The last weekend before the river closure is a weekend that every river angler wants to be on the water. The fish are biting, weather is usually nice, and fish can be caught a variety of ways. This pattern held true for the last weekend of April. I iced down the Engle Cooler Friday Evening and fished 25 hours over the course of the weekend without ever having to add ice. Over the course of two days, we caught largemouth and smallmouth bass on a variety of techniques.
Once the sun came out, I went very shallow looking for largemouth because I saw a lot of bluegills and minnows in the shallows from my cabin all week long. The largemouth were caught incredibly shallow. We caught those pitching a Strike King Denny Brauer Baby Structure Jig in green pumpkin with a Strike King Baby Rage Craw in green pumpkin. I used a 1/4 oz jig and 12 lb Hi-Seas Fluorocarbon so that the fish would not be as spooked. They were caught by flipping the jig onto the bank (dry land) and dragging it into the water. We also caught some fish on a Jackall Aska supershad crankbait and a Yamamoto 5 inch senko in watermelon red flake.
As for the smallmouth, the smallmouth fishing was incredible. We caught fish on hard cover banks, rock flats, islands, grass beds, and creeks! You could catch them on a variety of baits dragging the bottom from a Cabin Creek dirty dark green pumpkin 2.5 inch tube to a Reaction Innovations Little Dipper swim bait in sungill. The bigger fish, (generally speaking) wanted a reaction bait.
Ok.. here's the secret from last week, for all you Whopper Plopper fans, it is time! We caught some big fish super shallow on a River2Sea Whopper Plopper in Monkey Butt, Sexy Shad, and Bone White. You had to make a long cast and fish it slow. We also caught fish on a 3/8 oz. War Eagle Spinnerbait golden shiner, sexy mouse, and chartreuse/white with a slow retrieve. Once again, the Strike King KVD jerk bait caught fish by aggressively ripping the bait cross current.
There were some very large fish caught on the swim bait rig that I discussed a few weeks ago. The swim bait rig that I am using is a Strike King Squadron head 1/8 or 1/4 oz paired with a Keiteich 4.3 or 4.8 swing Impact Fat in Pro Blue, Sungill, or Bluegill flash. The technique that I use for this is very important. I fish this rig on a G Loomis GLX 843 casting rod with a Shimano Citica 6:1 reel and 12 lb fluorocarbon. This is almost like a finesse approach to catching fish that want a reaction bait and won't eat a spinnerbait! With this setup, a long cast is made and I let the bait sink to the bottom. By reeling the bait slowly you can feel the bait barely thumping. The sensitivity is super important, because the way the fish eat this rig, they eat the bait while it is swimming at you. I lost a bunch of fish a few weeks ago by setting the hook too hard, so I now resort to a sweeping hookset. Some of the biggest fish of the weekend were caught using this technique.
Stay tuned for more tips and tricks! If there are any techniques you want me to discuss in further detail, let us know!
Fishing in the rain isn’t a guaranteed fishing success. Truth is, there is never a “golden hour” in any particular weather pattern that offers the best fishing. However, rain does eliminate some of the things that prevent fish from biting. Here are 5 things to keep in mind when you hear a rain storm is coming.
A Noisy Fishing Opportunity
Trout anglers probably understand the need to be quiet better than any other angler out there. They move in total stealth mode covered in their green and brown clothing, disguised like the true fishing ninjas they are. Every movement is premeditated and done effortlessly. The quieter you are, the more at ease big fish will be, and rain is some of the best noise reduction you’ll find on the water. It’s also great at masking what’s going on above the waterline, so it’s highly unlikely you’ll be seen. These two factors are a couple reasons why reaction baits are so effective during the rain. Baits that take bass by surprise are very likely to generate reaction strikes. Bass feed heavy in the rain because they can ambush their prey while they’re frantically swimming (or darting in the case of crawfish). If nothing else, bass are opportunistic and they take advantage of easy meals when they can.
