Underwater Largemouth

Now there is a reason professional bass fisherman compete for millions of dollars every year on the tournament trail, these fish can be very temperamental and difficult to catch at times and definitely will keep you on your toes. A little game planning can never hurt in having a successful day on the water. If you have the luxury of picking your days to fish, which I can't seem to find anymore, then planning and observation can be the keys to success in targeting bass. 

 Otay Lake Southern California

Lower Otay Resevoir in the early spring.

Some things to always keep in mind when going after these awesome predators is to pay attention to weather patterns. Living in SoCal the weather doesn't change rapidly in the spring/summer months but there are other elements to pay attention too, one being the barometer that is always on the change. Learning how low pressure and high pressure systems effect bass and their feeding habits can help you decide which days may be more productive than not. Now I'm not a fish biologists or a bass scientist but there are a hand full of people that are that can go much deeper into this than I can. I suggest looking up, Mike Long local SoCal Big Bass scientist, and read what he has to say on this topic because it could change your game. 

Lake Hodges Reservoir

Coast to Crest Trail at Lake Hodges Resevoir. 

Springtime shallow water bass

Walking shoreline can create sight fishing opportunities in the spring when bass move shallow, water clarity plays a major role in this.

Another element that you should pay attention to is both water temperature and water clarity. The change in water temp can change how bass are going to act and have an effect on there feeding pattern as well. Water temp can also help you in narrowing down the water they may be comfortable feeding in and dictate where to spend your time casting. In my experiences I have seen just a degree or two change triggers feeding time for these warm water fish.

 Along with water temp, water clarity can also play a role in how to approach a lake and fly selection. SoCal is known for its clear water lakes and reservoirs that sustain drinking water. But there are also a handful of lakes that have stained water or tea color I like to call it, these have always been big producers for me. Clear water lakes such as Dixon, Skinner and San Vicente present there share of challenges meaning the bass get a really good look at your presentation and fly choice. If not dead on, or match the hatch so to speak, it can be quite frustrating at times. On the other hand if you leave yourself some good shad options to fall on in various sizes and colors the puzzle can be quite rewarding to figure out and these clear water lakes can fish amazing. When it comes to the stained water lakes like Hodges, Lower Otay and Barrett to name a few, your approach can be a bit more aggressive. As a fly fisherman I find these lakes set up really good in regards to what we can throw at the bass. Topwater comes more into play, bigger flies, and presentation can be way more aggressive. Nothing better than a good frog bite on the fly in mid spring and summer months on a stained water lake with tulle lines, let me tell ya, good times!

Underwater Largemouth 

So all in all you can see how some planning and observation can make or break your day in preparation for a day on the water chasing largemouth. From weather patterns to water temp and water clarity all play a factor in how you should approach any body of water. These elements determine what length and strength leader we need, whether you will be fishing floating lines or sinking, help in fly selection and presentation that will work the best with what you have observed, and overall just make you better prepared to get blown up on or vicious tugs as much as possible from these amazing predators that rule our lakes.

Southern California lakes and reservoirs have a wide range of features to look for when it comes to trying to locate largemouth bass. A feature that is common on most lakes are main points and secondary points. These are really good spots almost always for bass especially in the early stages of spring and the approach of pre-spawn. Good staging locations for bass before they begin to move up shallow. These areas create a good spot to throw sinking lines with shad patterns and cover all sides of the point.

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Steep shorelines and drop offs provide a good area for both predator and prey. Access to deep water holds a lot of fish in the late Summer, Fall months. Good place to strip shad and bluegill imitations down hill or parallel to the shore.

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Anytime you can find rocky shoreline that extends into the water you can usually assure you will find a bass or three. Simply rocks hold a lot of forage and provide ambush spots for bass. Also rocks provide warmer water when the sun is high which bass find comfortable as well. Small rock mixed with big rocks creates a great place to hop a crayfish pattern threw considering this is where they hide. Cant tell you how many times fishing rock structure I have caught a bass with a crayfish sticking out of its throat.

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Otay Lake Southern California

Probably one of the deadliest places you can target largemouth during spring and summer months are tulle lines and places with timber. These situations are ideal for throwing the frog or mice or whatever else you feel a bass may destroy off the surface. Whenever you are fishing these areas it is usually more shallow and perfect for floating lines and topwater bugs. Tulles provide amazing cover for these fish and when the water warms they are in them looking up for food. Casting flies to the edge of tulle lines or threw some timber results in some aggressive topwater takes that will make you jump outa your pants. 

