Smackin’ it with poppers, Brian Hall and a kayak

by | Jun 17, 2016 | Fluke Fishing, Striped Bass Fishing

Share This Article On…

There are big fish all around us. Up North, where Narragansett Bay becomes the Providence River, menhaden are filling coves and the bass know it. The best tip right now is to liveline a few snagged pogies and work the schools. It can be a crowded place, especially when the word gets out and a lot like work to get through the crowds, to find a quiet spot that holds fish.



brian hall hauls in another bass

Tiverton kayak fisherman Brian Hall knows this; he’s been working some off-the- beaten-path spots, having all the luck recently on what he said was, “really the best week of fishing of my life”. It takes a lot to paddle away from where you know there are fish and work to find a new spot that may or may not hold any, let alone bigger fish. And to do that at night. He’s persistent, using his skills, local water knowledge, and a kayak outfitted like a battleship. Modern fishing kayaks can be outfitted with electronics like fish finders and GPS systems, ergonomic seats, scuppers and for some, motors to assist arms worn out from casting. I thought mine was cool because it had bungee cords and a cup holder. For soda, not a beer. Kayak fishermen can now track bait schools, carry more gear, store more rods and, as is the case with Brain and some of his Ocean State Kayak Fishing buddies, store a warm pizza in a forward hold.

Brian has landed a few nice bluefish but lately it’s been all stripers coming aboard. Landing a 40” bass is a tremendous feeling, especially when you have rocks or sand beneath your feet but how about hauling in thirty pounds of uncooperative bass with a hook in its mouth and a tail for made for slapping. Best part of the whole fish story is that Brian returns his fish. The local bass fishery, especially for those larger specimens which tend to be females, have taken a hard hit over the last few years so it’s really refreshing to see fishermen bragging about the fight, the catch and the release. The whole deal is now the trophy, not just the fillet photos.  A tip of the camo hat to Brian for his skill, his amazing week of fishing, his calling it luck which I suspect it was not and for giving the rest of us a chance to catch one of those big fish he returned.

On the west side of the bay, even as far west as Stonington, Captain Jerry Sparks runs kayak charters in backwaters and salt pond coves frequently overlooked by those concentrating solely on beaches and breachways. The presence of menhaden, buckies and the first waves of silversides are reason enough for plenty of bass in all sizes to feed along grassy edges and piles of rocks in relatively shallow waters.  It takes patience, you have to move spots frequently and you have to understand how fish feed. Taking clients to fish in skinny waters also shows how we are not so much different than our prey. Brian Hall leaves the crowds and strong odds of good fishing to find something better in the same manner that stripers pass through a channel, leaving their beach running school mates behind. Bass are smart, they know there’s bait and less competition in salt ponds, they know herring are moving to fresh waters to spawn so protective coves might be full of them. They know they need that protein to spawn themselves but they can be hard to find on any given workday. Somehow they know there will be cinder worms in one salt pond and not another, while the kayak brigade floats patiently in circles, awaiting an event that won’t happen that night.

“There are lots of perfect spots where you seldom catch a fish”, Captain Sparks told me. He took fellow RI Saltwater Anglers Association member Jim Okon and me into some of his favorite salt pond spots last week, opting for his 17.5’ Proline instead of the kayaks given some light rain, grey skies, grey waters and a relentless 10-15 knot northeast draft that defied predictions from several weather services. But not Kelly Love’s. She could never be wrong. Starting from South Kingstown’s Marina Park, we steamed to The Narrows and to one of the Captain’s favorite “secret” rocks where we broke the ice, hauling in two very nice stripers, the largest measuring 24”. This was light tackle fishing, using a Smack-It popper with Lews reels on Falcon rods.5.24 jim okon&jerrysparks

“If you don’t have incoming tides, you might as well go home”; fair advice from a captain who knows these waters well, so we needed to get to areas with more depth. Heading away from Billington Cove, fishing was slow but there were small stripers there, most still wearing coats of sea lice. It’s a chess game, a game of bait and search, looking for a school of fish that were there yesterday but not today. Near Camp Fuller, the Captain instructed Jim to “Cast straight ahead, that way!” In just a flash of a cast, a sharp over the shoulder kind of whip-it move, Jim was on and it was a battle. Captain Jerry was there with instructions and cheers. Jim reeled, lifted the rod, reached to tune the drag, reeled more then muscled it to the rail  Captain Jerry grabbed ahold of the leader to bring in a fine 27” striper with a big 6” neon green popper tightly lodged. One cast, one fish.

Despite the rain and wind, we caught almost twenty bass and blues, we don’t need to revisit all the ones we lost, learned how productive small coves can be this time of year and how much more fun it is going fishing than to work. Except for the captain, who was doing both. Brian Hall found big bass right around the corner, Captain Jerry found fish right under our noses, Jim Okon learned he needs to buy a kayak and well, I took a lot of pictures. Someone had to work…






The Sporting Shoppe at The Preserve is proud to sponsor The Preserve Fishing & Outdoor Report by Todd Corayer. The report is broadcast on WPRO 99.7 FM & 630 AM. Click to watch now.

About The Author

Todd Corayer is a lifelong fisherman and occasional hunter whose writing relies on poor penmanship, sarcasm and other people’s honest fish stories while seeing words as puzzle pieces that occasionally all fit together perfectly.

His work has appeared in The Double Gun Journal, On The Water MagazineThe Fisherman, The Bay Magazine,  So Rhode IslandSporting ClassicsCoastal AnglerNY Lifestyles, The Island Crier, and very often in the wonderful RISAA Newsletter.

You Might Also Enjoy…

Rivers Running Silver

Rivers once ran silver with shad, herring, sturgeon and stripers; now there are calls to rebuild rivers and populations for the abundance our ancestors enjoyed and took for granted. This week, learn how we can turn the tide to support forage fishes and native brook trout.

Science never quits (even if you delete it from an EPA website) & fishing for data on URI’s Cap’n Bert

Joe Zottoli told me to be at the dock for exactly 8:50 a.m. It was very clear that details were important, like being on time. He’s studying Biological Oceanography at URI’s Graduate School of Oceanography, runs the deck of their 53’ workhorse research vessel, the...

A year full of characters, present and past tense

Each year it’s fun to reflect on some of the fishing characters we met on the water. Randy Julius is a favorite one, who left us far too soon.

Ice fishermen are, well, different

Ice fishermen are just different. They can’t wait to drag an old sled full of tilts, ice chippers, frisky shiners the bait guy swore were “jumbos” and frigid pickle buckets out to the middle of a wind-swept lake, drill some holes and set up shop for a good day. They...

Warm water means fishing is getting hotter

Summer is full on, waters are warm, September is here, fishing is hot and there are plenty of spots with lots of fish to keep you cool under the collar. NOAA has determined that July was the hottest month ever recorded. According to their scientists, “The average...

Consider sharing this article with your fishing buddies!

We appreciate you sharing the Fish Wrap with your fishing community.