A solid keeper bass nailed the crankbait on the first cast. After admiring the fish, Giles released it and started working the ledge again. Casting to the same spot, he cranked the reel handle only a few times before another bass struck his offering. This time a 2½-pounder swallowed the lure deep in its mouth, secure enough to keep the lure from shaking loose. Several casts followed, and the young angler caught or missed bass on almost every cast.
"I like to find the first ledge off of the shoreline as bass will stop on them to rest up after the spawn," Giles said. "I'll specifically target ledges in the 2- to 5-foot depth range where they can target and ambush any shad or baitfish swimming overhead.
"If you can locate a sweet spot, you can really load the boat in a hurry with these shallow-running crankbaits."
Continuing down the submerged ledge Giles cast a Strike King 4S Chartreuse Sexy shad and started his retrieve. This time he didn't get too far before a lunker bass nailed the lure and almost tore the rod from his hands. After recovering from the initial surge of the bass he turned him around and brought him towards the boat. Just as it neared the boat and saw the outstretched net the bass bore down straight under the boat and almost broke the line on the edge of the boat. Only a quick maneuver by the young angler prevented a quick release.
A split second later the lunker exploded through the surface and tail walked across the water with not a glimpse of the crankbait to be seen. The crankbait color was bound to be spot on, as the bass had swallowed the lure deep into its throat. After playing the fish and wearing it down Giles quickly led him to the net. After a quick photo he released him to catch and fight another day. There's nothing like feeling that thrill again and again after you catch and release them.
Giles had bought a few of the small Strike King crankbaits right after they hit the market and that trip was the first time he'd been able to use the lures. Since the bass weren't hitting the traditional fare he figured he'd try something new, and it worked. Evidently the bass liked the size, look and wobble of the baits. Something was slightly different and the bass were surely keying on this lure.
After catching and releasing about a dozen bass we trolled parallel to the shoreline until we hit yet another drop off which was 5 feet on top, dropping to 10 on the deeper side.
"Sometimes the bass will suspend slightly over the ledge and attack anything that swims over them," said Giles. "I'll still use that Series 1 crankbait and work the ledge thoroughly. They usually can't stand it when the lure passes overhead so they'll swim up and crush it, or try to anyway."
Although many anglers like to cast spinnerbaits or plastics during April, Giles prefers targeting post spawn bass that are ready for a quick meal and the Strike King crankbaits provide them just that. Not only do they mimic the actions of a shad or small baitfish, they have a little more erratic action that entices those spawn weary bass into striking.
Bass found in Okatibbee Lake are fond of them also.
"I like the larger body on this lure and the rattle is a little different than others," Giles said. "I used to fish smaller crankbaits and caught bass on them, but the Strike King Series 1 presents a bigger target and also attracts strikes from bigger fish on average."
After fishing with the talented youngster a few times it was evident that he knew what he was talking about as almost every place we fished he caught bigger bass than I did, until I got a couple of the Series 1 crankbaits myself.
Though the Mississippi State civil engineering student grew up fishing small ponds, lakes, streams and rivers, he became adept at locating and catching bass under a variety of conditions on Okatibbee Lake, and in various pools on the Tennessee Tombigbee River system. And he's no stranger to tournament angling either, with several top finishes and a couple of wins in local bass tournaments.
Along the way this talented angler has learned to find fish congregated around points, drops, and anywhere he finds current coming into Okatibbee, or other lakes during April. As the spring rains come the lake continually rises and falls and Giles has located various honey holes where bass stack up and feed on unsuspecting baitfish, or lures being swept through the current. These small areas where streams, creeks and tributaries pour into the lake are very dependable once they have current, though the bass bite may only last a short time.
"If you find the right spot at the right time it's not unusual for a couple of anglers to catch 50 to 60 bass a day on Okatibbee," Giles said. "My dad showed me a few spots where he's caught bass for years when the water's right and I've found a few places of my own."
When the conditions are right Giles will cast the shallow running crankbaits across the current flow and retrieve the lure back in various retrieves until he finds what they prefer that day.
"Sometimes I'll reel the crankbaits pretty slow and then stop it and let it drift up a bit and they'll nail it because they just can't stand to see it float by," he said. "At other times I'll have to bump the bottom, or knock a stump, and the bass will bite after the lure bounces, or deflects off the stump or ledge.
"I'll just try to catch a few and put together a pattern and let them tell me how they want it. But no matter where you fish during April, you can find some post-spawn fish that will strike these larger bodied shallow running crankbaits."
