Pro's Picks For Spring Bassin'

Grant Goldbeck Late Spring Lure Selection

Depending on where you are, June might offer some of the most predictable and fruitful fishing of any month. According to Bassmaster Elite Series pro Grant Goldbeck, there are two main patterns going on right now, and anglers can fish how they like and still get bit. "There's a deep bite and a shallow bite in June. I can fish my strengths and know that I'm going to get bit. Also, when you do find some fish - especially offshore fish - you can load the boat and stay on them for days because they don't usually move that much." He advises anglers to find the bait, especially in northern climes where the shad spawn is likely still in progress. Here's what Goldbeck throws in June.

Zara Spook:

"This is especially good in parts of the country where the shad spawn is still going on, or after it because the fish are still eating a lot in June. Their metabolism is high, and they're fattening up after a long spawn," he says. Goldbeck walks a shad colored Spook along long points and areas where there's hard bottom, and if it's a grass lake he's fishing, he walks it around there.

Jig:

"If you put me on an island with just one bait, it'd be a jig. It's the most versatile lure there is. I can swim it, work it on deeper ledges and flip it in and around cover," he says. "I'll use a 1/2-ounce brown rubber jig because it's dark enough to work in stained water, and brown is about as natural a color as there is." Goldbeck hangs a matching Xcite Baits Raptor Tail Jr. craw on the back and works it around the prevalent cover on the lake, be it wood, stumps or rock. "The fish are tight to cover trying to get out of the sun, so they hug stuff pretty tight," he says.

Bomber Fat Free Shad:

Goldbeck says you can't leave out the deep bite in June and into the summer. "I'm throwing this on deep structure, such as shellbeds, brushpiles or rockpiles, going after those fish that are stacked up and staging to go into their summer pattern," he says. The citrus shad color gets the nod.

Xcite Baits XB-1 Square Bill:

"I've got to be able to cover the entire water column, and there are still shallow fish in June. I work this around the predominant cover on the lake, whatever it is. Bang it off the cover because, once again, the fish are holding tight to things now. Plus, there will be some late spawners that'll eat a square bill. This crankbait has a weight transfer system that lets me target those shallow fish that are skittish; you can really throw it a long way, which is important in shallow water," he says.

What Grant Goldbeck Throws In June June 2013 Bassmaster (David Hunter Jones pg. 26)

Jeff Kriet Fires Bass Up With Flutter Spoons

Don't get Jeff Kriet started talking about flutter spoons. He won't stop! He'll wear you out, and that's because with this bait, Kriet wears the bass out. "I just can't overemphasize how good this bait is when conditions are right to use it," he avows. "I mean, when the bass are on it, it's pure chaos. You can go from zero to hero in a heartbeat. I've done it hundreds of times. I've caught 35 to 40 fish on back-toback casts with it. I've caught lots of big fish on it - several 10-pounders. "I'll say this about the flutter spoon," Kriet continues. "There's never a time in the postspawn when I don't have a rod rigged with this bait on my boat's deck, and it's usually in my hand - guaranteed! No matter where I am, if I'm fishing for schools of fish, I've got a flutter spoon tied on." OK, enough already! Still, it's hard for Kriet's enthusiasm for flutter spoons not to be infectious. This Bassmaster Elite Series angler from Ardmore, Okla., knows what he knows: This lure produces big catches of fish after bass have finished with egg-laying and returned to their main-lake feeding locations. Following are details of where Kriet looks for bass during early summer, how he finds them and how he sacks up consistent, heavy catches. He emphasizes, "For putting numbers up, there's nothing better than a flutter spoon." Other anglers can put their own big numbers up if they master this bait and Kriet's techniques with it.

Location:

First, Kriet turns to flutter spoons when bass are "out." He explains, "This means when they've moved back to deep water and collected in schools to feed on baitfish. They'll typically hold on main-lake ledges, humps, points, ridges - any bottom irregularities." He continues, "They will also usually school up on the shallow side of the structure but close to a dropoff into deeper water. Depths will be relative to a particular lake. On one lake, fish may be holding on a 30-foot ledge [on top] that drops off into a deeper channel. On another lake, a drop that goes from 6 to 12 feet might be a player. My favorite depth range for fishing spoons is 12 to 22 feet on the high side of the drop." Kriet says good electronics are crucial for finding these fish. "I just ride and scan likely structures until I see what I think is a school of bass. They may be holding close to the bottom, or they may be suspended up above the drop. I prefer to see them hanging close to the roll [where a dropoff rolls off into deeper water]. I also like to see the fish moving on my graph, not flat lines that usually indicate inactive fish. When I see fish moving, I feel like they're searching for food, and I can catch them." Kriet adds, "I also love to see baitfish on my graph. If I see active bass and balls of shad in close proximity, that's the perfect scenario."

Lure Selection & Presentation:

When he marks a school of bass, Kriet goes to work with the flutter spoon. "I fish a 5-inch spoon with a nickel finish. It's thin and fairly lightweight, and it's designed to wobble side-to-side when it's falling. This lure was originally designed for salmon fishing, but it's proven to be very effective on bass, as well." Kriet usually starts working a spot by holding his boat over deep water and casting perpendicular to the shallow structure. However, after a few casts, if this isn't working, he will move his boat and cast from a different direction. "I always change my casting angles," he notes. "Some days I catch all the big ones by moving up on top of the drop and casting out deep. On other days, I might catch them casting parallel to the dropoff. "There's always an angle that works best, and it changes from day to day. You have to experiment with different angles to see what works best." When he casts his flutter spoon out, Kriet lets it fall on a semislack line straight to the bottom - no twitches or jerks as it drops. He notes, "I'll keep contact with the spoon as it's fluttering down. Frequently, a fish will grab it on that first cast. But if I don't get a strike, I'll wait for it to hit bottom before starting my retrieve." Then Kriet offers a crucial tip for success with this bait. "Most people overwork a flutter spoon. When it's on bottom, they'll take up slack line, then they'll make a big sweep with their rod tip that pulls the spoon way off bottom and moves it quickly. "Instead, when my spoon hits bottom, I'll lift my rod tip slightly and make three or four quick turns with my reel handle, then I'll let it fall right back to the bottom. I'll repeat this process over and over. This keeps the spoon close to the bottom, where the fish are usually feeding. The only time I'll jerk it higher is if I'm seeing suspended fish on my graph. Otherwise, I try to keep it within 5 to 6 feet off the bottom. I let it go straight back down every time I move it." Kriet says some hits on the spoon are aggressive ("they'll knock slack in the line"), but most bites are more subtle. "There's just weight. It feels like you've snagged a wet towel. When I feel this, I start reeling fast and lean back into the fish, but I don't make any violent jerks. "This is because if I jerk hard and miss the fish, I've probably pulled the spoon away from him or any other fish that's following it. But by jerking less violently, if I don't get a hookup, the spoon is still within striking distance of that fish or another one behind it." When pre-fishing for a tournament, Kriet tries to locate several schools of bass on different structures within quick-running distance of each other. Then, when the tourney begins, he rotates from one spot, to the next, to the next. "Bass on a given spot don't actively feed all the time. So I'll fish a spot maybe 15 to 45 minutes, and if nothing's going on, I'll move to the next spot. I'll just rotate around my spots, hoping that sooner or later I'll collide with a hot bite."

Fire Bass Up With Flutter Spoons June 2013 Bassmaster (Wade L. Bourne pg. 64 - 65)

Adapting To Pre-Spawn Cold Fronts With Kevin VanDam

During the spring, cold fronts are a way of life for bass anglers. Learning how to adjust to changing conditions can improve your catch rates. Seven-time Bassmaster Angler of the Year Kevin VanDam is well known in the world of bass fishing for his ability to adjust under changing conditions. The Kalamazoo, MI pro says that, contrary to popular belief, in this situation the fish are not going to make a huge move from the area where they were originally found.

Location:

"These fish want to be shallow and they are getting ready for the spawn," VanDam explains. "Rather than make a drastic change in location, a front like this usually shuts the mood down. It is probably going to be a technique or presentation change. They may move a short distance, such as off of a flat or out of a small pocket to a nearby channel swing bank, but it is not going to be a big change."

Lure Selection & Presntation:

"Lure selection can be fairly simple," VanDam Says. "You can throw a Red Eye Shad lipless crankbait, a square-billed crankbait, a jig, a Senko, a Carolina rig or just about anything else. It is important to really focus on what the fish are telling you by the way the strike the bait." For the four-time Bassmaster Classic champion, sometimes slowing down is the key to post-front bass. He says that if you had been catching them on a spinnerbait before the front, you might need to slow down and fish something slower that you can keep in front of them for a longer period of time. The fish are focusing on the spawn and looking for areas they want to spawn in. VanDam says the bass may pull off an area for a few hours after a cold front, but a lot of times they will move right back in the shallows in the afternoon and doing what they were doing before.

The mood of the bass can change really fast so VanDam believes it is critical to pay attention to how they are eating whatever bait you are throwing. If they are bumping a spinnerbait and not eating it, then you might want to change to a crankbait. He will have several rods with different lure choices available on the deck of his Nitro because this time of year each day is different and things can change by the hour. He says bait selection is subjective and there are a variety of lures that will work at this time of year. For VanDam, concentration and paying close attention to the keys the fish are giving you is more important than any other factor. Know what the fish are telling you based on their behavior could be the crucial factor in a good day and a poor performance. He says the first strike is the most important of the entire day. "It is important to really focus on what the fish are telling you by the way the strike the bait," VanDam notes. "The biggest thing is focusing in on everything that happened when you made contact with that first fish. How deep was he? How was he positioned? This, along with other factors will tell you what you are going to have to do to catch the next one."

Adapting To Pre-Spawn Cold Fronts With Kevin VanDam Spring 2013 Bass Angler Magazine (Tim Tipton pg. 26 - 27)

April Bassin' Made Easy With Stephen Browning

Mention bass fishing in April, and Stephen Browning lights up like a flashing neon sign that says, "Count me in!" "This is absolutely the funnest time of the year to be on the water," says the Bassmaster Elite Series pro from Hot Springs, Ark. "It's when everything is happening. It's when 80 to 90 percent of the bass are close to the shore in thin water, and you've got a lot of different options to catch 'em: spinnerbaits, ChatterBaits, shallow crankbaits, jigs, topwaters - take your pick. You can throw just about whatever you want to during this month and catch some fish." He adds slyly, "This is why I don't turkey hunt. The fishing is just too good to be doing anything else." Now, that's an endorsement, and it's why, in April, Browning spends every day that he can on the water. He says this is the month for "everyman" bass anglers. You don't have to be a pro. You don't have to master a bunch of demanding techniques. You don't have to have thousands of dollars' worth of electronics and an engineer's skills to run them. Instead, you focus on one basic pattern and a couple of proven baits and just cover water. And you do so with the confidence that, if you work it long enough, you're going to wind up with a good catch. Period. Finis. End of story!

