March Madness Has Begun

Last night I couldn’t help myself at our weekly taco Thursday gathering. At the restaurant there were several tv’s but only one that I could barely see had the NCAA basketball tournament on and every once in a while, I would glance a look at the game and the scores. I may not be diligent about following divisional play during the regular season, but March Madness has always piqued my interest. At the same time another March madness has piqued my interest and that’s the March madness of finding and catching these spotted bass. So this week was the polar opposite of last week on the lake…..literally the polar opposite. Last week we had the mild temperatures, and the fish were basking in the warmth of the shallow water, eating their crawfish and having a good ole time then along comes mother nature with wintertime again.

Monday started with below freezing temperatures in the morning and a northwest wind that was brutal to any exposed skin. Luckily, I still have my winter fat lining to insulate my body, much like the down on a bird, which helps me from getting cold. The only part that’s bothersome about these cold mornings is that my hands get cold, and I don’t like wearing gloves for a few reasons. Once my hands get wet, they get cold and that is uncomfortable. Such was the case on Monday morning when I started out. I was catching fish almost immediately at my first stop and the area I was fishing was shaded from the morning sun. That made it even more cold but on the other hand the fish were biting so it was a pain vs pleasure kind of morning. On Monday I was still catching some fish shallow and with the post front conditions, and a brisk wind the best thing to do was sit on the ends of west facing points with spot lock engaged and making fan casts downwind with my back to the cold wind. Even though it was cold the fish were moving around these areas feeding so it was just a matter of dragging the worm slow. When I say slow, I mean slow. Soaking the worm became an option for me this week.

Just to give you an example, I ran into Jeff Nail and Rafael Q out on the lake Wednesday, and we were chatting on spot lock on the end of a point. I made a cast and just let the worm set on the bottom. I kept the slack out of my line as the worm sat on the bottom and about 3-5 minutes into our conversation, I felt a tiny tick on my line, and I reeled down on a running fish. That worm had sat there on the bottom for a while, lifeless, and along comes a bass and picked it up. Just a couple hours later I run into Jimmy Sanders in the creek, and we start chatting out on the end of a point. I made a cast during our conversation and once again, mid-conversation, worm soaking, another bass picked it up and I reeled down on another running fish. That’s kinda the way the whole week was, just work the bait slowly.

Tuesday and Wednesday were the same deal, windy points with a few dock runs here and there but the biggest bang for the buck was still rocky secondary points in the wind with staging fish. The biggest observation I had for the week was the fact that a lot of fish slowly moved out to deeper water as the week progressed. To give you an idea of how the fish moved, I was putting the boat on spot lock early week in 16-17 feet of water and making my cast to the shallower water but by yesterday I was spot locking in 16-17 feet of water and making my casts out to deeper water. I caught fish in 5-15 feet of water on points early this week, but they slowly pulled out as the water cooled a few degrees because of the cold snap and by yesterday they mainly came from 20-25 feet of water. This happens in March just about every year and the bass usually don’t go far. It won’t be long till the move back up shallow looking for that warmer shallow water. I only needed one rod on the deck this week and I only used one type of worm. With the exception of ambushing a very large striper on a 2.8 Keitech feeding with some loons inside the Marina, my bait of choice this week was shaky head in the wind on secondary points for the win.

This is kinda typical for March Madness and usually the back-to-back fronts can be frustrating but there’s 2 things to keep in mind; first is that the fish are going to be eating in March and the second is that the wind is your friend in March. The lake is just below full pool and the water temps are somewhere in the low to mid 50’s. The corps isn’t really generating a whole lot right now but the good part is that the fish are eating pretty regularly. Some fish may be a little deeper on those points until things warm up a bit.

On Monday evening last week I got to sit down with my friend Jack Young, who has a podcast called “The Seasoned Sportsman” and we did a 3 hour podcast for his YouTube page. Here’s the video below and a few fish pictures from my week.

Picking up the Pace

Finally!! I’ve been throwing my little swimbaits for the past week just looking for something to bite it when I’m swimming it near the surface rather than dragging it on the bottom and yesterday it happened!! It’s a sign of better things to come and it couldn’t have happened at a better time. Don’t get me wrong because the worm bite is running pretty hot right now, plus there’s no better feeling than that little “tap” when you’re dragging the worm and you swing into a heavy fish but yesterday we were able to witness surfacing fish, put the hammer down on the trolling motor to make a cast within 10 seconds of the fishes surfacing and pop a double on the swimbaits. That’s a pretty good feeling too. Our double pictured below:

This week my week of fishing actually started on Sunday when I was able to put a crappie trip together with my buddy who lives on a small lake out in the countryside. Every year we do a bit of pond management and remove quite a few of those tasty slabs for a transfer to my favorite lake, Lake Crisco. Removing the crappie is necessary to keep the size up and prevent overpopulation of the species and I’m a big fan of fish tacos so it’s a win-win kinda deal. It’s a lot of fun and on light crappie tackle some of the fish can really put a bend in the little crappie rods.

