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Mild Dividends Paid

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Have you ever felt like the pooper at the party? Turd in a punchbowl? Like, when everyone else is celebrating and getting their groove on, you’re Johnny Two-Left-Feet and nobody wants to dance with you? Have you read enough rhetorical questions to catch the gist of how my morning was going? All before it got much better. Good. Let’s move in and on with the report.

First things first. Conditions seemed slightly better than favorable for a dawn outing this July 8th on the Severn River that would begin at 5 a.m. and end just two-and-a-half short hours later. Target species: striped bass on topwater. The week’s rain had tempered off for the last 24 hours; the mercury hovered around 74F (air) and 80F (water surface); moon phase at 68 percent waxing (I like a waxing moon); measly 3 knot winds were gently blowing from the northwest (good for soft drifts); and the tide was ebbing mildly. There was even plenty of cloud cover. This stacked up in my favor right? Perfect topwater conditions.

Calm, gorgeous start to the day, motoring at dawn in the jon boat toward the first casts of the outing.

I set out to my destination points—literally several sandbar points jutting into the main stem of the river—and had my arsenal of combos and lures ready: several spinning outfits (a mix of St. Croix Triumph, Premier, and Mojo Inshore rods paired to Penn Spinfisher and Battle III DX reels) with various topwater/subsurface lures ready to fly (Stillwater Smack-It Jr., Redemption Outdoors’ Smack-N-Shad, and Rapala X-Rap Twitchin’ Minnow). These are my topwater confidence baits. I also had several soft plastic/jig offerings ready to go. All things considered, I felt pretty good as I motored though the dark to my first location.

Topwater be damned, I had to resort to trolling soft plastics and this, an Acme Kastmaster, to get a few bites.

As the morning played out, small bait balls started showing themselves everywhere in the river. All around me. I’d head to a spot, drift through my target area, watch bait surface and swim, see topwater hits everywhere, but for the love of God, couldn’t get a bite. I popped my lures at varying cadences. I walked the minnow through the subsurface. I twitched, swam, chugged. You name it. Couldn’t buy an aggressive bite. And yet, another boat angling about 30 yards starboard of me was pulling up a fish here and there. What the hell was wrong with my presentation? I even downsized to a smaller Storm Chug Bug to better match the hatch. No takes.

That’s how it goes sometimes.

And yet, you see fish photos in this report. So…when things aren’t working your way, an entirely different approach may be what it takes to win the day. Plus, I needed to make way to home port as the day’s regular duties beckoned. So, I tied a jig/paddltail on one rod, and a silver Acme Kastmaster on another and set up for light tackle trolling across the deeper channel (17–25′ depths). And it was during this last half-hour of trolling that I got several nice takes.

One was a cute, little bluefish on the Kastmaster, which wasn’t much of a surprise as these juvenile blues have been infiltrating the upper reaches of the river the last couple weeks. The fun hits though, were the striped bass. Schoolies for sure, with the largest going just 19″ on the jig/paddletail, but fun nonetheless. Three other stripers took the Kastmaster for a short run (all about 17″ in size). A few photos of each, back in the water they went, and we had our day in the books.

Juvenile bluefish aren’t uncommon in the upper reaches of Chesapeake tributaries in early summer.

At least a few fish decided to dance with me at the party after all. Tough day that paid mild dividends by the end. Had I more time on the water, I would have worked the soft plastics around the deeper ends of points and perhaps hit the docks with the Kastmaster for lurking lunkers. Maybe even troll around a bit more. The fish are there; the trick, as always, is enticing the bite. See y’all on the water again, real soon!

Pivoting to trolling baits as the sun inched higher made for a few nice connections with stiped bass.