Location:

Browning adds that there's no reason to make something difficult out of a deal that's so simple. He says, "This is true chunk-and-wind fishing - nothing more. I'm telling you, anybody with eyes and basic gear and casting skills can catch fish in this month." And here is Browning's unsophisticated advice for doing so. He begins, "I live in central Arkansas, and I do most of my nontournament fishing close to home and in east Texas, north Louisiana and Missouri. April is when the fish move in shallow and get ready to spawn in lakes in these areas. "Now, this may happen a little earlier in more southern lakes or a little later in more northern lakes. But in the middle of the country, down through the TVA region, in the Carolinas, in Oklahoma and out in California, April is the time when the most bass are the most available to the most anglers. I know I keep saying this, but I want to make sure everybody understands what a great fishing opportunity this month offers." Browning says it's easy to get started. "Pick any creek or drainage on your target lake and start fishing halfway back in it, and work your way toward the back. You can mark off the deeper part of the lake; just ignore it. In April, the vast majority of bass will be in the back halves of the creeks and holding in 10 feet of water or less. If you're fishing anywhere else, you're wasting your time." Further, Browning says these bass are holding around some type of cover. "They're definitely object-oriented now," he stresses. "They will be around logs, stumps, laydowns, buck brush, aquatic grass, willow trees, stake beds, rocks, docks, driftwood, old cars or refrigerators - anything! You can see some of these objects sticking out above the water; other objects will be just beneath the surface. "The idea is to just start running water and looking for any cover that a bass can hide beside or under. Cast to anything and everything until you get a few bites that tell you the type [of] cover the fish are relating to best. Then, you can refine your pattern and confine your search to be more efficient by fishing those preferred cover types only."

Lure Selection:

When he's searching, Browning uses two proven baits. The first is a 3/8-ounce Z-Man Original ChatterBait. His favorite colors for the ChatterBait are chartreuse/white to mimic shad and green pumpkin to mimic bream. He rigs his ChatterBait with a matching 3-inch MinnowZ paddletail trailer for fishing in 3 to 4 feet of water or a 5-inch Jerk Shadz trailer for deeper than 4 feet. Browning's second go-to bait is a LiveTarget Crawfish (square bill) crankbait in orange/brown (natural), brown/ chartreuse or red/black, depending on water color. When the water is clear, he goes with the natural crawfish color. But in stained or muddy water, he opts for the brown/chartreuse or the red/black for greater visibility.

Lure Presentation:

So, Browning starts his fishing day with two rods rigged and ready: one with the ChatterBait and the other with the crankbait. He explains, "I'll alternate using these lures to see which one the bass like best. I'll go with the ChatterBait first, running it around or over my target cover objects. If the fish are feeding aggressively, they'll hit this lure outside the cover, which is what I prefer since there's less chance they'll get tangled up and get away. "But if the fish aren't chasing the ChatterBait, then I'll go with the crankbait and start banging it into the cover, trying to get reaction strikes from inactive fish. It usually doesn't take very long for me to figure out which bait will be the best one on that given day." When he's running and gunning, Browning looks for bass in smaller ditches and drainages, as well as in major creeks. "I don't focus just on the bigger creeks. In fact, a lot of times I'll catch more fish from the little side pockets and fingers off the main lake. A lot of times these places will collect driftwood that's blown in from the main lake, and some really big fish are drawn to this cover. You can work these places quickly and easily. You can idle in one, see the targets and cover them in just a few minutes." Browning says that when he's running this pattern, he's looking for individual bass, not school fish. "This is a one here, one there deal," he says. "However, it's very common to find areas where more fish will be concentrated, getting ready to move up onto spawning beds. "So, I just stay on the move, running from one place to the next, casting to cover objects and working to narrow down my pattern. I'll typically spend 10 minutes in one little area, then I'll go find another spot and try it, then another spot. "It's all about figuring out if the fish are on laydowns or willow trees or buck brush. And once you set the pattern (best places, preferred bait), then you really start covering water looking for those prime spots. On a typical day of doing this, I may hit upwards of 20 different creeks or pockets."

Another Tip:

"I focus a lot more on fishing the sunny banks," Browning says. "The bass are up shallow because they want to spawn, and they're looking for the warmer water. The females actually want to be in the sunshine where the water is a few degrees warmer than shaded banks." As he fishes, Browning always wears polarized sunglasses, so he can see cover objects beneath the water's surface. He says, "I catch a lot of fish off the 'dark spots' that I can see because my sunglasses allow me to look a few feet down into the water." He summarizes, "In the spring, I see a lot of weekend anglers just going down the banks and fishing everything. This is a big mistake. There's a lot of what I call 'absent water' where there's no cover and very little chance of bass being present. You need to avoid these places. Don't just go bank fishing and spend all day in one creek. Instead, hit eight to 10 of the best spots in a given creek, then run down the lake to the next creek. You've got to learn where the fish are and ignore the dead water. "And when you figure this out, you can rack 'em up," Browning continues. "I'll average catching 30 to 40 fish in April, including some really big ones. And anybody can do this! You've just got to have a little basic knowledge and the confidence to make this work, then get out there and get after it!"

April Bassin' Made Easy April 2013 Bassmaster (Wade L. Bourne pg. 82 - 85)

Charlie Hartley's April Lure Selection

The tag on Charlie Hartley's truck reads "BIGBASS." He earned this moniker due to his fishing exploits in the month of April. How, you ask? "Back in the old days in Ohio, I was pretty darn good with a flippin' stick in cold water during those ice-breaker tournaments in April. I caught more than my share of big bass on a jig," he said. "For the most part, the bass are at their biggest in April. They're either prespawn, spawning or off the beds in postspawn. Everything revolves around that. Think of it this way: If you only got to make love once a year, it'd be the most important thing in your life, too." Here's how Charlie Hartley dupes one-track-minded bass in April.

Berkley Gripper Jig:

This is Hartley's go-to for the coldest water. "I'm a jig guy, and in really cold water, a jig is hard to beat," he says. "For prespawn, it's a big-profile lure and can be fished slowly, which is what you want for these fish," he says. "During the spawn, it's underrated, but don't use a trailer. Bass are good at grabbing it by the trailer and dragging it out of the bed. If it's got no trailer, they have to grab the hook!" He sticks to black-and-blue or green pumpkin.

Terminator Spinnerbait:

"This is good prespawn and postspawn. But, even when fish are on the beds, there are some that are either prespawn or postspawn. Plus, this is one of the best shad imitators, and you can work it slowly in cold water," Hartley says. He likes the Terminator because its frame is made with titanium, and it doesn't have to be bent back into shape like many other spinnerbaits. Hartley likes chartreuse-and-white.

Soft Plastic Stickworm:

"This bait helps me throughout the whole spawn. I don't have very good eyesight, and there are better bed fishermen than I am, but I can imagine places where bass are bedding and throw this to them, and a lot of times it gets their attention when it falls weightless," he says. "Plus, when they can't see you on top of them, you have a better chance of getting them to bite." Hartley sticks with green pumpkin, watermelon red and black-and-blue.

Boogerman Buzzbait:

"A lot of people don't think of a buzzbait as a good prespawn lure because the water is usually below 60, and I typically agree with that, but they're more aggressive than the water temp lets on," he says. "If they don't eat it, they'll let you know where they are when they come up and try to eat it. After the spawn, it looks like a shad flickering or some terrestrial critter scurrying across the surface."

What Charlie Hartley Throws In April April 2013 Bassmaster (David Hunter Jones pg. 26)

David Walker's 5 Favorite Spawn Baits

David Walker burst onto the Elite Series scene in 2011 as he won the Dixie Duel on Alabama's Wheeler Lake. Though he won the event fishing offshore, Walker is an adept sight fisherman. Here are his five go-to baits when the spawn is on.

Z-Man Flappin' Crawz:

"My favorite sight fishing bait is a Flappin' Crawz made by Z-Man. The Crawz are real buoyant so when you stop the bait, it stands up and that creates a look that the fish do not see often. Pearl white is my go-to."

Z-Man Flappin' Crawz:

"My second favorite is another Flappin' Crawz in a different color. I use different colors based on the water color. I like a color that I can see good. Green pumpkin or black-and-blue flake show up real well on a bright sandy white bottom."

Z-Man Zinkerz:

"Next would be a Z-Man Zinkerz. You can just blind cast that bait out ahead of you while you're going down the bank looking. You'll catch fish that would spook if you tried to get close enough to see them."

Z-Man Fattyz:

"When fishing around grass I'll go with a Texas rigged Z-Man FattyZ with a 3/8 Reins Tungsten weight, possibly heavier. That way I can target a bed in those grassy conditions and get the bait down in the bed instead of penduluming back and missing the bed."

Z-Man Paddlerz:

"A good way to find fish that are bedding too deep to see them is with a swimbait. Those fish will come up and show themselves. You may never catch one on the swimbait but the fish will show themselves and then you can come back and catch them on something else. I like a Z-Man Paddlerz."

David Walker's 5 Favorite Spawn Fishing Baits Bassmaster.com (April 25, 2013)

Dissecting River Run Bass With Bill Lowen

River bass angling has a rich history in the United States, but it has fallen out of favor among many anglers. Prior to the influx of man-made dams, most angling was done on farm ponds and the myriad of rivers that crisscrossed the country Now that man-made reservoirs are a staple in most of the United States, river bassin' is a forgotten aspect of fishing except for a small segment of the country. Many bass anglers ignore rivers for various reasons. The lack of big bass often available and the difference in fish behavior on a river are two of the most often cited, but Bassmaster Elite Series pro Bill Lowen believes that understanding how river bass behave in their environment can improve an anglers confidence in catching fish in moving water.

Location:

"The most important factor on a river is current," the Indiana pro observed. "Current is the key for most of the year because it positions fish on ambush areas where the baitfish can be brought to them without the bass expending a lot of energy." Another factor he wants to know is the predominant bass species he should be targeting. Whether smallmouth, largemouth or spotted bass, because of the difference in behavior. This is even more important in the spring because of the difference in spawning behavior between the three species. As the spawn approaches on a river, Lowen begins searching for fish in backwater areas, away from the current. He will search out creeks off the main river, larger tributaries or sheltered bays; where even during flooding a common occurrence on most rivers in the spring- the bass will be protected from the current. "I am going to start looking for bass in backwater areas where they can get out of the current and spawn in the springtime," Lowen explained. "Traditionally this is going to be in feeder creeks and backwater areas that have less influence from moving water. It doesn't have to be a large creek; it can be a little oxbow or small pocket or bay off the main river or even a marina area. Basically anything that that can get these fish out of the current and allow them to spawn, are the areas I am going to target in the spring."

