BassWestUSA - Spring, 2012, Page 78

Bass Can ' t Read

If you read several fishing publications, you probably figure you know more than the average Joe about the habits of bass. For example, you’re undoubtedly aware that bass typically spawn in spring when the lake temp is in the 60- to 70-degree range. Furthermore, you reason that once the water has warmed to 80 degrees, the spawning period has long since passed, and most bass have moved out to main lake structures in deeper water. Ohio pro Charlie Hartley knows that the spawning period isn’t as neatly defined as most anglers believe. “Every article I’ve read about spring bass patterns talks about the high fifties to high six- ties being prime water tem- perature for spawning,” he indicated. “Well, here’s a news flash:

Bass can’t read! Last May I was fishing a reservoir in the mid- South. The water temp was 80 degrees and I was doing what you’d probably do in water that warm, fishing offshore humps and ledges with jigs and crankbaits. But I wasn’t having any luck, so I decided to check out a shallow tributary arm.” To Hartley’s surprise, he spotted bass spawning around shal- low boat docks and in grassy pockets near the bank. “I put togeth- er a quick limit of 3- to 4-pound largemouth by sight-fishing soft plastics, and busted off a bedding bass I estimated at 9 pounds. Why those fish were still on bed in 80-degree water I’ll never now, but there they were! That taught me to never second-guess the fish, and to always check shallow water in the spring/summer tran- sitional period in case there are some late spawners.”

don ' t oveRlook the Bluegill Bite

Texas pro James Niggemeyer noticed small bluegill were sunning themselves close to the bank. He tied on a bladed jig in a bluegill pattern and whacked this fine largemouth.

Most bass anglers think bass eat mainly shad and crayfish. But in many lakes, largemouth show a marked preference for feed- ing on bluegill in late spring. “While bass are bedding, bluegill are constantly raiding their nests for eggs,” South Dakota pro Jami Fralick explained. “But when the bass spawn starts winding down, bluegill start to go on bed, often in the same shallow pockets where bass were nesting. When that happens, it’s payback time for bass.” Fralick demonstrated the effectiveness of a lure in a bluegill pattern last spring when we got together on a flatland reservoir for a photo shoot. He tied on a big Barry’s Bluegill top- water prop bait early in the morning and stayed with it all the way through midaft- ernoon, whacking a boatload of bass in the process. He’d first scout a shal- low bank or pocket for the presence of bluegill spawning colonies (their beds look like miniature lunar craters clustered close together), then would back his boat off and slosh the prop bait around the outer perimeter of the beds. Between jerks of the rod tip, he’d allow the noisy plug to float motionless on the surface like an injured bluegill, and the bass would absolutely cream it. “If they won’t hit a bluegill-imitating surface bait, try a flat, rounded swim bait in a bluegill pattern,” Fralick advised. “Just swim it slowly past the outer edge of a bluegill spawning colony and a big bass will likely jump all over it.” James Niggemeyer is a strong advocate of bluegill lures in spring as well, but begins fish- ing them much earlier than Fralick. During a photo shoot on a blustery March day, the Texas pro boated a strong limit of bass on a bluegill- pattern Strike King Pure Poison bladed jig cast tight to shore. “The bass were moving up shal- low, and small bluegill were apparently the only forage available to them close to the banks – I’d noticed them skittering out from beneath overhanging bushes when I moved shallow to retrieve a lure I’d hung in a stump. The water temp was still only in the fifties, but the bream were up shallow and sunning themselves. The Pure Poison captured their erratic darting motion perfectly.”

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Spring 2012