Gearing Up For Bass!

posted in: How-Tos | 0

At the end of the day, I’m a trout fisherman. My first fish was a rainbow trout and my last fish will likely be a rainbow as well. However right now my mind isn’t on trout fishing or sturgeon or S.F. Bay halibut… At the moment, it’s bass that I can’t seem to stop thinking about.
The abnormally warm dry weather we’ve been experiencing is no doubt partly responsible for my current bass fishing obsession. It just feels bass-ish in the warm sun. I even noticed some new leaves popping out on trees

A lot in a small space…Here we see author Cal Kellogg’s selection of bass gear for the 2018 season. Cal is committed to light tackle action this year and he’ll be fishing with a pair of spinning rods. Cal’s soft plastics, reaction baits and terminal tackle fits into three compact boxes and everything easily fits inside a medium size backpack.

and the days are noticeable longer…But alas the fishing at my local lakes hasn’t been very good. It may feel like spring to us humans, but with water temperatures at or barely above 50 its still wintertime to the bass!
I’d planned to go bass fishing at Folsom tomorrow from the bank, but after chatting with Don Paganelli of Paganelli’s Bass Fishing Experience I’ve decided to put the trip off for a later date.
“I was out there last Sunday with a client. He wanted to learn the lake. In the end we fished hard for 2 fish. It was 52 degrees on top, but a few feet down it was 47. Despite the warm weather, I don’t think the lake is going to be warm enough to really go off until next month,” Don related.
Okay, I’m not going bass fishing tomorrow, but that doesn’t mean we can’t talk about bass fishing right now! For the last couple weeks I’ve been tinkering with gear, putting together a very streamlined assortment of bass tackle that I can use when fishing from the bank or a boat. I’m committed to light tackle fishing this year.
I do most of my bass fishing in the spring and then turn my attention to other species, but I do dabble with bass on and of through out the summer and early fall.
I’ve got a pair of spinning rods rigged up with 8 and 10 pound Trilene Big Game Line. I’m looking for versatility so both of my rods are fast action sticks that have some backbone.
At this point, beyond my rods I’ve got two medium compartment boxes of lures and a smaller box of hardware. The boxes fit into my backpack that also includes some scent, fluorocarbon leader material and pliers.
The first lure box features a selection of soft plastics. I’ve got two slots filled with 4 and 6 inch finesse worms. One compartment’s worms are crawfish tone models. The other features baitfish colored worms. In a third section I’ve got a bunch of brown PowerBait 4 inch swimtail worms. They aren’t sexy, but the bass love them!
Moving on there is a section of motor oil colored hula grubs and another section features 3 inch grubs and PowerBait tubes, again in both crawfish and minnow colors.
The box is rounded out with a bunch of 4 inch watermelon and motor oil colored Senkos. And there are three 3 inch Sassy Shad style swimbait bodies in there too.
The soft plastic box will undoubtedly catch the most bass for me, but the other box of lures contains the fun baits.
My old boss and friend Allen Bonslett and I would be in a tackle shop. He’d point out a lure and say, “That’s a lure that looks so cool that it makes you want to catch a fish on it.”
My reaction bait box is full of lures like that. Floating minnow plugs, both Yo-Zuri Pins Minnows (I told you I was going small and light) and traditional floating Rapalas will be

Soft plastics are the bread and butter baits of most bass anglers because they produce fish across a wide array of situations. Laid out on the lid of the box we see four of Cal’s go to baits, a spider grub, 6 inch finesse worm, 4 inch Senko and a Berkley Power Tube.

an important part of my arsenal. I plan on smacking some smallmouths twitching those baits on the surface!
I’ve got one brand new perch pattern Rapala that I especially like to fondle. The colors are subtle and the bait looks perfect with it’s uber sharp black trebles…Twitch, Pause….BBBOOOMMM!
There are a couple Yo-Zuri L Minnow sinking minnow baits in the box too. These baits have proven to be dynamite on trout, so I’m thinking spots and smallmouths will appreciate them too.
In addition to the floating minnows I’ve got three traditional topwater baits, a 3 inch River2Sea Rover, an odd foam 3 inch walking bait I’ve had for years, but have never used. And a 2 inch popper with a dressed treble.
There are six small diving crankbaits, 2 Yo-Zuris, 2 Speed Traps and 2 Rapalas Mini-Shad Raps. A small Yo-Zuri shad pattern vibrating crank bait and two Sebile miniature jointed swimbaits round out my “hard bait” selection.
The final compartment in the box contains spinnerbaits. There are some tried and true Rooster Tail inline spinners in 1/6 and ¼ ounce sizes. Beyond that there are a pair of Beetle Spins and a unique Panther Martin bucktail adorned bait that utilizes the world famous Panther Martin sonic blade!
The component box is simple yet critical. It features a selection of small and medium size plastic worm hooks and some medium and small size mosquito style hooks for drop shotting and wacky rigging Senkos.
To get baits to the bottom there are some bullet sinkers, split shot and drop shot weights.
Beyond that there are jig heads, both ¼ ounce darter style heads and lighter shaky heads.
In terms of strategy, my approach looks like this. If I can hit the lake early before the sun touches the water I’ll rig one rod with a reaction bait, often a surface lure and the other rod with some type of soft plastic that I can use as a search bait. This usually means a grub rigged on a darter head or a wacky rigged Senko. With these baits I hit specific pieces of cover or structural features.
Early my approach is to move and cast, often passing up swaths of unproductive looking bank to hit prime features during the prime time period just after dawn.

Cal is especially excited about this pair of “search baits”. The spinner bait is a bucktail skirted model from the folks at Panther Martin and it features the deadly Panther Martin Sonic Blade. The other bait is a Yo-Zuri vibrating crankbait…Can you say panicked shad?

Once the sun hits the water, it’s usually time to slow down and fish more methodically with worms, but there are exceptions. If there is surface chop, crankbaits and even topwater baits can work well at any time of the day.
If you’re fishing from the bank your pack should include some non-tackle items. Staying hydrated is essential, so carry water. A snack is nice too.
My pack contains the same survival kit that I carry hunting. In it I have blister and cut dressing, a Leatherman multi-tool, a headlamp and extra batteries.
I’ve also started carrying a personal beacon called Res-Q-Link+ from ACR. I bought the beacon for backcountry hunting, but I carry it while hiking and fishing too. If you take a fall, break a bone or get bit by a rattlesnake, all you need to do is hit the “panic” button and help is on the way. For folks that spend a lot of time in the woods and on the water like I do, investing in a locator beacon is money well spent.
My Res-Q-Link+ unit floats and features a strobe light.
So here we are, the lures are packed, the reels are spooled and I’m ready to fish. Now all I need is some willing bass!
As for tomorrow, I’m going gold panning because that beautiful California gold doesn’t care what the water temperature is…LOL