Late cold fronts can really put a damper on spring fishing. This installment of Bassmaster’s reality series puts Shaw Grigsby, one of the best sight fishermen in the world, on a small lake that should have been teeming with bass beds. However, extended winter conditions killed that possibility. So, pay close attention to how the veteran bass pro modifies his game plan to make the best of his day. Cold fronts can pop up at anytime, and the lessons learned here will help keep you from going home empty handed.
6:38 a.m. Grigsby and I arrive at Lake R’s deserted launch ramp. He pulls a selection of Quantum rods and reels from storage. “I’m debating what to start out with,” he says. “It was 85 degrees here a couple days ago, but the high today will only be 55. The fish were probably moving in to spawn, but I bet the water has cooled way down.” He walks out on a dock next to the ramp and looks at the water. “I’ve got braided line on a few of my reels, which should be OK because the water looks a bit stained.” His lures, all from Strike King, include square bill and lipless crankbaits, spinnerbaits, jigs and a sinking worm.
7 HOURS LEFT
7 a.m. We launch the Triton. Grigsby checks the water temp: 57 degrees. “Yep, it’s cooled way down, all right.” He opts to begin fishing a rocky bank near the ramp. “Might as well start right here. Rocks hold heat, and we and the bass could both use a little heat this morning!”
7:05 a.m. Grigsby makes his first cast of the day to the ramp’s courtesy dock with a chartreuse/black back KVD 1.5 square bill and catches a 10-inch largemouth. “Wow, I hope that’s a good sign! Note to self: Look for more docks!”
7:13 a.m. No more luck on the bank near the ramp, so Grigsby runs to Lake R’s dam and cranks riprap with the 1.5.
7:22 a.m. Grigsby has cranked the entire length of the dam without success. He switches to a pearl Rage Swimmer soft swimbait and slow rolls it across a nearby gravel flat. “The water’s barely clear enough for this lure, but I wanted to try it because it’s a big-fish magnet.”
7:27 a.m. Grigsby moves into a narrow cove and pitches a 3/8-ounce black-and- blue Hack Attack jig with a blue Rage Minnow trailer to laydown wood cover. “This is the kind of quiet, sheltered spot where bass like to spawn.”
7:38 a.m. Still probing the cove, Grigsby switches to a 1/2-ounce clear/blue flake Compact Silhouette spinnerbait, bumping it off shoreline wood cover. “This little cove isn’t any warmer than the main lake.” He lays down his rod and digs through a storage compartment for an insulated hoodie. “It sure would be nice if the sun came out, but that’s not going to happen anytime soon.”
7:43 a.m. Grigsby tries a green pumpkin Ocho sinking worm around shoreline wood cover. “There’s a ton of wood in this lake, but so far I haven’t had any bites on it.”
7:46 a.m. He hits a big tree leaning off the bank with the jig.
7:55 a.m. Grigsby exits the cove and runs uplake to a tributary arm with multiple boat docks. He stops at a gravel bank, cranks the 1.5 and catches a short fish.
6 HOURS LEFT
8:03 a.m. The north wind is making for a bitterly cold start to the day as Grigsby cranks a boathouse with the 1.5.
8:17 a.m. Grigsby is moving up the tributary arm, methodically hitting laydown wood and docks with the 1.5 and jig. “Right now I’m just covering water and trying to get a handle on where the fish are. With this cold front, they should be holding just outside of potential spawning areas and in or near sheltered water around docks and shoreline pockets.”
8:22 a.m. The north wind howls as Grigsby pitches a green pumpkin/blue Rage Bug creature to a boathouse. It’s Texas rigged with a 5/16-ounce sinker.
8:26 a.m. Grigsby fancasts a 1/2-ounce Tennessee shad Red Eye Shad Tungsten Two Tap lipless crankbait around a shallow cove. “This lure has an inner tungsten sound chamber that creates a distinctive tapping sound instead of the typical chattering sound of most lipless cranks. I’ve had good luck with it in cold fronts.” He alternates between a straight retrieve and yo-yoing it off the bottom “like a dying shad.”
8:31 a.m. He hits three docks in the back of the pocket with the 1.5.
8:37 a.m. Grigsby heads out of the pocket while cranking the 1.5. “A 9-pounder would sure warm me up!”
