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2023 found us relocating to a new home on a new lake.

Here we go, having to learn about the 3600-acre Woods Reservoir and the headwaters, the Elk River. A unique and exciting aspect of our new spot was the presence of largemouth and smallmouth and a well-kept secret for some true trophy bass! The previous year, Debbie and I hit the water for 120 days; this year, we found ourselves fishing for 93 days. Collectively, we caught well over a thousand fish and experimented with new techniques in different waters. For many seasons, I have journaled my journey in the outdoors, and it was even more important this year as we discovered places and patterns on our new “home lake.” Another obstacle was going from a river home, the Rocky River, to a lake environment. A combination of moving and extreme weather limited our early-year outings, but we pushed hard in late March.

March saw us land 88 fish and get a sense of comfort at launching in big waters, paddling/pedaling into new territories, and making mental notes as to fishing failures and successes. April provided time for ten trips and 113 more bass. Historically, April has always been a good numbers month.

Bass and other fish wake up to the need to feed and prepare for the upcoming spawn. May turned out to be the best numbers month (149 fish) as we put together patterns and areas that were producing. The shallow water bite turned on big time, and stump fields and lily pads turned into a bass fishing playground. June was a frog-fishing bonanza! Buried in the pads, moss, and other aquatic vegetation, bass exploded on hollow body frogs worked in heavy cover, many of which were only available to our Jackson kayaks. 89 fish came to the boats on 16 trips, and a bonus genuine monster nine-pound largemouth closed out a month that had us excited about the possibilities for July. Big bass kept coming in July on chatterbaits, soft plastic, and crankbaits as we moved offshore to deeper water haunts. This strategic move paid off with 83 fish in just nine trips. We also discovered the recreational boaters enjoyed the lake as much as we did. Safety first meant we, as usual, wore life jackets 100% of the time and worked to be highly visible and cautious in our open water crossings. The extreme heat of August saw few trips and fewer fish, but we managed to lip 59 bass.

September saw a slowdown as the transition fish and steaming hot water temperatures added just 25 fish to our total. October, which is usually trophy bass time, was a disappointment: windy and rainy days throughout the tenth month, resulting in only 11 (seriously) eleven fish. In November, we discovered the headwater of Woods, the Elk River. Slow flowing and full of downed trees, we relied on jigs, Ned rigs, and a secret setup, the wacky rigged Strike King Zero on a 3/0 Daiichi circle hook for three dozen bass topped by a six-pound surprise largemouth bass. Plummeting water temperatures in December had us bundled up and still catching 15 cold water bass.

Constants: Covering a little new water each trip, experimenting with new baits and techniques, working deep (15-20 feet) water, and focusing on discovering new areas. We took the same precautions regarding life jackets, wool, and wicking apparel when necessary and increased our awareness of details.


We relied on proven and favorite techniques to start and then introduced ourselves to new baits, techniques, and specific conditions, as well as areas. 68% of our fish were caught on jigs or soft plastics rigged Ned, wacky, floating, or traditional Texas rigs. 3/8th-ounce weights were standard for us. Five-inch Charlie Brewer Slider worm fish on 1/8th ounce lead heads proved to consistently provide bites under extreme weather and water conditions. The other “go-to” soft bait was the MidSouth Tackle tube, which worked on their “sickle” lead head and produced several decent smallmouths as well as other species. Warm weather and pre-spawn, as well as spawning fish, provided some incredible top-water action on the frog. At 8% of the year’s catches came a surprise: the Strike King KVD frogs. Leopard frog and black were popular with the bass and us. We ended up with ten bass over five pounds while frogging including a seven pounder! Spinnerbaits, crankbaits and buzzbaits each contributed about 8% to our bass fishing success in “23”.

We explored other area lakes and revisited a few of our old fishing spots, all while honing our big water kayaking skills.
In the works for 2024: another fishing book! A FISHERMANS GUIDE TO BASS, subtitle GOING FROM TINY TO TROPHY! Due to be published in the fall of 2024, an in-depth look at my views, lessons, and theories helped me to land hundreds of trophy bass.
As we wave goodbye to 2023, we welcome 2024, wishing all our friends a fish-filled year.