Clear Lake Conditions
Lake level at press time is 6.1 feet, nearly the same as the first
of March and about 1 three quarters of a foot lower than last year. Water
clarity has gone to almost scary clear for here with some areas having
7 feet of visibility. Water temps are holding beginning in the
morning around 52 degrees and working up to the low 60’s during
the end of the day.
Bass fishing on Clear Lake in April is an experience. The weather
is a little more predictable, the spawn is in full swing, and bass
are shallow all over the lake. You can be fishing in t-shirts
and shorts and you will see more fish swimming and cruising than you
can imagine. Being on the water this month gives you a much truer
picture of just how awesome this fishery really remains.
The plastic worm can be fished by the drop shot, split shot, or shakey head and all methods will not only catch numbers but give you a real chance at a good fish too.
The Carolina rig, which I don’t mess around with enough, is a very popular presentation under April’s conditions and can catch a big fish. Best bait choices here are a 6” lizard or full sized brush hog.
For the more stubborn anglers, the bigger swim baits such as the Osprey, Huddleston, and Live Eye Bottom Walker 150 will draw attention from the newest big females who have moved up to the staging areas. With more vegetation greening up, the mission fish will begin to come on strong as a swim bait of choice.
Finally, live bait is still an effective and fun option during the month of April. Whether fished under a slip float or fly lined, this method will absolutely produce some of the biggest limits of the month for clients. We netted two double-digit fish for clients in March on live bait (lost another on a swim bait at the back of the boat!) and hope to net a couple more in April.
The majority of bass spawn here in the tules, on or around the hard bottoms created by docks, or in heavy wooded cover. Locating the staging areas is easy in some ways and a longer search in others.
The easy spots to locate staging areas are to find the entrances to sloughs, creeks, harbors, and lagoons. On Clear Lake, the hitch moves into these areas to spawn and the females getting ready to spawn, follow them. It is not secret on this lake the creek mouths of Adobe, McGaw, Rodman, etc. are all entrances to the spawning areas of the hitch and therefore locations that bulking up females head to for their increasing need for protein. These spots are also easy to find for another reason…. there will be a stack of boats fishing them, especially on the weekends.
While still on a larger scale, but much harder to nail down to a confined concentration, the tules are always a staging area. There aren’t many of them either, but every major tule point on the lake is a staging area due to the fact that they are the entrances to the bays where many bass will spawn in the backs of, in the thick tules beds. Just looking at a stretch of tules that let’s say the front is in 6 feet of water and the back is in 6 inches of water. Look for the staging females to be sitting out along the 6-foot edge and the more aggressive male to be actively patrolling the 2 to 4 foot range. Of course the exception will be the female that has moved up to within a couple feet of a bed because she is close to the actual spawning process.
The next smaller scale location is on the docks. In this clearer water you will see many fish sitting suspended under the docks. These will be fish waiting for the biological clocks to kick in to start the spawn. In the meantime, they sit under the docks in the shade, ambushing bait as it comes by. Some of these fish will spawn on the bottom under the dock in water as deep as 8 to 10 feet, some will move up into two or three feet of depth. Others may sit on the docks waiting to move into vegetation or a hard bottom created by a launch ramp in between the docks.
The last primary area to look for staging females is on a structural component such as a ledge or rock pile near an area where fish will spawn. Rocky Point on the north end of the lake is a good example as are some of the rocky point areas down around Jago Bay. The larger females can sit off of these areas and roam around as the bait presents itself and yet still just move up onto the shallower portions of structure and move into the spawning bay or tules.
Remember that where you saw a lot of spawning activity last year or in year’s past means there is a staging areas somewhere nearby and if you find it…you may have struck the Mother Lode!
I have told many of you that when I laid off of tournament fishing to concentrate on my real job in those days, the Senko did not exist. While I was out of the loop, I began to notice and hear about anglers I knew all of sudden winning and making a name for themselves. What the heck had happened? Had they finally started working harder, getting luckier, and becoming more skilled? Nope, the Senko had been invented, and some of these marginally talented anglers were whacking fish on this new bait from Yamamoto.