8:41 a.m. He pitches the Ocho to a boathouse. “When I caught that dink off the boat ramp dock on my first cast, I thought docks might be the ticket today, but so far, not so much!”
8:42 a.m. Grigsby pitches the Rage Bug to the boathouse, gets a tap, swings and misses. “Whoa, that fish knocked 3 feet of slack in my line!” He lowers his Power-Poles and works the structure over from several different angles with the creature.
8:51 a.m. Grigsby continues moving along the shoreline to fish docks and rock banks with the Rage Bug, jig and square bill.
5 HOURS LEFT
9 a.m. Grigsby moves into a shallow cove and cranks an old boat ramp with the 1.5. “Always fish these little secondary ramps! There’s usually some busted-up rock around them that holds crawfish.”
9:07 a.m. He hops the jig around a concrete retraining wall.
9:12 a.m. Grigsby makes a short hop to a tributary island, where he pitches the jig to laydowns.
9:14 a.m. He enters a nearby cove and slow rolls a 3/8-ounce chartreuse and white Burner spinnerbait around the bank. “Strike King designed his spinnerbait for fast retrieves in gin-clear water, but I’ve had great luck slow rolling it in murky water, too. It has a minnow-shaped head and extra-thin ‘High RPM’ blades that emit a different vibration than your usual spinnerbait.” He’s rigged the lure with a stinger hook. “I always use a trailer hook on my spinnerbaits and buzzbaits. No sense missing those short-strikers!”
9:20 a.m. Grigsby retrieves a 1/2-ounce chartreuse and white Swinging Sugar Buzz buzzbait across a submerged tree. “It’s cold out, but not too cold for ’em to hit a buzzbait!”
9:26 a.m. Grigsby bumps the spinnerbait off a submerged tree limb and gets a tap, but the fish doesn’t hook up. He repositions his boat, hits the limb from a different angle and gets another tap. “That fish must be tiny because I couldn’t even stick him with the trailer hook!”
9:34 a.m. While methodically working his way around the cove, Grigsby casts the Burner to a sloping bank, reels it halfway back to the boat and gets a solid strike. He works the fish closer and grabs his first keeper of the day, a chunky 2-pound, 13-ounce largemouth. “There was no gentle tapping that time. This fish absolutely choked it! He was a good 12 feet off the bank, probably suspending out there while waiting for the water to warm up. This gives me confidence that I’ve found a bait they actually want to eat.”
9:42 a.m. No more bites on this bank, so Grigsby idles across the lake to another cove. Here he fishes a retaining wall with the Ocho and Burner without success.
9:47 a.m. Grigsby casts the Burner to a dock and a big bass loads on! He works it away from the pilings and swings aboard a fat largemouth weighing 4 pounds even. “All right! This girl was sitting right on the inside corner of that dock. I’m going to keep moving around these coves with the spinnerbait and, hopefully, the fish will get more active as the day progresses.”
4 HOURS LEFT
10:02 a.m. Grigsby probes a steep rock bank with the Burner.
10:13 a.m. The bank makes an abrupt turn into a narrow canal. “There should be some fish hanging around the entrance to this canal; it’s a perfect spawning area.” Grigsby casts the Burner onto the bank, hops it into the water and slow rolls it. “There should’ve been one there!”
10:18 a.m. Grigsby moves to the back of the canal, where he hits a big boathouse with the Burner and jig. “A couple days of warm, sunny weather and I guarantee they’ll be stacked up back here.”
10:26 a.m. He heads out of the canal while casting the spinnerbait to the opposite bank.
10:31 a.m. Grigsby pitches the jig to a laydown tree at the entrance of the canal. “So far they haven’t been on any wood cover.”
10:46 a.m. Grigsby has just fished a 50-yard stretch of rock bank without success. What’s his take on the day so far? “The fish are superlethargic in this cold front. My first keeper was suspending off a sloping bank, and my second was on a dock; the only thing they had in common was they both hit a spinnerbait. I don’t have any viable pattern figured out so far, so I’ll keep covering water until I get more feedback from the fish.”
10:52 a.m. Grigsby moves to a steep main-lake bank and tries the square bill, banging it off submerged rocks. No takers. “Rocks are usually a huge deal this time of year, but apparently not on this lake.”
