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Friday, April 1, 2011

Fishing lures, techniques for mastering the Tallapoosa this Spring

Hooked on Lake Wedowee
by Reed Montgomery


During the mid-to-latter portion of the spring spawning season both the male and female bass are “on” or near their part time residence, the bed. This is when these paired-up mates first prepare the bed, selecting choice bottom composition found in ideal locations. Then they both begin fanning out the lake’s sandy bottom (or small-pebbled bottom) with their tail, shaping the dished-out bottom into perfection. This bed can be the home of both the male bass and female bass (and the newborn fry they will be guarding afterwards), for many weeks at a time.

The bed is actually a small rounded-out, dish-shaped spot usually featuring a diameter of 1-2 feet -- to the angler with a keen eye for spotting bass beds, it appears as a bright, round spot on the lake’s bottom, easily seen with a good pair of polarized sunglasses -- a secure spot in shallow water usually less than 5 feet deep, for the newborn baby bass to call home as well. The female bass (the larger of the two) may lay as many as 10,000 or more eggs. Afterwards only half of them will survive due to predation.
So during these times, which may last up to two months or more, most of these bass are on or near the lake’s bottom, in shallow water, usually found lingering or holding around a piece of wood or rock cover nearby.

Selecting the correct lure and utilizing the correct lure presentation, can help increase your catch ratio during these times when a lot of big bass are in some very skinny water. Meaning…putting more bass in the boat! Especially true when it comes to using all those precious little bass lures we as anglers have collected all winter long. Then, fishing each and every one of those new lures in the correct manner, while targeting both spotted bass and largemouth bass during this spring spawning season on Alabama’s Lake Wedowee.
Both male and female bass of each bass species can either be in the pre-spawn process of preparing the beds, or they can actually be in the process of bedding, or afterwards -- during the post-spawn segment -- when they are protecting the new born baby bass fry, they can be very territorial.

Even later in the spring season -- prior to the summer months, when these post-spawn bass are actively feeding and again fattening up for the upcoming, hot, summer months they instinctively known to be ahead -- they will still be hanging around the lake’s various types of shallow-to-deep water cover and most of these bass will be in water depths of less than five feet deep.

When fishing with an array of lures and using them in the correct manner during the spring spawning season on Alabama’s Lake Wedowee you will usually catch some bass. But maybe with a little skill and lots of luck you may hook into some of the biggest bass Lake Wedowee has to offer! Perhaps the biggest bass of your entire life!

Then, you have got to land them…

Always keep in mind when fishing Lake Wedowee “Alabama’s premiere, trophy largemouth bass lake”, there are some very BIG largemouth bass -- some weighing in the double-digit class in the teens -- that are taken during each spring season on this 40 mile long lake, that was impounded in 1983. Lake Wedowee is Alabama’s youngest, man-made reservoir. But still, it is a lake now getting rather close to being 30 years old. Its been many years since it was impounded. On any cast in this lake during the spring season (or any time!), you could hook into a possible new, Alabama state record largemouth bass!
Then you have got to land it…

So, do today’s lures and the same old lures (now antiquated handed-down fishing lures and techniques), still aid an angler in fooling a big, old Lake Wedowee bass into biting? That is a definite Yes! But only when each lure is applied to each fishing situation correctly. There is a correct way to fish each and every lure, some lures that were created many years ago and hundreds of lures that are being made today.

Choosing bass fishing lures can be mind-boggling, especially for anglers that are rather new to the sport of bass fishing. Enter any major fishing tackle store and you will see hundreds of lure selections to choose from. Certain lure styles, hundreds of color selections, various sizes of all kinds of lures and just as many lure configurations of every type of lure made, that is meant to be fished from top to bottom in the water column, can leave an angler very confused! Its takes many correct decisions, as to what lures an angler should be choosing for fishing during any season…of the entire year! Even more so, during the spring spawning season.
The lure list grows larger with every new fishing season, with just as many old and new ways of fishing each and every one of these lures. Still, there are the old favorites. Worms, lizards, jig combos, plastic crayfish, spinnerbaits, crankbaits, lipless lures, jerk baits and even old topwater lures like buzz baits, zara spooks, baby torpedoes, devils horse, hula poppers and jitterbugs still entice big bass to bite…just like these lures and other types of other “old style lures” did many, many years ago.