Years ago, my parents owned a home on Horse Creek, a large feeder creek to Grand Lake in Oklahoma, and every year the crappie would spawn in the creek. It was just a matter of taking the little jonboat up the creek and find a few good blowdowns along the water’s edge. We would drop anchor next to a blowdown and drop the little crappie jigs down around the blowdown, usually doing very well. It was pretty easy fishing in shallow water, and it wasn’t uncommon for us to catch 30-50 fish in an afternoon. We would have fish fries every so often and I’ve always loved the taste of crappie. Just the taste alone can conjure up a half a dozen memories of days gone by. Helping my buddy with the pond management often takes me back to the years on Horse Creek and all the fun we had crappie fishing 40+ years ago. Here’s some pictures from my Sunday in the country and the start of my fishing week.

I was back on the lake Monday morning with some nice weather to greet me. I was looking forward to this week because I know that the bite is getting better and better. We’re approaching the March full moon and it seems like this moon phase is kicking these Lanier bass into high gear this week. Once again, I started with throwing the little swimbait on a five-count drop and slow rolling it but still no takers, so it was back to the worm. For me it’s about location and percentages right now. I have this memory bank of locations where I’ve caught fish in the past plus I’m always adding to my locations as well as dropping some. More and more bass are prepping for the spawn and the feeding windows are opening wider and wider around the lake. The key is finding where the bass are and that could be anywhere and nowhere at times. Late last week we were having a blast with fish around docks but this week they’ve been nonexistent around the docks and loading up on the shorelines. I’ve found fish in the most inconspicuous and unusual places and found a lack of fish in the places I’ve expected to find them….if that makes sense. Nonetheless, this time of year it’s like “blind squirrel” fishing and if I search around long enough, I’m bound to find a nut or two. Targeting secondary points and rocky stuff has been the deal for me this week and right now some of the biggest girls around are putting on the feedbags for the spawn. This week I used the wind to my advantage, and I targeted larger flats and points in the wind using my Spot Lock and fan casting method. I looked for points and flats that had wind blowing into them and I targeted those points. I just feel like the fish feel more comfortable feeding around windblown points and although it may be uncomfortable fishing in the wind, it can be very rewarding. Such was the case on Monday when I upped my personal best for the year when I caught a very hefty 5.3oz on a windblown secondary point. The fish had apparently had success jumping and spitting baits in the past because it’s all the fish wanted to do and keeping her down was a task. The hook held and I gotta brag on the Cast Co. braided line. It’s the real deal when it comes to holding these fish. Here’s a pic of my biggest this week and a few others from Monday.

On Tuesday the sun was back out, and it was nice and warm. It was the same deal for me, I had the wind to work with and I tried to choose areas in the sun where the wind was blowing into the area or in some cases, across the point. I set up camp on a flat that had wind blowing into it. my boat was sitting in 17 feet of water, and I was fan casting my shaky head onto a rocky area from 5 feet in depth back to the boat. I caught 3 very nice fish off the flat in less than 10 feet of water before moving on. It was the start of a good day and I slowly found fish here and there on my milk run. I also found fish in Shoal Creek and Young Deer on Tuesday targeting windblown secondary points, fan casting the worm on Spot lock. In the evening Lisa came out for a short ride and we ran a few docks but unlike last week, the dock bite was on life support. We did manage to salvage the evening with a few off a rocky shoreline before calling it an evening. Here’s a few from Tuesday.

On Wednesday I had my neighbor David on my boat as a guest. David knows the shaky head bite pretty well, so I knew yesterday was bound to be good. We started out early and it took us a while to hit our stride, but the bite improved as the morning progressed. Yesterday I noticed a little more surface activity and while we were running some shoreline areas we saw a lot of birds and loons diving in a bay, we were close so I pulled the trolling motor and we booked it over to the bird action. I knew there was probably a bass or two around because the birds and loons were diving very near shallow water out on the end of a point. I dropped the trolling motor and we started casting with 1/4 ounce damiki’s with 2.8 Keitechs and KBD Baits 3.25 Slick Swim swimbait. Here’s a link to the swimbait I was using.

The color I was using was a green herring color shift. Here’s a picture of the swimbait.

We made a couple blind casts and then I saw a fish surface once and then surface again and again. We were close and I was able to cast to the surfacing bass within a few seconds and on my first cast on top of where the fish was surfacing the bass hammered the slick swim. I was happy to finally get a decent fish on the moving bait. David zeroed with a little underspin until we hit the next pocket and I saw another fish surface. That was when David and I got a double, mine on the slick swim and Davids on a underspin with a 2.8 Keitech. After that we hit a few more areas and David ended the day with back-to-back catches running a stretch of rock bluffs and we headed back home. It turned out to be a nice day. All of our fish were caught on the shaky head and swimbaits. Here’s a few of our better fish for the day.

Not sure when I’m getting back out but so far it’s been a good week. The water temps are somewhere between 55-60 around the lake and the fish are getting more and more aggressive in the shallow waters. With the fish starting to chase moving baits more and more, a whole host of baits should work, from crankbaits to spinnerbait, chatterbaits and even the a-rig can be a good choice right now on the windy point and around docks. The shaky head continues to be my anchor with the moving swimbaits coming in second. Water levels are just below full pool and the corps is generating off and on during the daylight hours.