3 HOURS LEFT
11:01 a.m. Grigsby catches a nonkeeper on the square bill. “He bit right where the bank drops off into 15 feet of water.”
11:06 a.m. Grigsby switches to the spinnerbait on the sloping bank. A bass pecks at the blades; he sets the hook, and the lure flies out of the water, striking the head of his MotorGuide and knocking the motor’s directional arrow into the lake! “Well, that’s a first! Now I’ve got a big, gaping hole in the head of my trolling motor! I’ll have to find some way to patch up the hole to keep rain out until I can get a replacement part.”
11:15 a.m. The steep bank transitions into a flat. Grigsby grinds the Burner down a big laydown. “I can’t believe there wasn’t a fish there!”
11:21 a.m. Grigsby motors to a point at the mouth of the tributary, then idles across the structure while eyeballing his graph. “This point has rock all over it, but I’m seeing very little bait, and nothing that looks like bass.” He moves to the shallow part of the structure and hits it a few casts with the Burner and 1.5.
11:30 a.m. No luck on the point, so Grigsby idles to a nearby cove to fish several boat docks with the same lures. Again, nothing.
11:46 a.m. Grigsby makes a high-speed run to the upper end of Lake R, where the water is slightly clearer and 56 degrees. He stops at the edge of a flat and begins combing the structure with the spinnerbait and buzzbait. “This flat is loaded with stumps! There should be some fish here.”
2 HOURS LEFT
12:01 p.m. The flat doesn’t pan out, so Grigsby motors to a long point littered with shoreline overhangs and submerged brush. “I fished shallow all morning; I’m going to try moving way out on this point. It’s a natural route for bass to follow from deep water into shore.” He cranks the structure with a perch colored KVD 8.0, a magnum-size square bill.
12:11 p.m. Grigsby drags a 3/4-ounce “pb&j” (brown and purple) football jig with a summer craw Rage Craw trailer across the point.
12:20 p.m. The point runs halfway across the lake, and Grigsby has either cranked or dragged every inch of it. “Hey, I’m totally scratching my head out here. I just can’t get a handle on these fish!”
12:31 p.m. He runs to the mouth of a short tributary arm and cranks the 8.0 around some laydowns.
12:40 p.m. Grigsby presses into a creek arm peppered with shallow stumps. He bangs the 1.5 off the cover without success. “They just aren’t in here.”
1 HOUR LEFT
1:03 p.m. Grigsby has fished his way to the extreme upper end of the creek arm without a tap. He checks his watch. “I’m going to spend my remaining time downlake. That’s the only area where I’ve had any bites.”
1:10 p.m. Grigsby runs back to the bank where he caught his 2-13. He tries both the Hack Attack jig and spinnerbait here but hauls water.
1:19 p.m. The sun finally pops through the dense cloud cover as Grigsby moves to a nearby cove to fish the spinnerbait around some docks. “Man, I wish we’d had sunshine earlier! I can already feel it warming up.”
1:27 p.m. Grigsby zips to a steep channel bank and tries the football jig and spinnerbait. The clouds have practically disappeared. “Come on, big fish! It’s time to head to the bank!”
1:42 p.m. Another stretch of juicy-looking bank fails to give up a bass. “These fish will probably move up and bite like crazy just before dark.”
2 p.m. Grigsby’s time is up. He ends his tough day on Lake R with two keeper bass; their total weight is 6 pounds, 13 ounces.
The Day in Perspective
“The cold weather, north wind and heavy cloud cover killed me today,” Grigsby tells Bassmaster. “This lake has tons of great-looking shallow wood and rock cover, but the fish sure weren’t on it. I really thought I had something going when I caught that 4-pounder off a dock, but even though I fished about a zillion other docks, I never put another keeper in the boat. If I were to fish here tomorrow and the sun stayed out, I’d hit the same coves and docks in the lower end that I fished today and would expect the bite to get a lot more active than it was today once the water warmed up a few degrees.”
WHERE AND WHEN SHAW GRIGSBY CAUGHT HIS KEEPER BASS
1. 2 pounds, 13 ounces; 1/2-ounce chartreuse and white Strike King Burner spinnerbait; open water off sloping bank in cove; 9:34 a.m.
2. 4 pounds; same lure as No. 1; dock in cove; 9:47 a.m.
TOTAL: 6 POUNDS, 13 OUNCES