In Martella’s case, the frequency he participates in the outdoors may just be his secret to success. It’s long been said you can’t get into the action while sitting on the bench.
“In regards to fishing lily pads, both my brother and I like to fish the pads in the spring and the fall,” he said. “Certainly we do fish the pads for largemouth bass in the summer, but the heat and humidity can be brutal.
“We tend to use different types of lures as the seasons change. I am not sure about our fishing strategies, but sometimes I think the pads and stems get tougher and thicker as the spring months hum on into summer. Then late in the summer and early fall, they seem less tough. We use various baits, rigs, tackle and line accordingly.
“I like the Scum Frog because I love the topwater action. I just like to see the pursuit and the strike. The Scum Frog is pretty well weedless, and doesn’t drag back a lot of weeds or moss. It’s so slick it just slides over and around weed beds and lily pads.
“On the other hand, my brother Mitch prefers to use classic buzz baits. I think these work best in the spring before the summer lily pad ‘tough-up,’ but they’re prime bass lures anytime of the year. As the summer arrives, the buzz baits are more difficult to maneuver in the lily pads.
“On the plus side, Mitch’s buzz baits can make a lot of surface-water noise and action, and naturally that attracts bass to the feeding frenzy.
“The key to catching a bass with topwater frogs is to hesitate just a moment before setting the hook. Sometimes a big bass will hit at a frog without taking it. Then it will come right back with a second strike. There can be a slight pause there, but usually the follow-up strike comes right after the first.
“If you set the hook immediately upon either strike, generally the result is a miss altogether. It can be a little tricky and a fishing tactic that has to be learned over time. There has to be such an ever-so-slight hesitation before jerking the rod to finally set the hook. Once you get it down pat, it’s a movement that becomes automatic.
“Early in the summer months, my brother also likes to get a worm working down under the pads. This can be easier said than done, but can also drag some of the big ones out of the tangle. Of course, worms work on big bass like lush green ryegrass works on deer. It will bring them out of the cover to bite when nothing else works. Don’t go bass fishing without worms, and always keep a good selection of fresh ones for the lily pads.
“Let’s be honest, most of the time you don’t usually catch the big ones when working lily pads or any other bass structure for that matter, but even the angling action on the smaller bass 1- to 3-pounders can be a ton of fun. Now, I absolutely love crappie fishing, but slab jerking can get a tad mundane after a couple hours on the water.
“Bass fishing is a lot like deer hunting for me. You just never know when the next big one will come along, but getting the smaller ones also produces a lot of satisfaction, especially in the frying pan and on the dinner table.”
Narrowing the focus
If you have somehow come to the conclusion that you got the hots to take on some largemouths hiding amongst the lily pads, then Ross Barnett Reservoir north of Jackson can be one of the best tickets in the state to take it on. At normal pool elevation, Ross Barnett sports 33,000 acres of surface water. The average water depth is around 11 feet with a maximum depth of 50 feet. This is a big body of water and well established for its great fishing potential.
There is plenty of room to navigate on Ross Barnett except maybe on summer weekends. If you can only fish the pads then, go early or late to avoid river skiers and jet boaters. They may create too many rocking waves that can disrupt cove and shoreline lily pad fishing. You just have to go to find out. Otherwise picking a weekday is probably the best bet.
“The trick about fishing on the Rez anywhere is the turbidity of the water,” says Martella. “It can be pretty dim most of the time.”
Usually when it is said to be clear, the clarity runs about 8 feet deep. When it is not, you can only count on about 2 feet at the most. The color is best described as stained. Water clarity can be just one of the factors that can contribute to successful bass fishing in lily pads on the Reservoir, but it doesn’t have to hinder success. Just be aware of it.
“This means most of the time you have to rely on visual signs of fish movement rather than actually seeing the fish,” Martella said. “However, the exception can be up in the lily pads, which, of course, reside in more shallow water. Bass are easier to spot there, but don’t always count on it.”
Lily pad bass anglers have to keep a sharp eye open for swirls within the lily pad fields. Casting into the pads may be the only way to stimulate bass action.
For a number of years now, there has been a fairly steady increase in the coverage of lily pads across the Ross Barnett Reservoir. Some anglers love them while others wish they’d all disappear.
“There really are four places on Barnett to ramp your boat if you want a short cut to the lily pads,” Martella said. “These are Pelahatchie Bay Trading Post, Fannin Landing, Tommy’s Trading Post and Lake Harbor Trading Post.
“Since lily pad covered areas are getting to be so prevalent on the Rez and the Pearl River, they can be found just about anywhere now along the waterway route.
“Many bass fishermen rely on a number of specific designated areas on Ross Barnett to find varying coverage of lily pads. These include Long Lake, White Lake, Horseshoe Lake, Blue Lake, Moss Lake and any other cove or backwater inlet showing signs of lily pads. So long as you can get close to the pads or safely into and out these inlets, then the potential for big bass among the pads is certainly viable.”
Lily pad fields shift, grow and shrink, so expect changes over the fishing season.