First of all I told you all that I would try to blog from Amistad this week. Of course I was fooling myself. We were up at dawn and back at dark. Except for one afternoon, we were the first to the ramp, and the last ones back. Just like we always do, we fished until we dropped, so I was clearly delusional if I thought I was going to write at night, but either way let us get to the fishing.
Day 1 – a half day.
We got there Monday and were at the ramp by 1:00. The wind was blowing out of the south at a nice leisurely 25 mph and gusting. That alone made for a change in plans. We had planned on fishing up lake, but with the high south winds blowing in those places, we decided to head to Rough Canyon to put in.
Now we have fished that part of the lake several times and so off to the the “usual” places we went. With a good wind surely we could catch some on spinnerbait, but the was not happening. The water was in the mid 50’s on the main lake, so we headed to a couple of coves we have fished before and did some jerk bait fishing. We ended up catching 13 the first day, almost all on jerk bait, nothing big, just enough to keep trying.
We fished from the outside points to the back of the coves, figuring it would give us an idea. All that did was end up wasting time. There were small fish scattered here and there, but not the concentration we were looking for. We finally fished a steeper brush covered bank up lake and were able to catch a couple of ok fish, so that is where we started on day 2.
Day 2 – Tuesday
Day 2 was a carbon copy of day 1. The only good thing, I am kidding, was the wind even blew harder, and there was a small cold front that morning. It seems every time I go somewhere it has to blow, but as I always say, go big or go home. So we started on the bank with the brush across from the big bluffs way up the river. I caught 3 nice ones slow rolling the spinner bait and he caught one right at daylight. We fished it later in the day and only caught another one slow rolling the spinnerbait.
We started hunting and pecking and finally ended up in the last really big cove on the right up the Devil’s arm of the lake. Now that cove goes way back in with several bends. We fished it all the way in and caught a few, including some white bass. Thanks to my brother Jeff, who may be the best shallow running Shad Rap jerker alive, we figured it out.
Let me stop and say this, we are not really big plastic fisherman, and do not fish that much crankbait. The wind was blowing enough to make our limited plastic skills irrelevant, and we did some cranking, but it came down to jerking that Shad Rap.
There were a few small fish in the back end of the cove so we turned around and started fishing out. There is a large secondary point in the first turn of that cove and he threw that Shad Rap over it, jerked it over the tops of the trees in 10 to 20 foot of water and wham, he caught one. As we rounded that point he caught another, then another, and another. We went to the main point going in with brush on it, and here comes some more. He was using it by jerk/jerk, pause, then jerk, pause, and do it again. The fish were coming out of the brush and whacking it.
At this point I am getting the hint, so out comes the Shad Rap in a size 7 in foil with a black back, and I go to jerking. By time day 2 was over we caught 33 bass, and about 10 white bass. Now that day nothing was big, until right before dark on a main lake point with brush on it, a good one smoked it.
This is one happy guy – that thing just ate that Shad Rap.
So basically day 2 was simply trying to fine tune what we were doing. We started to hone in on the secondary points in the coves that had little wind on them, which was not many, but if it had brush on it, there were fish on it. So with our first full day done, we started to feel like maybe we were getting them going.
Wednesday – the wind finally slacks and it warms up some.
Wednesday was our second full day and we thought we might be able to keep it up, and we were right. We started in the big cove up lake first and they were still on both the points, and they were willing. I did manage to catch a small striper to add to the mix. Just tossing it out and jerking it over the flooded brush on the secondary points kept working. But it was not all perfect as of course the wind on this day is now gusting to 40, what a hassle. Basically we did what we had been doing in the morning, uplake with spinnerbaits and jerking the Shad Rap.
We did crank a couple of banks, and talking to other fishermen there, it was working, but we just could not get them going. I did manage to catch a smallmouth which is one fish I love to catch.
Just wanted to show you a smallie. We always try to catch one on Amistad, takes us back to the old days on Bull Shoals and Norfork in Arkansas.
Of course we then cranked the bank behind us figuring it had a few on it, without success. Though we caught about 20 before lunch it was time for a major move.
