Updated: Nov 30, 2020
I was up well before my alarm Thursday morning. For whatever reason, I just couldn't sleep or even get comfortable. I was wide awake and my mind was racing. I kept thinking about how we were only hours away from some less than comfortable fishing weather coming in, followed by a few colder, rainy days with blustery winds. I knew that this could be a great window to get on some fish, and possibly the last window for a couple days. I put coffee on, and for the first time since Early April, I dug the Level Six drysuit out of the back of my closet and put it by the door with my freshly charged FPV battery and headlamp. The water temp was still 59° that morning, but my bigger concern was keeping dry in the rain and prolonging the amount of time I could stay out there.
I dragged my feet a bit knowing how raw and uncomfortable kayak fishing in the rain on a 45° morning at first light was going to be, but nonetheless I was on the water around 6:15am. It was heavy, low cloud cover, consistent rain, a strong incoming tide, and there were bunker schools everywhere. As I moved around from one school of bunker to another, I was spooking bass here and there, but they seemed lethargic and on the smaller side. It almost seemed like they were the size of schoolie bass that wished they could eat a full sized adult bunker, but were just a hair too small to do so. I trolled an old Danny plug from the channel to the flat I intended to fish without even a bump. Sigh.
As I got to the edge of the flat, I spooked another couple bass, but they appeared bigger judging by the disturbance they created in the water. They weren't schooled tightly, rather one here one there. Usually when this happens, they will be positioned on a breakline or a ripline, and where there's one fish, there's more, typically on that same "line". I clipped on a 24/7 Lures Mully and fired it up-tide as close to the breakline as I could get (or guess), and after 3 or 4 twitches, I was on a fish. It didn't explode on the plug, just sort of slurped it, a solid 24" schoolie. Okay, it's a start. A couple more casts in the same area resulted in a few follows, rolls, and missed blow-ups, and one more fish maybe a couple inches bigger. That flurry of action died off, and I relocated to an area that I knew had a bit more current and hard structure.
As I arrived at the rip, I quickly noticed yet more bunker holding in the slack water, and they were being bothered a bit more than the other schools I had passed by earlier. It wasn't anything National Geographic worthy, but they were certainly being chased here and there. I figured I would live-line one to see if I could get a bigger fish. So I snagged one and let it swim... for 10 minutes... without a bump or the bunker even getting chased, so I bagged that. For this nervous looking, faster moving water, I decided to clip on the Doc, the well known 9" plastic spook, and sent it out into the rip. I felt the Doc would get them fired up and be easier to track down given it's larger size and internal rattles. Stripers just can't handle the lumbering, slow side to side glide that only this plug can provide. The first cast was well received by another cookie cutter 26" bass. I caught a few more in the swiftly moving water, before they wised up or moved on. I came a little bit closer in on the structure and found a few more willing to explode on the big plug. I marked these fish at the up-tide base of a hump, seemingly pushing any passing prey fish up to the surface at the peak of the hump, giving the prey nowhere to go. It's always interesting to try and visualize and understand how bass are positioned on structure, and their feeding habits in a given situation. Sometimes it takes a bit of imagination, other times you can physically see it with your own eyes or on your sonar. The better you can understand and visualize what the bass are doing, the more you can fine tune your boat/kayak position and your presentation, and ultimately catch more fish!
At this point in the morning, the rainy, raw conditions were starting to wear on my desire to stay much longer, the tide was just about to slack. I knew I had to start thinking about heading back towards my launch site before the tide switched as to not fight the strong outgoing current. One thing I have learned from over 10 years of kayak fishing is how to time your trip with the tides, not only for optimal fishing results, but making the navigation portion of things easier too. I'm not certain it has happened to everyone who fishes from a kayak, but getting caught in a rip or current you can't fight (even with a pedal driven kayak) isn't fun. There aren't a ton of inshore spots where this can happen, but there are a few, and you don't want to be there on the wrong tide in a kayak, especially a moon tide.
As I headed back and the tide was slacking, I figured I would run back to the flat I checked earlier. At this point, it had as much water on it as it was going to, and I figured if fish were going to move up there, it would be now. As I pulled up, I noticed bunker being chased up on the shallowest part of the flat, ALRIGHT! Oh wait, it's just cormorants. Yes, cormorants were blasting through the bunker school. There had to be 8 or 10 of them, terrorizing the school and popping their heads up every so often. However, as I was trying to figure out what had these bunker so nervous, I was spooking bass that seemed to be corralling but not attacking the bunker school, just off the edge of the flat. They were very spooky, but they reacted positively to the Doc for a few casts, rolling over each other competing to hit the plug, and out of nowhere they just disappeared. I couldn't get hit, I wasn't spooking them with the kayak, and I wasn't marking them on side imaging or sonar. I figured my morning was over.
Before leaving the area, I took a haywire cast at the deeper water where I picked off my first couple fish of the day. The Doc hit the water, and seconds later it was crushed by a more respectable sized fish of about 28". A few more cast and a few more rolls and blow-ups. Okay, here we go! I moved down a bit and picked up fish on sonar and side imaging and sonar, they were everywhere, and most fish looked to be sitting on the bottom in 10-14'. I've never had fish (to my knowledge) come up off the bottom in more than 10' to hit a topwater plug before, but the next hour or so was lights out action, a fish on almost every cast, and if I wasn't hooking up, there were one or more fish following, rolling and trap-jawing the plug. Some of my favorite hits of the morning came only feet from the kayak, some while pausing the plug and giving it a slight forward twitch, which seemed to really trigger some of the more lethargic followers. These fish stayed in this half a football field sized area until the tide started to really rip, and it became too hard for me to fight current in the Outback. I lost the school and at this point the rain had become considerably worse.
Granted they were all cookie cutter sized bass from 26 to maybe 30", it was easily some of the best bass action I've seen locally this fall, as sad as that is to say. I typically don't travel much out of my normal operating range to find stripers, usually because I don't have to, especially during the fall. I keep hearing reports of good bass in western sound, and supposedly there are some fish still held up in Rhode Island. With western bound fish in mind and the amount of bunker we have in eastern sound and the rivers, I'm holding onto some hope that the first couple weeks of November could be the best part of the run with some bigger fish. We'll see I guess...