Necessary Gear for Rain
Gear, believe it or not, is the single most important part of fishing in foul weather. When you’re drenched you lose your focus. You start thinking about being cold, forgetting about the action of your bait. You slow down, make mistakes, miss bites, and that leads to the end of a frustrating trip. Be prepared to not just survive in the rain, but to thrive in the rain. Buy the best suit you can afford. We recommend the Simms Challenger Bib or the Gill FG2 Tournament Jacket for the really rainy and chilly days. If money is tight you can buy a shell system and get one that leaves you with enough room to layer up underneath for the colder months. It’s also best to get a suit that’s designed for fishing. These tend to be tailored to the movements anglers make when they’re on the water. Others may leave you vulnerable during casting or while scooping fish. Remember this, “Some people fish in the rain, and some people just get wet.”
Placement for Fishing in the Rain
Whenever you have a hard rain it’s key to find transition areas. Creek mouths, points, shoals, reefs, and channels are all great areas to find moving fish. I’m not saying it’s impossible to catch a fish under a dock during a storm, but it’s likely. Remember that fish look for cover like that to avoid sun and predators. Rain gives them the confidence to roam, and they’ll cover a lot of water. Most people won’t play in the rain, so if you can stick it out you’re likely to find you’ll have large areas all to yourself. Targeting the transitions with search baits like squarebills, lipless cranks, and big spinnerbaits with a Colorado blade are great options.
Safety During a Rain Storm
I will never forget a story I was told about a guy who got caught in a really bad lightning storm. The guys in the boat next to him started screaming for him to put his lifejacket on. He did so, and felt this huge sigh of relief as he laid down in the boat. When the storm passed he couldn’t wait to tell the guys all about how thankful he was that they’d given him that advice, that he didn’t know wearing his lifejacket would protect him in a lightning storm. The guys looked at him and said “It doesn’t protect you. It’s so search and rescue can find your corpse if you’re struck by lightning without having to call in a dive team.” I still laugh when I remember that story. But I don’t laugh about fishing in electricity. If there’s lightning during a rain storm, get off the water. You shouldn’t even be fishing from shore. If you’re crazy enough to try it and you see your line starting to float, get ready to see how Ben Franklin felt.
Fishing After a Rain Storm
This is perhaps my favorite time. The days following the rain are the best, especially in rivers. Fish are easy to find, gorging themselves to replace the energy they spent fighting the increased current, the water is murky, and again you’re probably alone. Don’t get me wrong, fishing floods can be downright dangerous. That being said, it does create some really amazing conditions. Wherever you find slow moving water or eddys that are near a current, you’ll find stacks of fish setup on the current break just watching for an easy meal to pass by. Position your boat downstream and cast above you. Fish will be positioned with their nose into the current and this will present the bait to them. Tubes are your best bait for smallmouth.
Fishing in and after a rain storm can present you with some of the best fishing opportunities you've ever had. Be prepared for the weather and have fun! If you have any questions, contact us!
Waking up to find out that Saturday morning was just the beginning of a 4 foot rise over the next 24 hours was not the ideal start to the weekend. As I launched my boat Saturday morning, I was hoping to beat the mud from coming down river from way up north. When I realized the mud had already taken over where I was fishing, I immediately adjusted and ran into the creek in search of clean water. When I got into the creek, it just looked right with a very distinct mud line being at the mouth of the creek and the water being slow and clear in the creek. I proceeded to pull out a Strike King KVD Strobe Shad Jerkbait. I never threw it before but I figured it looked good with the overcast due to the chartreuse underside. They were all over it! As fast as I could twitch that jerk bait the fish were eating it. We also caught them on the Jackall Squad Minnow in Ghost Minnow and Super Shad.
The main bait that the fish were dialed in on was crayfish. This was the tube bite of a lifetime! They wanted that dirty dark green pumpkin Cabin Creek 2.5 inch tube! Once it hit the bottom you had to let it sit there for a few seconds and they would just start swimming off with it. I must say, I put the new G Loomis GLX 803 spinning rod to the test, and I am super impressed with this rod. It certainly did not let me down. One thing that we did to get the fish to hold onto the tube longer was we did use Smelly Jelly. We relied on Garlic, Crawfish, and Crawfish Anise to increase the length of time the fish had the tube in its mouth. All in all, we ended up catching over 100 fish on this day.
After fishing all day Saturday and watching the river rise, I already knew my game plan for Sunday. Sunday was going to be a day of relaxation and fun fishing on the river with my buddies Hunter Moffitt and Ben Cluster. The river was at 9 foot in the morning and all of the creeks were clean water. The smallmouth and largemouth were sitting right on the mud line, and also on any main river log jams that you could find that created slack water behind them. By the end of the day, we caught some giant fish and ran over 35 miles as tracked by the Anglr App.
