APPLING, Ga. – As the fourth and final day of the Walmart FLW Series BP Eastern got underway this morning, there were a lot of blue-back herring imitators gracing the decks of bass boats.
Three locals pros making the top 10 – Craig Johnson (4th), Keith Hutto (5th) and Keith Williamson (7th) – are all focusing on schooling bass that are feeding on blue-back herring and their lure selection reflect it.
Catching roaming bass that are feeding on blue-backs during the summer months has become somewhat of a refined art in the last few years as bass anglers in this region of the country have learned more and more about the exotic blue-backs and their open-water migrations.
But as summer sets in the blue-backs begin roaming in open water over 50 and 60 feet and the bass follow, causing them act a lot more like striped bass than largemouths.
Catching these open-water schooling bass is a dicey prospect.
“You’ll go for hours without a bite and then suddenly there’s pure chaos for five minutes as hundreds of bass thrash thousands of herring all around you on the surface,” said Johnson. “And then it’s over for another two hours until it happens again.”
When pursuing herring bass, Johnson’s three key lures are a ¼-ounce Buckeye spinnerbait with tiny blades, a Zoom Super Fluke in a color called white ice and a Lucky Craft Gunfish topwater.
“I fish most of those baits pretty fast,” Johnson said. “I really burn the spinnerbait and work the Fluke super fast. You want the fish to just react out of instinct so speed is a key.”
Hutto chases Herring bass with a Sebile Magic Swimmer – a jointed hard bait that emulates a herring undulating through the water.
“There are some consistent schooling places out here that we all know about,” Hutto said. “For some reason the herring like these particular places and the schools of bass hang around them.”
Williamson added, “It’s just like fishing out in the open waters of the ocean.”
These three pros will be gunning for tournament leader Tom Mann, Jr., on the final day, hoping for a giant bag of bass that have been gorging themselves on blue-backs.
“We have not seen a truly big bag of herring bass in this tournament yet,” Johnson added. “If the conditions get right – bright sun with a little wind – one of us could come in with a load.”
Saturday’s final weigh-in will be held at the Walmart store located at 4471 Washington Road in Evans, Ga. beginning at 4 p.m.
Sunrise: 7:14 a.m.
Temperature at takeoff: 78 degrees
Expected high temperature: 82 degrees
Water temperature: 82 degrees
Wind: light and variable
Day’s outlook: 60% chance of rain