Most lakes have protected water to get out of the wind and into the fish.
Cronk and I paddled hard against the wind blowing down-lake. No electric motors were allowed; maneuvering by arm had to do. It was tough going the first few times we fished the lake, but we got used to paddling a squareback, and it felt easy. Even in the wind. Having a goal 500 yards westward helped, though. The lake’s only island protected an acre or so of bass-haunted water.
We took breaks. Anchoring five or six times and casting Chatterbaits resulted in a couple of bass of about 18 inches between us and a 20-inch largemouth for me, but I had calm water in mind the whole way. Judging by what Brian said, he did, too. I imagined he might switch out the Chatterbait for a worm.
A couple of years prior, my son Matt and I fished another lake in late May in such heavy wind that we got soaked while crossing open water in a 15-foot rental boat powered by a 9.9-horsepower outboard. We caught bass all day by sneaking into tiny little coves protected from that wind. I would never again fish bass in May or June when the wind is up without looking for quiet water.
The productivity makes sense when you consider that largemouth from May to early/mid-June are spawning, protecting eggs or hatchlings, or lingering in post-spawn shallows. While the lake bottom’s having enough firmness makes for the beds, I believe protection against prevailing winds is also an essential factor. No self-respecting bass creates one where 3-foot waves will wash through and scatter the eggs.
Buck bass guard the beds. The males are usually about a foot long. Brian and I never target bass much smaller than 3 pounds, so it’s not beds we look for but related shallows. Even if we wanted little bass, we wouldn’t feel quite right bothering them. Big females were spawned-out the day we paddled with the island in mind, but some remained in the vicinity of where they might have laid eggs. I don’t know why females tend to remain near beds. They don’t protect newly hatched bass, but you’ll find big females in water just a few feet deeper than the beds situated.
Cronk and I finally got out of the wind. In the calm, he continued to cast a Chatterbait, catching a 19-inch bass. I’ll always throw a worm where one will work, so I got the canoe close enough to overhanging brush, where nothing happened. I felt slightly put off by Brian’s success.
Further along the shoreline, the overhanging brush ends, and the bank feels barren. But even further yet towards the chop at the calm water’s end, a large deadfall had always looked good but never produced. Today I longed for it. I was aware that the acre or two we fished is always protected but not necessarily productive. It’s a narrow distance between the island and the southern shore, the island not pointing directly to the west, so the wind, which usually comes from that direction, is blocked. And if it should come from the southwest, it would be blocked by the southern shore that curves westward only a little further on.
Most lakes have protected water to seek out. With any luck, you’ll find a blowdown like the one that persuaded Cronk to tie on a worm. Another friend of mine, Kevin Murphy, caught a largemouth of 20 inches last June when we fished another lake’s calm shallows. Cronk got an 18-incher and another one nearly as big as Kevin’s on the worm. I used a Chomper’s 8-inch traditional style, unweighted and threaded onto an inset worm hook, which resulted in a bass of 19 inches. Two more came quickly thereafter. Just a sliver under 20 inches and 20-3/4 inches.
Calm water isn’t the only spot to fish. Cronk caught two more nice ones on the Chatterbait. Just the same, who would pass up a quick catch of three big ones? Keep in mind that a Senko, whether rigged Wacky or not, sinks twice as fast as a Chompers and compels a fast, active retrieve. Mind your p’s and q’s and serve the bass quietly. The worm doesn’t have to be a Chompers. A slow-sinking worm of any description will do, although a minimum of 8 inches is a good idea for the big ones.
FISHERMAN – Kevin Murphy and a bass he caught in calm shallows during a sunny June afternoon.