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Spring Fling: Secrets, Tricks and Tactics for Largemouth Bass – Jake McKittrick

Let’s get excited spring is here! Many die hard trout guys get all poopy during run-off season but the truth is this is the time to hammer the warm and cool water fisheries. One of my personal favorite game fish and the topic of this article is the largemouth bass.  Largemouth bass are Americas number one freshwater game fish species and is responsible for the all-star status that conventional fisherman enjoy.  With all the money that can be made from largemouth bass it is no wonder why fly fisherman know very little about catching these amazing fish and conventional guys know everything about them.  Pure Fishing (Berkley Conglomerate) annually spends more money studying largemouth bass than our industry spends studying every game fish known to man. I have paid close attention to all the information and tactics coming out of the conventional industry as part of my research for a comprehensive fly fishing book about largemouth bass and wanted to share some tactics to help the Willy j fans catch more giant largemouth bass this spring.

The most important needs of largemouth bass are temperature, food, cover, oxygen and spawning.  The spring officially starts for me in the Rocky Mountains when the water temperatures start to hit 50 degrees in the shallow lakes (Mid April in the Rockies but may be as early as February in the South). This is known as the pre-spawn period.  Largemouth cannot digest food efficiently below 50 degrees but once the temp starts to hit 50 the bass will come out of the deeper water and first appear in shallow areas on the sunniest side of the lake with the best cover. This is were the Willy J infrared thermometer is indispensable but take care as it is not water proof and should be treated with care. I usually start scouting the smaller, shallower lakes first or the areas were the weather has been the most stable.  On the front range of Colorado, for example, many of the lakes along the mountains have completely different weather patterns than lakes on the plains and it changes every year. I keep a diary of lake temps throughout the eastern Slope of Colorado to help develop my tactics and to see variances annually. Also keep an eye on prevailing winds as they will cause lake temps to differ on different sides of the lake.   As the temperatures climb up into the upper 50s bass will become more veracious and their metabolism climbs sharply. There are still only a few bait fish around in the shallows this time of year so look for bass cruising the shallows.  When the temperature reaches 61-63 degrees, the bass will start spawning so always be mindful of temperature throughout the lake.

Largemouth bass are known as generalist because they will pretty much eat anything that moves that can fit in there mouth.  The most important forage for largemouth in the Rocky Mountains are crawdads, shad, other bass, sunfish, and various minnows. Out of the black bass family, largemouth’s have the highest concentration of fish diets. It should be especially noted from my experience that largemouth love to eat other smaller largemouth. Always keep an eye out for baitfish and crawdads to give you an idea of what to entice them with taking special attention to forage size and color.  I always carry markers with me so I can color my flies to match the baitfish as precisely as possible. Another great tip is rub your fly and your hands in the mud as soon as you arrive at the lake to neutralize any unnatural odors (like gas, deet and nicotine) as bass have great sense of smell but contrary to popular belief they cannot taste oil soluble matter (only water soluble). For example it is not the gas on your hands that is making the bass run away from your fly it is the detergent additives in the gas mix. Also, the retrieve is directly correlated to the water temps. So the colder the water the slower the retrieve.

Cover and structure are paramount to a largemouth’s happiness but there is a difference.  Structure is any change in elevation and cover is anything that offers shade.  In one study from Berkley/Pure Fishing a single bass was put in a tank and was super nervous and would not eat.  The scientist put a penny in the tank and the bass immediately settled down and started to eat. The lesson here is to target the biggest bass in the lake find an area in the shallows that has great cover (like a tree) that has close access to deeper water (structure). Last week, for example, I was fishing a small pond and there are about 8 largemouth that are over 4 pounds and one in the seven pound class (Note:  if you talk in inches bass fisherman will look at you funny so memorize this formula: length x length x girth/1200 = weight).  All these bass were hiding under one submerged tree and would not move more that 6 feet away from the cover because it was the best cover in the shallows. If you remember that bass are only living in 5 percent of the lake than it is pretty easy to find them if you know what they need.

The oxygen level in lakes is more important in the summer Continue reading

My Last Trib Season-Lucas Carroll

Snow Fishing

It’s official… this Spring my family will be moving west to Northern California, so this is my last official GL tributary season.  I’m going to love fishing in the west (I’ve been dreaming of it since I started fly fishing), but I will greatly miss my close friends I have made here in Western NY, and of course the fishing.

William Joseph Jacket

Also official… I am currently filming a winter based fly fishing short movie.  I’ve been working with a very talented filmmaker and musician named Adam Kryder.  Check out our new website www.rawwaterproductions.com for more info!

 

This winter has been season number two with my William Joseph WST waders, Squall Jacket, and Current chest pack.  This setup remains bomb proof, efficient, and comfortable, even after a two-year beating.  We have had a mild winter this season so far, but the coldest days were still no match for Willy J.

 

Finally, I had the pleasure of fishing with Matt Smythe a few times this winter.  He put up a nice review of the Exodus pack a while back, and it was great photographing him and the pack on one of the craziest winter days we had all season.

