Spring Bass Fishing II
The spring weather here in Colorado continues to tease me into thinking spring is here, then we get another blast of cold air and snow. I was at my son’s lacrosse game on Wednesday night, and it was 27 degrees at game time, 6:00 PM. Then we climb into the mid 50’s for a day, maybe even 65 tomorrow, then it starts to go down hill again, ending up with a predicted high of 30 on Tuesday, with snow starting on Monday night. Ugh!
Turkey season opens tomorrow, but I won’t be able to get out for a couple of weeks, which is OK with me, maybe there will be less hunters in the woods by the third week. While I am anxious for that, I am also anxious to get the canoe out and do some bass fishing. It will be a while before the big reservoir I like to fish warms up to 50 degrees, but I will be ready when it does.
I live right by Chatfield Reservoir, and if I am riding my bike I can leave from my front door and be in the lake in 10 minutes. Ironically it takes me longer to drive there, but that’s what I have to do if I want to take my canoe, which still only takes about 20 minutes to get to the place where I like to put the canoe into the water. Chatfield is a big reservoir, and fishing for bass in a man-made lake is more difficult than a natural lake as the bass move around more and are harder to find on a big reservoir. But spring time brings one big advantage for solving this riddle, and that is the pre-spawn and spawn, which drive bass into the coves and shallower water, as I wrote about in an article you can read by clicking here. This article will expand on the pre-spawn and spawn bass fishing in man-made reservoirs.
Like most man-made reservoirs, the areas farthest from the dam will be the shallowest and will warm up the quickest, providing your best bet for finding largemouth bass in the early spring, although this year it might be early summer before that happens in my home lake. As I wrote in my last article, spawning bass will start to move into these areas, and as the water temperature sustains at 55 degrees, the bass will hold in deeper water near the spawning grounds, still not quite ready to move into the shallower spawning area until the water hits 60 degrees.
A key difference in a large reservoir than a natural lake is creek channels along the bottom of the lake, and while the bass are holding off in deeper water waiting for the final warm up, these channels are the best place to find fish. A very important tool for me is a topographic map of the bottom of the lake. These maps show what the bottom of a lake looks like three dimensionally, just like a topo map you would use for hunting. Not only does the map show contours, but also deep holes or structures that may have been flooded over when the reservoir filled up.
Of course you can see these things with the technology of fish finders available today, which is pretty amazing. But I fish from a canoe, not a bass boat, so I don’t use a fish finder, I use a map. If you have neither a map nor a fish finder, you can study the land at the edges of a reservoir for clues. Where creeks come into the lake are obvious signs that a creek channel exists, but you really can’t tell what that channel does once it goes under water. At least you have a starting point.
In the pre-spawn period the bass will hold in these creek channels, especially where there is a steep drop-off or sharp change in contour. A jig or a Carolina rig will work well in these conditions to locate bass. If your topo map shows a winding creek channel with a lot of curves and humps, keep these areas in mind for later in the year. Right now you are looking for pre-spawn bass who want as straight a path as possible to get to and from the spawning areas in as deep of water they can find. Plus these winding channels can take a long time to find bass in a big reservoir, and that is when a fish finder can really help you.
Keep in mind that this time of year the bass tend to congregate together, so once you catch one, it is highly likely there are more in the same area. An important characteristic of bass to understand is why they strike at a lure. In this situation when bass are schooled together, competition for food is a strong motivator for bass to strike, and a strike from one bass can ignite interest in the other fish in the school, and will often create a feeding frenzy. I don’t know if a study has ever been done to see how fish react to seeing one of their own getting hooked and pulled to the water’s surface, but the sight of seeing a fellow fish striking at food will still cause other fish to do the same.
I hope that where you are the weather is better than it is here, and that you can get out and try for some pre-spawn or spawning bass, it is one of the most exciting times for bass fishing. Please keep in mind that if you catch a big female, treat her gently and return her to the water, that will help ensure there will be bass in the lake next year.