPERS.  It is cool and exciting, but a jumping fish is likely to throw your bait.  It may take some additional skill and technique to keep the fish down as best you can until you get it to the boat.  Switching directions and keeping SIDE pressure on the fish will help to keep them down and get more landed.  If you pair that with the right action rod for the bait you are using and the right landing techniques, you’ll greatly reduce your fish coming unbuttoned before you can land.

Get out there and kayak fish Riverbend if you haven’t done so yet.  If you have, go again and try these techniques.

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Trip Report: Kayak Fishing Riverbend Regional Park Late Summer, Early Fall

If you kayak fish Riverbend park here in Northern Virginia, you know it’s  a great park and there is a variety of structure and conditions there.  From fast moving water with nice eddies upstream, to grass beds on the side channels, to giant boulders and tree trunks downstream.9-19-14 riverbend smallie 2

Go immediately downstream to the various rock outcrops. Use a watermelon kick leg style frog and retrieve it rather quickly.  Like the Stanley Ribbit Frog.  Stanley Ribbit Frog WatermelonTry to cast perpendicular across the ledges above and below the rock outcrops. The ones with grass seem to hold more fish. You’ll be casting towards the shores. Not downstream, not at an angle, get as perpendicular to them as possible and burn the frog over the top. Not so slow it’s barely moving, but not so fast that it is skipping or surfing. Give each rock outcrop 3-5 casts and if you haven’t got a blow up, float down to the next one. You can hit them all all the way down to the dam on the MD side and work back up. Don’t spend too long at each one.

If this sounds really detailed, it is. I’ve really dialed it in the last 4 or 5 times I’ve been there. Oh, and not much is happening in the morning. From around lunch or a little after right up until the sun goes behind the trees. After that everything shuts down. So it’s definitely a smaller window as the days get shorter and colder. But, give that a try on your next kayak fishing trip there, not many other people will be out there and you should have a great time.

9-24-14 riverbend smallie 17 in.

9-19-14 riverbend smallie 1

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5 Fall Kayak Fishing Lures

Bass Assassin Turbo Shad

Bass Assassin Turbo Shad

Spro SB25 BBZ1 Baby Shad .25 oz Silver Fish

Spro SB25 BBZ1 Baby Shad

Strike King Premier Plus .25 oz Sexy Shad

Strike King Premier Plus .25 oz Sexy Shad

Booyah Swimin Jig .375 oz White Shad

Booyah Swim’n Jig

Bass Assassin Soft Jerkbait Black Shad

Bass Assassin Soft Jerkbai

The Fall kayak fishing season is upon us.  The air and water temps are cooling down and we’re coming into a time anglers call the “Fall bite.”

It’s a great time of year as this can really stir up big bass, both large and smallmouth to binge and feed heavily and aggressively before Winter sets in.  Bass are tending to really chase moving baits at this time of year so here are 5 good lure options to try.

  1. Bass Assassin Turbo Shad Swimbait.  One of my all time favorite swimbaits.  A slim minnow pattern, this bait almost can’t miss this time of year.  Perfectly mimicking the minnow forage bass are feeding on.
  2. SPRO BBZ1 Baby Shad Swimbait.  When the bass are telling you they prefer more of a shad pattern, this small hard jointed swimbait can be something they really love to chase.  Couple this with our kayak fishing swimbait rod and you’ll land more fish and get them in the boat.
  3. Strike King Premier Plus Sexy Shad Spinnerbait.  Quite possibly the most well known and iconic Fall lure pattern of all.  This bait burned over the remaining river grass or ledges and drop offs can trigger big fish strikes.  It’s got some of everything.  A gold willow blade as well as a silver Colorado blade.  Sexy shad pattern just like proven Strike King crankbait colors.  Extra long tails for additional swimming action and a trailer hook for extra insurance hooking up on those vicious strikes.
  4. The Booyah Swim’n Jig.  Another well known Fall lure pattern.  Like many of these baits, it is a great way to cover water quickly in the early season when things are in transition.  I like the arrowhead pattern of this swim jig along with a white shad or minnow coloration pattern.  It’s bulky profile can pull the bigger fish in for the bite.
  5. Bass Assassin Soft Jerkbait.  Soft jerkbaits will also be extremely effective in the Fall season.  There are times where it seems this is all the fish will eat.  Although there are a variety of different retrieves you can use with this bait, this isn’t the same kind of burning retrieve you can do with the others.  The beauty of this lure is that it perfectly imitates the erratic swimming and darting action of a dying minnow.  It’s often hit because bass will certainly be willing to pick off easy meals this time of year.  I like the same great black shad or natural minnow color pattern as the turbo shad, but this tail doesn’t swim.  It imparts a much different darting and turning action when jerked and allowed to turn and fall on an almost slack line.

Cover water with these lures, in various areas of the water column, and you’re likely to pick up some hungry Fall bass. Experiment with your retrieve, but tend toward the faster side of things and if the fish are there, it will pay off.


