The weather is a little closer to normal (cold) than it was last week. I should have known that it would turn cold as soon as I wrote something about warm weather and warm water. It seems like that’s the way it always happens.
Anyway, most of the fish are moving out of the creeks and more towards the main lake despite the fact that the water levels are still high. That means we have to change our tactics if we want to catch them. Let’s start by thinking deeper, especially just before and during a slight warming trend.
During that period, you might want to try a Big Hammer Swimbait or maybe even a crankbait. They have to get down deep, though. The fish aren’t likely to be suspended. They’ll be relating to the bottom for the most part. The Little George and Little Sparky are good choices, too. And I never leave home at this time of the year without a handful of Silver Buddy bladebaits in my boat.
When I talk about being down near the bottom, I don’t mean right on the bottom. Dragging an expensive swimbait or crankbait, a tailspinner or a bladebait on the bottom is good for me but not so much for you. What I mean is that you’ll hang constantly and break off several times a day. I’ll do OK because you’ll be buying more lures. You won’t be doing OK, however, because you’ll be out a lot of money buying the same lure over and over again.
What I like to do is let the bait fall to the bottom and then pop it back up a few inches. After that you can crank it along slowly with a couple of stops along the way to make sure it stays down deep. Most of your strikes will come on the fall so stay alert for that telltale twitch of the line.
Once the warm front passes the fish will suspend again even in the main lake. But it’s not like back in the creeks; they aren’t going to relate so much to the bottom. (In the creeks they like to hang around the channel edges and breaks.). Most of the main lake, suspended smallies will be out over open water — water that’s sometimes 50 feet deep, or more — and they’ll be lethargic. If you didn’t know better you’d think they were dead.
Under these conditions, your best choice will be the float-and-fly. The jigs are tiny and they aren’t moving very fast, or at least they shouldn’t be. That looks natural. It’s what the fish want. If you’re not into the float-and-fly, go with something you can present horizontally and that doesn’t move too fast. Last week’s column covered a few options that won’t cost you an arm and a leg.
Picking the right lure starts with understanding fish movements. Once you do that, you’re more than halfway home. Next week we’ll talk about how to pick the best main lake hotspots.