6:32 a.m. It’s clear, calm and 74 degrees when Loughran and I arrive at Lake R’s launch ramp. He uncovers his boat and unloads an assortment of Shimano rods and reels from storage. Many of his rods are rigged with Missile Baits soft plastics, a primary sponsor. What sort of pattern does Loughran anticipate will be operative today? “They could literally be anywhere in early June! Most of the bass here have probably already spawned, but some fish should still be shallow while others have already moved offshore. I’ll be using my Humminbird 360 a lot to zero in on isolated brush, stumps or grass. As an avid finesse fisherman, I’ll throw a lot of small soft plastics because they usually give me rapid feedback from fish.”
7 HOURS LEFT 6:56 a.m. We launch Loughran’s boat. He checks the water temp: 80 degrees. “I want to start off throwing topwaters before the sun gets high.” 7:01 a.m. Loughran idles to a nearby sandbank and makes his first casts of the day with a bone River2Sea Whopper Plopper surface plug. “This bad boy is a mouthful and catches really big fish!” 7:03 a.m. He switches to a white Missile Baits Shock Wave swimbait on a 1/8-ounce head and retrieves it through a ball of shad finning near the surface. “I’ll be switching baits a lot until I get dialed in to what they want.” 7:06 a.m. Loughran casts a black Spro Poppin’ Frog to a sloping bank, then immediately switches to a shad colored MegaBass jerkbait. 7:11 a.m. Loughran tries a modified pink Missile Baits Fuse 4.4 craw worm on a drop-shot rig. “The stock Fuse worm is only 4 1/2 inches long, but I fused two of them together to make it 6 1/2 inches. The claws on the end flail around like crazy when you shake it.” 7:14 a.m. Loughran enters a small cove and retrieves the Whopper Plopper around a laydown tree. 7:19 a.m. He tries the jerkbait in the middle of the cove. “Often bass will suspend in a deep, open spot like this while recuperating from spawning.” 7:24 a.m. Loughran switches Poppin’ Frog colors to green pumpkin and casts the faux croaker around the shoreline. 7:26 a.m. He flips the Fuse worm to a bluegill bed. “Sometimes a big bass will hang around the outer perimeter of a bream bed and gulp down a ’gill that wanders too close.” 7:31 a.m. Loughran exits the cove and moves into a shallow pocket with the Whopper Plopper. 7:36 a.m. He switches to a shad colored frog. “The water is clearer here than where we launched, and this color looks more realistic.” 7:50 a.m. After thoroughly saturating the pocket with topwaters, Loughran moves to a nearby channel bank and bags his first keeper of the day, a 1-pound, 12-ounce largemouth, on the modified Fuse worm. “I spotted some small rocks 5 feet deep near the bank on the 360 graph. This fish probably spawned in that shallow pocket, then moved out to hold on those rocks.” 7:52 a.m. He catches a bluegill on the Fuse worm.
6 HOURS LEFT 7:56 a.m. Loughran moves quickly down the steep bank while chunking the Plopper. 8:06 a.m. Loughran catches keeper No. 2, 1 pound, 4 ounces, off an isolated stump on the Fuse worm. “The 360 makes it so easy to target isolated cover. You just cast right to it.” 8:13 a.m. Loughran runs the swimbait through a school of shad; they scatter like welding sparks. 8:30 a.m. After spending several minutes idling around the lower end of Lake R while watching his electronics, Loughran has located an offshore hump in a tributary rising from 18 to 8 feet. The structure is peppered with brush and stumps. He drops the Fuse worm into a brushpile and shakes it. “There’s a bunch of small fish suspended around that brush.” 8:42 a.m. Unable to coax a bite in the brush, Loughran moves to a nearby rock point and tries a citrus shad Strike King 5XD crankbait. 8:47 a.m. Loughran casts the swimbait to the point. “I’m seeing small fish suspended off this point, too. They might be crappie.”
5 HOURS LEFT 8:59 a.m. Loughran exits the tributary and moves to a shady, main-lake bank. He slowly progresses uplake while throwing the Whopper Plopper.
Photo: Don Wirth
1 / 5
9:07 a.m. He retrieves the Plopper past a dock but hauls water. 9:11 a.m. Loughran opts to try a Neko rig. His version consists of a Missile Baits Quiver 4.5 worm (green pumpkin flash) rigged wacky style with an O-ring, a No. 2 hook and a 3/16-ounce nail weight inserted in the head. “This is an ultrafinesse tactic that gets a lot of bites and catches all sizes of bass. The nail weight keeps the worm’s head on the bottom while both the hook and tail stay elevated. This setup slides through thick brush beautifully.”
Photo: Don Wirth
2 / 5
9:14 a.m. Loughran casts the Neko rig to a dock, hops and shakes the tiny worm down the bank slope, and a big fish loads on! He works it carefully to the boat and grabs his third keeper of the day, a 4-pound, 1-ounce largemouth. Its tail is rubbed raw from spawning. “I spotted an empty bass bed up shallow, then this spawner hit out in 5 feet of water; late spawners often make their beds out deeper.” 9:24 a.m. Loughran continues uplake while casting the Neko rig and Plopper to docks. 9:39 a.m. He retrieves the Plopper past a shaded seawall. Nothing there.
