Sunday, June 11, 2006
For Bass Season: It's in the Details
The opening day of bass season in the north country is considered by many outdoorsmen as just as important as the opening day of rifle season. Every opening weekend, successful anglers spend time analyzing the barometric pressure and water temperature — which eventually will determine what body of water to fish — what baits to use and what type of fish-holding structure, and most importantly, what species to target.
Whether you are out after largemouths or smallmouths, taking account of these variables will definitely put the odds in your favor during the season opener:
Barometric pressure: During the spring — and we've seen this weather pattern hold true so far this May and now into June — warm weather is often followed by nasty cold fronts. Knowledgeable early season anglers realize the importance of fishing just prior to the movement of the cold front. During a cold front and at least two days following, bass fishing can be very slow. Fishing will be best on the last day of a stable warm front prior to that cold front and, in fact, most times bass fishing can be absolute spectacular.
Water temperature: Depending on the body of water you will be targeting on opening day, most water temperatures will range between the mid-50s to high 60s. A few hard-core bassers will take the temperature of a number of bodies of bass-holding water prior to the opener. As water hits the 60-degree mark, bass become very active both along the shoreline and at mid-depths, just off points and bars. If you are targeting smallmouths, look for temperatures in the 60s. If largemouth bass is your quarry, look for active fish when water temperatures reach the low 70s.
So, where do you fish? It first depends on what you want to catch. Saying that, I think any small river, small- to medium-lake or any farm pond will be an ideal spot for opening weekend. Small-water fish often are active weeks before those on larger waters. Moreover, it is easier to target fish in smaller waters than, say a large body of water like the eastern basin of Lake Ontario.
Baits: Early in our northern zone bass season, a Gitzit or any other type of soft grub seems to be extremely effective for smallmouths in the shallows, and staged off mid-depth drop-offs. Weighted small plastic baits like lizards and Twisters often are effective in shallow cover for both smallies and largemouths. A slow retrieve is key with soft bait fishing during the spring.
In general, this is not the time to fish top water plugs, however, spinnerbaits fitted with medium-sized blades and even a buzzbait burned in the shallows will take both largemouths and smallmouth bass. Spinnerbaits, for many, are tremendous "search and destroy" spring baits, as they can cover large amounts of water while covering both shallow and mid-depth waters.
For those who fish for bedding bass, a grub like a Gitzit, dragged in front of their bed, will entice most fish. When targeting these fish, which can be easily caught, it is critical to practice immediate catch and release.
Know the differences: Keep in mind that largemouths are not at all similar to smallmouths. They each have their own set of behaviors that set them apart. For example, smallmouths don't hang tight to cover like largemouths. Smallies relate more to sudden depth change than they do to cover. While big largemouth bass are normally loners, big smallies will school together. And, the most obvious difference is a smallmouth is built more suited to current while bucketmouths are more comfortable living in slack water.