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A Slow, Small Sequatchie Slam...And a Surprise!

    "Yeah, I just caught a.....(static)...inches...(more static)...rock...(loud electronic belch)....craw (dropped call)".

    I was already running late as I paddled the 13th and final mile of the Sequatchie. As I rounded the last bend, I saw two anglers wading a nice-looking rocky stretch of river. I was pretty whipped after spending the previous twelve hours fishing and paddling my way down the Sequatchie river, but Harold (HangnMoss) seemed to have a nice little spring in his step. From the bits and pieces I caught from our botched cell phone conversation I knew somebody had caught something noteworthy, and as Harold pulled out his digital camera I got to see what it was. Harold had caught a 20-inch smallie while waiting for me to get through with my float. It was skinny, but far bigger than anything I had encountered all day long.

Harold hoists a nice Sequatchie smallmouth. Not exactly what I wanted to see after 12 mostly fruitless hours on the same river!

    It was a Friday, and Harold had to work, but he was generous enough to meet me at 7 AM and help me put my kayak in the river. Harold also told me the lures that had worked for him on the smallies in the Sequatchie. "The smallies are mostly kinda small, but there are some big ones in here too", he said on our way to the launch site.

    Wanting to see as much of the river as possible, I opted to undertake a thirteen mile float, which is about twice as much river as I normally like to fish in a full day. With a little luck, I figured, I could fish fast-moving lures like topwaters and spinnerbaits and keep up a pretty good pace all day. If the fish only wanted slow-moving, bottom-bumping presentations, well, at least I would get to see thirteen miles of river.

A small Sequatchie largemouth

    I started the day off throwing my favorite lure: a white tandem-blade spinnerbait. The water was cloudy from a recent rain, but the grass and gravel along this stretch of river seemed to have a cleansing effect on the river, and it kept getting more clear as I progressed downstream. At the end of the day, the water at the launch site was still really dirty, with only about a foot of visibility. Thirteen miles downstream, the water was only slightly stained with well over two feet of visibility.

    Strikes were few and far between, and by noon I had only managed a small largemouth bass, a nice green sunfish, and a handful of rock bass (commonly called redeyes). I had a few smallies follow the spinnerbait, but so far had not landed any. I had paddled the kayak to the bank to get my spinnerbait unhung and then made a cast parallel to a rocky bank when I got my first really good strike of the day. I figured it was a nice largemouth or smallie, but was admittedly a tad puzzled when the fish continued to fight deep rather than jump. The fish turned out to be a really chunky spotted bass. I was now just one smallmouth bass away from a "Sequatchie Slam": largemouth, smallmouth, and spotted bass in the same trip.

My biggest fish of the day was this fat spotted bass that hit a white spinnerbait.

    The Sequatchie is a cozy little river with occasional shoals, riffles, and some slower, deeper sections. There is a ton of fishy-looking water and lots of trees, grass, and rocks that make great casting targets. The ridges that surround the Sequatchie Valley also make for some nice scenery, and the river was only mildly bumpy despite the low water conditions. I could see why so many people simply like to paddle the river.

    I suspected that the smallies were either just off their feed a little or keying in on crawfish on the bottom. After lunch, I decided to forget my time constraints for a while and methodically fish a shoal area with slow-moving, bottom-bumping lures. My suspicions proved correct as I set the hook on a heavy fish just below a small shoal. Unfortunately, a bad spot in my fishing line allowed that smallie to escape before I ever saw it. On my very next cast, I had a smallie throw the small 4-inch worm on the jump. My worst fear had been realized: the smallies were biting, but they were only biting lures that I didn't really have time to fish. I still had about seven miles to travel and only about five hours to get there.

A pretty green sunfish

    So I mostly paddled the rest of the way, stopping to make the occasional cast with a smaller spinnerbait, buzzbait, crankbait, or topwater lure. The rock bass bit willingly and I did manage three little smallies and another small largemouth before I reached Harold on the cell phone. I knew that I could've had a far more successful day by throwing bottom-bumping lures. Problem is, I'd still be on the river if I'd done that.

The final leg of the Sequatchie Slam. This little guy hit a small spinnerbait.

    Harold and John had waded for a couple hours near the take-out bridge and had success on small two-inch craw imitations fished on a small jig head. They had caught around six smallies and a dozen rock bass. I'll admit, it was a little deflating to the old ego to have fished all day without much success and find that Harold and John had doubled my smallie production in only two hours and caught bigger fish than I had. But my intention was to find out what kind of bass lived in the Sequatchie River and how to catch them. I found out, even though someone else did the actual catching!

More highlights from Harold!

    A special thanks needs to be given to Harold. He was unable to float the river with me but still dropped me off and picked me up at the end of the day. Harold also told me beforehand that the smallies get finicky at times and to try small soft plastics that resembled crawfish. The next time I float the Sequatchie, I'm going to float a shorter stretch of river, but most importantly I am going to make sure Harold can go with me. I obviously need all the help I can get!




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