By Dr. Hal Schramm

Lake Nacimiento, California; spawning largemouth and spotted bass

Intel for this central California lake is local tournament stick Ken Sauret. “After about 6 years of drought and low water the welcome rains have flooded brush and put fresh water on spawning flats that have been dry for 7 or 8 years,” explained Sauret. “With more rain forecast, now is a great time to get on the water and get a good look at potential spawning areas soon to be underwater.” Sauret predicts the spawn will start in late March or April

Plan A: The west coast pro searches shallow areas in the backs of coves with gravel and small rock for males staking out spawning areas. “Keep a low profile,” advises Sauret. “When you find a concentration of bass, drop the Power Poles and search the area with a swimbait. The bigger females will be staging outside the bedding areas, and the YUM Money Minnow will make those big girls bite.”

Plan B: When the fish start pairing up and the females are in or near the bed, Sauret uses a two prong attack. Sauret starts drop shotting a YUM Sharp Shooter in the beds. If he can’t entice a bite with the drop shot, he drags a Money Minnow through the bed. “When you find the sweet spot, the bass will pounce on the Money Minnow,” said Sauret

Pro’s pointer: “When bass are paired up on a bed but not taking the drop shot or Money Minnow, try backing off and walk (as in walking a Heddon Zara Spook) a Booyah Pad Crasher over the bed,” shared Sauret. “I’ve enjoyed sacking some remarkable weights with this approach.”

Lake Dardanelle, Arkansas; pre-spawn largemouth bass

This expansive Arkansas River impoundment offer anglers a diversity of shallow-water fishing options. Dardanelle warms faster than other pools on the Arkansas River and a few bass are starting to spawn, according to up-and-coming tournament pro Sawyer Grace. Grace won the high school world bass fishing championship in 2012, saw a career ahead of him as a professional angler and never looked back. 

Plan A: Grace looks for shallow flats outside of spawning areas. On Dardanelle, most of these areas are the fronts of, or openings to, the numerous backwater areas along the river. He slow rolls―retrieving just fast enough to “feel the wiggle”―a ½ ounce Booyah One Knocker or Hard Knocker. Rayburn Red, Royal Red, and Toledo Gold are productive colors. “There is very little vegetation right now,” said Grace, “But if you find some, stick with it and fish it thoroughly.”

Plan B: There are three large bays connected to the main river by channels, and these channels often concentrate bass in the early spring. Grace tempts bass suspended in the channels with a chrome/blue back/orange belly Super Rogue and a YUM Flashmob or Flashmob Jr. The young pro rigs his umbrella rigs with a YUM Pulse on the center wire and smaller swimbaits on the arms, all on 1/8 ounce jig heads.

Pro’s pointer: “Line size is critical,” said Grace. “If the water isn’t muddy, use light line. I drop down to 12 pound fluoro on the One Knocker and Hard Knocker.”

Lake Tenkiller, Oklahoma; pre-spawn largemouth, smallmouth, and spotted bass

Nestled into the foothills of the Ozarks, this rocky and bluff-walled lake is paradise for anglers who like to fish clear water. The water temperature is just climbing into the 50s and largemouth, smallmouth, and spotted bass are starting to rev up and headishallow. Intel for Tenkiller’s pre-spawn bass is Russ Warner who juggles tournament fishing with raising two young boys and operating his health club, AeroFit Health Club in Tahlequah. Warner shared some wisdom worth considering: “The health club keeps me physically healthy, fishing keeps me mentally healthy.”

Plan A: Warner advises anglers to fish areas where points at the end of bluff walls transition to 45 degree gravel banks. “Productive transition areas will be in the main lake and in the large coves with deep water nearby,” counsels Warner. Warner relies on two weapons to turn swimmers into biters: a Smithwick Suspending Super Rogue (chrome/blue back/orange belly) when it is sunny and an umbrella rig fished at the depth you mark bass. “With water temperature below 55 degrees, the bass are usually tight to the bottom, and I crawl the umbrella rig,” shared Warner. Warner rigs the umbrella rig with YUM Pulse swimbaits, opting for Tennessee shad.

Plan B: There is no plan B. Just keep moving until you find the right transition zone.

Pro’s pointer: “In Tenkiller’s clear water, weather conditions really affect which umbrella rig works best. More often than not, the YUMbrella is the rig of choice under calm conditions, and the Flashmob and Flashmob Jr. produce better under windy conditions,” advised Warner.

Fort Gibson, Oklahoma; pre-spawn largemouth bass

This serpentine Corps impoundment 50 miles east of Tulsa offers anglers diverse options for largemouth bass with lots of creeks and docks and rocks in the main lake. Intel for Fort Gibson comes from young pro Eric Porterfield who confided that “now tournaments keep me busy, but as a kid fishing kept me out of trouble.” The water temperature is in the low 50s, and the bass are pre-spawn.

Plan A: Porterfield advises anglers to fish the creeks on the north end where the sun will warm the water and be protected from the wind. Porterfield shared some knowledge that all should heed: “Early spring is a temperature roller coaster. The sun warms the water fast on clear days, but it cools back down on clear, cool nights. Warm nights, however, keep the water in a warming trend and are followed by a better bite.” Porterfield fishes in the creeks where the water is 1 to 4 feet deep. He draws bites with a ½ ounce BOOYAH spinnerbait with a single Colorado blade adorned with a YUM Boogee Tail trailer. “Key on stretches with rocks, and avoid areas with soft, mud bottom,” advises Porterfield. “Hit every target”. Porterfield backs up the spinnerbait by pitching a YUM Christie Craw to any pieces of cover he sees.

Plan B: there is no plan B. “The fish are in the creeks. Keep searching, you just have to find them,” said Porterfield.

Pro’s pointer: Porterfield extolled the virtues of red: “Use a red hook on a spinnerbait or crankbait, put a touch — just a touch — of red on the tip of the trailer tails.”