Don't underestimate the value of topwater baits on the postspawn.
By Dee Thomas
Bass spawn at different times in the spring, and on the California Delta, it's no different. By the first of May, the early big fish spawns are completed, and even the smaller guys have pretty much finished their chores. That means there is a long postspawn period when fish can be taken.
For me, the Delta postspawn can be broken down into three or four baits: a frog, a hard topwater bait, a rattlin' crankbait, and believe it or not, a jig. I won't focus too much on the Snagproof frog, because a lot has been said about it recently, and actually, the frog bite generally gets better the closer it gets to summer.
The first fish to come into the postspawn feeding binge are the biggest fish in the lake. These beauties are the fish that spawned in March, and some have taken up residence in the remains of last year's weeds before the new stuff has grown to reach the surface. When you find last year's growth, a frog will catch those fish. Remember that the time the weeds are visible is at low tide.
Keep in mind that ALL the big fish don't look for last year's weed growth to rest up and start feeding, and these are the fish we're going to target now. I've found a couple of lures made by Nichols, that have really made a difference for me. The first fills the postspawn needs of the Delta for a hard topwater bait - a Pop-U-Lure. Although any ol' top- water might do the trick, this lure, in a Hologram Shad, or chartreuse and blue color will flat catch fish! Now, some of you might wonder why I've chosen a bait that doesn't cost a lot of money, well, I've thrown all the high-dollar baits, and I still like throwing this bait.
Don't under estimate the value of topwater baits on the postspawn. In most parts of the country, the postspawn is the beginning of great topwater action. The Delta is no different. Work the outside edges of things with the topwater bait, and if you want, you can throw it all day long.
Last issue we talked about the perimeter of the Delta, the slower moving water. Remember that all the water in the Delta has current, but some areas like the middle portion have more moving water than the outside stuff. Keep in mind that postspawn bass reverse their actions of early spring. They have been in the shallow flats to spawn and now they're backing off to staging areas with quicker current. The spawning fish looked for slower current, but now, they look for ambush points behind faster current, maybe around a point, or through a cut, anywhere there is an increase in current flow, even if it's temporary. Now don't think that the bass are actually in that fast current, they're setting up in slower current waiting for the bait to come through the cut or around the point.
There aren't a lot of these places on the Delta, but when you find one, it can be a bass bonanza. The fish will eat almost anything that comes through that cut, or around that point.
The next postpawn bait everyone needs is a good running bait. My choice is a rattle-type lipless crank. Yes, I have a favorite, the Nichols Rattle Shad. I like these baits because of the number of rattles and the way it runs. The half-ounce size is plenty most of the time.
The postpawn period sees most anglers moving away from jigs in favor of plastics and other baits. The struggle for me has been to leave such a great bait when it has worked so well through the early part of the year. So, I have helped design a jig that can be fished all summer long. It's a California Finesse Jig, a jig made with fine silicone rubber that will fall like frogs hair. It's a real "dainty" bait that packs a punch, a 4/0 Gamakatsu hook in it. Now, although it sounds like a commercial for Dave Nichols, from the jig to lipless crankbaits, to topwater lures, these are the baits I personally use. I stumbled on Dave's catalog about 18 months ago, and I've been hooked since.
Scale down your baits this time of year; take a running bait and a topwater bait, then a bait that you can fish the extreme heavy cover, and a frog. Then you should be set for most of the summer and even into fall.
This month I haven't told you what kind of structure to look for, so much as I have given you the baits to start searching with. You don't need a dozen rods, just take three or four, and start in the morning and work these baits all day. You know, it takes me all day long to learn if my baits are working, and I have found that if I stick with a game-plan, and don't start changing things out there in the boat, things go a lot easier.
Every bass angler I know goes fishing at least once a week. If you don't get them one week, you'll get them the next. Have a great postspawn time on the Delta!
Reprinted with permission from Bass West Magazine