By Billy “Hawkeye” Decoteau
Surrounded by brilliant hues of gold’s-yellows-bronze, highlighted with scattered touches of matted white birch trees, northern pine trees frame New England landscapes, signaling the end of yet another bass’n season. While savvy northern bass anglers, prep their bass boats for cold weather conditions and an occasional trip to the lake for vertical jigging with spoons and blade baits, southern anglers such as Leesburg, Georgia’s Jason Smith can be found towing his bass boat to his favorite bass haunt for some fast crankbait action!
“Bright sunny days this time of year make for excellent crankbait patterns in timber,” says Smith. Elaborating on the movement of forage, Smith has found southern shad have the tendency to suspend in trees along deep river channels or creek beds adjacent to flats. “Find the standing timber and you just might fill your livewells with a limit of ‘Hogs’!”
Smith concentrates exclusively on deep creek ledges ranging in depths from 12-15 feet with standing timber. “With the primary bass forage shad, coupled with the need to reach deeper depths, as well as running my crankbait through timber, the only bait I rely on for this technique, is Gambler’s Deep Custom Crankbaits!” (www.Gambler-Lures.com)
Jason Smith’s arsenal consists of rigging a Big Bear Pro model 7’ medium fast action-cranking rod, paired with Quantum’s 6.2:1 Accurist baitcaster reel. The key secret to this technique, according to Smith is making multiple casts from multiple angles to locate the area and depth the bass are staging in the timber. As for colors, this southern angler answers,” Either Gamblers ‘Not so Sexy Shad’ or their ‘Gambler Shad’ colors are my go to baits.” (www.BigBearFishingRods.com)
While Jason Smith is running up creeks in the south, Norton, Massachusetts’s Team Skeeter member Mark Burgess is scanning deep-water glacier lakes in New England. (www.MarkBurgessFishing.com) This Humminbird electronic expert was sure to enlighten me to some cold-water sonar techniques. “New England lakes for the most part are crystal clear, take Lake Winnipesaukee for example, it is not uncommon for bass, especially smallmouth bass to be located in depths ranging from 25-35 feet or even deeper at times,” claims Burgess. Cracking a bass-eating grin Burgess smiled, “I’m not so sure I should be telling you this?” Burgess added, “Locating the bass is another thing………..Baitfish is the secret!”
Venturing out onto the water with Burgess, he shifted his Yamaha V-Max HPDI Series-2 250 HP Outboard into neutral, opened a lake map and began to educate me on locating deepwater bass following schools of baitfish. (www.Yamaha-motor.com) “My Humminbird 997color Side Imaging Combo, paired with a Navionics chip takes this paper map to a completely new dimension. You are about to witness the most amazing incredible view of this lake’s bottom, while scanning not only under the boat, but also to the sides!”
Honing in on Burgess’s Humminbird’s 8” wide diagonal color screen, the Bassmaster Southern and Central Trail competitor zoomed in on a contour line that dropped suddenly and leveled out. “It’s imperative that anglers spend more time viewing their electronics, than randomly casting. Cold-water bass will congregate around isolated pieces of cover, especially if there are baitfish. Locating these ‘Spot-on-the-Spot’ bass magnets takes time and patience,” says Burgess. Adding, with a shivering chuckle, “During this cold weather period patience is a precious commodity anglers need to acquire if they want to be productive”
Typing away on his Humminbird sonar, Burgess’s screen divided in half as his Side Imaging Sonar revealed the lakes bottom in a totally different dimension. “Without Side Imaging, it would take us hours to scan this structure break for isolated cover and pods of baitfish.” Explaining each distinct display on the screen, Burgess idled along at 3-5 mph as his Side Imaging Sonar projected 75 feet to each side for maximum clarity, while it also displayed actuate distance measurements on the screen.
As the Humminbird 997 CSI Sonar displayed the flat and raising terrain, bottom profiles, water column, descending terrain, and boat position I felt as though I was actually underwater scuba diving. “Now this is what we’re looking for, isolated rock piles, surrounded with baitfish.” With that Mark Burgess shut-off his outboard, stood up, walked to the bow and lowered his Minn Kota 101 US-2 Fortrex Trolling Motor into the water.
“Take a look at my bow unit and tell me what you see,” echoed Burgess. It was amazing Burgess’s bow unit displayed the exact same waypoint. We then maneuvered accurately to the rock pile surrounded with schools of baitfish. “This is where many anglers go wrong or get lost, thanks to my Humminbird Side Imaging Sonar, I have logged in the same exact waypoint on both units, savings time and acquiring a more actuate waypoint.”
Burgess continued my on the water class covering electronics explaining that his Humminbird sonar’s equipped with Side Imaging, is connected by a unique unit called “InterLink”. “InterLink goes between your bow sonar and console sonar allowing you to receive actuate identical reading, and when you do decide to log in a waypoint it is stored on both units at the same time,” says Burgess.
Mark Burgess went on to explain this information can also be downloaded unto a personal computer allowing an angler to store this information off the water while assembling a game plan for future trips to the same body of water. “InterLink Network Connection is by far the simplest and easiest addition any serious tournament angler can add to their Humminbird sonar’s, placing critical information at your finger tips anywhere within the boat.” According to Burgess the InterLink Network Connection does not require additional expensive built-in wiring or any complicated connections. (www.Humminbird.com)
Once the Skeeter/Yamaha Pro circled around the area with his Minn Kota trolling motor, dropping his buoy markers in precise locations, he proceeded to pull several Shimano rod/reel combinations from his rod locker. “Our presentations are going to completely vertical, and in fact we will actually watch our baits as they fall onto our targets and the bass eat them!”
Rigging a Perch color Heddon Sonar (www.LureNet.com) blade bait to one of his Shimano spinning outfits, Burgess allowed his bait to fall vertically below the trolling motor. Instructing me to watch the Humminbird sonar screen as his bait fell I was amazed when he pointed out his baits entrance unto the screen. “Most of the baitfish on Lake Winnie are perch, and that is one reason the perch color Heddon Sonar works so well.” Burgess concentrates on two basic colors for his Heddon blade baits, Perch, and Gold.
Under the tutelage of Professional Bass Angler Mark Burgess, we utilized two vertical presentations. My most productive combination proved to be the Heddon Sonar blade baits in the perch color, attached with an Excalibur ‘Hold-Tite Snap’, tied to 8 lb Silver Thread Fluorocarbon line. While Burgess seemed to constantly entice the smallmouth bass with his Shimano 7’2” Custom Drop-Shot Rod, saddled with a Shimano Stradic spinning reel, spooled with 8lb Silver Thread Fluorocarbon line (www.SilverThread.com). Utilizing 18” between his 3/8 oz Excalibur Tungsten drop-shot weight and a light-wire 1/0 Excalibur needlepoint hook; Burgess impaled a YUM Houdini watermelon/gold fleck worm. (www.YUMBaits.com)
As Burgess loaded his rod, by turning his reel handle, once again he echoed, “Fish-On”. “It’s imperative to have extremely sharp hooks for positive hook-ups, especially on these smallmouths,” smiled Burgess as he once again politely requested I to get the net!
God Bless and Best Bass’n.