Skinner lake

During the summer months transition zones can become very productive places to concentrate your efforts as well. Ledges and channels create a highway for bass to travel from one feeding spot to another and also gives them access to both deep and shallow water. Forage will tend to hold in theses areas also. Great places to fish intermediate lines along with medium sink lines to keep your flies along the ledges of channels.

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.Lake features for bass

When the temperature rises in the water column most SoCal lakes will form weed lines and growth which become holding grounds for all sorts of baitfish and aquatic insects alike. These weed lines are usually easy to identify especially when showing on the surface. There is no better place for a bass to hide and ambush his prey than a solid weed line. Not only do the smaller fish find it safe here so do the predators that feed on them. These areas create a great place to throw either topwater or slow sink lines parallel to the weeds with a slow presentation to keep the fly in the strike zone. Everything from frogs down to damsel flies become options around the weeds. 

 

All of these features are excellent places to try when one or the other is not holding fish. Being versatile when you fly fish for bass will help open up options for you when you need to figure out where and what they want to eat. 


Underwater Largemouth

The last thing but certainly one of the most important factors in your day on the water hunting for bass has to be observation. Always be looking for windows of opportunity. Now this can be relative to the time a day your on the water down to the other life on the lake that also call it home as do the fish. It can simply be the sun direction is hitting a certain bank now when before it wasn’t, or even the soft structure meaning shadows the sun creates have now created there own structure, even wind direction can play a role in where bass will face or set up to feed. These are all things to be aware of and pay attention too. I will say though there is one thing you need to always keep an eye out for, BIRDS! Birds are every fisherman's friend when it comes to spotting baitfish and being a helpful eye in the sky for us. These lake dwelling birds spend there entire life looking for fish to eat so they know where to find them, so when you see them either standing or diving in the water there are probably bass not fair away. Just keep in tune with nature when on the water and sometimes they will lead the way. 

birds to look for heron

The mighty Blue Heron may be the best fisherman on the planet. 

Great Blue Heron

Enough said about that........ 

zing cover

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 rThe Heron can come in more than a few colors, blue, white and grey. You will usualy find them perched on a stump on rock or along tulle lines such as this starring in the water intensly looking for food. I must say when you come across a situation such as this might want to stay around and fish a little. Just heads up!

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Slaty Egret

 The Slaty Egret is another fellow to keep any eye on as well. Just like the Heron you will find these guys looking for baitfish all over the lake at most given times. Let them be your eyes under the water when they present themselves on your day on the water.

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fish locators

The Grebe may be one of the best locators of all locating suspended baitfish in the water coloumn. These smaller fish eating birds spend most of there time crusing the surface and diving over and over in search for forage all over the lake. Keep a close eye when this bird surfaces to see what he may have found. These birds can help you in matching the hatch, pay attention to the size of the baitfish they are eating because the bass are doing the same.

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osprey

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Have you ever seen a flying carp, well now you have......The Osprey is one heck of a fishing partner to have just dont let him swoop down and take your catch. These amazing birds of prey have amazing eye sight from very lond distances in the sky. Watching them dive down and catch thier prey is quite a sight to see. As you can tell they will try and grab anything they can big or small.

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Now that you have an idea of what to look for and the things to be aware off on our SoCal bass lakes I guess you need to know what to throw at theses aggressive largemouth bass. This leads us into how to imitate the food source through fly patterns. The most popular bass flies fit into three categories:

 - Streamers: Primarily imitate baitfish or other mobile forage 

- Crayfish and Creatures: All the bottom dwelling food source.

- Bass Bugs and Divers: Topwater or just below the surface - Frogs - Rats - Terrestrials 

So when it comes to bass food Western reservoirs and lakes are full of forage. The most abundant forage is the threadfin shad which is the foundation of most western reservoirs. Other baitfish consist of shiners, silversides, sculpin, young-of-the-year fin fish as in baby bass and bluegill, carp fry, and small trout. A lot of bass flies at TFS can imitate these very well. Stripping these flies in productive areas can result in big number days on the water. 

Thread fin shad

 

Threadfin Shad - Main food source for largemouth bass in most Western Resevoirs. 

