LT(Lloyd) - Dave, I’ve looked over your credentials as a professional tournament fisherman listed on FishExplorer.com (FxR) and they are impressive to say the least. Tell me a little about your fishing career.
DM(Dave) - I started out with bass clubs and was immediately ruined. I won the first tournament I entered on Lake Fork, Texas and was double ruined. I started out at Lake Fork when it first opened and it was really a great place to learn to fish because you could catch so many bass and get so many opportunities to learn. Other lakes you might get five or ten bites a day and while that is fun you don’t learn a lot real fast. The hot lakes where you get so many bites you learn fast. I recommend fishing lakes that are showing a lot of action for that reason.
LT - How did you get into professional fishing?
DM - Fishing bass clubs was fun, but one day a friend asked me why don’t we go fish the B.A.S.S. National Tournaments in 1996. I thought why not? We went to Mississippi and competed against Jimmy Houston, Lonnie Stanley, Rick Clunn, Tommy Martin, and many more. It was a field of the top 200 in the nation. I came in tenth in a really tough tournament on Ross Barnett, Jackson, Mississippi, in a really tough contest. This was just after the lake had been flooded by heavy rain, and the fishing was difficult. I knew I could compete with the top guys after that.
LT - Tell me about the 105 pounds you caught in one tournament, setting a new FLW (FLW Outdoors) record.
DM - I went to Lake Amistad, a lake I had never fished. I was the first FLW angler to catch more than 100 pounds in a tournament. It is a canyon lake with deep clear water, a kind of lake I had little experience with. But for some reason I was dialed in and didn’t miss or lose a fish in the four day event. That result helped me to attract sponsors, and that helped to pay the way to more tournaments. A little help goes a long way.
LT - Let’s talk about late spring fishing. What does a fisherman need to know for this time of year? What tips can you give that will help fishermen catch more bass?
DM - We’re into a late spring pattern, “Post Spawn,” now, especially in central and north Texas. The further south you go the more summer like the patterns become. What that means is there may still be a few spawning fish, but there won’t be many. They’ve laid their eggs already, and the fry can be seen in the water right now as little clouds. Bass are like every other kind of fish. They do three things in their lives. Rest a lot, eat infrequently, and procreate once a year. They have no emotions, they don’t reason, or even think, they just do what Mother Nature tells them to do.
With ONE EXCEPTION; this time of year there is a big exception. Bluegills pester bass. Bluegills come in and spawn after the bass have spawned, and eat the bass fry. The only emotion that bass have is anger at bluegills. Lloyd, you wrote about the spunk of the bluegill. This time of year, right now, while the fry are young, bass are still holding in shallow water to protect those fry. They lurk around nearby the fry. Bluegills come in and start eating the fry. Here’s where you can capitalize on the bass instincts. Use buzz baits, top waters, chuggers, anything that stays on the surface – that’s the bait of choice this time of year. The bass will attack anything on the top that they perceive to be threatening the fry. Since fry tend to stay on the surface, bass start “looking up” this time of year. One of the very best baits right now is a lure introduced a few years ago by Lonnie Stanley, the Ribbitt Frog. I call it a soft buzz bait. You can throw it anywhere and retrieve it through the sloppiest of slop, weeds, lily pads, duck weed, hydrilla, coontail, anything. It draws a violent reaction strike from the bass. For the past two years I’ve been testing a new hook for the Stanley Ribbitt Frog which improves my “strike to land ratio” by 90%! It’s called the “double take” hook. It works. If I see you on the water, I’ll show you one. Go get some for your frog fishing!
This time of year the water temp has finally reached the point that bass have the metabolism to move around and attack. They are in the shallow water so they don’t have far to go to charge your bait, and remember they are protecting their young. This is the time of year to fish shallow with top water disturbing baits. The bait doesn’t have to be an imitation of a bluegill. You’re going for the reaction. Zara Spooks, frogs, poppers and many more work well. Experiment!
Cast into an area where you think there are some fry, where the bass spawned, in the back half of the cove. If you see bluegills moving around you’re gold. Throw past where you think a bass may be. If you see a bush that looks like a good spot throw it past the bush by twenty feet. You don’t want to splash the bait down on top of the fish, which spooks them. Cast past it and bring it in through the target area. The bass knows it’s coming and get ready. When it gets to the bush the bass is primed and ready when it gets there, it’s angry by that point. The warmer the water becomes, the faster the retrieve should be. Bass are cold blooded; their body temperature is the same as the water. Warmer water means faster moving bass.
