I loved interviewing Kyle Clevenger. This guy loves fishing and loves fishing many of the same places that I do. His story about his epic evening on the St. Lawrence River is a must read for every bass angler. Keep reading to hear that story, great advice about fishing the Susquehanna River, and all of the other places Kyle catches largemouth and smallmouth bass.
You fish all over the Mid-Atlantic and the Northeast. What State are you based out of?
I live in Southeast PA. Truth be told, I actually don’t love the area for fishing. I believe I have to travel at least an hour and a half to find some decent water. If given the choice I’m headed either south to the upper Chesapeake bay, north to New York, or west to the Susquehanna. I try to only fish southeast PA if I’m forced to, or short on time.
I have to start with 21.1 pounds of largemouth on the St. Lawrence River in 45 minutes. How did that happen?
This truly was a magical afternoon, that I still have a hard time believing it actually happened. If it weren’t for the pictures, and destroyed Boyaah Poppin’ Frog I kept as evidence, I wouldn’t believe it for myself.
I had lost my job in late August of last year, and in an effort to cheer me up my fishing buddy said “hey lets go up to Clayton New York Alexandria Bay for the an overnight and beat up on some brown ones”. I reluctantly said yes, because deep down inside I knew I should stay home and hunt down a new job, but of course I went.
We left early on a Friday morning and arrived in Clayton around 10:30 AM. After a quick stop for some gas and boat snacks we launched the boat and started out on a shoal that he had marked from a previous adventure where he had boated multiple 5lb plus smallies. Remember- this was a brown bass trip, not a green bass trip. So from 11 until 4, so roughly 5 hours of aimlessly drifting and only boating 2 smallies, we both looked at each other and said, “screw this we are going for green ones in the slop.”
My friend had done some map study and wanted to check out this area he looked at on the areal map online. So we made about a 25 minute run almost to the mouth of Lake Ontario. That’s the only intel I can give you on this spot! LOL. We pulled into this bay that was choked with weeds and hydrilla. We started casting around to the heaviest stuff we could find, but were only getting slashed at from pickerel…annoying.
After moving through the area pretty quickly we worked our way back to a reed line that was met with scattered pads, I’m not sure how familiar you are with NY fishing, but anytime you have a reed line mixed with scattered pads, it’s a sure fire recipe for epicness.
As we moved in there was a small creek or tributary that emptied into this bay we were fishing so I fired my pad crasher along the edge right where the pads and reed wall met. Twitch twitch BOOM! A giant fish erupted on it. At first I thought it was a bowfin. The explosion was so violent. It turned out to be a 5 ¼ pound largemouth. I was stunned to catch a beast of this magnitude in almost Canada.
We threw it in the box and kept on the trolling motor. 3 casts later boom it happened again. This time it was a 4 ¾ pounder. I couldn’t believe it, in 2 casts I had 10 lbs. We were both speechless. On the very next cast, Boom, my friend hooked up with one that was again over 4 lbs. We thought it was on!
But we were wrong, just like that BOOM BOOM BOOM, 3 giant fish, we went almost an hour and trolled probably another 1000 yards with out a sniff. We were both scratching our heads. We had gone over the area several more time, but not another bite.
As we continued on we came to another one of these creeks that fed through the reeds and into the scattered pads. We both looked at each other and were like “ok here we go, its going to happen again.” Believe it or not we only got 1 bite from the mouth of this creek, and it was only a 2 pounder. We had been spoiled.
By now it the sun was starting to set and it was getting dark, we knew we were about 45 minutes from the truck and trailer, and we were just about to call it a day when my buddy noticed 1 single reed stalk about 70 yards out from the mouth of this creek we had been pounding. The reed stalk had baitfish jumping out of the water all around it. So he fired out a cast, and again instantly – twitch twitch BOOM! Another 5 pounder. I kid you not we went back to back casts on this reed stalk for 8 casts in a row and not a single fish was under 3.5 lbs, we caught fish until we couldn’t see anymore. It lasted for about 45 minutes.
I had to remind my buddy to stop casting before we ran out of daylight just so we could get some photos. 85% of those fish came on topwater frogs. The rest came on swimbaits. We both got in the truck that night on the way to the hotel and we said to each other, that may never ever happen again. That was INCREDIBLE!!
I have caught plenty of smallmouth in the 1000 Islands but have always struggled catching its big largemouth. What do you consider the most important keys to catching this area’s largemouth bass?
Before we go to NY we spend a lot of time staring at the Arial on Google maps. We look for dark water that you can just tell is matted up vegetation. If you can find that with mixed in lilly’s against a hard edge, like the reed lines I mentioned above, that is generally a can’t miss, especially in the late summer early fall. That’s what I try to key in on.