Lure Selection & Presentation:

For Lowen, being able to cover a lot of water influences his lure selection. He likes to begin his search with two lures tied on and at the ready; a small, shallow-running, square-billed crankbait and a small spinnerbait. River systems often have a lot of color to them from spring rains; Lowen prefers baits that are strong on water displacement. His crankbait of choice is one he designed for just this situation. The bait is produced by Ima Lures and is called the Square Bill, named creatively after both lure design and designer. Lowen designed it to resemble the handmade balsa baits he grew up using on the Ohio River. "Those handmade balsa baits where what I was raised with fishing on the Ohio River," Lowen said. "I wanted to design a plastic bait that combined all of the characteristics of balsa, but was cheaper and sturdier. The Square Bill does all of that. The lure runs very shallow and you can throw it anywhere you want and not have to worry as much about getting hung up." Lowen likes to throw the small crankbait into areas where other anglers would avoid throwing a lure with treble hooks. He believes the shallow depths and the square bill on the lure that ricochets off cover, enables him to get reaction strikes in these areas. "Every time the Square Bill hits a piece of cover it deflects in a different direction," Lowen explained. "When this happens, you can pause it or twitch it and make it do things that you cannot do with a traditional lure like a spinnerbait." If the crankbait is not producing the bites he is looking for, the five-time Bassmaster Classic Qualifier will opt for the traditional spinnerbait. Lowen's spinnerbait of choice is a 1/4oz lure with a single, size-4 Colorado blade.

Crankbait & Spinnerbait Gear:

Lowen throws the crankbait on a 7-foot, medium-heavy rod with a 6.4:1 Revo reel spooled with Trilene 100% fluorocarbon in 15, 17 or 20-pound test depending on the density of the cover and the depth he is trying to reach. He fishes this on the same rod and reel set-up as the crankbait, but switches to 20-pound-test fluorocarbon line. His color choice is based on water clarity and consists of white, chartreuse/white or black.

Dissecting River Run Bass with Bill Lowen Spring 2013 Bass Angler Magazine (Tim Tipton pg. 30 - 31)

Fish The Spawn With Terry Scroggins

Florida bass fishermen learn to bed fish out of necessity, as did Elite Series pro Terry Scroggins of San Mateo, Fla. Bass here begin making beds in January, and you can catch spawners on and off for the next six months. If you can't catch bass during the spawn in Florida, don't waste your money fishing bass tournaments here. Scroggins was a dominating tournament fisherman in Florida before he embarked on his pro career, which includes five Bassmaster victories (four in Florida) and nine trips to the Bassmaster Classic. Much of his success stems from his ability to find and catch spawning bass. For many anglers, fishing the spawn is singular in meaning: casting to bedding bass. Scroggins does this, too, but it's only one of his many tactics. He breaks the spawning cycle into four stages, and fishes each one differently. Pay close attention, because what you're about to learn from Scroggins will vastly improve your success during all stages of the spawn.

Stage 1: When The Buck Moves Up

In Florida, the bucks first move up onto the beds when the water temperature warms to 58 degrees or more, claims Scroggins. They make beds only 12 to 18 inches deep because the warmest water is in the extreme shallows. The bass spawn deeper as the water continually heats up. "You'll see bucks on the beds four or five days before the females show up," Scroggins says. "The females are in the same general area, cruising around." To catch the big females, Scroggins fancasts a white, double-bladed 3/8-ounce Booyah Bi-You Buzz buzzbait over submerged hydrilla, eelgrass or peppergrass near the beds. If bass refuse the buzzbait, he swims a Texas rigged 6-inch lizard or 7 1/2-inch ribbontail worm over the grass. He matches these baits with a straight shank 4/0 Owner hook and a 1/16- or 1/8-ounce bullet sinker. Scroggins makes a long cast over the grass with a 7-foot medium-heavy baitcasting rod and a Daiwa reel loaded with 16-pound Gamma fluorocarbon line, and then holds the rod tip at 10 o'clock and maintains a steady retrieve. The bait bounces through the grass and goads strikes. "A lot of times the bait runs over a bed you don't see," Scroggins says. "That's a great way to catch a big female. "You also catch a lot of bucks doing this." Should swimming a lizard or worm fail to catch the females, Scroggins fishes ledges just outside the spawning area with a Carolina rigged 6-inch lizard (with a 1-ounce weight). These ledges are typically hard bottoms 3 to 5 feet deep that drop into 10 feet of water. Scroggins often finds such spots along the outside edges of grassbeds. The heavy sinker helps him cast farther and feel the bottom. When the sinker taps shells or rocks, Scroggins slows down with short pulls and long pauses.

Stage 2: Bucks & Females Paired

"It's a hunting game when you start to see the bucks and females together on the beds," Scroggins says. "I run the shallows fast and find every big spawning pair I can." A green pumpkin 3 3/4-inch Yum Craw Papi Texas rigged with a 1/4-ounce tungsten sinker tempts more strikes from bedding bass than any other bait Scroggins shows them. Before he begins casting, Scroggins shoves a bamboo tomato stake into the bottom at the back of the nest. Then he backs away far enough that he can't see the bass, which means the bass can't see him either. Because many of the beds Scroggins fishes are in grass, he casts beyond the stake and pulls the Craw Papi through the grass into the bed. Then he lets the bait soak and barely shakes it on a slack line. "It usually doesn't take long to catch her when you back away out of sight," Scroggins says. "But, sometimes they can be aggravating." The moon phase influences how long it takes to catch a bedding bass, claims Scroggins. The bass are more aggressive during a full or new moon when waves of spawners swarm into the shallows. There are fewer bass on the beds during the first and third quarters of the moon, and the bass are more reluctant to bite then.

Stage 3: Females Rolling

Scroggins calls it "rolling" when he sees a female bass locked on a bed and dropping eggs. She typically rocks back and forth on the bottom, and the male hits her in the sides to break the eggs loose. You can usually fish close enough to see rolling bass without spooking them. However, it's hard to get their attention with your lures when they're in this state. Though it's hard to catch a female while she's rolling, it's now-or-never time. She will leave as soon as she finishes dropping her eggs. Scroggins often starts working on a rolling bass by marking the bed, backing off and casting the Craw Papi to it. If that fails to get a bite, he switches to a white, Texas rigged, 6-inch lizard and a 1/4-ounce sinker. The bright color helps him see the bait, which needs to be fished close to the bass' mouth. She's unlikely to move to get it. The next option is to drop shot a 4-inch Yum Houdini Worm 5 inches above a 3/16-ounce weight. Scroggins nose-hooks the lizard and fishes it on 8- or 10-pound-test line. "The great thing about the drop shot is that you can shake that worm for an hour if you want to and never move it," Scroggins says. "You have to keep the bait in there to get her aggravated." The last resort is to bump the female in the head with a bait, which aggravates the bass and often triggers a reflex strike. Scroggins prefers the Craw Papi for this application because it has enough bulk that it won't accidentally hook the bass when he bumps it.

Stage 4: Females Leaving Beds

"When you see mostly bucks on the beds and clouds of bass fry, you have to switch gears to catch the females," Scroggins says. Working a buzzbait tight to docks and dock pilings often puts Scroggins in touch with the females soon after they drop their eggs and leave the nest. As the big mamas vacate the shallows and head toward deeper water, they often stop at docks to rest and feed. They're famished after the spawning ordeal and receptive to a topwater presentation. Heavy fishing pressure prompted Scroggins to downsize his bait when he fished the Bassmaster Southern Open at Santee Cooper, S.C., in May 2007. The bass were coming off the beds, and Scroggins found them on cypress trees in 4 to 6 feet of water just outside backwater spawning ponds. Scroggins Texas rigged a 6-inch green pumpkin Houdini Worm with a 3/0 hook and pinched a tiny No. 8 split shot to the line at the nose of the worm. He estimates that the shot weighed 1/64 ounce. After casting the worm to the base of a cypress tree, Scroggins let it sink slowly to the bottom, which took several seconds. If he didn't get a bite by the time the worm touched down, he reeled in and made another cast. "That split shot rig has some of the same action that a Senko has, but it's lighter and better for pinpoint casting," Scroggins says. "A heavy Senko wants to carry past the target. It's harder to control." Scroggins fished the split shot worm on 12-pound monofilament. He opted for limp Gamma copolymer line because he often had to skip the worm under limbs to reach the bass. Fluorocarbon line heavier than 8-pound test gives Scroggins fits on spinning tackle, especially when he's skipping. Stepping up to 12-pound line proved to be a wise decision. Scroggins carried 50 pounds, 11 ounces of bass to the scales during the three-day event, and claimed first place.

Four Stages Of The Spawn March 10, 2013 Bassmaster.com (Mark Hicks)

Gettin' Big Ol' Pigs To Go With Shaw Grigsby

"Sight fishing is the ultimate," exclaimed Bassmaster Elite Series pro Shaw Grigsby. "It combines the greatest of two sports - hunting and fishing. It is all about the hunt, the stalk, the ability for you to fool the fish." No less than a master at the technique, Grigsby credits an uncountable number of amazing catches and eight of his nine B.A.S.S. victories to sight fishing. With years of experience and unshakable confidence in the hunt for the visible bass, the sight fishing specialist revealed the necessities to his forte. "The first thing that you have to think of with this style of fishing is simply the name - sight, - You have to see," he explained. "The art of sight fishing is seeing the fish. It isn’t just catching them on beds. It is about seeing the fish before they see you and catching the fish you see."

Sunglasses:

The 14-time Classic qualifier stressed the importance of a good pair of sunglasses to enhance the ability of an angler's sight into the water. "I'm wearing the best pair of glasses that I've ever worn in my life right now," he commented. "They are the Strike King S11 Optics. They have eleven layers. We've tested them in saltwater target fishing. These are definitely what I like best; but most important for anyone is to have a really good pair of glasses that allow you to see well into the water." The details that Grigsby stated were imperative for choosing glasses for sight fishing were polarization, coloring and UV protection. "You must have polarized glasses," explained the Fla. pro. "It cuts the glare. You must also have UV protection to save your eyes and keep them safe for years to come. This is so important to keep from getting cataracts and other things that are just bad news for your eyes. We are going to be doing this a long time and we need to keep our eyes healthy to do it. Also, a key part of your glasses is the lens color. You never want gray lenses. They make everything darker and it is hard to distinguish fine details when the lenses are dark. All of mine are yellow or yellow/brownish in coloring."

Location:

Discussing locations to sight fish, he noted that you must have clear water to sight fish; but also commented that clear water is relative. He explained saying, "Clear water can be 1-foot or up to 30-feet or more." He detailed the differences saying water that is shallow and stained, generally offers a shorter window of time for sight fishing. Therefore, the bass there are fishable by sight when the fish move up, generally near the time of the spawn (he defined a rule of thumb for this as springtime when water temps are around 60-degrees). Water that is clear down to depths of 30-feet or more has extended timeframes for an angler to fish by sight, which has the possibility to be year-round. Specific areas to target need to be calm, slick areas. "Wind is a bad thing," added Grigsby. "It puts a ripple on the water and makes it so you cannot see the fish's movement."

Boat Positioning:

Placement of the boat is an important aspect to ensure an angler is hidden from the bass. "I keep my boat equally as far from the bank as the depth I can see," offered Grigsby. "For example, if I can see 5-feet down, I do not let my boat get closer than 5-feet from the bank." When choosing the position in which to fish, a quick visual test is conducted by the sight fishing specialist. "With your good pair of glasses on, you should be able to put your hand up towards the sun and put your thumb out at 90-degrees." He continued, "You can use your right hand or your left hand; it doesn't matter. You want to turn as far as you can from the right to the left and you will see the spot on the water where there is a sheen. If you keep going you will see the glare on the water, then you will see the clear spot, then you will see the glare again. You want to fish that area where you see clearest. This will give you the best sight and the most detail. I generally have the sun to my back or off my shoulder." Once he is in the right area, he gets the Motorguide going "pretty quick" and seeks out movement in the water - searching for beds, stumps, logs, bass etc. "I'm looking for springtime spawning stuff," he explained.

