By Dr. Hal Schramm

Lake Texoma, Texas and Oklahoma; spawning largemouth and smallmouth

If big smallmouth and hefty largemouth interest you, this 89,000-acre Red River reservoir straddling Texas and Oklahoma might be your kind of place. Intel for catching spawning bass is provided courtesy of Bassmaster Elite rookie and Bassmaster Classic contender Alton Jones, Jr. His advice is specific to catching big fish.

Plan A: Marinas are good places to find early spawning bass. “Look for sunken cover, and get behind boat slips to find bedding bass,” explained Jones. The young gun relies on a YUM Dinger or drop shotting a YUM Warning Shot. Jones Texas rigs the Dinger with a 1/8- to 1/4-ounce weight, light but sufficient weight to pin the Dinger in the bed. If the Dinger doesn’t draw a strike, Jones pitches a drop shot with a 1/8- to 3/16-weight and an 8- to 10-inch leader. “You want the bait on the bottom near the eggs,” counseled Jones. “Then, just shimmy the Warning Shot by gently waving the rod.” Jones advises shortening the leader if the water is dirty or lengthening the leader if the fish is high in the water. If sight fishing conditions are poor, blind cast a weightless YUM Dinger.

Plan B: Dropshot a YUM Warning Shot on pea gravel banks and transition areas for spawning smallies. Transition areas are places where sand bottom becomes or rocky or, better, where steep slope changes to flatter slope. “Look for big rock, that’s where the bed will be,” Jones directed.

Pro’s pointer: “Don’t be afraid to throw light line on big fish. Last year at Texoma I couldn’t get a big bass to sniff my bait on a 20-pound leader. I switched to 6-pound test and got the fish to bite. Also, always turn off your depth finder transducer when sight fishing. I’ve caught fish that were ignoring me until I turned off the transducer.”

Lake Chickamauga, Tennessee; pre-spawn largemouth

This Tennessee River impoundment was the hottest bass fishery in the country a couple years ago, but has faded from the headlines. It’s still full of bass, including plenty of double-digit monsters. Curtis Reeves, a 30-year veteran bass angler and regional pro will fill you in from where to launch to how to score a live well full of pre-spawn Chick largemouth.

Plan A: Launch at Chester Frost Boat Landing and head for Harrison Bay. You will find a series of islands. Fish those islands with a channel break on the side or end of the point; long, tapering points are best. Best depths are 2 to 8 feet. Reeves has a small arsenal of rods rigged and ready on deck, and he rotates through all. On any given day, one or more of the following will catch: a Smithwick Suspending Rattlin’ Rogue, white/orange belly or chrome/blue back/orange belly; a YUM Sharp Shooter on a shakey head; a YUM Dinger Texas rigged and wacky rigged; a 1/2- and 3/4-ounce BOOYAH Hard Knocker, Sexy Shad or Rayburn Red; and a 1/2-ounce BOOYAH Pigskin Jig, brown/orange and black/blue. For soft plastics, the knowledgeable pro likes black, black/blue laminate, black saffire, green pumpkin purple, and watermelon candy. 

Plan B: In the back of Chester Frost landing are some grass beds, mostly hydrilla but some areas of pads. “Look for dark spots in the grass. These are areas where he grass is starting to grow,” directed Reeves. Fish these dark spots with a Texas rigged YUM Dinger, either weightless or with a 1/16 ounce weight, a jig or ripping a BOOYAH One Knocker out of the grass. While you are in the area, try fishing under and in front of the numerous boat docks.

Plan C: Try the pockets near the nuclear plant silos. “Focus on points with wood laydowns and rotate through the baits until you find what they want,” said Reeves.

Pro’s pointer: Reeves offered two thoughts. “Don’t get hung up on one type of bait, keep rotating presentations. The bite changes day by day, even hour by hour. And don’t leave fish to find fish until they quit biting. If you really are not satisfied, leave; but consider time spent looking. I always like to get a limit first.”

Lake Ouachita, Arkansas; pre-spawn largemouth

The water is still cold but the bass are starting to move shallow in this clear, 40,000-acre reservoir west of Hot Springs. Intel for catching pre-spawn largemouth is provided by FLW Tour and Bassmaster Elite pro Stetson Blaylock. 

Plan A: Blaylock starts on main lake points to try to pattern the bass, focusing on areas with grass, timber, or some cover that will hold the bass shallow. “The magic depth may be 2 to 5 feet or 5 to 15 feet depending on the weather and the amount of sun, and the depth of the fish can change day by day,” reported Blaylock. The veteran pro relies on a BOOYAH One Knocker and Hard Knocker to find fish, switching between 1/2-ounce and 3/4-ounce versions and varying retrieve speed to see how deep the catchable bass are. Rayburn Red and Toledo Gold are good color choices.

Plan B: If Blaylock isn’t satisfied with the size or the number of fish he is catching in the main lake and the weather is warming, he heads up lake to the river and covers water with a Bandit 200 in a craw pattern fished on 10 to 12 pound test line. His backup presentation is a 1/2-ounce BOOYAH Pigskin Jig with a craw trailer. “I like the YUM Christie Craw for these colder water bass because it moves a lot of water, but it does not have an aggressive action,” Blaylock noted. “This presentation can be fished slowly when the bite is tough, and it will trigger bigger bites.” Blaylock opts for natural colors in the jig but advises anglers to fish what they have confidence in.

Pro’s pointer: “I usually fish a jig in natural colors, likes browns and greens, but I always have a black/blue jig and trailer tied on and try it, especially on darker days,” said Blaylock. “Never be afraid to try something different to maximize your opportunities.”

Lake DeGray, Arkansas; pre-spawn largemouth

Timmy Poe is in his 10th year of tournament fishing. This 13,400-acre reservoir in the Ouachita Mountain foothills was Poe’s pick for pre-spawn largemouth and spots. “It’s not a big-bass lake, and 20 to 30 keepers makes for a good day; but it’s my ‘home lake,’ and I always enjoy fishing it. The lake is down, and the shoreline vegetation is too shallow to be productive. But the water is just touching 60 degrees, and the spawn is about to begin.”

Plan A: Poe directs anglers to look for chunky rock on main lake and secondary points Eight to 15 feet is generally best. “But there are also high spots in the backs of coves and flats close to the bank with deep water nearby where bass also stage for the spawn.” Poe entices bites with a jig or a Carolina rigged 6 inch YUM Lizard or 4.5 inch YUM Christie Critter; watermelon, watermelon red flake, and watermelon candy are productive colors.

Plan B: If you have wind, capitalize on it. Fish a Rayburn Red 1/2-ounce Booyah Hard Knocker on windy points and windy pockets (bays between two points). Two to eight feet is a good depth.

Plan C: “If the water comes up and floods the bank vegetation and bushes, the bass will be there,” forecasted Poe. Try a YUM Pulse swimbait or a BOOYAH Spinnerbait in windy pockets

Pro’s pointer: “If the water is stained and in low 60s, throw a BOOYAH Pad Crasher or Poppin’ Pad Crasher in shoreline cover — anything in the water — to catch a big one,” advised Poe.