Ted Peck

Outdoors talk with certified Merchant Marine Captain Ted Peck.

Spring spawn makes bass fishing easier

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Ted Peck
Sunday, May 25, 2014

Bass are either spawning or getting very close to participating in this strong survival drive on lakes across southern Wisconsin.

Four or five days after largemouth bass vacate dinner-plate-sized depressions in shallow water, bluegills will move in to back coves and bays to scour smaller depressions in colonies that look like an underwater moonscape.

Fishing doesn’t get much easier than you’ll find right now. Rudimentary angling skills and a variety of bait presentations will get your string stretched—once you find the fish.

Pro anglers sometimes describe a tough day fishing as “eliminating unproductive water.” For those bent on catching bass over the next couple of weeks, unproductive water is essentially anything more than a long cast from shore.

It is unethical and far too easy to catch bass that are actively guarding nests. I confess yielding to this temptation on more than one occasion, but I refuse to help you stumble in this regard.

There is nothing unethical about casting for bass before they go on the beds. This pursuit is pure fun by any definition. The first step in this fishin’ mission is finding the fish.

With most of the water more than a long cast from shore eliminated, success can be found by keying on anomalies and changes along the shoreline such as fallen trees, stumps, rock piles and main lake points that fall away quickly into deeper water.

Smaller male bass move into shallow water first, vying for prime locations to build a nest. Female bass stage in water just a little deeper, waiting for water temperatures to ease past 65 degrees before occupying the bridal suite.

A slow cruise along the shoreline and a good pair of Polaroid sunglasses will help you spot cruising bass on clear lakes like Delavan and Lake Geneva. On more stained waters such as lakes Yellowstone, Kegonsa and Waubesa, covering a lot of water quickly with a search lure such as a spinnerbait or Rat-L-Trap is the best way to find bass.

Even the best electronics are of limited value as fish finders right now. The best tools are eyeballs, spinnerbaits and elbow grease.

Catching just one bass does not confirm fish location. If two or more give your bait a look along a short run of shoreline, you might consider slowing the presentation down and going with a finesse presentation found with some type of soft plastic.

Bait profile, lure action, sound, vibration and color all play a role in choosing the most productive search bait. Rat-L-Traps come in a rainbow of colors.

Wes Higgins, president of Bill Lewis Lures, the company that makes this bait, says 60 percent of all ’Traps sold are the tried-and-true silver-and-blue pattern. That should tell you something.

With spinnerbaits, I’ve always been a big fan of white skirts as part of the package. In water clarity running the gamut from ultra-clear to stained, a tandem spinnerbait with willowleaf blades is usually more productive.

Blades also come in a rainbow of colors and in both hammered and smooth finishes. Color is the least important consideration in a search bait. You might try a lure with one silver and one gold blade.

In deeply stained to downright muddy water, a large single Colorado blade will usually catch more fish. The Colorado blade is more oval, giving more “thump” as the blade churns through the water.

Spinnerbaits cost between $1 and $7. The more expensive ones might catch more fish.

If you’re one of those folks who plays 52 hands of video poker at a time, by all means purchase a few of those beautiful Terminator lures with titanium wire and genuine precious metal plated blades.

If your concept of heavy gambling is visiting a casino with an entire roll of nickels and prepared to lose the entire bankroll, buy the cheaper lures. You’ll catch almost as many fish—but only if you keep that line in the water.

Ted Peck, a certified Merchant Marine captain, is an outdoors columnist for The Gazette. Email him at tedpeck@acegroup.cc.

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