Still, today’s astute anglers have to keep up with the fishing times. Or they may find they could fall behind while their friends are catching lots of bass on lures that they either do not own, or they are being beat by their smiling counterparts, with lures they do not know how to fish with. So learning each and every “aspect” there is involved when fishing each and every lure you select, is very important to your success. There are a lot of lure “techniques” to learn as well.

So where would an angler begin to help him / her create a list of “must have” lures for fishing Lake Wedowee this spring season? Right here! After all, I have spent over 28 years exploring Lake Wedowee and over 50 years exploring every lake in Alabama. No matter how you look at it, that comes out to fishing during twenty eight spring seasons on Lake Wedowee and over fifty spring seasons on other Alabama lakes.
After a while…it kinda grows on you.

It would take a very long lure list and a lot of writing space to suggest all of my lure favorites for fishing during the spring spawning season. But of all of these lure choices and various types of lure techniques, when it comes fishing with lures that are fished on or near the bottom, you cannot go wrong when targeting Lake Wedowee’s spawning and post spawn bass. (OK maybe a top water lure.)
Here’s a short list of some of my favorite, “ Bottom Fished Lures” those lures, some t
hat are old and some that are new and the many ways I fish them for targeting both numbers of bass and for fooling some really Big Bass on Lake Wedowee, during this mid-to-late spring spawning season!

BOTTOM FISHED LURES

PLASTIC WORMS - When the subject of, “plastic worm fishing” comes up in your favorite fishing circles, you know you can always depend on plenty to talk about and listen to, with the many various types of worms to select from today. Including, lots of “fishing tales” both old and new (some stretched to their limit), old timers and young anglers telling all about, “an anglers battle with the big one” usually taken…or lost, on a plastic worm. Why?

Because plastic worm imitations have fooled all species of bass for many, many years and they always will! Only today, an angler may have as many choices of worms to decide on, as there are other lure choices combined. So what does the future hold for wormers? It can only be imagined as to what is in the minds of our future worm-making masters!
Here’s a few suggestions of various worm makes, worm models, sizes, and even an assortment of different worm tail attractions, featuring worms of all kinds, that may help increase your catch. Which means putting more bass in the boat!

Worm Lengths such as small, 4 inch worms to 12 inch long “snakes” will work on Lake Wedowee’s Largemouth Bass and Spotted Bass.

Smaller, 4-6 inch worms are usually fished with light-tackle spinning reel outfits, or open-faced reel outfits. They can be loaded with 8-10 pound test Berkley fluorocarbon line or Berkley Trilene Big Game (dark green) 8-10 pound test monofilament line. A jig head technique called, ”shaky head fishing” involves the use of a small 4-6 inch long worm, utilizing short shaking actions of the rod tip as the lure lays on the lake’s bottom.

Some anglers use small 1/8 ounce to 3/8 ounce jig heads. While others may prefer using a bullet weight and a small 1/0 to 3/0 size offset-shank hook, (I prefer Gamakatsu worm hooks), rigged “Texas Style” on a 6-7 foot long, light-to-medium-light action rod. These smaller worms are great lures when fished during clear water clarity, in and around bass beds, stumps, laying logs, trees, brush piles or rocky banks found along creek and main lake points. They are also good lure choices for fishing around piers and boat houses, along stump-filled creek flats, and around other places in shallow water, where spawning bass may gather.
Bigger, 8-12 inch worms target bigger bass. So they deserve to be coupled-up with heavier tackle outfits. Longer rods with more hook-setting back bone, those in the 7 foot class featuring medium-heavy rod actions, are suggested. Wide-spooled reels also hold more thicker, diameter heavy test line.
Bigger, wide-spooled reels are needed! I suggest ABU Garcia’s open-faced Revo model reels or their 5500 to 6500 Ambassador series wide-spooled, open-faced reels, loaded with 15 to 20 pound test Berkley Fluorocarbon line or Berkley Trilene Big Game (dark green) monofilament line. Bigger worms emit more underwater vibrations and create more water displacement. They can be seen and heard much better by these bass during stained-to-muddy water conditions, than when using smaller worms. A big bass wants a big meal as well…to fill a big belly fast!

