Paddle up a Mississippi lunker bass

Fishing from a kayak gives anglers access to all kinds of great Mississippi bass waters, some that bass boats can’t access. Learn the basics here.

Brad Case maneuvered his kayak above a submerged channel on the edge of a flat and paused just long enough to make a precise cast down the break line. He worked the Stanley Top Toad rover the channel edge, but he never got it back to the boat.

Ka-Whoosh! A Neshoba County Lake bass blew up on it and bore down towards the bottom.

“That lunker bass just annihilated it,” said Case, who snapped his rod back and drove the hooks deep into the jaws of the fish. Try as she might, the bass just couldn’t escape. Eventually boated, the bass weighed 10 pounds, 8 ounces, and was caught during the heat of the summer.

Case, from Florence, is a diehard bass angler who switched to fishing from a kayak several years ago, mainly to escape the crowds and catch more fish. He became hooked on fishing from a kayak and has become one of the top kayak bass tournament anglers, winning several big tournaments.

Case’s best 5-bass tournament limit from a kayak weighed 26 pounds; all were released shortly after being measured and photographed.

While kayaks provide anglers with unlimited opportunities, they do limit how much water can be covered in a day.

“Kayak fishing makes us better anglers,” Case said. “We don’t have the luxury of run-and-gun fishing all over a body of water, so we have to choose where we’re going to fish and what time of day we want to be there. That’s what makes us better anglers, because we have to learn one area right down to the very twigs in the water.”

Unlimited opportunities

Kayaks are usually sleek, shallow-draft vessels made of fiberglass, plastics or polymers that can float in mere inches of water, making them easy to maneuver in shallow-water situations.

“There’s no doubt kayaks give you an opportunity to get into places and fish where traditional bass boats can’t get or dare try to go,” he said. “At the same time, the stealth factor of kayaks allows anglers to get within casting range of bass without spooking them, something that’s hard to do when fishing from large bass boats in the pads or grass.”

Kayaks allow anglers the chance to fish bass-rich waters that bigger boats can’t access.
Kayaks allow anglers the chance to fish bass-rich waters that bigger boats can’t access.

Mississippi is chock full of small streams, creeks and shallow rivers that are home to spotted and largemouth bass but are too shallow to launch a big bass boat. Some anglers may enjoy fishing from a canoe, but serious bass anglers usually prefer kayaks made for bass fishing because they are very stable and hard to turn over.

“When I’m not fishing tournaments, I like to fish streams and small creeks like Black Creek, Homochitto and a few others,” Case said. “I like to carry kids fishing in streams because they can get out and wade or explore so they won’t get bored while they’re fishing. There’s plenty of time to do both when the action slows.”

While some kayakers prefer the solitude of smaller creeks and streams, Case pointed out that you can fish from a kayak in most any lake.

“When you have a kayak, you’re not limited to launching at a ramp,” Case said. “You can launch a kayak anywhere you have access to the lake. That gives us an opportunity to pick out backwater areas off the beaten paths that are hard to get to in big bass boats.”

Case regularly fishes backwater areas on Ross Barnett, as well as behind the No. 7 sign below Highway 43, in Pelahatchie Bay and upriver in the sloughs and lakes near Ratliff’s Ferry. The possibilities are limitless, and the fish are there.

Shallow-water techniques

“I’m a shallow-water fisherman,” Case said. “If the water gets to 6 or 8 foot deep, that’s deep water for me.

“During May, most bass will be in postspawn mode and starting to feed and fatten up. Bream will be bedding, shad will be spawning and the bass will roam the shallows looking for an easy meal. That’s when I get my frog out.”

A soft-plastic frog is a great bait to tempt postspawn bass that are getting back on their feed.
A soft-plastic frog is a great bait to tempt postspawn bass that are getting back on their feed.

Case likes to fish frog baits around pads, grass and shallow cover.

“I like to find an active bream bed and work the area about 5 yards off the bed,” Case said. “The bedding bream will hit smaller bream coming into the bed and injure them sometimes, and the injured bream become targets for hungry bass. Lunker bass prowl around the beds and strike an injured bream as soon as they detect a weakness.”

Case prefers fishing SPRO frogs and likes to stick to the basics.

