The Other SpawnsBy Tom Redington
Edited by Mike Goodson
For much of the springtime, bass are preoccupied with reproduction and less concerned about eating. By late spring and early summer though, the mating rituals have wrapped up and bass go on a feeding binge to make up for lost time. This eating spree happens at just the right time because in coincides with a tremendous amounts of prey moving into the shallows to spawn. From mid-April through much of June on Lake Fork and similar Southern lakes, bass relate to spawning shad and sunfish (bluegill, red ears, etc.). For an angler looking to catch a lot of big bass quickly, following the shad and sunfish spawns is a great place to start.
The shad spawn across Lake Fork at different times, normally starting sometime in April in the upper ends of the lake and continuing through much of May on the south end. Shad typically spawn on the clay banks and grassy shores on Fork and you'll be able to find these areas with a little scouting. Look for spawning shad during the first couple of hours in the morning. If they are there, you'll normally see thousands of shad flicking on the surface. In addition, many fish eating birds will also be in the area, such as egrets and blue herons, feasting on the shad.
Once you've located spawning shad, the bass are pretty easy to catch until the sun comes up and the shad move out. Baitfish imitating lures with silver or white color schemes are best, and I try to match the size of the shad. On Lake Fork these are typically two to five inch threadfin shad. Double willow spinnerbaits and chatterbait style jigs with three and a half inch Live Magic Shad trailers are great for both numbers of fish and some big ones as well. The big fish are actively feeding but can be boat shy, so I like to throw these baits on low diameter thirty-three pound Fluorohybrid line on a seven foot three inch Dobyns model 733 rod. This combo allows for long casts and still has plenty of power to horse in big fish one after another without having to constantly retie when the fish are eating like crazy. Topwater lures like poppers and walking baits also produce lots of fish, as do shallow running crankbaits. As the sun starts to rise and the action slows a bit, swimbaits and soft plastic jerkbaits will produce a few more fish by fishing slightly deeper. Swimming three and a half inch and four and a half inch Live Magic Shads or four inch and five inch Hyper Worms on 3/0 to 5/0 Ultimate Swimbait Hooks from Lake Fork Trophy Lures will catch active fish. If a swimming retrieve won't work, use a stop and go action and let these plastics slowly fall to the bottom. The look of a dying shad is often too much for a hungry lunker to pass up. For the soft plastics, Apoundino Shad or Magic Shad are both killer colors.
Sunfish spawn for a longer period of time (several months), and even better, bass chase their finny little nemesis all day long, regardless of the weather conditions. Sunfish beds look like smaller versions of bass beds and are normally built in large clusters resembling honeycombs. Look for these beds in hard bottom areas around small timber, weeds, and lily pads; often near the same areas where bass spawn. If you find an area with bedding sunfish, you can be certain that bass are nearby. While the little pan fish are distracted by spawning ritual, bass lurk around these areas and pick off easy meals with regularity.
Unlike the early morning spawning shad pattern, match the hatch with sunfish-imitating baits and you can catch bass all day from their spawning areas. Bulkier baits that match sunfish's squatty shape are normally best. Spruce these lures up with bright bluegill colors like orange, chartreuse, and purple and you'll have a great pan fish imposter. Three-eighth ounce Mega Weight jigs in pumpkin pepper/green or black/brown/amber colors with Hyper Freak trailers in Bama bug or watermelon candy/red work great. Just add a little chartreuse and orange highlight with a dye marker and you'll be in business if you pitch these to grass and wood cover around sunfish beds. Try both hopping and swimming retrieves and let the bass tell you what they like best. If the wind blows or if it is overcast, I'll cover a lot of water in these areas with fat bodied shallow running crankbaits with wide wobbles. I throw these on Dobyns' 705CB/Glass medium heavy fiberglass rod with twenty-eight pound PowerSilk mono. The Dobyns rod is exceptionally lightweight for a fiberglass pole, yet it still has a slow action that allows bass to fully engulf your crankbait and stay hooked up during the fight. At the same time, the low stretch PowerSilk maintains good feel of your bait while it scurries through shallow cover. In addition, brightly colored noisy topwaters like poppers and prop baits attract big bass around the beds, even on sunny and calm days. For a true trophy, try big bluegill imitating swimbaits around the beds. There are a number of hard bodied swimbaits that will work, as will brightly colored soft plastic swimbaits. Swimming a four and a half inch or five and a half inch Live Magic Shad in the barfish, tilapia, or the limited edition hot melon and candy corn perch colors with a stop and go retrieve is a great way to catch a monster in the early summer.
Late spring and early summer is the bass' equivalent to an all you can eat seafood buffet and they're starving hungry. Bring some yummy fixings like Lake Fork Trophy Lures plastics and likely find a lot of hungry patrons.
If I can be of assistance, please contact me at 214-683-9572 (days) or 972-635-6027 (evenings) or e-mail me through my website, www.LakeForkGuideTrips.com.