Northwoods in JuneBy Steve Huber - June 1, 2000
During the bedding season, bass don't seem to feed much and so they are now REALLY hungry. Making up for lost meals, bass typically remain shallow or just adjacent to shallow water after spawning and frequently make feeding forays. When bass are in the skinny water, lure presentation can be fairly simple and straightforward. However, I won't tell my wife this, I try to make her believe that I really, really need this new (insert your most coveted fishing product here) but you really only need a handful of lures. Well, not maybe a handful, that could hurt, how about a small tackle box instead?
Because the presentation is to shallow, actively feeding fish, forget the deep diving stuff. Save that for later in the year. Spinnerbaits are a favorite of mine this time of year, as are RattleTrap type lures and long, minnow-imitating lures like Rapalas. We are looking for active fish, so I like using fast moving search baits, "Chunk and Wind" fishing at its finest. When choosing spinnerbaits, get ones with ball bearing swivels on the blades, I like 3/8th oz. baits with a single Colorado blade at this time of year. You can fish these lures fast or slow, you get good flash and that Colorado blade really "Thumps". Color selection is fairly simple, black skirt/chrome blade, chartreuse skirt/gold blade and a FireTiger color is all you really need (but don't tell my wife that either).
The RattleTrap type lures are also a great search bait. Again, think small and save the big stuff for later in the year. Crawdad color, silver/blue and gold/black again complete the needed lure inventory. The minnow imitators in silver/blue and gold/black are all you need too. I'm sorry, I wish I could tell you that you need more, just don't let the spousal unit read this article.
Location in fishing, just like real estate, is everything. You can't catch em' if they aren't there. This time period is probably the easiest of the year, other than catching them on the beds, which while fun, I don't recommend. Bass are by nature a very object-oriented fish, so look for (I hate to put it like this but I can't think of any other way to describe it) "fishy" looking spots. Places like stump fields with deep water nearby are a gold mine. Other good spots are emerging weed beds, lily pads, downed timber or large rocks in the water. Shallow, dark, muddy bays with the above objects will draw bass for quite a good distance and you won't believe how many will be in a small area. Also, don't forget to throw lures right up against the shoreline, especially if there are trees, brush or rocks lining the shore. I had a guide client and his nephew out recently and we pulled smallmouth bass from a foot of water, within 2 feet of dry land!
My son and I were fishing a small lake, checking out a newly emerging lily pad bed. There was one log lying in 18 inches of water in the middle of these pads. I made a cast to it with a spinnerbait, ran it down the side and pulled out a nice 17 inch largemouth. As I was unhooking the bass, my son made a cast to the same log and pulled a carbon copy bass from the other side of the log! We could see the bottom all around this area, couldn't see a single bass and yet we pulled two from one log.
Fishing these spots is easy, especially with spinnerbaits. Pinpoint accuracy is helpful, because you should be on the money with much of this type of fishing, but not totally required. When casting to objects, you don't want to necessarily drop the lure right on the fish's head. It pays to cast beyond an object, thus not spooking the fish. Retrieve the lure so that it passes close to a stump, rock, weed clump, etc. It's even better if you bump the object with the lure. Many times, I've had a bass slam a spinnerbait as it careens off a stump, it seems that the contact will trigger strikes. Ripping the lure loose from a weed clump sometimes has the same effect.
It's harder to run RattleTraps through heavy cover but it can be done with practice. Traps can be steered with the rod tip. I like these lures for fishing newly emerging weeds. I can cast these lures a mile (well, maybe not quite a mile) and cover a lot of water fast. Make a cast and begin reeling as soon as it hits the water. Hold the rod tip high and you can keep the lure above the weeds. With good polarized sunglasses, you can see pockets in the weeds. As the Trap gets to the pocket, stop reeling and let the lure fall into the hole. Start cranking again and the lure will lift and run over the tops of the weeds again. Bass will lie in these pockets and take a bait that tumbles into the pocket. Again, if you hang up on weeds, give the rod a rip and the lure will pop free. That will trigger strikes too.
Minnow baits can be twitched over weeds and cast near cover. While not snag-free like a spinnerbait, they can be fished in some fairly nasty "stuff". I like to cast upwind or up current from a snag and let the lure drift close. Then, I give the rod a short, 6" pop. This causes the lure to make a slurp and dive just under the surface. Then, it struggles up to the surface, to lie motionless again. After a 10 second pause, do this again. I think it looks like a dying baitfish and no bass can resist an easy meal. With practice, you can work a lure close to cover, keeping it there for quite a while, this is deadly for spots where you know a bass is holding. If they don't hit it immediately, you can irritate them into striking. I also like to work these baits over weedbeds. That start/stop, up/down slow motion retrieve drives fish nuts. I use this especially when bass are in a neutral mood, swirling or swiping at lures without really making much effort to hit them. If they don't have to expend much effort to get the bait, they'll take one of these offerings. Kind of like me if my wife asks "as long as I'm going to the kitchen, can I get you something?"
Try doing a little bassing on your next outing. You really don't need a lot of equipment, a good stout rod and minimum of 12 pound test line, some sunglasses and the above mentioned lures. You don't need anything more than that, your local tackle shop owner won't like me for saying this but hey, I'm sure that I'll be writing articles in the future that will have you looking at his shelves soon.
Until next time, see ya.