I sit here dwelling on the fact that technically it’s Spring, yet just when all the snow was melting and the lakes ice showing it’s vulnerability, we get blasted by a bunch more snow and a weeks worth of cold weather. To stay sane, I try to look forward to what’s right around the corner and that is bass in the shallows preparing for the spawn. Naturally, I never considered the spawn one of my strong suites, I had tried a few times with less than perfect results but living in Minnesota it’s hard to sharpen your skills. Minnesota has a closed bass season from the end of February through the end of May and usually the largemouth bass have mostly wrapped up the spawn and are already blowing up my frog in the shallow vegetation.
It wasn’t until last April when I traveled down to Oklahoma to take part in a tournament on one of my favorite bodies of water in Grand Lake, just outside Tulsa. Three consecutive years I had made the trip to Grand with my buddies as a way to kick off the season and enjoy some fun fishing. Fun we had and I managed to get on a bite that pumped out giant staging females that were setting up for the spawn. When I found that there was a Bassmaster Weekend Series event going on I was all in.
I made the trip by myself and took part in a tournament that I really thought I had a better than not chance of winning. It didn’t take long at all to realize that the pattern I had come to master the previous few years was a day late and a dollar short. Instead I was finding fish up on the bank spawning. Trust me, had I known this beforehand I would never had the balls to venture all this way and take part in a tournament that would require me to sight fish against a field that employs this technique annually.
To make a long story short, at first I relied on a shakey head to catch these fish by positioning my boat far enough away that I couldn’t even see my quarry. I managed to use this technique to boat four descent bass and it wasn’t until the last hour that I came across a nice one on a bed. I instantly spooked her and without any hesitation she fled for deep water. Knowing I needed this bass to show face at the scales, I made the commitment to stick out the last hour and throw it all in the wind for a chance at catching this fish using a technique that I’ve never found successful in the past.
I pulled my boat back and waited and after about 20 minutes she showed up back on the bed. Staying far enough back so that I could just barely see the bass I started pitching a texas rigged Reaction Innovations Sweet Beaver (Xmas Pumpkin) to the bed. To not startle the bass, I would pitch the bait onto the bank and gently pull it into the water and onto the bed. Instantly the bass turned and stared at my bait. I wiggled the bait a bit and the bass moved in for a closer look. After about twenty pitches to the bed the bass was really getting annoyed, fanning her fins hard and trying to kick at the bait with her tail. With time running out I quickly ripped off the Sweet Beaver and rigged on a white tube. As soon as the bait hit the bed I could tell I was going to get my chance, just then the tube disappeared and I set the hook to see a big ole’ mouth come to the surface and just like that I had a 3.6 pound largemouth in the box rounding out a pretty solid limit. I can’t even begin to count how many 3 pound bass I’ve caught in my life but that particular one sits in my top 3 catches of all time.
On my recent trip to Southern California I expected that a bed bite may be the ticket. It didn’t take to long to realize that my assumption was dead on. For three straight days I honed my sight fishing skills and on the last day was even able to guide two friends from Biovex Baits to bed fishing success.
I had never considered myself good at sight fishing but now have all the confidence in the world and actually am looking forward to the next opportunity. Looking at my upcoming tournament schedule I see potential on two of my first events. One will be on Iowa’s Lake Okoboji, which takes place early May. My educated guess tells me that it will be to early in the year but at the same time I’m a firm believer that the bigger fish spawn first and if not the case, having a understanding of where bass spawn will aid me in finding the prespawn females.
Another event will be the TBF Open on Lake Pokegama in early June. This event should definitely offer up some sight fishing opportunities as this lake is located in the far Northern end of Minnesota and the timing should be setting up perfectly.
Check back soon for a “Tricks of the Trade” segment where I plan on laying out some of the tactics that have proven for me. I’ll go through bait, line, rod and reel selection, insight into spawning location, technique and differences between sight fishing smallmouth and largemouth bass.
Check back soon!