The fishing season has finally opened here in Connecticut, and it seems like spring has actually arrived. I spent the first four days of the season on Highland Lake chasing the largemouth bass. Saturday, April 8 I waited till the afternoon to hit the water as the better bite at this time of year happens later in the day. My son Jonathan joined me for this trip and we found the water temp at 42 to 44. We concentrated our efforts in the first bay section of the lake where the warmest water is found in the spring. We eventually found our fish slightly outside of the rocky bottom areas in about 7 to 9 feet of water. A grey/black Husky Jerk was my weapon of choice while my kid threw his trusty 4” Zoom Fat Albert grub on a 1/8 ounce ball head jig. We each caught 2 bass with my best for the day hit the Berkley scale at 4.5 pounds. The jerkbait was retrieved with a “twitch, twitch, pause, twitch” then another pause before being repeated. The pause between the two twitches was only about 2 seconds while the pause in the middle was longer at 5 to 10 seconds. Each of the strikes came on the long pause. My kids retrieve with his grub came from near the bottom. He would lift and drop his soft plastic and also “pop” it out of the weeds then allowing it to fall back to the bottom. His fish ate the grub as it was on the bottom. The common theme between these two retrieves was the strikes came as the bait was motionless. We also caught another 4 trout on those same baits, so for our fairly short afternoon trip, we had enough action to keep us interested even if it wasn’t as good as expected.
Sunday, April 9 I was back on Highland Lake with my kid again for a short afternoon trip. Air temp was now in the sixties and the water temp had come up a couple of degrees to about 44 to 46. The largemouth that we had found the day before were now being even more stubborn. I made the decision to run to the south end of the lake and see if we could find some smallmouth bass out deep where I had left them last fall. On about the fourth cast to 24 feet of water with a ½ ounce gold colored Silver Buddy blade bait, I hooked up with a smallmouth bass that was about 15 inches. Now, with high hopes of catching some smallmouth, we spent the next 45 minutes working over this deep, rocky bottom area without another bite. I also tried a slow, deep retrieve with a 3.8 inch Kietech grub on a ½ ounce football head jig without a bump. Towards sunset we ran back to the first bay and again attacked the bass with a jerkbait, crankbait, and a grub, my kid finally scored a largemouth of almost 16 inches on his green pumpkin colored curl tail grub. An absolutely poor day but not unusual in a spring warming trend. The most exciting part of the day was in the early afternoon when a GIANT largemouth came up to look at my grey/black Husky Jerk. I had retrieved the bait over the end of a submerged stone wall in about 8 feet of water when a fish in the 6+ pound range appeared below my bait. With my bait sitting motionless, and the big girl sitting about 10 inches away from the bait, I watched and waited several seconds when I decided to give the bait a very subtle twitch. She then moved to within 2 inches of my lure and I was sure she was going to eat it when all of a sudden she just turned quickly and bolted away. I know I didn’t make any noises or movements that would have caused that reaction so I do not know what caused her to bolt away. I spent another 20 minutes casting to the general area with a jig & pig, crankbait, grub, and another jerkbait in a different color to no avail. It sure was an exciting time though.
Monday April 10 found me back at Highland with my son fishing from about 5 to 7 pm. Sunny skies and an air temp in the mid-seventies moved the surface water temp up to 46 – 48 F. With just a short trip, we focused our efforts on a couple of high percentage areas. It didn’t take long to further increase our focus on just a small 100 yard stretch of water. I caught my first crankbait fish of the season on a tiny #5 Rapala Shad Rap. Not a giant, but a chunky 2 pounder. In the third day of a warming trend, the fish now appeared to be directly on the outside of the rocks and up into them a little bit positioning themselves in about 7 to 5 feet of water. Jon then got another on his Zoom grub, up around the rocks. The next fish came on a gold/black Super Rogue suspending jerkbait. And again, this fish struck on the pause. It is very important to fish these jerkbaits on a slack line as you will get the maximum action from these lures when you twitch it with a slack line. If your line is taught at all, your bait is likely gliding when you want it sitting motionless. It is also important to watch your line as it is sitting slack. Most of your strikes will come when the bait is sitting still and you will see your line get up and move. After my son got another on his grub while it was sitting on the bottom, it tipped me off to pick up my 2.75 inch Zman TRD rigged on a ¼ ounce mushroom head and basically dead stick it, I quickly put another 3 largemouth in the boat. During this time, my kid got another couple of fish giving us a total of 8 largemouth for the short evening trip. The largest were 16.5 inches and another at almost 18 inches.
