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Finding Bass in No Man’s Land
By Ron Anlauf

Going toe to toe with a bunch of pole bending line stretching early season bass is the best way to get over winter withdrawals. With all of the new plastic and hard baits and all of those bass waiting to be fooled it’s time to have some real fun. Although it won’t always be easy, there’s almost always a way to get ‘er done.
Flats hold the secrets to finding early season bass and includes most of the pre-spawn, spawn, and post-spawn periods. Shallow flats in particular, as they warm up fast and attract numbers of active smallmouth and largemouth bass. Team Crestliner member and pro fisherman John Janousek of Nisswa Minnesota spends most of the early season working thin water bass; “Shallow flats can hold fish all year long but the early season is prime time. Basically here in the Midwest the shallower flats include the area from the inside weedline to shore. Bass will move up and in as soon as it starts to warm up and they can be found actively feeding when the conditions are right. Steady weather and calm conditions are what you’re really looking for and is when you can find big numbers of aggressive fish that will chase down and inhale plastics, cranks, and even topwater lures.”

Janousek worked overlooked water to find this nice early season bass

Janousek worked overlooked water to find this nice early season bass.

John’s techniques include a real mixed bag and he has something for every condition including from the best to the worst. The best includes nice long warming trends which can super charge shallow water bass and is the perfect time to be on the move looking for fish; “Good search baits include a half ounce Rattle Trap or a ½ ounce Northland Tackle Reed-Runner Spinnerbait. They can be worked quickly allowing you to cover some ground and find the biters. They’re also pretty well fool proof and about all you have to do is throw them out and reel ‘em back in.” The new Pro-Series Reed-Runners have a bend resistant stainless frame and come in some super hot colors including Bluegill and Blood Minnow, and are going to make it awful tough for bass to resist. “Jerkbaits can also be effective when you’re looking for fish including the new X-Rap Subwalk. The Subwalk is designed to be worked back and forth like a regular jerkbait but does it below the surface. Although plastic tubes are associated with a slower more methodical presentation I’ve found that they can be extremely effective when worked up off the bottom like a jerkbait.

With a Slurpies Baifish Tube rigged on a 1/8oz Inner-Tube Jig you can work the bait with your rod tip down and use a short snap, reel, snap, reel, technique and keep the tube off the bottom.”
Good jerkbait gear includes bait casting rods like St. Croix’s 6’6” LTBC66MF Legend Tournament series which has the right action and length for working smaller baits. You can also get away with using lighter line like ten pound test Low-Vis green Trilene Maxx, if you don’t have to deal with a lot of heavy cover.
Topwater lures can also help you find fish quickly and is John’s favorite way to load the boat: “There’s nothing more fun that catching big fish on topwater baits and are always a good possibility. Buzzbaits are best when the fish are really turned on and can be fished nice and quick. Baits like the Skitter Prop are designed to be worked at a slower pace and a twitch, pause, twitch, pause, technique is usually most effective.”
When it’s time to slow down like after the passing of a cold front John will stay shallow but adjust his presentation accordingly. “Then it’s time to slow things way down and use more plastics including Texas rigged worms, shaky head worms (formerly known as the jig worm), and weightless do-nothing baits. When things get tough I’ll use a lot of plastic and work the baits dead slow. One of my best tough bite tactics is to rig a Slurpies Dip-Stick Worm on a 3/0 exposed hook and cast it out and just let it sit, and let it sit, and let it sit. It can drive you nuts and requires a lot of patience but just might be the only way to get hooked up.”
Although the most logical place to throw a bait is at some type of cover; don’t overlook the middle of a flat, even if you can see the bottom and can’t see any fish. “Bass aren’t always that easy to pick out, even in crystal clear water. They’ll come from what seems like out of nowhere and suck in a lure. Most anglers will look right past a nice clean flat with “no fish” and those fish receive little pressure and are largely overlooked.”
The early season can be feast or famine but with the right gear used in the right places you shouldn’t have to starve. And when it’s good the action can be incredible and are the days you absolutely live for. See you on the water.

Ron Anlauf

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