Exodus Vest

 

The William Joseph Exodus Pack-FishingPoet.com

Unless I’m purposely packing light to fish out of my kayak, I always wear a backpack along with a chest pack when I’m wading or fishing out of a boat. Between a thermos of coffee, a couple water bottles, jerky, maybe a sandwich, camera, extra fly boxes and wet/cold weather gear, the chest pack alone doesn’t cut it and I’d rather hump a pack than leave it in the truck and waste time making trips back for short breaks. I do the same thing when I’m out deer or goose hunting. Being self-contained keeps you in the game…after all, that’s where the fur, feathers and fins are. The one down-side is that within a couple hours my lower back is killing me and it won’t loosen up regardless of taking breaks or stretching. I’ve found Bourbon to be the closest solution to-date, but it makes wading difficult pretty quickly.

A few days before we flew for Idaho, a package came in the mail from Paul Swint over at William Joseph. He and I had talked about the trip at the IFTD show in New Orleans a week or so earlier and he thought it worthwhile to send me one of their new packs to try out. What showed up at my door was the Exodus II pack/vest combo in sage (it’s available in blue as well). I’d been fishing a small chest pack of theirs for the last 10 years and had planned to pack my extra gear in my backpack the same way I always do. I was looking forward to changing up that routine and hopefully turning the corner on the sore back thing. Damn, I sound freaking old.

The detachable vest pockets were an immediate plus. Our flight west had two layovers, so I planned on using the back pack as a carry-on in order to keep my reels, flies, accessories, camera, some clothes and flight essentials (food/water) with me. I was able to organize all of my fly boxes and accessories in the vest, unbuckle the two components from the pack and fit them in the main compartment with everything else, essentially river-ready.

On the water, the Exodus (retail price of $169) fit me well with the wide, adjustable shoulder straps and chest buckle. I thought the size would make it heavier out of the package, but it was surprisingly light-weight. Plus, the vented back and shoulder straps allowed for plenty of air circulation, which kept me comfortable even with a few 8 – 10 hour days on the water and consistent temps in the 90′s. The contents I packed in the main compartment were not inordinately heavy, but I was able to fit a sweatshirt, shell and a pair of wading sandals along with the other items I mentioned, and the compression straps on the sides, bottom and back kept the pack low-profile and also kept the weight close to my center of gravity, which completely alleviated my back strain.

The material and stitching was durable enough not to snag, rip or pop when hiking a game trail through woods and thick brush, being dropped on the ground or gravel bar, or thrown in the back of a truck or boat at numerous points during the trip. Speaking of boats, during our two days on the South Fork, it was flawless and stowed easily out from under foot when not being pillaged for flies, tippet or jerky. Plus the rugged handle at the top was a solid, easy grab when reaching for the pack or tossing it back.

The one sticking point for me was the dangling straps at the bottom of back-pack. When wading in waist-deep water, where the line you strip bellies around behind you in the current, the line invariably gets snagged on one or more of the straps when paying out line to cast. I tried tying them up to shorten them, but still had some snags. Rolling/folding them up in rubber bands or elastic might’ve worked, I’ve seen that on other packs, but I didn’t test that hypothesis.

The vest components are very well designed with six generous pockets that hold a lot of gear: 4 fly boxes, 5 containers for my sex-dungeon collection, extra leaders, floatant, strike indicators, split-shot case, my pipe and tobacco and Kodak Play Sport video camera. The two components zip together to hold the pair securely front and center, and when unzipped, swing out of the way if you need less in front of you to, say, untangle major knots.

And they’ve paid attention to detail: the water-tight Zip-No magnetic pocket closure system makes it easy to get at fly boxes and other accessories without the one-handed zipper wrestling match; the two zippered cargo pockets it does have are armed with rubberized tabs for easy gripping; rounded, tube-covered pull tabs give you something substantial – but non line-snagging – to pull open the magnetic pockets; additional webbing straps are included for lashing your tippet dispenser or hemos; a retractable clipper clasp is built into one of the pockets; and the AirTrack suspension allows you the flexibility adjust the fit of the whole rig to wear over more layers or fewer.

Aside from the fish we caught, the pack made a huge difference in the overall trip experience – from flight to fishing. Off the water it was comfortable, spacious and convenient enough to travel with. On the water, I had everything I needed (and then some) and without the nagging lower back, I actually forgot that I had anything more than the chest pack on. I look forward to putting it through further abuse/use back up here in NY chasing salmon and steelhead and hopefully some pike and late season bass. Hell maybe the back pack will see hunting season as well.

PROS:
• More than enough pockets and room in the backpack and vest
• Water-tight Magnetic Zip-No pocket closure system
• Lightweight, well-balanced and compresses well
• Detachable vest components
• Fully adjustable for good fit in cold or warm weather
• The price is right for the over-all versatility and quality

CONS:
• Need to find a way to corral straps and avoid line snags

You can learn more about the Exodus II pack/vest combo and other William Joseph products at www.williamjoseph.net

 

Reviews on this site are my unpaid and unbiased opinion of gear, music, guides, books and other outdoor-related items. In some instances I may be allowed to keep what is sent to me for review, but as of right now I’m not affiliated with any company, manufacturer, publisher, or producer in any other way. I suppose there’s still hope though.

 

Review by - www.fishingpoet.com