Every time I have gone to the Devils River in Southwest Texas I am amazed. The scenery is really something that I enjoy, as the rugged hills and cliffs with hardly any trees at all make an extreme contrast to the Devils River. The Devils River is where you will find any trees in this region of Texas, as most of the landscape is covered in cactus and Texas Sagebrush. This is why I love fishing the Devils River so much, it is just a extremely unique and enjoyable place to visit.
Before summer really started to heat up, Texas had been receiving record rainfalls and extreme thunderstorms. I knew that it had rained in the basin that feeds the Devils River approximately 2-3 weeks before I went, so there was a chance that the water would either be crystal clear or still flushing out some of the silt suspended in the water. I was hoping for the water to be crystal clear so that I could do some snorkeling, but unfortunately the water had a lot of silt suspended in it. The good news is that the water still had descent visibility and because it was not quite as clear there would be much better fishing.
The first day on the Devils River I started fishing after lunch time. It was extremely hot and the sun was really baking. It didn't take terribly long before I hooked into a small bass though. Using a 4 in white grub with a 3/16 oz. grub I managed to land my first bass right by a large boulder in the water. It wasn't a very big bass, but it was fun to catch and fought hard like all Devils River bass do. I moved along towards Dolan Falls without catching too much, just a few bass between me and my dad, most of which were right around a pound. Right before the river forms into a small rapid before Dolan Falls was were the action really heated up. I found a small pool of water that was hidden behind some vegetation and casted a small crankbait into it. Within a few seconds I got a good hit and was reeling in a nice bass. Just as fast as I hooked this bass it broke my line off. This was partly because I only had on six pound monofilament and there was a lot of vegetation for bass to break me off in. I tied on another lure and casted into another good section of water only for a reenactment of the previous encounter. I had a nice 2-3 pound bass that broke off in a matter of seconds. It was pretty disappointing for this to happen, especially with good bass, but this is why fishing is somewhat addicting. I knew using six pound test was risky, but I felt like it was the best line for the water. I decided to change my mind and use my baitcaster with thirty pound test on it - I didn't catch much. This is where you reach the point of always second guessing yourself. Should I stay with my six pound test and finesse fish even though there is some structure around, or should I go heavy and fish the weeds? Well, after a third break off from a huge bass in a crystal clear region of the river due to a spring I was really debating what to do. I threw my topwater frog as night was closing in and finally caught a nice Smallmouth Bass along with good sized Largemouth. This was really a good feeling after losing some nice fish and it lifted my spirit up some. I did not continue the success though as the light was fading. I saw a big bass that was in clear water and I threw a weightless Rage Tail Space Monkey at him. As the lure fell slowly in the water I saw a flash from the big bass and it swallowed my lure. I set the hook really hard and I was in a fight. I had him on my line for about thirty seconds. Then all of a sudden he just came off of the hook. I couldn't believe it. I lost another big bass. The sun came down for that day and I went to my tent with some decisions to make.
I really liked the success I was having with my spinning rod matched with six pound line, but it was aggravating to lose so many good bass. The key factor in using this setup was so I could throw some lighter weight soft plastics in a finesse manner. Finesse fishing is crucial when the heat of summer comes into play as it can get some lethargic bass really active. However, I had some success with my topwater frog and definitely wasn't worried about my line breaking. I decided to go ahead and stick with my finesse setup for the following morning, but start off the day with my baitcaster so I could throw a topwater frog and see how everything played out.
I woke up early the next day and found some great conditions for topwater. The sky was cloudy and the temperature was slightly cool - meaning 90 degrees instead of 105, but trust me 90 degree weather felt awesome. Soon enough my topwater Strike King frog landed some nice bass. After a while I switched to my finesse rod. I made some adjustments the previous night to give me more of an advantage. I loosened up my drag just a little, put on some fresh line and put on a Texas Rig setup for a Rage Tail Space Monkey. I was hoping that this would be the ticket. Sure enough I landed a nice bass within a few casts. The tip of my rod really helped my out as I felt a tiny bite on the end of my line. I was debating if it was just a small perch but went ahead and set the hook. It was a good decision as a nice bass was on my line.
