As our tournament season is about to kick off, I can't help but get excited. Late winter/early pre-spawn fishing can be the best fishing all year. I have a couple ways I like to catch them during this time of year. First, with a lipless crankbait and second on a spinnerbait. Both techniques are very effective, and I'll use them both almost every trip out. This week I'll discus lipless crankbaits, and next week I'll discuss using the spinnerbait.
If you can find them this time of year, grass beds are the big thing. A good hydrilla or eel grass bed can make for an epic day of fishing. Even the smallest patch of grass can hold quite a few bass. If your water has grass this time of year then it's a good place to start; find some grass and start fishing. Then find some more grass and repeat. Its a simple pattern, but it can be awesome.
It's a little tougher for the deeper water fisheries without much grass. The good news is since we know where they are going, we can predict where they will be. Last year at the Bassmaster Classic is a perfect example of the fish moving and us figuring out where they should be next. Just days before the event Lake Cataouatche wasn't wide open (like it was in the event), yet several of us knew that's where they were headed. Those fish moved in there just before and all during the event, and those of us who were in there waiting really got 'em.
Depending on your geographical location, the fish can be anywhere from schooled up on ledges and main lake points all the way to cruising the spawning flats. I usually start out on main lake points and work my way towards the spawning flats. Once you find them, you can begin to focus on specific areas relative to the spawning areas.
The vibration baits I throw most are the Megabass Vibration-X Ultra and Vibration-X. I stick to 1/4-ounce to 5/8-ounce baits . These two baits are super realistic and detailed, but that's only part of the reason I like them. The tight vibration that is created using the internal balancers makes it run perfect at any speed. I can burn it as fast as I can reel, and they run true.
For colors, I go with different hues now than the rest of the year. I like colors with red and black, real dark trout, fire tiger or chartreuse and black. It really depends on where you are fishing. On lakes like Guntersville, some of the Texas lakes and a lot of the Florida lakes, it's tough to beat a chrome bait with a blue back like the Tamamushi OB.
Line and rod selection is very important as well. I use 14- to 16-pound-test Sunline Shooter Fluorocarbon line most of the time. When the grass is really thick and I need to snap the bait out of the grass, I switch to 30-pound Sunline Braid.
For the rod, I think it's important to use a graphite rod. The reason graphite is important is because fish are healthy this time of year and their mouths are hard. The extra backbone of a graphite rod will help get better hook penetration on the hook set. The perfect rod for this is the Megabass Orochi F6-72X4. It's the perfect balance between overpowering the fish and under-powering the hook set.
I'll switch out the stock hooks on my Vibration-X's. I will go up one size and use the Gamakatsu short-shanked round bend trebles. These are my new favorite treble hooks, and they'll be on all of my hard baits this year.
Fishing the grass patches is pretty straightforward. Make long casts over the grass and retrieve it just over the grass. Get the bait to tick the top of the grass with the hooks, then when it gets caught up, rip it out and hold on. Some of the most ferocious bites will happen right after snatching the bait out of a grass clump. It gives me chills just thinking about it. I can't wait!
For non-grass fishing, mix up your retrieves. I'll start by making long casts across points or down the ledges or near any type of structure and burn it back to the boat. If that isn't working, I'll slow down, a little. If they still aren't eating it, I'll mix some pauses into the retrieve. Finally, if they still aren't eating it, I'll rip it off the bottom and let it fall, then repeat all the way back to the boat. I've even had days where they seemed to want the bait actually lying on the bottom. It's a transitional time for bass, so it's important to mix it up.
I know I've blogged about it quite a bit, so I thought I would update you on the run. Everything went great; we had a lot of fun. For myself, I averaged about eight minutes a mile for my 21.5 miles. I'm proud of Lesley and the Fish-Tales. Lesley ran 27 miles —that's more than a marathon —and the ladies did great. The group, known as Fish-Tales, is comprised mostly of angler's wives. Included on the team are Iris Robinson, Amy Murray, Becky Iaconelli, Robin Howell, Stacy Coad (Brent Chapman), Angie Faircloth, Bobbi Chapman, Le Ann Swindle, Tuesday Evers and, of course, Lesley Martens.
Next up, I'm off to the Harris Chain to get ready for the first Bassmaster Open event. My boat is there waiting for me, and it's never been in water. I'll go break it in on another lake before starting to pre-fish on the Harris Chain.
It's actually a lot better for the motor to break it in by running at a medium RPM and not do a lot of idling. I'll be doing a lot of idling on the Harris Chain, so I'll break it in somewhere else. I'm looking forward to getting back into tournament mode and getting an event under my belt before preparing for the Classic.
Don't miss my spinnerbait blog next week! Until then, check out this video from my visit with Greg Stump at Roboworm.