By Bernie Barringer
Ideas for catching lunker largemouths –
and the right tools for the job.
All across the United States, from the 1920s to the 1970s, hundreds of reservoirs were built. Their intended purposes were hydroelectric power, flood control and irrigation, but they have brought a remarkable benefit to fishermen. In fact, some of the best largemouth bass fishing in this great land takes place at these impoundments. Prime time is mid-summer when the water is warm and the bass are on the prowl.
Sometimes the land was logged off before being flooded, but often the trees were left standing and died a slow death, leaving gnarled stumps poking out of the water. Above the water, they look dead and lifeless, but below the surface is an entirely different story. They are, literally, trees of life in any reservoir.
Calling these stumps home are the insects, crustaceans, microorganisms and – of course – the predators that eat such things. Largemouth bass are one of the primary predators in these environs. Bass also use the stumps for shade and cover in clear water reservoirs.
Shallow, deep or in between, here are some ideas for catching these lunker largemouths and the right tools for the job.
Shallow Bass – Spinnerbaits
Where stumps intersect the bank, they are nearly always mixed with some kind of vegetation. Weeds and grass grow out to depths of about three to four feet in most reservoirs, and much deeper where water clarity allows sunlight to penetrate. A spinnerbait is one of the best baits for catching largemouth here. Just cast it out and reel it back, maneuvering it around the stumps and pulling it through any weedy areas. When the water is warm you can’t fish them too fast.
In the shallows, many of the trees have fallen and will be lying on the bottom. Don’t be afraid to bang your bait onto the logs and stumps. The sound and change in action will often trigger a strike. Pay special attention to the places where the logs and stumps create shade, that’s often where the big, hungry ones lie in ambush.
Mid-Depth Bass – Jerkbaits
Just beyond the deepest weeds, the bass are chasing minnows and small panfish that are in the stump-fields feeding on all the good stuff provided by the fertility of the rotting stumps. When we speak of mid-depth ranges, we’re usually talking four to eight feet in most reservoirs. The bass can be anywhere from top to bottom so it is best to cover a variety of depths with a jerkbait.
A suspending lure such as a Rapala Husky Jerk or X-Rap are personal favorites. In fact, I used a jerkbait to catch my largest bass ever at Lake Ouchita in Arkansas. It was a 9-pound giant tucked into a wad of stumps and I was lucky to get the brute wrestled out of the cover. That’s a big bass for a northern boy like me, but largemouths that size are fairly common in reservoirs of the southeastern United States.
Working these baits is very simple: twitch them by flicking your wrist downward with each turn of the reel handle. When you get the hang of it, that’ll give you great side-to-side action that’s hard for bass to resist.
Deep Bass – Deep Divers
Bass in ten feet or more require the use of a deep diving crankbait. The best time to fish out deep is when the wind is causing wave action against the stumps. This activates the food chain and the fishing can be out of this world as the big fish hungrily chase everything that moves and looks like food.
Cast a deep-diving crankbait out and crank it down hard before beginning your retrieve. Use a floating bait or you will lose enough to make you cry in the branches. When it bangs a stump or a branch, give it some slack line and allow the floating lure to float free of the wood. Yes, you will lose a few, but the big bass you catch will be worth it.
Bumpin’ the stumps for summer bass is fun fishing. It’s also a great time to catch the biggest bass of your life. Find a reservoir near you and let the bass prove me right!
About Bernie Barringer
Bernie Barringer hunts and fishes for a variety of species in several states and Canadian provinces. He has published more than 400 articles in two dozen outdoor magazines and authored 11 books on hunting, fishing and trapping. The latest is Bear Baiter’s Manual. He is the managing editor of Bear Hunting Magazine, and blogs his hunts on his website www.bowhuntingroad.com.
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