Stalking the Huckleberries

There’s usually one in the bunch, the one that raises their hand and says, “I’m your Huckleberry”. The fish have their own version of a Huckleberry and that’s the fish I was looking for this week.

Not much has changed for me since last week. I did manage to get out to my buddy’s place on Sunday afternoon for a springtime crappie trip which never disappoints. We’re just kicking back and trolling around the pond in the Pond Prowler while catching the occasional crappie on lite crappie tackle to add to the cooler. Fileted out boneless, these little guys are the perfect size for fish tacos, and they are very tasty. We usually take out several every spring which helps with the pond size management. Here’s a couple pictures from the trip on Sunday afternoon.

This week I fished for a few hours almost every day and I pretty much did 2 things all week. I ran points and humps casting the Damiki swimbait, and I also threw the shaky head when I got bored with the Damiki. On the Damiki rig I rotated between the 2.8 size and the 3.3 size Keitech. The 2.8 averaged more bites and actually caught my biggest fish this week while it seemed like the fish just didn’t like the 3.3 as much this week. I can’t say that the Damiki bite is on fire and that’s where the “Huckleberry part comes in. Sometimes this week I would pull up to a point that held fish and I would start casting the Damiki all around the point. I would mark fish under the boat and some fish were suspended at 10-15 feet over a 25–30-foot bottom. I would just make a long cast with a 5-10 second count down before starting my slow retrieve and every once in a while, one fish would just randomly come out of the bunch and smack the little Damiki. It’s like the fish just raised his hand and said, “I’m your Huckleberry”. Usually, the first Huckleberry would be the biggest and if I caught another in the area it would be smaller more times than not. It seemed like this week the biggest fish ate first. For that reason, I didn’t stick around one place to long and I kept moving if I was throwing the Damiki.

The wind was definitely a factor late this week and some of my Damiki stuff was blown out from the wind, so I chose to drag the shaky head around the secondary points and docks for a few nice fish. I’m still using a 5-inch Senko style worm in green pumpkin with a 1/4-ounce head and fishing the worm very slow on the bottom is the key. Whether it’s rocks or docks my focus has been from 5 feet all the way out to 20 feet in depth. It seems like the fish on the docks are getting shallower by the day now and the docks that had rocks some kind of structure like a spud pole produced the best. This week the worm was more of a sure thing, but I couldn’t help but throw the Damiki about 50% of the time this week. I had good numbers this week and I released a bunch of 1-2lb fish on both baits all week.

The water temps are still in the upper 50’s and the lake level is almost a foot above full pool. The corps is pulling water a few hours each day and will be pulling water tomorrow afternoon and evening.

Here’s a few memorable fish from my week.

Finding The New Cheese

Years ago, there was a book published that became very popular in the business world. It was on a lot of desks for a few years, and it was a best seller in the book world for a while. The book was actually a parable about 4 different characters and how they delt with change differently. The name of the book is “Who moved my cheese” and it can be very enlightening and helpful if you’ve never read it. In a sense, I replaced the word “cheese” with the word “fish”, and I try and apply it to my fishing from time to time. This week was one of those weeks.

I put a link to a short, animated video version of the book below before I get into my report so you can kind of understand the storyline about dealing with change.

On Monday I hit the water early hoping for some good topwater but still not much happening on the surface yet. That all hinges on the bait and the water temps are still a bit low for the bait to come closer to the surface in big numbers. I was hoping the little Damiki bite was going to be better for me this week and on Monday I could tell that it wasn’t what I expected. The water temps haven’t really made a significant move upward yet and this week the fish fed a lot at night due to the near full moon. That slowed the daytime fishing down a little for me and I found the bites to be few and far between on Monday. I stuck with the swimbait like a trooper and refused to go to the shaky head again, so it turned out to be a slow day of searching and moving around. I probably put in 5 hours and had some smaller fish as well as these 3 decent fish all on the little Damiki swimbait. Here’s my 3 best from Monday.

