DOGGETT AT LARGE by Joe Doggett – March 2019

February 24, 2019
EDITOR’S NOTES by Chester Moore – March 2019
February 24, 2019


THE WATER WAS MOSSY GREEN and the shoreline was budding with the promise of new spring. The chartreuse spinnerbait landed with a flat splat just beyond a cluster of stickups. The pulsing blades stirred a faint wake, clipping the smooth surface. As the lure passed the tangle, a solid bass snatched up with a bold flash of green and gold.

This scenario will be realized thousands of times across Texas during the next few weeks—pond fishing at its finest.

Early spring is prime time for bass anglers to focus on small water. As winter fades, ponds and “tanks” warm faster than the larger, deeper reservoirs. The rising temperatures encourage pre-spawning bass to move to the banks and aggressively feed. This pattern typically occurs first in southern and coastal regions.

Texas is liberally sprinkled with small man-made lakes, and the odds are excellent that anywhere this side of the Monahans Sandhills a fishable destination awaits within a short drive.

Admittedly, some ponds are mud holes suitable only for the most desperate gars and carp; however, things may not always be as they seem. Bass can have surprising tolerance for poor water when trapped with no choice. An unlikely puddle might host a swarm of hungry fish—if for no other reason than lack of fishing pressure.

The best ponds beckon with green water and healthy vegetation, pleasing venues on which to cast. The determined angler should be able to peg at least several legitimate targets.

Of course, sites such as farm ponds, subdivision lakes, and golf course water hazards are private, with restricted access. A young poacher with an overly zealous quest for a bent rod might be excused with nothing more than a stern warning (I speak from sad experience, having been the wayward teenaged rascal on several occasions). However, the respected adult caught on the wrong side of the fence can be faced with an embarrassing and costly situation.

Many public waters, especially in urban areas, are open for bank fishing. And most of these city/county/state park ponds are stocked with largemouth bass, bluegill sunfish, and channel catfish.

Sun-heated afternoons usually are most productive during the transitional weeks of early spring. The flip to Daylight Savings Time (March 10 this year) only expands this window of opportunity for a quick after-work or after-school session.

Worth note, this fast-draw capability is not always available on the major reservoirs. The drive time for the majority of anglers can be prohibitive.

Regardless of location, afoot or afloat, the pond rustler has a time-tested triple option of shallow water lures from which to choose. They are the safety-pin spinnerbait, the Texas-rigged soft plastic, and the floating/diving thin-minnow plug.

The spinnerbait is good for the angler forced to work through shallow expanses of shoreline cover. The construction of “Y” shaped wire and upturned single hook tends to fend off hard obstructions, keeping the design virtually snag free—if the lure is moving forward.

The flapping, fluttering action excels in murky water; the blades transmit the “wounded” flash and vibration that bass key on when grumping around amid poor visibility.

Frankly, up close, the typical tandem-bladed spinnerbait fitted with a jazzy skirt is a ridiculous offering. For this reason, it may not be the best choice in clear, open water or under bright sun.

But this is not say that a revved-up fish won’t take a whack at one under sparkling swimming-pool conditions. This reflex only underscores how aggressive bass can be during early season. As a rule, larger sizes are better in murky, brushy water; go smaller (say, 1/4-ounce) with less floo-floo along a high-visibility shoreline.

The Texas-rigged soft plastic is a classic killer, and the methodical bottom-bumping approach can be most effective on big bass. Again, the rig is virtually snagless amid hard cover and (as with the spinnerbait) the large single hook takes a solid bite.

The downside to bottom bumping is the inability to cover water quickly. “Worming” is best when specific spots are targeted.

During early season, bulky offerings such as craw-type plastics and lizards with molded bodies and squiggly appendages seem better than traditional slim worms. (Of course, we all know that “lizard” is a misnomer; the lure replicates an amphibious salamander.)

A fairly heavy (say, 1/2-ounce) bullet weight often works well. It drops with authority through webs of weeds or branches, easy to monitor by maintaining confident contact. If nothing else, the heavy lead helps load the rod for a smooth sidearm or underhand pitch to “feather” the payload for a soft presentation into a close-quarters pocket. 

A floating/diving thin minnow plug fitted with a small lip for shallow running is a fine choice along shorelines that provide defined edges of cover. The idea is to twitch and flutter the plug in open water tight to the fish-holding cover. Most buoyant models are designed to run one to two feet deep, above submerged tangles, and a stuttered stop-and-go retrieve is most effective.

The typical four-to six-inch plug imitates a slim baitfish (or a fingerling bass) and a skilled hand can keep the lure jiving in a small area until the nearest lurking predator is goaded into firing a shot. The strike often occurs several inches below the surface, creating a swirling boil, and the dangling sets of small trebles virtually assure a good hookup.

Both solid balsa and hollow plastic thin-minnow models are available. The downside to this killer bait is that the elongated, airy profile can be difficult to cast; a lighter line and a softer tip help overall performance.

If, after several hours of chunking on a balmy spring afternoon, the pond angler armed with these three lures cannot draw a strike, here is the solution: Go find a piece of water that has bass in it.


Email Joe Doggett at [email protected]


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