Lure Selection:

Grigsby's top sight fishing baits include a Strike King KVD Jerkbait, a Strike King Rage Tail Rage Craw, Lizard or Anaconda and a tube. A primary choice, a white Rage Tail Rage Craw is Texas-rigged on a Trokar TK130 Flippin' Hook with a 3/16 or 1/4-oz Tungsten bullet weight. "I usually start with a white Rage Craw," he stated. "I have used black or black neon too." For downsizing, he recommended a" baby tube or a baby craw" on light line, 8-lb Seaguar InvizX. "They can come unglued with these baby baits, sometimes," he exclaimed. "I fish this on spinning gear with an 1/8 or 1/16-oz bullet weight pegged and a small hook. Using the 1/16 may allow the bait to float and move, the 1/8-oz weight may keep it one spot. Think about that when choosing your weight size and what you're trying present to the fish." When upsizing he suggested the Rage Tail Anaconda - a 10-inch worm or the Rage Lizard for the look of a natural predator. When asked to give details about color choices, he replied, "Any color that applies to the condition you're fishing, will work." He also reminded that for sight fishing, it is important for the angler to see the bait and using a color that can be seen in the water condition and distance of cast is a key to success.

Lure Presentation:

"Once you've spotted the place you want to fish, keep your distance." said Grigsby. "If the fish see you, it will be harder to get them. Cast past the spot where you are targeting and then work it toward the fish, real slow. That is the key - slow, slower and slowest. If you go too fast, you will miss them or you won't get them to bite real good." He continued describing the action to impart on the bait, "Once you're out there, jiggle, sit, jiggle and watch the movement. Maybe, you will need a pop or hop to trigger the bite. If they're facing the bait, you know they're interested. If they turn away, reel in and cast again. If the fins wiggle, they're getting excited. Keep repeating the movement that gets you that action from them. Every fish can tell you what will get them to go with their movement. When they bite, hammer it! But, if they only get a claw and swim off, don't bother to set the hook, just wait 'til they get a good bite.

Adapting To Pre-Spawn Cold Fronts With Kevin VanDam Spring 2013 Bass Angler Magazine (Jody Only pg. 50 - 53)

Hall of Famer Finesses for Spring

The warming air of spring is on its way. The new growth of vegetation will start to peek out and the slow rising temperature of the waters will begin as will the rise of the metabolism of the feeding bass. It is the season that many big, big bass are brought to the boat. It is the season where many anglers lift their lunkers near their big grin to commemorate a personal best with a cell phone pic. To help fishermen on their hunt for springtime bass, bass fishing icon Mike Folkestad offered up some of his spring finesse suggestions. "What you are looking for will typically be seen in the latter part of Feb to the middle of May depending on what part of the country your in.," said Folkestad as he commenced sharing his know-how. "This is when you will see the water in the morning at about 52 or 53-degrees and warming to about 56 in the afternoons. The warming trends are important, because this is what starts to cause the fish to move towards their spawning areas. Because warming trends only last a couple of days, you will see a day come in where the air temperatures drop back down and the water temp will fall by a couple of degrees and this cold will cause the fish to back off."

Location:

After a look at the upcoming forecast, Folkestad will seek out the warmest upcoming days and noted that the most productive time of any day (even a warm spring day) is in the heat of the afternoon. "When I go out, I'm looking for the migration areas of the bass," he continued. "The routes they use to travel to their spawning areas, like shallow points with deep water access on one side (hard, rocky, gravel areas). Bigger fish are out there and use the deep water for their approach to their spawning area. At this time, they are not looking to actually get to their spawning area, but I'm looking for them on the 'roads' they will use to move up and back on to their spawning areas." His migration area targets also include small ledges, breaks that run on the deep side of a point going towards a shallow part and secondary channel points (a lot of these secondary points extend out further into the lake and fall off into water and can be the most productive areas in the early part of spring). He suggested finding areas like this with electronics."Definitely mark the good spots, you will want to find them quickly, so that you don't waste time on dead water," he recommended.

Lure Selection:

With the bass feeding on crawdads, Folkestad prefers to use a lure with a similar appearance. "I like a 1/4-oz jig with a 4-inch twin tail or single tail grub trailer," he continued. "I favor the double tail or a Chigger Craw - the smaller one with the crazy crawdad legs. I will also use a Beaver at times. I use a rubber football jig, generally any color like a pumpkin or a green pumpkin. Greens and browns are my main choice or sometimes purple/brown." Folkestad's finesse gear is the new Daiwa Cielo 6'6", medium-heavy rod with 6-lb Seaguar Fluorocarbon. "That rod has the right action and a good butt for the hookset, explained the pro. "It also has the right tip. It telegraphs what is happening from the bottom. It tells you what is going on and where you're at, so you know when to slow down and move jig. You have to be able to interpret your bottom contact to be successful with this and this rod has the tip that lets you feel that. You need to know when you're on the rock, shale or shrubs. Then you can finesse your bait through the cover. The bass love that scratchy noise that happens when you get in to that type of bottom and when I feel that, I know that is when I will get a bite. I think it must be a similar sound that a crawdad makes when it is in the rocks and that is what attracts the bass. Sometimes, I will use a heavier jig to find the right feel. A 3/4-oz works good and then when I find the bottom that I want, I will go back in an hour or so, or later in the afternoon with a 1/4-oz jig to get them. Occasionally, they will bite the 3/4-oz, but not typically."

After locating them with the heavy search jig, Folkestad will also change to a tube with a 1/8-oz head inside to temp the bass to bite. He does this when a more subtle approach is required. He uses Yamamoto or Canyon Plastic tubes in greens and browns, the 4-inch size for largemouth and the 3-inch for smallmouth. He also ties this on to 6-lb Seaguar and uses a 6'6" medium-heavy Daiwa Light and Tough spinning rod with a Ballistic 200 reel.

He will also serve up a Lucky Craft RC Series crankbait with a slow retrieve, bouncing off rough spots or brush. His colors of choice include greens/browns and citrus. He again opts for 6-lb-test with a Daiwa cranking rod. His crankbait advice was remembering to go light when setting the hook - (don't use a hard jerk), only a reel set with a sweep and also to make sure you can always feel the vibration of the bait. "If you've lost that feel when you've got one hooked, that means the fish is coming towards you," he explained. "That is when you have to crank as hard and fast as you can to get tension or hardness and when you feel that again, you've caught up to the fish. Don't set if you can't feel that tension or there is any slack in the line. When you're ready a side-sweep at about 45-degrees is better than a horizontal sweep. This will help you lift more line." Another best bait option for Folkestad is a Yamamoto Senko in 301 or 330. This is rigged wacky with a 3/32 or 3/64 nail weight. He employs an O-ring or shrink tubing to increase the longevity of the plastic. In heavier cover, he will use a weed guard, however, he prefers not to and said, "it is generally not necessary in early spring unless the target is bushes."

Hall of Famer Finesses for Spring Spring 2013 Bass Angler Magazine (Jody Only pg. 82 - 84)

Locating Spawning Bass With Bryan Thrift

Every year the fish go through a cycle. No matter where you live the bass move up from the main lake in the late winter to feed, getting ready for the spawn. They spawn, then recover and finally move into their summer haunts. Knowing these generalities is helpful, but it's only a small piece of the puzzle. The key to catching bass is locating the bass! Though we all have a difficult time locating and catching fish at times, there are some anglers that have proven they can do it better than most. One such angler is the Damiki pro Bryan Thrift, past FLW angler of the year and the winner of the 2012 Toyota Bass Classic. Bryan makes his living as a pro angler and has proven to the world that he can find bass better than most.

Pre-Spawn Location:

I look for protected flats in three to five-feet of water," he answered. Once I find a flat, I'll find the edge that breaks into deep water; then, I'll probe it with Damiki Abyss 90 Jerkbait and a DC 200 medium diving crankbait. I know other baits will work fine; however, I've worked with Damiki for a few years now and have really perfected these baits to where they are my go-to baits." Bryan went on to say he doesn't care if the flat is to the north, south, east or west, the key is that it is protected. "I've caught 'em many times where other anglers aren't looking," said the FLW pro. "Experiment - If the flat has a creek or a drain, I'll concentrate on that area first.

Spawn Location:

I'm looking for protected areas and sight fishing with three plastic baits. I use a white Damiki Hydra, 3-inch Air Craw in watermelon candy and a black/red Knockout. I'm searching during practice, working to locate the bigger fish. I'll spend five to ten minutes on a fish to check the mood and see how catchable they are. Then, on the last day of practice, I'll go check on the biggest fish I found and when the tournament begins, I will start on the biggest fish I've found even, if they didn't seem catchable in practice."

Post-Spawn Location:

Many anglers are fishing deeper, outside edges and ledges, but I go shallow, because the bigger, post spawn bass will be feeding on the shad and bluegill that are now spawning," Thrift continued. "Look for protected areas where the bass were spawning. Shad are pretty easy to spot - look for surface activity and work a topwater or trap style bait through the activity. When I can't find them shallow, I will be skipping docks and especially pontoon boats. Skipping takes some practice. My two favorite skipping baits are the Damiki Mamba Jig and the Stinger." If these different approaches seem simple and straightforward it's because they are. If you ever talk with Bryan you'll notice his simple and direct answers to your questions. Though this may not work for everyone and every situation Bryan has proved time and time again it surely works for him.

Spawn To Summer With Bryan Thrift Spring 2013 Bass Angler Magazine (Mark Lassagne pg. 42 - 43)

Locating Spawning Bass With Mike Iaconelli

Throughout the country, spring is prime time to cash in on numbers of aggressive bass emerging from their deep water winter haunts. However, if you don't know where to look, prespawn can also be a frustrating time. Elite Series angler, Michael Iaconelli, has some tips for locating bass in early spring that will help you catch prespawn bass on your favorite lake, regardless of where you live.

Off The Water Location:

Iaconelli's search for prospective prespawn locations begins on dry land with a lake map and a selection of markers. "I can actually look at a paper map of the lake and pick out the best areas to catch fish during the prespawn period," he claims. "I will take a red marker and circle the biggest spawning flats that I can find. Then, I'll get a blue marker and circle the best deep water areas like creek channel bends and main lake points near deep water." With both areas circled, Iaconelli then begins to "connect the dots" by looking for the areas on the map that are between the red and blue circles. "By circling the deep water and the spawning flats, I'm able to distinctly see the key places where the bass will position before moving up to spawn," he explains. "I'm looking for main points, secondary points, and contour breaks."