Tuesday April 11, I was back on Highland solo this time but again fishing from about 5 to 7 pm fishing in a short sleeve shirt as we are in the fourth day of a warm up and the air temp today was in the low 80’s while the water temp again moved upward to 49 to 51F. I chose to concentrate my efforts on the same 100 yard stretch of bank that has traditionally been very productive. My first pass through was with the small #5 Shad Rap in silver/black to judge how aggressive they were. Having not a sniff on the crankbait, I went back through the same area with the small green pumpkin Ned Rig and quickly caught my first of the evening. Again, nothing special, just an average 1.25 pound fish BUT, it did tell me something. With the exception of trying a nearby offshore rock pile sitting in 9 feet, looking for big Mama, I spent my time throwing that Ned Rig and got another 4 largemouth. rounding out my 5 fish limit at about 6+ pounds. With 10 minutes to go before putting it on the trailer, I picked up the small crankbait again, that only runs 3 to 5 feet, to round out the night. Bouncing it around the shallow rocks around sunset gave me my sixth for the night and making a nice cull with this one measuring 16.5 inches, about 2.5 pounds. The lightweight of the small Shad Rap necessitates light/medium rod actions in the 7 foot range and very light line of 6 pound test. Catching a decent fish on light gear makes fishing all that more exciting.
The fish are on the move, and like the birds singing in the morning, the fish know what time of the year it is. This recent warm up is only the start to another exciting fishing season. The trick to catching them through our rapidly changing seasons is keeping track of how they move. Get your bait into where they are going too, and you will get the desired tugs you need.
July 18, 2017
Summertime! My most productive time of the year. Generally, from late July through August there is a good population of bass that have moved off of the bank and onto and into some deeper water. During the daylight, give me two rods. One rigged with some kind of jig type bait, and the other being a dropshot rod.
Once the fish get out to 13 feet or grater in our area waters, they become easy targets for the drop shot technique. The overall set up is relatively simple. You have a weight attached to the end of your line with a small, thin wire hook attached about a foot above the weight. Attach a numerous array of soft plastic worms, minnow imitators, or crawfish and, you are going to get bit. If not by bass, nearly all other fish see your bait as a feeding opportunity. If you like fishing a Senko weightless, wacky style, the drop shot may be right up your ally. As there are many methods to fishing (i.e.) retrieving a drop shot, the majority of your bites will come as the bait is sitting still. Just as the Senko works best allowed to fall on a free line, the drop shot can often be at its prime while sitting still.
For me, a good drop shot bait has to float. Or at least not sink fast. A bait such as a 4” Roboworm will generally float the light wire hook off the bottom weed or muck. The 4” Lunker City Ribster, and Gary Yamamoto, Shad Shape Worm are also good choices as well as the Z-Man Finesse Shad. All of these baits have a tendency to float and imitate a small baitfish almost perfectly. Enough of the baits. I’ll leave that to the marketers who. By the way do a great job offering us very style and color imaginable. I’m nor sponsored by any of them.
What is the perfect rod and reel for dropshotting? Everyone has their own preferences but, I want a high speed spinning reel (6:1 or greater) in the 200 class paired with a lighter rod in a Medium action with a moderate power, around 7 feet long. I first started dropshotting using 6# P-Line Flouroclear line (which is outstanding light line for ANY application) but moved to 10# Power Pro braided line. This year, I moved to the same line but in yellow. Due to eye sight and many missed fish on the drop I made this adjustment and so far so good. With the braid, especially the yellow, I am tying on the 6# P-Line Fluoroclear as a leader, about 8 feet long, using a simple and fast Uni to Uni knot. I use a Gamakutsu #2 Split shot/drop shot hook. The next size up moves to a heavier wire and changes the presentation. It is absolutely amazing on how well this tiny hook sticks the fish. And lastly, the weight. I prefer the ¼ oz. Linker City Bakudan SKINNY” OR “PENCIL” WEIGHT. The thin cylindrical weight MAY come through the cover better. After the uni to uni knot, and about 8 feet of leader, I tie the small Gamakatsu hook about 1 foot of the end of the line using a Palomar knot. The tag end of that knot will be re-inserted through the eye of the hook dropping downwards and the weight simply pinches to the bottom of that line.
The retrieve, can vary from a slow pull to sitting absolutely motionless. Sometimes they want that bait quivering which you can do by shaking the rod tip on a slack line, while at other times they may want you to cover some ground and pull it slowly across the bottom. The retrieve largely depends on the mood of the fish so let them tell you how they want it. All fish seem to want this bait, it takes a bit of time to figure out what type of bite is a bass bite and which are nuisance fish. Either way, in the summer time this rig will get enough bites to keep your interest level up.
The hook set. Due to the nature of that small hook, and if you are using braided line, your hook set does not need to be violent. Contrary to the typical rubber worm hookset, most times with the drop shot it is no more than a “Lift and reel” situation. That tiny light wire hook often stabs them itself as soon as you put pressure on the line. From then on through the battle is usually up to your drag, and the rod. Crank when the fish is not pulling, and let the rod absorb the shock when they are pulling. Even using a light monofilament line, you usually do not need to give the hook a monster hook set.
The great thing about the drop shot is that it can be used not only in the summertime but the spring in shallow water can be pretty productive as well as the fall and winter when the fish get grouped up on points and sharp drops. All the modern electric sonar units on the market now may give you an opportunity to “video fish”. In the late fall/early winter time, you can mark individual fish on your sonar and drop you rig on top them and most likely catch that same fish. Myself and others have also used the drop shot while ice fishing. It works! Not all the time, but enough to keep me coming back to it but, in the summertime when the bass are setting up on their deep stuff, it is definitely one of my preferred techniques.