By Dr. Hal Schramm

Beaver Lake, Arkansas: spawn and postspawn

We’re back on Beaver Lake with tournament angler Rob Bomstad, but this time we’re in a kayak. Bomstad doted on kayak fishing and shared stats on the tremendous growth of kayak fishing, particularly for younger anglers. Indeed, a lot of Bomstad’s tournament fishing is in kayak tournaments. It’s a different game.

“I relax more, and it makes me a better angler,” said Bomstad. “You can’t run 20 miles to see if they are biting on the other end of the lake. You learn how to thoroughly fish an area.” And it’s tailor made for Bomstad’s finesse-fishing style. Beaver is in late spawn right now. Spawners are still plentiful, and a lot of bass are postspawn. Here’s how Bomstad approaches Beaver when he can’t carry the tackle store and does most of his fishing sitting close to the water surface.

Plan A: “Although many bass beds are visible in Beaver, sight fishing is difficult from the seat of a kayak. The tradeoff is you don’t spend three hours trying to get bedding Bertha to bite,” explained Bomstad. The tournament ace fishes steeper banks leading back into pockets. With the high water in Beaver, bass are bedding from 5- to 20-feet deep. Although he casts to any beds he can see, Bomstad relies on blind casting a YUM Tube, Christie Critter, or a Wooly Bug Texas-rigged under a 1/8 ounce weight (3/16 ounce in deep water) and a 3-inch or 4-inch weightless YUM Dinger wacky or Texas rigged. The rigging for the Dinger depends on the cover — wacky rigged in open water, Texas rigged in brush. He likes white/silver flake, melon candy and watermelon pearl laminate colors for the Dinger. He fishes the Texas rigged Tube, Christie Critter and Wooly Bug with a bobber stop 3 to 4 inches up the line to get a little more movement from the bait.

Plan B: Bomstad stays in the creeks and coves. “Look for a sharp depth change, bottom-type transitions, or lonely cover that might be stopping points for post-spawners,” suggested Bomstad. Early in the day is topwater time. “Yes, a walk-the-dog bait is a proven fish catcher in Beaver, but it’s hard to fish a Zara Spook from a kayak,” said Bomstad. “Prop baits like a Heddon Baby Torpedo or Tiny Torpedo are a lot easier to fish. They are different from what everyone else is fishing and will trick a bass.” Mix up your retrieves between steady retrieves and twitches to see what pulls the bass’ trigger. Later in the day, Bomstad relies on a wacky rigged Dinger or square bill crankbait. “I’ll fish a drop shot if I still need bites.”

Pro pointer: “Pay attention to what other anglers are fishing, and fish something different — a different lure, a different size, or a different presentation. For example, I’ll go to a Texas-rigged Dinger if other anglers are fishing wacky rigged, and vice versa.”

Lake Ouachita, Arkansas; postspawn

This scenic 40,000-acre lake near Hot Springs may not rate as high on the list of lakes to catch giant bass, but it offers anglers a lot of options. Bassmaster Elite and FLW Tour pro Zell Rowland is renowned for his topwater savvy. The veteran pro uses the clear water to his advantage with a couple post-spawn patterns that work at Ouachita and other highland reservoirs. “Postspawn is an interesting time of year at Ouachita. Bass are roaming the shorelines in creeks looking for an easy meal,” Rowland said. “And spawning bluegill provide it.”

Plan A: The availability of spawning bluegill keep Ouachita bass shallow. Rowland works the shorelines with a Booyah Boss Pop or Rebel Pop-R and a 6-inch wacky-rigged um Dinger cast tight to shore. But, there’s a trick. “Bright sunlight pushes the bass deep,“ Rowland said. “On sunny days, find shady pockets. On cloudy days, the bass will stay shallow but spread out.” Under either sunlight condtion, Rowland advises anglers to stay on the move. “On a sunny day, the more shady pockets you fish, the more bites you get,” advised Rowland.

Plan B: Jerkbaits aren’t just for prespawn according to Rowland. Try jerking points with a Smithwick Rogue or a Bomber Long A. Focus on the steeper side of the point.

Pro pointer: Mix up your retrieves with the Pop-R or Boss Pop to find out what the bass want. The topwater maestro has learned a few tricks over the years. One is to minimize “line slap” when fishing a topwater. The best way to do that is to use a high-speed reel to steadily manage slack line. A second trick that Rowland is very strong on is to use a parabolic rod to allow the rod to load a little more slowly when Bertha sucks down that topwater and to get a better hook set. Rowland has worked with Impulse rods to design the ideal topwater rod.

Patoka Lake, Indiana: Postspawn

Patoka Lake is an 8,800-acre lake in southern Indiana and a favorite fishing hole for Indiana tournament pro Michael Thompson. Thompson finishes high in a lot of tournaments at this time of the year doing something simple that most anglers fail to do — fish bluegill beds. “A lot of guys start looking for the deep bite or fishing deep grass edges. I really think the anglers that catch bass off sunfish beds ‘just happen on it,'" said Thompson. Thompson actively searches for sunfish beds like a lot of sight fisherman hunt bass beds. He pops waypoints to mark the beds. The same beds are used year after year, so the experienced pro has developed a milk run with a lot of stops.

