By Daniel Kiazyk
With near religious regularity each late spring/early summer we make our way into the backwoods of eastern Manitoba tracking down our favorite quarry – ‘Spring Bass'. The period we're talking about is post spawn, that time where the males are off the nest (end of June and beginning part of July). These are hungry bass happy to attack our offerings with near reckless abandon. The lake in question is a bit out of the way and requires a bit of muscle getting into…. This lake also has an excellent walleye population which means the pressure is off the bass to a great extent. Happy lake as many know is a superb fishery with a multi-species bent, a lake very dear to my heart for that reason. In what follows I hope to share with you a couple of reflections on experiences I've had there over the past few years and what makes for a "Happy Bass" outing
So what makes for a Happy bass outing? – Well to start being flexible and aware of how each new season is/has developed is extremely significant. Well, no year is quite the same and each seems to have its special twist. There are however basics or fundamentals that seem to shine through year after year. Of course, you've got to be where there are good bass or just bass in general. The lake we're talking about has both. It is however important to note that even if you go in at the same time every year the chances are that fish are going to be doing different things given the particularities of each new season.
Location, it follows, is our first consideration when going in after bass. We'll concentrate on areas that have traditionally produced, bays, drop off areas near larger flats, saddles, and areas around islands and larger underwater points all deserve a look. Some years fish won't be in the bays, but will be on breaks, drop offs, but on other years the opposite will be the case. If you have a knowledge of the lake and its structures chances are that it will be easier for you to start to pattern the fish you're after. If you haven't been on a lake it's a good idea to start taking mental notes of where you picked up that last fish.
Having a deliberate strategy can help unlock the location key. I think its good to consider specific areas as you'll often read in an Infisherman magazine, but there's a point to be made: These are just that, "a place in time", that was good and might not be good on any other given year. The most effective places are where you'll find them! Sounds like an enigma… but that's exactly what it is and no more. Keep your options open and go seek out new territory when your normal bag of tricks goes empty. Just this past year one of my associate guides proved the point when in an afternoon he had our guest into at least 100 fish while my approach may have boated 40. What was the difference? He was able to hone in on a particular depth while I was only momentarily pulling baits through that region…. About half as good. It also follows that at any particular time, bass will focus in on a particularly small area; If you can find that sweet spot, look to increase your success.
The other part of making a bass outing a Happy event would be to consider tackle options for the time period in question. Late spring and early summer has bass up closer to shore. Rapalas, spinners, jigs , flies and some topwater offerings all have their place at this time of year. I find that as I go through the options there will be some offering that shines on that particular day. As an example on one of my favorite lakes it came to my attention that a fire-tiger F7 rap was the hot ticket. The next year, trying this same lure, I had one quarter the action. And soon would move on to a ¼ oz. jig and rubber tail tipped with a leech as being the most effective rig for that lake. The moral of the story with baits is that there is a necessity to find out what the fish want. Going by memories will not catch this year's fish.
There are even limitation to the last point. For reasons unknown (well not really/completely but I'll leave it at that) to me there are some lakes where year in and year out some baits will shine more than any others. Even the particular bait in question really doesn't correspond with anything in those particular lake' forage bases. What's up with that? Well to be frank, I don't know. All I can say for sure is that if I am taking a client into one of these lakes out will come these lures and with almost clockwork regularity we'll be into great fish. So don't hold any adage as being gospel. The truth is what works, works!
One little last suggestion for a bit more success on Happy lake is to consider bringing along a good jag of healthy/sassy leeches. I've had many a guided trip saved by these little slithering critters. Having very good friends who are commercial bait dealers makes having a pound or two of the common leech easy to have on hand. To be honest I've seen nothing else working and then putting a leach on a jig or a single j-hook below a float and hooking into one fish after another. When fish are on this particular bite we can easily go through a pound in a couple of days – what's the downside… well, bass will take bait deeply and you really need to be careful removing hooks not to hurt fish (or just simply cut the line and let the fish go!) and bait in general has special needs when the weather starts to warm (not really tough, but a bit annoying). But I just try to keep things simple by giving the fish what they want.
Well, a lot more needs to be reflected on but the two prior points are often my primary two considerations when out bassin' on Happy lake. The fishery is a jewel and is as good as it is because of special regulations that have been put in effect to protect its valuable resource. As isolated as it is it can be still abused. If anglers have a good sense of what they want --- to catch fish --- then they really have to think about the wisdom of the regulations that are in place and then obey them. As for other things that'll make and break your bass trip …. well there are others… well yeah, that's stuff for another article.