On The Water Location:

Once on the water, the New Jersey pro typically looks for northwestern banks when beginning his quest to find prespawn bass. It all comes down to finding the warmest water possible. "This time of year, the predominant wind direction is out of the northwest," he explains. "The banks on that side of a lake or cove usually are sheltered from the wind and the colder water, and they warm up the fastest." More so than any other time of the year, Iaconelli is hypersensitive to water temperature during the prespawn and says that a single degree can make a huge difference. "It's amazing what a tiny temperature difference can do to an area during this time of year," claims Iaconelli. "I usually don't stress about water temperature, but during the prespawn, one or two degrees can dictate where the fish will be located. If I go around the lake and find a pocket that is one-degree warmer than the others, that's the one that I'm going to fish because it makes that much difference during the prespawn." With water temperature playing such a big role, Iaconelli says that direct sunlight on specific surfaces can be important. For example, brown grass mats that are dead will absorb more heat than green grass. On a dock, black Styrofoam floats will absorb more heat than white or blue floats. "The little stuff can make a big difference," opines Iaconelli. For the angler fishing a new lake for the first time during the prespawn, Iaconelli puts the game plan in rather simple terms. "Start by targeting coves, pockets, and creeks that are facing northwest and look for the warmest water you can find in areas between deep water and spawning flats. Those are the most important factors in prespawn success."

Classic Locations For Prespawn Bass February 12, 2013 Bassmaster.com (Matt Pangrac)

March Magic With Matt Herren

If you ask Matt Herren, bass fishing in March is the creme de la creme, the very best time, the dessert course of this sport's annual menu. This is the month when big fish are the most predictable, the most aggressive and the most susceptible to the flash and thump of his spinnerbait. It's enough to make any angler salivate! "And, this is true pretty much throughout the country," affirms Herren, a Bassmaster Elite Series pro from Trussville, Ala. "There may be some local differences from lake to lake, or the timing of the best bite may be a little earlier or later, depending on a given lake's latitude. "But overall, this pattern holds up: When the water temperature climbs into that 52 to 58 degree window, fishing is smoking hot. The bass are hanging close to their spawning areas. They're feeding actively, and they'll crush a 'blade' that swims past their ambush spot. When this pattern is going, it's fantastic!"

Location:

Following is how Herren cooks up his special version of "March magic" and how other anglers who follow his advice can score some of their biggest catches of the year! First, the biology. Herren says in late winter when the water temperature starts warming, bass begin their annual journey toward their spawning grounds. During the next several weeks, they migrate ever closer to where they will mate, lay their eggs and hatch the fry that sustain their species through the progression of years. During this migration, these bass linger in predictable locations as they wait for the water to reach spawning temperature. Simultaneously, their activity level increases and their food preference changes as the water temperature rises. When the water temperature is in the 40s, bass feed more on crawfish. But, as the temperature climbs into the 50s, their metabolism shifts into higher gear, and they change to preying on shad and other baitfish. This is the "spinnerbait window" that Herren describes - the time be tween when the bass switch to baitfish and when they go on the beds. During this interim, Herren adjusts from using "bottom-bumping lures" (such as jigs and crankbaits) to spinnerbaits. By staying on the move and casting these lures into prime spots, he sacks up consistent catches of egg-heavy largemouth. He begins,

"My No. 1 key during this period is to fish areas that are shielded from the north wind. Examples would be the north bank of a bay that's tucked under a hill; the south side of a bridge causeway; or the north side of a sheltered marina. These places will also receive more direct afternoon sunlight. They're typically 3 to 5 degrees warmer than areas that are exposed to cold winds and indirect sunlight. "This difference in temperature is a huge deal to bass this time of year. They will definitely congregate in zones where the water is warmer." Next, he looks for structure where prespawn bass normally hold: deep banks, channel swings that transition up to flats, secondary points, etc. "Usually the fish will be concentrated halfway to twothirds of the way back in the creeks this time of year," Herren notes. Another key element in Herren's pattern is water color. "In March you usually have some early spring rains, and the water has more stain in it. This is a real positive for spinnerbait fishing. It causes the fish to move up shallower and locate around cover objects such as big rocks, stumps, logs, brushpiles, stake beds, docks - you name it. "So, that's the recipe," he says. "Start in those north wind-protected areas. Look for classic prespawn staging places where there's some stain in the water. [Two feet of visibility is perfect.] Then, cast spinnerbaits to visible and subsurface cover objects. And just keep moving and casting until you get some bites that allow you to refine your pattern for that given day. "That's when the fun really starts - when you get 'em figured out and you can go looking for the right kind of spots that you know are holding fish."

Lure Selection:

Herren's lures of choice for fishing in March are Santone M Series spinnerbaits. ("M" stands for Matt; he designed these spinnerbaits for Santone Lures.) These lures have extremely light wire, oversize blades and supersharp 4/0 Mustad hooks. "I typically use a 1/4- to 3/4-ounce bait, depending on how deep I want to fish and the size of the natural forage," Herren continues. "A lot of times in early spring the bass are feeding on adult-size baitfish, and a larger spinnerbait 'matches the hatch.' "Most times I will use a bait with Colorado or Indiana blades, or a combination of the two. These blade designs produce more vibration than willowleaf blades, and that extra thump is a real attractant to bass in cool, stained water. I usually like a combination of a nickel blade and a gold blade. Also, the dingier the water is, the bigger [the] blades I'll go with." Herren's favorite lure colors for March are shad combinations: white, chartreuse/white, green shad, blue shad, etc. (When the bite is slow, he may also try crawfish colors: Rayburn red, red with black accent.) He typically adorns his spinnerbait with either a 4-inch split-tail trailer or a curled-tail grub in a color that matches the bait's skirt. He rarely uses a trailer hook because he's frequently fishing in or around heavy cover.

March Magic March, 2013 Bassmaster (Wade L. Bourne pg. 62 - 65)

Matt Reed's Early Spring Lure Selection

With the exception of the extreme north, March is a month where you need to take into account the spawn, even if it's prespawn. The spawn is the biggest factor in bass movement during the spring, and Texan and Elite Series pro Matt Reed says knowing what phase they're in will go a long way toward finding fish this month. "The most important thing to do this time of year is to look for every clue you can pertaining to what phase of the spawn the fish are in," Reed says. "If they're on the nests, probably the best piece of advice I can give you is to s-l-o-w down. If you can't see them, you have to fish very thoroughly. Think about it; when you're sight fishing, it can take upwards of 30 minutes to get a single fish to bite, so you need to really take it down a notch. On either side of the spawn, though, you can fish faster. Also, look for the warmest water in the lake." Reed says his favorite part about fishing in March is the fact that you can get a lot of action from bigger fish. "March is the best bang for your buck month; the fish are aggressive and tend to be heavy, so it's a lot of fun!"

Yum Dinger:

This is Reed's go-to for bedding fish, as well as shallow-water target fishing before and after the spawn. "I'll lob this in and around shallow cover, but where I throw it depends on where we are in the spawn. If it's close but not started, I'll stick closer to the main lake, but if it's going on or over, I'll move back farther into creeks and pockets." He likes Cajun neon in clear water and black/blue flake in darker water. Sometimes he'll peg a tiny weight to the front if he's moving fast to cover water.

XCalibur Xr50K One Knocker:

This rattlebait is a mainstay for springtime patterns, and Reed likes either Rayburn red or foxy mama, depending on where he's fishing. He uses the craw pattern on crustacean-rich lakes and the shad pattern elsewhere. "This is going to be a fast presentation. I'm burning it around shoreline cover or rocky points, but my favorite place to throw it is around grass like hydrilla or milfoil," he says. "The fish are pretty aggressive this time of year, so fish it accordingly."

Booyah Spinnerbait:

A spinnerbait is another option to tempt shallow-water bass. "It's hard to beat a 1/2-ounce, chartreuse-and-white spinnerbait in shallow water," Reed says. "I'll throw this around vegetation, rocks or whatever the predominant cover is on the lake. In March, I like a medium or fast retrieve, but you have to experiment with it. You likely don't have to slow roll it."

Bomber Fat Free Shad:

This is Reed's go-to if the spawn hasn't yet started and the fish are still holding outside of shallower spawning areas. "Citrus shad is the No. 1 color, no doubt. Look for the outside breaks along the highways the bass use to go in and out of spawning areas," Reed says. "Things like creek bends and points are usually best." Reed uses this to cover lots of water, then will slow down and fish an area more thoroughly once he's located a school. He uses the BD5 size.

What Matt Reed Throws In March March, 2013 Bassmaster (David Hunter Jones pg. 22)

Mining Deep Water Beds for Untouched Smallmouth

When Chad Pipkens of Holt, Mich., stumbled onto a smallmouth bed in 12 feet of water on the Burt-Mullett Lake system, he thought it was an anomaly. Every bedding bass he and other competitors located during practice for a Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League tournament were scattered throughout mid-depth flats, no deeper than six to eight feet. Pipkens was confident that no one else would locate the lone fish, so he quickly left to save it for the tournament. When he returned, the fish engulfed his first offering without hesitation, anchoring an already respectable limit of smallmouth. The kicker not only catapulted him into third place on the leaderboard, but it also revealed a gateway to a new frontier: deep-water bed fishing. "I felt like I did well in a race - a race with everyone else to get to the best beds the fastest," Pipkens recalled. "But in reality, that one deep fish was the difference. No one else had found it. When FLW announced that we would visit Burt-Mullett again the following year, I knew that I was going to spend more time practicing out deep."

The Underwater Viewer - The Flogger:

The following spring, Pipkens prepared for the event by comparing notes with his traveling partners, Jeff Cox and 2011 Elite Series pro, Ryan Said. Returning to the same reef from which he caught his anchor fish the year before, Pipkens identified several more beds occupied by potbellied smallmouth in even deeper water, down to 20 feet deep. Ideal weather conditions of cloudless skies and calm winds on their first day of practice made deep-water sight fishing possible. A front came through overnight, however, and conditions deteriorated. Pipkens and his friends also decided to try scuba masks and bought some locally. Even though using the mask was painstakingly inefficient and almost torturous to use in the chilly water, Pipkens located several more deep beds before the end of practice. He endured challenging conditions on tournament day as well, improvising his way to a 27-pound, 5-ounce limit and his first BFL win while using the scuba mask system. "A few weeks later," adds Pipkens, "Jeff Cox started searching online for a better tool and found an underwater viewer from an overseas dive shop. We bought one, tried it on a couple of New York lakes and used it from that point on. Because it stood up out of the water, it was much easier to use. We quickly found that we could cover a lot more water with it than a scuba mask, too. We originally nicknamed it 'The Flogger' after Ryan Said's favorite band, Flogging Molly, but also found the name appropriate given its effectiveness on bedding smallmouth." In 2009, Pipkens followed with a second consecutive win on Burt-Mullett Lake by utilizing the more efficient Flogger. He earned a three-peat in 2010, despite increased pressure from other competitors using the Flogger over the same deep reef spawning area. Both years, he posted impressive 5-fish limits of smallmouth approaching 28 pounds.