Plan A: First thing in the morning, Thompson fishes a Heddon Tiny Torpedo over the sunfish beds. Thompson opts for the perch pattern, which closely resembles the Patoka sunfish. Generally small “pops” (short pulls) draw strikes, but mix it up and let the fish tell you what they want. “If they are hitting the Torpedo on the pause, I fish a longer pause,” Thompson said. Thompson also mixes in a Booyah Pad Crasher or Poppin' Pad Crasher, aqua frog color. “If a fish blows up around the bed, it often shuts down the bite. Go to another bed, return later,” advised Thompson.

Plan B: After the morning topwater flurry, Thompson fishes his milk run of bluegill beds. He draws bites with a 5 inch weightless, wacky-rigged Yum Dinger or Texas rigged YUM Swim’n Dinger under a 3/16 ounce weight. Green pumpkin and bream (green pumpkin/blue) work well. “Jump beds all day, cash a check,” Thompson said.

Pro pointer: The water is clear (3 to 4 foot visibility) and you are fishing shallow. Use light line—8 pound test fluoro— and a spinning rod. Heavy line is not needed in the open water surrounding the sunfish beds.

Portage Lakes, Ohio: prespawn and spawn

This fishery is actually a suite of connected lakes that offer anglers 1,200 acres of water and almost 50 miles of shoreline. The water is clear and has ample weedbeds. Northeast Ohio tournament angler Jameson Lecon offers some simple advice for a bass filled day, particularly on a highly pressure waterbody. “The lake is shallow, and the water is warming fast,” shared Lecon. “I expect the spawn to be in full swing by early May if the warming continues, but there will still be some pre-spawners.”

Plan A: The vegetation is growing fast and starting to top out in some areas. Lecon recommends a Booyah One Knocker fished over the vegetation in the morning. “Retrieve the bait so it is ticking the weeds and snap it free,” advised Lecon. As the sun gets up, Lecon alternates between a Booyah 3/8 ounce Vibra Flx Spinnerbait in white or golden shiner and a YUMbrella Flashmob Jr. “You’ll get more bites on the spinnerbait, but you’ll get the giants on the umbrella rig,” exclaimed Lecon

Plan B: Look for big bass on beds in water 1.5 to 3 feet deep. Be sure to check around docks. Lecon entices love-making and parental bass casting a green pumpkin 3-inch YUM Money Craw Texas rigged on a 3/0 hook under a 3/16 ounce weight and a wacky rigged Yum Dinger. Bream and Mardi Gras are good colors for the Dinger. “I usually fish the Dinger weightless, but will add a 1/16 ounce weight for deeper water,” said Lecon. “This is a sight-fishing deal, but don’t hesitate to make blind casts to deeper water while you are searching for beds. Use light line in the clear water.” When Lecon finds bass bedding in areas of vegetion, he relies on a Booyah Pad Crasher to pull them off the beds.

Pro pointer: Lecon offered two suggestions for fishing highly pressure water like Portage Lakes. First, slow down to get pre-spawners to bite; let the other anglers get the reaction bite. Second, try fishing a little deeper.

Presque Isle Bay, Lake Erie, Pennsylvania: prespawn, spawn, and postspawn

It’s no secret that Lake Erie is a smallmouth mecca. Presque Isle Bay at the town of Erie, Pennsylvania is the ideal location for an Erie smallmouth extravagana. There are fish to be caught along the south shore flats outside Presque Isle Bay, Lake Erie can be out of control, especially with the prevalent spring winds that invariably are from the northeast. Bronzebacks pour into Presque Isle Bay in late winter, and the bay provides a safe haven for anglers. Steve Hughes, a dominant angler in BFL and other tournaments from Ohio to New York provides simple but good advice for catching Presque Isle smallies throughout all phases of the spawn.

Plan A: Beginning in early May, smallmouth are moving up deep-water breaklines to the deeper flats. “Look for clean-bottom flats in water 4- to 8-feet deep,” instructs Hughes. Bites come fast on suspending Rogues; Hughes likes shad colors. Hughes relies on the Rogue to catch fish but also to find concentrations of smallmouth. When the jerkbait bite slows, Hughes entices more fish dragging a 4 inch Yum tube on a tube head. Green pumpkin is an effective color. 

Plan B: In Later May, smallmouth will be on the beds. Dragging a tube is effective. Green pumpkin is Hughes go-to color, but also try black/red flake (black neon). “Smallies in and around beds will crush a slow-rolled Booyah spinnerbait,” according to the Lake Erie veteran. “White is the standby color, but also try blue. When I asked if a particular spinnerbait was key, Hughes responded, “I like the Booyah line of spinnerbaits; any style will work if you have confidence in it.”

Plan C: “When the bass come off the nest and are guarding fry in the weed flats is the hottest bass fishing you will ever get. The bass are hungry and protecting their young,” said an enthused Hughes. While these revved up bass with hit anything, Hughes likes to fish a 5 or 6.5 inch Yum Money Minnow or 5 inch Houdini Shad in shad colors.

Pro pointer: Use fluorocarbon line; it’s less visible, and the low stretch improves hook sets. Hughes recommends 8 pound test for most applications, but upsides to 14 to 16 pound tests for spinnerbaits and swimbait to deal with the hard strikes of Erie bronzebacks.