I interviewed Connecticut angler Jay Rayner. He goes into great detail about his Connecticut waters, largemouth bass strategy and kayak fishing techniques. Lots to read here.
You are big time bass chaser. What is your favorite way to fish for largemouth bass?
While I love the fast paced action of a good spinnerbait or chatterbait bite, or the explosive strikes of topwater fishing, my favorite method would have to be a jig. First and foremost, jigs have a knack for attracting quality fish consistently. Second, nothing quite compares to that feeling when you feel that “tic” and set the hook on an absolute giant. That feeling of satisfaction on the hookset is enough to keep me coming back for more.
I think what I like the most about bass fishing, is the challenge that it presents. The bass are always changing, so in order to be a successful angler, you must be able to adapt to what the fish are doing. There’s nothing more rewarding than taking all the pieces of the puzzle that is bass fishing, and putting them all together.
What are your top 5 favorite waters to fish and what makes them so special to you?
My all time favorite fishery is the Connecticut River. I grew up fishing this vast body of water, and while it can be stingy, it can also result in some fantastic fishing for both Largemouth and Smallmouth bass. Again, this all comes back to adapting to the fish. The main thing I focus on above all else, is the tide.
On incoming and high tides, the fish will move shallower as it presents more forage opportunities. This can be a difficult time to catch fish, as they tend to scatter across the flats. I’ve found that it is imperative to move quickly and cover water with reaction type baits. Once you find what depth the fish are holding, you can then follow them up as the water rises.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the outgoing and low tide period, can offer some great fishing. The falling water forces the fish to move a little deeper, and they seem to group up at more predictable locations. This is the time you can really dial in on the fish and I like to use more vertical presentations, like texas rigs, jigs, drop shot, etc…
Although I primarily target bass, I love the diverse fish population that this tidal river has to offer. There are days when you can catch Largemouth, Smallmouth, Northern Pike and Striped Bass. My brother and I call this “The River Grand Slam”.
#2 is another lake I frequent (lets call it “Lake X”) is a small 70 acre natural lake. The primary bass forage here is Alewife. It took me a little while to adapt to the pelagic nature of both the predator and the prey in this lake. The Alewife school up in open water, and certain times of the year, the bass form wolf packs and follow around the schools of bait. This presents a unique fishing opportunity.
In June and July, on calm days, it’s as simple as waiting for the fish to show themselves by chasing the bait up to the surface, and if you’re close enough, you can cast a Zoom Super Fluke as close as you can, twitch it a few times, then allow it to slowly sink, and you can usually hook up at a fairly decent rate. Not to mention the average fish here is between 2.5-3lbs.
#3 is Manchaug Pond in Southern Massachussetts. I used to go camping here when I was younger with my family. Although the fishing was never great as far as size, it still offered consistent action. It’s more of the sentimental value that puts this body of water in my top five. I spent countless hours on this lake with my grandfather, father and brother.
#4 is a 30 acre reservoir that will also remain nameless. This is my big fish spot. I can flip a black and blue jig around lily pad edges, or the countless laydowns that litter the shoreline, and be confident that I’ll find at least a 3 pounder. I’ve caught numerous 4 and 5 pounders here, along with one 6+, and my brother also caught his personal best here, at 7lbs 6oz.
#5 is Housatonic River. Between the scenery and the seemingly endless smallmouth, what’s not to love? You can literally walk through the river and catch 50-100 smallies a day. Not a lot of big fish, but fun nonetheless.
Looks like your main fishing platform is a kayak. What kayak are you fishing out of? What is your review of it?
I started kayak fishing two years ago. Its kind of a midway point between shore fishing and fishing from a boat. Hopefully in the next few years I can scrape enough money together to buy a decent bass boat, but for now the kayak will do. I currently have a Future Beach Angler 160. It has plenty of room for everything I need to take with me, water tight compartments, it’s stable and tracks fairly straight. The only thing I don’t like however is the weight. It weighs 75lbs, and the last thing I feel like doing after an 8 hour fishing trip is wrestling it on top of my car.
