Finding the Ham Bone Stash

It’s usually a process this time of year on the south end. The fish are a moving target and success usually comes from trial and error during the post-spawn/recovery period. This is the time of year that the graveyard of failed lures on the floorboard of the boat can be rather large, and the fish can look rather ragged and tore up when you do finally catch them. Right now, the fish are getting back into the swing of things and starting to feed again after a long spawning period of up and down weather. I’ve witnessed some bass still in the act of spawning in shallow water this week and I’ve witnessed a bunch in transition to structure out in a little deeper water where they’ll make their summer home. I’ve seen some great surface schooling on bait early in the morning over deeper water this week and I’ve also seen sporadic shad spawning in very shallow water this week. There are plenty of big Blue Heron wading along the shoreline, looking for unsuspecting shad and stripers are on the hunt and cruising the same shallows looking for the shallow spawning shad also. It’s a time of year that you can literally pick your bite because a lot of tactics are now in play and fishing is very forgiving.

This week I made it out to the creek every day in some capacity. Most days it was just for a couple hours but I think Tuesday and yesterday I got to spend 4-5 hours on the lake. On Monday it was just for a few hours in the morning, and I mainly looked offshore for a viable hump bite that has started. I spent the majority of my time making a few casts here and there out on the main lake over humps with a combination of topwater, swimming baits and the occasional shaky head, looking for cruising wolfpacks or big singles chasing bluebacks across the shallow humps. I didn’t have a lot of time, so I didn’t really get a chance to break anything down and the bite was slow for me before going back to the house for the morning.

Tuesday, I had more time to figure some things out, so I put the hammer down and started running my summer milk run out on the main lake just to see what was hanging around my summer haunts. It’s pretty early in the season for a lot of offshore humps to produce but the fish are starting to appear in some areas. On my first stop Tuesday morning out on a main lake point, my first fish of the morning came to the boat on a 110 Choppo in a ghost pearl pattern. It was windy and choppy early in the morning Tuesday and the Choppo can usually call a fish up in the chop on a main lake point or hump. I tried to duplicate it several times during the course of the morning, but I never could get another fish to hit it after that first fish. If you don’t have a Choppo or Whopper Plopper in your arsenal I’d highly recommend getting a few. My favorite is the chrome out on the main lake in the summer. Here’s a pic of my first Choppo fish this year.

On my second stop out on a main lake point, not long after stopping and making a few casts with the topwater and spinnerbait and nice fish came up within casting distance of the boat. I had a body hooked super fluke tied on and I threw the fluke right on top of where the fish had surfaced just moments before. Just a couple quick snaps with my wrist and I felt the rod load up on the fluke and I knew I had hooked the fish that surfaced. It was a very large post-spawn fish but she was very beat up and ragged from the spawn. Here’s a pic.

After that fish I started using the body hooked fluke rig a little more. On my next few stops I started rotating between the weightless fluke and the spinner bait at just about every stop. I pretty much put the topwater away and focused on the fluke and spinnerbait out on the main lake points. We had some wind and chop to work with and the fluke and spinnerbait combo was perfect for the conditions. All I did was get upwind of the point, brush pile or target area and used the stop-lock function on the trolling motor, then fan casted the area, bringing my bait back against the grain of the chop or waves. Sometimes it was the spinnerbait that produced and sometimes it was the fluke.

One of the key reasons the fluke worked well for me this week was because of the action on the fluke. There are a lot of ways you can work the fluke and a few different ways to rig your fluke for this time of year. Years ago, when I poured my own lead head jigs, I used to pour a little 1/8- or 1/16-ounce egghead jig head and Lisa and I used the little egghead jig head with our flukes to give them a little weight, but we never really used them weightless until about ten years ago. When I started using them weightless, we went a few years of nose-hooking the fluke with octopus or circle hooks through the nose. We still use the nose-hooked technique from time to time but this week I used another method, and it worked well. Jimmy Sanders uses the technique more than I do but sometimes I find it more effective than nose-hooking and sometimes I use the technique out of necessity. If I nose-hook my flukes, I go through more flukes than if I body-hook them so generally when my supply gets low I do a lot more body-hooking the bait. The biggest key to my success this week was the action I put on the fluke. You can use a steady jerking retrieve at times, but I used a quick snap or two with the wrist and kill it for 5-10 seconds. I was using a 7’4″ medium MegaBass Levante spinning rod and a Shimano Ci4 reel loaded with 15lb braid for the main line and an over-sized barrel swivel attached to a 2–3-foot length of 15lb fluorocarbon. The heavier line and oversized swivel get the bait down beneath the surface during the retrieve and that can be crucial to a successful bite. I used a # 4 Gamakatsu offset shank hook to body hook the fluke and with the braided line, the quick snapping action I used for the fluke really gave the bait a lot of movement. That pop and stop action was what the fish wanted this week.