We headed down lake to the big arm below the Rough Canyon ramp and headed to the back of the cove with all the house boats. They were there. Now nothing big, but we caught a wad of them in there. There are 2 secondary points on the right with brush before the very back, and a little channel in the back end on the right. There were fish on all of them. And while I threw a spinnerbait some, it was still that Shad Rap.
We moved to the back of another of the arms there and struck out. As we were leaving there was a big flat bank, actually the first one past the house boat cove on the left. They were there. We caught about 10 off of it, nothing real big, but the sun had come out and it was real shallow. There is brush out in 10 foot of water on the end of it, and I managed to catch a pretty nice one on a spinnerbait buzzing it. Which told us a couple of things, first, they were heating up as the sun shone, and second, there were lots of fish there.
This one came from the last big cove up the Devil’s arm, and over the 3 days we caught enough of these to keep it interesting.
As it was getting late we decided to run back up to the bank where he caught the good one the evening before, and though we caught a few, it was nothing special. But a good thing started to happen, the wind was dying and it was actually warm, which told us that tomorrow as going to be the day. There were shad flipping, and the fish were working them heavy in the middle on the surface, and things were definitely heating up. So for the day, we caught quite a few more than we had on Tuesday It was basically fish flat points with brush on them, and we had high hopes for our last day.
Thursday – it couldn’t get any more fun, until the big front blew in at 40mph and it dropped 25 degrees in a half hour.
For the first time the wind had almost laid down all night, and it stayed in the high 60’s. So after a couple of small fronts with high winds and cool nights, we knew today was going to be the day. With a big front coming how could it be any better? It turned out to be exactly that.
We started on that big flat bank on the right in the arm below the boat dock. It was almost dead calm, and I was determined to stay way off it and not get so close to the bank. So out went the spinnerbait, sink to a five count, and I began to crawl it, and whack, a real good one. Then another, and another until I had 8 over the side in an hour, and all of them were good ones. They were eating it. Jeff stayed with the Shad Rap during most of that time, then switched to a spinnerbait, but only managed to get one in the boat.
We decided to make another pass so I grabbed a diving Shad Rap and one tried to jerk the rod out of my hands. I love that kind of bite. That first couple of hours that morning was one of those moments when I felt like we paid our dues, thought it out, and got it right.
He was the biggest off that bank, but some of his buddies on that bank were not that far behind, and they looked like the picture of the one with Jeff above.
After that we moved to the cove behind the house boats, and there was a lot going on. The sun had been out a couple of hours and there were shad flipping everywhere. Jeff, who loves a topwater, picked up the Zara Spook Jr., tossed it out, and one ate it, and I mean literally exploded on it the first cast. That it was not a striper, he blasted it that hard, surprised us.
Now that was a bonus fish, they were chasing shad all over that cove.
He managed to catch the next one also, but then over the next couple of hours, here and there when he threw it, he had another 6 or so miss it. We ended up staying in that big cove fishing the secondary points with brush, and there are 4 or 5 there, for a few hours and caught the snot out of them. Nothing big, but lots of them. We easily caught 15 or 20 in there. It was now about 1 so it was time to return to the morning’s scene of the crime, so off to the flat bank we went.
And they were still there. We caught 4 or 5 nice ones. They were so active with the sun bearing down, shad flipping, that the last nice on I caught had another one trying to get that bait out of his mouth. It was now 3, and we wanted to give that bank another rest, so we moved to a small point across from that bank, and caught 5 off it in nothing flat, so now we think things are really heating up, when it happened.
You could hear it coming with a roar. It blew my hat off, knocked over my thermos on the floor of the boat, and almost knocked him in the water. Conditions went from calm and warm to a flat 35 – 40mph and the temperature dropped immediately. I mean it blew and blew hard. There may have been somewhere to duck into to get out of it, but it was the great Mexican joint with cold Coronas that turned out to be the place. We tried to tough it out, in fact we somehow caught another 10 or so over the next 1 1/2 hours, but it was too tough. The wind was roaring, we were tired, and we gave up. We finally called it a trip and headed back to the ramp. And while it wasn’t as rough as I thought it would be, it was really nice to just be around the corner with a short boat ride.
What went right and what went wrong.
