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My First Suwannee Bass

For a guy that likes to chase bass from a kayak, I’m not sure there’s any place to live better than Georgia. Sure, California puts up bigger spots and Florida puts up bigger largemouth, but when it comes to bass diversity, Georgia wins, hands down. See, we have ten recognized species of bass here in Georgia – that’s right, ten.Of course, we’ve got the big three I’m sure you know – largemouth, smallmouth and spotted (both Kentucky and Alabama) and if you’re friends with any Georgia angler, you’ve likely heard about our beloved Shoal bass as well. Well that’s only four of the ten species we can chase down here. The rest are smaller, localized species of bass, at one time collectively called Redeye bass.

Thanks to advances in scientific testing, we now know that what was once thought was one species spread out across the state is actually six genetically distinct species. In addition to the Redeye or Coosa bass as it’s also known, we know have the Altamaha, Bartram’s, Chattahoochee, Suwannee, and Tallapoosa bass to chase. Most of these species live in different watersheds spread out across the state, which can make for some great adventures chasing them. One of these adventures for me was Saturday May 5th when I went in search of my first Suwannee bass.

Suwannee bass are only found in three rivers in Georgia – the Alapaha, Ochlockonee, and Withlacoochee Rivers – all of which flow from the southern central part of Georgia into Florida. From my house in Atlanta, these rivers are all about 250 miles away, just about as far from home as I can get while staying in the Peach State. My first alarm went off at 3:30am and I was on the road by 5am, for the straight shot down I-75 to the Withlacoochee.

I was at the ramp by 8:30 and on the water shortly after, headed up river, to meet a friend that had already launched. I caught up with him about 15 minutes up river and we started paddling up river to the water we wanted to fish. We hit a few spots on the way, producing a few missed fish for me and a gar for my friend. After heading up river nearly two miles, we came to a small shoal and started hitting the water hard.

After working the tailrace of the shoal with no luck, I climbed out of my Coosa HD and attached the clip from my kayak leash to my PFD. I fished my way through the shoal, hitting the down-shoal deep pockets first, then the riffles, then the pools in front for the shoal. No bites. I got to the top of the shoal and decided to cast along the shoreline by a laydown.

My first cast was just above the laydown as planned. My lure drifted just outside my target but no luck. I reeled back in and shot a second cast my target. This cast was off-target, landing two feet down river from the laydown so I quickly reeled back in for a third cast. This cast hit right in the middle of the laydown and dropped into the water column. As soon as my lure started falling, I felt that familiar “tick” on the line and immediately set the hook. After a surprisingly strong fight that included a nice run down river, I found a solid 12.5” Suwannee bass in my net and my mission accomplished.