On Tuesday I hit the water again about mid-morning and I decided to look for the new cheese out on the main lake. Generally speaking, it’s around this time of year that I start checking the offshore humps and points out on the main lake to see if I can locate some big girls that are less pressured than the popular creek fish that are staging for the spawn. Years ago, Jimbo and I were fishing in very early spring and the topic came up about where bass spawn on Lanier. For years I was under impression that a lot of the main lake fish made their way into the creeks when it came to spawning season, much like a striper does instinctively, but Jimbo had a different theory and I kinda liked his theory better than mine over time. Jimbo believed that the main lake bass find areas to spawn in place without ever leaving the main lake humps near the river channel. It took a while for that to soak in, but I eventually decided to spend more time on the main lake in the early spring and much to my surprise, the fish are there, you just might need to make some adjustments to catch them. On Tuesday morning I decided to make one stop before leaving the creek for the main lake humps. The one stop was close to the mouth of the creek, and it had been producing a fish every time I hit it with the swimbait, so I decided to make a couple casts. There were some loons and gull working in the area and I was hoping they had stirred up a bass or two. I wasn’t wrong and shortly after stopping I caught a nice one to start a chilly morning.

After that fish I hit 3 main lake areas and bombed in all 3 so I made my way into Young Deer to check some points I hadn’t checked in a while with the little Damiki swimbait. On my second stop in the creek I was able to bag another nice fish throwing the little Damiki and this fish pretty much made my day. This one was well over 4 and probably my biggest this week.

I got both fish on video and here’s a link below.

I may have caught a few smaller fish here and there, but I could tell that the little swimbait bait was dying off and the cheese had moved. In the back of my mind I kept thinking that I needed to go back to finesse fishing but I just kept right on throwing that little Damiki.

I didn’t fish on Wednesday and on Thursday there were no big fish to be had with the Damiki. The cheese had officially moved, and I just kept going back to the old cheese location, just like one of the characters in the parable.

By Yesterday I was ready to embrace the change and I decided to go back to finesse and throw the dang shaky head! There were docks that I hadn’t visited all week and there had to be fish on the docks by now so I set out to run some docks. It didn’t take long before I started catching fish around the docks with the shaky head but size was on the small side. I started thinking I might be in for a dink fest and there was some heavy rain headed our way. I really wanted to end the week on a good note and sure enough, right before the rain started I caught a good one on a rocky dock to end my week.

I had found the new cheese but who knows where the cheese will be next week??

The lake level is a little less than a foot above full pool and holding steady. Water temps are in the mid-fifties and the corps will be pulling water this afternoon and into the night so with the big moon tonight there should be some good night fishing on Lanier right now!

Creatures of Habit

The right shoe always goes on first. It doesn’t matter if it’s my house slipper or my work boots, the right shoe always goes on first. I wouldn’t know how to act if I had to put my left foot in a shoe before the right foot and I would probably deem it 7 years of bad luck if by some chance I had to put my left shoe on before the right. That’s just one of many habits I have and when it comes to fishing, I have a bunch of habits too.

This week I kept it simple and relied on one bait and one tactic to put fish in the boat. Not only are we creatures of habit but the fish are also creatures of habit and sometimes our habits cross paths. I have a habit of visiting the same places to catch my fish and the fish have a habit of showing up there every spring to greet me. Since I’m getting older and I tend to forget, I just looked back to a year ago on my YouTube page and also a year ago on my blog and I got all the info I needed to start my week. My plan on Monday was to throw the Damiki/swimbait rig and slow roll it back to the boat similar to a video I made 1 year ago to the day.

On Monday I tied on a 3.3 Keitech swimbait on a Lanier Baits 1/4-ounce Damiki head and hit the creek right after dawn. As soon as I left the marina I saw something that I hadn’t seen in a while and that was fish chasing bait on the surface. I could see splash after splash out on the end of a point, looking up the creek. I scanned the area and saw more splashes on the surface, some far away and a few that peaked my interest closer to where I was. It was time to sight fish.