I’m a big believer in fluorocarbon line, but not for top water - because fluorocarbon sinks. You want a floating line for this time of year. Trilene’s BigGame is a no brainer. Use it, or a similar monofilament, for top water. This is the one time of year that I don’t use fluorocarbon.
I never use it on top water baits. It pulls the bait under water. Use heavy line, don’t mess around with light lines because you’re throwing into junk. I like twenty to twenty-five pound line for this. A lot of people use 65 pound braid with a frog and still have trouble getting them out of the brush.
LT - Let’s say it’s first thing in the morning, which side of the lake do you head for?
DM - I want to fish the shade. Fish the south side of the east or west bank in the morning, fish the shade, always fish the shade! Bass always want to hide behind or under something, the shade line is what I look for when top water fishing. The shade gives the bass a sense of security in open water.
LT - What do you do at noon?
DM - I probably won’t throw top water unless it is overcast or hazy, or the surface is rippled by wind. No clouds or shade and I throw soft plastics in the same general area as before; something that sinks. The further the sun comes up the shorter the top water bite is. As summer progresses I’ll move away from top water except very early or very late.
LT - How important is color?
DM - Not so important frankly. Bass are looking at the bottom side of a top water bait and looking for something whitish, like a fish belly. The colors on top of the bait aren’t seen by the fish. They aren’t important. Some sparkling in the under color does help because it imitates scales. Action is far more important than color.
LT - Do you use bait casting reels?
DM - Definitely, I am a bait caster guy. I can move down to eight pound line on a bait casting rig when it counts. I’ve tried spinning rigs but can’t hit the broad side of a barn with one. I can flip a tube up under a dock pretty darned good. I grew up with bait casting and it works for me. Most of my fishing, talking year round, is more open water, not a lot of flipping under brush or docks, so bait casting works for me just fine.
LT - What type of rods do you use?
DM - I believe in long rods for a lot of reasons. I personally use American Rodsmith’s rods. They are headquartered in Houston, Texas, and I’ve been with them since the day we started the company. Having set the FLW record with a prototype rod, I’ve been with them ever since. I like a long rod. It gives and bends and flexes so much more, and that allows me to control the bass. I use a seven to seven and a half foot rod for most applications. It’s a mistake I see a lot of people make, using too short a rod, allowing the fish to be more in control after the bite. Rick Clunn told me one time, and used the words “controlled aggression”. You always need to be in control and you’re always the aggressor and a long rod lets you do that. Never let the bass be in control, and with short rods they can take control.
LT - What else would I want to know?
DM - This time of year you’re looking at post spawn and warmer water and more and more aggressive fish. This time of year the top water works as described, but it will fade soon. Monitor the water temperature and as it warms up you will need to move to progressively deeper and deeper water. You’ll see bass move on a daily basis into deeper water. Enjoy the shallow top water fishing for now, but don’t get glued to it too long. You have to change your tactics with the season.
LT - Are there any notable safety hazards for this time of year?
DM - This time of year, early morning fog can sometimes be a problem. Mostly safety is the same year round. Keep that life jacket on and use the kill switch. Don’t be complacent, you may have made the same run a hundred times, but this might be the day that a floating log comes into your path. I got thrown out of a boat at 72mph; knocked me out and broke my sternum. The life jacket and kill switch saved my life – this all happened in a split second. You never know when that split second will come at you. It’s not if, but when you will need your life jacket.
LT - Any parting last tips?
DM - Sneak up on the fish. They have seen all kinds of boats, all kinds of lures, all kinds of pressure this time of year. I shut my boat down out in the lake and ease up in there, keeping quiet and soft footed in the boat. The more shallow and clear the water is, the more stealth you need. No radios, no talking, and don’t drop anything, or you’re not going to catch the big ‘uns.
This is the one time of the year I do “fish the bank” because, that’s where they are. Soon, we will talk about summer time fishing, and what to do. We are all surprised how fast fish transition between patterns and from “post-spawn” to summer is no exception. I love the first few weeks of the summer pattern, because most people have not figured it out, and you have it to yourself! And you can whack ‘em while most everyone else is still fishing the shallows!
LT - Stay tuned! Next time we will dig into summer time patterns.