4 HOURS LEFT 9:59 a.m. Loughran’s shallow strategy so far has been to target docks and scattered cover with the Neko rig while probing shaded banks and shallow pockets with the Whopper Plopper. He’s reached the last cluster of docks and cranks the swimbait with no takers. 10:06 a.m. Loughran pitches the Neko rig to a dock and nails his fourth keeper, 3 pounds, 1 ounce. 10:12 a.m. Loughran skips the Neko rig around the farthest dock uplake. What’s his take on the day so far? “Having caught three postspawn keepers and one spawning fish so far, it’s shaking out pretty much like I expected. I’ll try to finish out my limit up shallow within the next hour, then move out deeper and probe some offshore structure.” 10:18 a.m. Loughran hops the Neko rig around a big laydown. 10:22 a.m. He catches a short fish off the laydown on the Fuse worm. 10:26 a.m. Loughran retrieves a homemade black and blue 3/8-ounce swim jig with a matching Missile Baits Twin Turbo trailer around shallow bluegill beds. 10:47 a.m. Loughran has reached the extreme upper end of the lake. “I’m seeing plenty of stumps and bream beds way up here, but so far, no bass.”
3 HOURS LEFT 10:58 a.m. Loughran idles back to the dock where he caught his 3-1 and tries the swimbait without success. 11:14 a.m. Loughran moves to an offshore rockpile and casts the Fuse worm to a sunken log he’s graphed on the structure. He immediately catches his fifth keeper, 2 pounds, 10 ounces. 11:22 a.m. He catches his sixth keeper, 1 pound even, off the rockpile. 11:30 a.m. Loughran makes a short hop to a long point, where he tries the Fuse worm and crankbait without success.
2 HOURS LEFT 11:58 a.m. Loughran has graphed up what appears to be a sunken rowboat in 17 feet of water off the end of a point. He bumps the Fuse worm around the submerged skiff without a tap. 12:09 p.m. A good fish hits the Fuse worm on the point. Loughran tightens down on the bass; it takes off like a rocket and breaks his line. He then rigs up a fresh Fuse worm/drop-shot setup. “Let’s run back to that hump I fished this morning and see if there’s any fish on it now that the sun’s high.” 12:19 p.m. Loughran makes a blistering run downlake to the offshore hump. He drops the Fuse worm straight down into a 12-foot brushpile and shakes it. 12:24 p.m. He bangs the 5XD off a deep stump on the hump. “I braced myself for a strike, but it didn’t happen!” 12:31 p.m. Loughran hops the Fuse worm past another stump and catches his seventh keeper, 2 pounds, 12 ounces. 12:48 p.m. Loughran catches keeper No. 8, 2 pounds, 8 ounces, off another stump on the high spot. “This fish was right at the edge of the dropoff. They sure aren’t stacked up tight on this hump; it’s just one fish here and another fish there.” It’s extremely hot and humid, with dark clouds building rapidly out to the west. “There’s a big storm headed this way. If we’re lucky, we’ll wrap this article up right before it hits.”
1 HOUR LEFT 1:01 p.m. Loughran grinds the 5XD around the hump. “They sure aren’t wanting a crankbait today!” 1:11 p.m. Now focusing solely on isolated cover on the hump, Loughran shakes the Fuse worm vertically in a 12-foot brushpile.
Photo: Don Wirth
3 / 5
1:29 p.m. Loughran detects a tap on the Fuse worm, slams back his spinning rod and a big fish bolts off the hump toward open water. He races to the back of the boat, patiently works the fish closer and grabs his ninth keeper, a fine 4-pound, 4-ounce largemouth. “She was on the same stump as that 2-8.” 1:43 p.m. With 15 minutes remaining, Loughran drops the Fuse worm into another brushpile on the hump. He glances at the darkening sky and announces, “My fun quota is up! Let’s head in before we get soaked.” That works for me! The bassin’ attorney has had a good day on Lake R, boating nine keepers; his five biggest fish weigh a solid 16 pounds, 12 ounces.
Photo: Don Wirth
4 / 5
THE DAY IN PERSPECTIVE “I caught fish both shallow and deep today, which isn’t surprising in early June,” Loughran told Bassmaster. “I even bagged a nice 4-pounder off a spawning bed — there are always a few late spawners during this transitional phase. I caught all my fish on soft-plastic finesse baits and never got a single hit on topwaters, crankbaits or swim jigs. If I were to fish here tomorrow, I’d keep targeting scattered cover, both shallow and deep, and stay with the drop-shot worm and Neko rig.”
WHERE AND WHEN ED LOUGHRAN CAUGHT HIS FIVE BIGGEST BASS
4 pounds, 1 ounce; green pumpkin flash Missile Baits Quiver 4.5 worm on Neko rig; spawning bed; 9:14 a.m.
3 pounds, 1 ounce; same lure as No. 1; dock; 10:06 a.m.
2 pounds, 10 ounces; modified pink Missile Baits Fuse 4.4 craw worm (6 1/2 inches) on drop-shot rig; log on submerged rockpile; 11:14 a.m.
2 pounds, 12 ounces; same lure as No. 3; stump on offshore hump; 12:31 p.m.
4 pounds, 4 ounces; same lure and place as No. 4; 1:29 p.m.
TOTAL: 16 POUNDS, 12 OUNCES