I know you also fish a lake down the road from me a bit in Pennsylvania, Lake Nockamixon. I hear so many mixed reports about the bass fishing on this lake. What is your perspective on the lake?
In your 1st question I poo poo’d southeast PA fishing. I would say Nockamixon is the 1 exception to my statement. Generally, if you go during a stable weather pattern you can catch them pretty good here. You’re not going to go here and catch 40 fish, but you can certainly catch 5 or 6 that weigh well over 20. It’s definitely not out of the question.
I find the best time to fish this lake is on a crappy, rainy, overcast day in either the spring or the fall. I love to fish topwater on those types of days, and if you go on an overcast day chances are pretty good that you’ll get to tangle with a Muskie.
Another place you fish is one of my favorites, the Susquehanna River. What general section of the River is your favorite to fish?
This was my 1st season with a jet boat, so I am still very much a river newbie. Prior to this year I had really only fished the Susky below the Conowingo damn where it empties into the bay, and once I fished it up in Scranton. But to answer your question, I spent most of my time this year between Fort Hunter and Duncannon. I’m hoping to expand on that this year, I want to try other stretches.
If I only allowed you to use one bait for the entire 2018 season on the Susquehanna, what bait are you picking?
Only one bait…. HMMM, I gotta go chatterbait here. I guess I’m a power fisherman and there really isn’t a situation where this bait isn’t applicable in the river.
I am curious about one of your comments on a post about the Susquehanna River. You started the post with “After a scary start…” What did you mean by that?
Great question, hopefully my answering this can help someone not be an idiot like I was. This was my first trip to the river, in Harrisburg, with my new jet boat. You could tell the river was high because it was almost in the parking lot at the ramp, so me, like a moron thought there was nothing to worry about we couldn’t hit anything.
I guess that qualifies me to captain the Titanic. Because we weren’t 5 minutes down river and I smashed into a rock flat out at 28 MPH. We hit so hard that it threw me into the console busting 5 rivets out of the floor. It threw my buddy out of the seat, bloodied up his leg and he lost 2 rods overboard. That roughly cost him $500, needless to say, he was pissed at me. Regardless of the water levels, I should have known better. Being my first time on an unknown body of water, I should have idled around a bit and not been flat out. Rookie mistake- BIGTIME!
I am also curious about your fishing of the Schuylkill River. How do you compare Schuylkill River fishing to Susquehanna River fishing?
I’ve fished the Schuylkill from the Delaware River all the way out to Reading. I mostly fish it in Norristown-Phoenixville, and then a small stretch between Limerick and Pottstown. The Schuylkill used to be fantastic. My dad and I used to go down after work and catch 40 fish between the 2 of us in 3 hours, but something happened to the river. I’m not sure what. Some guys blame the fish ladders they put in. Others blame the catfish. Now if you catch 10 on the river after work, you’ve had a pretty good trip.
Obviously the Susky is a much better fishery. I think the forage is better. The environment is better. It is cleaner. Just the overall quality of fish is better.
I think certain parts of the 2 have similarities, but that Dauphin narrows section of the Susky is just incredible. The way those boulder fields create eddy’s and slews and deep holes for the fish to hide in. There is nothing like that in the Schuylkill, anywhere.
The Schuylkill River has mostly just a gravel bottom. You can find some weed growth in the damned up areas. You would think they would be similar bodies of water, but they really are different. But hey when you only have 2 or 3 hours after work and you want to get a line tight, the Schuylkill can scratch that itch. I think it fishes best 2 to 3 days after a rain when it isn’t flooded and slightly stained. Otherwise I think the water is just too clear. I really wish I knew what caused the decline in the quality of the fishery. With all that said, I think the river is definitely on the rebound and making a comeback. Time will tell.
What are some of your other Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regional bodies of water to fish for bass?
Every year my dad and I and a couple friends all take a trip to Lake Champlain. This place is just simply magical. If you’re a bass fisherman, and have never been, going needs to become a priority. I also like to fish Oneida, and the Finger Lakes, Obviously the 1000 Islands and the Upper Chesapeake bay, I’ve already said those. I guess my favorite place to fish is anywhere in NY, because you can really fish any way you want to fish at most any of those lakes. And you can catch quality fish doing it. If you want to drop shot, you can drop shot. You can crankbait, throw a frog, or skip a senko to docks. Really whatever your strength is a New York lake can make you feel like KVD for the day!
Do you have any plans to fish any new bodies of water in 2018?
As of right now, nothing set in stone. We may audible from our Champlain trip and try some new water in Canada, but that isn’t a definite. We are going to Disney in October for a few days. There is a chance my dad and I hire a guide on one of the Harris Chain lakes, but again, nothing set in stone.
I told you Kyle is great. Follow all of his 2018 fishing on Instagram @kyleclev.