Lakecaster Online Archives - Feb, 2004

IT'S BIG BASS TIME ON LAKE LIVINGSTON

By Len Fairbanks
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Len Fairbanks

Did you know that 6 out of top 11 and 26 of the top 50 largemouths that have been taken in the State of Texas were caught in the months of February and March. Every one of these bass were over 15 lbs. The 12 lb. 7 oz. lake record bass on our very own Lake Livingston was caught in February. These are the months when the average angler has the best chance of the year to catch the biggest bass of their lifetime. This is the only time of the year that the lake's entire bass population will be found in shallow water (5' deep or less). Since the average angler is the most effective and has the most confidence when fishing this shallow water zone, the stage is set for the year's most successful and rewarding trips. When this massive bass migration takes place, the bass are scattered in the shallow water, so therefore the angler needs a bait that will cover a large amount of shallow water effectively. Enter the spinnerbait, without a doubt the single most efficient lure available today for quickly covering large amounts of cover laden shallow water. Given this information, it should come as no surprise that the current lake records at both Lake Livingston and Sam Rayburn were caught on spinnerbaits.

Spinnerbait fishing this time of year CAN be as easy as casting the lure out in shallow water and reeling it in, and this is what makes this bait so attractive and useful for the beginning/average angler. While things are often just this simple, let's discuss some of the subtle techniques and tactics that can make you more successful.

Let's start with the lure itself. In my opinion, for this time of year on Lake Livingston the two best sizes for spinnerbaits are 3/8 oz. and 1/2 oz. I use the 3/8 oz. size when fishing water 2'-3' deep and shallower. I use the 1/2 oz. size to cover water from 2'-5' deep. For blade combinations, I prefer a two blade or tandem setup with a gold or copper #5 or #6 Indiana rear blade and a small #3 gold Colorado blade in the front. As far as skirt and trailer colors go, I usually use a chartreuse and white skirt with a chartreuse or red trailer. This time of year, I never fish a spinnerbait without a trailer. Remember, that bass of a lifetime is out there somewhere swimming around and because of her size, she likes a large meal when she eats. That spinnerbait trailer adds just a little more bulk to your bait and makes it "push" just a little bit more water when you are reeling it in and therefore makes it just a little bit more attractive to a big sow bass. As far as manufacturers go, many companies make quality spinnerbaits these days and they will all catch fish. If I were allowed only one spinnerbait to fish with this time of year it would be a 1/2 oz. Stanley Wedge.

Now let's talk a little about tackle. For line, I suggest nothing less than a quality 17 or 20 pound premium monofilament with good abrasion resistant like Berkley Big Game or some of the new Berkley IronSilk. And make sure that line is fresh. Don't forget we're out here with the best chance of the whole year for a wall hanger and line is one of the cheapest pieces of fishing equipment on the market today and there is no excuse for going out without fresh line. The rod that I prefer to use for spinnerbaiting is a 6'6" medium/heavy; straight handled worm rod made by Fenwick (model GTC- 786 or HMX T66MH). Many people feel that they can be more accurate with a 6'0" or a 5'6" rod and many prefer to use a pistol grip style handle. I prefer a quality, high-speed baitcasting reel with a thumb bar spool release like an Abu Garcia 4600C4 or 4600C3.

Next let's talk about where we can expect to intercept one of those big sow bass. We've already mentioned shallow water (5' or less), but not just any shallow water will do. I'm not talking about the shallow water found next to a main lake bulkhead or the kind found next to the bank of the river channel or one of the major creek channels. Remember that the bass are making this huge migration to shallow water this time of year for one reason, to spawn. The ones that we are seeking and the ones that will be the most aggressive are the ones that are just preparing to spawn or in the so-called "pre-spawn stage". These bass will be in shallow water in or near the places where the spawning will actually take place. These "spawning coves" will be inlets or coves or small backwater areas that provide the bass some protection from current and wave action. Bass lay their eggs in "nests" in shallow water that are nothing more than a spot on the bottom about the size of a hubcap that the male bass has fanned clean with his tail. The eggs themselves lay in the bottom of this "nest", but are loose and can be easily moved around. Wave action and current can wash the eggs out of the "nest" or can stir up silt, which if it settles on the eggs will smother them. The bass instinctively know about these dangers and will naturally seek the protection of a "spawning cove". These "coves" can be very small to fairly large but will all provide that needed protection. They can be located off of the main lake or off of one of the major creek arms. So, for the next two or three months, spend all of your time in or near one of these "spawning coves".

The last thing that we need to cover about spinnerbaits are some of the different fishing techniques. Many times we just need to simply cast the lure out and reel it in, preferably bringing it by and bumping into any cover (logs, stumps, brushpiles, weeds, bushes, etc.) that we can see in the water. The sudden, erratic, jerking action that this bumping imparts to your lure seems to drive bass crazy. Try to always cast at least five to ten feet past your target because with these fish in shallow water they can be easily spooked. Don't worry about getting hung up, the spinnerbait is extremely weedless and it is amazing some of the thick cover that one can come through as long as you keep the bait moving. Remember that the water is still fairly cold (low 50's to mid 60's) so our retrieve speed needs to be what I call a medium to slow retrieve. Many times we want to reel that spinnerbait just fast enough to feel the blades turning. Most of the time if you are fishing in a good location and not getting bit, then it's because you are turning those handles too fast. One last thing on technique is the hookset. Many people lose bass on a spinnerbait because they either don't set the hook properly or not at all. While fishing your spinnerbait, your rod should always be held in a position that is ready for a quick, hard sideways or "sweep" hookset.

I sincerely hope that at least some of the information that I have provided was enlightening or maybe entertaining but most of all helpful. If you would like some first hand instruction on black bass fishing on Lake Livingston or Sam Rayburn, I guide full time on both of these lakes and can be reached at (936) 563-5454 or email me at fairbanks@towa.org. If you get a chance, check out my website at www.livingston.net/fairbanks and let me know what you think. Until next time, catch all you can and release all that you catch. Zip up that life jacket, hook up that kill switch and may God bless.

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