Randy Walker RB Bass Pro Staff
with a nice pair of Spotted Bass
B.A.S.S. Elite Angler Perspective on Spotted Bass Fishing
Spotted bass have the right attitude that makes them endearing to any bass angler.
Although considered the runt of the black bass family, the spotted bass maintains a chip-on-its-shoulder attitude, and when it schools up with its brethren, they become as vicious as a wolf pack pouncing on prey.
“They are not as much structure oriented as largemouths, which like to hang around a dock, lay-downs or stumps,” Bassmaster Elite Series pro Brian Snowden expalined. “You will catch a lot of spotted bass out in open water or bare gravel points where there is really nothing there to hold them.”
Their aggressive nature makes spotted bass easier to coax into biting if you can find them in the vast open spaces of reservoirs.
“It seems like once you find them in an area you just have to move around each day to find them again because they will follow the baitfish,” Snowden said.
On his home waters of Table Rock Lake and nearby Bull Shoals Lake, Snowden can find spotted bass easier by targeting points and flats in open water areas. Action in the fall seems to be more consistent for spotted bass than largemouth because spots tend to stay in deeper water and are less affected by cold fronts. The fall turnover also shuts down shallow largemouth, but spotted bass will continue to bite.
“The turnover will cause spotted bass to scatter more and go deeper. So instead of concentrating on that 25- to 35-foot range, you might have to look as deep as 40 to 60 feet on those gravel flats.”
Largemouth and spotted bass also differ in the company they keep. Trophy-sized largemouth tend to be loners while big spotted bass seem to school with their own year class.
“It seems like if you catch 2 1/2- to 3-pounders you have a chance of catching a 4- to 4 1/2-pounder, but if you are catching short fish and a few keepers it seems like that is all you will catch in that area.”
Dragging a drop-shot rig or a football jig along flat gravel points is Snowden’s most consistent pattern for spotted bass throughout most of autumn. His drop-shot rig consists of a 3/8-ounce weight, set 12 to 18 inches below a watermelon candy or green pumpkin Zoom finesse worm. He presents the lure on 6-pound fluorocarbon line with a 7-foot medium action spinning rod and spinning reel.
“I basically use my electronics to see what depth the fish are at. Then I try to maintain my lure right at the area where I see the most fish.”
After dropping his lure to the right depth, Snowden shakes the lure two or three times and then lets it sit for five seconds before gently shaking it again and then holding it steady for 5 to 10 seconds. The sensitivity of his depth finder allows Snowden to see how fish are reacting to his presentation.
“When I don’t see a lot of fish on the graph, they are usually hugging the bottom, so I will switch to a 1/4- to 3/8-ounce shaky head with a finesse worm or a 5/8- to 3/4-ounce football jig.”
He probes the bottom with either a green pumpkin, watermelon or brown/purple football jig tipped with a green pumpkin/purple flaked Zoom Speed Craw or a shaky head jig with a green pumpkin or watermelon candy finesse worm. A 7-foot medium-heavy casting rod and baitcast reel filled with 12- to 14-pound fluorocarbon line works best for dragging the football jig, but Snowden switches to 8-pound test fluorocarbon and the same spinning tackle he uses for drop-shotting when he drags a shaky worm on the bottom.
The Missouri pro positions his boat over depths of 30 to 40 feet and casts towards the bank so he can drag his lures along the bottom through the 25- to 35-foot range. A steady drag seems to work best for him.
“If the fish are really aggressive, a fun way to catch them is hopping the lure about a foot off the bottom and then letting it hit the bottom again. Then as soon as it hits, hop it again. That seems to trigger some of the better fish into biting.”
On the Ozark highland reservoirs of Table Rock and Bull Shoals, Snowden notices spotted bass seem to respond best to the steady dragging presentation.
“I think it just resembles a crawdad moving around down there.”
When the water temperature drops into the lower 60s and upper 50s in late fall, Snowden opts for faster moving baits such as spinnerbaits and crankbaits.
“I tend to move up shallower on the gravel points or secondary points going into major creeks. The fish seem to like smaller baits then like the Bandit 200 or Wiggle Wart crankbait. I also like to use a 1/4- or 3/8-ounce spinnerbait with small willowleaf blades.”
His favorite spinnerbait for fall spotted bass is adorned with a skirt in translucent hues, such as salt-and-pepper, with a dash of pink, purple or chartreuse. He favors double willowleaf blades in gold (on the smaller blade) and nickel (on the bigger spinner), although in clearer water he will employ double nickel blades and on cloudy days he tries tandem gold spinners. Making long casts with a 7-foot, medium-heavy casting rod and retrieving the lure on 17-pound test line at a fast past to keep it within 1 to 3 feet of the surface produces the most bites for Snowden.
For his crankbait tactics, Snowden selects Wiggle Warts and Bandit 200 and 300 models in natural green or natural brown crawfish colors. He keeps his boat over depths of 15 to 20 feet and retrieves his crankbaits with a stop-and-go presentation on a 7-foot fiberglass medium action rod and baitcast reel filled with 10-pound fluorocarbon line. Most of his strikes occur in the 3- to 5-foot depth range.
The touring pro has caught spotted bass from coast to coast. He ranks Table Rock, Bull Shoals, the Alabama River, Pine Flats in California and Lake Shasta in California as his five favorite spotted bass fisheries in the country.