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Gary Howey

” IN 2017

In the Weeds and Wood for 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.

April 21, 2016

It’s the time of the year, when many anglers develop tunnel vision. It’s when some anglers go after just one species of fish and head for bigger waters. 

  When tunnel vision is developed, it means you’re missing some of the finest early season fishing.

  Many of these anglers are going to be running great distances driving right by some of the best fishing available may be right in their own backyard for bass.

  In the upper Midwest and especially in our area there are excellent populations of bass, both small and largemouth and this is an excellent time to take good numbers of both species.

  Small and largemouth bass are found throughout the Missouri River system up stream into Lake Oahe.

  Most ponds, farm and stock dams, lakes and reservoirs throughout the Midwest also have cacheable populations of largemouth bass.

  During this time of the year, bass are located in deeper water to rest up from the rigors of the spawn. As the water temperatures begin to warm, they’ll become more active.

  As water temperature moves into the low 70’s, bass will start to feed aggressively.

  Look for bass this time of the year spending much of the day in the deeper water, moving into the shallows early in the day and later in the afternoon looking for an easy meal.

 In the Missouri river and areas with current, you’ll find bass throughout the day tucked in behind some sort of cover and in areas with warmer water such as deeper bays.

  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 large and smallmouth bass can be taken on spinnerbaits, crankbaits, worm rigs and jigs.

  When fishing for smallmouth, it’s 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 largemouth bass in ambush areas that are shaded.  These areas include 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.

Joel Vasek with Pond Bass

Joel Vasek with Pond Bass

  If there is no apparent structure along the shoreline, look for bass to be located in the deeper water areas adjacent to the shallows.

  Because bass have a tremendous appetite, if they can get their mouth around it, they’ll eat it.

  Bass can also 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.

  Many bass anglers use choose to fish with only artificial baits and match their baits to the time of the season they’re fishing.

  In colder water period or when a front has moved through, slow down your 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 won’t take another bait.

  By slowly working these baits through or adjacent to the structure, you’ll be able to entice a few of these slow moving bass to bite.

  As the weather warms, bass become more active with the fishing for bass improving.

Casting spinnerbaits, buzzbait and crankbaits during this time of the year account for many of the bass taken this time of the year. 

  To take the more active and aggressive bass, bounce your baits off the logs, rocks or alongside and under boat docks where the he bass will be located near

  The big problem anglers’ face as the water warms, especially in the clear water lakes will be weeds.

To fish these areas, you’ll need to adjust your methods or spend much of your time snagged up or pulling weeds from your baits.

  If you’re fishing these weedy bodies of water, you’ll need to use some type of weedless bait or a bait 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.

  In waters where the weeds aren’t covering the surface, a top water bait worked slowly across the open water above the weeds works well.

  Work your bait slowly across the top, stopping occasionally giving the bass a good opportunity to look your bait over or to locate it through the weeds.

  If you’re fishing weeds coming up to the surface, a spinnerbait or buzzbait works well.  Start your retrieve, with your bait working along the surface along the edge before coming into the weeds. 

  If you’re using a buzzbait, you’ll 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’ll have to raise your rod tip to keep it from sinking.  If you slow the bait down, bass following the bait may be triggered into striking.

  With a spinnerbait, once it’s working along the top, keep it moving until you roll over open pockets that might hold fish. Then slow your retrieve, letting the spinner bait helicopter or slowly drop into the pocket, giving bass hiding in the pocket an opportunity to strike. Then to bring the bait back up on the surface, hold your rod tip high, cranking aggressively bringing the bait to the top to get the blades to start spinning again.

  Because you will be fishing in the weeds, in the wood and near boat docks, you’re going to need some tough line like Berkley Big Game, a longer medium heavy or heavy rod topped off with a reel with a ratio allowing 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 won’t be a finesse type bite.

  To win this battle with powerful bass, you’re going to have to set the hook hard and muscle him onto the surface or he’ll break you off in the weeds and timber.

  The switch from the post spawn to warm season fishing is a numbers game, where you throw your bait at as many snags, stick-ups and weedy spots you see and eventually you’ll be rewarded with an aggressive strike and the hard fight of the bass.

  This is the time of the year when bass fishing can really be good and some real trophies can be taken, so don’t develop tunnel vision and chase only one species.  Give early season bass fishing a try, you’ll be darn glad you did!


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