Sunday, December 28, 2014

Illinois River up and back

Tim with a football shaped spot
Just off highway 412, west of Springdale Arkansas is one of my friend Tim Hotchkin and I's favorite spots to take a quick river trip. The chambers springs access to the Illinois River is just outside of town and offers plenty of parking, and a small boat ramp for easy access to launch your kayak.

Rather than shuttle most times we choose to do an "up and back" trip. Paddling and/or dragging up river past the 412 bridge stopping to fish along the way, and then floating back down to the access point when we are done. Unless there has been heavy rain recently, the water here is not too swift to paddle against. Where the water gets to shallow and/or swift we always hop out and use a drag leash until we get to deeper, slower water.

Like most rivers, there is plenty of cover to target, and the Illinois can offer up a mixed bag on any given day. It contains largemouth, smallmouth, and spotted bass. There are some deep holes around both bridges anglers will go under if you choose to go up river, these can hold some good numbers depending on the time of year and conditions.

On our most recent trip (early December) the fish were holding in deeper holes just below some swift water areas. Water temps were still in the 50's, sunny skies, and there was a slight breeze out of the southeast. While paddling up river we threw a variety of baits until Tim caught the fatty pictured above on a small minnow shaped crankbait, but he had no more takers with several fish following the bait to the boat and turning off. We went through several baits before figuring out the fish really wanted something similar in size to the crankbait but in a more subtle presentation.

Tim spotted some small bait fish swimming near the bank and the zoom fluke jr matched their size perfectly. We rigged the bait weightless on a 2/0 hook and let the small soft plastic sink almost out of sight. Using a jerk/jerk/pause retrieve in the clear water we could see the bass inhale the bait. Even though the bass were taking the bait a lot better, the second key was being patient enough to let them have it for a couple of seconds before setting the hook. Otherwise, the bait was getting pulled out during the hook set.

Still heading up river we located a brush pile located within one of the deeper pools that was providing a nice current break. We banked the kayaks and really picked that area apart. Throwing the fluke and a small Golden's Bait tube the two of us caught several fish like the one on the right from that small stretch of river.

By the end of the afternoon we boated at least 20 bass, mostly spots. It was a lot of fun as usual, and we are already trying to plan our next up and back.

Chambers Springs Rd River Access Point

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