April 04, 2014
By Roger Wheaton
Black bass reign supreme as the most sought-after game fish in America and also the most aggressive. With voracious appetites and short tempers, black bass readily feed on small fish, crayfish, worms, lizards, insects, mice, small birds and frogs — anything they can get into their large mouths. Primarily considered residents of the Midwest and Southeast, bass also call the lakes of the southwestern U.S. home, and fishermen pursue them with great zeal. Bass are usually found in and around cover, typically hiding next to logs, docks, underwater ridges, submerged brush and rocks, or near abrupt drop-offs.
Here are your best bets for bass fishing in Arizona.
Favorite Baitcasting Reel: Abu Garcia Revo MGX
Abu Garcia Revo MGX, 33.5%
Bass-chaser Jamie Chmielewski is convinced the Revos are the best out there. 'I have had several Abu Garcia Revo reels over the last few years, so I got one of these about a year ago and found out very quickly it was the best reel I had ever had my hands on. Easily the best casting reel for all weights of baits! '
Shimano Chronarch CI4+, 22.2%
Quantum Tour MG, 13.7%
Favorite Castable Umbrella Rig: Berkley Schooling Rig
Berkley Schooling Rig, 36.9%
Bass Pro Shops Deadly 5 Flashy Times, 33.8%
Road Runner Buffet, 13.8%
Favorite Fluorocarbon Line: Berkley Trilene 100 FluoroXL
Berkley Trilene 100 FluoroXL, 63.9%
Seaguar InvisX, 19.4%
Bass Pro Shops XPS Signature Series, 13.2%
Favorite Mono/Copolymer Line: Berkley Trilene XT XL
Berkley Trilene XT XL, 77.4%
G. Jacobs reported that he was using Trilene line and a Shimano rod and reel with a Strike King lure when he caught this largemouth.
Bass Pro Shops XPS Signature Series, 13.2%
Seaguar Senshi, 9.4%
Favorite Sunglasses: Berkley Zephyr
Berkley Zephyr, 41.3%
Costa CatCay, 28.7%
Wiley X WX Gravity, 22.7%
Favorite Soft Plastic Swimbait: YUM Money Minnow
YUM Money Minnow, 32.9%
Bass Pro Shops Sassy Sally, 14.2%
Savage Gear Real Trout, 13.2%
Favorite Rain Gear: Cabela's Guidewear Bass Angler
Cabela's Guidewear Bass Angler, 53.9%
Shimano Dryfender Insulated, 20.4%
Frabill F Series, 17.2%
Favorite Jig: Bass Pro Shops Enticer Pro Series Football
Bass Pro Shops Enticer Pro Series Football, 45.1%
Terminator Weedless Football, 32.2%
Jackall Spade Jig TG, 12.9%
Favorite Baitcasting Rod: G Loomis GL2
G Loomis GL2, 30.6%
'Best feeling rod I've ever held, ' wrote Dave Lapotka, also known as Fishboy1. 'It's light and just a tremendous rod. '
Abu Garcia Veracity, 27.9%
Cabela's Tournament ZX, 18.4%
According to Allison, who swears by the ZX, she caught a large smallmouth right before she caught this one, but no one was around to see it or take a photo of it!
Favorite Spinning Rod: G. Loomis GL2
First Place: G. Loomis GL2, 26.7%
Reader Gary N. Watkins says he reaches for his G. Loomis rods over all others. 'I like all G. Loomis rods. The craftsmanship is the best. ' Kevin Field voted for the GL2 because of its impressive weight-to-power ratio.