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DIY Kayak Fishing Project: Drift Chain

Here’s an overview of how I put together a simple kayak fishing drift chain like what is found on a Jackson Coosa for a Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120 model.

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Potomac River Fish Pollution Case Study

This past August of 2014, we did something interesting which was the product of a kayak fishing trip to Powells Creek. Through one of my contacts, I was able to catch and provide a sample of a Northern Snakehead fish’s flesh for testing for pesticides and other toxins it may contain.

Pete Kendrick, of Diversified Laboratories, took the sample of flesh in to test. His laboratory is independent and performs testing for pesticides and other toxins in products for companies like Kraft and Purdue. Testing is comprehensive and extremely accurate in nature. Often, their goal is to protect their corporate customers and resolve or contain a contamination before it turns in to bad press or a recall of products. Needless to say this is over and above what the government requires. So test results are accurate and reliable.

The results for this Northern snakehead fish are in the picture below. It is only a single case for this particular fish and may not be representative of all of the fish in the Potomac river and its tributaries.

This particular fish was caught in August in 2014 in Powells Creek just South of Leesylvania State Park. The sample from this fish appears to have no contamination for all of the compounds listed on this sheet.

Pretty interesting results. I expected to see low levels of something, but that doesn’t seem to be the case, at least in this fish. So, for the time being, it appears that if you like to take and eat the Northern snakehead you catch, you’re probably not consuming much if any of these potentially harmful compounds. Obviously, a bigger sample, and more information on this in the future would be nice. Perhaps the VA dept of Game and Inland Fisheries will produce more research and information on this topic for this relatively new species many of us have taken a sporting interest in.

Snakehead toxin report

8-10-14 Second snakehead Powells creekSnakehead fillets


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Kayak Fishing Powells Creek: Lutz Lures Trip Report

On Sunday Aug. 10th 2014, we fished Powells Creek which is just South of Leesylvania State Park in VA.

There is a kayak launch here so be sure to use it rather than the much larger marina ramp.  There’s little parking though once you unload your kayak.  After you launch, turn right to go up into the creek.

Outside the bridge there is some good grass in the Summer months.  We spooked several large fish in that grass on the way into the creek.  This is a shallow creek that is extremely subject to tidal fluctuations.  Most of the creek is only a foot or two deep even at high tide and the bottom is heavily covered in vegetation.  The bottom is almost entirely silt and soft clay.  There is a well defined channel, sometimes two coming out of the back of the creek.  You can see this if you use the satellite image on the map above.  I’ve fished here twice and was amazed at how much the channel and the vegetation can change even in just a few weeks.  At low tide, what was once a wide looking bay, ended up looking like a soccer field from all of the grass poking up above the surface.  That combination of features makes it a good place to spot snakehead in the shallows and back in the runs through the spatter dock.  But, you’ll have to pretty much commit to nothing, but top water fishing or very weedless baits.

My plan was to fish back in the creek at high tide and come out more into the bay area at low tide.  I met Andy Ibarra out there  and he planned to do the opposite.  I think he ended up with a few nice bass on the day.  We ended up with a handful of bass, several catfish, and one snakehead.

The snakehead we found way back in a run into the spatter dock.  My Dad hooked into one that came off in that same area and saw another there.   The bass were a bit trickier.  I saw many bass from babies to larger ones.  I saw about 8 bass along the weedline in the channel at low tide.  Every time I threw them a bait, they ran from it.  They really didn’t seem to want anything.   That was until my Dad pulled out a Keitech Salty Core Stick in Electric Shad color.  As soon as he did that, he caught one, I caught 3 in a row, he caught another, and I caught one a few minutes later.  They were all over that thing when they wouldn’t bite other similar worms.  A strange combination, but it was just what they liked that day.  No huge bass, but a quick flurry of activity.  I decided to round out the day with a few catfish.  There is no shortage of bait for cats floating around there.  I usually scoop up a few of the floating dead large freshwater mussels and snails.  They are stinky and stick on a hook well.  If you throw that into the channel back up in the creek, a cat will be on it in a matter of seconds.  I caught three nice ones doing that.  One is in the video.  That one took me on quite a ride before I got him in the boat.
8-10-14 Second snakehead Powells creek

Snakehead fillets

On top water, I chose a Stanley Bull Ribbit Frog in Watermelon.  This  is what the snakehead bit.

When you go to fish Powells Creek, look at the map for the kayak launch.  Go back into the creek beyond the bridge.  Pay attention to the tides.  Don’t be afraid to paddle way back and INTO the spatterdock weeds.  There are many fish in there.  Even if it looks too thick to cast into, try it anyway.  Just be sure to have fairly heavy gear to be able to horse them out of there if you catch them.  And be flexible.  Listen to what the fish are telling you and be willing to change tactics or even change target species.  If you do all of that, you’ll still have a great day out there kayak fishing.  If no fish are biting, it’s always worth checking out the wildlife in that area.  I had a couple of small passengers on my kayak with me that are included in this video.

