May 1, 2016
Last summer, my dad and I decided to take our newly acquired kayaks down the Brazos River tailrace below the dam at Possum Kingdom Lake and do some bass fishing. So when we went to the grandparents house at PK Lake for the weekend, we brought the kayaks in anticipation of taking the kayaks for a river excursion on the way back home to Dallas. This roughly 1-2 miles stretch of river from the dam to the Hwy 16 bridge runs through a rugged canyon with surprisingly clear water coming out of the lake above. We have fished this stretch of river countless times, but always on foot and wading upstream. We have traversed the entire stretch excluding the areas too deep for us to wade. One area in particular we have had our eyes on for years… Above the Hwy 16 bridge there is a stretch of narrow riffles but above that is a large pool. On the south side of the large pool, is a rocky bank that is too deep to access by foot. This was the goal of the kayak float this day and we just knew there were some bass ready to strike in the deeper water that was inaccessible before.
Now here was the plan for the day…we brought a bike with us and locked it to a tree down by the bridge. This was the ride to get back to our vehicle and trailer, which we drove up by the dam and parked to put in the kayaks. Once we got up there and had the kayaks unloaded, we looked around for a good place to launch the kayaks in the river. Everything was super steep and hard to access. The best place we could find was a rocky area that was a drainage way during heavy rain events. This was still very steep, probably a 50-60 degree angle so we had to be very careful and sure-footed. Before heading down, I took a quick moment to snap a shot of the mighty PK dam above and in the distance.
Dad and I teamed up and took the kayaks down slowly and surely one at a time. Through some nimble traversing of the steep slope while carrying our kayaks, fishing poles, and fishing gear, we had the kayaks down by the river bank ready to launch. Now this stretch of stream was the side split and had some swift current. This area received a lot of rain leading up to this trip and the river flow was probably the fasted we have ever seen it. This was our first time to take the kayaks on a flowing river and right away, we had to paddle swiftly and methodically to guide the vessel through the rocks and with the flow of current. We fished this first stretch but were surprised that we didn’t get any hits, even though we saw a few bass swimming around. The water was clear and shallow and we were not stealthy in our approach. We were just trying to manage the current so we decided to just keep heading to the convergence to the main flow of the river where we could be more methodical in our approach.
Now, we didn’t have a lot of time this day because we were on our way back to Dallas before evening. In the main river, I noticed more shad than I have ever seen in my life swimming in numerous schools. This river was clear, healthy, and productive – teeming with life. I knew that this was a good food supply for the bass population and good things were to come. See the video below for my reaction to the loads of shad.
We continued floating down the river, effortlessly paddling, and casting along the way but still surprised..not much fishing success. It’s easy to keep moving when the fish aren’t biting, and especially when the current is pushing you along. A few times, we lodged the kayaks up against the bank to stop and fish a particular spot we didn’t want to just quickly pass on over. Here’s a snapshot of the kayak fishing set-up and Dad fishing in the background.
It didn’t take long to paddle with the ease of the current and down to the big pool we had our eyes set on. We parked the kayaks about 20-25 feet from the bank and started casting. The water was still in this big pool and easy to keep the kayak in one spot. I was using a black and blue micro ChatterBait by Z-Man with an albino baby shad trailer by Lake Fork Lures. I casted up by the bank and let the lure fall down by the deeper submerged rocks and then felt a strong hit…I was instantly hooked up with the fish. This was a strong fish that pulled down as it dove deep and even brought the tip of my Okuma Nomad Xpress 7’0″ MH rod under water. I knew that this fish was big and strong and I was in for a fight. After pulling down, its tactic changed and it jumped several feet in the air. My kayak was being pulled around and I was partially at the mercy of the fish. However, I used my paddle to help regain some control and paddled backwards as I fought this stout fish. Eventually, I gained the upper hand and landed the fish and was even more surprised as I grabbed it by the mouth and and pulled it out of the water. I took a quick shot and observed the dark broken stripe and the deep green back of this beauty. I didn’t think to measure it though. I just knew it was approaching 20 inches long and weighted over 3 pounds most likely. A week or two later, I showed my buddy Justin a picture of this fish and he said “that’s a spotted bass, and look it up, it may be a river record or something!” I looked it up when I got home and low and behold, this spotted bass, even though I didn’t measure him most likely is a Brazos River record spotted bass, given that the current record is 16.5″ long and 2.51 lbs. I am confident this guy well exceeds that. It’s okay that I didn’t measure because I know that this toad of bass was a fighter and a fish not to be reckoned with. Check it out below. The photo further taken back from the bank shows the casting range and the look of the exposed and submerged rocks that several bass were hanging out at this day. The deeper water in this area had a green tinge to it and this helped us be stealthy in our approach.
Right after I caught the big spotted bass, I told my dad to try a micro ChatterBait similar to what I was using. I gave him my other rod, a Berkley Cherrywood 5’6″ medium, which already had a chartreuse and white micro ChatterBait with a blue grass baby shad trailer. He quickly hooked into another nice spotted bass, not as big as mine but a fun fight and a hungry football-shaped bass.
The micro ChatterBaits were a hit this day. This was the same rod and lure set-up I caught the biggest bass of my life on back in April…in the bass boat on PK Lake…a 21″ largemouth bass maybe 5-6 lbs. We fished for a little while longer but time was running out before we needed to head back. Dad had my phone (protected by a LifeProof case) and took an action photo of me fishing, just for kicks.
In addition to the nice spotted bass we caught, we also landed a few sand bass, and then the last fish I caught was surprisingly a black crappie. The first crappie I have caught in PK lake or even the Brazos River since I was a kid, probably 10 or 11 years old. This is a good sign of the health of the ecosystem recovering from the two episodes of Golden Algae that plagued the waters for years.
For this 30 minute time frame the fish were really biting, which was definitely not the case for the first two hours of the float. Eventually, in the interest of time, we had to swiftly paddle on downstream to the concrete landing just below the bridge to land the kayaks. The water was moving fast so it took quick paddling precision and timing to land the kayaks on the landing and not miss it, risking having to paddle upstream! Once on land, I had the arduous task of riding the bike for miles back up the road by the fish hatchery to where the vehicle and trailer was parked up by the dam. Now, I haven’t ridden a bike except for a couple times in many years and I didn’t know how to operate the gears on this one. I paddled hard and definitely got a lot of exercise as I peddled up the highway on my way to the fish hatchery road, leading to the dam. I persevered and made it to the vehicle, taking advantage of the minimal downhill portions along the way to gain momentum. I started up the vehicle and drove back down to meet Dad who was patiently waiting on me. We loaded up the kayaks, strapped them down, and headed back home to Dallas. Here is the trailer set-up that is very useful for the transportation when we bring both kayaks out.
This was a great day of kayak fishing on a warm and sunny day. The quick moving river led us to a productive stretch of steep-banked shoreline where we caught some really nice bass.