Here’s a little thing I did for Yakima Bait recently…
Wireline trolling with heavy tackle has long been the staple for mackinaw anglers in deep water lakes like Tahoe, and while it’s extremely effective, the technique isn’t always the most exciting way to catch fish. I much prefer jigging on light bass gear.
Not only do you get to feel the grab, but you also get a lot more spot out of the fish.
Another cool thing about jigging is you don’t need a lot of sophisticated gear (besides good electronics). I like to fish with 6 1/2- to 7-foot casting rods rated for 8- to 15-pound line. You need enough backbone to be able to set the hook in deep water, but a sensitive tip so you can feel the bite – which, by the way, often come as the lure is falling. Some good ones to check out include the Fenwick HMG 7’2″ Medium and, if you want the nicest rod on the planet (be prepared to pay, however) the Douglas X-MATRIX DXC715F is so nice, light and sensitive it almost should be illegal!
Pair these rods up with a low-profile bait caster like the Shimano Curado 200 DHSV which has a 7:1 retrieve rate, which makes cranking up from 100+ feet all the faster. There are times, however, when a line counter reel will get you down to the right depth when the fish are suspended. It’s a little slower on the retrieve, but the Abu Garcia Ambasseduer 5500 LC is the way to go.
I run 20-pound PLine TCB braid on my reels – braid is a must when fishing deep because of its sensitivity and lack of stretch. Of course, you need a leader between the braided line and the lure. In off-color water, go with the heaviest line you can. In clear waters, I go with 12- to 20-pound PLine CFX Fluorocarbon. As far as leader length goes, run 3-4 feet in darker lakes and up to 15 feet in clean waters.
I like jigs in the 1- to 4-ounce range, depending on water depth and wind conditions. For mackinaw, my top three color patters have always been silver, white and chartreuse. I like to remove the stock hooks on most of my jigs and replace them with assist hooks. These babies have a better hook-up ratio, snag less and don’t wrap around the line when you drop your tip too quickly (like trebles tend to do). They also usually snare fish in the top of the jaw or the corner – nice safe hook placement if you plan on releasing fish.
There are tons of models to choose from out there. I like Crippled Herring, Hopkins Shorties, Bomber Slab Spoons and, when I have the time, I’ll make my own with a lead mold… which saves tons of cash.
Drop your lure down to the bottom (or just above suspended fish, if you see any) and then use your wrist to impart subtle hops — avoid jerking the rod towards the heavens.
All you need is a quick snap of the tip and it should only travel about 1 foot up. Be sure to keep some tension on the line on the drop so you can feel those bites. Like I said before, most fish eat the lure as it falls… and if you drop too quickly, you’ll miss out on a ton of grabs.
I run an electric motor on the bow of the boat to hold me in position over fish — and also to slow the drift down if the wind is blowing. A little breeze is a good thing…it allows you to cover some ground. Generally, I’ll start shallow and let the wind or motor push me out over the edge of a drop, working the bottom as we go.
A good graph is your best friend is this department. Look for macks to hang on or near the bottom most of the time. They’ll key in on structure: points, flats, rock piles and, most often, break lines where shelves drop off into deeper water. I start out in 50 feet of water early on and then progressively work out deeper as the sun comes up. You can get macks as deep as 400+ feet, but I rarely go below 200 just because I don’t like the time it takes to get down and back from the bottom.
It’s been my experience that mack jigging is typically best from first light until about 9 a.m. on sunny days. There are days that they bite better midday – especially during full moon periods and when the water is dark. If you mark a bunch of fish but can’t get bit in the a.m., give ‘er a rest and try again just before dark. I’ve had some great evenings of mack fishing on days when the morning bite was as dead.
If you’ve got big bass on the brain, March is your month around here. Generally, we’ll see big hen bucketmouths in our local lakes go into a pre-spawn mode sometime over the next few weeks (depending on the weather) – and that’s when they’re at their largest.
Full of roe and still actively feeding to store energy for the upcoming breeding season, pre-spawn largemouth are fat and sassy and great fun to pursue. You just have to know where to look for them.
The first key to success is to check your water temperature. As a basic rule, the pre-spawn pattern starts when the water creeps into the low 50’s (that’s about where we are at most lakes right now) and then picks up as the temperatures climb towards the magical 60-degree mark.
When the water’s in the 50’s the fish shake off the winter-induced cobwebs and start migrating towards the banks. They also begin feeding heavily. The biggest mistake most anglers make this time of year is fishing too shallow. You really need to locate some deepwater structure that’s close to a spawning cove. Use your electronics to search for rock piles, ledges, submerged trees, bridge pilings or humps that are 15 to 30 feet deep – yet close to shallow water.
The big hens will hang out in these deeper spots as they wait for the water to warm and their eggs to ripen. You can catch smaller males up on the flats this time of year, but for the big gals, again, stay deep. In these situations, crawfish imitations become your weapons of choice.
Jigs are my all-around favorite things to throw in the early spring, though tubes are also productive. Go with the darker craw patterns like brown and orange and crank them according to the water temperature. If the temps are in the low to mid 50’s, retrieve them at a snail’s pace – slow and steady. As you find water that’s closer to 60 degrees, you can speed up and even switch over to deep-diving craw crankbaits (I like Norman Deep N’s and Berkley Frenzy Deep Divers).
It’s a good idea to have plenty of gear on board when you fish in the spring as conditions can change quickly. If we get a shot of warm weather and the water temps shoot up above 60 degrees, you’re going to have to start working the shallower flats. Until the bass get bedded up, I like to fish quickly with rip and jerk baits like Lucky Craft’s Pointer 80 in the American Shad pattern. Unless, of course, the water’s off-color due to storm runoff. In that case, chartreuse or white spinnerbaits slow-rolled just off the bottom can produce when nothing else will.
So, there you have it – now’s a great time to start thinking about big bass.
American Shad ascend rivers on both the West and East Coasts in the spring months and are an absolute blast to catch on light tackle! While not a super sophisticated fish, there are a few things you need to know to consistently score. Here are some tips and tricks to help you catch a bunch of shad this season. By the way, if you’d like to go on a guided shad fishing trip in the Sacramento area, be sure to click on my website www.theportfisher.com
Getting to Know the American Shad
For the uninitiated, shad are over-grown members of the herring family that spend most of their life in the ocean and then return to freshwater rivers to spawn (like salmon, only most shad don’t die after spawning).
Native to the East Coast, shad were transplanted to the West in the 1800’s and have flourished since. Out West, the Columbia River plays host to the largest runs followed by the Sacramento River and her main tributaries, the American, Feather and Yuba rivers. Back East, shad roam the Atlantic from Florida to Nova Scotia and spawn in many drainages in-between, including the Delaware, Susquehanna, Juniata, Delaware, Schuylkill and Lehigh rivers.
Depending on the location and temperature, the first waves of American Shad arrive sometime April and fishing can last through June and into July in some streams.