Working hard to score the big ones
Last Friday, I arrived at Sutton Lake before dawn and slid the Alumacraft johnboat off its trailer. It was still dark as I waited for enough light to target a cast. What I was hoping to see were telltale signs of feeding largemouth bass.
Sutton Lake has abundant bass-holding cover. The bottom has a forest of tree stumps and the dikes are covered with overhanging trees and deadfalls stretching into the water. Most bass fishermen target the woody structure with crankbaits and soft plastic lures. However, not being in a particularly patient mood, I had a faster fishing method mind.
Sutton Lake is full of baitfish, especially shad. While most bass stick tight to cover, others swim freely, driving schools of shad to the surface as they feed.
I had a Kastmaster spoon tied on one of my lines, hoping to see some surface action. On another rod, I tied a Zara Spook. The Spook is what anglers call a walk-the-dog lure. The angler imparts a flip-flopping motion to the lure with the rod tip while reeling in line, making it resemble an injured baitfish.
A spoon is a lure most bass anglers do not give the proper consideration because they seldom target free-roaming fish. However, several years ago, when I was writing Fishing North Carolina, I was having trouble catching smallmouth and largemouth bass at Santeetlah Lake. They were schooling at the surface and I caught a couple of fish with a Devil's Horse - a propeller lure. Another angler passed by and said he caught nine bass by tossing a Kastmaster spoon. Of course, all of my casting spoons were at home in my other tackle box.
As the gray light cast black silhouettes of the shoreline trees, two ospreys glided overhead. They made a couple of dives and one caught a fish, clutching it in its talons as it winged off, presumably to feed its nestlings.
I heard a bass slurp down a shad from the surface. Turning, I fired a cast into the boil. The Spook did its flip-flopping thing, but the bass wasn't having any. A bass striking a topwater lure is one of the most exciting events in freshwater fishing. However, after making several casts with zero results, I glanced askance at Kastmaster, dangling on the other rod.
About 6 a.m., bass began busting baitfish all around. The wind was calm so the surface was as slick as motor oil. I could see and hear bass breaking for hundreds of yards in all directions – a single fish here, a couple there, a good-sized school over that way. The fish were easy to see as they broke the surface, with some clearing the water completely and turning somersaults in mid-air.
A heavy casting spoon is the perfect lure for the situation. Its weight cuts through the air like a bullet, so it casts a long way. Feeding bass don't stay in one place for long, so the angler has only seconds to make an accurate cast, landing the lure just beyond the fish and reeling it through them, hoping to dupe one into striking.
It worked exactly like that. On the first cast, I hooked and landed a nice bass. Over the next 30 minutes, I had at least 20 strikes and landed a half-dozen largemouth, the largest weighing 2.8 pounds on a digital scale. I was using 10-pound test braid, which was not heavy enough. A big bass made off with that uncomfortable hunk of metal in its mouth. It was the only spoon in the boat.