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Spots Before Spawn | Print |  Email
Written by Luke Clausen   
Friday, 04 March 2011 16:46

 

When you talk about spotted bass out West, you're pretty much talking about Lakes Shasta and Oroville in California. During the first couple of months last year, I spent a lot of time fishing for spotted bass because I had tournaments on those two lakes, which helped me develop a fair amount of proficiency in finding and catching them.

During the prespawn months of January and February, there are basically three types of structures that seem to hold quality spots: steep rock points; long, tapering cuts or draws; and the slow-tapering banks that pass as flats. These are the areas are where I found my best fish, and they're a great place for you to start, too.

Spots On Structure

I usually start on steep rock points early in the year, fan-casting a spider jig or tube all over the point, fishing it down to 70 or even 80 feet. I fish across the point at about a 45-degree angle, covering different depths until I discover where the fish are. Once you do find some fish, you can keep fishing right around that same depth and catch them all day long.

As the day warms a little they may move up, but they usually rise only about 20 feet. After I've discovered the depth they're using, I sometimes sit uphill from them on the point and drag my lure up through them.

This approach is a bit time-consuming, so I only bother with using it if there are better fish in the area. Sometimes, for whatever reason, the bigger fish will take a lure fished uphill, but ignore one dragged downhill. It's a day-to-day thing, so always experiment.

I also discovered that spotted bass seem to prefer a tube over a spider jig. Once I started using a Strike King 4-inch green-pumpkin tube, the difference was incredible. My catch rate with a tube is three times that of a spider jig. And if you can find a 1/2- or 3/4-ounce darthead, those work very well inside the tubes. Dart heads that big are hard to find, though, so I sometimes use a football-head jig. They can be tough to jam in the tube, but if you lube it up with some scent, the football head slides in more easily.

When you're dragging the tube around, you'll feel a lot of gravel and stuff, then suddenly bump into a rock. Pull to create some tension, and the tube will spring loose and hop over the rock. Most of the bites come on these hops. Line stretch is essential for the hopping action, so I use 12-pound Sunline fluorocarbon. The fluorocarbon possesses just enough stretch to make the lure hop, but also the sensitivity that's crucial when fishing that deep. I fish the tubes on a 6-6 G. Loomis MBR783 baitcast rod.

Even at this early time of the year, you can probably find plenty of fish up on the bank. But in a tournament, you need about a 2-pound average on a spotted-bass lake, and the better fish are usually deeper.

A couple of nice sunny days might move bigger ones up shallower, though.

Crawdads Key

Spotted bass fishing is a timing thing. Most of my best fishing is in the afternoon, so if you aren't catching a bunch right away, don't give up. Watch your graph, too. If you see a lot of fish at 50 or 60 feet, move onto structure and fish at that depth. Just seeing baitfish in the area doesn't mean that much to me, though. Usually, I won't start catching fish until I see arches on the screen.

One reason might be the bigger fish seem to eat a lot of crawdads, so schools of baitfish may not be that big a draw for them. I actually had two live crawdads get spit up in my livewell last year, along with a lot of crawdad parts. Since the tube mimics a craw very well, this may be why it works better for me.

Once you've figured out the right depth, start watching your graph for "hidden" structure that can't be seen by looking at the shore.

Good-looking points and cuts that are easy to find get hammered by everyone who passes by. But a stretch of bank that looks like nothing may have a few nice points or humps below the surface. Also, a bank that slopes gradually out to deep water usually has a ledge on it somewhere. You've got to watch your graph to find stuff like that.

Another really good place is a little cut where run-off carved a ditch in the shore during low water. These might be just two or three feet deep, and totally hidden underwater. If you can find a couple of them, they are usually good for one or two really nice fish.

Quality spotted bass are harder to find than they are to catch, but if you keep one eye on the graph and know what kinds of things to look for, you can avoid the crowd and find key areas where nice ones reside.

 

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