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Lynn Burkhead — Sight Fishing 201: Tips, to catch the bedded fish


If yesterday’s North Texas barrage of heavy rains, big hail, and damaging tornadoes hasn’t already convinced you, spring has finally sprung.

And that means that big bass are on the beds — or will soon be there — on nearly all lakes across North Texas and southern Oklahoma.

Interested in finding one of those big gals and catching a double-digit bucketmouth?

Then read on.

In this space last week, James Yowell and Chris Bobo — two local, hardcore bass anglers and regional tournament enthusiasts — shared their secrets about spotting bedded fish and keeping proper boat position.

This week, they share the techniques that they use on lakes all over the region.

James Yowell, the Tom Bean angler who recently retired as the assistant manager of the Gander Mountain store in Sherman, says one of the first things a would-be sight fisherman needs to do is to be sure that they are spooled up with the right line.

“I like to throw fluorocarbon line, especially in the stumps and weeds,” said Yowell. “Why? Partly because the fish can’t see the line and partly because I can pull them out of there since there is less stretch in the line.”

Yowell says he likes to use 14 to 20-pound fluro on the more stained lakes that he fishes in the spring, lakes like Fork, T-Bend, Ray Roberts and Bonham.

His counterpart, Academy Sports & Outdoors assistant manager Chris Bobo, likes to use lighter line on the clearer water that he is usually fishing on Lake Texoma.

“I typically go with two different tactics,” said Bobo. “I will start with a small jig using 15-pound line. If nothing happens, and the fish are skittish, then I will downsize and go to eight-pound fluorocarbon line.”

What baits will these two anglers throw?

“I like soft plastics for the bedded fish,” said Yowell. “I’ll fish them very slowly across the bed, almost like a dead-stick presentation.”

Yowell says that in more stained water, he likes to toss a Berkley Chigger Craw in a watermelon shade or a pumpkin seed color. In clearer water, he’ll downsize those baits or use a seven-inch Berkley plastic worm.

He also reminds that bass spawn in waves, meaning that not all fish are on the beds at the same time.

“If they are up on a flat and some are spawning, I’ll also throw a Rat-L-Trap for fish that aren’t right up on the bank. And sometimes, to catch a really big hawg that isn’t on the bank, I’ll even back off a little more and resort to throwing a jerkbait.”

For Bobo, what bait he throws revolves around the clarity of the water he is fishing.

“The spawn and sight fishing leads to brighter Xcite Baits soft plastics for me,” said Bobo. “I like to be able to see the bait, so I most often use something that is either white, chartreuse or even pink. Using these allows you to watch your bait till it disappears.”

Hopefully in the mouth of a double-digit big girl.

According to Bobo, to accomplish that goal, the Xcite Baits that he uses are typically small in size so “…the fish will have to consume the whole bait to move it off the nest versus just picking up one end of the bait without the hook and moving it.”

When Bobo actually spots a bedded fish, he’ll move his boat into position and then start working the edges of the bed. If that doesn’t work, then he’ll work his bait into the heart of the bed itself.

“You will know if they are interested by whether they swim away or stare down your bait,” he said. “If they lock in on your bait, keep throwing it. If they swim off, then downsize to a Shaky Head or even a Drop Shot presentation.”

When Bobo starts working a fish, he’ll spend a considerable amount of time doing so.

“I’ll work different areas of the bed cause there will be a sweet spot,” he said. “That’s a spot that the bass will not like your bait to be in and it will cause them to immediately react. Keep working until you find that sweet spot.”

What about other lures? Like Yowell, Bobo will occasionally throw in a change-of-pace bait to see what will happen.

“If I’m fishing a bed in murky water, I will sometimes throw a chartreuse spinnerbait across it if the bed is in really shallow water. And I’ll even try a trick I learned years ago, throwing a black buzzbait over a bed. You’d be surprised what will happen.”

What is the biggest mistake an angler can make in working a bedded fish?

Bobo says the two biggest ones in his mind are using line that is too big or a bait that is too big.

“Another common one is when a fisherman will hook and loose a fish and then move on to the next area,” he said. “But don’t do that. Because spawning fish aren’t really feeding, they are moving a bait that is irritating them away from their bed.

“So if you keep after it, they will eventually pick the bait up again. So there’s really no need to quickly give up on a bedded fish that stays there.”

Be persistent, use the right size lures and lines, and position your boat properly and the next two or three weeks of sight fishing can be the best bass fishing of the year.

No matter what lake you like to fish for bass.

 

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