Friday, 20 May 2011 14:05
Warmer temperatures mean good fishing for big "bucketmouths"
Right now is the best time of the year to catch big largemouth bass.
Walt Maldonato shows four largemouth bass he caught at Lake Powell. He says spring is the best time of the year to catch big "bucketmouths."
Photo courtesy of Walt Maldonado
When the water temperatures in Utah hit 57 degrees and keep rising, largemouth bass feel the urge to spawn. The bass move onto shallow flats, looking for a good place to nest. And large females begin feeding heavily to prepare for the rigors of the spawn.
Walt Maldonado says now is the best time of the year to catch the biggest bass of your life. He says in the spring, bass fishing isn't about quantity—it's about quality.
"You will not catch big numbers of fish," he says, "but the chance to catch a monster bass is very possible."
Maldonado should know. In addition to serving as a regional volunteer services coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources, he's the conservation director for the Utah Bass Federation and an avid bass angler.
You can stay updated on where bass fishing is best by reading the DWR's weekly fishing report.
Try to look like a crawfish
Maldonado says large-profile casting and flipping jigs work their magic in the spring. These jigs are designed to mimic crawfish. Crawfish are a favorite food of largemouth bass. Crawfish provide lots of protein. And protein is something the bass need for the rigors of the spawn.
"Jigs have been a mainstay of the bass angler's arsenal for many years," Maldonado says. "Although the basic design hasn't changed, the quality and use of high-tech materials in the modern jig make it come to life under the water."
Maldonado says the silicone skirts placed on today's jigs pulsate and wave with the slightest water movement. The jigs' heads are also painted to look like a crawfish. And the jigs' hooks are strong and needle sharp.
He says trailers, in the form of soft plastic or pork, are also added to today's jigs. "When the jig hits the bottom," he says, "the heads tip up. The trailer makes the jig look like a crawfish that's defending itself."
Rocky areas in lakes and reservoirs catch the sun's rays and warm the water around them. The warming water attracts bass and crawfish.
Maldonado suggests targeting these rocky areas with jigs. Try to cast your jig so it doesn't splash much when it hits the water.
If you're fishing from a boat, cast to the edge of the shore, and then drag your jig into the water. Crawling the jig slowly across the rocks—an action that mimics a newly emerged crawfish—is what you're trying to do.
As you crawl your jig towards you, let the jig fall off the rocks. Then watch your line closely. "Hits will be light or nonexistent," Maldonado says. "Many times, just the tick of your line or your line moving slightly will be a sign to reel up the slack and set the hook."
Also, when you lift your rod to move your jig, you might feel some extra weight on the end of your line. "If you do," Maldonado says, "set the hook. It doesn't cost anything to set the hook. If the line feels different, set it—you might have a bass on the end of your line."
Maldonado says fishing with jigs requires sturdy gear. He says a baitcasting rod and reel is the best rod and reel to try this technique with.
"Baitcasting reels are like small winches," he says. "They give you the best control over large fish in rocky or weedy areas."
Maldonado says a baitcasting reel, spooled with 12- to 15-pound test line on a 6 - to 7-foot medium- to heavy-action rod, is a perfect rig to catch largemouth bass with. "This rig is capable of horsing a big fish out of snags or sharp rocks," he says.
Another piece of invaluable equipment is a quality pair of polarized, ultra-violet-resistant sunglasses. The glasses will allow you to look into the shallows and pick out fish that are already on their nest.
"Sight fishing requires stealth, proper boat position and quiet casts," Maldonado says. "If a fish is on a nest this time of the year, it will most likely be a large female getting ready to spawn."
Once you've located a nest, cast past the nest with a tube jig or a soft plastic lizard, and then slowly inch the lure toward the nest. Using this technique will provoke the female to pick up the threat and either move it or "kill" it.
"This technique requires patience and persistence," Maldonado says. "Casting past the nest is important; any cast into the nest will scare the fish off the nest."
Maldonado says watching a bass turn and face an intruding lure makes this technique an exciting one to try. And, if you perform the technique properly, you might have the thrill of watching a bass take your lure. "This technique requires steady nerves and quick reflexes," he says.
Handle with care
It's important to handle the bass you catch carefully. If you're not going to keep the fish, don't keep it out of the water any longer than needed.
"If you catch a fish," he says, "get it to the boat as quickly as possible, have your camera ready, and limit the amount of time you have the fish out of the water.
"After taking a photo," he says, "gently put the fish back in the water and enjoy the moment."
Maldonado lives in southeastern Utah. He says Recapture Reservoir near Blanding, Ken's Lake near Moab (you can use boats on Ken's Lake, but only electric motors are allowed), the community fishery at Green River State Park, the Huntington Game Farm ponds and Huntington North Reservoir are all great bass fisheries to hone your skills and prepare you for the best bass fishery in Utah—Lake Powell.
"If you've never experienced bass fishing," he says, "this spring is the time to give it a try."
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