The month of June in Northern New England can provide bass anglers with a wide variety of options as transitional patterns range from pre-spawn to post spawn. “Alot of factors have to be taken into consideration this time of year,” says Week Hills, Maine Triton-Mercury Bass Pro, and Registered Master Maine Guide Dave Barnes. Elaborating further, Barnes explained winter weather patterns including total accumulation of snowfall, paired with early or late ice out conditions on northern lakes would dictate which transitional pattern will be most prevalent.
“High water conditions with warming trends, may move bass into the shallows as early as late April or May. However, if water temperatures suddenly drop due to cold front conditions, and they usually will, a majority of the bass will continue to stage in deeper water along primary main lake points and deeper contour lines, until stable conditions become the norm!”
Adhering to Dave Barnes’s extensive knowledge of the ‘Black Bass’, I headed north traveling to our annual early June rendezvous location at Lakeside Motel and Cabins in Winthrop, Maine. Nestled in the shelter area of Welch Bay on Lake Cobbosseecontee, Lakeside’s owners Andy and Sheree Wess have formatted their establishment catering to bass anglers urgent priorities! Providing every guest a boat slip with electrical hook-ups to charge batteries, while Maine fishing licenses, maps, tackle, and required boat stickers are all available in their office. (www.LakesideLodging.com)
My arrival discovered Barnes’s Mercury 225 Opti Max idling quietly at Lakesides private launch. An early morning fog beckoned a cast, enticing an explosive surface bite as my 4” Yellow Perch Revo Shad in a sash-shay presentation landed my first largemouth.
Lake Cobbosseecontee covers 4950 acres of pristine smallmouth and largemouth habitat. Stretching in length approximately 10 miles, Lake Cobbie, as locals affectionately call it, measures 2 miles at its widest point.
“Few bodies of water in New England offer anglers as many types of cover and structure changes as does Cobbossee,” says Barnes. “It actually fishes much like southern impoundments. Shallow back water stump fields with reed shorelines as in Wentworth’s Cove, grass flats with primary and secondary drop-offs leading to spawning areas are all prime largemouth areas. While, smallmouth bass roam rocky islands, points, humps, and tapering gravel flats.”
Idling slowly through ‘Little Narrows’, main lake water surface temperatures registered 62.7 degrees on Barnes’s Lowrance sonar. “The weather has been cold, windy and cloudy over the last week, causing some of the spawning bass to actually move off the flats and hold along the 6-10’ contour lines,” informed Master Maine Guide Dave Barnes. Adding, “We actually have both post spawn and pre-spawn bass in some of these same areas!”
Suggesting topwater baits like Pop-R and Zara Spooks, for the post spawn bass, and swimbaits or jerkbaits for the pre-spawn bass. I opted for a Reaction Strike Bass Harasser 5” Medium Fall Rainbow Trout colored swimbait. (www.ReactionStrike.com) My combination was perfectly balanced with a Denali Custom 7’ Xtra/Hvy Mod/fast Swmibait Rod, 15 lb Seaguar 100% Invizx Fluorocarbon line, and a bass snap to attach my swimbait. Barnes chose a Zara Spook, pistol grip rod, Garcia Ambassador Reel and 14 lb P-Line monofilament.
Holding his Clark Marine Triton XR21 in the 12’ depth range we made diagonal cast towards the sharply tapering shoreline. Working his Spook at various cadences, Dave looked for surface bites along down timber. I allowed my 5” Rainbow Trout Bass Harasser to sink to the bottom, then swam it slowly bouncing off rocks and ripping it through moss patches on the bottom. (www.Clarkmarine.biz)
“That short stubby bottom grass is a bass magnet, and can be productive all year long, so be certain to make multiple cast in the same area when you locate it,” instructed my BASS Professional Guide. Immediately, I made another identical cast. Working my swimbait slowly along the bottom I felt a strike and set the hook to no avail.
With his patented ‘Grizzle Bear’ persona Barnes looked me in the eye, chuckled and replied. “That quick snap of your rod is the reason you didn’t get a hook set! It’s imperative with swimbaits to keep reeling your bait at the same speed, when a bass first starts to take it. More often than not bass will approach from the rear, start to mouth your swimbait, it will feel heavy, and then you feel either another tug or the bass will just start swimming away with your bait…. now you are ready to set the hook!”
Following my mentors’ advice, I made several more cast to the same area. This time I made the connection! With my Denali Swimbait Rod (www.DenaliRods.com) absorbing the shock of sudden runs and hard tugging leaping thrashes, the VMC hooks on my Rainbow Trout swimbait securely kept this 5.83 lb largemouth from throwing my Reaction Strike bait.
As the day progressed, so did the wind and cold temperatures. Donning our rain gear as windbreakers to stay warm, Barnes suggested we stick with reaction baits and concentrate on wind blown points, humps, and shorelines. Tying a 4” Lucky Craft Pointer 100, in a Pearl Ayu color Dave Barnes began working his suspending jerkbait across a tapering point, casting diagonally into the wind.
“Fish-on”, echoed Barnes on his second cast. With one foot on his Motor Guide Trolling Motor, Barnes worked his 2.5 lb smallmouth to within reach of the net. Making another cast before I picked up my rod Barnes called for the net again. Another smallmouth approximately the same size rocketed itself into the air, and then into the net. “Three-times a charm”, replied Barnes as I waited to land his third bass, this time a 3 lb plus largemouth!
As the wind blew the back of the Triton into deeper water, my Reaction Strike XRM-100 suspending jerkbait no longer stayed within the strike zone. A quick change-up to a 4” Bass Harasser Hitch/Dark Red Chin Medium fall swimbait, 10 lb Seaguar 100% Invizx Fluorocarbon (www.Seaguar.com), my 7’ Denali Swimbait rod for longer cast, and the problem was solved!
Dave Barnes and I spent the next 3 hours running and gunning Lake Cobbosseecontee, hitting every wind blown area from Sheep Island, Cram’s Point, Turtle Rock and then Maine’s only freshwater light house, ‘Ladies Delight’, before calling it a day.
Slipping a warm cup of Lakeside coffee, I said, “We must have made thousands of cast today?” Barnes quickly answered, “Yeah, it’s pretty amassing what us Ole Timers will do just to have a bass stretch our line! I lost count after thirty bass, but no doubt our swimbaits and jerkbaits were our top producers!”
Then with his patented Grizzly Bear growl my longtime bassin buddy, replied, “You do know we were really blessed. Most anglers would have left when that wind started blowing so hard! Pausing once again for slip of coffee…Today we caught mostly pre-spawn bass; tomorrow we could find them on the beds. That’s just the way it is in the North Country!”
God Bless and Best Bass’n
Side Note: BASS Angler Dave Barnes 2nd place finish, June 14th, 2010 (Two weeks after this article.) during the BASS Weekend Series tournament on Lake Champlain and Vermont’s Tom LaVictorie’s 1st Place finish were both due to their individual extensive knowledge of the Black Bass’s transitional behavior during the month of June in the North Country. LaVictorie utilized a spawning bass pattern, while Barnes’s patterns were identical to those in this article!