It’s All About That Bass
From the Right Rig to the Perfect Weather, These Tips Are Sure to
Bring the Fish
article by Dan Chason
During our transition from winter to spring, there are a couple of weeks where most of us suffer cabin fever as we await the warming that is to come. This warming wakes up most activities, including fishing. However, if you can brave the cold right now, this is a great time to catch some really nice bass. My favorite local lakes during this time of year are Lake D’Arbonne and Lake Claiborne when fishing for bass. What you need to remember is that the bass are now at their prime. They have gorged on shad and with the last full moon, started their crawfish fest which initiates the pre-spawn ritual. You won’t find these big females shallow, but when you do find them, they are fat fat fat. They are full of eggs and close to their optimum weights. What you must consider is that a fish in cold water is sluggish. Their body temperature is the same as the water. Think about how fast you would move when you are cold. Big mistake number one is when anglers just flat out fish too fast. Secondly, these fish are very sensitive to the barometer. One of my aggravations with local TV weather casts is they give the barometric pressure, but unless you are a meteorologist, you don’t know if it is rising or falling. During months of cold weather, it is imperative to fish the barometer. On a falling barometer, you can get away fishing a little faster as the fish are more active. If the barometer is rising, you best slow down a bunch. So how do you tell if you don’t know? Look at the sky. Blue skies should tell you the barometer is rising or steady. A blue bird sky that duck hunters love is a curse for fisherman of any kind. The fish will hold to cover tightly and you have to bump cover to find them. Most anglers opt for a jig and pig, but let me advise you to expand your horizons and use a Carolina rig. A “rig” as we call it is nothing but a 1/2 to 1 ounce weight tied above a barrel swivel with a leader from a foot to 6 feet long with your offering tied on the end. The fallacy of a rig is that “the longer the leader, the higher off the bottom your lure presents.” That is not true. The longer the leader, the more time elapses until your offering comes into the cover you are fishing.
I like a Zoom centipede, light colored for clear water and dark colors for stained water. Look for channel breaks and points, especially if you have grass of any kind. My favorite technique is to fish the rig in and around brush piles. These female bass will stage in these areas. My second old favorite is a Zoom pumpkin seed/chartreuse tail lizard. Bass love lizards as they simulate the salamanders they normally eat.
The secret is to fish slow, then slow down. Make that weight hit as much cover as you can. The more cover you hit, the more chances you have for a strike. This is critical during a rising barometer as the bite is usually very subtle. A good 7 foot rod is paramount, as long casts allow you to cover a lot of water. The longer rod lets you get a good hook set. One misperception of a Carolina rig is the reasoning behind the length of the leader. Most folks think that any plastic tied on the rear of the rig means that the lure is floating that distance above the bottom from the weight. Not true. This is only true if the angler uses a very light hook, small in diameter and a plastic that floats and will not sink. However, the thinking should be that fish key on the disturbance caused by the weight dragging the bottom and displacing mud and bumping into structure. They will be attracted to the disturbance and see your presentation coming along behind and strike. This length of leader is key as it is determined by water clarity and thickness of structure. The less structure and higher water clarity is the reason for a long leader. The other factor is standing vegetation. We don’t have a lot of hydrilla or thick coon tail grasses in most area lakes where Carolina rigging is preferred. In East Texas lakes, long leaders are popular due to grass but in North Louisiana, keep the leader under 3 feet for best results.
The most critical thing to remember when fishing a Carolina rig is boat position. You will have better feel on the business end of your rig, if you position your boat upwind and work into the wind with your presentation. February is notorious for windy days, and if you can’t feel what is happening, you will miss strikes. Some of this can be overcome with the use of braided line off of the reel and change over to a flourocarbon line on the leader. This gives the best feel, and the braid assures of good hook sets due to no stretch.
Some of my best days fishing have been with the Carolina rig. Look for breaks off of points and creeks as they are holding areas for pre-spawn bass. Simply look at your graph, find a main creek and follow it until you see a break line, point or bend and place a marker. Set your boat back within casting distance and work the area thoroughly. The results can be staggering.
The hook set should be swept sideways as a hook set overhead tends to cause a whipping action that can actually pull the hook away from the fish. My biggest advice is one very overlooked method: When tying on your hook, ALWAYS bring your line over the point of the hook, not loop it from behind into the eye. This pulls the hook into the fish and not away from them. So grab your long johns, cover-alls and some good fishing gloves, and cash in on one of the best times of the year to bass fish. Good luck and good fishing.