A jitterbug in the dark
So you've been out there trying to catch a big Smallmouth this year and you've had fun exploring the Ozarks. But, you've still not caught that "biggun" you've always wanted to get into on a float trip. I'm going to help you out here in your efforts to catch a big river bass. Now is the time to go! I'll give you a little more help with this and the fundamental reasons why now is the time to get out there and why it's your best shot at getting into a big Smallmouth. Number one, near everyone has quit fishing and the pressure is off. I can not prove or disprove that older, bigger fish have any kind of memory; but, I do know that they can learn and adapt. For months now, folks have been float fishing and on many streams very few days go by what someone is not seriously fishing a given stretch of float water. But, with September and October comes school, shorter days, football and not least, hunting season. The outdoorsmen among us take their focus off fishing. Fish on the other hand, particularly big Smallmouth and Largemouth somehow know that winter is coming and that it is the time to feed. As water temperatures cool down after a hot summer, streams become more favorable for a big bass to move, to feed and to be able to do so in more comfort. Number two, the condition of any given stream and the weather is as stable as any time of the year. Often, in September and October, the days and nights get into a pattern where very little is changing. Day after day and night after night of stable weather, not too hot and not too cold. Normally, there is not a lot of rain in the early Fall, unless a hurricane comes through off the Texas coast. All these factors are not only in the favor of a big bass, they are in your favor, as well. It's a great time to take an extended float trip. One of those trips that takes a couple of night's camping. A trip that can cover as much as twenty miles or more of river to complete. It's a trip where you are in no hurry. A part of the purpose of the trip, in fact, is to slow down. Stopping at 4 o'clock to set up camp and to build a driftwood fire becomes a big part of the enjoyment. Listening to the Barred Owls while you roast marsh mellows on a gravel bar without a human sound to be heard is one of the finer things in life. Bacon, eggs and coffee the next morning at daylight with a river shoal running near by is perhaps even better. Fall colors are out, wildlife is abundant, active and you've got the whole river to yourself. It's hard to beat all those combinations, even if you aren't fishing! But, I'm going to throw in the part that adds whip cream to the strawberries! Plan your camping site at the biggest hole of water that you can find. In fact, plan your float trip with that as part of the purpose even if you've got to stop a little sooner in the afternoon. It's the big holes of water that will be holding those big bass this time of year and the bigger, the longer the hole, the better. Get your camp established, collect your driftwood for the fire and get everything in place. Go ahead and eat supper because when it gets dark, you are going fishing! Messing with making sure the sleeping bags are out and the air mattress' are up should already be done. Because all you want to do when you get back to camp from fishing is to poke the fire and talk about big bass! Now, let's discuss how you are going to catch your big bass! First you are waiting for dark. Moon or no moon is immaterial. Because you are getting out there in the dark, you need some preparations. Get your rods, reels, canoe paddles, seat cushions, needle nose pliers, camera, etc. lined up and placed in the canoe ahead of time. In fact I'd do it after camp is set up and either right before collecting driftwood or right after. You need a minimum of tackle actually. Two rods, two reels and a standard sized Jitterbug tied on each rod. Personally, I don't think color means squat for night time fishing; but, it just sounds better in the story telling part if it's "a big ol', black jitterbug". That part of the story alone will add two or three inches and a pound or two to any fish landed! Being quiet in the canoe is important; but, unlike what grandpa used to say, it's not catastrophic to make a little noise. Bring a flashlight of course; but, do not use it unless it's needed for some drastic measure of some kind. Now, here is the important part: Start fishing! Your eyes will adjust to the lighting conditions better then you might think. You will be surprised, actually, as to how well you can see. Remember now, there is no hurry. Assuming you are at one end the hole or the other, simply allow the current to drift you along or if going upstream use your paddle to scull or to move slowly and steadily upstream. You are out there, in the dark, after one of those big ol' bass...........stay focused! A Jitterbug is a top water lure and it requires no special action on your part. Your part is to cast and retrieve. You will HEAR this lure, more then you will see it! What you want is a steady, slop, slop, slop with the sound of the action. You will hear and learn the rhythm of the lure and you will adjust accordingly. Yes, because it's dark, you will hang up on occasion. Don't panic, just ease over and get it loose. Until you are VERY comfortable casting this lure, I would suggest that you simply cast it centered in the stream and work your casting in a fan like manner from that position. Now, all you need to do is set the hook at the strike and land that fish! Trust me, there is something primeval, something that sets the hair on your neck when you get a jitterbug crushed on top at night! The hit can sound like a beaver tail slap, an explosion, a blow-up of huge proportion! It's night, and you can not see! All you can do is react! Sometimes it's nothing more then a ten inch goggle eye! Every now and then though, it's grandma bass, boss bass of the hole, the bass that always seems to get away. It is the adrenalin rush of adrenalin rushes. Don't forget the camera...........with flash!