Thursday, April 17, 2014

Cold Front Largemouth Bass

Got out for a little minnow dunking and a drive around Lake Hopatcong with my wife, son, and Labrador Sadie. Very breezy and chilly, our usual shallow spots yielded nothing, so I cast the barrel swivel weighted shiner straight out and put my rod on a rock, bail open, allowing the shiner to mosey its way down into 15 foot depths. This cold front with bluebird skies is persistent, but I was hoping that on this the second day of it, maybe bass and pickerel would feed a little. The lake we fished is pretty deep, so plenty of residual cold water remained under the shallow layer warming quickly with recent temperatures near 80. With temperatures below freezing last night, I suppose most of that warm water layer cooled.

Nevertheless, when I picked up my rod, I felt the tugs of a fish, thinking pickerel, and set the hook, hollering for my son to run over and get the camera. He had taken off to try further along a shoreline. Turned out to be a bass 19 inches long, but very skinny--a big buck. The females certainly haven't spawned yet. I told Matt, "I'm just casting straight out and letting the rod sit," and did this again. He responded to the simple style and did the same. A few minutes passed and then my rod tip jiggled, line turning off the spool. I quickly grabbed the rod, set, and was into a bass that felt much larger. I thought I had a five-pounder, but it was only about 17 1/2 inches, chunky. Soon after, Matt leaned into a good fish, a bass of about 18 inches. And then for another 20 minutes, no action, but for 45 minutes to an hour of being there, the flurry for 10 minutes or so of really nice bass, all over three pounds, provided a lot of fun.

With the sun getting low, I got on Interstate 80 and exited for Lake Hopatcong, checking out Lake's End Mariana where a few people fished, but not stopping to shoot photos. We pulled into State Park, but didn't get out. It looked too drab and cold. We did stop at River Styx and I got some photos there. Trish and Matt enjoyed a little walkabout. They both walked much more at our previous destination, where I stayed holed up with the bass. Both of them felt very pleased with the release of forgetting all else and the beauty of the place, and although we weren't there long, it feels as if we spent a whole day. And we stopped at a few overlooks briefly between Styx and Brady Bridge, arriving at Jefferson House restaurant to find it closed, and the Windlass likewise. It's a weekend thing this time of year. And the lake felt cold, but the kind of cold you know is on its way to spring and summer. You can just feel or taste this. We ate at Jefferson Diner. I had clams Portuguese, very spicy, but full of vegetables mixed with the sauce, pasta, and sausage, and especially clams, clams my favorite. Matt had a big burger platter, and Trish a fancy eggplant dish.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Largemouth Bass Respond to Warm South Wind, Husky Jerk and Rapala Floater

Here in New Jersey the last few days have been well into the 70's, if not above 80 today and yesterday. I got interested in trying a Husky Jerk after sunset yesterday, not because the suspending action of the plug was necessary. I wanted to use it to see what would happen, since I've used it so infrequently. The surface calm, I might have drawn surface strikes, although in recent years I've found the lure of early season surface fishing here deceiving, doing much better on subsurface jerkbaits. I plugged our neighborhood bass pond for 15 minutes, catching two largemouths not much more than a pound each. Both of these hung very close to shore, caught on more or less parallel casts in the same vicinity.

Today I returned to fish at about 5:00 with a Rapala #9 Floater, caught four bass, none more than a pound. A powerful south wind chopped the surface, even though the pond is no more than four feet deep maximum. I cast hard into the wind and tried out from shore, but the hits that led to catches and those I missed came in close. I might have done better with a spinnerbait. Past stints--these measured in minutes, rather than hours--I've done well on quarter-ounce spinnerbaits when a powerful wind drives water against the north bank. And I find bass well out from shore, rather than in close where they responded to the Rapala today.

I don't know why they all have been smaller so far this year. The past two or three years, they've averaged a pound-and-a-half to about two pounds. I was already wondering last year why the average size remained the same, as if the bass hadn't grown. It used to be average size in this pond was about 11 inches, although bass have been here for at least 20 years, and I can't account for the sudden growth. I first fished this pond 15 years ago July.

Chalk it up to two consecutive days with smaller bass. They're surely going to average larger again this year, but it is odd how it feels as if my curiosity in using jerkbaits instead of a spinnerbait got this result.