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Northwood's Bass

By Mike Mladenik - May 1, 2005

Finally after a long winter we are able to get out on the water once May arrives. I spent the winter giving numerous seminars across the Midwest. Each winter I enjoy giving these seminars and meeting with anglers. My last seminars were at the Action Marine Open House in early April. Events like the Action Marine open house are great since besides anglers getting super deals on a new boat they can learn fishing techniques at one of the seminars. I can't wait to see you all there next year. Now its time to go fishing.

Up here in the Northwood's bass anglers are fortunate to have many options. Northern bass anglers can choose to fish natural lakes, reservoirs and rivers. Bass lakes can range in size from tiny potholes to large deep clear lakes covering thousands of acres. Reservoirs and rivers are also common and add to the variety. This variety not only makes fishing more enjoyable but helps you catch more fish. The fish can have lock jaw on one lake and be on the feed a few miles down the road.

Bass numbers are on the rise on most northern Wisconsin lakes due to the early catch and release season. In the past both smallmouth and largemouth bass suffered high harvest rates during the spawn. I have seen many lakes that had only marginal bass populations increase in both numbers and quality in only a few years.

This year in Northern Wisconsin the season opener will be Saturday May 7th. What the conditions will be is anyone's guess since I learned years ago not to try to predict the weather. One thing is for certain I will be on the water. If you are looking for consistent bass action, think small water. The smaller the lake, the greater the odds are that you will find active bass on the opener. Many of these smaller lakes won't have large numbers of big bass but you will find action and that occasional large fish.

The ideal early season lake would be less than 150 acres and not be deeper than 25 feet. Deeper lakes might have a higher percentage of larger bass but fishing can be tough. A deep clear water lake will warm slower and be more affected by unstable weather.

Look for shallow flats with sand and gravel to attract the most smallmouth. These areas will have the warmest water temperature. The warmer the water the more active the bass will be. If the lakes do have shoreline points ands shallow rock humps these areas should also be fished.

If you are unfamiliar with the lake and need to search for active fish it is hard to beat a spinnerbait or shallow running crankbait. Try to cover water effectively but not to fast. Don't burn the spinnerbait or crankbait but use a slow steady retrieve. Once you locate fish switch over to plastics. Grubs and tubes are both effective. In clear water both watermelon and green pumpkin are the best colors in clear water. I use a long seven foot rod. The longer rod allows for longer casts which are necessary in the clear water. Spool your reels with four or six pound test.

Shallow weedy lakes will have the most active largemouth bass. Here again we are looking for the warmest possible water and these type of lakes fit the bill. Most of these lakes have stained water which also adds to the warming process. Spinnerbaits and soft plastic jerk baits are my main plan of attack. Cast the spinnerbait to locate bass and then switch over to the soft plastic jerkbait. Twitch the jerkbait very solely and allow enough time for the drop. Most of the big bass will nail the jerkbait on the drop.

For anglers looking for big largemouth or smallmouth and are not concerned about catching numbers of fish look for deeper clear water lakes. With the exception of the fall pre-spawn is the only time northern anglers will find large bass schooled up together. For smallmouth, look for the steep edges of points and humps to hold the largest fish. Slow is the name of the game too catching these big fish. Watch your line since you will detect line movement before you feel a strike. If the bite is light I switch to a gold or silver tin jighead by Tin Man Lures. With the jig being 40 percent lighter than lead it has a slow fall that will trigger a strike from neutral fish. The high reflectivity of the plated jighead is irresistible when fished with a minnow or grub. For fishing a jig and minnow I have developed a new 6' 6" jigging rod.

By the time summer arrives most of the action on natural lakes will take place early and late in the day. While many anglers tap into the evening bite few take advantage of the morning feeding binge. This morning feeding period can often last for extended periods of time while the evening bite is short. Besides lasting longer at sunrise you will also find yourself alone on the lakes. Lakes that see considerable boat traffic during the day will see major bass feeding periods early in the day.

Weeds are the key to this hyper active sunrise bass. On a few lakes I fish I will catch both smallmouth and largemouth off the same weed bed. Bass can move into the weeds at anytime so be prepared. Since we are dealing with aggressive fish cover water quickly with search lures. Spinnerbaits and topwater baits are both deadly. Make sure you utilize both presentations. When choosing a spinnerbait use larger spinnerbaits with tandem blades. Smaller single sin baits don't seem to catch big weed related bass.

As you see anglers in the Northwood's have lots of options open. With all these options there always seems to some place where the bass are biting. For more information on tin jigs and finesse jigs go to my website.

Author Mike Mladenik
Mike Mladenik
Mike has been a Wisconsin Fishing guide for 25 years, authored several books, and has his own Television Show "Fishing with Northwood's Guide Mike Mladenik". Sponsors include Sylvan/Smokercraft Boats, Yamaha Outboards, Zieman Trailers, Lamiglas Rods and Peshtigo River Rentals. For more information go to his website
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