My dad always said, “good things are earned with hard work.” He’s not a fisherman but his words were a perfect description of how this week played out.
I knew that this time last year the bass on a particular lake were on fire so I loaded my Big Rig and set out on Monday to see if it was happening again. The lake I was fishing is fairly deep and clear with a mix of clay and rock bottom, some rip rap and a pretty good amount of standing timber. The main forage is threadfin shad and with the water in the low fifty’s they normally form some massive schools in the deeper open areas of the lake and with that you usually will find the bass nearby. Ironically, where this played out was far away from the fishy looking areas of timber and rock but right out in the middle over a 15 foot hump in the middle of water that reaches depths of 25 feet deep.
I paddled out to an area that held bass last February and immediately saw schools of shad on my depth finder. I started fan casting the area with a Picasso Lures flashback junior umbrella rig. It didn’t take long and I had my first fish, a nice four and a half pound largemouth with a thick belly full of shad. I kept throwing the umbrella rig for some time but by ten a.m. the bite had stopped. I had three fish …two dinks and a good one.
The next two hours were fruitless, although I was marking fish and bait on my Lowrance I still had a pile of lures I had tried with no bites. Then at twelve p.m. the fish revealed themselves. The area erupted in surface activity, shad were skipping on the water and big fish were chasing them. I started making bomb casts past these feeding schools with a ¾ ounce Strike King Red-eye Shad in their natural shad pattern and used a rod pumping technique were I rip the lure and slowly reel the slack out then rip it again. The fish would almost always hit it as the lure fell. I picked up several fish in the two to three pound range and topped it off with a brute that weighed seven pounds fourteen ounces. It was a great day to say the least and since I was off work on Tuesday, I knew where I’d be at first thing in the morning.
On Tuesday I invited my friend Greg Wood to go with me and after meeting him at the ramp we launched into a thick fog and headed towards where all of the action was the day before. I started throwing the Red-eye shad but Greg opted for a big swimbait made by Scottsboro Tackle Company. In no time Greg was hooked up and fighting a very good fish. Unfortunately, the fish jumped at the bow of Greg’s kayak and escaped the hook. I picked up my swimbait rod that had a similar 6” swimbait made by Scottsboro Tackle Company and tossed it out, after a few casts I hooked up and landed a bass weighing 6lb 4oz. This bait is a very simple lure to use, you just cast it out to a likely area and slowly reel it in. I was reeling it just fast enough to keep it from dragging bottom. The strike on one of these larger swimbaits usually feels like the lure is slowly gaining weight. Many people refer to this as “loading up” and the trick is to keep reeling steadily allowing the fish to get the large bait in it’s mouth then sweep in a steady motion for a clean hookset. We fished until about eleven a.m. with no more fish and called it quits. I had errands to run but I knew I had Wednesday morning free and I’d be back with the sunrise.
Wednesday morning I met a few friends on the lake and we started out throwing umbrella rigs. I used to shy away from umbrella rigs because they have a lot of drag causing my kayak to move towards the lure almost as fast as my retrieve. That was the case until I discovered Picasso Lures downsized versions called the junior and finesse models. Almost all of Picasso’s umbrella rigs have these smaller models and pairing them with a Picasso smartmouth 1/16 oz jig head and a 3.5 inch Gambler EZ swimmer paddle tail swimbait will definitely get the job done. This setup seems to appeal to the bigger fish as much as the full size umbrella rigs with larger swimbaits all the while minimizing the drag caused by such a large lure and being much easier to cast from a kayak. The umbrella rig was successful for the first couple of hours of daylight by allowing us to land a couple of healthy four pound fish but as the morning drug on the “rig” bite stopped. Around ten my buddy Allen, better known as “Cornbread”, yelled and said according to his graph some fish were directly under him. I cast my 6 inch swimbait that I had tied on out past his kayak, let it sink to the bottom then started a steady retrieve. About the time that my lure had passed under his boat I felt the tell tale sign of my rod loading up and gave a steady hookset. A very nice bass came to the boat and by two o’clock I’d caught I had caught 3 fish, .. 4.5lb, 5.7lb and a 6.7lber. All from an area the size of a football field and what looks like featureless open water except that it held large quantities of threadfin shad.
The keys to those days in no particular order were, electronics, knowledge of shad behavior and confidence that the bass were nearby, willingness to make adjustments and my Jackson Big Rig giving the opportunity to stand and cast heavy lures efficiently. On day one the fish were feeding in the upper 8’ of water, day two was a mid tier of the water column bite and day three they were on bottom. Same place, same weather, same water conditions, you just had to pinpoint where they wanted to feed. If bait is thick you can bet that bass are nearby and sooner or later they’ll get hungry. Tight lines and thank God for little plastic boats.