Monday, July 29, 2013

Kankakee River Smallmouth Action

It’s getting difficult to describe myself as a trout addict when catching smallmouth is so much fun This was vividly driven home earlier this week after a wonderful day of floating the Kankakee with guide Austin Aducci and fellow NIFT member Kurt Kopala. Austin, who has pioneered carp, smallmouth and drum fishing on the south side of Lake Michigan, has spent a considerable amount of time learning the Kankakee as well, often with Kurt in tow. Every rock, log and riffle is described like an old friend who has shared their treasures with them. They’ve fished the river through high and low water and alter their strategies to fit that day’s conditions…that may seem obvious but I’ve been with enough guides who just do the same thing every day, no matter what. Kurt had warned me that the top water bite was not yet in full stride so we began with big bait fishy looking streamers. I opted for a Murdich Minnow, throwing it towards the bank and pausing between strips to let the tinsel flutter enticingly. The bass ate it up. One of my first fish was a shade over 15”, a very respectable Kankakee smallie. While the Murdich continued to produce, Kurt bucked his own advice and put on an orange popper. They liked it, they really liked it. I stuck with the Murdich for a bit longer but by now Kurt’s consistent surface success was too much to ignore. I switched to a Chernobyl ant pattern we dubbed the “Sad Ant” because it was predominantly blue. On one of the first casts I plopped it at the head of a narrow riffle, where it drifted a few inches and then was loudly sucked in by a healthy bass. Not that big but he sure knew how to attack a fly. The temperatures continued to climb, though some wind kept it comfortable, and the fishing just got better and better. Now, it was pretty much top water or nothing, and nothing lost badly. A confession: I am not a purist. I really love throwing plug casting outfits, the challenge of casting a lure into a tiny, protected pocket; twitching it once or twice and watching a bass explode on it. Afternoon conditions were perfect for this and I closed out the float working an injured minnow pattern along the bank. Sometimes the bass would knock the plug clear out the water and then hit it again, even again. You’d think anything with a treble hook on it would get stuck every time, but I lost at least as many bass as I landed, and I landed a lot of bass. Kurt took top honors, landing a fat 17 incher towards the end of the day. He also landed a largemouth, bluegill and crappie, a Kankakee Slam (but he didn’t quite get the Grand Slam, missing out on a catfish). I have not fished the Kankakee in many years and when I did, it was not in the sections we floated. Scenic limestone bluffs punctuate the banks, chattering kingfishers and squawking giant blue herons greeted us along the shore and we encountered only a handful of other anglers. It was an awesome day, one I hope I can repeat again and again in the future. Austin is a very good guide-attentive to his clients, smooth and skillful boat handler and helpful when required without being intrusive. It’s easy to recommend his services. Check him out at Thanks to NIFT member Paul Melchior for sending in this article. Accompanying Paul was NIFT member Kurt Kopala who is Editor for a Tight Loop magazine.
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