Tyler Wood on post-spawn cranking
Tyler Wood trolled across a shallow flat searching for bass while making repeated casts. Wood worked his crankbait in rapid fire succession until a bass smashed it just after it glanced off a stump on the edge of a ditch. Wood fought the bass for a few minutes before landing it and quickly admired and released it. A couple of casts later the young angler enticed another hefty bass into striking. The results were much the same and he made quick work of this bass before releasing him to grow some more and catch another day. Wood had joined his father Wade on a spring outing and they were regularly catching and releasing scattered post-spawn bass.
Wood, an up and coming tournament angler from Collinsville, has been fishing for bass since before he could remember and has been catching fish with Justin Giles in local ponds, rivers and lakes also. The childhood friends are both excellent bass anglers in their own right and Wood has now taken his angling skills to the next level and has become a force to be reckoned with in the East Mississippi, West Alabama area with many team tournament wins to his credit. As of late, the young angler has even begun to make an impact on the BFL state, regional and national trails and just last year finished in 7th place on the co-angler side at the BFL All American at Cross Lake!
Besides his impressive 7th place finish in the All American he also won title of the 2010 Co-Angler of the year on the BFL Trail which requires a lot of tenacity, versatility and consistency over the course of a tournament season while fishing with and against very talented anglers, each striving to do the same thing.
Wood also loves catching post-spawn bass on big bodied shallow running crankbaits and employs a KVD 2.5 when searching for post spawn bass.
"After the spawn we'll target points, and shallow drops near spawning areas," said Wood. "Once the bass move back out of their spawning areas I'll use a KVD 2.5 and really stay on the move until we pinpoint their location.
"If the water is clear and shad are present I'll use a shad colored KVD crankbait, and if the water is muddy or stained I'll try a chartreuse black back KVD crankbait."
Wood targets the points and bottom depth changes in the 2 to 4 feet depth when looking for the first post-spawn bass heading back towards deeper water.
"Last year the bass really ate up the crankbaits during the post spawn at Okatibbee Lake and at Demopolis over on the Tombigbee River," Wood said. "In fact, almost anywhere you fish in central Mississippi during the post spawn period you'll be able to find and catch bass on points and shallow ledges with the KVD, or similar size crankbaits.
"On Okatibbee Lake I've got one point that they usually gang up on first after they're through spawning," he continued. "And if they're on that point pretty good I'll know that they're going to be on my other spots too."
Though the timing of their arrival on the points and ledges may vary, once they complete the spawn they're going to come back out on their way towards deeper water, resting and feeding in these places until they recover from the rigors of the spawn.
"I'll start on the shallow end of the point near the bank and then work towards deeper water," said Wood. "I'll make a couple of casts down each side of the point to see if the bass are holding along the edges and then cast across the point a couple times to see if they're right on top of the point.
"If I catch one I'll work that spot over thoroughly before moving on. Sometimes you can really load the boat in a hurry if they're ganged up and you've got the right color crankbait tied on."
Wood also searches the shallow flats and probes the bottom looking for isolated stumps along the edge of creek channels and deep water also.
"If the water level is starting to drop I'll ease out and crankbait the flats, drops and ledges and try to find the bass, or establish a pattern," he said.
Once he locates a stump he'll really work it over trying to entice a bass into striking.
"I may cast and hit that stump 8 or 10 times until I make a bass mad enough to strike it," Wood said. "Sometimes they're there but not actively feeding and you have to make them strike."
And sometimes he'll hit the mother lode and really load the boat. It's not unusual to catch a school of post-spawn bass ganged up on a shallow point or drop in 2 to 4 feet of water right after the peak of the spawn. While most of these post-spawn fish will be in the 2 to 4-pound range, sometimes there will be lunkers in the 4 to 6-pound range schooled up.
"My largest post-spawn bass caught on a KVD 2.5 on Okatibbee weighed in at 6.2 pounds," he said. "But my best ever on a KVD crankbait weighed over 8 pounds."
Although Wood is young by most standards, he's a veteran at finding and catching bass and especially loves catching the post-spawn bass. With many years of on water experience with his dad, along with extensive tournament experience, Wood knows his stuff when it comes to locating and catching bass in a variety of conditions, including catching post-spawn fish.
Take a few of the tips and techniques utilized by Wood and Giles and try some shallow water cranking this April and you just might have the trip of a lifetime.