How many rods do you find to be ideal when fishing from your kayak? Do you have a usual strategy in how you rig the rods?
I generally take 8 or 9 rods with me at any given time. This allows me to have a wide variety of presentations and techniques. However, just having a stack of rods at your disposal doesn’t do anything if you don’t prepare them properly. I think I spend more time preparing for a trip than I actually do fishing. I’ll give you a brief rundown of how I prepare.
First, I figure out what body of water I want to fish, and study a contour map. I do this on my chart, and mark waypoints for areas that I plan to fish. Once I have figured out my general plan of attack, I then figure out what forage fish are available, as well as what types of cover (grass, wood, docks, etc.) are most prominent.
Once I establish these variables, I can then start tying on lures that best fit the situation. I generally like to have something tied on for every situation to remain as versatile as possible without wasting precious time on the water retying.
Here is a good starting point to cover pretty much anything.
1. Texas Rig with either a craw or beaver style bait, or a 10″ worm.
2. Eurotackle Flipping Jig
3. Strike King Crankbait that exceeds the maximum depth I intend to fish by at least 2 feet. For example, if I’m fishing 12′ of water, I would choose a 5xd. That extra depth ensures contact with the bottom.
4. Lunker City Panhead Jig or Chatterbait
5. Squarebill Crankbait or Suspending Jerkbait
6. Hollow Body Frog or a Walking Bait
7. Zoom Super Fluke or Wacky Rig
8. Dropshot with a Lunker City Ribster
What are the critical keys for you in using your kayak electronics to identify places to fish?
I like having a map in front of me at all times. Before upgrading to my Lowrance Elite-4 Chirp earlier this year, I was bringing paper maps with me, and basically trying to get as close as possible to the areas that I had circled on my map. But now having the chart right on my unit, it takes all the guess work out of it. I can see exactly where I am in relation to points, humps, contour lines, or whatever else the map shows. I’ve been playing around with the custom mapping feature offered by Lowrance and Insight Genesis, and creating my own maps of lakes that I fish a lot. This has allowed me to pick out those subtle differences that the default maps do not show, and has helped me locate more fish.
Having a color sonar screen allows me to get a better idea of what is beneath the surface. For instance, blue represents something of low density while yellow represents high density. This allows me to detect bottom composition, as well as the size of the fish that I mark. If I’m scanning an area that is mostly blue, and then I start to see some reds and yellows mixed in along the bottom, that subtle change could be the difference in finding fish. If I’m marking fish, I often look for the arches with red and yellow as that indicates a higher density return as those are often the bigger fish.
I see a Filthy Anglers shirt in a lot of your photos. What is your association with Filthy Anglers? What do you like about their company?
I am currently a member of Team Filthy. I like that they interact with their customer base, they offer comfortable and affordable clothing geared towards fishermen, and I like representing local companies whenever possible.
What was your most successful fishing day this year?
I think the best day I’ve had this year came on Lake #4. Back in August, I was itching to catch a 5 pounder. I started out throwing a wacky rig around and caught dink after dink. I knew the fish were holding around lily pad edges, so I set out to find pads near deep water. I started flipping a jig and within 5 casts, I had landed two 2 lb fish. I moved further down the weed edge and kept flipping, and wound up catching a 3lb 11oz, 4lb 9oz and a 5lb 1oz. In the span of maybe an hour and fifteen minutes, I had 17 plus pounds for 5 fish. Between accomplishing my goal, making an adjustment that paid off and catching a pretty good bag of fish, I went home happy.
That is a great day and these interview answers are so detailed and helpful. Thank you so much Jay. The time you took is definitely going to help Dock Talk 365 readers.
To keep an eye on Jay, follow him on his blog, jrctbass.blogspot.com, and on Instagram.