Working across the shallow flats in search of hungry bass, my partner for the day instructed me to fish the shallow flat right off the bank to my right. I quickly pitched a Kinami jerkbait up onto the ledge, and let it glide toward the bottom. Almost instantly, I detected the subtle twitch of my line just before it started moving off to the side.

Reeling up the slack, I slammed the hook home, and a nice bass busted through the water's surface and put up quite a fight. The buck bass had engulfed the lure while it was still on its initial fall toward the bottom.

As we continued working along the stump-filled shallow waters of Clarkco State Park, Monte Knight began showing me subtle nuances of the lake along with prime spawning areas and submerged stumps, drops and ditches. These are the type things that only a veteran angler of the lake could point out as most, if not all, of the key areas on this lake were almost imperceptible upon first glance.

Knight has grown up fishing Clarkco, and lives only a few minutes up the road. The talented angler has many tournament wins to his credit, including some on the national fishing trails, and he definitely knows a thing or two about locating and catching bass on all types of water. Clarkco is definitely one of his favorite winter and early spring lakes.

Though the water was slightly stained from recent rains and we weren't able to physically sight many of the stumps and logs under the surface, it didn't take me long to find them with help from the pro.

"If the water's murky like it is right now, I'll work the area with a Berkley swim bait or Jerk Shad, and just cover the area with fan casts until I catch a bass or entice a strike," said Knight. "You can also fish the Senko-type baits, and catch some good ones also."

Continuing on, I caught a couple more buck bass while Knight pointed out the prime areas and looked for the bigger bass. Knight suddenly stopped talking and stayed completely still just long enough to attract my attention, when I saw him rear back and set the hook. Almost instantly his spinning rod combo began to bow up and strain under the weight of the sow bass.

Knight had told me only minutes before that he thought there were some good bass in the area.

"I knew that they were here - we just had to work the area and find out where they had gone since the water muddied," Knight said.

Unable to target submerged stumps and logs by sight, Knight relied on his experience and keen sense of feel with his spinning rod-and-reel combo teemed with Ultracast Braid and a fluorocarbon leader.

"I prefer the braid and fluorocarbon leader when fishing lightweight plastics," he said. "The braid gives you the sensitivity you need along with durability, and the fluorocarbon is tough and invisible to the fish, and it gives you the added finesse ability."

Arriving at our next spot, it didn't take long for Knight to hook up with another bass as he pitched the soft-plastic lure up onto a shallow ledge and worked it slowly back to the boat. Sensing a bass had engulfed the plastic, he set the hook and drove it deep into the jaws of yet another bass.

Moving a little farther along, I pitched my junebug-colored Kinami next to a top, and a bass sucked in the offering before it ever made it to the bottom. Seconds later, I had another one in the boat as well.

Fishing with Knight was a true pleasure on a day when the wind was howling and a front was coming through. Most anglers had packed it in by the time we got on fish, and it was just Knight and me on the water.

With the passing front bearing down on us, the fish had moved slightly deeper. The veteran angler had found another pattern, and the fish were a little larger. The bass had backed out of the shallow water and were located just on the edge of the shallow ledges.

With the boat positioned in the deep water, Knight directed me to cast my lure up to one certain spot, just as he bowed up on another bass.

"I think the strong wind and front coming through has these fish positioned right on the edge of deep water," Knight said.

I pitched my offering out accordingly and began my retrieve. Wham! Just as I entered the strike zone, another bass attacked my lure as well.

Knight had found the pattern on a tough day, and was now zoned in.

"They're just barely taking the bait, but it's enough if you let them mouth it a little bit," he said.

They weren't real aggressive, but x marked the spot, and if you hit that spot you'd get a bite most of the time. It was a bit like hitting a baseball, however, as you had to swing and miss a few times before you connected. Once we got our timing right and let them hold it a bit, we really began connecting consistently.

"One of the best things about fishing the national trail and being on the water several days in a row is that you get to see what the bass are doing," said Knight. "You might come up there the first day and the bucks are just beginning to move up on the beds, as the fish are getting ready. Then when the water warms up and fish start moving up, it's just about right. And when the prime time comes and the females are locked on the beds, you can really mop up.

"I don't care where you're fishing and how many big bass are in the lake, you've got a small window of opportunity to catch them on the bed, and you've got to be there when it happens, if you're going to be successful at catching lunker bass."

While we didn't get to actually catch them at the prime time during the spawn, we did catch around 25 bass while missing more than our share of strikes on a poor fishing day. If you're looking to catch a lunker bass this spring, head to Clarkco State Park and try a few of Knight's favorite spawning areas. You just might catch the lunker bass of your lifetime.

 

No. 1: N32 06.133 x W88 41.280 - Leave the boat ramp and turn left, heading north, and continue until you get to the upper end of the lake. Stop about middle ways in the cove approximately 50 yards off the bank in the middle of the cove.

"This spawning flat has scattered stumps that the bass really love to bed around," Knight said. "This is an ideal spot to sight fish for bass in the spring once they start moving up to bed."

