A Spring­time Sta­ple On Lake Oua­chita

The Sentinel-Record - HER - Hot Springs - - Outdoors - Story and Pho­tos by CORBET DEARY

Acou­ple of im­por­tant things tran­spired on Arkansas’ wa­ters dur­ing the month of April.The photo pe­riod in­creased, as did the wa­ter tem­per­a­ture. In turn, many fish species went about their an­nual spawn.

Fish are very pre­dictable dur­ing this small win­dow of time and, gen­er­ally speak­ing, easy to catch. But the spawn is now be­hind us, and the fish have to­tally changed their pat­terns. They’re still fairly easy to fig­ure out, though. It’s a mat­ter of un­der­stand­ing the ar­eas they fre­quent and the lures and tech­niques that will prove most ef­fec­tive at coax­ing them from the wa­ters.

Lo­cated less than an hour from here and, in some cases, min­utes away, Lake Oua­chita is an ex­cel­lent fish­ery.The reser­voir sports in the neigh­bor­hood of 1,000 miles of shore­line and prac­ti­cally 50,000 acres of wa­ter sur­face. And the scenery — it’s beau­ti­ful.

I’ll be the first to ad­mit that there are times when the fish sim­ply refuse to bite. But there are also oc­ca­sions when one would be hard-pressed to spend a few hours cast­ing with­out putting a fish or two in the boat.There are mul­ti­ple keys to suc­cess. Lo­ca­tion, time of day, lure choice and tech­nique are all cru­cial el­e­ments. It’s also cru­cial to un­der­stand and lo­cate their food source.

By the time the month of May rolls around, the wa­ter has warmed to a point the fish are no longer slug­gish and are on the prowl. As ear­lier sug­gested, find the food source and you’ll find the fish.That in mind, one might con­sider cast­ing lures repli­cat­ing shad or other small fish.

Of course, all an­glers have their pref­er­ences, and I sus­pect most are quick to stress that their choice of lures is the most ef­fec­tive. I sup­pose I fall in that cat­e­gory, as well. How­ever, I’m a firm be­liever that many styles and col­ors are ef­fec­tive as the oth­ers.The key is cast­ing the lures in which you are most con­fi­dent.

Dur­ing this time of the sea­son, there are spe­cific lures that are tied onto my lines pretty well all of the time. Upon reach­ing my fish­ing des­ti­na­tion, I usu­ally reach for my spring­time sta­ple — a sus­pended jerk­bait.

Briskly twitch­ing the rod tip while wind­ing, I stop re­trieval mid­stream. Let­ting the lure re­main mo­tion­less for a pe­riod, which varies from a frac­tion of to sev­eral sec­onds. I then be­gin the re­trieval again.This is of­ten the

“There are mul­ti­ple keys to suc­cess. Lo­ca­tion, time of day, lure choice and tech­nique are all cru­cial el­e­ments. It’s also cru­cial to un­der­stand and lo­cate their food source.”

split sec­ond when they de­cide to pounce on the lure.

Jerk­baits are very pro­duc­tive and ca­pa­ble of coax­ing a va­ri­ety of fish species into bit­ing. I can re­call an out­ing a few weeks ago when this lure and tech­nique boated 56 bass, eight walleyes and one slab crap­pie. And, to top it all off, we didn’t get on the wa­ter un­til af­ter the noon hour. Of course, we only kept our lim­its, but culling fish is a lux­ury all an­glers en­joy.

Jerk­baits are also ex­tremely ef­fec­tive means of catch­ing striped bass. How­ever, be pre­pared to have your hooks straight­ened ev­ery now and then, and un­der­stand that if one’s drag isn’t set cor­rectly, they’ll snap the line and swim off with the lure.

Top­wa­ter lures are also one of my sta­ples dur­ing May and the lat­ter months of spring.There are two styles that I use re­li­giously. I love dancing a spook across the sur­face, a tech­nique re­ferred to as “walk­ing the dog.”

Again, twitch­ing the rod tip dur­ing re­trieval is key. With each brisk jerk, the lure dances back and forth across the sur­face.

Al­though these types of top­wa­ter lures are deadly, I can’t think of any­thing more en­ter­tain­ing than watch­ing a bass rush from the depths and nail­ing a chug­ger. These lures are fairly easy to mas­ter. Sim­ply twitch the rod tip, al­low the lure to sit mo­tion­less for a skoch and con­tinue the process un­til the pre­sen­ta­tion reaches the boat.

Last but not least, small swim­ming soft plas­tics are likely one of the eas­i­est lures to fish and can lend to some real ac­tion-packed out­ings. As for tech­nique, it doesn’t get much sim­pler — cast the plug into the wa­ter and steadily wind it in. Of course, re­trieval speed will be de­ter­mined by the depth of the fish, and oc­ca­sion­ally stop­ping re­trieval and let­ting the lure fall some­times spurs a bite. It’s all a mat­ter of what they pre­fer on a given day.

The month of May can prove tremen­dous on Lake Oua­chita.The bait­fish will be ac­tive and the species we love to catch won’t be far be­hind. Be pre­pared to do a lit­tle jerk­ing, twitch­ing and stop­ping dur­ing mid-stream. Get out on the wa­ter and en­joy the beauty around you, and with a lit­tle luck, there’ll be fish fry­ing in the skillet on the fol­low­ing day.

Bait­fish look-alikes are very ef­fec­tive on Lake Oua­chita, as well as other Arkansas wa­ters dur­ing the month of May.

Jerk­baits are a very ef­fec­tive means of coax­ing striped bass into bit­ing. How­ever, strong line and a finely tuned drag sys­tem are es­sen­tial.

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