Looking for them Early Stagers

I woke up at 4am listening to the subtle whining sounds of a cat wanting my attention at the side of the bed. No doubt she wanted to be the first to tell me that during the night 3 local cats, 2 deer and a scary looking possum had tripped the outdoor light sensor and she had also barfed up a juicy hairball because I didn’t empty the litter pan before bed. With all the commotion going on the dog woke up and wanted out for his morning leak. When I stepped outside at 4:15 to let the dog out the north wind hit me right in the face and I was instantly reminded that it was the back side of a front, and it was blowing cold air right through my pajamas. I watched the big pines across the street swaying back and forth in the howling wind and I was happy to go back inside, thinking I just may stay at the dock today.

This week I stayed away from the deeper stuff and ran my early stager milk run, focusing mainly on the creek. I’m still staying close to the house until I get a few more hours on the new motor but it’s hard because a lot of the water is stained around the back of the creek, and this is the time of year I like to fish the backs of the creeks in cleaner water circumstances. It’s not like there is an official staging effort going on with the fish right now and at best, it’s totally random, but there are some fish cruising the usual staging areas for the spawn. Secondary points of the underwater variety have been my target of interest this week and my thoughts are that there should be some big girls showing up around these areas very soon. When I go through my history from previous years, January has always produced some giants pre-staging on the rocky areas close to spawning areas. The fish pictured above was caught on some deeper rocks alongside of a sunny point and the fish had harked up a small dead bream as well as pieces of crawfish around its gullet. It wasn’t the usual 1–2-inch shad so many fish are feeding on right now, but these fish are the meat-eaters, and they are up on the rocks finding the bigger ticket items to chow down on. The good thing about these fish that are feeding up on the rocks is that they aren’t really particular about what they eat. For years we used a crankbait to catch these rock dwelling fish, but more recently I’ve switched to using a worm fished slowly to target these fish. I think that either bait can get the job done right now but I like the slower presentation rather than power fishing the crankbait. I found that the fish are starting to slow a bit and soaking a worm may have the same effect as running a crankbait over a point but it’s less wear and tear on my shoulder if I’m dragging a worm at the speed of a three toed sloth. The way I look at these staging fish is that I can either be proactive or reactive when it comes to the fish. The fish are going to be staging soon, especially on the sunny/windy days and when the bigger fish decide to stage, I want to be there to greet them, rather than find that I’m late for the party.

Right now, I have the mapping coloration on my graphs set up for red-0-5 feet, white is 6-20 feet and green is 21-35 feet. I’m keeping the boat out at 30 feet and casting around and up onto the shallow secondary points. Sometime the fish will be very shallow along the side of a point and sometimes the fish will be cruising out in 25 feet of water on the end of a point. By keeping the boat out deeper I’m covering more of the deeper areas where the fish may be cruising around as I’ve caught fish this week in 5 feet of water and out in 25 feet of water on secondary points. It’s as simple as dragging your worm down the ledge very slowly, and if there is wind on the point, I like to Spot Lock in 30 feet of water up wind and fan cast sunny points, dragging the worms very slowly on the bottom and stopping the worm from time to time. I’m using a 1/4-ounce ball head and a 5-inch Senko in a Junebug or Green pumpkin color and occasionally dipping the tails in a little chartreuse garlic. I gotta say that it’s pretty rewarding as well as addicting when these bass pop the worm on the bottom and you load up on a nice fish.

That’s about all I have to report this week. It’s been a pretty simple week for me just throwing the worm around the rocks and a few docks here and there. The docks did account for a few fish this week but nothing real significant around the docks and nothing worth focusing on yet. The lake is continuing to rise and is now less than a foot below full pool with the corps moving water a couple hours a day. The water temps are right around 50 on my graphs and the further you go back in the creek, the worse the water clarity gets. Here’s a few pics from this week. Size was down from what I expected but better days are coming.

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