Early Spawns and Other Reasons to Seek Big Bass

TOXIC TROUT by Danielle Sonnier
December 25, 2016
COMMENTARY by Kendal Hemphill
December 25, 2016

The vast majority of Texans lives within 90 minutes of world-class bass fishing.

Whether it’s Lake Falcon to the south, Toledo Bend to the east, Alan Henry to the north or a host of lakes in the central part of the state, many lakes are producing huge bass right now. In fact, some 65 lakes in Texas have produced largemouths weighing 13 pounds or larger.

And when we say right now, we mean right now!

Despite getting little media coverage, the biggest bass will spawn early. Warm spells could see some monster fish moving into the shallows during a time when most anglers do not search for them out there.

Bass Pro Steve Phillips said some of the biggest bass of the year are caught when few anglers are on the water.

Look at the Sharelunker program database, which logs bass caught that are 13 pounds and larger. The fish are donated to the state for hatchery purposes, so it is obvious we are entering a very special time.

Let us look at two of Texas’s highest ranked lakes on the Bassmaster index—Toledo Bend and Sam Rayburn.

Three of the seven Toledo Bend Sharelunkers were caught in February, three in March and another in October. Some eight of the 26 Rayburn Sharelunkers were caught in February, two in January, one in December and the most recent was caught in November.

Lake Conroe, the site of this year’s Bassmaster Classic, has had 17 Sharelunker catches and five of them came in February. Another three came in January and another three came in December.

For years we have written that the big bass season in East Texas really kicks off in December and gets stronger going into spring. This year anything could happen during the weather conditions we are having now.

Many of you who are inclined to seek trophy bass are making your fishing plans for 2017. In fact, some of you may even be forgoing bass fishing until the traditional spawn happens. That could be a big mistake.

Lew’s staff pro and FLW Angler Andrew Upshaw is a regular on both Toledo Bend and Sam Rayburn and said every year around this time Toledo in particular gets red hot.

“Over the last few years there have been some huge bass caught during this time of year. It’s definitely big bass season,” he said.

And keep in mind it is not just the spawn that is an important period for catching big fish. The pre-spawn produces many of the best catches, and some fish are in pre spawn mode right now.

Numerous Texas lakes are experiencing the “new lake effect” which greatly boosts trophy bass opportunities.

The system becomes super rich in habitat and nutrients because of the vegetation that grew on the lakebed during drought. The lakes then become red hot for a season or two, producing monster bass.

Six years ago, Lake O.H. Ivie near San Angelo went through one of these production spikes and produced more Sharelunkers than any other lake in the state by a long shot.

We are seeing that same type of thing happening on Toledo Bend, Rayburn, Conroe and other Texas lakes right now. We are entering the second and in some cases third spring with full lakes after a monster drought.

Something to keep in mind while seeking big bass—use big baits (think huge jigs, worms and crankbaits).

This is because of the  “gape width” factor.

That, according to Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) Inland Fisheries Chief Craig Bonds, is how far bass can open their mouths.

“If they can fit it in their mouths, they will attack it. Over the years I have seen impressive evidence of this,” Bonds said.

As a graduate student, he conducted a study examining bass dietary habits. He used clear plastic tubes that could be inserted through the mouth, worked into the stomach and used to extract the contents without hurting the fish.

“I found everything from snakes to small turtles, a baby duck and all kinds of fish from sunfish to other bass.”

Plastic fishing lures were a fairly common item and once he found a bunch of worms of the exact same color and length in one bass. “I don’t know if someone dropped over a whole bag of worms but this bass had a bunch of them in its stomach all the same color and size. They are opportunistic predators and that shows they will eat pretty much anything.”

Bonds said he once observed a bass leaping from the water in at attempt to catch a dragonfly hovering over the surface. “They are pretty vicious and very determined,” he said.

TFG’s Editor-In-Chief reminds anglers to study areas that feature a high level of large prey species like bream or crappie. “Here is a sample from a trip to Sam Rayburn Reservoir to fish for crappie on a large main lake brush pile in the month of June,” Moore said. “It comes from the additional notes section of my personal fishing log,

“Caught a dozen crappie within a few minutes. Guy on the boat with us caught a six- pound largemouth. After that the crappie slowed down to a crawl, and fish held tight to the brush.”

What does that tell you about the fish? The thing that jumps out at me the most is there was a big bass caught on this brush pile as the crappie were feeding aggressively and once it was caught the fish shut down their bite. That means the bass spooked the crappie, and it was not the only one there. The crappie on that brush pile have been hammered by big bass enough to know to get tight to structure when they show.

“The knowledge I have accumulated on bass tells me the biggest fish prefer deep water with access to shallows, which a brush pile like this one provides,” Moore said. “So, in this scenario, I gained knowledge of a potential lunker largemouth hotspot by taking a simple note.”

Little details are important in catching big bass and this month a small detail like say a five-degree uptick in water temperatures could send some of the biggest bass toward the shallows.

That means you need to be ready to flip a jig and see what happens

—story by TF&G Staff

 

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