Bedding Bass Lure Selection & Gear:

Pipkens relies on a drop shot rig exclusively for tempting deep water bedding bass. He prefers a soft-tipped rod that allows a hook to slowly seat with the slightest pressure. A 3/8-ounce weight, 8- or 10-pound test Berkley Trilene fluorocarbon line and 1/0 Gamakatsu Split Shot / Drop Shot hook complete his drop shot assembly. On the terminal end, Pipkens prefers a pearl white Poor Boy's Baits Super Soft DS Darter. Its supple, compact body allows for easy hook penetration, while transverse ridges running along the length of the bait create a larger, more visible, profile under water.

Deep Water Bed Fishing Lure Presentation:

"When fishing deep, it is important to fish vertical," Pipkens said. "That is why the drop shot is so effective. If you use something else, you risk accidentally hooking the fish in the side, at a bad angle, or in the tongue. With the drop shot, the hook is in the top of their mouth 95 percent of the time. Besides that, you can drop the bait straight down. It takes the guess work out of anticipating where your lure will actually fall." One variable in Pipkens' drop shot rig is leader length. Through on-the-water experimentation and underwater observation with the Flogger, Pipkens has determined bass are more sensitive to leader length than lure type. "I don't switch to a different style or size of bait very often," Pipkens explained, "because I've found that deep smallmouth that won't bite right away will quickly react to the same lure presented at a different depth. Some fish prefer baits closer to the bottom while others like them suspended up a little ways. For that reason, I'll have rods rigged with drop shots of different leader lengths, anywhere from a few inches to two feet in length."

Mining Deep Water Beds for Untouched Smallmouth Spring 2013 Bass Angler Magazine (Paul Strege pg. 32 - 35)

Scott Rook's Early Spring Lure Selection

This time of year may be one of the most diverse on bass ponds across the nation. Way up north, you likely still need an auger to access the fish, but in much of Florida, however, you're dealing with postspawn bass. Elite Series pro Scott Rook of Arkansas finds himself in the middle of these two extremes and suggests that anglers would be wise to take a diverse array of baits to the lake this month. Regardless of where you are, though, he says your chances at whacking a big fish are better now than during the rest of the year. "This is a month where you need to be prepared for several patterns depending on where you are," he says.

Jewel Eakins Jig:

Rook cites this crawfish imitator as the most versatile lure in his lineup. "I can fish it deep, shallow, fast, slow, over grass, in rock or even swim it; it all depends on the water temperature," he says. "Regardless of where you are or the water temp, you can make this jig work for you." Rook hangs a Zoom Super Chunk Jr. on the back of a 5/16-ounce peanut butter and jelly model, and the colder the water, the slower he works it. If he's fishing around boat docks, he might swim it.

Strike King Red Eye Shad:

"There's no better time to throw a lipless crankbait than now," says Rook. "It's a good fish locator, especially if your fish are prespawn. I like the red or orange colors if the water is still cold, but once it gets into the upper 50s I might try a more shadlooking color." Rook focuses on staging areas for prespawn fish, such as the creeks, pockets and ditches that lead into shallow areas.

War Eagle Spinnerbait:

Rook opts for a spinnerbait over a lipless crankbait when he's targeting prespawn fish in areas with snaggier cover, such as stumpfields and around brush. "Not only is this more weedless than the Red Eye Shad, but I feel like I can work it slower a little better as well. I'll also throw it after I've found fish with the trap," Rook says. "The bait has a really good balance to it, and I've had my best luck varying the retrieve; burn it, slow roll it or rip and kill it to try for a reaction bite." He likes a chartreuseand-white 3/8-ounce model.

Carolina Rig:

Everyone has their confidence bait, and a Carolina rigged Zoom Mag Lizard tops Rook's list. "There's something about dragging a big lizard around in the prespawn that gets those big fish fired up. It's got good action to it, but it's still kind of subtle," he says. "Unlike some folks, I'll use it to cover a lot of water. If I've found a school on my graph, I'll slow down and let it spend a little more time down there with 'em."

What Scott Rook Throws In Mid-February Mid-February, 2013 Bassmaster (David Hunter Jones pg. 27)

Skeet Reese's Spring Lure Selection

Skeet Reese is one of bass fishing's most accomplished anglers. He won the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year title in 2007 and earned his Bassmaster Classic ring in 2009 on Louisiana's Red River, completing a feat that only 12 anglers have done - winning both crowns. Oh, he's also managed a half-dozen tournament wins and $2.6 million in prize money along the way. Though he can catch fish in any month of the year, the Californian says that May just might be his favorite month to fish. Why? "The fish are biting, they're postspawn to spawn, and there's still a good chance to catch a big fish. Plus, it's still spring, and it's comfortable outside," he says. Here's what Reese throws in May.

Berkley Havoc Pit Boss: This beaver-style bait is of Reese's own device. He has the utmost confidence in it, which is why it's his go-to bait. "I'll rig it on a TroKar TK130 with an Eagle Claw tungsten sinker, and that rig is good for just about anything, but it's especially good when there's a flipping bite or when fish are on beds," he says. "If it's postspawn, I'll toss it around grass, brush, docks or any type of cover that fish will likely hold on." When pressed for a color option, he says to travel well-stocked: "You need at least six colors." Most of the time he's pitching this on his 8-foot Wright & McGill flipping stick and 25-pound-test Trilene 100 Percent Fluorocarbon.

Lucky Craft Gunfish 95: "For areas where they're a little more postspawn, they'll start to eat a topwater a little better. Look for bluegill beds and stopover areas where they'll hold once they're spawned out before they've gone deep," he advises. As far as color goes, Reese keeps it simple, saying anglers will be best served by sticking to simple shad patterns. He says that his Wright & McGill jerkbait/ topwater rod is best suited to manipulate the Gunfish on Berkley Spiderwire braid.

Berkley Havoc Bottom Hopper: When the fishing gets tough, Reese pulls out the spinning tackle and rigs this finesse worm on either a drop shot rig with a 2/0 TroKar finesse hook or a shaky head. "This thing works prespawn, during the spawn and postspawn; it's very versatile." Reese also says Berkley NanoFil is one of his keys to feeling more bites with the drop shot rig. "NanoFil is super slick, and when paired with Trilene 100 Percent Fluorocarbon, you've got a very tough and sensitive setup." His Wright & McGill drop shot rod and Victory spinning reel handle his finesse work.

Lucky Craft RC 2.5DD: Reese guards his stash of these discontinued deep divers but will pull them out when bass are postspawn and moving out to deeper water, such as along drops and ledges. Deep divers are known for their ability to snag the heaviest bass in a school, as well as fire a group of fish up, which is another reason that he dotes on them. He lobs these with his Wright & McGill 7-10 crankbait rod, which he designed to handle the torque a deep diver can offer. Rather than the slowest reel in his Wright & McGill Victory line, Reese opts for a 6.3:1.

What Skeet Reese Throwns In May May 2013 Bassmaster

Spawning Smallmouth

Catching smallmouth bass can be challenging at times, however during the spawn is one time when you can have the upper hand. If you have never taken part in catching smallmouth off of the bed, you are missing out on something very special. It's amazing to watching one of those large, bronze beauties guarding their bed spin around and attack your bait. Bedding smallmouth do not behave anything like their largemouth or spotted bass cousin. They are generally aggressive, often rapidly swimming "laps" around their bed before plowing into your offerings. They may hit your bait before it even makes it to the bottom.

Location:

Before you can catch fish you first have to locate them. While the majority of largemouth are found in the back coves or pockets, smallmouth tend to gravitate towards the points, main lake flats, and main lake pockets rather than way back in the secluded coves. Smallmouth often spawn a little deeper than largemouth, so a good pair of polarized glasses with a copper tint will help locate them. Another characteristic difference in spawning locations is that smallmouth require less cover and protection than a largemouth. A single boulder or a small stump often is more than ample to hold a smallmouth as opposed to largemouth that sometimes like to spawn in the middle of trees or tucked away places that can be tricky to get a bait into. In searching, don't be afraid to look in the middle of cover, well away from the bank.

Lure Selection & Presentation:

One tried and true method for catching smallmouth is a drop shot rig. To fish it, put the trolling motor on high until you locate a fish, then when you see one let the boat coast past your intended area, noting the location. Once your 10 yards or so past the bed, turn around and slowly approach until you can just see the fish or the bed. Once located, toss your drop shot in the center of the bed. If the fish is aggressive it will hit right away, otherwise you might have to wait for a few minutes. If the fish doesn't come back after five minutes, go find another one and come back to this one later. The good thing about a drop shot is that you are only limited by your imagination as to what you put on it. I generally use a 4 1/2-inch Big Bite Shaking Squirrel straight tail worm, but keep an open mind if they are not hitting the Squirrel. I'll switch up to a bait as small as a 3-inch craw worm or as large as a 10-inch Kriet Tail. For colors, warmouth works well when brim are around, bright colors like chartreuse work well also, but again keep an open mind and keep changing until you find the one that works the best for that day.

Drop Shot Gear:

My tackle for this method is a 6'9" medium action Quantum Smoke spinning rod coupled with a EXO PT 30 spinning reel, spooled with 7-lb Sunline Sniper fluorocarbon, a 1/0 Roboworm Rebarb hook with either a 1/8-oz or 3/16-oz drop shot weight. I go with the heavier one if it's a little windy.

Spawning Smallmouth Spring 2013 Bass Angler Magazine (Will Petty pg. 20 - 21)

Spring Crankin' With John Crews

Spring has sprung in the South. Water temperatures are rising above the 50-degree mark and prespawn bass are moving into the shallows. It's time for John Crews to start cranking.

Location:

"Throughout the middle portion of the South on impoundments when the water temperature just cracks over the 50 mark, it seems like a ton of fish move shallow," Crews says. "The bream move up and crappie start moving up getting ready to spawn. Most of the country also has stained water, so the shallow crankbait bite can be absolutely phenomenal that time of year. You can catch some really big fish and some good numbers." The Bassmaster Elite Series pro targets the middle to back portions of creeks and keys on transition banks where the contour changes from steep to flat. "A lot of times it correlates with the bottom composition change, where it might go from gravel to red clay or something like that," says Crews. "Those can be key areas where you can catch two or three fish - either on the first pass or throughout the course of the day." Crews usually casts close to the bank and runs his crankbait less than 4 feet deep. The Virginia angler notes the proximity of his cast to the shoreline depends on the bank slope. "If it's a shallow bank I throw a little farther off; but if it's steep I throw right on the bank." With his boat positioned parallel to the shoreline, Crews runs his trolling motor at a consistent moderate pace, which allows him to cover a lot of water. Whenever he finds a change in bank composition or depth, Crews makes multiple presentations to these potential hot spots. He'll also run his crankbaits through brushpiles in the backs of pockets when the sun is shining. "If there's no sun, the fish tend to be on the harder cover such as rocks or bigger logs," he says. "Once you start catching a few fish, quite often there's a pattern that you can start running after that."

