Smallmouth bass spawn when temperatures in the shallows reach and sustain a temperature of about 59 degrees. This morning, I arrived at Spruce Run Reservoir at 6:15 to find Eric Evans had got there just ahead of me, other iBass360 members already launched, some coming in after us. A chilly morning, I really should have worn my winter jacket, because for the first few hours with a slight breeze, I felt pretty miserable. And the water registered 57 degrees. Here it is May as I write this, and Spruce Run is a fairly turbid reservoir, which means it warms quickly, especially since it's not especially deep as is Round Valley.
As we scooted off, I felt interest pique as Eric asked where I thought we should try, because I felt sure of a spot we had discovered last summer, lots of rock, deep water nearby, and an extensive flat with rock and gravel bottom where surely smallmouths will spawn or have so, as water temperature is said to have fallen. I thought little of largemouths all week before this event. The foregone conclusion just sort of sat in my stomach that we would encounter smallmouths. And my hunch did not involve the flat itself little, but the slope just to the side and in front of it.
We approached by fishing an entire length of shoreline down to the flat for not a hit. I felt lost out there. Any of you who follow this blog know I haven't fished much this year, and until I caught a smallmouth--on that flat itself--a couple of times I thought of my older mentor back from during my teens, an outdoorsman who is wholly just that and principled as the most conservative individual I've ever known. I wondered about myself, all I espouse in writing, sitting there out-of-sorts while I tried to fish with sincerity, and it seemed as if this man would never be the way I plied the water out-of-touch with my own practice.
Eric fished what to me seemed an awfully heavy jig for shallow water, a quarter ounce. I noticed he fished it really slow, right on bottom of course, and a minute later the Keitech lured a nice smallmouth he lost boat side. Now his approach made sense, but I persisted with my weightless worm, though I had tried half-a-dozen other lures. The ways to catch bass limitless, often someone else's method seems odd until you catch a glimmer of the beauty.
In 10 more minutes' time, Eric boated two smallmouths of 14 or 15 inches, and all of this action, including the bass he lost, happened right where I suggested we go. He lost yet another smallmouth that sort of sluggishly leapt off. And before we abandoned Valhalla for an early lunch with the rest of the team, he caught a largemouth of about two pounds the same way up on the flat in about three feet of water.
We beached the boat just after Eric asked would I like to fish more after lunch. Yes. And that's when I came fully back to myself, the weather having moderated, for one thing, my clothing more suitable, unpreparedness a mistake you should never make.
I caught nothing more and we tried a lot of new spots that looked promising; some fish marked on the graph, too. Just about all of the dozen-and-a-half of us fishing had caught bass, the largest five-and-a-half pounds, a largemouth, another over four pounds, some smallmouths and largemouths near three pounds. And another boat of two not in the club we had first met back at the flat had caught 17 between the two of them.
Spruce Run is a vibrant fishery, but man, it does get pounded.
Before we quit at 3:00, Eric motored us back to the flat and that sloping edge, to catch one more largemouth of about two pounds the same way, with the same Keitech, up on the flat. I fished a heavy jig and Keitech some, too. But during this last half hour, I felt determined to hook a bass on a Storm Hot-N-Tot, a crankbait I've done well with on the Delaware. I didn't burn the lure; I kept retrieves moderate and switched them up with pauses and tics, trying to make manufactured plastic come alive.