How The Dean Revs Up School Spirit
I t’s a situation most Texas anglers dream of during the postspawn, a school of bass so large that it blacks out your sonar screen with oversized arches.
In reality, though, the dream can quickly devolve into a nightmare as you scratch your head in the Lone Star heat, pondering why a school that looks fired up has gone ice cold.
Sure, you may have caught one or two early in your approach, but that tournament winning bag remains down below. Or maybe it’s worse than that—you can’t even get the first bite.
If you have encountered something like this—on lakes such as Rayburn, Toledo Bend or Fork—then Bass University founder and instructor Pete “The Dean” Gluszek has a lesson plan for getting your school back on track.
“That first strike is often the most difficult one to get, especially if they’re suspended,” he said. “One solution to that, if you’re on a lake where they pull current, is to know the generation schedule and to be on the premium habitat when they fire up the generators. You may be moving through different areas, but once they open it up, that’s when they’ll be the absolute easiest to trigger.”
If your lake doesn’t have heavy current, or you’re fishing at a time when they’re not generating enough to stimulate and catalyze the action, Gluszek said that his postspawn attack typically starts with a crankbait, but not a hard-pulling, rattling beast. Instead, he likes the Rapala DT series, which “has a subtle presence and doesn’t intimidate or overpower them.”
He noted that when most anglers get that first bite, particularly if it’s a good one, they stop and celebrate, take a snapshot, maybe even post it to social media in between high fives. That’s a mistake, because “the best time to catch a big fish is immediately after you catch a big fish,” he said. “When a fish is hooked, its whole metabolism is accelerated, and it’s infectious to the school. They’re like seagulls, all looking for the next french fry.”
If he’s not in a tournament, he’ll encourage his fishing partner to throw in directly behind his hooked fish, where another is probably on the prowl, looking to mop up the scraps. On a competition day, he’ll drop that fish in the livewell as quickly as possible and get back to casting.
Any hesitation can be a recipe for inaction. The longer the school remains inactive, the harder it is to get them in feeding mode again.
When the fish are completely mesmerized by a crankbait, Gluszek will stay with that lure class as long as he can. It allows him to cover water and pick off active fish. He typically ties it on with a snap to facilitate quick bait changes.
If he pulls his lure through an active school two casts in a row without a bite, he’ll grab from the handful he lays at his feet and swap it out. It might be a gaudy color instead of a natural color, or a silent version instead of a rattling one, or vice versa, but the point is to re-trigger the bite.
That can be a tough call to make on the fly, because anglers tend to stick with the lure that produced most recently, but he said that the simple switch is often the ticket to keeping things going, and “you can’t hesitate,” or the school will lose their vigor.
When the school is still obviously bunched up beneath him, and appears to be in feeding mode, but the crankbait buffet no longer works, he’ll turn to a variety of other lures. This includes “license plate spoons,” single swimbaits such as the 5.5-inch Storm 360, the “flying chicken” (i.e., a big hair jig), and where allowed, an Alabama Rig, specifically the Picasso School E Rig.
He’s also a fan of a bulky football head “mop” jig, but instead of crawling and dragging it along the bottom, he’ll “stroke” it up off the bottom and into the schools in big leaping arcs.
If no simple bait change or progression seems to get the school back in a feeding mood, Gluszek will experiment with multiple angles of approach and different retrieve speeds. If that doesn’t work, and he suspects that he’s on the winning fish, he’ll do what he calls “jumping the fish.” What he means by that, is, he’ll drive the boat right over the school. It’s not a simple idle, either.
“I try to blow prop wash on them,” he explained. “They’re there for the baitfish, and I’m trying to disorient or stun the baitfish and get them activated. I’ll drive right through and then go through the whole process again.”
Email Pete Robbins at ContactUs@fishgame.com