This has been an interesting Spring for me due to the back surgeries I had in March. I haven’t been able to do the things I normally do, like river fishing before the spring runoff, that is my favorite time to fly fish for hungry trout before the snow melt makes the rivers and stream unfishable. But I have been able to do a lot of lake fishing, which is what I grew up doing, and I have come to really appreciate it again. I live right next to a large reservoir in Colorado, Chatfield Lake, as well as several other smaller lakes within two miles from home, so I have a lot of good lake fishing opportunities for a lot of different species of fish.
I grew up in Kansas, and I did a lot of bass fishing when I lived there. Catching a big bass was such an exciting experience! There was a small lake two blocks from my house where I caught a four pound bass on a bamboo rod with no reel when I was 9 years old, which solidified my thirst for big bass that I still feel today. So in the past month I have been able to get out to some lakes, either on foot or in my kayak, and the bass fishing has been very good this year.
The bass spawn came a little late to Colorado as we had a cold spring with lots of water filling the lakes from a heavy snow fall over the winter and spring. The true run-off has yet to come, and the water level at Chatfield Reservoir is already the highest I have seen it in 18 years. What the high water means is that places that were sandy beaches last year are now prime fishing areas, and the water has pushed into the brush and vegetation all over the lake, opening up a mass of new habitat for bass and other fish. These are the areas that I like to sneak into with my kayak, and there is very little pressure from other fishermen.
This kind of fishing requires stealth and the right lures. One of my favorites in this situation is a frog lure. To bass, a frog represents a much easier target than bait fish, which can dart away quickly. A frog on the other hand is either a motionless target or one that swims in a predictable pattern. As far a return on effort, a frog provides a bass with a large amount of protein. Frogs also eat the eggs of spawning bass, so bass are particularly aggressive towards frogs during the spawning season.
I prefer a hollow-bodied rubber frog lure with the hooks positioned alongside the body, making the lure weedless. This is critical when casting into flooded timber and brush, where snags will almost always happen with anything else. I can flutter one of these lures into the deepest brush or lily pads, and swim it through without getting hung up. After the lure hits after a cast, I let it sit for a about 30 seconds before I do anything. Often times this will entice a strike as it appears to the bass that a frog has just jumped into the water. When I begin my retrieve of the frog lure, I make a few cranks on the reel, then I stop and let the lure float for a few seconds, mimicking the natural movements of a frog.
There are many frog lures that will induce fish strikes, and I can’t say that any one works better than the other because I haven’t tried them all; I tend to stick with what works for me. I prefer the light, hollow-bodied frog with the hooks protected by the body of the lure; these are virtually snag-free. But I do use a Jitter Bug frog lure in open water near vegetation at dusk, as well as a few popper frog lures that create surface action. I also have a few shallow-diving crankbait lures in a frog pattern that work well when I am not worried about getting snagged in vegetation.
For fishing in heavy brush and timber, you need a stout rod and line. While it may be appealing to toss a frog lure with an ultra-light spinning reel with light line, as soon as you have a fish on, he is going to run for cover and likely break you off in no time. When fishing in brush, you need the horsepower to pull a big bass out of the limbs and vegetation that will break a lighter line on a lighter rod. I use a medium-heavy rod, either a spinning or bait caster, with a minimum of 10 pound test line. It is important that you tie the lure onto your line directly, don’t use a snap swivel as that will alter the action of the retrieve, as well as add weight to the lure that you want to float on top of the water.
Tomorrow I will be spending Father’s Day in my kayak searching for bass in the flooded timbers and vegetation of Chatfield Lake. I bought a new Garcia bait casting combo today at Cabelas, and I am anxious to try that out tomorrow. By the way, going to Cabelas is sensory overload! There is just too much to see, and too many things to choose from. Building that Cabelas store within a 20 minute drive from my house is likely going to lead to bankruptcy for me.