Today is Tuesday and as a rule we are
closed at the Gary Yamamoto Store here
at Toledo Bend, but I had some paper work
to do, or I would have been out on the
lake. I was hard at it and I heard a knock
on the door and when I looked up, to my
very pleasant surprise, stood Tommy Martin.
When I let him in he said that he needed
some more Senko's because he had a guide
trip in the morning. Being the hard working
fellow I am and an opportunist, this sure
looked like a good opportunity to me. In
the course of fish talk the conversation
soon turned to pre spawn bass fishing.
This is an excerpt from that conversation.
I hope that you find this as enjoyable
and enlightening as I did.
Tommy is quite a busy man these days with
the BASS tour, a lovely wife Sheila and
two growing boys. The oldest of which,
Blake, will be attending Sam Houston State
here in East Texas this coming year on
a football scholarship. With all of that,
his biggest time consumer is his cows and
getting them fed and off to the market.
I wonder where he finds the time? Tommy
moved to Toledo Bend about 25 years ago
(1965) from Texas City, Texas. As a young
man he spent most of his younger years
salt-water fishing. Tommy is a man, lets
just say, over 50 that looks and works
like a man in his 30's. One of the interesting
things about Tommy is his willingness to
work with the youth in the local area.
A lot of his time is spent with the local
high school students both fishing and their
Now - about the pre-spawn bass. Pre-spawn
is the time when the fish are in transition
from the cold winter and moving up to shallow
water to get ready to start their spawn.
These fish are hungry, moody, and restless.
They are on the move looking for their
spawning beds, their metabolism is changing.
For the fisherman the question is "Where
are they?". Is there enough water
in the buck brush, where are the warmest
spots on the lake and how is this weather
front going to affect the fish? Tommy had
some great insights in the matter.
Jim: "If I can, I would like to start
at the beginning. Let me ask you, here
on Toledo Bend, what time of year does
pre-spawn start? Or if you will, what is
it that has the biggest impact on the start
Tommy: "I believe it is just the timing,
the bass are going to get rid of those
eggs no matter what. Here on Toledo Bend
the Blacks (bass) will start their move
up as early as mid January and the spawn
will run through the end of March and even
as late as mid Aprill. Bass will go to
pre-spawn even if the water is 35 to 40
Jim: "That's great to know, but where
are they going when they start their pre
Tommy: "As a rule they are looking
for two things. Three to five foot flats
that are close to deep water."
Jim: "Ok Tommy, but there is a lot
of water on this 100 mile long lake that
is 3 to 5 feet deep. What does it take
to make for a good staging location?"
Tommy: "There are two things that
I consider when looking for staging areas.
First is the 3 to 5 foot flats that are
closest to my winter fishing holes. The
second is spawning locations that I know
about from years before."
Jim: "So what you are telling me
is that if I can find spawning locations
all I need to do is back out and find those
flats that are 3 to 5 foot and close to
Tommy: "That is a great place to start.
The spawn will be all over the lake, from
the dam to the very upper end, but keep
in mind you will find the warmer waters
on the northern banks. The bass will find
these flats with the 3 to 5 foot depths
close to deeper water with buck brush and
roam. When you find them like this you
can have a field day with them."
Jim: "Ok, but what if things are
not perfect, let's say there is just not
5 foot of water in the buck brush. The
shoreline just doesn't have any cover.
Tommy: "Toledo Bend is not a natural
lake, in reality it is a flooded canyon
that they put a dam in the lower end of.
What this means is that the lake has a
lot of flats out in the middle of the lake
and when the lake is low these high spots
can be great spawning locations. Also the
fish have been known to spawn in the tops
of the trees in 50 foot of water. Yes water
level and conditions ca be a major factor
as to where you find your staging fish."
Jim: "Let's talk about equipment
you use this time of year. The baits, type
of rods, reel speed, line, etc..."
Tommy: "I try to keep it as simple
as I can. I use fast moving baits - spinner
baits, crank baits and (rattle) traps for
the most part. Spinner baits I use a 3/8
or maybe a ½ ounce chartreuse and
white skirt with a #3 Colorado blade and
a #4 ½ willow leaf. Crank baits
I look for baits that have a tight wobble
to them and th (rattle) traps I use both
a ½ and 3/4 ounce each. For me the
key is that I want to be able to just tick
the tops of the grass and that is what
determines the size of baits I use. As
for the reels I use a 6:1 ratio for most
everything, but if I am going to slow role
a spinner bait I may go to a slower 5.3:1
ratio. It makes it easier for me to keep
it down on the bottom. As for the line
and rods I consider the situation, water
clarity, depth and of course cover plays
a big factor in what is needed for the
Jim: "Is there anything special you
do to your boat to go after pre-spawn fish?
(Depth finders - trolling motor - making
the boat as quiet as possible)"
Tommy: "No, not really. I check the
boat out to make sure it is in good working
order and safety issues. However, I think
you need to keep the boat as quiet as you
can anytime you fish shallow. Take all
your gear out that you need before you
get up o your flats or near your buck brush.
Keep the deck lids closed, and don't move
around any more than you have to. Check
the depth of your trolling motor to make
sure it is not down too deep. Oh, and don't
forget about your temperature gauge. I
keep two of them in my boat throughout
the spring. They are that important to
Jim: "Let me ask you about the types
of bait that the fish are looking for and
does it play a major part in your decision
Tommy: "I know I am going to work
with a fast moving bait at least until
I figure out where they are at, and then
I make the necessary changes. Bit, or at
least not the type of bait is not something
I worry about too much. I just need to
know that the bait fish are in the location.
I am fishing and let the fish tell me what
it is that they are looking for."
Jim: "What about the weather? I know
it makes it tough on the fisherman sometimes,
but how does it affect these fish?"
Tommy: "This can be the one exception
that slows me down. If a cold front moves
in, and it will more times than not, I
have to slow down. This is when I will
go to a slow rolling spinner bait or a
Carolina rig. It is also worth mentioning
that dirty water makes pre spawn fish more
difficult to catch. In that case sometimes
I will try using spinner baits and fish
the edge of the mud line. In other words,
what I am looking for is the clearest water
I can find."
Jim: "I know that sometimes when
a writer does an interview there is something
that should have been asked or put into
the article. What is it we need to add
to this article? Do you have any added
Tommy: "Yes there is one more thing
I would like to mention here before we
quit this. All of the styles of fishing
we talked about, there is one that we did
not mention and that was the Carolina rig.
It is a very important tool for this time
of year. Using it out on the flats and
the secondary points can produce some good
fish for you. I like to throw a French
Frye, lizard or maybe a 4" Senko on
I would like to take a moment to thank
Tommy and his family for giving me the
opportuity of a life time. Tommy is quite
a gentleman and a true scholar. What a
joy it was to just sit down and talk fishing
with him. I love to hear his stories.
Keep a Good Eye on a Tight Line! - Jim
Alphin, GYCB / Pro Staff Toledo Bend, TX