Steve Grace of Collinsville is an accomplished local, regional and national tournament angler, who excels in fishing a variety of lakes from large reservoirs to smaller public waters, like Kemper County Lake near DeKalb.
A 652-acre lake managed by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, Kemper plays right into Grace’s hands — he is one of the most versatile anglers you’ll ever meet and is quick to change gears and try something different until he finds what they’re biting and what pattern they’re on.
His tips are worth remembering, such as how to approach a new lake.
“When you’re tackling a lake for the first time pick a smaller cove first and get an idea of what’s going on by fishing it,” Grace said. “Let the fish tell you what they want and where they’re holding. I normally like to start shallow around the grass, or hit the wood structure along the shallow shoreline cover.”
Once you learn how fish are acting in one area, then you can take that knowledge to other spots on the lake and cash in. That’s exactly how Grace took on Kemper County Lake, even though it was not new to him.
He whittled away until he revealed a post-spawn spot pattern on main lake and secondary points.
“We caught spotted bass on shaky head worms and on a Bifflehead jig,” he said. “We could’ve stayed on the points and ran most of the points in the lake and probably loaded up and caught more spots. To catch spots you need to fish the deep water points, drops and ledge areas, which will all get better as the water warms more and the fish move deeper.
“Kemper Lake has a lot of deep clear water most of the year and is home to a healthy population of spotted bass. If you want to catch the spots then you need to gear up and go light and go deep.”
Grace said electronics can help solve new waters.
“Don’t neglect spending time watching and reading your graph for submerged deepwater structure on the ledges or drop off areas,” he said. “A few of the local experts who fish deepwater structure are able to catch awesome strings of bass off of some of those honey holes. Bass in the 5- to 7-pound range are not uncommon if you know where to fish.”
Once fish have spawned and have moved back out on the points, Grace is pretty set in his ways.
“I like to use the shaky head rig with a Zoom Trick Worm most of the time, but I will go to a smaller finesse worm or a Baby Brush Hog on occasion,” he said. “Green pumpkin and watermelon candy were working on Kemper today and are some of my favorite go to colors.
“During the early morning I prefer the darker green pumpkin if the water is clear and as the sun comes up I go with something a little more translucent like a watermelon red. I’ll go to darker colors if the water is stained and use a black and blue or a Junebug color that they can silhouette and see better.”
When Grace finds baitfish shallow, he gets a case of Skinny Dipper fever.
“I like to use a Skinny Dipper anywhere there’s baitfish in shallow water,” he said. “While many anglers prefer to fish it around grass, I’ll swim it in open water and around any structure or cover that I can find to attract bites.
“It’s been real successful for me and I’ll throw it like I would a spinnerbait, instead of a spinnerbait that is, and catch a lot more fish than you will on a spinnerbait. Usually it’s a little more subtle and will attract more bites.”
Grace is particular in how he presents the lure.
“I’ll rig that Skinny Dipper on a 4/0 Owner beast hook with a belly weight and add a small slip sinker to weight it down a little so I can reel it faster and get better action,” he said. “The belly weight acts like a keel and gives it another dimension with much more wobble.
“The one difference is when I’m fishing a pad field or thick grass, I won’t weight the Skinny Dipper down. You can wake that thing on top and they’ll bust it like they will a Ribbet frog.