Thread fin shad

The threadfin shad can vary in size - most common are 2-3" in length but have seen them as big as 6-7".

Having a good selectiom of shad patterens in varoius sizes and color can help you out in matching the hatch.

Threadfin shad

This goes to show how there color changes underwater depending on the light therefore having a few colors on hand

can help in your sucess on a shad bite.

Schooling shad

 Schooling shad usually means there are predators underneath causing them too group up for protection.

Largemouth in open water will tend to use the surface of the water as structure to pin there prey and bust on them.

Finding these situations can result in big number days as long as you have the right pattern.

Bass eating thread fin shad

Largemouth doing what they do.....Busting on shad!

Silverside shad

Silverside Shad - Another dominant food source in SoCal Lakes

Silverside shad

.Much smaller than the Threadfin and slender, almost translucent in color.

School of silversides

Schooling Silverside Shad   

Barred sculpin

Sculpin live in most western resevoirs and rivers. These bottom dweeling creatures are a favorite

among bass searching for food in the rocks. 

 Sculpin can range in size but most are small and thier coloration can shift as well.

Deadly pattern fished along rocky shorline or submerged rock piles.

sculpin in rocks

Yes they blend into there enviroment very well.

Bluegill

Male bluegill.....better know as bass candy. Most of my biggest bass have been on bluegill patterns fished with a sinking line.

These panfish are available in every watershed in the western states. Bass will abush these guys small or big.

This size of gill is on the menu 24/7 when it comes to bass. So deadly to fish these patterns on the fly

Bluegill or sunfish like to hide in the grass and in the tulles. Great place to strip these patterns

Like I said largemouth will eat bluegill big or small

Yes they eat there own, especially in the early stages of when they are still fry.

But will also try and eat bass at 1-2lbs as well.

Young of the year bass become prey for the adults that hatched them.

Nothing is safe from the largemouth bass when on the feed.

Another favorite food of the bass is crayfish and there are no shortage of these in our lakes. The crayfish become more active in the summer months and make them selves a great snack on the bass’s menu. Look for rock or soft mud bottom to fish these patterns.Many lakes sustain waterdogs, salamanders and sculpin as well. Most of these critters dwell in the weeds and rocks. Lots of the materials used to tie these patterns have a lot of movement which make them deadly choices at times.

Crayfish are probably one of the largemouths favorite thing to find in our Socal Lakes.

These crustations provide allot of protein and make for a pretty big meal.

Bouncing crayfish patterns off rocky shoreline and along muddy bottom can result in some nice takes on the fly

Crayfish patterns are a must in every bass box

Spring and summer months bring out all the top dwelling food sources as well. This is the time of the year the frogs begin to mate and make themselves excellent options for the bass looking for the big meal, which is usually always the case with the size of their mouths. Tulles and weeds lines are great options to throw the topwater stuff. Don't forget about the mice patterns available as well these can produce one hell of a vicious strike at times. Lots of field mice around in the warmer months looking for a bath or some food and the bass are waiting. Diver patterns are very deadly as well as they push a good amount of water, most swimming baitfish patterns are great choice in the lower light conditions, mornings and evenings.

The common bullfrog....very much a part of the largemouth diet especially during and spring months 

Probably one of the most excited aspects of fishing bass on the fly.

Nothing better than a frog bite in the summer.

Well I guess we need to add the insects to the menu as well because we are FLY fishing right. As spring continues to warm into the summer months you will notice a lot of adult dragon flies and damsel flies on the water and hanging off tulles and stick ups. Well these bugs hatch out of the lake and become yet another food source for many fish not just the bass. With that being said they will eat these on the surface and below so good thing to have in your box of bass ammo. 

So after putting all the pieces together and planning your trip to your local bass lake keep all these factors in mind. Hopefully this volume will help any fly fisherman feel a bit more knowledgable when it comes to targeting SoCals most dominant freshwater fish. All you have to do now is bump up your rod weight and get a few new lines and load up a bass box full of some ammo and hold on. You will find that the largemouth bass becomes one of your favorite species to target year round in Southern California and every other place they live across the country. Tight lines to all.

Volume #3 will go into the gear used to target this warm water fish. I will be explaining the rods - reels - lines - leaders and patterns used to be successful in your adventures chasing the largemouth. 

As Always - “Fly Fishing is a State of Mind” - Fish on my friends!

Dont miss out!!!