If you find yourself talking to a fisherman discussing fish outside of their normal target species, there is a strong chance of coming across the phrase, “That is a bucket list fish.” Although I personally have yet to create a list of this kind, I do try to keep track of each new species caught, especially when they fall into the black bass category or the more specifically scientific genus Micropterus. There are about nine species belonging to the black bass genus, with one of the most remote species being the Suwannee Bass or Micropterus notius.
The Suwannee bass is one of the more unique black bass species to chase. They can only be found in a handful of rivers; six of these rivers are only found in Florida, and the other three connect Georgia to Florida. This leaves anglers who do not live in the area fewer opportunities to add this little fighter to their achievement list.
These fish are also not targeted or as popular as some of the other black bass species because of their size. They do not get very large, and to the unknowing angler, they just seem like another dink. A 14-inch Suwannee is considered a large fish, and the Florida state record sits at 3.89 pounds. Targeting this species is definitely more for the experience than the trophy.
I recently had the opportunity to explore Florida in the St. Marks area with a brand new Jackson Kayak Yupik. The Yupik is a wonderful kayak for exploring and had me set up to search the local river systems for big largemouth bass and the unique Suwannee bass. All I had left to do was fish these beautiful river systems.
These Florida rivers presented a different world to me. I had never fished anything like them. The water was crystal clear with thick vegetation that can put a huge mental block on an angler. Luckily, I wasn’t just a floater in the water–I had an advantage. I had a local master and wonderful teammate/friend to guide me into this new situation. This kayak angler was none other than Jean Wilson. After a couple of hours of struggling and being stubborn, I decided to stop being comfortable using techniques that weren’t working and start listening to what Miss Jean suggested. This advice, however, I think I’ll keep to myself.
With this new technique loaded up, it did not take long to start finding some action. Within 15 minutes, I put a couple small largemouth bass is the Yupik. They were not Floridian giants, but they did boost my confidence. The next round of excitement came and went in a flash. I saw a flash of a largemouth turn on my lure, estimated at 4-6 pounds, and set the hook, only to be given a very hard drag pull because I forgot to reset some settings from a previous trip on the saltier fisheries in St. Marks.
Moving on and recovering from my mistake, I continued to work the river. Approaching an island, I pitched my lure into a tight space between the vegetation and the tree roots on the island. Immediately there was a tap tap tap on the lure but not a full bite. I quickly replaced the lure in the same spot and received a much harder hit. With a swift hook set and mild fight, I pulled my first Suwannee bass into my kayak.
Although I was searching for my personal best largemouth, I would not pass up the opportunity to catch a Suwannee. This completes a sidequest of trying to fill out the black bass species. I have never brought this goal to the forefront of my mind, but after exploring these amazing rivers and catching a Suwannee, I may have to reapproach my hunt for filling out the black bass species list.
-Submitted by Ken Morris