South Korea: A Snapshot of Bass Fishing and More…
By Bertrand Ngim, Ph.D. | February, 2017
It’s been a while since my last article on theBBZ and that was way back in summer 2016. From a work-life balance perspective, 2016 for me had been a jam-packed year that did no positive favors to my limited fishing schedule. Having been constantly inundated with work assignments overseas for months on end, I’m glad to have found a window of opportunity to bring you this latest installment about my trip to South Korea that I’m excited to talk about.
The Journey in the Making
My journey to South Korea literally took 15 years in the making. The notion began where I was in my dorm in college in England, on a US-based internet fishing forum where I’d been reading some articles about bass fishing in South Korea. Unfortunately, I couldn’t recall the source. Though the articles were short on information that anglers could actually use to plan a fishing trip to Korea, I was left intrigued by the images of big bass for reasons that, compared to Japan, not a lot is actually known about bass fishing in South Korea.
South Korean Connection
South Korea had for years been on my fishing radar, but the opportunity never materialized. Fast forward to 2016, I got hooked up with avid South Korean bass angler Mr. Kang Hohyeong whom I got to know and connected on Facebook and that was followed by an open invitation to bass fish with him. Soon after, he had me set up for an insider’s tour on some of most well-known bass fisheries in the country, a good faith gesture which I greatly appreciated.
Though the language barrier was initially a burden to me, as I could barely speak or understand Korean and Kang’s English was more or less limited, fortunately as anglers we both share the same taste palate for bass fishing and Korean food. Seriously, if it wasn’t for the fishing, I could travel to South Korea and spend a fortnight there just to eat Korean food.
The Journey Begins
My journey in South Korea with Kang literally happened the moment I set foot in the country. My first stop was the Shimano (Korea) shop in the suburbs of the Seoul Capital Area city of Yongin for supplies. I was on the road the next day, towards the South Jeolla Province in the Southwest where Kang had me set up to fish, from pressured reservoirs, tidal rivers and urban lakes to off-limits fisheries. Unless you’re fishing with a local fixer, I don’t condone fishing anywhere where it’s deemed off-limits, especially overseas where you might not be familiar with the law of the land.
All in all, I had a blast in South Korea. The bass fishing was awesome. The people were welcoming and open-minded with a positive attitude. The experience was truly rewarding and humbling. For those who are interested in bass fishing in South Korea, I encourage you to check out the short section about Kang and his services in the concluding segment of this article.
A Snapshot of Bass Fishing in South Korea and More…
In sequential order, here’re some of the interesting highlights and locations where I’d fished which I’ll expand a bit more in future installments to come.
My first stop was Gosam Reservoir, located south of the Seoul Capital Area city of Yongin. I was there with Mr. Jang, a multitalented K-pop music producer and business owner of the South Korean distributorship of Huddleston swimbaits and iRod products. Jang is also a swimbait fishing enthusiast and a good friend of Mr. Kang.
I was fishing there during the rice farming season in mid-summer. Technically speaking, it wasn’t the best season for big bites because of falling water levels and here’s why. Rice farming requires ample supply of water and Gosam Reservoir also happens to be the region’s source of water supply for the region’s rice farmers. Because of the constant, controlled draining of the lake, the water level was down dramatically. This rocky shoreline is usually 6 to 10-foot underwater. As a result, most of the prime fishing spots were barren.
Due to its close proximity to the Seoul Capital Area, Gosam Reservoir receives extremely heavy pressure, especially on weekends. Besides bass anglers fishing on shore and on the water, Gosam Reservoir is also well-known for multispecies angling.
Jang was fishing the rocky shoreline behind a boathouse and caught this decent size bass on a topwater crawler that is kind of similar to Raid Japan’s Dodge.
Angling pressure was extremely high on Gosam Reservoir that day, both on shore and on the water, and everybody was fishing really close to each other. One of the boaters saw Jang landing a fish, and idled into the area and began casting baits while we were in the process of shooting this image. However, everyone respects the others’ space.
Immense angling pressure aside, Gosam Reservoir is one of the most scenic places I’ve fished in South Korea. I hope to make it back one day, but definitely not during weekends or the rice farming seasons.
My next stop was the cover infested banks of the Yeongsan River delta in the South Jeolla Province, south-west of the Korean peninsula, a 200 mile road trip from Yongin City.
Our local fixer of the day was Korean bass boat entrepreneur Mr. Lee of M-Craft Marine. His factory is just down the road from this bank fishing hotspot. He directed us to fish some of his bank fishing spots along the main river.
The Yeongsan River delta is a vast tidal river system with extremely diverse conditions, and it was my first time on a tidal bass fishery. We didn’t catch any giants but fishing in heavy cover, both on the bank and in the water, in mosquito infested farmland was pretty intense. It reminded me of the fishing conditions in Malaysia where I grew up.
