Succcessful anglers are like hunters in the field. They are constantly looking for a new territory or technique and always on the stalk to capture or harvest their prey.
Photo by Bill Mays.
Anglers who wait for that 70-degree water in late April and early May have already missed the window of opportunity for catching trophy bass.
Wallhangers in many lakes start their migration from the deeper water and major creek channels to staging areas in February. Professional bass anglers have the knowledge and the baits to target these areas now, and they consistently find success in the pre-spawn.
If you’re going to get in on the pre-spawn action, make note of these effective lures that are making a splash with pros and local anglers this spring.
Because of angling pressure, the larger and wiser bass have found a security blanket, a place hidden from the angler’s sight and have moved up under the grass mats, floating vegetation and debris pockets. Not only is this a great hiding place, the water warms up quicker because the sun beats down on the vegetation and works like a thermal blanket.
It didn’t take long for a few of the successful tournament anglers, like Ish Monroe, to figure out what the bass were doing. The pros started cashing big paychecks and winning national tournaments with a punching technique.
Even with today’s media coverage, punching was not taking the bass fishing by storm. Anglers were frustrated when they tried to get their bait configurations to punch through thick heavy cover and grass mats.
But any angler can master the punching technique with proper instruction and practice.
It’s a lot like the situation with swimbaits: Anglers fish them and might not develop a feel for them. Without immediate success, they give up.
Pro angler and bass-fishing guide Bub Tosh saw the need for better punching tackle. A hook, skirt and sinker he developed will be taking punching to another level in bass fishing this coming year.
“Bass anglers across the country needed the tools that would consistently perform for them with the big-bass jig-type baits and the new technique of punching,” said Tosh.
The problem was anglers needed a way to penetrate the weedbeds and vegetation without getting hung up and disturbing the pre-spawning bass below. Tosh claims his Pay Check Baits deliver, and others are agreeing.
The first thing Tosh did was change the hook. His hooks have a welded closed eye for tying a snell knot so the knot does not slip out of the eye and cut the knot. By tying a snell knot, the hook kicks to the side when it is hit, so hooksets are more often in the side of the mouth.
The next huge improvement was his Gamakatsu hooks have a barb with a heat-shrink tube with an epoxy liner that will keep the bait on the hook as it is pitched high in the air for pounding through the heavy vegetation and weedbeds.
Tosh then came up with the Pay Check Punch Skirt, a skirt that would surround the hook and prevent the hook from hanging up on the cover.
Every bass angler knows how difficult it is to punch or flip a jig through weedbeds. This new skirt allows weedless penetration through thick grassbeds.
There is one more little add-on to the Pay Check Skirt, and that’s the Pay Check Punch Stop. It works like the old bobber stopper and it holds the skirt and tungsten bullet weight down against the bait.
The tungsten bullet weight is 3/4 of an inch in diameter and is 1 1/2 ounces. It’s designed to blow the mouth open on a big bass as it slides through the fish’s mouth on the hook set. When the fish’s mouth is blown open, the snelled hook then kicks to the side for hookups.
With today’s media coverage, new baits do not stay new for very long.
When Byron Velvick set the record for the heaviest three-day total of 83 pounds, 5 ounces of bass in 2000, it was the beginning of the end for angling secrets. It wasn’t long before everyone was throwing those big ocean baits we now call swimbaits.
Word on the water now has it that some of the bait manufacturers are coming out with completely new swimbait heads and bodies for 2010.
They’re keeping it under wraps for now and only a few pro staffers are testing the prototypes. By the time you read this, you might be seeing these new baits in the first tournaments of the season.
Meanwhile, as you are fishing the pre-spawn, an excellent swimbait that has proven effective is the Osprey Top Hook Tallon swimbait. This bait lets you cover a lot of water. Big female bass are looking for big meals to hold them through the spawning cycle. I’ve found this bait to be virtually irresistible to pre-spawn bass.
A less-intimidating swimbait is the Berkley Hollow Belly. It’s not a big bait that will wear you out, but it’s just a good swimbait-type lure that catches big bass. It also helps you cover a lot of territory, and that’s a good pre-spawn plan.
Pro Kent Brown was fishing a tournament but couldn’t get the bass’ depth pinpointed. He was catching a few fish on the retaining walls and the obvious structure, but the quality was not there.
He moved off the retaining walls, started pitching and slow rolling a chatterbait 30-40 yards out in front of the boat. This technique allowed him to cover a wide range of water, the outsides of the docks and the main channel as well.
Brown started improving his string and figured out that the big bass were actually in the main channel that everyone was driving over. His chatterbait led him to the victory board.
Ever since 2006 when Bryan Thrift won an Okeechobee bass tournament with a chatterbait and Brett Hite won tour events, people have taken notice that these hybrid lures catch pre-spawn fish.
Chatterbaits cover a lot of water in a
hurry, and they are more versatile than the spinnerbait. You can rip the bait through the water, slow roll it, and crawl it along the bottom and work it like a jig.
Brown likes to use crawdad-pattern baits for the body. His favorite is the Berkley Chigger Craw in the green pumpkin color. The color of the bait is determined by the water clarity. When this bait is worked like a jig, it actually looks like a crawdad moving along the bottom.
You can also use a shad pattern as the chatterbait body if you reel it like a crankbait.