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Early Season Bass By Gary Howey

Entered by Gary Howey

Former tournament angler, hunting and fishing guide. Inducted into the National Freshwater Fishing "Hall of Fame" in 2017. Active member of the Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers (AGLOW), Past Executive Director (AGLOW). Howey has been an outdoor communicator since 1980 with his award winning syndicated "Of the Outdoors" columns appearing in magazine, newspapers, and tabloids throughout he upper Midwest and nationally.

May 14, 2015

This is the time of the year when many anglers develop tunnel vision, thinking only of walleyes and fishing on the bigger water!
When you do this, it means that you are missing some of the finest early season fishing.
Many of these anglers will be running great distances when some of the best fishing available may be right in their own backyard for bass.
In the upper Midwest, there are excellent populations of both Small and Largemouth bass and right now is an excellent time to take good numbers of both species.
Both are found throughout the upper Midwest, in Missouri River in Lewis & Clark Lake up stream into Lake Oahe. In South Dakota, you will find excellent bass fishing in most lakes including on Horseshoe Lake, Reetz Lake, Roy Lake, Big Stone and Enemy Swim.
Most dams, ponds, farm & stock dams, lakes and reservoirs also contain catcheable populations of Largemouth bass.
During this time of the year, bass will have moved off into deeper water to rest up from the rigors of the spawn. As the water temperatures begin to warm, they will become more active.
As water temperature moves into the low 70’s, the bass will start to feed aggressively.
Look for bass this time of the year spending much of the day in the deeper water and then moving into the shallows early in the day and later in the afternoon looking for an easy meal.
In the river and areas with current, you will find bass throughout the day tucked in behind some sort of cover.
Anything that cuts or slows down the current, which are known as slack water pockets, is likely to be a good hiding spots for the bass.
Points, rock piles pockets in the weeds and down timber, all cut the current and make excellent locations to look for bass in the river.
Both species of bass can be taken on spinnerbaits, crankbaits, worm rigs and jigs.
When fishing for smallmouth, it is a good idea to downsize your baits as the larger baits used for largemouth may over power a smallmouth.
In the lakes, ponds and stock dams look for bass in ambush areas that are shaded. These areas include the pockets just inside the weed line, under boat docks, next to down timber or adjacent to brush piles.
If it sticks out of the water or lies along the shoreline, chances are that sometime during the day a bass will be near it. If there is no apparent structure along the shoreline, look for bass to be located in the deeper water areas adjacent to the shallows.
Since bass have a tremendous appetite, they will eat anything they can fit into their mouth.  Bass can be taken on livebait such as crawlers, minnows, waterdogs and salamanders.
Sliding sinkers behind a large hook tipped with any of these live baits will take bass in any body of water.

Doug Haas, Smalmouth Bass

Team Outdoorsmen Adventures member Doug Haas, Mitchell, S.D. with a large Smallmouth Bass caught and released in Reetz Lake near Webster, S.D.

Many bass anglers use only artificial baits for bass and match their baits to the time of the season that they are fishing.
In colder water period or when a front has moved through, slow down their presentation, using a jig and pig or plastic baits such as Power Bait worms or the new Gulp.
These plastic baits when Texas or Carolina rig are an excellent choice when bass have lockjaw and will not take different baits.
By slowly working these baits through or adjacent to the structure, they will be able to entice a few of these slow moving bass to bite.
As the weather warms, bass will become more active and fishing will improve.
Anglers using spinnerbaits buzz baits and crankbaits during this time of the year will pick up good numbers of bass.
You can bounce these baits off of the logs, rocks or boat docks that the bass will be hiding near, taking the more active and aggressive bass.
One problem that anglers will face as the water warms, especially in the clear water lakes will be weeds.
If you are going to fish these areas, you will need to adjust your methods in these weedy areas or spend much of their time snagged up or pulling weeds from your baits.
If you are fishing these weedy bodies of water, you are going to have to use some type of weedless bait or one that will run through, over or under the weeds.
Since most of the weeds either lie just below the surface or have open pockets in them, there are several baits that will produce in these salad bowl areas.
If the weeds are not grown up, covering the surface, top water baits worked slowly across the top of the weeds works well.
Work it slowly across the top, stopping occasionally to give the bass a good opportunity to look your bait over or to locate it through the weeds.
If you are, fishing weeds that come up to, the surface a spinnerbait or buzzbait works well. You will need to start your retrieve, getting the bait working along the surface on the edge before you come into the weeds.
If you are using a buzzbait, you will need to keep it on the surface all the way across the weed bed. If there are larger open pockets, you can slow down the retrieve; you still need to keep the bait on top, so you will have to raise your rod tip to keep it up on the top. By slowing the bait down, bass that were, following the bait may be triggered into striking.
With a spinnerbait, once you have it working along the top, you keep it moving until you roll over open pockets that might hold fish.
This is when you will want to pause and let the spinner bait helicopter or slowly drop into the pocket. This will give bass hiding in the pocket an opportunity to strike.
To bring the bait back up on the surface, you will need to hold your rod tip high and crank aggressively to bring the bait to the top and to get the blades to start spinning again.
You are going to need some tough line like Berkley Big Game, a longer medium heavy or heavy rod and a reel with a ratio that allows you to pick up a lot of line with each crank of the handle.
In weeds, the bass is going to hit hard and then head into the weeds, so it will not be a finesse type bite.
In order to win this battle you are going to have to set the hook hard and muscle him onto the surface or he will break you off in the weeds.
The transition from the post spawn to warm season fishing is a numbers game.
You throw your bait at as many snags, stick-ups and weedy spots that you see and eventually you will be rewarded with an aggressive strike and the hard fight of the bass.
This is the time of the year when bass are shallow, when real trophies can be taken, so do not develop tunnel vision and chase only one species. Give early season bass fishing a try, you will be darn glad you did!

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