I can usually tell when the early staging bite gets good as there are signs. Yesterday when I was out beating rocks and docks, I had just made a cast when I got a text from Lisa. I needed to send her back a text right away so after making a cast, I cradled my rod in my arms and started texting. I think I was about 3 texts in, and 2-3 minutes had gone by. My worm had been just lying on the bottom during this time. Right in the middle of my texting, I feel the rod tip start bouncing and I fumbled with the phone and the rod to set the hook on a running fish. That worm had been down there soaking for a few minutes before a bass whacked it. I can only imagine the bass down there on the bottom staring at the worm and daring each other to grab it. Finally, one of the bass said, “I’m your Huckleberry”!! It’s staging time and the bass turn into a bunch of Huckleberrys during this period before the spawn.
This week was hit or miss with the staging bass, but the rocks and docks was all I focused on with one bait, the shaky head. I know that I’ve got the worm color blacked out this week because the worm color doesn’t really matter, and you may have better success with your own color than trying to use mine. I used two different colors this week and both worked well. When it gets to be staging time on Lanier, the bass are going to eat, and they aren’t very selective about what they eat. I caught a couple bass this week that were regurgitating chow on their way to the boat and what they were barfing up was a cornucopia of chewed up mess. There were chucks of crawfish, frog legs, dead brim, shad, bluebacks, bugs and I actually think I saw an old chartreuse Hot Wheels car as well! The point is that these fish are feeding on a lot of stuff, so color choice doesn’t really matter, and bait may not matter as well. I ran into my lake neighbor yesterday on the lake and we chatted for a while. While we were chatting about our week, I couldn’t help but notice the worm he was using. It was very bright in color, and he had shortened it a bit. His little worm stood out like a sore thumb, and I asked him how his little worm was working. He said, “Jim, I’m smoking them with this little guy”. They were on that little unique worm like a bum on a ham sandwich.
Talking to my neighbor and seeing that worm color took me back to at least 10 years ago when Lisa and I fished up around Longhollow a lot. At the time about all we knew how to do was beat the banks and we found that a little pack of twin tailed grubs in that same color was all we needed to have a good time. Lisa and I would just go down the bank throwing our little grubs and every once in a while, we would pop a bass or get into a little flurry of bass. We had a blast with our little bright grubs. To me, catching the occasional bass is like getting the occasional birdie in golf, it gives you a good feeling, and it keeps you coming back for more.
I fished every day this week and pretty much ran the same milk run. Basically, my milk run is the best way to monitor the progress of the fish. Inevitably, they will show up in certain places and by me checking these places every day, it tells me what to look for and where to look. I don’t need forward facing sonar to find the fish and at this point, as my contour mapping is my biggest help. I didn’t really fish any ditches this week and my main focus was rocks and docks. For me the dock bite is steadily getting better, and more fish are starting to relate to the warmth of the docks on sunny days. Yesterday evening I picked up Lisa at 5pm and we went out and ran docks for an hour. In that hour we caught 3 very nice bass just throwing worms around a little stretch of dock. This was Lisa’s first bass of the year and my last bass of the evening.
Earlier in the day yesterday I was running stuff in the creek and racking my brain to try and think of places I haven’t fished in a few days or places I haven’t checked in weeks that might hold a bigger fish. Right now, the fish could be in a lot of different places so I’m doing a lot of moving around. I might run a stretch of docks and then run a stretch of bank with rocky secondary points that are visible from the shore, and my favorite, those hidden underwater outcroppings that are also secondary points, only submerged. Those submerged secondary points are often overlooked and that’s where my Humminbird mapping comes in. I want to find and target those areas, especially if the bank leads to a spawning area. Some of these submerged points have rock and muscles on them and they are a favorite hunting ground for the staging and feeding bass.
I’m not fishing the BFL, but it looks like the weather is going to be post front and sunny. If I were fishing the BFL, I would definitely utilize the sun to my advantage and find those sunny rocky points that Lanier is full of, and I’d throw my bait all day on those sun-drenched points. I don’t think the bass are going to be too choosy in the afternoons when they put on the feed bags. I caught just about all my fish this week in less that 20 feet of water and the fish that I was catching had good color with some being fat as mud. Most had been feeding heavily and spitting up chow boatside. Every once in a while, I’d see half-digested crawfish in the fish’s gullet which tells me that the crawfish are active right now and which has driven my focus to the meat-eaters this week.
The lake level is a few inches below full pool and the corps is generating a little more than normal this week. The water temps are starting to rise into the low 50’s. Last year we turned the corner in water temps in the last week or so of February and the days of water temps in the 40’s may be over till next winter. Here is a few of my memorable fish for the week.
Very nice fish. How would you define “staging” to someone who is – let’s say – a little slow on the uptake?
Hypothetically, of course…