April is probably the best month to have one or more of these baits tied on and using it. They come in several lengths from 2” to 7”, with the most common size fished being the 5-inch. In windy conditions, anglers will switch to the 6-inch or 7 inch.
The bait shape is simple resembling a standard plastic worm complete with worm collar towards the middle that tapers to a fatter end on the front and a thinner end on the tail. The bait was designed to be fished with as little action imparted by the angler as possible. It is truly most effective when sinking on a slack line and or sitting on the bottom, dead still.
The standard way of fishing a Senko is rigged weedless with a 3/0 or 4/0 extra wide gap hook and no weight. The bait is heavy enough itself that it does not require additional weight to cast a long distance easily. The other most popular way to rig is the “wacky” style. If you want to wacky rig a Senko, consider using the “O” ring method which places an O ring around the bait and then you slide a small octopus or finesse hook under the o ring. This allows you to catch several fish on one bait whereas a standard finesse hook in the bait will almost guarantee each fish will cost you one of these 60-cent baits.
What makes a Senko so effective in April is the slow, subtle fall it makes in and around bedding areas. The best way for me to put it is the bait tests a fish patience at a time when they are short on it. The Senko is a big fish bait with my best fish on it weighing 8 ¾ lbs during a team tournament fished with my wife. The other characteristic about these baits that I really like is how easy they are to skip, even on baitcasting gear, a real plus around docks and low hanging limbs.
Best colors on Clear Lake are variations of watermelon, green pumpkin, and crawdad patterns.
One opportunity that presents itself with so many big fish moving shallow and warm temperatures is an overhead annoyance. The frog is a bait that is getting more and more use early in the season.
Next time you are out fishing the tules, check out the number of dead tules floating in little pockets creating overhead cover. Bass will sit under these roofs as ambush points that offer shade and protection. Even though it is earlier in the season than most people would think about topwater, the other thing to notice in the tules is the amount of birds walking around on the tules.
One of the birds that shows up here each spring to next is the yellow headed blackbird. It feeds, courts, and nests in the tules. You can see them hanging on to a vertical tule shaft catching small insects at the water’s surface barely inches above the water itself. All well within striking distance of the right size bass.
Three ways to fish a frog this month is to hit the floating tule “roofs”, throw the frog back into the open pockets of water in the tules, and to fish the frog in the open water around floating docks.
In the heavy cover, use 50 to 65 pound test braid. In the open water around docks, I would still use the braid however you can get by with a quality 15 pound to 20 pound test monofilament.
Keep your colors basic, black with yellow head, white with or without yellow head, and a natural color.
The team partner of one of my peers relayed this story to me the day after it happened and asked me to share it with everyone I knew.
Several weekends ago, we were both competing in a team tournament here. It was late in the afternoon of the second day and we had just watched them motor away off to another spot to hit. We were the last people they saw before losing control of their boat at over 60 miles per hour and being ejected. Per the rules, both were wearing their life vests, both were the inflatable style harness.
As Russ related the story to me,”I was in the air long enough to think that wow, I am flying and it is going to hurt when I hit” he figures he flew approximately 30 to 40 feet before hitting the water. “I came up and treaded water for a moment, checked to see where Bob was and his condition and then realized that I had not pulled the cord on my harness yet. I pulled the cord only to realize that the impact of the water landing had pulled the harness over and off of my neck so that it inflated behind my back. It also didn’t even inflate enough to pop the Velcro”.
Bob was in different shape. He had bent the steering wheel violently exiting the boat, bruising his leg badly, was in cold weather clothing that was getting heavy, and had still not pulled the cord on his harness. When he realized finally that he needed to, he activated his harness and it filled so quickly and tightly that now he could not use his arms to swim forward.
Russ’s message was that they were both o.k., but could have been in much worse shape. He also was going back to a standard life vest for when the boat is under power and had ordered one that day. His other message was that if you wear an inflatable harness, consider going automatic and make sure that the harness straps are tight before going under power. Also, consider changing the cartridge annually.
Based on Russ and Bob’s misadventure, I am currently considering upgrading my harness to the new Mustang product that has a new automatic triggering device that works off of hydrostatic pressure rather than moisture. This design prevents accidental activation due to moisture.
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Good fishing and I look forward to seeing you soon!