Follow the food

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Chris Mitchell

Garret Rose weighed in 13 pounds, 8 ounces on Day 1 of the Basspro.com Bassmaster Open at Douglas Lake.

Seasonal patterns and preferences may change, but one thing remains consistent: A bass’ primary motivation originates in its belly. Other words, find the food and you’ll find the bass.

With the exception of the actual spawning period, bass want to be near a food source. Yesterday, several competitors at the Basspro.com Bassmaster Southern Open on Douglas Lake mentioned examples of this timeless truth.

Former Bassmaster Elite Guy Eaker noted that the combination of a recent water level decline — about 4 feet in a handful of days — plus the cold front that arrived right before the event presented both challenge and opportunity. The latter came by way of creating a comfort zone for baitfish. 

“I’ve been here nine days and I caught about 18 pounds a day except for the last two days,” Eaker said during yesterday’s weigh-ins. “It got tough today and I really had to work to catch the five that I caught; but I did find something in the afternoon and I think I can catch a better stringer (on Day 2).” 

Specifically, Eaker said he discovered big gizzard shad moving into shallow bays with muddy water. The wind associated with the front stirred the water and that suspended sediment warms quickly with the midday sunshine.

Stack a bunch of baitfish into shallow, turbid water and you have the makings of a bona fide bass buffet.

“Those big fish were in there feeding on big gizzard shad,” Eaker said. “Earlier in the day, I had a tougher time; the baitfish weren’t really moving that much and dropping that water really spooks them.

“I was catching fish on a ChatterBait and the Berkley Frittside. Today, I had to change up and go to a jerkbait and a bigger crankbait. I think the crankbait is going to be the deal (on Day 2).”

Elsewhere, Garrett Rose spent his day upriver and found the persistent wind eliminated his original game plan but delivered an option that yielded a solid limit of 13-8.

“The wind was shooting right down the channel, probably 15-20 mph, so all that bait that’s normally out there suspended was getting pushed up there on those banks,” Rose said. “You might have 25-30 feet of water off one of those banks but you can catch them 3-4 feet under the surface.

“I was throwing a Spro McStick 110 and just capitalized on (the feeding opportunity).”

With cooler conditions and less wind in today’s forecast, anglers may need to tweak their game plans. In any case, centering efforts around feeding opportunities is always a wise strategy. 

Eaker summarized: “If you don’t find the baitfish, you aren’t going to catch the bass.”