April is a magic month, with bass readying to go on the bed, turkeys gobbling and everything in nature turning green.
The bass on Ross Barnett Reservoir normally start bedding about the middle of March and into April. However, because of the cold weather we’ve had, I believe bass will start bedding somewhat later than they have in the past.
I think most spawning activity will happen in April this year on Ross Barnett in the standing brown lily pad stems.
Catch ’em chugging
Topwater chugging baits like the Pop R will be deadly this month if fished around the lily pad stems.
I like to fish the Pop R on a medium-action, 6-foot, 6-inch Pinnacle rod with a 7.3:1 gear ratio Pinnacle reel.
Because fluorocarbon line sinks, I’ll use monofilament line, namely 12-pound Trilene XT monofilament line, to help the Pop R float on the surface and make a chugging sound.
With my reel, I can take up line quickly after I pop the chugger bait and stay in direct contact with my lure.
When most fishermen are fishing topwater chugger baits, they tend to get slack in their lines. But with a fast gear-ratio reel, you can take up line quickly. Then when a bass does suck the chugger down, you can react to the strike quicker than if the line is slack.
Unless the water is really clear, don’t make long casts. It takes longer to set the hook and doesn’t provide as much force on the hook set as opposed to a short cast. My maximum cast at Ross Barnett with a chugger bait is only about 20 yards or less in April.
In clear water, the beds on Ross Barnett this month should be visible. If not, I’ll focus on the lily pad stems and wait for a bass to make them move.
The key to successfully fishing a chugger-style bait is to let the bait sit on the water dead still. Cast the chugger out to a clump of lily pad stems, so it lands in open water. When it hits, let the lure sit for at least a 10 count. Then jerk it three times, creating a chugging sound and water splash. Let it sit still again for another 10 count.
When you stop the Pop R, if there’s a bedding female bass close to the lure, most of the time she’ll move off the bed and suck that bait down with no dramatic strike.
One of the keys in selecting the right chugger bait is to make sure the belly is orange or bluegill colored. The color is important because when the bass spawn late on Ross Barnett, shellcrackers (or redear sunfish) will be spawning at the same time, usually around the first full moon in April.
Spawning and already-spawned bass will hold close to the shellcracker beds and feed on young shellcrackers. This feeding frenzy keeps bass shallow, making it a perfect opportunity to use chugger bait. The orange belly will look like a shellcracker or a bluegill is eating bugs on the surface, a favorite target for hungry bass.
My next lure of choice will be a Mann’s Baby 1-Minus. Again, color is key when you’re picking this shallow-running crankbait.
I prefer the lure in chartreuse-and-black with an orange belly. This mini-crankbait swims through lily pads and bounces off stems easily, not getting tangled as often as a bigger crankbait will.
I’ll make longer casts with the Baby 1-Minus than with the chugger bait, and I’ll fish it on 15-pound-test 100 percent fluorocarbon line with a 7.3:1 gear ratio Pinnacle reel since I want the Baby 1-Minus to bounce off those lily pad stems and entice big bass to attack.
The buzzbait is a fairly weedless lure that weaves through lily pad stems. When I’m fishing buzzbaits, I don’t use a fast retrieve, since I prefer the lure to ride right on the surface of the water and give off a clacking, gurgling sound.
I use two colors on separate rods: a 3/8-ounce solid-black buzzbait with a black blade and a ¼-ounce white-and-chartreuse buzzbait.
I’ll let the fish tell me which color and size they prefer.
If I’m not catching bass on these three lures — a chugger, a Baby 1-Minus or a buzzbait — I’ll rig a Mann’s Freefall worm with no weight other than the hook.
This time of year, Ross Barnett is loaded with bass. While fishing during April, I fully expect to catch a lot of small bass — possibly 15 to 20 a day — from ¾ to 2 pounds. However, expect to catch bigger bass, possibly up to 5 or 6 pounds, using the three baits and tactics I’ve mentioned.
On a good day of fishing this month, I’ll hope to catch three or four bass weighing in excess of 4 pounds each — a universal good day of bass fishing.