‘Tis the season when fish get wary.
They’re spawning in some southern states and might even be in the postspawn mode on others. Up north, the ice is leaving and bass are starting to nose around in the shallows.
In most of these situations, the fish are very aware of their surroundings and anglers need to step up their stealth tactics. You have to think like a hunter and put the odds in your favor.
Regardless of whether you’re fishing clear or stained water, limit the sounds you make, the vibrations you create and the shadows you cast over the water.
The trolling motor will allow you to sneak up on fish, but only if you do it cautiously. I run my motor at a slow speed and avoid turning it off and on. Sudden changes create underwater currents that can spook a bass.
I also start the season with a new trolling motor prop. A worn prop can throw it out of balance. A little filing on rough edges can fix that. Also, make sure no fishing line is trapped on the shaft that can create vibrations, too.
Tighten all knobs and screws on the bracket to reduce any unnecessary noise or movement. Set the shaft at a height where the prop isn’t banging bottom or churning on the surface. Otherwise, bass will hear you coming from several feet away.
I can’t stress enough how valuable Power-Poles are in this type of fishing. I like to use the wind when possible, drifting a few feet before dropping the poles for a few minutes while I scan the shallows. That reduces noise and enables you to get a good hard look at what’s ahead.
I keep the sun at my back and in the fishes’ eyes at all times, but especially in clear water. If a bass sees you before you see him, chances of getting him to strike will be reduced.
Fishing sunglasses are another must. I carry several different Oakley lens colors to accommodate a variety of light and water conditions. Oakley’s “shallow blue” is a good all-round color for seeing fish, but any light amber base lens is better than dark green or smoke. My favorite frames are the “Bat Wolf” model that wrap around my face and keep peripheral light out.
Hats with brims and hoodies also help block out any of the side light which hampers your vision. Remember, you rarely see the entire fish; you need to be able to detect a fish’s fin, tail or even an eyeball as well as any dark spots or scattered cover that could hold a bass.
Choose your clothing carefully, too. Avoid bright colors and stick to drab shirts, jackets and hats that blend in with the backdrop. Avoid sudden movements in the boat and keep as low of a profile as you can.
Also, if you see skittish fish cruising the bank, try casting natural-looking finesse baits well ahead of the fish and let the lure sit. Don’t move it until the fish approaches and only shake the bait slightly. Reduce your line size when possible and use fluorocarbon line anytime you’re fishing clear, shallow water.
That’s a tactic I used to win at Smith Mountain Lake a few years ago. Some bass were spawning and others just starting to move up. I threw a 1/16-ounce Shaky Head with a Strike King 3x Finesse worm and let it sit motionless until I thought the bass were in visual range of the bait. When I did move it, all I did was jiggle the worm slightly and they’d eat it.
If a bass is sitting stationary, cast away from it so the splash doesn’t distract the fish. Slowly move the bait within 6 to 8 feet and then gently ease it into his zone.
Not all the wary fish you see will to bite, but if you employ the proper stealth tactics, you’ll catch the ones that will.
Remember, it’s all about the attitude!