Lure Selection & Presentation:

Crews' favorite lure for shallow cranking is the Spro Little John in spring craw or root beer chartreuse. His retrieve varies depending on the structure or cover he's cranking. "If I'm around rocky or harder bottoms, I definitely want contact with the bottom," he says. "If I'm on a little steeper bank where I lose contact with the bottom, I actually stop the retrieve, give the crankbait little short twitches and then continue the retrieve and periodically stop and twitch it a little bit - just like a jerkbait. That Little John is a slow floater, and in that prespawn period it offers the best of both worlds because you can get some of that jerkbait action, but you can also pull it through brushpiles and thicker cover because it's a crankbait." When he's bumping bottom on a "juicy-looking spot," Crews also employs the stop-and-twitch retrieve to generate more strikes. "In that prespawn period, the fish really like that stop and start with little twitches and jerks," he says. "It really triggers them." A little bit of wind and partly cloudy skies are ideal conditions for Crews' shallow-cranking tactics. "You can catch them in most any weather as long as it's a warming trend," says Crews. "That is when they really get on that lure."

Cranking Gear:

The 2010 Duel in the Delta winner throws his crankbait on a 7-foot, medium action Pinnacle Perfecta DHC5 rod and a Pinnacle Optimus XT 6.4:1 baitcast reel filled with 12-pound Vicious Ultimate copolymer monofilament line. "The high-speed reel is very important when shallow cranking because quite often those fish will hit the bait and make a beeline right to you," he says. "They'll come up behind the bait, eat it and keep on trucking; so if you don't have a high-speed reel, you won't be able to keep up with the fish. When it makes that first jump, there will be slack in the line and you can wave to that fish as it jumps off."

Elite Series Pro John Crews' Favorite Prespawn Fishing Tactic Bassmaster.com 3/29/13 (John Neporadny Jr.)

Spring Jerkabit Tactics With Mark Menendez

For many bass anglers, the unofficial kickoff to the fishing season is Spring. Both lake levels and water temperatures are climbing and bass are starting to get active. For Bassmaster Elite Series Pro Mark Menendez, this is prime time for jerkbaits. "A suspending jerkbait may be the very best lure available during the early spring in much of the country," Menendez said. "The jerkbait is always a good lure in this time of year, normally water temperatures are between 45-55 degrees and the lake waters are rising. Cooler, rising water groups the fish up around the mouths of the coves and makes them susceptible to reaction-type baits."

Location:

The Paducah, KY pro looks for shallow, flat points with an immediate drop-off. Bass will suspend off the edge of that break line and anywhere there is a shallow flat with a contour change is the first place he looks. Spring can also be like late winter at times depending on your location. Bass can remain staged at the mouths of the coves. They have spent all winter out on the main lake and Menendez observes they have a craving to move shallow and feed once water levels get right. The still-chilly water temperatures are a key to bass location and the jerkbait's effectiveness. "When you go to buffet at a restaurant you want to sit as close to the food as possible so you don't have to work as hard to get to the food," Menendez explained. "Bass are the same way. They want to suspend around these main lake points that are holding these dying baitfish so they can get a big meal without expending much energy. It is our job as anglers to mimic that."

Lure Selection:

His jerkbait of choice is a Strike King Wild Shiner, which is 4 1/2 inches long and resembles a baitfish. The lure is long, lean and equipped with a medium sized bill enabling it to dive to around 5-feet deep. He changes the hooks out to the sharpest number 4 hooks he can find, which for him is the Gamakutsu round bend. He modifies the bait to give it perfect neutral buoyancy. He does this by filling his kitchen sink with cold water and experiments adding weight to achieve the desired effect. He uses suspend strips or dots under the throat and rubber core sinkers on the front set of treble hooks to help achieve the desired result. He will start with a 1/8-ounce sinker on the front treble hook of the 4 1/2" bait; if he decides on a larger lure he will go with a -ounce weight. If the bait goes to the bottom when dropped in the cold water, he will take side cutters and trim some weight off the sinker. Once he gets it close to neutral buoyancy, he will add suspend strips or dots to the throat area. He will keep adding or subtracting the weights until he gets the buoyancy he is looking for. Once that is achieved, he will remove the strips and use a super glue to reattach them in place so they will not peel off during use. They key to the way he weights the bait serves two purposes; it gives it a head down appearance which allows the bait to get to maximum depth quickly when he jerks the rod, and the head down position mimics the appearance of a dying gizzard shad. The five-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier likes to keep his color selection simple, opting for four different color combinations. He will employ chrome/blue/ orange, chrome/black/orange, or in overcast conditions he prefers clown or some color combination with white. The white works well on cloudy days because it produces better flash then does chrome under low-light conditions.

Lure Presentation:

"In early Spring, pausing the jerkbait may need to be as long as 10 to 15 seconds," Menendez explained. "That is keeping the bait over that suspended fish where he can see it. The fish is like a cat, he is very curious. When I tap the bait and get it off center he moves closer, tap it again and he moves even closer until eventually the curiosity gets the best of him and he is mine."

Jerkbait Gear:

When fishing the Wild Shiner jerkbait, Menendez utilizes a 6-foot, 6-inch Lew's Tournament SL Speed Stick paired with a Team Lew's reel with 6.4:1 gear ratio spooled with 8- or 10-pound-test Seaguar Senshi monofilament line. "I like monofilament in this situation because I want the lightest line to make the bait dive deeper and give it more natural action," He noted. "With monofilament, when I move my rod tip there is a little line stretch which helps me keep the bait in the strike zone."

Jerkbait Tactics For Spring Spring 2013 Bass Angler Magazine (Tim Tipton pg. 12 - 15)

Spring Time Cranking With Charlie Weyer & Brian Carpenter

B.A.S.S. and FLW champion Charlie Weyer teams up with the 2012 FLW Calif. Delta victor Brian Carpenter for a lesson in springtime crankin'. As we cover the ever-popular crankbait to tempt the big bass of the season, Weyer looks at lake crankin' and Carpenter at the technique on tidal waters, where this past spring he put a red crankbait to use for his EverStart win.

Crankin' The Lakes Location:

Primetime for crankin' in the spring at with the water temp around 52 to 58 degrees, but I've caught crankbait fish in colder temps around the 40's. I usually start at the Northern most portion of the lake and then look for breaks adjacent to spawning flats. As the water starts to warm into the mid 50's I will search out the coves. On sunny days I look for clay or dark colored banks because they warm up faster. Areas with flooded trees or brush on banks can be key for cranking especially during a warming trend. If they're in the brush, they're usually right on top of the brush. I've also seen them rub and roll on the trees, before the spawn. Long tapering points with mud can be productive, if there is wind or boat traffic they will become muddy - dirty water pushes the fish shallow. For example, a heavy rain on Lake Casitas in Calif. turns the water a reddish hue. A lot of guys shy away from that, but it can be 5 or 6 degrees warmer that the rest of the lake. This also happens on Smith Lake in Ala. Spotted bass like the current, not like a flowing river but where the rain creates small streams that flow into a lake. Spots can get right up in the current.

Lake Crankin' Lure Selection & Presentation:

I generally use red crankbaits this time of year because the crawdads are red and the bass are often feeding on craws this time of year. You can tell you're using the right color when you find a craw in the gullet of a bass or they're spitting them up your livewell. Trying to match the natural meal of the bass, I would say a 2.5 to 3.5 inch crankbait would be best. I will also use a shad or bluegill colored crankbait, if I see that baitfish in the area. At times, I will customize the hooks on a crankbait. I will take off the back hook completely and just use one big hook on the front. It helps the bait work through the cover and gives it a wider wobble. When you're working your crankbait, you want to deflect off of targets. You want to make contact with the bottom, continuously deflecting on the bottom and ripping through the grass, using a steady retrieve. Pause after a deflection or keep on grinding - just mix it up. Hookset with a side sweep. My standard arsenal includes either a Damiki DC 100 or a Lucky Craft BDS 3 in depths to about 4-feet and a DC 200 or BDS 4 in depths from 6- to 8-feet. I like a 7ft fiberglass rod simply because the softer action allows me to land more bass. I use a fast reel like a 7 to 1 Shimano Curado spooled with Seguar fluorocarbon - 10lb in lakes and 20lb in dirty tidal water.

Crankin' Tidal Water Location:

For spring, the majority of catchable fish, typically move up and down with the tide. They move onto shallow flats on high tide. Look for the spawners in 3 to 4 feet of water. When the tide drops, crank the outside weedline. The bass are looking for a comfort zone, which for them is in 3 to 4 feet of water. They can be in two-feet or so, if they are spawning, but usually they will pull off if the water drops further than that. This time of year you can find fish in all stages - pre spawn, post spawn and spawn. You will find them in all phases at the same time, because they don't all spawn at once. The bass will start to spawn at about 57 to 58 degrees. You want to count on ambush points in the river and flooded flats as your target areas. Ambush points are inside corner bends and places where they can set up on the outside of the current. Pre spawn and post spawn fish are aggressive and actively feeding, and are going to be in these places waiting for food. In the pre spawn stage, if they're not locked on they want to eat. If they are locked on, they are in a defensive mode and aggressive. They stay approx. five to seven days on a bed, in this aggressive mood. Post spawn, they are hungry and need to fatten back up. So from this we know pre and post spawn are the most aggressive feeding times and during the spawn they strike mainly out of aggression. During the pre spawn, they will get up on flats to warm themselves and their eggs within their body to mature them for spawning. The bigger females find flats - shallow flats, tule island flats and flats with hard, sandy bottoms are best. Gravel or peat bottoms are good. They don't like muddy bottoms for spawning. They are not hard enough.

Tidal Water Crankin' Lure Selection & Presentation:

I use crankbaits in a red craw or shad pattern. The color is determined by the clarity of the water - red is for stained to dirty water and shad in crystal clear water. I will use a red crankbait in clear water, if the bass are really aggressive. I will also use a Tennessee Shad in early spring. At this time, the crawdads can be a greenish/brown and not red yet. You have to use trial and error to determine the best color for this time. When working the crankbait, I use a medium speed retrieve to trigger strikes. If you go too fast, you will get more strikes, but you won't get as many hookups. If it is not fast enough, the fish can get too good of a look at your lure. You want to be slow enough for the fish to inhale it and give a reaction strike. My crankin' rod is a Powell 704 glass rod. The glass rod allows the fish to inhale the bait without rod resistance. It also flexes to allow the fish to take the bait and gives to the fish during surges. After it's hooked the glass rod will give in slow, fighting the fish without tearing the hooks out. I don't bury the hook; I use a side sweep to set it. I use a Shimano 7:1 reel with a medium retrieve. It is important to have a medium drag set on the reel. I use 20-lb line, because of the size of fish that you can catch at this time of year. You need to have confidence in your line and there is always the possibility of an eight or 12 pounder in the spring. I use fluorocarbon, because it doesn't have any stretch and because of the sensitivity. It is reliable and easy to cast. I concentrate on shorter, accurate casts vs. fewer, longer ones. Another tip that I have is to use a small, round snap ring on the eye of the crankbait to allow more action than a direct line tie. It also comes through the weeds better without fouling.

