Don’t miss out on Ross Barnett’s June bassing

Paul Elias likes to start cranking drop-offs in the early mornings, not only to catch schooling bass but also to help fire up the schools of bass to come to the surface where he can use other tactics to catch them.

You can keep bass at the surface by working different baits

In June, I prefer to fish the Natchez Trace side of Ross Barnett Reservoir, with its numbers of ledges and drop-offs near shallow water, besides the underwater roadbeds, the hardbottom around the edges of the old river channel and bridges blown up before the lake was impounded. 

Crankbaits early? 

I’ll start off fishing for schooling bass with a Mann’s 15+ and/or a Mann’s 20+ crankbait in grey ghost color, since the bass primarily will be feeding on shad. I’ll use a baitcasting reel with a 6.2:1 gear ratio spooled with 20-pound White Peacock fluorocarbon on a 7-foot-6, medium-action FX Custom cranking rod.

Mann’s 20+ crankbait

I’ll overpower the 15+ crankbait to cause it to dig the bottom from 4 to 14 feet. If the drop-off is deeper, I may fish the 20+ crankbait to keep the lure digging the bottom throughout the entire cast. I’ll continue that action to create a cloud and make sounds as the crankbait bumps into bottom structures. First thing in the morning, the crankbait will excite the bass, too, and cause them to come to the surface to feed on the schools of shad traveling along those flats or drop-offs. Then I can use other tactics to catch them.

Topwater feeding 

On my casting deck, I always have four different lures rigged on rods besides my crankbait rod, so when the bass begin surfacing, I easily can grab one. Usually I’ll have a walking bait tied on the first rod, a popping bait on the second, a ½-ounce Little George with a blue back and pearl sides on the third and a junebug-colored SpringR worm on a spinning rod — all rigged with 15 pound bass braid and each with a 6-foot, 10-pound fluorocarbon leader.

Mann’s SpringR worm

Generally, I’ll pick up a walking bait like a Zara Spook first, cast it past and walk it through the school. Once the school stops feeding on the surface, I’ll pick up a popping bait like a Pop-R, cast it past and pop it over the school to bring the bass back up to the surface. With these two baits, I’ll be fishing a 6-foot-9, medium action FX Custom crankbait rod with an 8.1:1 baitcasting reel spooled with 30-pound bass braid with a 10-foot fluorocarbon leader, which keeps the treble hooks from hanging up in the bass braid when I cast, when it hits the water, and/or when I’m walking or popping the lure.

Little George

If the bass don’t take the popping bait or stop taking it, I’ll pick up the Little George and/or the crankbait, cast it past where I’ve seen the surfacing bass and retrieve those lures along the bottom to bring the bass up to feed. Often, we forget that when a school of bass is feeding on the surface, stops and then vanishes, more than likely, that school is still holding in the same place. I’ll cast the Little George on a baitcasting reel with a 7.3:1 gear ratio and a 7-foot-2, medium-action FX Custom rod, When the lure hits the water, I’ll reel it up four or five times before I let it fall to the bottom. Generally, bass will take the Little George as it falls. 

Little George

I’ll use a finesse tactic when the bass go down: a wacky rigged Mann’s SpringR worm with a 1/16-ounce jighead because a light jig allows the worm to fall more slowly and wiggle more as it falls. Ross Barnett has spotted bass that love this setup. 

Frog the pads 

When the sun shines bright, I’ll move upriver and cast two colors of Super Frogs on 50-pound bass braid with 7-foot-4, heavy plus, moderately fast FX Custom casting rods around the lily pads about 50 yards on either side of the mouths of creeks or sloughs intersecting the river channel. I’ll fish frogs of both colors until the bass tell me which color they prefer by the number of strikes. 

Super Frog

Never forget, as you idle up to the pads, to turn your trolling motor off, and listen to the popping (smacking) noises bream make under the pads, which means the bream are actively feeding. Don’t work the frog very fast. I’ll pull a frog onto a pad, let it sit there for a second, pull it off and then pull it onto another pad. Once the frog reaches an opening, I’ll pull it into the opening, let it sit for a few seconds and twitch it. I use a slow to medium retrieve and stop the frog where I think the bass will blow up through the water to try and eat it. When fishing the frog, you’ll only catch about half of the bass that strike, but this tactic means you’ll often catch some bigger bass with the average weight being 1½ to 3 to 4 pounds, or perhaps a bass weighing 5 to 7 pounds.

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Paul Elias
About Paul Elias 159 Articles
Paul Elias, of Laurel, has fished 15 Bassmaster Classics with career winnings of over $1 million, including one Bassmaster Classic Championship. Elias also holds the current record for a four-day BASS tournament weigh-in with 132 pounds, 8 ounces, on Falcon Lake in Texas.

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