Carroll Outdoors: Reservoirs awaken -- sometimes with a bang

Skip the pictures for a few seconds. Let’s talk safety.

In 65 years of fishing, I have been in serious danger on the water only four times. All four have been on Baltimore City reservoirs — Loch Raven three times, including one waterspout incident, and Liberty once.

Storms can develop quickly and sometimes are fast-moving. Even high winds can be a serious problem. Today’s electric motors and banks of batteries allow anglers to go much farther from ramps, which have limited facilities for pickup and launch, but the maximum sustained speed for most reservoir rigs is 4 to 5 mph. Rowing and paddling speeds for rowboats, canoes and kayaks are worse.

There are ways to help avoid being caught on the water by unforeseen sudden storms. Weather forecasting and monitoring is far better these days, and any boater should check the weather before venturing on the water. On the water, there are numerous apps, many free, for smart phones that will provide current weather including warnings of approaching storms. The Weather Channel is one, and fellow fishermen have recommended Bassmaster’s Scoutlookweather, Weather Bug and Yahoo.

Harry Pippin’s reservoir rig features an even more sophisticated solution. His Sirius Marine Weather Satellite Radio is linked to his Lowrance chart depth finder. This combination displays on the Lowrances’s big screen radar images of weather systems; features such as storm movement, direction and speed, lightening; and warning soundings of approaching storms among a host of other features. More significantly, it works in locations where cell phones often fail, like Prettyboy Reservoir.

Such technologies can be useful in any on-water situation. Perhaps a future story will be devoted to electronics for fishing. For now, let’s go back to the pictures and the fishing.

Harry Pippin took several bass and “couldn’t keep his lures away from the pickerel” in an early May trip to Loch Raven, so we picked that site for my inaugural reservoir foray a few days later. The water was discolored but looked fishable; however, a couple of hours produced only a pickerel and a large crappie. Then the warning signal sounded on Harry’s Sirius unit. The screen showed a front full of lightning headed toward the reservoir at over 30 mph.

I was fishing with a Berkley Lightening Rod, but I didn’t want it to become a lightning rod. So we beat it back to the single ramp trailed by a half-dozen other boats that had picked up warning on various electronic devices.

The next day we headed to Prettyboy, where we found clear water and clear skies. We hit a couple of coves that historically had been productive in spring in Harry’s 40-plus years of fishing this reservoir. We had no hits but saw a half dozen bass in the 2-pound range cruising in the clear waters. Our guess was these were males moving into the shallows in a pre-spawning mode. The fish ignored the variety of weighted soft plastics we presented to them. So, with great reluctance, Harry moved us out of the cove.

I cast a Rapala against the bank at a cut near the opening of the cove. It immediately disappeared with only the slighted splash. When I closed the bail, I was surprised to find myself hooked up to a sizable bass. The bass registered 4-plus-pounds on my Boga Grip. Catching this fish was sheer, dumb luck. It was almost as if the bass was cruising the bank saying to himself/herself, “I sure could go for a Rapala right now.”

Harry and I still haven’t figured out this fish. It was comparatively slim for its length, so it didn’t look like an egg-laden female. Could it have been a big male? In any case what was it doing along that cut-out bank? There are always mysteries in bass fishing.

The rest of our dozen bass followed the expected script. We caught most of them along moderately steep banks. Some were in wood. All were largemouths ranging from 1 to 3 pounds, with most toward the lower end of the scale. A couple took the Rapala; the rest were caught on Texas-rigged plastics, fished with 1/8-ounce bullet weights. Harry used the Berkley Pit Boss; I used the discontinued Berkley Power Pulse Worm.

On checking with a couple of buddies fishing Liberty Reservoir recently, they reported similar patterns –- one to 3-pound bass, caught on main lake shorelines on weighted plastics. Shady and wooded cover produced best. Like us they saw no spawning beds.

So the likely scenario is that we’ll see some great shallow water bass fishing in the next few weeks with big fish moving in to feed and spawning activity beginning. Some stable weather would be a big help.

Stealth is a major success factor in bank and shallow water fishing, which is why kayaks can have an advantage. With any rig, quiet approaches, drifting into target areas with all electronics turned off and lures cast with as little splash as possible will be key. For those who fish beds, plastic lizards are effective lures. But grubs, shads, plastic worms, wacky worms, Rapalas and other light, shallow-running crankbaits and jerkbaits are good choices both for covering water and targeting specific spots. Even dropshot rigs can be used with stealth approaches.

Be considerate of other fishermen and release all fish gently. 

Bill May is a Times outdoors writer. His column appears every other Sunday. Reach him at 410-857-7896 orsports@carrollcountytimes.com.

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