With the season’s first catches of white bass now taking place at and beyond the logjam area on the Leon River above Belton Lake, and above the Gravel Crossing area on the Lampasas River on Stillhouse Hollow Reservoir, there is no doubt we are experiencing an early spring and an earlier than normal start to the white bass spawn.
As the water warms into the high 50s, through the 60s, and into the low 70s, white bass and hybrid striped bass will venture into shallow water under low light conditions to feed. When they do in water 18 feet deep or less, they tend to scatter horizontally across the bottom versus staying tightly grouped as they have done all winter.
To consistently catch these fish in shallow water, successful anglers will rely on a horizontal presentation that covers a lot of ground around the boat instead of jigging vertically in a small area just beneath the boat.
There are a number of lures that may be used for covering shallow water efficiently, but a family of lures known as blade baits really rise to the top in such situations. Some of the more well-known blade baits include the Heddon Sonar, the Cordell Gay Blade, the Reef Runner Cicada, and the Fish Sense Binsky.
All of these are similar in that the body consists of a thin, metal, shad-shaped body with a lead keel molded onto the bottom of the lure. This keel keeps the lure oriented correctly, gives it enough weight to be cast long distances and allows the lure to sink to bottom quickly.
WORKING THE BLADE BAIT
While holding the boat steady, be it by anchor, traditional trolling motor or with a modern GPS-equipped trolling motor, the bladebait is most effectively worked when cast directly into the wind.
Allow the bait to sink to bottom with an open bail on a spinning reel or with the reel in freespool on baitcasters until the lure strikes bottom. Then, slowly turn the reel handle until the slack caused by casting is removed. Once the line is taut, turn the reel’s handle six to seven times, thus moving the lure back toward the boat about 24-30 inches per handle turn. At the same time, the lure will also rise off the bottom, angling upward and back toward the boat.
Working the blade bait back to the boat in six- to seven-turn iterations will usually result in the fish striking during handle turn number 3, 4, or 5.
WATCH YOUR SURROUNDINGS
I typically cast blade baits in a 90-degree arc, starting 45 degrees to the right of the direction the wind is coming from, through the direction the wind is coming from (head-on), then ending at 45 degrees to the left of the direction the wind is coming from.
Each time I cast, I observe where my cast has landed and locate something on the shoreline in a straight line of sight beyond its entry point as a reference to cast back to should the cast result in a hooked fish.
White bass and hybrid stripers often patrol in “wolfpacks,” so where one fish is located, several others can often be taken if the lure is carefully cast right back to that same vicinity after the first fish caught from that vicinity is unhooked.
BLADE BAITS IN ACTION THIS WEEK
Monday was an ideal setup for the use of blade baits on Stillhouse Hollow. I welcomed aboard
Belton native Kyle Brown and his father-in-law, Ron Snodgrass, of Ferris, Ill. Snodgrass came down to visit for his grandson’s fourth birthday and, while escaping snow, ice, and cold weather, decided to do some fishing.
Monday would be the last day of a warming trend before a cold rain and mild cold front would push into Central Texas, dropping temperatures and reversing our warming trend for a few days.
Under low light conditions right around sunrise, we probed water from 15-18 feet deep and found white bass ready and willing to strike our ¾-oz. Binsky blade baits in the “Sexy Shad” color pattern. Using spinning gear rigged with 30-pound Sufix 832 braided line and a fluorocarbon leader terminated with a snap, Snodgrass and Brown hooked most of their fish on the third, fourth or fifth handle turn.
Most of the fish we caught in our first two hours on the water were taken on these Binsky lures, and most were white bass, although Brown was pleasantly surprised when a largemouth right around four pounds inhaled his blade bait. By trip’s end, the duo tallied 122 fish in just over four hours.
Nature will continue a nip-and- tuck pattern of warm-ups and cool-downs into mid-May, but as the water temperature trends higher, the fish will trend shallower. As they do, the blade bait is not to be overlooked