Brock Mosley zipped a crankbait across the shallow flats and cranked it down until it was bumping the bottom and glancing off stumps and brush tops.
A sow bass smashed the square-bill crankbait and almost tore the rod from his hands. The fish was no match for the seasoned young angler, and he quickly wore it down, brought it into the boat and admired it a second before releasing it to grow and fight another day.
Though young by many standards Mosley is a veteran of many bass wars and he recently qualified to fish the most prestigious bass tournament trail in the world, the Bassmaster Elite Series.
And shallow cranking helped get him there.
“Around here I love shallow cranking, and power fishing and that got me where I am today,” Mosley said. “March and April are bass spawning times throughout the state and I want to find a transition area where the bass are constantly moving up to spawn while others are heading back out.”
By locating transition areas, Mosley is able to hit bass that are cruising through, stopping briefly on their way to and from the spawning areas to rest and sometimes snack on an opportune meal. Mosley employs square-bill crankbaits when he’s searching for shallow water bass.
“My favorite square bill is the Bagley Rattling Killer B and I’ve been really killing them on Okatibbee Lake recently,” Mosley said. “It’s a new bait they just came out with a couple years ago and it’s really stayed pretty quiet. The bass haven’t seen it a lot yet but man I tell you I love it. A lot of people have used the Strike King 1.5 or the Rick Clunn square bill so they’ve seen a lot of those. The new Killer B has a set of rattles in it kind of like a rattletrap and it’s just a little something different that the bass like.
“I like a chartreuse black back and it’s good for the murky shallow waters that we have in most of the state. But if the water’s really clear, like up at Pickwick, I’ll cast a Sexy Shad color and usually catch a bunch doing that too. The color of the water is usually the key to which color crankbait I’m going to choose.”
These lures work in all of Mississippi’s waters, and they are pretty versatile tools.
“Ross Barnett Reservoir has a lot of lakes upriver and they all have creeks or ditches running through them all the way to the back,” Mosley said. “I’ll work the edges of those ditches and cover a lot of water when I’m searching for bass.
“The square-bill crankbaits act as a locator. They’re great reaction baits, enticing bass to bite when it bounces off a piece of cover or swims in front of them.”
Once Mosley locates a ditch holding bass, he’ll work it back and forth until he finds the mother lode or they quit biting.
More often than not the bass will bite again in a spot if you give them a little time.
Mosley grew up fishing Okatibbee Lake just north of Meridian, and he’s familiar with all of the humps, drops and ledges in the lake.
It’s simply a matter of applying his knowledge and timing with the seasons, current water levels and weather conditions and then getting on the water and finding the fish.
“If you can find a transition area or highway you can do really well in a hurry,” said Mosley. “These bass use the shallow ditches running across the flats like we use roads to get from the deep water to their shallow spawning areas.
“Find the areas they like to stop at and you can catch a big string in a hurry.”
Mosley used a trip to his home waters as an example.
“I found a place on Okatibbee Lake where I caught seven or eight good fish, and then they just quit,” Mosley said. “I came back and checked it about 30 minutes later and caught seven or eight more. Some areas are hotspots where the bass just constantly keep pulling in and staging there.
“That’s why I like making circles in big creeks or bay areas. Just keep circling back and hit the area over and over until they quit biting. Chances are good that you can catch a lot of bass when you find hot spots like this and stick with them.”
Many anglers will catch a bass or two and keep their foot on the trolling motor and keep on going. Doing that at this time of year means missing big schools of bass.
Mosley has learned that all bass do not spawn at the same time in any lake. He says bass will spawn in different areas on the lake as the water warms up. Surface temperatures play a big role in spawning, and not all areas of a lake will warm to prime spawning range at the same time.
Mosley stays up with the bass and works the different areas of the lakes as the spawning occurs and reaps the harvest of the additional spawning opportunities.
“Last year we were fishing a Bassmaster (Central) Open on Ross Barnett and we were catching the fire out of bass in one area,” Mosley said. “There were about 10 boats (in the area), and we were all catching bass as a wave of pre-spawn bass was moving up to spawn.
“If you can find one hotspot like this you can consistently catch lunker bass.”
Mosley has learned from experience that bass swim into spawning areas in waves, stopping off at some of areas to rest or feed before moving further in.
“If you can find one of these transition areas, it’s like magic,” Mosley said. “My biggest five fish limit in a pro tournament weighed 24 pounds, and you can load up on them really quick when you find one of these hotspots.
“When Randy Howell won the Classic a couple years ago, he caught those big sacks each day in an area where the bass just kept moving up in waves and each day he kept catching those big bass as they just replenished the small area along the shallow ledge,” Mosley said.
That was a case where a very talented angler stuck with the spot and it paid off big time, he said. Even when Howell thought it might be time to move on to greener pastures he stuck to his plan and kept fishing until the bite picked up again.
Most anglers would do well to take a page from Mosley’s book and stay on a hotspot once its found. If the action slows you might want to try somewhere else, but then come back to the same area and try it again.
Many pros call this type of fishing milk runs. They’ll keep fishing for bass at each spot until they’ve caught every bass in a biting mood.
Mosley has used milk runs during several of his tournament wins in the Magnolia State, and he’s become quite efficient at finding key staging areas and taking advantage of the situation when the bass are staging on those areas.
He stays with the bass, picking them off as they move up to staging and transition zones instead of running all over the lake looking for another hotspot.