Freshwater: Warmwater Flats Largemouth - The Fisherman

Freshwater: Warmwater Flats Largemouth

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The author with a 21-1/2-inch largemouth from last April caught on a Mepp’s Aglia Long, despite having no water column to speak of in its favor.

Enjoy the flats this month when seeking out big bass.

I used to begin in late February. To the south of where I live now, immediately after ice-out, fishing for early season largemouths was a ritual. Now I fish a 6-acre pond in March, though the best fun starts in early April when I begin fishing a 50-acre lake. The bass there are big.

Because that lake is shallow and the water isn’t especially clear, it warms better than other lakes in the same region that are much deeper. Before the middle of the month, water temperatures reach the mid-50s; not warm enough for me to feel comfortable throwing a topwater plug, but retrieving a spinnerbait, Chatterbait, or even an inline spinner, warms the blood enough to be ready for inevitable strikes.

Inline spinners are nothing to scoff at. My favorite quarter-ounce Mepp’s Aglia Long catches big bass, but my friend Brian Cronk has shown me advantages a Chatterbait offers. I’ve become convinced that throwing one of them is usually better, but I doubt I’ll retire my spinners. Spinnerbaits will catch bass, too, but their chief advantage over inline spinners is the snag-proof quality. The lake we fish has very little brush in the water. Spinnerbaits manage to get though weeds – to some degree – without hanging up, but at this time of year, the weeds are residual stuff on the bottom. Almost anywhere, I can throw an inline spinner with its treble hook like a grappling iron and not get hung up.

I like the straight-forward profile and bass do, too. Especially over the very shallow flats I favor, I don’t want to throw a spinnerbait – even if it’s a 1/4- or 1/8-ounce – because that water is clear and it just looks awkward where it doesn’t perform its function in brush or weeds, or through deep water as a slow rolling, thumping water bug with a flashy exoskeleton. An inline spinner is, by comparison, a very seductive, silvery whirl like a pod of little shiners I trust will captivate a bass’s interest.

Don’t use trout-sized spinners. Use a size 6 (1/4-ounce) spinner or even larger, a weight you can cast long on a medium-power rod. I use 15-pound-test braid, but monofilament is fine, unless you’re fishing along heavy cover and need to force big bass away from it. If you’re fishing 6 feet deep or more, you can slow down the retrieve, but even in the foot or two of water I’m recommending that you don’t need to burn a spinner.

Shallow flats that cover a fair amount of square yardage will have either a muddy or hard bottom. In either case, the bottom will absorb sunlight and warm the water significantly compared to where it’s deeper. It can feel counterintuitive to position the boat and begin casting to water so thin, but 5- and 6-pound largemouth will cruise these areas with barely enough depth to cover their backs. During summer afternoons, forget it. The sun superheats these spots, but for two consecutive Aprils, we’ve hit the bass just right when fan casting flats so shallow we’ve been mindful of keeping our lures from grounding on the bottom. That sleek profile of an inline spinner is advantageous.

Many lakes and ponds have such flats. One of the deep-water lakes I mentioned earlier has extensive shallow flats worth checking out, if I were to try the lake early on. I also used to fish four ponds, each about 3 acres, that consecutively feed into each other. Each pond has a shallow flat at its head where bass are vulnerable when the water is warming.

Warming water is key, but not necessarily during a warm front. During a recent April, Brian and I began fishing at dawn, and we enjoyed action on the flat a few hours later, when, despite temperatures that had just climbed into the low 50s, the sun had cut through calm surface onto the mud long enough to draw the 21-1/2-inch largemouth I caught up onto it.

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