September 29, 2010
Fisheries managers and bass pros are expecting a productive year of bass fishing. Is a new California record on the way?
By Bill Schaefer
Like fishing heavy cover? Well, that may be the best bet this spring.
Is this the year an angler will break the 18.75-pound Lake Otay bass record? With recent trout plants that will bulk these bass up, it's a good bet we'll see a real lunker this year.
Photo by Schaefer Photo.
Any rise in a lake's level will mean brush that had been growing in thick along the shore will be submerged and home to a lot of bass. California largemouth bass just seem to love the cover when it's around, and it looks like this year will be a year for flipping, pitching, spinnerbaits, and worming heavy cover.
WHERE TO FISH
So where do you head first this spring? Well, I like to start off with a lake I have a lot of confidence in, and then as the spring and the bite progresses, I might try a new lake or two, or visit one I haven't been to in a while.
If the water is up in the brush this year, the largemouths will definitely head to the banks with the most cover. Think about your favorite lake and all that brush and small bushes and trees along the bank are now in the water. That is where the bass are.
Let's look at how the fishing should pan out this year at some of our favorite lakes, from San Diego to Kern County. Many bass taken from these lakes are famous, as they hold positions on the all-time world record largemouth list. This could be the year for some new entries on that list.
Lake Otay, located just north of the Mexico border, had been used for many years as a brood stock for many other Southern California lakes.
These bass grow big without the help of planted trout. But the lake has started planting trout in the winter and the bass should start feeding regularly on these tasty morsels.
Last spring, the lake put out many fish in the 7- to 10-pound range with several fish going over the 10-pound mark. It continued to put out fish of this quality all year, and 2010 should be no different.
Pre-spawn fishing at this lake can be great for big numbers of bass. Males rush the banks by the thousands. Crankbaits, rattling spots and spinnerbaits can do the trick as the fish move up.
If the water is into the tules, then flipping and pitching can be a blast at Otay. This lake has clear, clean water and once the spawn starts, you will be able to coax those big females by eyesight.
Catch and release the larger fish. Take a picture and return that big mother to continue breeding those nice Otay bass.
Later in the year, go to all your old favorites, such as drop shot and split shot fishing. A dead-sticked Texas-rigged worm is deadly here in the spring as well.
Toward the end of summer and early fall, look for breaking fish around the lake. Frogs in weedbeds can be fun here.
The lake record is a hefty 18.75 pounds.
Heading north we find Lake El Capitan. This lake has had the benefit of receiving water pumped from the San Vicente Dam project as well as the rainfall last year.
The lake may fill to capacity, and the fish here love the brush when it's in the water. When the North arm extends back into the trees, the fishing explodes here if you use frogs, buzzbaits or just about any topwater bait.
The lake is littered with rocky points, as well as brush. That gives you many types of structure to fish. And they all hold bass.
Early spring brings great spinnerbait fishing, but old standards, such as drop shot fishing some of those rocky points works well, too.
Try Bubba rigs or Carolina-rigged creature baits along the old river channel. Jerkbaits, both soft and hard, do well in late summer and fall. Later in the summer, schools of largemouths roam the lake attacking balls of shad. That means great surface-fishing action.
This lake doesn't turn out many fish more than 10 pounds, but usually has a few big ones brought in each year. It has a lot of midrange 5- to 10-pounders.
The lake record stands in at 15 pounds, 5 ounces.
Lake Hodges is home to giant bass that don't need trout to get them that XXL size. Hodges' largest bass is a 20-pound, 4-ouncer.
Last year, it was predicted to be the "break-out" lake. In fact, Hodges started out with a bang, but water management and water draw-off lowered the lake to a point where bass boats couldn't launch.
Fishing this spring should still be better. The bass love the shallow structure and brush here. The lake could easily refill. The springtime spawn and fishing overall should bounce back. The lake turned out some 10-pounders in 2009 and should this spring as well.
Spinnerbaits, soft jerkbaits and plastics thrown to the shoreline brush get the bites. If the water reaches the reeds, flipping can be real fun.
Just a little north is the famous Lake Dixon. It's not a giant lake, in fact, it's kind of a farm pond compared with most. But Dixon has always put out some giant largemouths, including Dottie, caught in 2003 when she was 21 pounds, 11 ounces, foul-hooked in 2006 and found dead in 2008.
Big-fish chasers are still scoring here, but keep most giant weights under wraps.
The spring spawn is your best bet to score a giant at this lake. White jigs on nests or trout imitation baits work very well here for the giants in the springtime.
This lake is sure to put out some big fish this year. Throughout the year, there is always a chance at a giant, since the lake has a number of them.
Continuing north, Lake Castaic is one of the greatest bass lakes in California. This lake holds four of the top 10 largemouth bass of all time. With the list starting at 20 pounds, 14 ounces, it continues on up to 22 pounds one-half ounce! It will be hard for any other lake to take the limelight away from this impoundment.
As predicted, fishing was good this past year, but giants were rare. Larger fish fell in the 7- to 10-pound rang
Touring pro Stan Vanderburg said that if you didn't have close to a 5-pound average in your livewell for recent tournaments, you weren't in the hunt for the win.
Castaic has a healthy population of shad. Find the shad, and you will find the fish. You must match the hatch: big shad, big baits, and smaller shad, smaller baits.
Spinnerbaits and crankbaits are best the spring. As the sun comes up, go to split shot or drop shot rigs. Swimbaits are also good for getting those larger fish to bite.
Lake Piru is a little off the beaten path. But bass fishermen know the potential that this lake has to produce giant bass.
This lake also plants trout, and as we all know, largemouths love to fill up and grow large feeding on trout. The lake record here is 13 pounds, 15 ounces. While that's not as large as a number of other lakes around Southern California, this lake puts out a lot of fish in the 10- to 15-pound range.
The lake also has a healthy population of 2- to 5-pound fish and a resurgence of smallmouth bass as well.
Vanderburg is a big fan of this lake. He recommended spinnerbaits, soft and hard jerkbaits, and all types of crankbaits. Plastic worms set up on all types of rigs will also work well throughout the year. Remember, those trout imitations and swimbaits as well for that trophy.
Lake Casitas, near Santa Barbara, also boasts some giant bass in its history and can really turn out a lot of mid-range largemouths as well. With a lake record of 21 pounds, 3.5 ounces, this lake is known for great swimbait fishing. Springtime also can bring a great spinnerbait bite, as the bass love to chase the shad here.
The fishing pressure at this lake is low right now because the lake authority has put severe regulations on boats, kayaks and anything else that floats. This impoundment does not want quagga mussels in the lake, and there are some strict rules to follow. Check the Web site at www.lakecasitas.info for details.
Finally, a lake that always seems to have a steady bite going, Lake Isabella. Although a little off the beaten path as well, this lake can be a fun destination. Located in the foothills, this lake is a little cooler than most of the other lakes mentioned. That means the spawn here is often a month or two behind most other Southern California lakes. May and June are the prime months to fish.
Guide Jose Santiago told me that the spinnerbait bite in the springtime is great at this lake.
Isabella has just about every type of structure a bass fisherman could want to fish. The lake has a healthy population of 1- to 3-pound fish with some smallmouths starting to show more.
Split shot and drop shot rigs work well here.
Springtime is your best bet to hook a giant at this lake. The lake record weighs in at 18 pounds, 15 ounces.