SA Bass - - Contents - >> John Badenhorst* *John Badenhorst is the editor of SA BASS mag­a­zine and a keen ul­tra fi­nesse angler.

“Stag­ing bass in early spring” Catch­ing bass is what makes us get up on bit­terly cold and frosty morn­ing to head out into the un­known in search of those green fish we love so much – John Badenhorst

Catch­ing bass is what makes us get up on bit­terly cold and frosty morn­ing to head out into the un­known in search of those green fish we love so much. Catch­ing bass, to some might be easy but spend some time with some­one that you re­gard as a good angler and soon you will come to re­al­ize that it’s not sim­ply about catch­ing fish, it’s about hours spent in prac­tice, re­search and months and even years of hon­ing those skills.

It takes prac­tice and pa­tience to un­der­stand bass and their be­hav­iour in re­la­tion to chang­ing sea­sons, tem­per­a­ture, baro­met­ric pres­sure, wa­ter clar­ity and vol­ume. There is most def­i­nitely also an el­e­ment of luck in­volved but as leg­endary golfer Gary Player once said...”the more I prac­tice, the luck­ier I get”.

The more time you spend on the wa­ter or walk­ing the bank, the bet­ter you’ll be­come at bass fish­ing and find­ing some­one that’s al­ready spent the time and ef­fort to fig­ure some things out AND who is will­ing to share their knowl­edge is worth its weight in gold.

In win­ter, the bait­fish slow down due to colder tem­per­a­tures and so will the fish that hunt them. In some cases it’s best to mimic a bait­fish in distress caused by a sud­den drop in pres­sure or tem­per­a­ture and here, sus­pend­ing twitch min­nows worked su­per slowly can pro­duce good qual­ity fish. Bass be­come lethar­gic dur­ing cold snaps and will in most cases not even bother to chase a prey that seems like it might get away from it. Chas­ing a bait­fish de­pletes energy re­serves and in the colder months, it’s all about pre­serv­ing that energy. When re­triev­ing a sus­pend­ing

bait, slow down to what you would per­ceive as slow and then slow it down even more. With soft plas­tics, a host of an­glers have great suc­cess sim­ply let­ting the bait fall to the bot­tom and then leav­ing it there “dead stick” for up to a minute and then giv­ing it a slight twitch.

Us­ing weight­less baits also pro­duce good re­sults as the bait falls through the body of wa­ter way slower than you’d nor­mally fish it even with a small slid­ing weight.

Fish­ing a drop-shot works like magic and here, the idea is to have your weight sit­ting on the bot­tom while your bait is sus­pended a few inches above. Lift­ing the rod tip just enough to move the bait with­out lift­ing the sinker off the bot­tom and then let­ting it drop again in or­der for the bait to fall a few inches is what usu­ally trig­gers a strike.

With jigs or the Ned rigs, the idea is to gen­tly lift the bait off the bot­tom by no more than two inches at a time and even tiny lit­tle tap-tap move­ments right on the bot­tom and pauses in-be­tween will drive bass crazy. For foot­ball jigs, drop-shot and the men­tioned Ned rig, it is ad­vis­able to have a short spin­ning rod with a rather flex­i­ble tip which will al­low you to move the bait en­tic­ingly with­out lift­ing it too high and out of the strike zone.

Mov­ing into spring or as us an­glers know this time of year as the pres­pawn, bass will stage and by this, I want you to imag­ine the shore line... the shal­lows start to warm up and on good days, male fish will move up into the shal­low to hunt and to start check­ing out pos­si­ble spots for some nookie later in the sea­son. These fish will not hang out per­ma­nently in the shal­lows as the tem­per­a­ture still drops dur­ing the night and would rather pre­fer to be in a more com­fort­able zone where wind and am­bi­ent tem­per­a­ture does not make a big dif­fer­ence. Most of these fish will be found in and around the 10 to 14ft range and will move shal­lower dur­ing the warmer hours of the day. When a sud­den cold snap hits, these fish will hold tight up against struc­ture like a brush pile, rock pile, sunken jetty or such, it af­fords them pro­tec­tion from the el­e­ments and will at­tract bait­fish for ex­actly the same rea­son and this is where our friend the bass will am­bush his din­ner.

As wa­ters warm up even more, scores of randy males will move into shal­lows to eat and sort out their bed­room ar­range­ments for the party to come. Fe­males will also move around feed­ing and check­ing out pos­si­ble suit­ors for the next gen­er­a­tion. On a re­cent trip to Wit­bank Dam, we were con­fronted with av­er­age wa­ter tem­per­a­tures of around 12ºC and hav­ing heard that some an­glers had in fact been strug­gling to get fish only a few days be­fore, we didn’t get our hopes up too much. The morn­ing started av­er­age and we man­aged to get a few solid fish as the day grew warmer. We mostly fished what we would term as a stag­ing area in around 9 to 12ft of wa­ter. Usual

haunts dur­ing win­ter like the hump in goose bay didn’t pro­duce a sin­gle bite, even on the ever pop­u­lar drop-shot method. Af­ter scout­ing around for a while, we man­aged to find an area com­fort­ably sit­u­ated be­tween two weedbeds with a nice lit­tle rocky ledge about 4m to­wards the deeper wa­ter. On the first cast I went on with a fish of around 1.2kg and from that point on, the bite was con­stant. Some bites were ever so gen­tle that the slight­est ten­sion on the line would cause the fish to drop the bait but some of the other bites al­most ripped the rod out of my hands. We ended up with a to­tal of forty fish for our ef­forts for the day and although we didn’t get the big­ger fish, we did man­age a five fish bag weight of around 5.6kg. The pre­vi­ous week, we fished Bronkhorstspruit Dam and where we had found fish of around 1.5 to 2.6kg barely four days ear­lier, we couldn’t pay for a bite and af­ter many frus­trat­ing hours of cast­ing as if we were fish­ing in the desert, we de­cided to work the ar­eas right up against the reeds and very quickly fig­ured a pat­tern as we man­aged to get some solid fish but noth­ing over 1kg. On both these out­ings, it shows how fish tend to move around as the days grow warmer and where you thought the fish might be hold­ing has been va­cated.

Crabs form a mas­sive part of the bass diet at this time as the crab shell has a chem­i­cal called cithin which helps males with sperm pro­duc­tion and helps fe­males pro­duce the pro­tec­tive layer around their eggs. Us­ing crab im­i­ta­tion baits and

small jigs or soft plas­tics in light browns, Junebug and am­ber works best as these are “crabby” colours and fish will be locked into this. Over the last decade, many an­glers have ex­pe­ri­enced how in­tensely those lit­tle green fish can be locked onto a cer­tain pat­tern or colour and will flatly ig­nore any other of­fer­ing.

Well, soon our pre-spawn sea­son will be upon us and I’m sure that you’re look­ing for­ward to it as much as I am. Un­til then, re­mem­ber, it is still win­ter so slow it down and then even more... and be pa­tient be­cause the next bite you have might just be a sought af­ter PB or tro­phy.

Us­ing crab im­i­ta­tion baits and small jigs or soft plas­tics

Gen­tly lift the Ned rig off the bot­tom by no more than two inches at a time

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