Ah yes, spring! The season when our fisheries heat up and anglers feel most alive. On some spring days, the fishing is great and the possibilities seem boundless. On other days’ things backslide to a winter like pattern and the fish develop a severe case of lockjaw.
Never the less there are some time-tested approaches and presentations that consistently produce fish during the spring, provided you don’t find yourself fishing during one of the doldrums days when nothing seems to work. Let’s approach this on a species by species basis.
There are two presentations that I really like to employ for reservoir bass during the spring. One approach is super exciting. The other, while being less exciting produces lots of fish.
My “exciting” presentation is built around either a 4 3/8 inch F11 or a 5 ¼ inch F13 Rapala floating minnow, but you can substitute a floating/diving minnow from other manufacturers too. My favorite color for most situations is silver/black but other finishes are also effective and it seems like everyone has their personal favorite.
The presentation works like this. After knotting a Rapala to a spinning or baitcasting outfit rigged with 10-pound mono I cast the bait out near rocky structure along the bank that has immediate access to deep water.
Once the bait hits the water I reel up the slack, but take care not to move the bait. I wait until all the rings around the bait have disappeared and then using both the reel and rod tip I twitch the minnow beneath the surface, propel it forward for a foot or two and then allow it to float back up to the surface.
After that I wait once again for any rings and surface disturbance to dissipate. Generally, the strike will occur during this period, but if no strike comes I continue the twitch and wait retrieve until the bait is out of the strike zone or back to the rod tip.
The colder the water the slower I work the bait. In general I find that this approach works best during the early morning hours before the sun hits the water and late in the evening once the sun is off the water. I have my best results when the water clarity is good. I catch largemouths, spots and smallmouths this way, but find it particularly deadly on smallmouths.
My second spring bass presentation is really old news. Actually, it’s so old, it is sort of new again. I’m talking about a plain old fashion Texas rigged worm teamed with a ¼ or 3/8-ounce weight.
In my experience, it has become increasingly rare to see an angler tossing a worm on a classic Texas rig with the bullet weigh resting right up against the worm. More often you’ll see them tossing a split shot rig or some sort of Carolina rig variation.
During the summer and fall, I favor a split shot rig typically, but during the late winter and early spring I love the classic Texas Rig. At this time of the year the bass tend to hold tight to the bottom and stage offshore of spawning structure in water that ranges from 10 to 30 feet deep as they await the forthcoming spawning season.
Targeting these fish requires an impressionistic offering that stays very close to the bottom. Some guys favor jigs for this work, but I do just fine with my Texas rigged worms.
When the conditions are bright and the water is clear I like a minnow colored or clear flake 6-inch finesse style worm. If the water is a bit stained or it’s early or late in the day, I lean toward dark crawfish colored worms that have an active curly tail that creates movement and vibration.
The actual presentation is simple. Toss out the worm on 10 to 12-pound fluorocarbon, allow it to sink and slowly drag it across the bottom using both the reel and rod tip to move the bait. When you feel rubbery pressure, taps or if slack develops reel down and set the hook!
During the spring when trolling for trout, I find that it pays dividends to move quickly at 2 to 3 mph with minnow imitating lures. I don’t utilize dodgers or flashers for this work. I just troll the baits naked.
My three pet lures for this kind of presentation are spoons like Hum Dingers and Speedy Shiners or 2 ¾ inch Rapalas.
When it comes to the spoons chrome based minnow patterns work great when the sun is high. When the light level is low, all copper, black nickel and frog gold baits get the nod.
I keep things simple when it comes to Rapalas. Silver/black is my favorite color, but I like rainbow trout and perch finish baits too. While I don’t use them a lot, the florescent orange/gold Rapala has a reputation for being a trophy trout killer.
When speed trolling during the spring I like one lure right up on the surface toplined 200 feet behind the boat on straight 8 or 10-pound mono. I run my second bait on a modern leadcore outfit and work depths from 8 to 12 feet deep.
Since spring is known as the time to troll for Delta stripers you probably think I’m going to talk about pulling lures, but I’m actually going to toss you a curve and talk about bait fishing.
During the fall and winter my go to striper baits are shad and bullheads. While these baits will work in the spring, my all-time favorite spring bait is bloodworms. Bloodworms?
Yep that’s right and I’m not really sure why the bass are so fond of them, but they are. I’ve caught more limits of spring bass then I can count while soaking bloodworms on a sliding sinker rig both above and below the Isleton Bridge.
To rig up all you need to do is set up a standard Delta sliding sinker rig, tip the leader with a single 8/0 hook and thread a worm on it. Since sturgeon have been known to inhale bloodworms too, you might want to utilize a barbless hook, with a Bait Button to keep the bait in place.
The channel cats that inhabit most of our reservoir are very aggressive during the spring. They are late spawners, typically dropping their eggs in May and June. During the early part of the spring their focus is on eating and putting back on weight that was lost during the winter.
A lot of different baits can be used for these fish, but my all-time favorite is a live shiner in the 3 to 4-inch range. Channel cats are very aggressive and they have a tough time laying off a helpless minnow.
I fish these baits on a spinning or baitcasting rig spooled with 10-pound test, but attach a 24 inch 15 lb. fluorocarbon leader to the business end via a swivel. I tip the leader with an appropriate size octopus hook. Since I fish very close to the shore I attach a single split shot just above the swivel. The minnow is pinned through the lips. After casting put your rod in a holder and pull out a bit of slack. When Mr. Cat comes along and takes the bait you’ll know it!
Over the years at lakes like Folsom and Berryessa I’ve picked up some very nice smallmouths and largemouths while waiting out catfish strikes. The best catfish action takes place early and late in the day as a general rule. During the middle of the day it often pays to fish a bit deeper where sunlight is more diffused.