Abu Garcia Veritas, 23.7%
Bass Pro Shops Johnny Morris CarbonLite, 20.3%
Favorite Wirebait: Bass Pro Shops Lazer Eye
Bass Pro Shops Lazer Eye, 37.1%
Strike King Tour Grade Night, 30.9%
Sebile ProShad, 17.2%
Favorite Fish Finder: Lowrance Elite-5 DSI
Lowrance Elite-5 DSI, 42.6%
Humminbird 598ci HD SI Combo, 39.4%
Garmin Echomap70s, 12.3%
Favorite Small Outboard: Mercury 9HP ProKicker
Mercury 9HP ProKicker, 59.6%
'One of the best kicker motors available, ' wrote Debbie Harbin. 'Price is right also. '
Yamaha F70A, 31.5%
Suzuki DF20A, 5.7%
Favorite Shallow Water Anchoring System: Minn Kota Talon 12
Minn Kota Talon 12, 60.2%
Power-Pole Micro Anchor, 39.8%
Favorite Small Bass Boat: Ranger Z118C
Ranger Z118C, 49.2%
Alumacraft Dominator 185 LE, 29.0%
G3 Eagle Talon 17 DLX, 12.3%
Favorite Large Bass Boat: Ranger Z521C
Ranger Z521C, 54.5%
Like most of the voters who commented on their choices, James Davis speaks from experience. 'As a Ranger owner, I think that this is the ultimate bass rig. '
Triton 21HP, 27.8%
Favorite Hard Plastic Swimbait: Rapala BX Jointed Minnow
Rapala BX Jointed Minnow, 72.1%
Bass Pro Shops XPS Z9R, 14.2%
Savage Gear Glide Swimmer, 8.0%
Favorite Crankbait: Rapala Scatter Rap Crank
Rapala Scatter Rap Crank, 59.3%
Bass Pro Shops XPS Square Bill, 15.7%
Storm Arashi Series, 10.4%
Favorite Craw/Creature Bait: Savage Gear 3D
Savage Gear 3D, 30.1%
Havoc Papa Pit Boss, 19.8%
ZMan Turbo CrawZ, 19.5%
Favorite Spinning Reel: Shimano Stradic CI4+
First Place: Shimano Stradic CI4+, 27.6%
'Smooth, strong and never has a problem. Great drag, ' said Logan W. Seth Mahler also voted for the Stradic. 'Smooth retrieve good cast. '
Quantum Energy, 22.2%
Pflueger Patriarch, 14.6%
Favorite Braided Line: SpiderWire Glow-Vis
SpiderWire Glow-Vis, 50.5%
PowerPro Zero Impact, 24.9%
Sufix 832 Advance Lead Core, 18.1%
Favorite Hook: Bass Pro Shops XPS Magna Superlock
Bass Pro Shops XPS Magna Superlock, 49.0%
Kyle Cortiana was one of many who likes the price and quality. 'I use these hooks on all of my Texas Rigged baits and you can get a pack of 25 for $8!! They are sharp, strong, and you won't cry if you have it off to keep from getting on top of the fish. '
Mustad Grip-Pin Swim, 25.7%
VMC Drop Dead Weighted Hook, 13.9%
Favorite Topwater: Bass Pro Shops XPS Slim Dog
Bass Pro Shops XPS Slim Dog, 30.1%
Booyah Poppin' Pad Crasher, 20.6%
Evolve Nervous Walker Ghost, 15.7%
Favorite Large Outboard: Yamaha V MAX SHO 150
Yamaha V MAX SHO 150, 39.0%
'Quiet, great hole shot, and fuel efficient, ' according to Louie M.
Evinrude 150 HO, 35.8%
Honda BF250, 23.5%
Favorite Artificial Worm: YUM Mighty Worm
YUM Mighty Worm, 35.5%
Havoc Federale, 13.3%
ZMan FattyZ, 7.9%
Favorite Soft Jerkbait: Zoom Super Fluke
Zoom Super Fluke, 67.2%
Bass Pro Shops Shadee Shad, 24.1%
Havoc The Jerk, 8.8%
March marks the transition from cold winter waters into warming spring waters in most southwest lakes, which serves to stimulate bass appetites and reproductive urges, creating a bass fisherman's Nirvana. According to Hookup Outfitters Guide Brian Senick, bass move up to shallower water, cruise around scouting for a suitable spawning location, and finally move into the coves and flats and the spawn begins. Spawning can last 3-4 weeks or more. March finds bass in all three phases of the spawn. It is an exciting time to be on the water.
Senick offers the following tips: Early in pre-spawn, fish begin to stage on primary points — jerkbaits, lipless crankbaits and jigs are very effective then. Sometimes you should let suspending jerkbaits rest for up to 30 seconds and other times keep them moving continuously. Lipless crankbaits are usually run with a fast pace and jigs are worked fairly slowly. Use the same lures plus spinnerbaits as the spawn advances, but simply speed up a bit.
Once fish are on beds, soft plastic baits such as crayfish, lizards, and jigs continue to work. If sight-fishing bedded fish, simply toss the bait on the bed and work it based on the fishes' reaction, trying to irritate them into striking.
Once fish move off the beds into post-spawn mode, topwater baits begin to shine. Also, continue to fish jerkbaits, crankbaits, spinnerbaits and jigs at this time. Crayfish and shad colors are popular.
