Today is Sunday, August 20, 2017

Success by degrees

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It was a cold, sunny day when Mark Campbell caught this bass feeding on shad.


I have come to believe the most valuable piece of equipment you can have on your boat, (in terms of catching spring bass), is your thermometer. Transition bass, those just starting to move toward their regular spawning areas, react strongly to water temperature.

One or two degrees can make a huge difference in both where they are and if they will bite. As the water starts to warm, they begin to move progressively shallower, always keyed to something. It may be structure or deeper water or baitfish.

Keep this in mind this spring. There are three predominant factors in early, spring fishing: Water temperature, water clarity and water depth and they are all connected.

This column is about catching early season bass. It can be done by guesswork or by technology.

Today, locating bass is almost a matter of watching television.

You find them by looking at your electronics. Those fancy screens with the side-view feature are something. They are also something I don't have. I guess I am just too old to learn or for that matter, afford that kind of equipment. That is about all I'll say about how to use one- cause I don't know how.

Let me tell you what I do know.

As the water starts to warm, begins inching out of the 40's and into the 50's, the bass start moving toward their spawning areas. One of the prime places to find them is on or around secondary points, those just off the main channel, maybe back in a cove or creek. They like single large pieces of structure. Look for sunken logs or large stumps, out by themselves. Rock piles in slightly deeper water are prime spots to hold bass. Then, look for schools of baitfish in the area. But always look at the thermometer. Two degrees can make a huge difference. Also, stick with it. You may not catch many fish, but you may catch some huge fish.

My prime lures for these early season bass, given favorable water temperature, will almost always be dictated, by water clarity and that presents a problem. My first choice in a lure would be a jerkbait. The reason being, I can hold it at a certain depth for a long time and that is critical. My retrieve, once I have the lure down where I want it is slow. I'll twitch it once and pause for as long as 15-20 seconds, then, twitch and pause again. It takes patience. The fish are slow, sluggish. The long pause gives them time to get there.

But first, they have to see the lure. Obviously, they are going to do that better, in water that is clearer.

But water that is stained is almost always the warmer water and the fish are drawn to the warmer water. You see the problem? So, what do I do?

I now have two lure choices if I can't find warm water with sufficient clarity. The first one is going to probably be crankbait of some sort.

My first choice is going to probably be a ShadRap in shad color. Depending on water depth, I'll either use a shallow one or a medium. I can retrieve it slowly and pause it for a short time. My second choice will probably be a lipless crankbait such as a Rattle Trap and probably it will be silver and black or silver and blue or possibly crawfish color in really stained water. A swim bait is also a consideration when shad are present.

Just to check things out if those don't work, I may try a soft plastic like a finesse worm on a very light weight. I'll crawl this around heavier cover and brush piles, working it very slowly.

Constantly, I am checking the water temperature.

If it is a sunny day, I'll be looking in shallow water in the back of coves, looking for the schools of baitfish. Often, the birds tip me off.

As I have said before, on every rod will be monofilament line and in the early spring, that is even more important. Mono has less "feel" than braided or fluorocarbon line. It is less sensitive and these bass often hit tentatively. If your line is super sensitive, you have a tendency to jerk the lure out of their mouth before they get hooked. These bass don't usually "kill" a lure, they lip it.

Now for a bit of truth. I don't fish in cold weather anymore. In years past, I fished when ice formed in the rod guides...and caught fish. No more. I am too old and do not enjoy being cold. But I still know how to find fish before I have a good suntan. I fish warm days where I am comfortable and look for warmer water where the fish are comfortable.

It is all connected to water temperature, water clarity and depth. But the temperature is the dominant factor. It is a matter of degrees.

Contact the author atjsloan1944@gmail,com

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