Tough call: spotted bass or largemouths? - Major League Fishing

Tough call: spotted bass or largemouths?

March 20, 2001 • Rob Newell • Archives

Decision could be crucial in defining winning strategy

As the practice round winds down, many of the 350 competitors preparing to fish Lake Martin are asking themselves the same question: Should they target spotted bass or largemouth bass when competition begins on Wednesday morning?

Over the years, Lake Martin – the third stop on the 2001 FLW Tour – has gained a reputation as a superb spotted bass fishery. Her deep, clear, rocky waters provide a suitable habitat for the spotted bass, a feisty cousin of the largemouth.

Though the largemouth bass and the spotted bass are similar in appearance, they inhabit somewhat different types of terrain. Spotted bass are commonly found on Lake Martin’s lower end where there is consistently clear, deep water, and plenty of rocky bottom.

The pugnacious largemouth bass like to hideout in shallow, stained water, found in the upper end of the reservoir.

Spotted bass are usually more aggressive and easier to catch than largemouth bass. However, spotted bass tend to be punier than the hefty largemouths. Consequently, a five-fish limit of largemouth bass is likely to outweigh a five-fish limit of spotted bass.

The differences in the two types of bass often divide anglers into two different styles of fishing. Those anglers going after spotted bass are likely to use techniques that involve light line and smaller baits. Carolina-rigged lizards, centipedes, or finesse worms are popular choices.

Good spotted bass fishermen are wizards at fishing deep-water structure. Martin has plenty of offshore humps, reefs, and brush piles to interest spotted bass enthusiasts.

Anglers pursuing largemouth bass will be employing jigs, spinnerbaits, and crankbaits to ply Martin’s shallow bank cover. Martin’s upper end is loaded with docks, stumps, lay-down trees, and brush piles, all of which make excellent homes for largemouth bass.

Deciding which species of bass to pursue will be a big factor in an angler’s tournament strategy. Some angler’s will commit to the consistency of spotted bass, while other anglers will gamble strictly on the largemouth bite.

Many anglers will try to get a limit of spotted bass early and then change water and techniques in an effort to catch one or two big largemouth to anchor their limit. This way they can take advantage of Martin’s aggressive spots and weighty largemouths.

Other anglers may try to put themselves in “middle of the road” water that gives the angler equal shot at catching both species while fishing.

Whatever their strategy, anglers will have to deal with high, muddy water at Lake Martin. Recent rains have the lake rising fast, and Martin’s upper end is rolling red with mud. Lake Martin has come up four feet in the last week alone.
While higher water levels are generally preferred by bass fishermen in the spring, a sudden rise can have a negative effect.

“When water rises this fast, it has a tendency to disorient, and disorganize fish,” says two-time FLW champion Gary Klein. “The lake needs to stabilize a few days before the fish are going to reposition.”

“It is as if the fish have to find a new home,” explains two-time Everstart winner Curt Lytle. “The fish get used to a steady water level, then, suddenly, there is five more feet of water over them. They have to find a new place that is comfortable.”

Klein believes sunshine and warmer temperatures are needed to get the fish moving into the “new” shoreline.

“I think the water needs to warm up before the fish are going to move up,” he says. “This rain and cold like we are having today (Monday) is not helping things at all. It is like winter all over again.”

Richard Fuller, of Auburn, Ala., is a perennial co-angler on the FLW Tour and has been fishing Martin for 30 years.

“I was hoping FLW would hit Martin in its springtime prime, when the water temperatures are 60 to 65, and the lake is rising slowly,” says Fuller. “Then co-anglers would have a ball catching spots out of the back of the boat.”

But Fuller is now apprehensive about Martin’s productivity because of lagging water temperatures and the lake’s sudden rise to full pool.

“The water temperatures are in the mid to upper fifties, and the high water has scattered the fish, so it could be tougher than I had expected.”

Those hoping for sunshine and warmer weather are going to be disappointed. Rain is expected to continue to fall through today with colder temperatures predicted after the front passes. As a result, top-10 weight cut predictions, which hovered in the twenty pound range last week, have fallen a bit. Now, many pros are saying 18 to 19 pounds could make the top-10 cut.

So, is it spots or largemouths? Gary Klein says the winner of this tournament is going to be the one who is able to develop a pattern during the actual tournament.

“We have new water coming in the lake, and a frontal system passing through,” said Klein. “Things are changing so fast right now that practice is almost worthless. Areas and techniques that worked last week are giving way to new areas and techniques. Lake Martin is a real good pattern fishing lake. Those who adapt to the current conditions, and find a solid pattern during the tournament, will do well.”