Knight will use search baits to look for bedding fish even if he can spot seemingly abandoned beds.

"I'll throw a Berkely Hollow Belly, a hollow-bodied swimbait, or a Berkely Power Jerk Shad, and cover the spawning area," he said.

This is Knight's best location for catching numbers of spawning bass. Fish slow and thorough before moving on, and remember that more bass may be coming up to the beds throughout the day.

 

No. 2: N32 06.117 x W88 41.362 - Leaving stop No. 1, travel south a short distance, and fish the left-hand side of the lake. There's an old ditch that is almost silted in, but bass will bed along the old ditch and relate to the submerged stumps along the ditch.

"I'd fish a ¼-ounce chartreuse perch or bream-colored Rat-L-Trap to mimic the bream, which are the No. 1 forage fish in this lake for bass," said Knight. "I'd make fan casts over the whole area until I located a bass."

Sometimes Knight will locate the smaller buck bass like this, and other times he'll catch a fat sow that is getting ready to go on the bed.

 

No. 3: N32 06.150 x W88 41.321 - Leaving No. 2, troll straight across the lake and work the small pocket on the west side.

"I'd work this area just like No. 1,"Knight said. "There are a lot of huge cypress stumps on the bottom, and the bass really love to bed on and around them."

Knight also said that anglers must wear quality eyegear in order to properly fish the bedding areas.

"You've got to have top-notch sunglasses to locate the beds and bass," he said. "There's just no substitute for a quality pair of sunglasses in these conditions."

 

No. 4: N32 06.148 x W88 41.393 - Continue in a southerly direction, and fish the next spawning pocket on the right.

"This cove also has a lot of stumps scattered at random, and the pattern is the same," he said. "Locate the beds and key on any active fish you can find."

Once again, work the area slowly and methodically, and you'll likely locate a big old sow or two.

"Another lure I really love and have a lot of success on this time of year is a hard-bodied jerkbait," Knight said. "There's just something different that the bass just can't stand about the action of these baits."

If you encounter bass swirling or striking short at your lures, then you might need to slow down or change tactics, he advised.

 

No. 5: N32 06.098 x W88 41.487 - Leave No. 4, head back across the lake and work the bank in this area. Follow it up into the next cove on the left as well.

"I'd work the bank with a Texas-rigged lizard or worm, and pinpoint all of the visible cover," said Knight.

And that includes the submerged brush and stumps that you can only spot with the use of the sunglasses.

 

No. 6: N32 06.145 x W88 41.629 - After fishing No. 5, head back south and fish the cove on the west side. Fish any visible cover once again, and then work the shallow flat well out into the lake.

"Bass will bed anywhere in the shallow water, and anglers need to be careful not to run over the beds and disturb them," Knight said. "Once I locate the beds, then I'll work them real good until I catch the bass or think it's time to move on."

 

No. 7: N32 05.922 x W88 41.660 - Leaving No. 6, travel across the lake and around the prominent point on the north side of the lake almost straight across from the boat ramp. Head back into this eastern arm, and work the cove on the back left-hand side.

"I'd key on the visible structure and laydown logs and trees in this cove," Knight said.

 

No. 8: N32 05.915 x W88 41.705 - After fishing No. 7, work your way across the lake to the south and fish both coves on either side of the cabin on the southeast side of the inlet. Once again, the same pattern holds here. Scan the area for beds, and key on structure and brush if no beds are visible.

"If I'm fishing blind and looking for unseen bass, then I stay with the hard-bodied jerkbait or the swimbaits until I get a reaction strike," said Knight.

 

No. 9: N32 06.031 x W88 41.724 - Leaving No. 8, head back toward the landing and stop on the point to the right of this cove, directly across from the landing. This is the prominent point that separates the northern and eastern arms of the lake.

"Here, you've got everything bass need this time of year with deep water, a point and shallow water on either side," Knight said. "I'll start out fishing shallow on the shelf with a Fluke or swimbait.

"If I don't get bit there, I'll fish the laydown log and tree. And finally If I haven't located a bass or bed to fish, I'll back off and work the drops on either side of the point."

According to Knight, this is also a prime prespawn point where the big old sows will stack up in preparation for their shallow move. In fact, Knight caught a nice lunker right on the break.

 

No 10: N32 06.139 x W88 41.696 - Leaving No. 9, travel back toward the ramp, and stop at the first cove to the north of the ramp. Fish the visible cover in the cove and then work back toward the open water covering all of the shallow flats.

"If you locate a bed, fish it thoroughly and then expand outwards with fan casts, and you may pick up a strike from a bass on a deeper bed," said Knight. "You've got to remember that bed fishing is like deer hunting in a way - if you want to get a big buck you've got to be patient and hunt for him."

Find the beds, and concentrate on making that bass bite, and you just might catch the lunker of your life. If you're impatient, you can end up covering a lot of water and only catching the smaller buck bass, while others will pick off the fat sows.