“I like to have three basic colors, including black, white that mimics shad and yellow belly colored frogs,” said Case. “Most of the time, I’ll do a steady retrieve, and that will trigger reaction strikes. If you start finessing them, they will check them out closely, so I normally want a steady, or fast retrieve.”

Case also carries a Stanley Top Toad, which features paddling feet. He uses it as a search bait, too, as it will also trigger strikes. If he misses a couple bass on it, he’ll slow down and work the area thoroughly before moving.

Preferred frog tackle

“I prefer an 8-foot rod with an ABU Revo Rocker reel with a 9:1 gear ratio, which lets me retrieve that frog fast,” Case said. “When you drop the rod down, it allows you to get the slack out really quick, so you can set the hook and control that fish. I want to get him out of the cover as fast as I can. I also like to use 65-pound braid so I can get him out fast without fear of breaking off.”

Angler Brad Case likes to fish outside active bream beds for bass looking for an easy meal.
Angler Brad Case likes to fish outside active bream beds for bass looking for an easy meal.

When the bite is tough, Case switches gears and changes tactics.

“If they’re not hitting frogs or topwater baits, I’ll pitch a craw, a do-nothing worm, wacky worm or a crankbait,” Case said. “I like to use a small crankbait with a No. 1 hook on it. Most of the time, I’ll try to get a limit of bass first with smaller crankbaits and then try to cull. Once I get five keepers, I’ll move up to a 2½-inch crankbait and work a little deeper for larger fish.”

Kayaks

Besides being able to get off the beaten path and away from crowded waters and bass boats, kayaks are relatively inexpensive and lightweight compared to a modern bass boat, which may cost $200 to fill up for a weekend of fishing. A kayak’s only operating cost is pulling it to the nearest creek, slough or lake.

The cost of fishing from a kayak is relatively low compared to most bass-fishing vessels.
The cost of fishing from a kayak is relatively low compared to most bass-fishing vessels.

“I use a Wilderness Systems ATAK 140,” Case said. “It’s a 14-foot kayak; I can lay my rods across the front so I can get to them easy, and they’re not apt to get broken on limbs as some are prone to when sticking straight up like some kayak rod holders have them. Plus, I like to stand up and fish so I can see fish move in the shallow water and cast to them when I spot them moving.”

Many shallow-water bites come from active fish that are spotted when they’re feeding or moving among the grass, pads or vegetation.

Top creeks and rivers for kayak bass fishing

  • Chunky River: Located just west of Meridian, the Chunky starts in Chunky and flows south until it intersects with Okatibbee Creek to the south of Meridian forming the Chickasawhay just north of Enterprise. The Chunky is a shallow river and perfect for catching spotted bass while escaping the crowds.
  • Chickasawhay River: This jewel is a sure bet when you’re looking for beautiful scenery and feisty spotted bass. The Chickawawhay runs south until it meets the Leaf River in George County. It’s the principal tributary of the Pascagoula River. The best bass fishing is found from Quitman to Shubuta by many accounts of anglers who regularly fish this river.
  • Black Creek: Black Creek is located to the south of Hattiesburg and is one of Brad Case’s favorite kayak spots to fish. It’s 21 miles long and features deep, black water, steep colorful bluffs and white sand bars. It’s a favorite destination of many anglers and kayak enthusiasts alike.
  • Okatoma Creek: Located near Seminary this creek is an ideal spot for canoeing and kayaking and also is excellent for fishing for bass. However, during the summer the river is full canoes and kayaks and may be tough to fish. Fall offers the perfect time to catch feisty spotted bass, however, and the author has caught many spotted bass here.
  • Leaf River: The leaf River starts in southwestern Scott County and flows south toward Hattiesburg. The area near Hattiesburg also has old gravel pits and offers excellent kayak fishing opportunities when the water levels is stable.

Brad Cases’ favorite bass lakes:

  1. Calling Panther
  2. Neshoba County Lake
  3. Ross Barnett Reservoir
  4. Bill Waller
  5. Jeff Davis
About Michael O. Giles 407 Articles
Mike Giles of Meridian has been hunting and fishing Mississippi since 1965. He is an award-winning wildlife photographer, writer, seminar speaker and guide.