TAILS AND COLORS
Plastic worms can have tails that are straight (good for finesse fishing or when no worm tail action is needed, such as when dead-sticking a worm), great for achieving motionless action on the lake’s bottom or when fished right in the bass bed. Or worms can have ribbon tails, swinger tails, paddle tails, cut tails, twin tails or curly tails, usually better for creating more tail action and vibration. Like when fishing worms in off-colored water clarity, or in current, or during very stained water conditions.

Colors on worms can be translucent, two-toned, solid colors, clear colors with metal flake, or more natural colors. Always match the worm color to the water clarity. Keep in mind, lighter colored worms are for fishing in clear water and on bright, sunny days. Darker colored worms can be better seen by the bass, during stained water clarity or during low-light conditions such as at dawn’s early light, late evenings, during cloudy periods, when dark overcast skies are present or during rainy periods.

OTHER BOTTOM FISHED LURES
LIZARDS – It’s a known fact bass hate lizards, sirens or water dogs. They are sworn enemies and the bass will annihilate a plastic lizard imitation, especially during the spring season. This is when these pesky, little underwater sirens are known to eat the bass’s freshly laid eggs. Their annoying habits and slow movements are very similar to the soft plastic lizards anglers select to fish with for bedding bass. Today’s lure market has many choices and like plastic worms, lizard imitations have been around for a long time and they will always fool a big bass into biting.

Lizard imitations can be fished just like the worm, with the same line and same rod and reel outfits. Including, in very shallow water of depths less than five feet deep, they can either be fished Texas-rigged, Carolina-rigged, on a jig head, wacky-rigged or fished weightless! A plastic lizard can even be fished as a top water lure!

* TIP - A soft plastic lizard imitation can even be fished along the water’s surface, RIGGED WEIGHTLESS, with a slow, steady retrieve. Just like when fishing a buzz bait!

Here’s how; Rig the lizard on a big, 4/0 to 5/0 Gamakatsu offset-shanked hook, just like you normally would when fishing it Texas-rigged. With no weight. But instead of sticking the hook point in the nose end of the lizard, enter the hook point first just under the throat of the lizard, up through the belly of the lizard, then bring it out in the exact middle portion of the lizard’s back, with the hook point barely exposed.

When cast, keep the rod tip up high and slowly reel in the lizard keeping it up on the water’s surface. This rigging will display the lizard’s head riding high up out of the water as it is retrieved, very similar to a real swimming lizard fleeing for its life! For this surface-retrieved lizard technique, I prefer to use heavier, Trilene Big Game Monofilament line in the 12-15 pound test category.

LINE - Why choose either monofilament line or fluorocarbon line? Each line type has its own distinct characteristics that will aid you in fishing each and every lure, when fishing both above the water line and below the water’s surface! Always have several rods rigged with various types of line and varied line tests.
Monofilament line is more buoyant. This will help float lures that are fished on or near the water’s surface, such as a weightless-rigged worm or lizard imitation. Fluorocarbon line sinks, so it is better for lures (with or without an added weight) to help them sink faster. Fluorocarbon line is virtually invisible underwater and is a great line for fishing during extremely, clear water conditions. Fluorocarbon line also has less line memory than monofilament line, thus creating less line coil or twisted line situations, like monofilament line does. However, monofilament line is cheaper than fluorocarbon line.

CRAYFISH IMITATIONS – During bedding times crayfish are also molting or shedding their skins. Emitting a lot of odor in the water during the molting process. Crayfish are also predators themselves preying on the bass eggs and even attacking the newborn baby bass fry and eating them if possible. So like lizards, bass hate them.

But as these crustaceans shed their skin these then, ”thin-skinned crayfish” become very susceptible to attack and the bass seem to know that when that very distinct odor is in the water, it means it time for an easy-to-catch meal. So lures that look like crayfish are deadly lure choices, when fished in and around the bed and the surrounding cover these spawning bass occupy nearby. Crayfish imitations, like worms and lizards, can be rigged in many ways and come in an assortment of colors and sizes.

