March Madness: Time to Do a Gear Check
W e’re entering the height of another big bass season in Texas. Between now and the end of April, armies of lunker largemouths will make a hard push towards the bank to spawn in skinny water to create what will ultimately become the next generation of bass aa us bass fishermen to catch.
The biggest bass in the lake are almost always females, and many of them weigh significantly more during spring than at any other time of the year because their ovaries are plump with eggs. Biologists have told me that a mature female may weigh 10 percent heavier when her eggs are fully developed, possibly even more if she happens to get caught soon after consuming a big crappie or bar fish.
Most anglers will agree that March is the top month for hooking a bass with a weight problem, and statistics show they are absolutely right. More 13-pound-plus Toyota ShareLunkers (239) have been caught during March than any other month. February is second with 130 and April is third with 87.
There is no way to put a finger on how many bass weighing upwards of eight pounds are caught and released in Texas lakes during the spring months in any given year, but my guess is the number could easily mount into the thousands.
As good as the odds are of connecting with a career bass during the springtime, the chances of losing one before the job is finished are probably a whole lot better. That’s because there is all kinds of stuff that can go wrong when a big bass is tugging on your string. Lines can break. Hooks can bend. Or, you could just take an old fashioned butt whipping.
Here are a few things anglers can do to help reduce the odds of losing the battle when a big bass comes calling:
Tie Good Knots: The knot used to connect a lure to the line is the critical link between you and the fish. Tie a shoddy knot and you run a good risk of getting beat before the game gets started.
The best knots can vary with the application. Among the most popular knots for general applications with braid, monofilament and fluorocarbon lines are the palomar, improved clinch knot and double clinch knot. The blood knot, double uni, Surgeons and Alberto knot are the best knots for joining two lines. A good source for learning these and many other useful knots is netknots.com.
Wet It Down: When tying knots, always be sure to wet the line with saliva before cinching it down tight. Cinching dry line will create a tremendous amount of friction that will weaken the knot significantly. Also, be wary of a knot that doesn’t cinch down properly. It’s best to cut the line and start over if this happens.
Use Good Line: Monofilament and fluorocarbon fishing line can become dry and brittle over time. These lines should be re-spooled at least once year, possibly more often if you spend a lot of time on the water or backlash every now and then. Backlashes can cause mono or fluorocarbon lines to kink and create weak spots that could cause the line to snap prematurely.
Check for Rough Spots: If you fish around heavy wood or rock, it would be a good idea to check for frayed spots by running the strip of line near the bait through your thumb and index finger. If you feel a rough spot, cut the line above the rough spot and re-tie.
Rod Guides: Many brands of rod guides (what your line runs through) are equipped with ceramic inserts that can sometimes crack or break, creating a sharp edge that can cut or damage line when it passes through. Use a Q-Tip to check for cracks or rough spots. If the cotton snags, the guide should be replaced.
Drag Check: Always keep a close eye on the reel drag to make sure it will slip before the amount of pressure on the line exceeds the line’s breaking strength. This is especially important with fluorocarbon and monofilament lines, but not so much with heavy-duty braids frequently used for flipping or frogging around heavy cover. Most guys like to cinch the drag super tight for the latter applications.
Hook Check: Hooks that aren’t sharp won’t provide good penetration. The best way to check a hook for sharpness is the thumbnail test. Place the hook point on your thumbnail, press down lightly and try to slide the hook to the side. If the hook sticks, it’s sharp. If it slides, it should be sharpened or replaced.
It is also a good idea to keep close check on hooks for signs of rust. If stored in a moist environment, or holding baits that contain salt, hooks can rust and lose their strength in short order.
Armed For Bear – It wouldn’t be wise to go bear hunting with a switch, nor would it be a good idea to go gunning for a lunker with a flyswatter for a fishing rod.
Use the best rod you can afford. More important, make sure they are suited for the tactic or bait you are using. If you can only afford a couple of rods, you can’t go wrong with a medium and a medium/heavy action, 6.5 to 7 feet long. The lighter medium action rod will work well for throwing square bill crankbaits, topwaters and jerk baits, while the medium/heavy will be the better choice for Texas rigs, jigs, spinnerbaits, swim baits and Chatterbaits.
Email Matt Williams at
Email Matt Williams at ContactUs@fishgame.com