Tip&Trick Description 1:
A Day On The Lake with Kurt vonBrandt
By Steve VonBrandt
I know many of you have seen a column in Basssmaster magazine where they challenge a 'Pro,' to go to an unknown lake and they chronicle each hour with what the Pro was casting, where they were casting, and why, and see what they can do, and end up with each day. Most of the lakes they have them fish, are always bigger than anything in Delaware, and most of Maryland. They are better than our lakes to begin with, once you have progressed to the level of fishing where you can always catch some fish, wherever you go, no matter how notoriously bad of a lake it is; and many times catching & landing, some quite large fish from places where most people never even see bass over 3 pounds, and when they do, they think they are five. I am or course referring to here in the Northeast, such as Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.
So I challenged Kurt vonBrandt, of S&K Guide Service, to a day on a lake we will call 'Lake G,' in New Castle County, DE. This is a public lake that is within reach of Wilmington, and Dover, in about 45 minutes. It has a shallow, muddy, muck bottom, with most of the pads so high and thick, you can't reasonably fish them. Add to that, it is the color of chocolate milk, and had a water temperature of 62-66 degrees throughout the day that we were there. There is no deeper spot in the lake than 4 feet, in the main body, and the rest is all 1 1/2 to 2 feet deep, Everywhere that is, except for the shore, which is 5-12 inches! A front is getting ready to move through, and it rained the day and night before we arrived, for several hours. Kurt vonBrandt has a Spinnerbait, Buzzbait, 2 different makes and colors of tube baits, a Senko, and a crankbait rigged on 7 foot 'G.Loomis'and 'St.Croix' rods, with 'Shimano' and 'Daiwa'reels, spooled with 14-30 pound test line by 'Berkley 'and' Spiderline'. He has 2 spinning rods rigged with a 3 inch MisterTwister Grub on 12 pound test, and a 4' 'Centipede' in watermelon on the other.
'THE TAKE OFF'
6:45 am.-We arrive at the lake, with no boats there. We launch and start fishing.
7:15 am.- I decide that in a shallow muddy lake, with that water temperature, and the angle of the sun this time of year, and being that all the other fish were fairly active and large in the rivers, I put on a buzzbait, as I felt that would be a good search bait for me in the back, doing most of the observing and filming.
7:28 am. -Kurt vonBrandt is using a Terminator Spinnerbait in 3/8 ounce, double willow blades, with a Golden Shiner Skirt,: a bass swirls at the bait in 8 inches of water, but misses, Kurt immediately throws a Gary Yamamoto 'IKA' tube, right where it swirled at the buzzbait. He does this several times, but it doesn't strike. He said,' I know there's bass in this area now. so I have to figure out what they are doing right?' He then moved the boat into shallow water about 20 feet ahead, being extremely quiet with the trolling motor. He said, 'I need to see if they are on beds, or are making beds, or traveling together, and if there are any baitfish fry in the area' I questioned him further, while throwing the buzzbait and a spinnerbait in the pads. I said 64 or 65 degrees is traditionally thought of as an almost perfect temperature to catch some prespawn bass on spinnerbaits, Buzzbaits, walking baits,( Jerkbaits, if it was clear enough), Flukes, jigs, in wood/pad combinations; that should be deadly on these bass out here in the deeper pads on the edges near the channel, and in the mouths of little bays and inlets.
He said 'I think you are right normally, but because this is so shallow all over, and always muddy, and the same depth, and I think that because of this, the bass need to spawn sooner, because of the lack of places to do this successfully later, as the pads grow up so high above the surface, and are so dense, that it is almost impossible for the sun, or anything to reach them, in this 1-2 foot jungle. I think after generations of spawning here unsuccessfully many times, that they (meaning the guarding males, and the larger females), ' have been programed to just go on beds earlier than some other lakes, or even most rivers, but I think they are in closer to the shores, in whatever bottom is the hardest, and has the best water conditions, whether it is on the North shore or not.' I was skeptical, but we went in anyway, me switching back and forth between the buzzbait, Fluke, and spinnerbait as we went in through the pads. He moved into within 20 feet of shore, and was throwing a 5 inch 'Senko,' and a 'IKA' Tube, and a Spinnerbait.
8:10 am.-Kurt vonBrandt lands a 1 1/2 pound bass on the spinnerbait, he says 'It's a male' guarding or even feeding on what has hatched'.
8:15 am.- I hook a 2 pound bass in the pads on a buzzbait, the water temperature is 66.
8:30 am.-Another bass in the shallow shore mixed with pads and wood swirls at the buzzbait, but doesn't get it. It is too thick to use a trailer hook.
8:45 am. -Kurt vonBrandt lands a small bass on a Senko. He says 'They're in this area.' If I could see their beds, this would be easier.'
9:05 am.-Kurt vonBrandt lands a bass on a 'Sala Tube' back in 8 inches of water. It is 14 inches long. He says' Another male, I know these females are close, but all the area is the same. I think the bigger fish will be in the best areas, on the shore with sun most of the day, and some kind of wood mixing with pads and grasses.' He sees a Carp about 15 pounds, jump out of the water in front of the boat, he says 'Sometimes the carp are with those bass!'
10:25 am.- I catch a 2 pound bass on the buzzbait in real shallow wood,.
