April showers bring more than May flowers. They also jump-start some of the best bass fishing of the year, says former Bassmaster Classic Champion Mark Davis of Mt. Ida, Ark. When sudden rainfall washes into the backs of pockets and tributary creeks, the fishing can turn on quickly, and for a few hours or days thereafter, this will be the best bassin' opportunity on the lake.
Davis remembers a BASS tournament several years back on Table Rock Lake, Mo., that illustrates this. "It was early spring. I'd had a good practice and found a couple of patterns that were working. However, the night before the tournament started, a 5-inch rain fell, and everything changed. I decided to scrap my earlier game plan and target run-ins instead. By finding areas with the right water color, I also found active bass. I had to move and make several adjustments as the tournament progressed, but doing so allowed me to stay on the fish, and I wound up in first place."
Davis says a heavy spring rain causes several positive changes in a lake. It washes new "color" into creeks and pockets. A warm rain can raise the water temperature a few degrees where the rainwater is flushing in. It can flood new areas, and it can draw minnows and other forage into the fresh water. All of these changes cause bass to congregate and feed, and they are why anglers should give run-ins a try when rains come in April.
Davis states that success at fishing run-ins depends mostly on finding the right water clarity. "I hunt for water that's stained but not muddy. I like water visibility that's 4 to 12 inches. I've learned from experience that this is the best range for bass to feed actively in a run-in situation."
To find run-ins with this water clarity, Davis first does some analysis. "I weigh two factors: what type of lake I'm on, whether it's a clear upland lake or a stained lowland lake; and how much rain has fallen," he explains.
"Say I'm on a clear upland lake, and the rain has been sudden and heavy. I might start out looking at the bigger creeks. I'll head to the very backs of these creeks where the fresh water is washing in, and I'll check the water clarity. If it's in the right range, I'll fish it. But if it's too muddy, I'll relocate to smaller pockets that don't get as much run-in as the bigger creeks. Here the water may have just the right stain to it, and if so, I'll test-fish the pockets to see if any bass are there."
On the other hand, most lowland reservoirs already have some stain in the water, so Davis will take just the opposite approach. "Many lowland lakes will get very muddy very quickly after a big spring rain, so I'll go looking for water that's clearing up. To do this, I'll head to the bigger named creeks and idle up in them as far as I can go. These creeks will clear from the back to the front. Now I'm looking for that transition zone from muddy water to stained water (again, 4 to 12 inches of visibility)."
While water color is the most important element in this pattern, Davis stays alert for other indicators that bass might be present. "I'll watch my water temperature gauge. Just a few degrees of warm-up in a run-in area can be a big draw for bass. Say the water is 44 degrees 50 yards out from where the water's running in, and then it's 48 degrees in the run-in area. That's very significant. That's enough to draw bass in and cause them to feed actively."
Another indicator is the presence of minnows and other forage. "Bass move into these run-ins because baitfish are drawn to them, too," Davis affirms. "You can see them flitting on or just under the surface. If baitfish are there, you can bet that bass are there, too."Davis fishes run-ins with a simple one-two punch. "I'll cast a 3/8-ounce chartreuse/white Strike King spinnerbait with twin nickel Colorado blades (sizes No. 3 and No. 4 1/2), and I'll also flip and pitch a 3/8-ounce black/blue Strike King jig. I'll cover broad target areas with the spinnerbait, and I'll hit specific targets (logs, brush, etc.) with the jig There's nothing complicated about how I fish these baits. Fishing them in the right place is the whole deal with run-ins."Once he sets the pattern (determines where to find the right combination of water clarity, warmer water, baitfish, etc.), Davis will seek other areas with similar conditions. "I may hit 20 to 30 run-ins a day, and I'll typically catch fish in only four or five. But that'll be enough bites to come to the weigh-in with a heavy sack of bass."
Davis adds that water visibility will change continuously after a heavy rain, and the fish will move as clarity changes. This is why anglers must also stay on the move to keep in the action.If you keep running this pattern," Davis concludes, "be persistent with it. It won't take long to realize how productive it can be."Cast Carolina Rigs to "Last Available Structure"After a hard April rain, if Mark Davis can't find bass around run-ins, he changes to another reliable early spring pattern.He explains, "When bass are migrating shallow to spawn, a lot of times they'll stop on the last structure adjacent to their spawning area and hold and feed for a few days. This could be secondary points, a hump in the middle of a bay, a roadbed, a ditch, a stump row, a shoreline with the last good depth before the water gets shallow, etc."I work these places with a Carolina rigged 3-inch Strike King lizard. I can cover a lot of water with this bait, and the fish like this little bait this time of year."
Gear To Grab
Following are specifics on rods, reels and line Mark Davis uses when fishing run-ins after a hard April rain.> 6-6 All Star medium-heavy action spinnerbait rod (model #TAS786)> 7-foot All Star heavy action jig rod (model #TAS846)
> 6.2:1 retrieve ratio Pflueger Supreme casting reel> 20-pound-test Cajun Red mono for spinnerbaits
> 20-pound-test Seaguar fluorocarbon for jigs
Determining water clarity is essential in making Mark Davis' post-rain, run-in pattern produce.Davis judges water clarity by lowering a spinnerbait slowly into the water. He explains, "If I can see the lure at 4 inches or deeper, I call that water 'stained'. If the lure disappears at less than 4 inches, I call the water 'highly stained'. And if the lure disappears immediately when it hits the water, I call it 'muddy'."With this system, I have a way to compare water clarity in different spots, and when I get a pattern going with a particular bait and water color, it gives me a means of extending that pattern to other areas."
Before You Go
Before heading out for a day of fishing run-ins in April, Mark Davis completes the following checklist.
1. Make sure the water temperature gauge is working correctly.
2. Obtain a good lake map that shows all of the major creeks.
3. Rig three spinnerbait rods with baits suitable for different degrees of water clarity: 1/2 –ounce spinnerbait with one big Colorado blade for heavily stained water. 3/8 —ounce spinnerbait with two nickel Colorado blades (No. 3 and No. 4 1/2) for "good" water clarity: 1/4 –ounce spinnerbait with two nickel willowleaf blades (No. 3 and No. 4) for clear water.
4. Stow insulated waterproof boots in the boats storage locker. Davis explains: "I can fish for hours on end in cold, wet weather if I can keep my feet warm and dry."