By Larry Dablemont
It was two o’clock in the afternoon before we got to the lake, and it was up a few feet, as I expected it to be. The water was a little murky, but there was still a foot or so of visibility in it. That’s about perfect for a big spinner-bait. If you fish small spinners and light line, clear water is fine, but if you are after a brawling, broad-sided bass, and the spinner blade is about the size of a spoon you use to serve mashed potatoes with, a little bit of murkiness in the water is fine.
I pulled a yellow and white skirt with two large gold willow-leaf spinners out of my tackle box, and I put a trailer hook on the main hook. I added a strip of white pork rind on the main hook below the trailer, so the trailer hook wouldn’t come off, and it made the whole thing look even more delectable. When you get through with that you have about three-quarters of an ounce of lure to cast. With that I was using an Ambassadeur 4500 casting reel and 14-pound line, on a medium-heavy graphite rod. Of course, such a rig isn’t meant for enjoying the resistance of small fish. You are hoping to attract a largemouth of lunker proportions, and this time of year you are looking for him in brushy water, back up in a cove which is full of timber, attractive to bass feeling the coming of spring, and feeling hungrier as the water temperature rises.
And of course, I caught five bass in the first hour from 12- to 15-inches long. Those bass would have been great fun on a spinning outfit with eight-pound line but in the brush, we were fishing, that kind of gear is too light. They were out away from the bank in six or eight feet of water, and to get to them, I was hanging up on occasion, then working to get that lure loose.
It happens that way when you fish a spinner-bait the size of a bird’s nest in that kind of water. You don’t just cast it and retrieve it. You vibrate that blade; you lift it and you drop it and you let it fall and flutter into water where there are logs and limbs. You keep it moving, try to tantalize a bass, get him to rise from the brush pile hideout where he lurks and come after that spinner bait. You use your rod tip; you feel your lure through places where you can’t see what is there. I don’t know what a bass thinks that spinner-bait is, but you make him like the idea of eating it, by causing the blade to throb and the skirt to undulate. You make it look alive, like something with a fishy taste to it.
There are all kinds of spinner-baits today, and blades of a variety of colors and shapes. Apparently, my gold willow leaf variety was what they wanted that day. I had just retrieved the lure from an underwater limb, and made another cast ahead of me, when between two upright trees, I felt it hit another limb. I lifted it quickly and felt it stop and give just a little. Then in a split second I saw it move, away and down. I set the hook hard and the bass, only eight or ten feet from the boat, didn’t give an inch. Finally I had attracted a bass worthy of the gear I was using. He just stripped a foot or so of line against my drag, then came back below me, arcing the rod like a catfish on a cane pole. It was fun…at times like that I remember why I like to fish for bass.
No, it isn’t quite along the lines of dueling a four-pound smallmouth in a current below a river shoal, but a big bass with a mouth that will easily hold a softball, and a belly wide and heavy with eggs, will make you forget there is any work left undone at home. I fought him, and I won. Many times I have hooked bass of that size and they have won the struggle, but that time it was my turn. I hefted him, a “her” and we took a couple of pictures. I released her later, in a small private lake near my home where she will soon spawn. The bass was a little better than 21-inches long, and I think maybe eight pounds. You can guess it’s weight by going to my website (www.larrydablemontoutdoors.blogspot.com) and looking at the photo.
The lake was a place of solitude that day in midweek. There wasn’t a boat to be seen, maybe because of rain and cool weather. Right now you can begin to catch bass on topwater lures, but the best topwater time will come later in the summer. This is spinner-bait time and if you want to know what it is like to catch a big bass, a spinner-bait is the lure to use.
With the turkey season over, it is obvious that we have a major problem in the Ozarks with declining numbers of wild gobblers. Some of the letters I received in past days are from hunters who believe it is time to do something about hunting seasons and bag limits. No, now is not the time for that, two or three years ago was the time for that! More about the tremendous problem of disappearing wild turkeys next week.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Larry Dablemont is an outdoor writer from Bolivar, Mo.