From Staging to Structure

I think it’s safe to say that spring has arrived. Along with that I’ve been seeing the signs I usually see in late March to early April. Probably one of the biggest signs is the Loons that are grouping up and getting ready for their long journey north. If you’ve been around the lake much you’ve probably seen a few flying around here and there, exercising their wings, or maybe you’ve seen a very large group of Loons swimming around out on the main lake, staging for departure. Soon they will all be gone until late October when they come back to make Lanier their winter home again. On Thursday I saw another familiar group of birds passing through when I was fishing out by the dam. I saw a large flock of white Pelicans moving around and more than likely just resting overnight during their long journey back up north along with the loons. I remember a group coming through in late October of last year on their way south and I wondered if it was the same bunch on their way back up north. Last but not least, it’s just about time for our resident seagull population to end their suckling from the prosperous Loons and head back to the Walmart parking lot where they can feed on little Johnny’s discarded French fries and pizza crusts. Ahhhhh, spring is in the air in the south…along with copious amounts of pollen to clog my nostrils.

It seems like every March, fishing is different and looking through my history for March, I’ve used quite a few baits over the years, but this year was a little different. Basically, I only used one bait all month to catch about 99% of my fish and for the last 2 weeks I only used one color to get it done. I gained a ton of confidence in the bait and when Lisa and her partner fished the ‘All Ladies’ tournament last Saturday, the bait accounted for all of our fish and the win in the tournament. It also accounted for Lisa’s 4.5lber to win the big fish pot. I told Lisa that if we could keep that bait in the water, there’s a good chance we could do well, so she threw it all day and pulled out the 5 fish we needed to win. The key to our win was structure and structure should be the primary focus when the fish move from the staging areas to spawn.

For spotted bass, spawning is just a little different and sometimes it can be just a bit more forgiving for us fishermen. The fact is that there is a lot of spotted bass in our lake and spawning can be just about anywhere, but the primary focus for this time of year goes from the secondary points to the nearby structure. When I say “structure”, I use that term pretty loosely because most of the structure we can’t see because of the deeper water where some spotted bass spawn. Since I choose not to sight or bed fish, I spend a lot of time throwing a fluke or a worm around structure such as blow downs and docks while keeping a little distance between the boat and the target area. Since my staging areas have all but dried up, I’ve had to change my strategy just a bit and go from the secondary points to making my casts around structure to get my bites.

Before getting into my week, first, I want to brag on my wife Lisa and our friend Tess fishing in the “All Ladies” tournament last Saturday sponsored by “4Her Outdoors Apparel” and “Fishing with Everyday Heroes”. It was post-front conditions and basically, we had 4-5 hours to get the right 5 fish for the tournament. I kinda knew the shaky head was going to be the deal since I had been finding some good ones with it for the past few weeks, it was just a matter of putting it in the right places. Tess worked from the back throwing the swimbait while Lisa was up front on the shaky head. Lisa has been fishing it a lot lately and she has the Midas touch when it comes to finesse. She generally out-fishes me with the soft baits so throwing the shaky head was right up her alley. It started out slow for us but I knew that the bite had been getting better as the day progressed and I wondered if we should have made the run down south to our creek and fished my more familiar holes but I decided that in order to keep baits in the water the longest we needed to limit our travel time. We decided to fish the Longhollow area since Lisa and I have a lot of history in the area. We focused on secondary points and rocky stuff to bang out a few 2-3lb keepers on the shaky head but we hit pay dirt when we decided to run a stretch of docks near the old Lantern Inn area. Lisa popped a 4.5lber and a 3.5lber off the docks when pretty much gave us the victory with 5 good keepers and around a 15lb sack. Everything came off the shaky head and the biggest came from the shade patches around docks. I’m very proud of the ladies and they fished hard for the win. Here’s a few pictures of Lisa and Tess at the weigh-in.

I fished just about every day this week and I mostly fished the creek. As the week progressed the secondary staging areas became more and more void of fish, and I could tell that they were making their move to the spawning areas and starting to relate to spawning structure rather than feeding areas. The docks and blowdowns were probably the most productive this week, but I could also still find a few on the rocks, especially if it was shelf-type rock or the big dark chunk rock. We had a lot of sunshine this week and along with that some of the docks I was running would have shady areas depending on how the sun aligned with the dock. If the roof of the dock cast a shadow on the water, there was likely to be a fish inside the shady area or the shade patch. That’s not to say that all of the fish were around the shade as some may have been hanging around the spud poles or under gangways but most were in the shade in the afternoons. Another productive cast I was making around the docks was casts into empty slips in the shade. That was a high percentage cast, especially around the deeper docks. My most productive docks for the bigger fish this week were the deeper docks and I believe some of the bigger spots were spawning around structure under and near the docks. Blow downs were another producer for me and yesterday I could just about count on at least one fish being around just about every blowdown I made a cast to. The deeper docks produced the bigger fish but the blowdowns contributed to the numbers this week.

I’ve cycled through a few different colors but the Big TRD from Z-Man has been my go-to bait this month and it’s probably accounted for a few hundred fish over the month including the win last weekend. I combined the worm with a 1/4 ounce Boss Outdoors shaky head and that seemed to be the best choice for a shaky head because of the keeper and the softer ElaZtech plastic. The key was to fish it slow around the structure. I just imagined the fish down there on the bottom looking at the bait for a while before eating it. I was dead sticking the bait in some of the shady areas and that seemed to work well for me. I feel like the moving baits are going to start being better producers for me soon and I even had a nice one blow up on a topwater bait this week which is a good sign. Right now, it’s still the slow stuff for me but who know what next week will bring. Here’s a picture of the winning combo and my March go-to bait.

Water temps are somewhere in the low 60’s and the corps is generating a few hours a day including this weekend. The lake is just above full pool and holding steady. Here’s a few pictures from my week. Lots and lots of smaller fish this week that didn’t make the picture page.

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