By Dr. Hal Schramm

Without hesitation, Oklahoma bass pro Jason Christie said “Lake St. Clair” when I asked him to pick a northern lake he likes to fish during the spawning season. This 430 square mile lake in the shadow of Detroit is a bass mecca and now is the time to be there. Every year, the better fisheries get more pressure, an important reality for pros like Christie who have to catch fish to make a living. Christie suggested St. Clair bass, despite the high fishing effort, are less pressured because ice keeps anglers off the fish through the winter, and wind protects them on many days during the open-water season.

Plan A: Smallmouth bass. “The smallmouth spawn everywhere,” said Christie. “Search areas 3- to 7-feet deep. Focus on areas with points rather than a straight bank, and look for high spots with hard bottom.” You can target beds or blind cast. Drop shotting a YUM Warning Shot on a 2/0 hook and a ½ or 3/8 ounce weight works for bed fishing and blind casting. A Smithwick Elite 8 Rogue in a perch, ghost minnow, or shad color will draw arm-wrenching strikes. “Work the Rogue like you just had 17 cups of coffee,” advised the Bassmaster Elite pro. When rapid-fire ripping the Rogue wears you down, try a Bandit 100 in shallow water or a Bandit 200 if the water is more than 7-feet deep. Christie opts for perch colors on darker days, translucent colors on clear, sunny days .

Plan B: largemouth bass. St. Clair doesn’t even count as one of the Great Lake, but when the wind has some east in it, the lake is a beast. The numerous canals, including the long canal out of Metro Park, offer anglers a refuge and are jam full of largemouth bass . “The water is fairly clear in the canals. Get some good sunglasses, and go looking for beds,” advised Christie. In addition to pitching to beds, Christie likes to fish a BOOYAH Pad Crasher over grass and in chopped up grass. “The bass spawn shallow,” disclosed Christie, “and they hate a frog.” A BOOYAH Bankroll Jig with a YUM Christie Craw pitched to the edge of docks and seawalls or swum along the bank, over grass, or shallow laydowns will also get bit.

Pro’s pointer: “Put the hammer down and look for fish, but also look for something different in the habitat,” said Christie. “These smallmouth will spawn on a rock, a lawn chair, or a pop can.”

Moses Lake, Washington: spawning smallmouth, pre-spawn largemouth

This 6,500 acre central Washington lake is a favorite destination for Idaho-based tournament angler Steve Long. It offers excellent fishing for both big smallmouth and largemouth bass.

Plan A: smallmouth bass. Long heads to the islands and sandbars in the southern part of the lake to intercept spawning brown bass. The water clarity usually limits sight-fishing options. Long blind casts water 3- to 6-feet deep with green pumpkin YUM Tubes, crawfish-patterned Bomber crankbaits, and YUM Dingers. “Don’t overlook areas with overhanging brush or docks along shore where a lot of smallies spawn,” advised Long.

Plan B: pre-spawn largemouth. “The largemouth bass have moved up and are about to start spawning,” Long said. His approach is simple: Long pitches a brown or black/blue BOOYAH Bankroll Jig with a YUM Chunk to shoreline reeds and brush in the backs of bays. Think shallow. This simple approach often nets 20- to 27-pound tournament bags.

Pro’s pointer:  “When pitching around docks, land the jig on the shore and drag it into water. Moses Lake bass are ultra tight to the bank, and you will often get bit in 6 inches of water.” 

Lake Murray, South Carolina; post-spawn largemouth

Local pro Scott Peavy is tough to beat on this 48,000 acre central South Carolina reservoir. Here’s how he puts post-spawn largemouth in the box. Be prepared to work hard if you want to match Peavy fish for fish.

Plan A: Now is the time to capitalize on the blueback herring spawn bite. “Head toward Buffalo Creek and stop at the islands,” counseled Peavy. “Find long, flat clay points. Hold way off and make long casts with a Heddon Zara Spook if the water has some surface disturbance or a weightless YUM Houdini Shad attached with a number 2 swivel for a little extra weight if the water is slick. ” Peavy works both baits fast. When I pushed Peavy for a little more info, I learned “fast” is an understatement--he reels both baits as fast as he can. With the Spook, Peavy foregoes the dog-walk retrieve, holds his rod at 10 o’clock, and reels fast enough that the Spook will jump out of the water when it hits a ripple. “The bass usually hit after the jump,” said Peavy. Peavy retrieves the Houdini Shad to keep it just under the surface. Peavy tries to fish 20 to 25 spots by noon. “This can be an all-day deal, so keep with it while the fish keep biting,” offered Peavy.

Plan B: If the topwater bite fades, Peavy returns to his best spots from the morning and drags a green olive BOOYAH Bankroll Jig dressed with a green pumpkin YUM Christie Craw. If it is calm, Peavy opts for a Morning Dawn YUM Dinger on a shaky head jig. “Use the lightest weight you can feel bottom with,” advises Peavy.

Plan C: If Plan B isn’t producing, “head to the backs of creeks and pitch that Bankroll Jig to every piece of cover you can find,” counseled Peavy.

Pro’s pointer: Don’t be afraid to change the Zara Spook presentation. “Walk-the-dog obviously works, but I’ve caught fish behind other anglers with the high-speed retrieve, and not just in herring lakes,” Peavy said.  

Chickahominy River, Virginia; post-spawn largemouth

This scenic, 87-mile long tributary to the James River in east-central Virginia offers anglers a diversity of options compounded by tidal fluctuations. Intel to help you sort through the complexity in late May is provided by up-and-coming tournament angler Dylan Fulf. As in all coastal rivers, the tide is the game

Plan A: outgoing tide. Right now, the shad spawn is in full swing. Fulf looks for spawning shad around the shallowest hard cover he can find: laydowns, old pilings, and docks. He is a fan of the new BOOYAH Prank, and prefers bone for the Chick’s dark water. “Bass are around the spawning shad, but it’s always a challenge to figure out whether the bass will come up to eat or prefer their food served below the surface,” said Fulf. “The Prank covers the options. You can work it as a topwater popper or wind it as a wake bait.” When fishing around big cover like large docks and seawalls, Fulf likes the added flash of a BOOYAH Super Shad Spinnerbait. The shad spawn is generally considered an early morning deal, but Fulf isn’t so quick to agree. “The shad-spawn bite can last well into the morning as long as the tide is falling. Just because you don’t see bass busting shad doesn’t mean they aren’t around and won’t bite,” Fulf shared.

Plan B: slack to early incoming tide. “This is a tougher bite,” confessed the young pro. “Target channel edges on deep, outside bends. Remember that in tidal rivers, everything is moving.” Fulf lets a YUM Ribbontail worm under a light weight - 1/16 to 1/8 ounce - drift to target fish. This is slow fishing, but it’s a time in the tidal cycle when bites usually are few. Fulf likes colors like plum with some sparkle to excite the bite.

Plan C: incoming tide. “This is the toughest time to get bites and the bass are spreading into an ever-expanding area. It’s time to head to the pad fields and look for one good bite,” advises Fulf. Fulf grabs his flipping stick and follows the water to the shade of the pads. He relies on a black/blue YUM Bad Mamma on a 4/0 hook under a 1 ounce weight to trigger a reaction bite from the otherwise inactive bass.

Pro’s pointer: Most anglers use braid when fishing pads. Fulf has found that using fluorocarbon line for these shallow, inactive bass will often get you an extra bite or two.