There was a nice sized bass that was getting with it and having a ball chasing bait on the surface near where I was idling so I just made my way towards the fish. This fish was lit up and coming completely out of the water while chasing little threadfins that had rose to the surface to greet the morning sun. I could see little schools of threadfin popping up to the surface in small circular ripples all over the point where the bass was feeding. I cut the motor and dropped the trolling motor just out of my casting range and eased up on the area where I last saw the fish surface. It was a nice fish and looked to be around the 4lb mark. I made my first cast with the little Damiki and it was perfect. I counted it down to five and started a slow steady retrieve, much like retrieving a spybait in the summertime. As a matter of fact, this week was just like spybaiting in July only it was swimbaiting in March, and in some of the same areas as I would visit while spybaiting.

About halfway into my slow retrieve, I felt a little pop and the rod loaded up as I reeled down on a fighting fish. I can tell the little fish from the big fish by the weight of the resistance. Generally, if I pull hard on the fish and the fish comes towards me, it’s a small fish but if I pull hard and the fish doesn’t react to my pulls, it’s a big fish. This was a bigger fish and a lot of fun to catch on the little Damiki rig. Here’s a picture of my first fish on Monday morning.

Before I go any further, I want to brag on my gear this week. The rod and reel setup was from KastKing and it is their 7’3″ medium “Speed Demon” spinning combo. I loaded the reel with 12lb high vis braid and a 30 foot 7lb fluorocarbon leader. Take your pick on the swimbait just as long as it looks like the size of a 3 inch shad. I used the 3.3 Keitech this week. My choice of jig head has been Lanier Baits little 1/4 ounce plain Damiki head using it all winter and into the spring now. It’s just an all around good versatile jig head that I can use for these fish that are feeding on shad and I really like the yellow eyes. I highly recommend them. Sometimes something as small as the little yellow eyes is all it takes to convince a fish to react. I’ve gotten into the habit of simplifying my jig head selection and these are the most versatile.

After landing that fish it was just a matter of targeting the same areas and hitting the places that I saw more fish surface in the early morning hours. It wasn’t exactly power fishing, and the bite certainly wasn’t on fire but there was enough success on Monday to convince me that I was just going to roll with the little swimbait all week. I gave up on the docks and swore off the shaky head for the next 4 days straight. Just me and my little swimbait. I must have gone through 5-6 packs of the little 3.3 Keitechs I was using over the 4 days, just casting it on creek points, main lake humps, main lake points and also areas that the bass stage before the spawn. I would count it down 5-10 seconds and slowly wind it back to the boat, not changing speed or action, just a steady wind. As far as locations, I would have to say that my biggest bass this week came from staging areas like secondary points. The big fish were hit and miss, and you just needed to cover ground to get bites. I must have made over a thousand casts this week with the little swimbait, but I could tell by Thursday, the swimbait bite was on the decline as the water temps slowly lowered due to cooler days and nights. The same places that I had been catching active fish dwindled to barely a sniff by yesterday and the fish had moved back closer to the bottom as the surface temps cooled. Yesterday I found more success with the shaky head dragging the bottom on rocks and docks than the success I had enjoyed earlier in the week with the little Damiki rig.

I’m pretty sure I’ll see the little Damiki bite come back around as soon as the surface temps get back on the rise next week and the fish move closer to spawning. Right now, the corps is pulling water off and on throughout the day or evenings and the surface temps have been around the mid 50’s and dropping for the moment. The lake level is a little above full pool.

Here’s some pictures from my week with every fish this week being caught slow rolling the Damiki.

Here They Come!

It’s like someone flipped a switch this week. On Monday I kept thinking that the creek was beat up from the extended tournament weekend, but I was wrong. It was a new day, plus a new week and the spotted bass refused to disappoint. Over the weekend I ran a tackle history trend analysis for this time of year, and it seems that in the past I have had pretty good luck throwing a little swimbait around various places and catching some nice fish. I’ve had good luck in the past using other methods, but something told me that casting the little Damiki head with a little 2.8 Keitech would get some bites on the wind-blown points so as soon as I cleared the marina area, I hit my first point with the little Damiki rig. These morning fish have been suspended so I cast the little swimbait across the point and gave it a 5 count before starting the slow retrieve. The retrieve isn’t that much different than the speed of the retrieve using the little spybaits in the summertime. Same deal with the swimbait in the spring, casting, counting down and followed by a slow retrieve. It’s slow but when these aggressive bass hit that little swimbait, it’s a great feeling and it didn’t take long till I felt that old familiar feeling again when a nice 3lber hammered the little Damiki on my light tackle. I fought the fish all the way back to the boat and the fish shook free boat side, but I got a good look at the fish before it departed. That was the only interest I had in the Damiki around that point, so I moved on to the next long point in the creek and on my first cast I hooked another good fish, but I managed to boat this one, another nice 3lb fish. As I brought the fish in, I looked down at the graph and it was like a jailbreak underneath me. I had brought in the whole school along with the caught fish, so I quickly released the caught fish and dropped the Damiki straight down into the group of fish that had gathered under the boat, immediately catching another fish before the little Damiki could reach the bottom.

