I hadn’t been to Clarks Hill for a few years and the last time I went my target fish was stripers. This time was different as my buddy Mercer and I were looking for bass with a few new color patterns I came up with just for the occasion. After a couple margarita’s on Friday evening I went back down to the tackle shop to make one final color pattern before our early morning departure for the Lake. I had different shades of blue and some greens as well as chartreuse, but I wanted one more pattern with a couple of colors that that have always been good for me and those colors are plain old black over white. Thanks to the margarita’s I put a little twist on the colors and came up with “The Zebra Shad”. That’s how the zebra shad was born. I made 2 of them before going to bed Friday night and off we went to Clarks Hill early in the morning in search of Large Mouth Bass. We arrived at the lake at around lunch and launched out right away. It looked like there was a big tournament going on because bass boats were everywhere we looked. We made our way back into a creek and started looking for any signs of life. We started with points and on our second stop we saw some baits being pushed to the shore by a school of small bass so we sat down on the point and started moving around. After a few casts, I decided to scrape my jerkbait across the crown of the point and I picked up my first fish which was a nice 2lb LMB. I put my second cast in the same area and got the same result, another nice fish. Well, it worked twice so I hit the same spot again and got the same result again on the third cast. . After the third fish we caught a couple of dinks before it died off. We moved around the rest of the afternoon and saw some bass swimming with their fry in some of the pockets we worked but after the lunch bite it was slow fishing. I caught a lot of chain pickerel and a few perch in the evening when I switched over to a chartreuse jerkbait. Even nailed a 5lb turtle on the jerkbait. At the end of the day I hade racked up 5 largemouth, 5 chain pickerel, a perch and a turtle. For Mercer, he couldn’t buy a fish. He threw the box at them but just could get into a rhythm.
The next morning we hit the lake shortly after dawn and hit an old road bed I was very familiar with from past years. As soon as we pulled up on the point and got settled we started seeing a lot of surface activity right on the top of the roadbed. I saw lots of shad flipping followed by a lot of fish feeding on the shad. Mercer tied on a weightless twitch bait and immediately locked up with a nice big striper. It was a good fight to start the morning. I was steady working my Zebra Shad. Not long after the big striper rodeo I finally hooked up with a respectable largemouth to start my morning. We eased the boat into a good position to work the area and continued to catch bass, stripers and hybrids for the better part of the morning. The fish that we caught were off the jerkbait and unweighted flukes. We lost count of the fish we caught and had to cut through some dinks to get to the bigger fish. Every once in a while a school of hybrids would surface and almost immediately Mercer would get one on the unweighted twitch bait. Water temps ranged from mid 60’s in the early hours of morning and heating up to near 70 in the afternoon. I was a great trip for us and it was nice to get on some good fish.
More to follow but here’s a few pictures from our trip and “The Zebra Shad.
It’s been a while since I’ve been out in the creek but I got to go out this afternoon for a few hours. Water temps were around 58-60 and the boat traffic was crazy. There was a constant barrage of waves so we mainly concentrated on pockets off the main creek channel. I think all the boat traffic pushed the fish and bait back into the pockets and we were able to catch 11 spots. Eight of the spots were dinks and not really photo worthy but we had 3 that made a photo op. We trolled 2 crankbaits today, mainly concentrating on keeping the crankbaits just off the bottom. The crankbaits we were using were running at 21-23 feet at 2-2.5 mph. If you can keeps the crankbaits running just off the bottom, occasional scraping flat bottom you’ll find a few bass. The biggest trick is keeping the cranks out of the structure, but there are bass roaming flat bottoms where bait is present. Seven fish came off of my Sand Key Shad Pattern and the others got hooked up on my Lanier Blueback pattern. Here’s the fish that made the photo op.
You can click on the pics to enlarge them.
The Southern Tackle Box by Jim Farmer
April has always been a special month for me when it comes to the outdoors. Growing up in a rural farming community in the middle of the heartland gives me a special appreciation for April and the arrival of spring. The cold frozen ground would finally thaw and everything was changing from haze grey to a fresh color of green. The dark rich freshly plowed farming soil always gave off a distinct smell and the threat of tornadoes were what I remember most about April. Another memory I have of April is the crappie and bass spawn and fishing with my grandparents as a child. My grandfather spend more than 30 years in the Army and survived 3 wars as well as atomic testing in the Bimini Islands when he retired. My grandmother worked at the local armory for years and when my grandfather retired from the military my grandmother retired from the armory. At the time I was still in grade school and my parents worked so my retired grandparents watched me after school and during the summer months. One of my fondest memories I have of the time period is fishing with my grandparents. They loved to pond hop for bass and crappie and we had the green light to fish any of our neighbor’s ponds. My granddad was a well decorated veteran and well known by all in our community. There wasn’t one farmer within a thousand miles that would deny my grandfather access to their property out of respect. My granddad had an old truck with a minnow bucket, a cooler filled with cold drinks and lunch and 3-4 fishing rods hanging out of the truck bed. We would set out in search of spawning crappie in our favorite crappie ponds in April. Granddad would be driving, my grandmother sitting on the passenger side and I’d be right there in the middle flying down dirt roads laughing without a care in the world. Lord, we caught so many crappie and the occasional big ole pond bass along the shallow shorelines with minnows and bobbers; those memories of sitting on the tailgate listening to my granddads stories are forever etched in my mind.
Every year when April rolls around I still have a desire to scour the shoreline for spawning fish in hopes that just one of those fish will bring back a memory of my childhood, long forgotten by time. When it comes to fishing, certain months and seasons drive me to pursue a certain species of fish. As the water warms into the upper 50’s and lower 60’s I start thinking about spawning fish. Whether it’s big female stripers moving up our rivers, driven by genetics or our smaller predatory fish like bass and crappie crowding into the shallows, driven by the same genetics. When these fish are driven to spawn, they are also driven to eat. In the case of a striper, a female can produce up to 3 million eggs and can gain weight in leaps and bounds, after all, she’s eating for 3 million. I believe its relative with size, as the bass and crappie follow suit and have a healthy appetite prior to the spawn. A hearty appetite coupled with these fish getting very territorial during this period provides the angler with a great opportunity to score big in April in shallow water. Not every striper decides to move up river in April, there are plenty of striped fish moving into the shallow backs of our larger creeks in April too. Along with the stripers, the crappie are moving into the shallows, looking for structure in the shallows to perform their yearly ritual. Bass are still moving around the shallows before pulling out to deeper water in a post spawn mode.
Harassment is a great strategy in April and I believe in pestering shallow fish into biting is a valid plan. Every year my wife Lisa and I spend hours paralleling the shoreline with light tackle and smaller offerings like 2-4 inch plastic fluke type baits, small creature baits and little bucktails with lead head jig weights of 1/4 ounce or smaller. We’ve always been able to figure the shallow fish out and 2 colors have always stood out for us, those colors being either chartreuse or plain white. Lisa has become a master with the little white ¼ bucktail and I’m convinced that if there are fish in the area, the little bucktails will get em. Sometimes I use a combination of chartreuse and white with success and other times it may be one color or the other, but generally speaking, if the bite is on you can’t go wrong with those two colors. In April it’s all about shallow aggressive fish and shallow grassy shorelines and areas around docks are a good location for bass in April. Long shallow points, flats and the shallow backs of creeks are a good location for stripers in early April and there should be a few crappie cruising the shallows looking for the perfect spawning areas around structure. With the higher lake levels, the shoreline bite should continue to be great throughout April with some great spring fishing. Good Luck!