TUBE BAITS – To a bass, a Tube Bait has to look like a crayfish. It has those back-flapping tentacles and when swam or quickly retrieved it looks very similar to a fleeing crayfish. A tube bait also has a slow spiraling motion when dropped in the water, just like that of an injured crayfish or one that has lost a pincher, unable to swim correctly. Which triggers an attack from a bass! Placing a tube bait right in the heart of a bass bed can provoke an angry bedding bass to attack, often when other lures fail to even elicit a strike. Most tube baits are hollow bodied. You can slide the tube bait completely over a jig head when rigged. Or rig it Texas-style with a small, very light sinker and a 2/0 to 3/0 size Gamakatsu wide-gap hook.

CREATURE BAITS – Rather new to the fishing scene is a four-legged chunk of plastic that resembles nothing I’ve ever seen in the water. These so-called creature baits work rather well on bedding bass and when a creature bait is allowed to lay right in the bass’s bed the trailing 3-4 legs actually undulate without even moving the lure. Even the lures slow fall in the water column can be very enticing, especially when the creature bait is rigged with a very light 1/8 ounce to 3/8 ounce bullet weight or on a jig head. The slow, enticing fall, coupled with the creature baits trailing legs, will usually elicit a very violent strike from bedding bass. This is an excellent lure for attracting slow, lethargic bass that are coming off the beds and recuperating from the rigors of the spring spawn. Bass, that are rather reluctant at chasing other, much faster retrieved lures.

JIG COMBOS – There are jigs and there are jig combos. Most of today’s avid bass anglers fish with either a rubber-skirted jig or a hair jig (made from deer hair or squirrel hair), or a silicone or mylar-based skirted jig. Some anglers fish these jigs with no added trailer. This technique is needed when fishing in very clear water situations, or when the bass will just not hit the jig trailer combo, due to its rather bulky size.
JIG TRAILERS - Adding a trailer to the jig always adds extra enticement to the lure. In the past, anglers used a company’s product called the Uncle Josh Pork Frog. This was an actual piece of pork that came in bottles soaked in a salty, watery solution and it was cut and dyed into various shapes, sizes and colors.
Mixing and matching any type of added trailer on the jig is common. Such as matching up a black and blue skirted jig with an attached plastic crayfish featuring a black body and blue trailing pinchers. But at times a completely different colored trailer from that of the jig color shows the bass a totally different lure color combination from what they are used to seeing. Like perhaps a black jig with a red trailer. Trailers can be a worm, lizard, creature bait, twin tail grub, plastic crayfish or plastic chunk.

Placing a jig or jig combo right in the heart of the bass’s bed or slowly swimming the jig right through the immediate area of the bed can show some very hard, rod-jarring strikes. These types of strikes will occur just as likely when these bass are in the post-spawn mode of this spring spawn, when they are feeding and protecting the new born baby bass fry. To a bass, a jig combo resembles a crayfish a natural predator that bass cannot tolerate when bedding, while protecting their young, or when they are recuperating from the spawn and looking for an easy-to-catch meal, very high in nutrition. Besides bass eating a lot of baitfish, always keep in mind crayfish are a very stable part of these bass’s diet as well!

Fishing for bedding bass is often a very controversial subject. The reason being, some anglers and conservationists feel that the bass is very susceptible to any anglers offering during these bedding times. And, they are.

So please Practice C P R Catch, Photo and Release. Let these bass go right where you caught them. To protect their newborn offspring or to protect the eggs of the unborn baby bass from predators. Bait fish such as minnows, shad, bream, catfish, crayfish (and even other bass), will voraciously eat these eggs or they may devour over half of these thousands of newborn baby bass fry. If there is no parent to protect them they will all be eaten and there will be no new offspring (relatives of these bass we let go), next spring season.
Let these bass go to live and fight another day. To give another angler the thrill of a lifetime…just like that big bass did the day you caught it!

Thanks and Good Fishin’
Reed Montgomery Owner of Reeds Guide Service (205) 663-1504
“ Guiding on Lake Wedowee since it was first impounded in 1984! Guiding on all of Alabama‘s lakes for over 40 years! Alabama’s oldest, professional “bass fishing only” guide service!”

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