To Catch a Lunker
Shallow cover is the ticket in spring.
At some time or another, every serious bass angler is inflamed with the desire to catch the lunker of a lifetime. Just ahead is the best time of year to do it. So hunker down with Uncle Homer and let me share some whopper bass lore with you. Before you grab your tackle box and rods and reels, you should absorb as much information as you can about big bass: their habits, habitats and quirks, plus ways to reach them and trigger their predatory instincts.
Big bass-and I’m talking about the females that reach the heaviest size your region and water conditions can produce-are loners most of the year. They like to be by themselves except when the reproductive urge drives them toward the shoreline to seek mates. In the weeks ahead and depending on latitude, the big females will be in, or heading for, the shallows.
This is when they’re most vulnerable. After spawning chores are over, these big mamas go their separate ways for the most part and lead solitary lives until next nesting season.
Fish the Cover
Giant bass laden with eggs hang primarily in two types of cover: ambush cover or seclusion cover. Ambush cover offers concealment while the big bass wait for passing prey. Such bass are relatively easy to catch if you can get a lure in front of them.
Typical ambush cover includes shore brush, bushes, submergent and emergent aquatic weeds, fallen trees, stickups, stumps and standing timber. Seclusion cover is used by big bass after they have fed or are just basking and incubating their eggs. They need special lure presentations that trigger reflexive strikes. These bass will be found in deeper cover than those in ambush positions.
The biggest bass I’ve seen caught was a 14-pounder, and it dashed out of a brushy ambush to bash a leadhead jig with a four-inch plastic-worm body. This type of lure, plus small crankbaits and spinners, is ideal for this situation.
Also try surface chuggers, darting baits and wobblers, plus spinnerbaits and buzzbaits. Keep the lures moving at a steady pace and thoroughly fish all sides and depths of cover.
When you think you’ve found deep cover that should hold some staging bass before the spawn, a slower approach is required to fish it. Find openings in the weeds or woody cover and use sinking lures, such as jig-and-grub combos, or weighted tube lures. Make short casts and keep the rod tip overhead when you release line. Then, the instant the lure lands, drop the rod tip so the line goes slack. This allows the lure to settle vertically in front of a lunker’s nose. She’ll nail it.