Sketchy Boat Ramps, Unfamiliar Territory, and Smallmouth Bass

Author: Brian Buford & Kristian Cole

Photography By: Ryan Blair of GOFLYJA

After weeks on the road, the boys from the fly fishing film tour passed the baton on Costa Del Mar’s custom Adipose, which was scheduled to be picked up from Dallas, Texas before returning to its home waters in Montana. The boat received a longer than expected layover in Dallas, so of course, we decided to hijack it for a weekend fishing mission. When fishing Texas waters, most anglers do not associate a drift boat as the “ideal tool” for our large freshwater lakes. The potential humiliation of rowing past 80 thousand dollar bass boats forced us to think outside of the box, and come up with a plan to take her somewhere she’s more familiar, a good old fashioned stretch of “real” river. When you look hard enough, there are plenty of offerings right here in our home state as well as neighboring states.

After we wrapped our Bass “Gear and Beer” educational series at the shop, we were officially jonesing to hit the water.  Tools of choice were 6 to 8wt Scott rods accompanied by the Evolution LTX from Ross Reels, Abel Super Series and Scientific Angler Infinity fly lines. For leader confidence we fished the RIO Big Nasty 12-16lb nylon leaders. 

Upon arrival at our undisclosed location, we drew some funny looks from the locals who had probably never seen a drift boat grace any of their local waters. After a sketchy boat launch straight into 1200 cfs (a lot for us Texans), we were ready to pick this river apart in search of a prized “small jaw.” The name of the game was casting to shallow gravel drop offs and structure hoping to lure one into the open to eat. It was quality over quantity for this particular trip as the few smallies caught were absolute stunners and would’ve been envied no matter the fishery.

Similar to their cousin the largemouth bass, smallmouth feed on just about anything and everything they can fit in their mouths including smaller baitfish, frogs, and crawfish. Our fly boxes were full with a variety of treats, but the fish were more selective than we thought they would be. The fly of choice was a Bugger Changer created by Blaine Chocklett, a legend when it comes to fly design. In fact, all of our fish for the weekend were caught on this single fly. Cooler water temps forced us to forget about any chance of a top water bite, but made for some awesome “at the boat” subsurface eats. Leader selection for smallmouth is as simple as can be, again, most of us fished 12-16 lb leaders, with lengths no more than 8ft. 

While the smallmouth mission was considered a success beyond our expectations, the fishing wasn’t the only thing that captivated our attention. From the resident bald eagle populations to scouring the banks for long forgotten arrowheads amongst the gravel, this last minute scouting mission will become a recurring annual spring float. The next time you are thinking of visiting the same old spot that you know will produce, consider exploring new destinations historically off your radar, chances are it’s off other people’s too. Remember to leave it better than you found it when exploring new water, respect the locals, and practice catch and release.