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Spring…Battling Wind, Rain and Bass
The 2017 calendar reads March 20th, the March equinox and spring officially begins. Prepare to push off the kayak into the wind, rain and more.
 Weather or Not – Rare are the days when the weather in the early months of the years are ideal conditions. A strong wind, heavy rains, lingering cold fronts, bouncing air temps or combinations of all these are very distinct possibilities. It’s my own belief that the weather and water conditions more likely affect the fishermen more than the fish. Any two or three days in a row that produce a difference in the existing weather becomes a pattern and the fish react to it. Eventually they have to eat. Watch for stability in the weather and water conditions. Stable surface water temperatures or a rising thermometer are good signs. Food sources not only appear in large numbers but begin to move freely and draw fish to shorelines and cover making them more susceptible to lures presented by the anxious angler. Use kayak the wind to push your like a natural trolling motor. Go to the wind-blown bank and pick up your spinnerbait. When torrential rains muddy the waters, upsize your lures, try darker shades, consider an internal rattle. Start in shallow water and around objects looking for largemouth.

 Taking Their Temperature – Many of the natural lifestyles activities of wild creatures are dictated by temperatures. In the case of fish, pre-spawn feeding binges are common and assist in the catching of large numbers of fish and trophy sizes of many species. The magic of a surface temperature of 50 degrees is undeniable. In the fall fish and fishing activity begins to decline, conversely in the early calendar months 50 degrees is the signal to grab your gear and hit your favorite fishing hole. Crappie start going into pre-spawn activity when the water is in the mid-fifties and as the water warms a degree or two they get serious about “nesting”. Surprisingly catfish will strike bass lures defending the nesting spots during their spawning period. At 55- 60 degrees smallmouth and Kentucky bass commonly known as “spots” go on bed before largemouth. The largemouth are notorious for seeking bedding sites at 60-68 degrees. Bluegill hold out until the 70 degree mark. The surface water temperature is one of the single most important clues to the catch regardless of the season but certainly in the spring.
 Bass-Stronomy – Short version, the full moon that coincides with these water temperatures is the height of spawning activities. As a point of interest bass and other never all do the same thing at the same time. The spawning ritual of most species goes on for weeks. From a personal perspective I never fish for bedding bass. It is not illegal but it can jeopardize the successful spawning of each of the fish caught and moved by tournament fishermen. It’s a personal choice. The moon phases, new and full also produce hatches of everything that largemouth “lunch on” making the moon equally important to other creatures in and around the water.

 Spring Time Baits –For the always popular bass you can almost just open up your tackle box and throw anything. Minnow plugs, spinnerbaits (3/8’s ounce willow / Colorado blade combinations are popular with fishermen and fish. Another ideal spring sling is the shallow running crankbait (the Strike King KVD model 1.5, colors #584 Oyster and #699 Natural Shad), soft plastics (Rage Tail craws, #140 Watermelon meat, or the 4.5 Flip-N-tube, both rigged Texas style) and my personal favorite, jigs also trailed by the Rage craw, they crush the #229 roadkill color. Don’t discount topwater activity now. Chuggers, dog walkers and buzzers are all distinct possibilities for surface blasting bass. With bass (as well as other species) in pre-spawn mode there are several considerations. CPR- (Catch, Photo, Release) keep some and “release to the grease”. Having said this, it’s wise to release a few or as I fondly suggest, “leave some for seed”. My habit is the 50% rule. If I’m keeping any fish, I target the smallest LEGAL fish. I keep one and release the next and follow this pattern until I have as many as I can legally keep and am willing to clean.

 Rods, Reels and Line – McCain Fishing has followed the tradition of the All Star rods with a line of kayak specific rods. Each is designed to be lure / technique specific. For example I previously shied away from fishing crankbaits. In the past it was a 50/50 proposition as to whether I boated the bass hooked on cranks. Now with the crankbait rod I have yet missed a crankbait bass that hit my bait. When asked about what lures I should toss on this rod owner Morgan McCain replied, “Anything that has treble hooks should be fished on this rod”. He was right, crankbaits, jerkbaits, lipless cranks all have brought fish to my grip. The Prototype jig rod I use has been flawless in pitching, feel, hookset and playing fish of all sizes including am eight plus pound monster. For the crappie I use a long rod, actually a nine footer for vertically jigging tubes and a six foot light model for casting and horizontal retrieve for aggressive crappies, bluegills and the occasional bass. Lightweight lures are launched on open face spinning reels and light monofilament line in the four to eight pound test range. I’m committed to bait casting reels, almost exclusively Lews’ for the rest of my bass fishing techniques. The ability to retrieve baits, set the hook solidly and most important, play my fish, is vital to consistently lipping largemouth bass. Somewhere around 6:1 retrieve ratios are what I prefer for all around use, for crankbaits I use lower gear ratios. The BB1Z from Lew’s is geared at 5.1:1 and makes cranking chores easier. For cranking, topwater or spinnerbaits, my reels are spooled with mono in the 12-14 pound test range. I’m a convert to braided lines for my worm, craw, tube and jigging (feel bait fishing) chores. Fifteen to thirty pound braid is on my reels with monofilament backing to create a smooth pitching presentation.

Choose a species or two, gear up and head to the water, work WITH the wind and rain to boat more spring time bass. Zip up those lifejackets and consider releasing your big fish to thrill another angler one day.