RIDGELAND, Miss. — Seeing Tommy Biffle’s name near or at the top of a tournament leader board is a given in springtime. Dialing into the nuances of bass constantly on the move during the spawning cycle is a hallmark of his three decades on the trail.
Biffle added another chapter to his book of shallow water strategies at the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Opens presented by Allstate.
It’s no coincidence that on Ross Barnett Reservoir that his daily catches grew in weight each day of the competition.
“It was because of the water temperature,” he said. “Every day it got warmer.”
Fishing shallow was always the plan. In classic Biffle-style, he simply waited for the fish to come to him. Doing so rewarded the Oklahoma pro with a final weight of 52 pounds, 9 ounces and a third-place finish.
Credit the local anglers finishing ahead of Biffle for applying their local knowledge of the lake. Give equal credit to Biffle for uncovering yet another way the average angler can solve the complex equation of springtime bass fishing.
Following are keys to his strong performance:
Key #1: Water temperature
Believe it or not, Biffle acknowledged learning something new about pre-spawn bass fishing. The lesson came from water temperature. He said it was the top influencer in his success.
Finding isolated spots with water temperature a few degrees warmer than the immediate area was the takeaway. In some cases he noted a difference of up to four degrees.
“Usually what I see is the water temperature warming up in a big area,” he noted. “I found water much warmer just yards apart in some cases.”
Biffle made a priority to locate the warmest water in a given isolated area. While that sounds easy it was a challenge. The water temperature fluctuated widely in small areas, requiring him to keep a constant eye on the temperature change.
At noon on the final day he struck gold. With only two fish in the livewell he happened upon a spot with 65-degree water.
The spike attracted the bass he needed to fill a limit and then some. Final day weight: 21-10.
Key #2: Lure choice
Biffle adapted to the daily change in conditions accordingly. Each day he used a different assortment of lures with one constant.
“I threw a Carolina rig because nobody else did,” he said. “The only person who noticed at all was my partner.”
Shallow water purists take note. Biffle fished the rig at a depth of 2 feet. Fishing the setup invented for and typically used much deeper is nothing new, however rare.
That was precisely why Biffle used the rig. Fishing in a crowd of 12 or more boats, all within casting distance, made the changeup a logical decision.
Biffle favored a Gene Larew Biffle-O Lizard for it’s hollow cavity that he filled with Biffle Bug Juice for added strike appeal.
Key #3: Water clarity
Striking the best balance was indeed a challenge. Torrential rains pummeled the area for the first two days, including a 3-inch drencher on Day Two. With soil already saturated the lowland reservoir took in all of the runoff.
Finding the optimum mix came through the process of elimination. The water turned more turbid each day. That made the task of finding slightly stained water easier while the strike zone shrunk in size.
“The big rain on Friday really muddied up many of my areas,” he said. “So it wasn’t so much about finding knew spots as eliminating and narrowing down the choices.”
Key #4: Vegetation
With few exceptions the top 12 anglers fished within sight of each other. The presence of aquatic vegetation was a reason.
For Biffle lily pad stems and clumps of aquatic grass were the targets. He reasoned the fish used the habitat as a staging point into the spawning areas.
Key #5: Baitfish
Biffle kept an eye on the water temperature while looking for the presence of baitfish. The combination of warm water sparked their metabolism.
“The bass were on the move and there was only one direction they were going,” he noted. “I feel like this was a final feeding frenzy before they moved on to the beds.”
Catching quality bass was a given in the presence of baitfish. That’s exactly what happened at noon on the final day. It’s when Biffle cashed in big. Baitfish and warm water polarized his area and success came quickly.