Fish earlier, deeper and go big. Magnum big. "Everyone knows that prespawn bass head to the shallow flats and the lipless crankbait is a great way to catch them," says Skeet Reese, 2007 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year. " But why not intercept them before they move shallow?"
You can do that by searching deeper grass and upsizing your lipless crankbait. Reese turns to a Lucky Craft LVR D-15, a 1-ounce big daddy, twice the size of lipless lures that most anglers fish around grass.
"That does two things for me," he explains. "First, it gives me a larger profile bait, something that the larger bass are keying on that time of year. Second, the weight of the lure allows me to fish deeper water."
He targets the 10- to 20-foot zone adjacent to shallower flats, an area that attracts big fish at the first hint of warming water. It's a place where early prespawn bass will stage on any cover they encounter when moving up from winter haunts.On grass lakes, that can be clumps of hydrilla or milfoil growing in ditches and channels that wander through shallower grass flats that attract bass later in the spring."It's a good place to intercept the big boys when the water temp rises into the upper 40s and low 50s," says Reese. "That's when the magnum lipless lure shines because it's a more efficient tool in the deep grass. The technique has paid off at places such as Lake Guntersville, Ala.; Florida lakes including Toho, Kissimmee and Okeechobee; and Texas waters such as Toledo Bend, Rayburn and Amistad."If your lake has deep grass, it will work there, too," he insists.Some anglers choose to slow roll a spinnerbait, hop a jig or Carolina rig a soft bait in the same areas. Those techniques catch fish, too, Reese notes, but the big lipless lure covers water faster and will trigger reaction strikes that other techniques can't deliver.
Of course, you can fish smaller sized lipless lures in the deep situation, but not as efficiently. You have to fish them slower and reduce your line size to reach the proper depth.
"The bigger bait matches the size of shad and other forage that time of year, and you can fish it faster over the top of the deep grass," Reese explains. "By fishing faster, you cover more water and make more casts."
Keep your colors simple, he adds, and let the water color dictate what you choose. Don't be afraid to mix it up.
"My favorites are the spring craw (dark red with orange belly), mad craw (fluorescent orange and red), chartreuse shad and a ghost minnow," he offers.He employs a couple of different retrieves: He'll burn it over the top of the grass or pump it so that the lure is jumping in and out of the tops of the weeds.
"The jigging action is pretty radical because you're letting the bait free-fall and ripping it up again," he describes. "There are days when that's the best way to trigger strikes."The bite will vary; some days the bass will try to rip the rod from your hands as the bait is falling. Other days the strike is less noticeable; the rod and bait simply feel mushy and heavy.
Larger lipless lures require stout tackle. Reese makes long casts with his Lamiglas 765R, a 7 1/2-footer made of fiberglass."I can really bomb it out there with the longer rod, and it has the backbone to handle the heavier lure," Reese offers. "Long casts are important because they allow you to cover a larger area in one cast."
He spools his high-speed Abu Garcia Revo baitcast reel with 30-pound Spiderwire Ultracast. The small diameter braided line allows the bait to sink faster, provides the strength for hooking big fish on long casts, and more importantly, lacks stretch."Monofilament and even fluorocarbon line have too much stretch, so the lure doesn't snap free from the grass as easily as it does with no-stretch braid," Reese explains. "That characteristic also makes it easier to get the hooks in fish that strike at the end of a long cast."
When fishing deep grass, California pro Skeet Reese changes hooks on his Lucky Craft 1-ounce lipless lure.He replaces round bend hooks with Gamakatsu's EWG hooks, placing a No. 2 on the front and No. 4 on the back.About the only time I ever use an EWG style hook on a lipless crankbait is when fishing grass," he explains. "The hooks are turned in a little bit more on the EWG, so they don't snag the grass as easily. Otherwise, I prefer round bend trebles."Why?"Because when prespawn bass eat the lure around grass, they really choke it, and hooking them isn't a big issue," he offers. "It's not like you're reeling it along and the fish are slapping at it, like they do other times of the year."When fish are "slapping" at the bait, they're more difficult to hook with the EWG, he notes, because of the angle of the barbs."You miss or lose a lot of fish that way," Reese adds. "With the round bend in that situation, they get the point stuck in them better."
Originally published Feb. 2009