Even by reservoir standards, the spring 2013 season has been unusual.
Based in my experience and reports of others, folks are catching lots of bass, but very few big bass, i.e., fish of four pounds or more. Likewise the bass fishing bycatch including crappie, bluegill, yellow perch, stripers and, in Loch Raven, large numbers of pickerel has been good. Many of those Loch Raven pickerel have been in the 2-4 pound range.
But weather has been the wild card this year. First temperatures have been on a rollercoaster. So warming waters brought the bass into the shallows in a prespawn mode, feeding and looking for spawning areas. Then temperatures would drop, and the bass move back out to the breaklines. So I kept experiencing and getting reports of bass being up in the coves one day, then out on the points, then on the breaklines, then on shady shorelines and on and on.
Plus there are migrations throughout the day at times. This pattern kept repeating. As of this writing, anglers are reporting some bass still on spawning beds and more in post-spawn mode in the shallows guarding fry and more moving out over breaklines. But the situation is dynamic.
The second pattern is a series of days when "scattered thunderstorms" are forecast. This is a real problem with reservoir fishing, because even the fastest craft powered by electric motors or paddles are far too slow to run from danger. My four hairiest moments on the water have all been during storms on reservoirs, including one waterspout incident on Loch Raven.
Often, when you're fishing a narrow arm of a reservoir, storms can develop, and you're completely unaware of the situation until the storm is upon you. I usually carry a weather radio on the reservoirs to get storm alerts. Even picking up static on regular broadcasts makes you look around.
Because of these thunderstorm forecasts, Harry Pippin and I have cancelled several trips and cut a couple short while fishing spots closer to the ramps. All this has produced serious frustration.
When I fish with Harry Pippin it's in his 16-foot Sea Nymph, small by today's reservoir standards, powered by a Reservoir Runner motor. Harry fishes only Loch Raven and Prettyboy. Usually fishing this time of year, we have at least 1 1-2 dozen rigged rods between us. Spinnerbaits, crankbaits, jig and trailer combinations and various large, soft plastic lures such as Senkos and lizards are standards in early spring, and they have produced.
I have some rigged rods with these lures, too. But more and more I've been fishing Zoom Super Flukes and Swimmin' Super Flukes, both in the Junior sizes, the same lures that have been so productive on Eastern Shore ponds and the Upper and Tidal Potomac. I have one rod rigged with each lure from March through December.
My line is 15-pound test yellow or chartreuse braid, with the last 15 feet or so darkened with a green felt tip pen and a fluorocarbon leader the length of the rod. I use 20-pound test fluorocarbon on most waters and in any waters containing pickerel. In some of the clearer waters I sometimes drop down to a 10-pound leader.
In spring Harry is on a trophy hunt. He feels the small flukes miss too many fish - I can't say I agree - and tend to take pickerel and numbers of bass but not the biggest bass. His second point may have some validity.
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In contrast to Harry and me, Billy Zeller has been fishing Liberty from a kayak. He uses mostly two rods, but may take four on occasion. He fishes mostly flukes, Zoom and other brands in natural and darker colors, and dropshot rigs, and his catches this spring have been measured in the dozens. But his biggest bass has been a little over three pounds. Billy often inserts "nail weights" to get the flukes to run deeper in the reservoirs, and I've adopted this tactic, too.
One evening, frustrated by another cancelled reservoir trip, I tried shore fishing at Liberty in some of the general, reachable areas Billy had told me about. Despite misgivings over the fluke's ability to cover a lot of water from shore, I tried n Zoom Super Fluke Jr. in Watermelon Red. Two hours and nine largemouth bass later, despite not being able to get to some more promising spots, I concluded the flukes can be an effective shoreline lure.
About a week later I tried two different shoreline spots. I made about 20 fan casts with a spinnerbait before hanging up and breaking off. My first cast with the Super Fluke produced a fat, 2-pound smallmouth. I took a similar-sized largemouth out of a tree just at dark - not bad for an hour's fishing in new areas. The large majority of my reservoir shoreline bass have been in the one to 2-pound range, and this has continued with the flukes.
I'm hoping more good reservoir bass fishing is ahead of us. On our latest trips Billy Zeller was still scoring at Liberty with flukes and dropshots, and Harry and I did well at Prettyboy with various soft plastics plus Zara Spook types and Rapalas on the surface. Let's hope some of this year's cicada hatch reaches the reservoirs and other local waters. Also, some of my biggest reservoir bass have come at this time of year fishing surface lures in low light conditions. The Zara Spook has been particularly effective.
On my third shoreline trip to Liberty this year I fished at noon on a cloudy day and took three largemouths on the weighted fluke then decided to try the Spook.
I took a 2-pound smallmouth on the first cast, then two smaller largemouths. I missed an explosive strike just as the Spook hit the water, then the fish knocked into the air again on a second strike. Repeated casts indicated that bass had seen enough of the Spook.
So things are still looking good on the reservoirs. Now if only the weather will cooperate.