At that point I backed off the area and started fan casting the point to pick off any stragglers from the scattered school of bass. This was my biggest before leaving the area.

The bite was hit and miss for the next few stops before I hit the jackpot with the little Damiki when I gave it a long cast up onto a shallow point and started my retrieve. It wasn’t long before I felt a little tick on my line and when I turned on the fish, the fish turned on me. The fish almost pulled the rod out of my hand when he took off with the swimbait and it turned out to be my biggest of the day.

You can see in the video below that the first fish I hooked just about jerked the rod out of my hands and turned out to be the fish pictured above but the camera cut off just after I hooked him.

After a few more fish on Monday, I called it a day feeling good about the little Damiki bite only to have it hit the brakes for me on Tuesday. I was kinda screwed up for a while because the little Damiki pattern was nowhere to be found so I started casting the a-rig and chatterbait on the windy points for a few bites here and there. I didn’t feel real comfortable about the moving bait bite by the end of the day Tuesday so my plan was to go back to finesse on the bank for the stagers on Wednesday. Here’s a couple nice fish caught on windy points with the chatterbait on Tuesday.

On Wednesday I spent about an hour on the Damiki stuff but then quickly shifted to the finesse style shaky head on rocks and docks. It’s that time of year where the bass are coming out of their winter slumber and moving to the shallower staging areas before a push to spawn. Beating the right stretch of bank right now will net some nice fish. Bigger fish are coming out of the deeper water and cruising the secondary points in search of big-ticket meals and when they are up on the rocks, they are there for one reason and that is to eat. By noon on Wednesday, I was searching my staging area milk run in a few of our creeks on the south end and I found some very nice fish to make a pretty good sack by 4pm hitting rocks and docks with the shaky head.

At the same time I was fishing Wednesday, I was also starving because of my upcoming colonoscopy on Thursday and the requirement to starve for 24 hours before the procedure. It was a good way to take my mind off food for a while and I had a lot of fun on Wednesday with the afternoon shaky head pattern. Here’s a video from my day on Wednesday.

After my procedure on Thursday, I took it easy but managed to take Lisa for a little boat ride in the evening and she caught her first official shaky head fish for 2022.

Yesterday, Friday, I was back out mid-morning and back on the finesse bite again. It took a little while for the fish to warm up and start moving around but by noon I was catching fish again. I spent yesterday afternoon catching fish on both rocks and docks in all kinds of random areas. The fish are very hungry and very forgiving right now when it comes to tackle to use. This week it was the little 1/4 ounce Lanier Baits Damiki head with a 2.8 Keitech swimbait as well as a 1/2 ounce chatterbait. I also caught some fish on my little 1.5 shad crank pictured below.

The little 1.5 shad crank will be a must as we approach the shad spawn a little later this spring and I’m sure Lanier Baits will have a few in the upcoming weeks.

I ended yesterday on a bad note as my last fish was lost boatside and it was to be my biggest of the day, but the fish outsmarted me, jumping several times and dislodging my shaky head hook with every jump. She finally shook it at the side of the boat and swam away. The fish pictured below was my biggest yesterday and came from the end of a dock. Right now, the lake is just above full pool, and the water temps are approaching the mid 50’s. The fish are on the move and moving up into the shallow areas and with this beautiful weather it’s time to enjoy the lake and our resources.