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Trip Report: Kayak Fishing the Upper Potomac from Brunswick, MD to Lander Boat Ramp


We did a kayak fishing float trip from Brunswick, MD to the Lander boat ramp.  This is a particularly pretty stretch of the Upper Potomac river.   We had planned this trip for some time.  I was out there with Ken Widelski from the Virginia Kayak Anglers Facebook group.  I knew that we would experience some low water levels, but was unsure how the recent cooler temps would affect fishing from this polar vortex thing.  Ken is a meteorologist so that’s a good guy to go fishing with.  This section of the river is very shallow and has some decent flowing current in many places.  There are the occasional deep pools especially toward the end of the float above Lander.

I knew it was likely to be a good day so I rigged up the night before by committing to some larger baits to be sure I caught some bigger fish and weeded through the little guys.  Ken destroyed me with the numbers, but I ended up with a handful of decent 16 inchers.  Ken’s most effective baits were smaller power grubs, baby brush hogs, and inline spinners.  My most effective baits were 7 inch Yamamoto senkos and 6 inch Zoom lizards.  Green pumpkin seemed to be the color of choice, but they also liked the purple lizard.  My plan with the low water was to focus on the shade, the area just behind the ledges, eddies behind any of the big boulders, and the deeper pools of cooler water.  This area is shallow and rocky.  The angled ledges are a system of shelter for smallmouth to hide in and ambush prey.  The water was extremely clear like an aquarium.  We did get LOTS of follows and short bites, but commitments to the bait were much fewer.  I did try some faster retrieves without much luck.  In addition, the grass has started to grow in some areas and there was quite a lot of it floating loose on the surface and nearly every retrieve brought back a clump of loose grass.  Between that and the low water levels, it limited our technique ability.  So I figured my best bet might be to drift a larger, unweighted soft plastic Texas rigged.

As it turns out, I caught almost all fish in the deeper pools by drifting that large senko through it Texas rigged and unweighted at the speed the current took us.  One of the larger fish took a green pumpkin lizard casted into the eddy behind one of the many large boulders that pierce the surface of the water.   Overall, slower than some other days we’ve had out there, but still a success and was a lot of fun.  Watch the video and take a look at some of the results.

Gary Yamamoto Senko - 7 Gary Yamamoto Senko – 7Tested and proven on California lunkers, Gary Yamamotos Senko has quickly become a sensation throughout the United States. The Senkos salt impregnated, has a healthy profile, casts like a bullet, and features a unique smooth-and-even horizontal fall when fished weightless or wacky style. Its not magic, but its pretty darn close.

Zoom Lizard - 6 Creature Softbaits Zoom Lizard – 6 Creature SoftbaitsRealistic lookSuper soft for extra actionSalt impregnatedHigh-action tailThere are plastic baits, and then there are Zoom baits. The difference is undeniable. Want proof? Just take a peek into your favorite tournament anglers tackle box, and start counting the Zoom bags. For those who lay it on the line every time out, there can be no other choice. Every Zoom soft plastic bait is wholly realistic, super-soft to the touch (for the extra action needed to pull that reluctant money fish) and salt-impregnated to hold even the most tentative bite. If youre not fishing lizard baits like Zooms Lizard, then you are missing out on some great action. Most lizard baits are especially deadly during the spring when they are looking to ambush spawn nests, but the Lizards high-action tail and appendages combined with its lifelike look make it effective all summer long.

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3 Recent Summer Catches, 3 Different Species

In the video below, you’ll see 3 recent catches this Summer on the Potomac river.  3 different species, each beautiful looking in their own way.  Take a look.

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Kayak Fishing for The Deadly Potomac River Snakehead

This was the result of our trip to Aquia Creek in VA today.  The mission was to catch snakehead and that’s what I did.  This is my third snakehead trip and my first actual catch. I think I’ve started to figure them out now.  If you ever get a chance to fish the lower Potomac River and its tributaries, be on the lookout for some snakeheads in the weeds.  Throw them a frog and hang on.

The frog we used today was the Stanley Jigs Ribbit Frog
Stanley Jigs Bull Ribbit Frog

We combined that with our Lutz Kayak Fishing Rod KFS 100 medium power, fast action baitcaster with a 6.2:1 reel. kayak fishing rod fish

Snakehead 1









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River Kayak Fishing Rule of 3’s

When kayak fishing a river environment, I try to keep things simple. To help me stay organized and not too overloaded with gear, I’ve noticed things tend to fall within somewhat of a rule of 3’s for me. In the video below, I explain what I mean by that in more detail.

Xcalibur Real Craw Lipless Crankbait

Real craw








Zoom Speed Craw
Zoom Ultravibe Speed Craw - 3-1 2

Tube Bait

Zoom Salty Super Tube

Minnow Hard Jerk Bait
Lucky Craft Hardbaits - Flash Minnow 110 SP

Zoom Jerk Bait
Zoom Magnum Super Fluke - 7

D.O.A. Swim Bait
D.O.A. C.A.L. Series Shad Tail

Gary Yamamoto Senko - 7


Berkley PowerBait Original Power Grub

Check back often for more great kayak fishing information.

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