You must understand water levels and temperatures to find and catch April pre-spawn and post-spawn bass at Pickwick Lake.
But if you know what type of bank and structure to look for and what baits to use you’ll catch more and bigger bass.
Use a Carolina-rigged plastic lizard on main-lake points and secondary points just inside the creeks where the bass will be staging for the spawn.
I’ll fish a Lew’s 6.8:1 reel with 50-pound-test braided line and a Team Lew’s 7½-foot medium-heavy rod.
Up the main line that’s tied onto a barrel swivel, I’ll have a 1-ounce slip sinker ahead of a plastic bead.
Coming off the bottom eye of the swivel, I’ll use 26-pound White Peacock fluorocarbon leader with a 5/0 Trokar wide-gap hook and attach a 6-inch Mann’s HardNose green pumpkin plastic lizard with the tail dipped in chartreuse dye.
I’ll cast this rig close to the bank, perhaps landing it on the bank and dragging it into the water with a very slow retrieve. I want the lizard to look like it’s free-swimming behind the weight.
Early in April, the bites primarily will come from the bank out to 5 to 6 feet of water as you slow retrieve the Carolina rig back to the boat.
I’ll retrieve the lizard out to about 12- to 15-foot-deep water before I reel in and make another cast.
I like to fish from Yellow Creek to Bear and Second Creeks, and catch a mixed bag that includes largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass.
Generally largemouths will be the dominant bass.
I’ll also fish a Mann’s C4 crankbait in the bluegill color or a dark back with chartreuse sides and an orange belly on the main and secondary points.
I’ll cast it on a 7½-foot Lew’s David Fritts fiberglass rod. Since a fiberglass rod doesn’t allow the angler to set the hook as hard and as fast as a graphite rod will, the bass gets the crankbait deeper in its mouth.
I’ll use a 5.6:1 reel and 20-pound White Peacock fluorocarbon line.
The crankbait enables me to cover more water faster than the Carolina rig and presents a different bait with a different action.
I’m also set up to fish for smallmouths.
I’ll search for pea gravel banks and points in the same regions as before, since that’s where smallmouths prefer to spawn.
But you’ll catch largemouth and spotted bass too.
Often, you’ll find pea gravel for about 50 yards on either side of the main river and the secondary points and coming off the bank. But you won’t be able to see the gravel points unless you have a quality pair of sunglasses like my Costas.
During the first of April, retrieve your crankbait slower than you will later in the month. Sometimes in cooler water, reeling that crankbait slowly and bouncing it off the rocks will get you more bites than burning the crankbait.
Mid- to late April
I’ll cast a C4 toward the end of April when the bass probably will be much more active because the water temperature’s higher.
I’ll retrieve the crankbait faster and use a faster reel.
Once I catch a smallmouth on one of those pea gravel banks, I’ll cast the C4 four or five times back to the same area. If I don’t catch a second smallmouth, I’ll pick up my Carolina-rigged lizard and make three or four casts into that same region, dragging it much slower than I retrieve the crankbait.
I’ll als fish the rising water level with a Stone Jig because the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will bring the water level back up from winter pool to summer pool, often flooding the bushes and the Johnson grass.
Once the water level comes up, I’ll start flipping a black-and-blue ½-ounce Mann’s Stone Jig on 65-pound braided line on a 7-foot, 11-inch medium-heavy action Lew’s flipping rod with an 8.3:1 Lew’s reel at any type of bank cover or bushes.
But if the water comes up quickly and the water temperature is still fairly cool, good numbers of bass will be holding away from the bank on what was the winter pool shoreline.
Depending on how high the water rises, that winter pool shoreline may be 5 to 6 feet deep, generally where you can no longer see the bushes out away from the bank.
In pockets off the main lake and inside of creek mouths, Pickwick has some green grass that grows up from the bottoms on stalks. I’ll pitch the jig into that grass where bass hold.
You also can slow-roll a spinnerbait along the edges of the bushes if you’re not catching a bass in the flooded bushes and grass.
I like to fish a chartreuse-and-white single No. 6 or No. 7 willow leaf blade on either a 5/8- or a ¾-ounce spinnerbait along the edges of the bushes of the old winter shoreline.
This technique also can be very effective on windy days.
I’ll fish with 50-pound braided line on a 6-foot, 8-inch Lew’s David Fritts cranking rod, which helps make accurate casts to get the bait right on the edges of the bushes.
I believe a shorter rod helps you make more-accurate casts than a longer rod. I like a 7.5:1 Team Lew’s reel to stay in contact with the spinnerbait, and I reel it slowly.
Another good tactic is fishing a 9-inch Monster Reel’N Shad swimbait on a 3/8-ounce Reel’N Shad jighead with an 8/0 hook to call in big female bass in shallow water that getting ready to spawn.
I throw it on 50-pound braided line on a 7½-foot Lew’s David Fritts cranking rod that has a slow tip to get a better hook set.
Using these techniques at different times of the month in different water levels and under various water temperatures, I expect to catch 12 to 15 bass per day and possibly 20 largemouths, smallmouths and spots.
I expect to catch a few bass per day that weigh 5 to 7 pounds, with most of the bass ranging from 1½ to 3 pounds.
For me, that’s a good day of bass fishing.