Spring is officially here! I still think the arrival of Spring should be a national holiday, just sayin’ The Vernal Equinox occurs at 11.49:28 on the 19th, which FYI is the earliest arrival of Spring in 124 years! The fish seem to be excited as well and have been pretty angler friendly! Water temps continue to rise, 60 degrees late this afternoon, and lake levels continue to fall. The current level is 1071.70, 1.70 feet over full pool, down from 1074.53 from last week, a differential of 1.83 feet. The extended weather forecast looks very good for fishing, mild temps with rain chances most days, its time to hit the lake!
The Striper bite is good, although the fish are roaming and you may have to do a lot of moving around to locate fish. With uniform water temps and O2 levels, the fish can use the whole lake, so the playing field is big right now. The bite is still a combination of free lines and down lines, with some schooling fish mixed in to keep you on your toes. We’ll start with the open water pattern that can be so strong in early Spring. Free lining or down lining over open water, or points adjacent to open water has been strong. The problem with these open water patterns is locating fish. They may be almost anywhere, and if the birds will help out, or you can see surfacing fish, you are in the right place. Some times you may only see one fish on the surface, but that can be enough to show the correct location. If one of these indicators does not occur, work areas where birds are present, even if they are not actively feeding. The other approach is to pick a section of river channel, or a stretch of a major creek channel, and pull it for 15 minutes or so. Generally, if fish are there you’ll hook up, or at least you see them on the sonar. If they are shallow, and often they are, even over deep water, remember to use the Side Imaging or 360 to look for fish You may get in a situation where you are beating out scattered singles on this pattern, or you may run into some really big schools of fish, depending on the day. Use a combination of flat lines, weighted flat lines, down lines and Minis on this pattern.
The traditional pattern of pulling big baits on a planer board is taking shape, with some nice fish showing up in the creek backs, shallow points and flats in the creeks, off the flats in the upper reaches of the river, or in the moving water of either river. A Gizzard Shad is always a good choice for this pattern, but Herring are also very effective right now. This pattern may not produce great numbers, but the average size is very good. Casting a fluke or buck tail up on these flats while you are waiting for a live bait bite will probably account for a few bonus bites so have the casting rod rigged and ready.
The Mini Mack Bite has been very good, stealth trolling on the electric, casting the Mini to schooling fish, or blind casting to the points. If you run into schooling fish, they are very quick to hit the Mini, just throw it at ‘em and start your retrieve as soon as the bait hits the water, the bite will be quick! If you are pulling the open water, keeping a Mini the spread will be a plus, either as a flat line or on the planer. If you are in the upper part of either river, try casting a Mini to small points. Nothing special on this pattern, just cast to the bank , start your retrieve immediately, and if the fish are there they will respond quickly. This pattern will yield Stripers with some nice Bass as well.
Bass fishing is very good, and with many fish pulling up into shallow water there are a huge variety of baits and techniques that are effective! Basically, you can fish the banks, and visible structures on all over the lake. Think in terms of 5 to 15 feet, with some fish deeper. The soft plastics are still very strong, Keitech swim baits on 1/4 jig head, Neko Rig with a Senko or Yum Dinger, or a finesse worm on a Weedless Wonder will all get the bite. Keying on the docks is certainly a good strategy, with many fish staging up on the docks this pattern will be good for both numbers and size. How and where the fish relate to the dock will vary from day to day, based on weather and the amount of sunlight. As a general rule, The bright sunlight often pushes the fish tighter to or further up under the docks.
Stump fields are another good really good structure to target during the pre-spawn, spawn, and post spawn. I think the term Stump field brings to mind a really big area with 100’s of stumps? I am not sure how many it takes, but many times only a couple will be plenty. The same plastics mentioned above are good choices for this type of structure and slow rolling a spinner bait or working a jerk bait are over the stumps is a fun and productive technique. As is usually the case with the spinner baits and jerk baits, a little wind is almost always a plus!