My dad was throwing a small Rooster Tail in order to cover some different areas of the water column. It worked great as I would get a small bite and tell my dad to throw where I was and he would get hooked up. Sometimes he would get a strike, but not a very aggressive one, and I would cast where he was at to catch a bass. This is a great technique if you have two people fishing, as I think you will catch much more fish and have a lot more success due to casting different lures and reaching different areas of the water column. As an example, my dad hooked a Largemouth Bass and right as he was getting to land his bass I hooked one. It just goes to show that you can come close to predicting fish, but even when you think they should be deep they can also be shallow and vice versa.
Within an hour or two I would say me and my dad caught about thirty bass. Most of which were about 1-1.5 pounds, but there were some 2-3 pounders mixed in. One bass that was really fun for me was a 5 pounder that I caught on my Space Monkey. I casted near a ledge with a drop off and worked my Space Monkey when I suddenly felt a thump and noticed my line was swimming off slowly. I reeled in any slack line and set the hook as hard as I could. I had a giant! The setup I was using really made it fun because it was a 6' 4" medium light action rod that I just recently picked up for some finesse fishing. It really let me fight the fish and enjoy the action. After about a minute I got the bass to my Jackson Kayak Big Tuna and brought him aboard. It was a great bass and measured almost 21" long. My Bending Branches Angler Ace made it easy to measure this bass because of the integrated ruler on the paddle. In my opinion any bass over 18" is pretty big, so catching a 21" Largemouth on the Devils River was an awesome accomplishment. Although I have caught bigger bass elsewhere in Texas, this was my record bass for the Devils River. My dad also had some success with an even smaller finesse rod - a 5' 6" light action spinning set up for throwing small Rooster Tails, crankbaits and soft plastics. He landed a nice two pound bass which fought incredibly hard. I would have to say that it fought like a 3-4 pound bass from what I was seeing, and because my dad was using such a light setup with four pound test it made the fight pretty long and action packed.
Throughout the course of the rest of the day I kept fishing my Space Monkey and my dad with some Rooster Tails and a Strike King Pond Minnow. We caught a lot more fish that were around 1-2 pounds, but no more giants. We did however discover something that we hadn't on our past trips to the Devils River. Along the side of a giant cliff was literally multiple taps of spring water gushing out of the side of some rock. It was awesome and the water was unbelievably clear in these sections. This is really a big part of why I enjoy kayak fishing so much. You would never be able to reach these areas without a kayak or canoe and kayaking lets you get so much closer to some unique areas that not too many people get to see. Even though catching a five pound bass and a two pound bass for my dad on a small spinning rod was a blast, it was incredible to see so much clean water coming into the river for the first time.
After exploring some of the springs and taking a lunch break, the sun really came out of the cloudy sky. It quickly dissolved any clouds in the sky and made its presence known. Once this happened it became pretty difficult to land some nice bass. More than anything it just got extremely hot and almost dangerous because of how quickly me and my dad were getting burnt. Sunscreen wasn't doing much and there was only so many times you could keep jumping in the water to cool off. Luckily I had my Klean Kanteen water bottles with me that do an unbelievable job at keeping beverages at a desired temperature. My Insulated 20 oz. and Classic Insulated 20 oz. really made the weather somewhat bearable. Eventually we went ahead and made the decision to call it a day a little early though for the sake of our skin turning into jerky. After all, we definitely had a days worth of action for catching fish and discovering spring water.
This trip to the Devils River was like any other trip I had taken before - unpredictable, different every time you go, and always a blast. It was almost weird to see the Devils River not having crystal clear water, but nature has a little more control over that than I do. Having the silt in the water actually provided better fishing than usual though. If you would like to see more on the Devils River and kayak fishing Texas, please go to www.texaskayakfisher.com.