November 01, 2013
It wasn't the trip's primary purpose, but a hot frog bite left a lasting memory during a recent visit to North Florida's Bienville Plantation (http://www.bienville.com/). The folks at Ranger Boats had invited a handful of media types to demo their new lineup of aluminum vessels (http://rangeraluminum.com/) and while that deal went just fine, several of us found the Bienville bass laying the smack down on a bounty of amphibious morsels.
How good was it? Put it this way, those who've worked with me know how hard it is to convince me to put down the Canon and start casting. For me, it's usually more valuable to document the day's happenings, but after watching my boat mates tie into several big fish, all the while noting specific little "I'd cast right there" spots, I just couldn't take it any longer.
Click the image to see the photo gallery
The show started late in the afternoon of our first day. With B.A.S.S. Elite Series pro Jason Christie at the helm of Ranger's RT188 aluminum bass boat, we covered a lot of water seemingly devoid of fish until things got right. About an hour before sunset, my cast to the left of an isolated clump of cattails brought a chunky largemouth charging forth with bad intentions. My Strike King Sexy Frog got a good squeeze and the bass got his picture taken.
Christie quickly put his Booyah Pad Crasher in front of one close to 5 –pounds. This fish and three more in rapid succession each struck and fought like those twice their size. I'd always heard that Bienville's phosphate mining history had left a nutrient-rich habitat where bait blooms abundant and bass grow fast and feisty. No exaggeration there.
The next morning, I joined Bienville owner Dock Glawson and Christie's fellow Elite Series angler Bernie Schultz on the Ranger RT178C. With a long port side rod locker and forward bait/livewell positioned right behind mounts for three-across pedestal seats, this one's rigged out for crappie. That didn't seem to offend the bass – as we'd soon see firsthand.
After snapping a few speckled perch mug shots, we headed for a labyrinthine network of forested canals lined with solid weed mats just begging for a frog presentation. Idling through the canals, I frequently spotted big schools of sizeable shad – often flashing so actively that it looked like a lighted Christmas tree beneath the surface. You'd think that with all that finned forage, bass would have an easy time filling their bellies during the annual fall feeding frenzy.
Well, they do; but after losing track of the frog blow ups – many of which sent the aggressors to the boat for a lesson in humility – it was obvious that these fall bass still had a taste for frogs.
Now, here's something worth noting: At one point in that second morning's slugfest, Schultz looked back from the bow and said: "All three of us are standing on this gunnel and the boat is barely leaning."
That's saying a lot for an aluminum vessel. Ranger really put some thought into this lineup of metal vessels and injecting their innards with expanding closed cell foam is one of those key features that you feel more than see. Ranger calls in upright, level floatation and when the frog bite's on, stacking two or three guys on one side of the boat won't compromise safety.
About midway into our last canal stretch, we passed FLW Tour Pro Scott Suggs, who was exiting after shooting his own media stuff with one of my fellow storytellers. Schultz wondered aloud if we were fishing over "used" water, but he quickly noted that the absence of "frog tracks" – fresh lines cut into the surface of weed mats told us that we were working an untouched bank.
Also notable was the success of both standard walking and the concave-faced popping style frogs. Rambling across lily pads, either frog will make the requisite racket and commotion to anger bass into striking; but in open water, or plowing through thin layers of algae icing these mats, the popper works like a bulldozer to push its way through the gunk.
Ranger Aluminum boats are not the only option for chasing big bass and Bienville Plantation isn't the only place to catch 'em. But after two days of enjoying violent attack after violent attack, I'll forever rekindle fond memories each time I hear the name of either entity.