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Late Summer Kayak for Smallmouth

It is late August in north central Minnesota and the mild summer has finally turned hot during these dog days. Temperatures in the 90’s with high humidity is normally weather I despise, unless I have a smallmouth river trip scheduled! 

Typically hot weather coincides with hot river fishing and slow lake fishing as we move through August. Things can start to pick up in the lakes in the early September transition time when the water begins to cool and as the days get shorter. 

The river is very low, common for this time of year. We got cheated out of about two months of Mississippi River fishing with high cloudy water due to heavy rains in June. The water has just dropped to fishable levels within the last 3 – 4 weeks. 

I have an 8 foot Crow Wing Kayak made for fishing and not speed. It has a flat bottom for added stability and can actually fit in the back of my Suburban! 

With the temperature in the low 90’s and the humidity about the same level, I dropped into the upper Mississippi yesterday evening for a couple hour float. I brought both a spinning  and fly rod. At times, it’s far easier to cast a spinning set up than throw flyline, so I bring both. 

In addition, we have seen fish show a definite preference for either a larger topwater plug-like lure over a fly, and vice versa, through the years. That’s the other reason I bring both set ups. At times it’s nice to take a break from fly casting and it is easier to cast long distances with a spinning outfit. 

The kayak has rod holder holes and storage for other items. I also bring an anchor along. 


The first smallmouth hit a Chug Bug – blue top with a silver belly – the standard this summer. Fighting a fish in a kayak is a blast since the fish can literally pull you around, especially in a short kayak. This fish went 19 inches (taped) and was incredibly strong with several nice jumps to top off the actions. 

I switched over to a Murdich Minnow variant with a gold hue similar to the one at right, but with gold dubbing on inner body.

I threw into a notch between some large rocks along a rocky shoreline and BAM! The smallmouth rocketed out of the water and it looked big. I double set and hung on for the ride. The fish turned the kayak hither and yon as our disjointed floatilla towed through the sultry afternoon.             

The smallmouth would tape out at 20 inches, one of my largest of the year and was truly built like a fullback. These upper Mississippi smallmouth are shaped more like lake fish – more football shaped than the fusiform smallmouth we typically encounter in the big river south of St. Cloud, MN. 

I only managed one more 17 incher on a Flat-Bellied Popper. These unique body styles feature a flat ventral or bottom to the popper opening up the gap for a better, more solid hook-ups.

While I didn’t catch a lot of fish, the quality was very memorable. The fish fought exceedingly hard and the extra dimension of being in a light watercraft added to the fun. 

But the leaves are already starting to change signalling one of the finest times of the year to be on the water if approaching – autumn!

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