Ott DeFoe put on quite a show during the Championship Round of Stage Three, didn’t he? That was a well-deserved win for Ott and I was happy to see him come home with a trophy.
Did you notice how he won, though? It wasn’t by sight-fishing or beating the bank: he was away from the bank targeting schoolers.
Me and few other guys at Lake Fork were targeting pre-spawn (and even some post-spawn) fish out away from the bank. I think that’s a really good strategy this time of the year if you’re not going to sight-fish the beds along the bank. Targeting those fish offshore when all the attention is on the bank, that’s when you can find big fish and big groups of fish all to yourself.
When I’m away from the bank, I look for hard structure like contours, points, ledges and rock piles. You can also look for what I like to call “medium targets.” Those are brush piles and man-made structures where fish will position on, no matter where you are in the country.
In terms of what baits to use, I always like to start out with a crankbait. I love to throw crankbaits this time of the year, and really all year round. The depth and color of the water will determine which kind of crankbait you would use. No surprise there.
I would safely guess that going with a 10-foot diving crankbait would be your best bet as a general rule.
Once you’ve located a good spot and you’ve hit them with a crankbait, it would be a good time to slow down with a Carolina rig or a jig. That’s when you can really clean up good. I like to use a Pepper Pro Series Football Jig with a Yamamoto Double Tail trailer.
Something that a lot of people don’t do is use a Yamamoto Senko on a Carolina rig. Everyone always thinks of lizards and other creature-baits, but a Senko is something super-subtle. It works well weightless when you’re working in the shallows, but it’s a great bait for a Carolina rig as well.
If you want to go for something a little bulkier, I like to go with a Yamamoto Mermaid. It’s a really wide bait and it has big tails on the back of it. That’s definitely a way to draw a big bite on a Carolina rig.
When you saw that school that Ott was on during the Championship Round, it didn’t matter how close he was to those fish, he wasn’t going to spook them. They were all firing and feeding. He could have been right on top of them if he wanted. Instead, he stayed a little bit back, which was the safe call and the right one, obviously.
I like to use this as a general rule: the clearer the water, the further away you need to be.
Living on Lake Havasu in Arizona, the water is so clear, so I’m used to having to make long casts away from a school. If you are fishing in, let’s just say, Louisiana where the water is super dirty, then you could be only about 4 feet away and it would work.
In this time of added stress with COVID-19, I just want to remind people how great fishing can be as an escape from all of that. It’s important to follow the guidelines set forth by the CDC and government officials, but if you can get outside and go fishing, have at it.
You can practice social distancing at a lake or a pond and catch bass, crappie, catfish or whatever while doing so. This will all pass as we all continue to work together to stay safe.