We relied on several baits to have success on this particular day. First was a Spro McRip. I have not talked about this bait all year long, however today is the day. The reason that I went to this bait was because the high water from the main river raised the creeks several feet. A typical jerk bait would not get deep enough to get into the ideal strike zone. The Spro McRip was getting down 8-10 feet where the fish were. In clean water I used the Spooky Shad and in dirty water I used the Norman Flake.
The go to bait of the day was a square bill crank bait like the Megabass S-Crank and the Strike King KVD 2.5 in Black Back Chartreuse and Gold Sexy Shad. You just had to keep covering water and beating the banks near hard cover to catch these fish. We used this in the dirty water mainly and the jerk bait in the cleaner water. We also pitched targets such as wood, and flooded bushes with a D and L Finesse Jig (black and blue) with a Strike King Baby Rage Craw (Black and Blue). One big fish was caught on a Missile Baby D-Bomb on a War Eagle 3/16 oz Shaky Head.
Spring is quite possibly a bass fisherman’s favorite time of year. Winter has been longer and colder than we wanted and the fish are fat and aggressive. When it comes to finding those heavy giants, it can be a little difficult if you’re not looking in the right place at the right time. Here are three tips every angler should know when it comes to catching big bass in the spring.
Tip #1-Creeks are Goldmines
This is a fact that I can’t stress to you enough. Even streams that feed lakes in the spring, but dry up in the summer can be loaded with big fish! Why? Because the water is so much warmer. There’s a lake I fish a lot that has a swamp-fed creek. In April on a sunny day, when the air temperature is 55 to 65 degrees, the water temperature can be as warm as 83-85 degrees in the afternoon, all while the main lake temperature sits at 45. Even something as simple as spring flooding that produces runoff which spills into a lake will be as much as 10-15 degrees warmer than the lake itself (depending on depth).
Elevated temperatures like this act like giant magnets for largemouth bass. But the key is to not get overly anxious. The water won’t really warm up until late afternoon and the warm water needs time to empty into the lake and draw the bigger bass in. If you hit the creek at 10 am you’ll find temps in the lower 50s, and the fishing will be mediocre. Come back at 3 and you’ll find it outstanding, with thousands of fish there and all of them feeding heavily.
Tip #2-Explore Every Area
When you look at a lake, especially smaller ones that you’ve fished for years, you can often get too complacent in where you fish. If there’s a particular side or pocket that is normally very good but suddenly isn’t producing, look to see if there’s a nearby reason that can explain the sudden change. Did a homeowner recently dump gravel or sand in and around their home to create a more kid-friendly swimming area? Or is a new culvert from the nearby road diverting water into a different place? These factors could have huge impacts on fish early in the year.
It’s also possible that the bass have found new cover, or that their former cover has been altered or removed. Laydowns, brush piles, and grass beds are all subject to change. If there was a flood in the fall, it’s possible that it created some sort of transition area nearby that has become a new favorite staging area. Remember that bass do almost nothing out of want, and nearly everything out of a need to follow their food source.
Tip #3-Downsize Your Bait
Most days you can get more big fish in early spring by throwing a shakey head than you will by throwing that giant football jig. Fish are still lethargic when they first come in and don’t want giant meals. Even when they’re spawning or guarding fry they will tend to lean toward eating numerous small meals because they are afraid of getting a food coma from eating something too big. It’s also true that they’re seeing a lot of bait hitting their waters from people like us all trying to get out at once. This will cause the fish to get a little finicky.
Spring is a great time of year to throw a little 1/4oz spinnerbait or a little 2.5 inch swimbait. It’s big enough to get their attention, but small enough so they’ll eat it if for no other reason than the fact that they felt a lack of respect. Bass ARE predators. It doesn’t take much to get them to act on it.
With spring in full swing, take advantage of the weather and get on the water as much as possible. Looking for some more spring tips? Our blog is filled with suggestions of baits to use, or fishing techniques to try to catch that fish you’ve always dreamed of. As always, if you have any questions about bait, contact us or visit the store for professional insight.