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Written By: Bill Adelman, March 12, 2012
Last time we gave it our all chasing sturgeon. So now we have to give up on the choppy water, heavy tackle and shrimp baits and chase something far more civil, at least as far as spring days are concerned. That would be either spotted or smallmouth bass.
The heat spell during the third week of March got every plug flinging angler all hyped up. As spots and smallies get grouped up and head for the shallows, the casting finger just twitches uncontrollably right up until that first fling. For reference, “shallow” water will be from one to fifteen feet deep, thus the old “bible system” must once again be employed.
By the way, did you notice where the Bassmasters tourney at Clear Lake, ending 3/21/10, turned out 98-½ pounds for the winner? That was just 20 fish anglers. I’d be happy with just the opposite…98 fish weighing a total of 20 pounds.
But, I digress. Spotted bass, often referred to as “Kentuckys,” are very agreeable biters when all is right. All is right when the water is clear, in the low to mid 50’s and a slight overcast encompasses your water. We’ve got Berryessa, Folsom, Oroville and Shasta as the premier waters for spots.
Tiny baits seem to work best. The original lead darthead rigged with a skinny 3 inch wiggle tail worm will attract spots from far and wide. Very small tube baits do well, as will drop shotting the tiny 3-4 inch worms. Curly tails, no more than 1/3 inch in diameter, that react to a slight movement, are the hot ticket.
Even the tiny crappie jigs, fished very slowly on the drop, will take spots. Try to toss onto or over rocky areas, up to twenty feet deep, and allow a slow, controlled descent. If you’re not totally tuned in to the slightest line twitch, many grabs will go undetected.
Using a colored mono, ie: orange or yellow, will assist considerably in detecting strikes. Just be sure to use ten to twelve feet of no more than eight pound test fluorocarbon as a leader. As agreeable as spots are when it comes to grabbing your presentation, they use even less gusto than I do with my TV remote.
You truly will see more strikes than you feel. Then, lift and crank, don’t do the old sturgeon hookset. When you locate a rivulet of water entering the lake, spots will gang up just below the flow to catch all the stuff washing in.
If you locate a waterfall, even a small one, don’t overlook it, even though the flow appears to be only five to six feet of moving water.
Steep banks, such as the ones in the Narrows at Berryessa, hold spots. Slowly work the shoreline, cast and drop, and when you get bit, work that area hard. Generally speaking, spots won’t be found over sloping gravel shorelines, (stay tuned), around sunken trees or on the top of underwater sloping points.
Deep off the side of those points can be extremely productive, especially in about fifteen feet of water near rocks. Is there a pattern here?
Smallmouth, those brownish bass with orange or red eyes, (not to be confused with my red eyes), are a real kick in the britches in April and May. Those previously mentioned sloping gravel banks are but one of the hot spots for smallies. Fish tend to pre-stage here, as many will use this terrain for spawning.
The steeper banks adjacent to these areas put out many fish on small to medium crankbaits. The old Shad Rap from the late 70’s is still a major bait for smallmouth.
Crawdads are beginning to leave the dens now as well, giving fish an easy meal amongst the rocks. A small to medium rubber crawdaddy bait is a proven fish getter. Try to capture a live one so as to determine the right color combination.
Dad-colored tube baits just seem to holler out to smallies. My fave is the three inch, but hey, whatever works for you is a winner. My preference is one with the inserted jig head and an exposed hook, as it falls slowly and erratically.
Many times fish will be suspended, and when the jig head is too heavy, it falls right through bass that aren’t on a tear at that particular time of day. Allow it to just lie still for thirty seconds or so, as bass will examine it, see the slight movement in the tentacles, then just inhale it rather than grab it.
After you’ve missed that grab, do a very slow retrieve, sometimes slightly bouncing the bait and other times just dragging it. Smallies will readily take a 6 inch worm, fished either as a Texas rig or with no weight at all. Yup, we’re still in the slow to slower patterns.
Next time we’ll stay with this smallmouth stuff, looking mainly at crankbaits and surface lures. Every time I tie on a surface lure, I remember an old timer, many years ago, telling me how to fish a “topwater, floating surface bait”. So, we’ll cover that as well. Seeya then and Tight Lines!
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