Through the course of the day on Tuesday I boated fish off and on but the two main baits I used to catch them all out in the wind was the pearl fluke and white bladed spinnerbait combo. The humps and isolated areas out on the main lake were pretty much void of fish but the points out on the main lake that were attached to land produced well this week. It won’t be long till fishing the main lake humps and the creek humps turns on better for me but for now, out on the points and beating the banks have filled my days. Here’s a few more pictures from Tuesday.

Wednesday I was able to sneak out for a bit but we had mandatory team fishing training for the newest Cast Away Fishing Team in training. We went over identifying all the different lure types and their uses. I used my YouTube channel as a training aid and put some sweet topwater videos on the flat screen. We also covered proper hooksets and fizzing deep caught fish. This was all between bottle feedings, naps and poopy diapers. Here’s a picture of the newest team in training, looking intently as I tell them the story of Poppi hiking up the Sierra Navada Mountain range in search of trophy trout back in the day. You can see Big Tate on the left was all jacked and drooling while little Lannie girl thought I was funny and laughed a lot.

During our training session with the team, I was looking for something and I found a stash of flukes I had hidden in the guest bedroom closet after a un-authorized trip to Hammonds Fishing. I needed a quick place to stash the bag of tackle and the guest room closet is where it was hidden behind an old toy firetruck for the last 2 years. It was like Christmas again only it wasn’t socks, skivvies and furry slippers this time, it was some topwater baits and a fresh bag of Ham Bone flukes that I had purchased right after they came out with the Ham Bone color pattern special run. I’d forgotten all about the Ham Bone and never used the Ham Bone color before, only the pearl flukes. It was like an omen, and I knew I was going to be able to spend some significant time on the water the next day. Something in my mind said, “throw the Ham Bone fluke tomorrow Jim”.

Thursday morning, I hit the water early as I wanted to target a few main lake points to start my day. I had my fluke rod rigged with the new Ham Bone color on a brand new leader and I was looking for big fish on top of brush early in the morning. This week it just seemed like the better bite was over brush in 20-25 feet of water, although most of the fish were beat up from the spawn, they were willing to eat and on the larger side. They were few and far between at times, but I was able to scratch out some good fish over brush in the creek after coming back from some main lake points. We had some wind on Thursday, so it was just a matter of me finding the brush piles in 20-25 feet of water with wind and chop blowing across the area. The wind and chop were the key as the fish were moving around the brush feeding in the wind and much more active than the fish in the calm or flat water around brush. Again, Spot-Locking up wind, fan casting the Ham Bone fluke down wind and bringing back over the brush with a few very quick snaps with my wrist, letting it fall and then snapping or popping it again accounted for all of the fish I caught on Thursday, and I had some good ones. By the time I had to head back home I was on my last Ham Bone fluke, and it was about to hit the graveyard when I caught my last fish to end the day and destroying my last Ham Bone bait from the bag. It was a fitting way to end the day and end my week out on the lake. It was a fun day in the creek and the population of fish out on the brush is growing by the day. The lake is dropping and almost a foot below full pool. Water temps are around the 70-degree mark and it’s continuing to warm. Here’s a few fish from Thursday and fishing over brush with the Ham Bone fluke.

2 thoughts on “Finding the Ham Bone Stash

  1. That Cast Away Fishing Team, is going to be Tough to beat! Great article . Always look forward to you sharing your knowledge. Congratulations on the new Fishing team and thanks for all the Intel as always.

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