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Carroll outdoors: Reservoir bassin'

The threatened rain never struck, but this largemouth did, on a Swimmin' Super Fluke, Jr.
The threatened rain never struck, but this largemouth did, on a Swimmin' Super Fluke, Jr. (bill may photo , Carroll County Times)

Reservoir fishing this spring began just like last spring. But there was one important difference. This year Harry Pippin and I didn't have electric motor problems and just kept catching fish. We did cancel a couple of trips and got chased in by the weather a couple of times, though.

As usual, we began the reservoir season at Loch Raven, where the pickerel were as cooperative as the bass. Why some fishermen scorn pickerel is beyond me. On our second trip to Loch Raven, Harry made a long first cast of the day with a Zara Spook just as we entered a cove. So I cast my unweighted Super Fluke Jr. and was immediately fast to a typical 1-pound plus pickerel. Then I heard a grunt from Harry as he set the hook on a pickerel several times the size of mine. Two casts, two pickerel -- not a bad way to start the day. After that we got down to "serious bass fishing."

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We used a combination of proven lures, tackle and tactics with a few new approaches. We both fished plastics on braided lines with fluorocarbon leaders using medium-heavy spin or casting tackle. Harry stuck with his spring favorite plastic lizards and creature lures. I used unweighted Swimmin' Super Flukes Jrs. and 4-inch Berkley Power Pulse Worms on 1/8-ounce bullet sinkers.

We took bass and pickerel on all these lures. I've only been fishing flukes for the last two years, but I'm becoming a big fan for bass and pickerel fishing. The Power Pulse, unfortunately, is no longer manufactured, but it has been my most productive lure - as it was this spring - for bass. It's especially good for smallmouths. If you find some in crayfish colors, buy them.

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On the first trip I also tried a Swimmin' Super Fluke Jr. on a weighted hook fished on a medium weight rod and monofilament. While it drew plenty of strikes, I couldn't set the hook properly. The soft lead weight actually had the scars of fish grabbing it, but it seems the rod and line were too flexible and/or the fish were grabbing the weight too tightly. Switching to a medium/heavy ros and braid on the second trip solved that problem.

Our bass were mostly in the 2 to 3-pound range. We caught none bigger and few smaller. Usually at this time of year we get one or two over 4-pounds, especially when using the larger plastics. Most of the pickerel were in the 1 to 2-pound range, with Harry's Zara-cruncher probably topping four pounds.

We found our fish mostly in coves. Some coves had fish all along the shallows from the point at the main stem of the lake all the way to the back scattered along the perimeter. We found some bass and pickerel in brush piles, but we also caught fish cruising open shallows. Other, similar coves produced nothing.

Casting accuracy was crucial. I took my best bass on a cast of about 35 feet into a hole in tree limbs about 15-inches in diameter. The 2 ½-pound bass struck as soon as the unweighted fluke dropped, and I was able to horse him past some thinner branches before he had the chance to dive into the deep stuff. This was a case of the right lure, good cast and heavy enough line and rod to do the job.

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Over the years 3 1/2 and 4 3/8-inch floating Rapalas have been productive surface and subsurface lures in spring, and we did have some success with them, but we found Rick Clunn No. 2 crankbaits even more effective. They can be cast further, can be walked over most woody snags, and the bass and pickerel love them. We fished these on medium casting and spinning tackle with 8-pound mono.

Our trip to Prettyboy was under the worst possible conditions - post front, bluebird day with winds gusts over 20 mph. Trying to avoid the winds, we fished only the coves, and we still had trouble controlling the boat. We each took a mix of largemouths and smallmouths with the Power Pulse producing the best smallmouth of the day. But none were up to the Loch Raven standard.

We tried spinnerbaits briefly on all trips. Usually big fish producers in the spring, we've caught nothing with them so far this year. But it's probably been more a matter of the plastics doing so well, we've been reluctant to try anything else for long. Spinnerbaits are always a good early season bet for working shoreline fallen trees.

Harry doesn't fish Liberty, but kayak fisherman, Billy Zeller, has been raving about the bass fishing there this spring. Bill fishes swimming fluke type lures and a swimming worm similar to my Power Pulse. He works deeper water with dropshot rigs and small paddle tail minnows and takes largemouth and smallmouth. Billy also reported shaded shoreline trees have been a hot ticket this spring.

On my first shoreline excursion to Liberty I took one smallmouth and one largemouth, each about 1 ½ pounds on a Super Spook Jr. surface lure, a typical catch for an hour's evening fishing. I didn't get a strike in two subsequent trips.

But with warmer temperatures, the time is just getting right for surface action at all the reservoirs.

My choices are the Super Spook Jr. and the Tiny Torpedo. Slowly worked poppers, such as the Pop-R, are a good choice for calm surfaces.

Panfishing, including white perch crappie and bluegill, should be hitting its peak right now in the big three Baltimore City reservoirs. Fishing size 8 or 10 fly rod poppers on fly tackle or behind a surface lure or clear float on spin tackle is an enjoyable way to have a lot of action. This is a great way for kids to fish.

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