It seems that when we are headed to a spotted bass fishery many times we are expecting to catch smaller fish and often focus on numbers instead of quality. Playing the numbers game when you are fun fishing or fishing with your kids is what makes Spotted Bass so much fun but on tournament day you need to remember it’s quality over quantity.
So many times we have a hard time getting away from the schools of 12-14 inch spots and find ourselves weighing in that dreaded 7 pound bag of spots. Hopefully I can help you with some techniques and my thoughts on how to catch larger spotted bass. The Spotted Bass is the nomad of the bass family and they spend a great deal of time suspending over very deep water or just living in water 50-90 feet deep. The reason that Spotted Bass remain such a mystery to many bass anglers is they have very limited experience fishing these depths and many experienced bass anglers reluctantly admit they have never caught bass deeper than 40 feet. The angler that spends considerable time on our spotted bass lakes knows to stay with these fish many times you will find yourself fishing in the late summer and fall from 40 to 80 feet. I have tried to break out some of my favorite baits and techniques by time of year for you to use a guideline.
By far my favorite time to chase big spots and the time be prepared to catch them in 5 or 50 feet of water. I said the Spotted Bass is the nomad of the bass family and this is the time of year that you will really see this theory come into play. So many times we try to get our limit in the live well and then go chasing the larger bite. In the winter this plan for me is reversed and the first couple hours on the water is the key to catching that kicker fish. When the water temp is in the low 50’s to high 40’s I like to start off my day with a crankbait and cover as much shallow water as possible. You may only get a couple strikes during this time but they may be the biggest of the day. After the first couple of hours I usually start fishing deeper and stay there the rest of the day. My favorite technique for deep spotted bass is dragging a ¾ or 1 ounce jig on 12-14 pound Berkley Vanish. I make vertical drops under my boat and drag the jig with my trolling motor, keeping an eye on my front depth finder. I prefer a football head jig with no weedguard and a light wire 4/0 Gamakatsu hook. I fish a lot of the hula grub type jigs in green pumpkin and cinnamon purple however I am usually not without my live rubber jigs and pork when the water gets really cold. My all time favorite deepwater color in rubber and pork jigs is purple. I think this color is more visible in deep water than any other. Rod selection is very important and I prefer the Lamiglas 724 Senko Rod for deep jigs. Keep the jig on the bottom in 40 to 60 feet of water, fish the creek channel breaks and long points and remember if your not losing jigs you are not fishing them right.
We usually have rising water at this time of year in our lakes and the big spots are on the prowl and looking for an easy meal. The nastier the weather the better for early spring spotted bass this is the time for a ripbait or spinnerbait on long points leading into major creeks, secondary points in main creek channels and if you have running water in the backs of the creeks remember that Spotted Bass have a tendency
to think they are Trout and they will be in the shallow running water in the backs of the creeks. When the fish start to make their first move shallow I like a ripbait that will dive a little deeper down to 8-12 feet or a spinnerbait in ¾ or 1 ounce that I can get down 8-20 feet. You can keep it pretty simple with colors with Ghost Minnow, Chartreuse Shad or Table Rock Shad in the ripbaits and Chartreuse with Chartreuse Blades or Gold Blades on your spinnerbaits. As the water warms and fish are getting closer to spawning I look for larger fish on isolated bushes or trees and I like to fish a weightless bait like a Berkley Gulp Sinking Minnow or Jerk Shad. Just prior to the spawn the spots will group up in large numbers near the areas they are going to spawn in.
One of the most overlooked times to catch large spotted bass due to the heavy boat traffic on most of our good Spotted Bass lakes. This is however the time for topwater and don’t think it only works first thing in the morning. Remember that Spots will travel in large schools, suspend and often live far from the shore. This is the time to start fishing your topwater baits far off the bank on long points, island tops or anywhere they can move up shallow and feed and then move back into deeper water. It is not uncommon for Spotted Bass to come out of 20 feet of water to hit a topwater bait this time of year. It is hard to beat a walking bait like the Super Spook, Vixen or Rover for these fish and I keep the colors pretty simple with Trout Patterns and Shad Patterns being my favorite. I do change all my treble hooks on these baits to one size larger Gamakatsu Round Bend treble hooks. You can experiment with colored hooks and feathered tails to help you build some confidence in this type of bait. At this point I am experimenting as well with the red hooks. Two of my other favorites are a small popper like the Bubble Pop or the Rico and big Spots will crush a buzzbait as fast as a big largemouth will.
The toughest time to target big spotted bass in my opinion as the lakes are usually dropping, the bait is very deep and fish are likely to be anywhere from 10 to 100 feet of water. Big Spots are no different than big Largemouth and when the trout start roaming around chasing baitfish they start roaming around chasing the Trout. This is the time when you can catch some giant Spotted bass on swimbaits but this is also the time when some of the best soft plastic fishing will also work very well. Try dropshotting with ¼ or 3/8 tungsten weight around the baitfish you will see on your meter. The heavier weight this time of year will get you down to the deeper water and give you more control of your dropshot rig. I also fish a small 4” power worm on a ¼ ounce darthead on 6 or 8 pound test Vanish line this time of year as well. Fall can be one of the most frustrating times of year for Spotted Bass and often it is when we are fishing TOC’s on deep, clear reservoirs after a summer of chasing shallow largemouth on the Delta or Clear Lake.
Hopefully this will give you a few places to start when you are looking to catch bigger Spotted Bass and if your are going to fish deep you need to learn how to properly deflate the swim bladder on these fish. Good Luck on whatever Spotted Bass lake you wind up on.