Round Valley Reservoir Smallmouth Bass on the Rocks
Last summer, Fred Matero and I caught a lot of smallmouth bass and one largemouth at Round Valley Reservoir, thanks to Fred’s 14-foot deep V-hull boat. I'm posting this story well ahead of time. For any who read it now, get psyched. It's a chilly day today, but gladly a long winter is gone that didn't even allow us much ice fishing.
In recent years, I have not managed to catch any bass after Memorial Day from shore, and abandon the reservoir until late April. But Fred catches plenty through the summer. The place to be is the back shorelines; find rocky bottom in about 10 to 15 feet of water and you may be in for some action. Ancillary aquatic vegetation ensures that largemouth may be present too.
Fishing such structure seems deceptively easy. On occasion, I sight-fish largemouth bass in shallows. Simply casting a plastic worm to the bass usually isn’t enough. Years of trial and error have taught me how to anticipate where to place the worm. Nevertheless, failure to get a hit is the rule, although I try to trim the margin of error. So when fishing for bass you can’t see, the inference is that most of the time they ignore an offering near them, but subtle attention to presenting a lure may make the difference. Sight is not your only sense and sometimes it seems that hunches lead the way, whether they are feelings about where to cast or how to retrieve. Persistent pays, but the kind of persistence that pays best is attentive.
That recent evening on Round Valley, Fred was successful with eighth-ounce jigs tipped with quartered nightcrawlers. Enthusiastic about the huge sunfish that sometimes frequent strips of shoreline in pods, he is prepared. Both smallmouth and largemouth bass eagerly take the bait, the jig tapping rocks lightly, emitting sound that gamefish register perhaps and are drawn to. Always allow the jig to make bottom contact in any case. Few lures get lost to snags here because the rocks are small without edges for a hook to wedge against, but on occasion it happens, and simply using the electric to back behind the hang up usually allows you to pull the lure free. The mistake beginners often make with any type of lure is to just cast it out and retrieve it back. In most fishing situations, the lure should be fished on or near bottom.
Obviously, topwater plugs offer bass a chance to dramatically break this rule. After sunset, we moved closer to the bank, and caught bass in water as shallow as five or six feet. Coming upon reeds standing in shallow water, my senses became aroused, I reached for a Hedden Torpedo topwater, and suggested to Fred we close in. No sooner had I spoken, a great, audible gush of water belied a big bass devouring forage right up in those reeds.
No matter that the plugs failed us, or we failed the plugs. Fishing is opportunity, and usually you have to try something else. Dusk set in and we continued to fish as dark enclosed us, making for the ramp under a nearly full moon and stars.
Nevertheless, the Torpedo is my favorite plug, period. And for over a year I have used only a Torpedo with complete chrome finish because no other color or pattern of colors makes a better lure. This is only personal preference, but go with what gives you confident because only confidence arouses those senses you need.
Most of the outing, I casted a Senko-type worm, the 10 and 12 foot depths just right for that fast sinking action, in fact a higher vibration pitch is emitted by more mass to possibly arouse bass at some distance in the gin clear Round Valley water. I hoped that with any large bass present, they would go for this chunky offer of a five-inch, fat-bodied plastic that smells good to them.
Round Valley is full of good-size bass between two and three pounds, and although ours were smaller, Fred lost a smallmouth that may have been two pounds. I have spoken to two separate scuba divers who have spoken of huge bass. Also, I spoke to an angler who told me about a largemouth he estimated at nine pounds, which wouldn’t hit. The state record smallmouth bass, seven pounds, two ounces, got caught here, but the potential for larger seems to exist despite the reservoir’s notorious low fertility, which explains the gin clarity, very desirable otherwise. Bass are numerous, but not everywhere, even though fishing pressure on them isn’t very high and most release their catches. Despite a certain lack of forage, the ecology seems to trade numbers of bass for size.
Your outing should be contemplative if you want to catch fish. Openness of mind is what allows attention scope, but fishing is a game, so every cast counts to score.