Don’t overlook transitional fish

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Kevin VanDam

Kevin VanDam

In the world of professional bass fishing, Kevin VanDam is at the pinnacle and arguably the best in the world.

Most of the country is entering that transition period from spring to summer, a time when finding bass can be tricky.

Anglers generally love to fish around shallow targets where the bass are spawning, and we tend to hold onto that pattern longer than we should. We forget that a lot of the bass are spawned and moving to where they will spend the summer.

In fact, I believe some of a lake’s biggest bass are the first to spawn and vacate the shallows. That’s most noticeable on bodies of water that have current, such as rivers or river-run reservoirs.

We also get caught up in the notion that there is a population of late spawners still coming to the shallows. Oftentimes, those provide a decent population for us to fish during late spring.

However, there also is a big group of fish – sometimes bigger fish – headed toward deeper, summer areas.

A lot of anglers – me included – tend to go out too far to find those bass moving into summer haunts when we need to look in deeper areas close to the spawning flats. On many lakes, the fish will find two or three stopping places before reaching and holing up on the ledges.

Those stopping points could be a creek channel that swings off the bank, secondary clay points, points with gravel, or sides of pockets. Not deep, mind you, but what I would call mid-range depth that is deeper than the spawning flat but not out in the deeper summer areas of the lake.

Finding these transition fish requires some diligence and map study. I begin searching from the spawning area and work my way out, checking any bottom irregularities I can find. A good starting point is where the contour lines begin to change from flat to steeper drops just outside the spawning area.

Sometimes it may be a very subtle break and is rarely obvious. One of the best temporarily holding areas is a change in bottom composition in that 7- to 12-foot depth. (The fish may be shallower in dirty water or deeper in clear water.)

The only way to find those sweet spots is to put the trolling motor in the water and fish a crankbait around those depth or bottom changes away from the spawning flat.

My favorite bait for this period is a Strike King Series 5 in a shad pattern. If the water is clear, I’ll use blue gizzard shad, but if it’s slightly stained I’ll rely on Sexy Shad. If it’s real dirty, chartreuse blue works best for me.

I’ll make long casts to the contour lines adjacent to the spawning area. It’s important to keep moving and cover as much water as you can until you figure out what the fish are using.

I can’t stress it enough that it’s very possible to hit an incredible school of postspawners in an area. Equally important to note is that they won’t be there long; if you find them in a tournament practice, you probably can’t count on them being there through a multi-day event. If they do disappear, look for them farther out toward the mouth of a creek or the bay in which they were spawning.

Put together this pattern and you’re going to be catching quality bass that other anglers have overlooked. Like I say…it’s all about the attitude!

Kevin VanDam's column appears weekly on Bassmaster.com. You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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