Although not a consensus, the following suggestions represent what some of the bass experts and Game and Fish Department officials consider to be the top southwest bass destinations.
Arizona can rival any place for quality bass fishing and is home to some serious lunkers. March bass begin to shake off winter lethargy by late February, depending on weather and water conditions, and prepare for the spring spawn by staging in schools. As the water warms, they begin to push up into shallower water.
Lake Havasu State Park
Most experts consider Lake Havasu, on the Colorado River, to be a superb largemouth impoundment and one of the best smallmouth lakes in the nation. About 450 miles of shoreline highlight this 25-mile long lake. Havasu's reputation is well deserved. Excellent smallmouth fishing just keeps getting better. Russ Engle, Arizona's Fishing Program manager in that area, has said 4- to 5-pound largemouth are not uncommon. Thousands of bundles of brush have been placed throughout the lake as part of a habitat improvement program. Because this is a federal waterway, there are currently no licensed guides on the lake.
Havasu bass will be found around any kind of cover. The Bill Williams area in the southern end would be a good place to start. Also, check out Mesquite Cove, Havasu Springs and up in the Topok Gorge. Look for largemouth in and around shoreline cover, but search rocky points and under canyon walls to locate smallmouth. Explore the canyon areas, around rocky points and Parker Strip below Parker dam for smallmouth. There are a number of fishing access points on the lake, to include fishing docks. Surface lures may be the best bet in the spring during low-light conditions, but during the day, bass seek deeper water. Jigs and deeper lures are the best bet then. For information, contact BassTackleMaster in Lake Havasu City at (928) 854-BASS.
Roosevelt Lake, in Tonto National Forest, lies about two hours northeast of the Phoenix complex, struggling to quench the city's unending thirst. Bass experts agree that the bass here are always anxious to bite. A nutrient-rich forage base of shad and bluegills grows bass quickly. Warmer water and shallow, brushy coves create great spawning beds as well. The bass population really exploded in 1990 with the implementation of a slot limit.
March likely will find the Salt Arm and Tonto Arm murky with runoff. Local expert Rory Aikens recommends fishing turbid waters slowly with noisy, scented lures. The northern shore of the Salt Arm is characterized by rocks and drop-offs where bass can be found. They gather near the northern shore around Salome Cove as well. The southern shoreline is marked by numerous brushy small coves — perfect for spawning bass and a good choice for shoreline fishermen. Guide Kyle Mayes, from Hooked Up Outfitters, recommends the submerged mesquites in Salome Cove, the back of the hump at Windy Hill near the middle of the lake, and Rabbit Island in the west. Rabbit Island has a brushy shoreline and vegetative cover that hides some rod busters.
There are lots of submerged trees and bass just waiting to wrap your line around those trees where Tonto Creek enters the lake. The rest of the lake is marked by coves, reefs and the dam section. Early spring bass move up into these shallow coves and flats. Plenty of smallmouth are found in deep, cold water near the dam and also around Bass Island. Warm, sunny days encourage them to move into shallow, warmer water around points and drop-offs.
Patagonia Lake State Park
About an hour's drive from Tucson lies a sleeper lake that regularly produces large numbers of bass and not infrequent 5- to 8-pounders. Patagonia is a largemouth-only lake, small in size at some 250 acres. Plentiful sunfish, shad and frogs grow healthy bass. It is likely that extra pounds result from snacking on cold-season trout stockings. Shoreline brush and water vegetation, such as cattails, provide cover for the large bass population. Several Christmas tree bundles have been placed in the lake for additional cover.
Don Mitchell, regional Fisheries Program manager, recommends hitting Cattail Point in the Ash Canyon Cove at the west end of the lake. Fish the cattails and the submerged acquatic vegetation just past the cattails. He also says the breaks between bunches of cattails hold lots of bass. For big rodbenders, Mitchell says "flip" worms or jigs right into the cattails. Across from the marina is a shoreline with large rocks. Big fish are often taken there. Early spring will find lots of smaller bass congregating at creek inlets yearning for a small lure to attack.
Cold water will push them into deeper water, while warm, sunny days tempt them into warmer, shallow waters. Mitchell says Patagonia is a boat-friendly lake with limited shoreline access. There is a campground, marina and boat launch on the lake. An automatic entrance gate closes at 10 p.m. and doesn't open until 4 a.m. Contact the Lakeside Market & Gift Shop for information at 520 287-6965. It sells day-use and annual permits.
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