10:32 am.- Kurt vonBrandt throws a Rat, then a Tournament frog, in some unconventional ways, and Says 'I just had to prove to myself that they weren't out here in the pads'. He throws a spinnerbait in the area for a few minutes.
10:46 am.-Kurt vonBrandt sets the hook, and lands a 3 pound bass from the shallow wood on a 'IKA' Tube in smoke. He says 'I saw that move, I know they're in there on beds, or even finished!'
I said 'Do you really think that all the bass are in that shallow water, and some of them are already on and even off the beds?' He said, I have seen times when the bigger bass were on beds as soon as the water temperatures got to a steady temperature of 60-65 degrees, with the sun at the proper angle.'
11:45 am.- we work the outside edges of the channel on the way to some of the other shallow wood in the lower half of the lake. Kurt vonBrandt throws a spinnerbait, and a 'Sala' Tube into the pads. I throw a Chartreuse Mann's Baby 1-minus, no takers.
12:05 pm.-My arms are starting to hurt from repetitious casting, but I bear down, and keep fan casting the area. Kurt vonBrandt flips a tube into a tree in 6 inches of water, a catches another 1 1/2 pounder. He fishes the area hard for the females, but no takers.
1:06 pm.- The wind starts blowing harder, and it starts to drizzle a little; Kurt vonBrandt sets the hook on a 2 pounder, and says' That female's in here somewhere'.
1:28 pm..- We work the edges of the road, and dam with spinnerbaits, 'Senko's', and 'Sala' Tubes'. Kurt vonBrandt sets the hook on another 1 1/2 pound bass. What's that? he says, 5 fish at about 11 or 12 pounds? I say 'Somewhere in there.' He says, that's not good enough, I need a kicker fish now.'
1:55 pm.- I keep alternating between a fluke, crankbait, and buzzbait, but no takers.
2:00 pm.- Kurt vonBrandt says' I wouldn't have much time left now if this were a tournament, I need a bigger female.' He moves the boat into position of a large laydown, one of the few in the lake, and makes 10 or 15 casts down each limb of the tree. He says,' this is the spot, you just have to present it to them at different angles, and speeds, and keep bumping the logs.'
2:05 pm.-Kurt vonBrandt says' OH YES!', and as I turn, he says 'Get the Net,' I see the bass, and it is at least 5 pounds. He fights it through the pads with a 7 foot Medium-Heavy action St.Croix rod with 25 pound test Berkley Iron Silk. I net the bass, and bring it into the boat.
2:07 pm. -We take several still photos and video shots, after weighing and measuring it. It was 22 1/4 inches long, and weighed 6.4 lbs. It was a female, and appeared to have laid the eggs. The belly was still big though, so without damaging the fish, we forewent further inspection and released it. He said 'There's the kicker.' Now I would be going in with what, say 5 fish at 15 or 16 pounds?'
2:15 pm.- Kurt works an identical piece of cover a few yards up and lands another nice bass of about 2 pounds.
2:45 pm.- He says' If I had figured that out a little sooner, we could have upped the total by a few more, maybe some bigger females earlier.'
3:00 pm.- We leave for the office to S&K Guide Service, and get ready for a client in the morning.
Kurt is a great guide, and will be moving up through the ranks of bass fishing soon enough. When he was 18 years old, he had already won minor club tournaments, and the Delaware State Sportfishing Tournament, many times, and was reading and learning about bass, the other 150 or so days a year he wasn't fishing.
In 1999, we fished over 200 days a year, and guided a little, and started entering more team and local tournaments. Kurt caught on quickly, and won the 1999 Big Bass World Championship, placed 3rd and 5th in several other tournaments, and also won the largest bass that year for Delaware. In 2000, we concentrated more on refining his techniques in public and private lakes, and rivers, such as the Potomac River in Maryland, the Elk, Northeast, and Bohemia, and the Nanticoke river in Delaware. We also took a few trips to the Withlocoochee and the St.johns River in Florida, with some other trips to Stick Marsh, and some other famous, and not so famous Florida Lakes and Ponds.
He was able to figure out what to do quickly, and learned all I could teach him by 2000. He then entered the 'RED MAN TOURNAMENTS,' now the 'Walmart Bass Fishing League,' and finished 3rd for the entire year, besides winning at the 'Potomac Super Tournament' and taking Big Bass honors with a 5 pound largemouth! He then qualified in the finals at 'Lake Gaston.', and went on to win the 2001 Big Bass World Championship/DE, and competed in the finals at 'Table Rock Lake' in Missouri.
He also won the Delaware State Sportfishing Tournament again, and has caught, and guided to over 500 bass in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, and New York, in the last 5 years, that were over 5 pounds, and gained first acceptance into the 'Everstart' events.
He has been guiding again this year, while fishing some BFL Events, and some Team Tournaments, and still managed to find enough time to take care of the house, plan a wedding, and get married.
Look out for Kurt vonBrandt as I start to guide more and more, and he takes over the tournament end. Expect to see him having a prominent role in bass fishing in the years to come. I have caught my fair share of bass over the last 35 years, some just ounces off the State Record in several species, from Delaware to California. I have fished with some guys that were pretty darn good, but Kurt vonBrandt is a fishing machine!!., He also has a natural ability to read the fish and the water conditions, and he never stops. Look out, there's a new kid on the block!