I was in South Korea in mid-June. The weather was hot and humid, sometimes extremely windy with rain in the mix. The air temperature was in the 80s and above. Water temperature was in the 70s.
It was the end of spawning season for bass and the fish were biting every lure that hit the water that evening, Worms, frogs, squarebills and you name it. I kept things simple and went with a Texas-rigged Zoom Trick Worm. I caught lots of small bass but nothing substantial. It was hands down an area with the best concentrations of bass that we’d found
This is one of the many manmade creeks that connect the region’s farmlands to the Yeongsan River delta.
I’d like to make it back there to fish the fishy looking weedline. It looks like a place where you might find an unsuspecting big bass lurking in the cover. Irrespective of my opinion, I noticed that the locals don’t fish any of the small creeks and ponds along the river. Why would they? The next image will help put things into perspective better.
I spent about a week fishing the Yeongsan River and other lakes nearby. During that week, Kang and I stayed over at Mr. Lee’s (M-Craft Marine) Portacabin guesthouse that’s located right next to M-Craft Marine bass boat factory. The guesthouse yard doubles as a bass boat storage yard for Mr. Lee’s buddies and clients.
The guesthouse rooms are heated and equipped with high-speed internet, something that you’ll find all over South Korea, even in the rural areas. Despite all the creature comforts, I still felt like I was in the middle of nowhere with nothing but breathtaking natural surroundings. It’s truly a part of South Korea that you don’t get to appreciate as a regular tourist.
Most of the local bass anglers fish the main river on their bass boats. Only a few of them are dedicated shore anglers.
Kang and I headed for the Yeongsan River tributaries on his Tracker the next day. We had some waypoints to cover and took off early. We fished downriver and gradually made our way upriver.
Even on big water, we couldn’t resists pulling over to fish some of the irrigation channels in between runs and even caught some decent fish.
The one thing that caught my eye more than anything was the water conditions in the river delta. Water visibility was, in my opinion, less than 6 inches everywhere.
Geographically speaking, we were less than 10 miles from the ocean!
We didn’t catch any giants in muddy water but I had a blast catching numbers.
This is one of my biggest fish of the day on Yeongsan River.
The muddy water area in the background is actually a carp spawning flat. I can’t tell the exact species of carp but they look like common carp to me. There were carps everywhere, some right by the boat. We concluded that bass were avoiding those carp spawning areas. Therefore, we took the logical decision to make a long run upriver where the water is usually clearer.
A fun fact to share, I caught most of my fish on recycled baits that were brought back to life using a gas powered cigarette lighter. My recycled baits might sometimes be discolored and lack an appendage or two. However, if you throw them in the right cover, I guarantee it’ll catch fish just like brand new baits. It is great way to save some of your hard earned cash if you’re fishing on a budget
The water was clearer every mile upriver. I noticed that the shoreline itself transitioned gradually, from flat and muddy to steep and rocky as we headed further upriver. If it wasn’t for the presence of current, the upriver section of Yeongsan River feels more like a lake than an actual tidal river.
We pulled up to fish a ledge beside a bluff bank where Kang caught a load of bass on his Strike King 10XD. I was a rookie that day when it comes to deep ledges in tidal rivers. I failed to get dialled-in, but the tidal river ledge fishing experience was truly rewarding, though I haven’t a clue what I was doing.
Fishing can be tough on the Yeongsan River, especially downriver where the water is usually muddy. There were days where we couldn’t even get dialled-in, especially during frontal conditions, and that coupled with muddy water conditions makes fishing extremely tough.
There were days where we’d throw anything from a finesse worm to a Deps Slide Swimmer 250 that you see on the front deck of Kang’s boat. Though I’ve fished in muddy urban ponds on many occasion, muddy conditions in big water is an absolutely different kind of deal.
There were times where we had to fish on the bank because boat launch facilities aren’t always available in lakes in South Korea. We’d actually found a launch ramp on Geumho Lake but was unsure if it was open to the public.
However, I had a blast fishing a ledge right off the bank of Geumho Lake beside a highway. You read that right. The ledge I’m talking about literally parallels a busy highway and it’s within casting range from the steep bank in the background.
Out of excitement, I didn’t shoot any images of the ledge from the highway. However, the ledge itself is visible from street level. It’s an enormously long structure that extends all the way to the barrage on the other end of the lake.
We covered just a couple of hundred yards of the ledge and caught a 5 and 6lb’er under an hour. My only regret was not having my swimbait setup with me that day. Then again, bank shore fishing 101; you could only carry a limited amount of gear when you’re fishing on shore.
I caught most of my big bass on weightless Texas-rigged 6.5-inch Yamamoto Kut Tail worm. Though it wasn’t the best bait for ledge fishing, it enabled me to fish the deep grass cover along the structure more efficiently. Though I had to fish the bait slow, there were less hang-ups and I could keep the bait in the strike zone longer.