Crankin' For A Springtime Catch Spring 2013 Bass Angler Magazine (Jody Only pg. 75 - 77)

Staging For A Jackpot Of Bass With Scott Rook

It's the big bass jackpot, and you can be the lucky winner! This is an opportunity that comes just once a year, typically in late February in the middle section of the country. It's when schools of big female bass gang up in likely locations, and anglers who know how to find them can strike it rich in terms of great fishing action and fun. "Bass fishing this time of year can be unbelievable!" insists Bassmaster Elite Series pro Scott Rook of Little Rock, Ark. "I've caught dozens of bass a day in late February," he continues. "Truly, this month can offer the hottest bite of the year. People who aren't on the water now are missing out on a lot of really great fishing." Rook is referring to targeting prespawn bass as they migrate along creek channels toward their spawning grounds. He says this movement is predictable in timing and where the fish congregate before scattering onto their spawning beds. Plus, methods for catching these fish are simple, slow days are usually good and good days are, again, unbelievable! Here are the particulars of Scott Rook's prespawn pattern so other anglers can copy what he does and share in this late winter bassing payoff.

Location:

Rook begins, "Many bass spend the winter along deep channel banks near the mouths of major creeks in any given reservoir. But then, as the water starts warming up, these fish move farther into the creeks in preparation for spawning. This happens when the water temperature reaches the 40s to low 50s range." Rook says as the bass move back, they continue to relate to channel swings (where a defined creek channel intersects and parallels the bank). They will also collect around deep points and other structure where they don't have to swim a long, horizontal distance to transition from deep water to shallow water. He explains, "Say it's a warm, sunny day in late February, and the water temperature rises a few degrees in the shallows. The bass will want to move into this shallow zone to take advantage of this warmth. "But at the same time, they don't want to move a long horizontal distance to get into this warmer water. Instead, they like to hold in places where deep water is close to shallow, and they can slide vertically a few feet and be in the warm zone. This is why they congregate along those channel banks and deep points. They can move from deep to shallow and back to deep with very little expenditure of energy." So these are the types of spots Rook looks for, typically by studying a topographic map before he hits the water. "These places are obvious," he notes. "They're where you have channels and deep water close to shallow. I'll look for spawning pockets, then I'll come out and look for the nearest point or bank that drops into the creek channel. This is a textbook staging area for the prespawn. This is where the bass will gather up before moving onto their beds." Further, Rook targets creeks on the north and west sides of the lake that are protected from cold northwest winds and that receive direct winter sunlight. He explains, "These places might be a couple of degrees warmer than other areas in the lake, and this can make all the difference in the world." He continues, "One thing I really look for is a place that transitions from a bluff to a chunk rock bank. Those broken rocks absorb warmth from the sun, and they warm up the water around them, which draws in bass. So this is a prime area to key in on."

Lure Selection:

When fishing, Rook starts working his preselected areas with a range of baits. "I'll cast a crankbait [Bomber Flat A, No. 8 Shad Rap] or a Strike King Red Eye Shad [1/2 or 3/4 ounce, depending on water depth] . This time of year I always stay with red or orange colors. "I may also try a Carolina rigged lizard [8-inch Zoom green pumpkin] and a Jewel football head jig [Zoom Twin Tail or Super Speed Craw, brown or orange/green]. "Another bait I use is a Megabass jerkbait [shad]. I'll go with this bait when the fish are picky and they want something sitting still. Or sometimes they'll suspend in the water column, particularly around treetops, and this is when I go to the jerkbait." Rook says the bass will be shallower and more active on warmer, stable days. Under these conditions, he starts his search with the diving crankbaits. "I'll parallel the banks with my electric motor and cast right to shore, then retrieve my bait back at a 45 degree angle. I reel it as slowly as I can and still keep bottom contact. I've caught a lot of bass 2 feet deep when the water temperature was in the low 40s." Rook alternates using the Shad Rap and the Bomber Flat A. The Shad Rap has a subtler, quieter action. The Flat A has a more aggressive action and rattles to draw bass' attention. "Some days the fish favor the subtle bait. Other days they like the wider wobble and noise. You just have to try both to learn their preference." If the diving crankbaits aren't producing or the bite slows down, Rook will switch to a Carolina rig or football jig. He casts parallel to the bank with these lures, dragging the bottom to test different depth zones to learn where bass are holding. Or, if a stretch of bank or a point has produced a few bites, but then the action slows, Rook will work the Carolina rig or football jig on the same structure to try to scrounge another bite or two.

Lake Variance:

Not all lakes have channel swings or deep point structure. Lakes are different in nature. Some are very deep; some are shallow. Some have wood cover; some have thick aquatic grass. Some have very little cover of any kind. So, how does an angler apply Rook's pattern to lakes that don't have the classic prespawn structure described above? "You just have to adapt to the lake you're on," Rook answers. "The same pattern applies on any lake. You just have to figure out how the bass are relating to the type of structure and cover the lake offers. "For instance, say you're on a lake that doesn't have good, well-defined creek channels. Instead, it has flatter or gently sloping banks. In this case, I look for pockets that have a ditch running down the middle. Several times I've caught fish holding over this ditch. This is where the lipless crankbait or jerkbait comes in. "Or another example: If there's a ditch running through a shallow, grassy flat, I follow the ditch with my graph and cast up onto the flat with a lipless crankbait. I run the bait so it just ticks the tops of the grass. This is a big payday pattern on some of the Texas reservoirs. "I guess the best way to explain it is that on any lake, you should just look for channel swings or ditches with deep water close to shallow and work these places with the baits and retrieve methods I've described. This principle applies anywhere." Rook adds that it's routine to fish three to four spots without catching a bass, then to load up on the next one. "You just keep moving and fishing good places, and sooner or later you'll find 'em." Rook summarizes, "People who don't go fishing for prespawn bass in late February are really missing out. This is when you've got big schools of big females clustered up in predictable areas. "I remember a day on Lake Hamilton [Arkansas] when I caught more than 100 following one ditch. That's the kind of fishing that February offers - unbelievable! You just have to get out there and make it happen."

Staging For A Jackpot Of Bass Mid-February, 2013 Bassmaster (Wade L. Bourne pg. 82 - 85)

Tackle Spawning Smallies

It's a beautiful sunny spring afternoon with not a cloud in the sky or a ripple on the water. As the grass is starting to turn green and the flower buds start to bloom, life again is coming back from the doldrums of winter. These are the days that a true northern bass fisherman yearns for, the ones that get us through our long frigid winter.Sure the warmth of a spring afternoon is long awaited and the sounds of robins chirping fill the air, pushing the thoughts of winter far from our memory bank, but it's what's happening under the water that's got us all tuned up. Under the slick warming waters of our northern lakes, smallmouth bass are setting up nests and preparing for their yearly ritual, the spawn. These beautiful bronze and highly entertaining creatures are fattening up and it's our duty as loyal bass enthusiasts to get them some much needed exercise.Smallmouth are elusive creatures and present challenges all through the year as they often like to inhabit deep water and follow schools of baitfish, making their “ghost fish” name quite appropriate. Spring offers a chance to stay on top of these fish and brings the lakes biggest giants into the shallows where anglers can more easily find them.As fun as this time of year is, it isn't exactly shooting fish in a barrel.

Location:

Timing is critical. Smallmouth tend to start their prespawn rituals when the water warms to the mid 50s. Smallmouth will begin to show up on the shallow rocky reefs and flats and usually put on their feedbag in preparation for the actual spawning process. I'm an electronics guru and use them almost obsessively throughout the entire year, though this is the one time that I use my Lowrance electronics in a completely different way. On familiar waters, I'll use my Navionics mapping chips to locate the flats and reefs. Then, I'll idle around these areas with my Lowrance Structure Scan to locate the best rock piles. At this point, I'm not worried about finding baitfish or physically seeing bass on my screen. Instead, I'm looking for ideal spawning habitat. The joint use of Navionics mapping and Lowrance Structure Scan will help me break down a new body of water very efficiently. Smallmouth love rocks, even more so when they spawn. They'll use a single boulder as a security blanket and will set up their nest right next to that coveted rock. They're also highly territorial, almost to a fault, so once they establish a boulder as their own, they'll protect it against anything that crowds their space. This is what makes them so awesome. Fearless, they won't back down from anything! Once you've located a shallow rock flat, it's time to use your eyes. You still need the electronics but your eyes are your best asset. Get a good pair of polarized sunglasses since they are easily your best tool for this kind of fishing. I use an amber lens with a green mirror tint in Costa's 580 lenses. The amber lenses allow the wearer to better penetrate the surface glare see farther underwater.

Lure Slection & Presentation:

When searching for spawning smallmouth, the best way is to fan cast the entire flat. When searching for fish, I generally throw one of two baits, either a popper or a swim jig. There are a lot of popper and jigs on the market, but I have caught a great number of smallies on the BiovexUSA Face70 popper and the Outcast swim jig. Both work extremely well at covering water. Since smallmouth are extra territorial, they'll usually smash a swim jig that encroaches into their space. Swim jig work great for catching prespawners that are just moving up onto the flat. A little trick I use to target bigger fish, instead of a traditional trailer, I thread on a Lake Fork Tackle Boot Tail Magic Shad in chartreuse pearl color. This may look gaudy to any normal self-respecting fisherman, but since smallmouth are sight feeders and prespawn fish are looking for a big meal, this bait will get smashed with force! While I'm fan casting the reef; I keep my eyes peeled for boulders. On a sunny day you'll see the shine of a boulder way before you actually see the fish and can assume that a smallie is calling that rock his own. Smallmouths are extra territorial at this time of year so it attacks anything that comes near their boulder. When I come across such a boulder, I'll first throw a popper over it because smallmouth do not appreciate anything over their head. They may not be looking for trouble, but something sitting over their head is just asking for it. The only modification I make to the popper is to add Trokar Trebles because smallmouth often simply swipe at the popper and sharp hooks have a better hook up percentage.

When practicing for a tournament, I simply collect as many waypoints as possible and then run them all on tournament days. However, if I'm not tournament fishing, I'll still mark the waypoint and move on, but return in 15 minutes with a dropshot in hand. There's a lot of good baits out there available for dropshotting but none better than the BiovexUSA Kolt Fish Tail in the Ayu color. This bait was invented on the highly pressured lakes of Japan and the Ayu color actually glows back at you. I can watch my bait from what seems like a mile away and something as territorial as a smallmouth sees it and smashes it. Since the bait glows back at me, I don't even need to see the fish on the bed. Instead, I know where my waypoint is and make a long cast, keeping an eye on my bait to watch a big brown missile come up and crunch it! Once my bait disappears, I set the hook and it's FISH ON! I'm also pretty analytical when it comes to my dropshot setup. First, I use a G Loomis NRX Shakey Head rod. Their dropshot rod is nice, but I like a rod with a little more backbone. I pair it with a Shimano Sustain 3000 size spinning reel spooled with 12-pound-test Seaguar Kanzen Braid tipped with a 6-pound Seaguar Tatsu fluorocarbon leader. On the business end of this outfit, I attach a BiovexUSA Kolt Fish Tail on a size 1 Trokar dropshot hook with a 3/8 oz. tungsten dropshot sinker.

Tackle Spawning Smallies Spring 2013 Bass Angler Magazine (Josh Douglas pg. 46 - 48)