So what did not go so well. The wind. It blew for the first 2 1/2 days out of the south at no less than 25mph, and was a big hassle. Consequently it really affected our fishing, and how we chose to fish. And sadly, the fish were clearly headed to the backs of places, and if it had remained stable another day the fishing would have only improved. Also, I did not do any serious swimbait fishing, which is part of the reason I went there this trip. And finally, the front coming in on Thursday meant we headed home on Friday morning, so we lost a day of fishing, which I hate. And last, we did not catch that really big fish. I guess Coleto has spoiled me this spring as it is still giving up some really nice fish, oh well, and I am complaining?
What went right? We caught fish, and I mean lots of them. It was awesome to see them roll up and eat that Shad Rap right in front of you. In fact, on the last day we caught several when we would quit reeeling to move the trolling motor, or do whatever, and it would float all the way to the top and they would explode on it. The last days was just one of those days.
So it was one of those trips where we gave up one thing, catching a truly big fish on purpose, to “settle” for catching over a hundred in 3 1/2 days. It was fun, and after the first afternoon, we had very few times where we were not getting bit. I am sure I may have got a time or two mixed up, and maybe a fish or two in telling this story, but you get the jist. Someday soon I will start carrying a notebook with me, but on this trip we basically caught fish all day, every day, and that makes it a great time no matter how you slice it.
Oops – forgot to show you the bait and how it is done!
Shad Raps – a great bait!
The Shad Rap has been around for years, but with the advent of newer baits and techniques it has kind of gone by the way side as far as many bass fishermen are concerned. Though still used by many on walleye and other species of fish, you won’t find it in many tackle boxes.
The Rapala Shallow Running Shad Rap. Sorry about the quality of the picture but I wanted to get this on to go with the Amistad story.
I have to give my brother Jeff credit for really re-introducing us to this bait. We have always used it, but a couple of trips to Falcon, Fayette County and other places have really been productive, and we are finding the more we use it the better it works, funny how that is.
The top bait I believe is a size 7 and the smaller one is a size 5. The size 5 is a killer on white bass and largemouth, and will catch it’s share of crappie trolling. I have had much better success just reeling it along unlike the larger one, or reeling it and then ripping it. Just reel it along and then pull it forward in a rip and then start reeling right away. The wobble is tight and vibrates at a higher rate of speed than most crankbaits, making it a great shad imitation for lakes with heavy shad populations.
The larger one has a wider wobble, and to me does not feel the same when reeling it. But when jerking it, hold on. It will go up to 5 foot deep on a fast jerk and 10lb. line. Of course there are problems with that, 10lb. is taking a real chance on lakes with big fish. But for some reason we manage to lose very few good fish in the brush. You can get away with 15 like I did on Amistad, but if there is not much cover the lighter the line the better. And when you are jerking it, reel your slack up right away, you hook a lot more of them if there is no slack as it rises immediately. Our next project is to add a small amount of suspend dot to get it just right. We do not want it to totally suspend, just rise real slow, it should drive them nuts.
But remember to vary your jerking pattern as there is always one that triggers the most bites. One of the things I like about this bait is that it will catch lots of fish. The little ones love it, and often you have to wade through tons of fish to get the bigger ones. Now if that is the kind of problem you like, catching lots of fish, then this is the bait for you.
We also like the smaller one in the deep diver. To me it is definitely a cranking bait as opposed to a jerk bait. The biggest fish I caught at Amistad this week came on it. So each has a place, but no matter what, add it to your arsenal. If the lake is clear, and especially if shad is the primary forage, it is a great choice.
As far as rods to use it on, we have found it is best jerked on a rod with a fast tip. It seems that when you jerk it, the rod pulls it forward and when you stop it, the tip gives it a little more action. That seems to trigger them into biting. This is not a heavy technique, it is more of a finesse way to fish than your average crankbait.
Now no disrespect to Rapala, I have been using their stuff for years, but this bait is made of balsa and that makes it what it is. Their newer line is not balsa, and they just do not have the same subtle action, and that is the heart of the Shad Rap.
Of course I would like to take the time to thank you all again for reading my stuff. Monday it should be POC, with Coleto set for Tuesday. So stop on by and if you have something to say let me know.
Good Luck and Tight Lines.