My wife Linda and I have had the good fortune to visit fellow Snaggedline member Terry Hill (Raptor) and his wife Allison at their summer cottage on the shore of Lake Champlain in Vermont this week. In addition to enjoying their wonderful hospitality and the beautiful Vermont scenery, Terry and I got on the water for three kayak fishing sessions.
I used Terry’s Outback and he paddled his Santa Cruz Raptor. Here’s Terry in the Raptor with a nice smallmouth bass:
Our primary target species was smallmouth bass. And catch them we did. No skunks on any outing and we both caught our personal best smallmouth bass on this trip.
Here’s few shots of the scenery:
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Rocks line the shoreline and are plentiful below the water. SAV was thick in areas, but usually not breaking surface. That was good because it left a lane to run lures on top of the grasses but 2 to 3 feet below the surface.
A popular bait here is a Gary Yamamota worm rigged weedless and weightless like this:
I caught 10 smallmouth on it but in a very passive way. I simply let it trail behind my Outback as I moved about casting lures with my second rod – a quasi-trolling approach.
My first catch of the trip, literally within the first 10 minutes of my first outing, was this smallmouth on the trailing worm:
I knew instantly that the smallmouth here were bigger than my typical smallmouth catches on MD, PA and VA rivers.
I also found that 3-inch Fat Sam paddletails on a 1/8 oz. jig head worked as well for smallmouth here as they do for stripers at home. Here’s a smallie that couldn’t resist Fat Sam:
Fat Sam was my most productive lure. I caught the majority of my smallmouth with it.
Terry and I caught many smallmouth in the 13 to 15 inch range. They were the norm. We caught some dinks too but not many overall. And as you’ll see we each caught a memorable fish.
Another bait that worked here is one I also employ in my home waters. It’s a 1/8 oz. jig spinner that I use for white perch, pickerel and stripers in Maryland. This 18-inch smallmouth took one of my perch spinners:
I cast the spinner in open water where I could see submerged grass beds rising to a couple of feet below the surface. The water is that clear, by the way. I was rarely in water too deep to see the bottom or the top of vegetation. I ran the spinner just over the top of the grass. Neither of us had electronics on our kayaks so I really don’t know how deep the water was under the vegetation. The excellent water clarity also enabled us to see the bass strike our lures on many hits.
Terry ran his Yamamoto worm in similar areas, just over the tops of the grass. Typically, we were 75 to 100 yards from shore fishing in this manner.
That is how we each got our personal best smallmouth catches.
Terry gets top billing because his was 20 plus inches. Here he is with his personal best:
We measured it at 20 and a fraction inches on the Hawg Trough and that was without pinching the tail.
Here’s my new personal best smallmouth. It was 19 inches. You can see in this photo that it hit one of my perch spinners:
I have caught hundreds of smallmouth in the Potomac, Susquehanna and Shenandoah during my river wading years. Never during those trips did I consistently catch smallmouth bass topping 13 inches like I did on this trip.
The only non-smallmouth I caught this week was an 18-inch largemouth that hit a Pop-R in two feet of water near a shoreline. It was dusk and I decided to try topwater. I was surprised to find a largemouth in an area so heavily populated with smallmouth. I measured it and it definitely reached 18 inches and it was chunky. I wish I had a photo but at that time in the evening my camera battery had run out of juice. I also caught a smallmouth on the popper but it was a little guy.
Altogether I caught 40 smallmouth and the single largemouth in three outings totaling perhaps 11 to 12 combined hours of fishing. Terry pulled in similar catch numbers.
What a wonderful bass fishery Lake Champlain is. It was my first fishing trip here and I hope it was not my last.
Linda and I will head home tomorrow. We offer many thanks to Terry and his wife for their hospitality and I owe Terry a special thank you for allowing me to use his Outback. As you can see in the photos it was often breezy on the water. Pedal drives are wonderful in such conditions.