During the fall and into the winter, bass tend to school up and roam expansive flats as the shad and other baitfish are in the same areas. Finding these schools is much easier said than done. So, I set out on Lake Berryessa fishing with a spoon in the fall to try to give some insight into a great way to locate these roaming schools.
Lake Berryessa Fishing: Locating the Bass
It can be a tedious task locating fish but when you find them, it’s usually lights out for five minutes to an hour, sometimes even longer.
What are you looking for?
Basically, I started off running the boat at 10-15 miles per hour looking for schools of bass by watching my Garmin 7610 depth finder practically the entire time. I spent my time trying to find big flat areas, then, I would move from the shallow flat in 15-foot out to about 50-foot looking for spaghetti.
By spaghetti I mean your depth finder screen looks like a bowl of noodles.
Once I located the school of bass, I would stop the boat, lower the trolling motor and watch the front finder make sure the fish were still there. If you’re practicing for a tournament, you may just want to drive around and mark schools to revisit later.
Once you find them at a certain depth, they will be at the depth for a while, so if you lose the school, go back to search mode, shallow to deep. There are times when the fish will stack up on points, cuts or creek channels too so if you spent a few hours searching the flats with no luck it doesn’t hurt to expand and check new areas.
Note: Sometimes I will drop the Aqua-Vu underwater camera down to verify the fish species and quantity. These schools can be massive covering 50 yards or they may only be a few yards long.
With the trolling motor down, I made sure I was still on top of the school. Then, I’d drop the spoon down. If the bass are active, the spoon may not make it to the bottom. I’ve found the fish bite better when there’s not a big school of bait mixed in. Though the bait is almost always close by, when the bait is mixed in the fishing is a little tougher.
A funny thing I’ve found is when you find these fish stacked up, you’d think a drop shot, Ned rig, Shaky head would be a good choice, but that’s not always the case. I won a tournament on Lake Berryessa years ago before I knew much about spoon fishing, we found these pods of bass but couldn’t catch them, but when we found a single fish, we’d lower a worm down and bam!
If only I knew about spoons back then.
Lake Berryessa Fishing: Working the Spoon
It starts with the right equipment, The right depth finder makes a huge difference, I’m using a Garmin 7610, 10” unit with ‘CHIP’ that really helps me separate the targets aka. the bass. When throwing a spoon, I like a fairly heavy rod like the Okuma TCS 7.3 heavy with an Okuma Helios reel spooled with 15 to 20-pound monofilament.
The line size doesn’t really seem to matter here, so make sure the line is heavy enough to free your spoon from most snags but still limber enough to fall naturally. After the main 15 to 20-pound mono line, I typically go with a 14 to 16-pound fluorocarbon leader with a snap for the spoon and a swivel to attach to the main line. Fluorocarbon is little stiffer and it seems to foul the spoon on to the line less often, the snap protects the line and makes it easy to swap out spoons, lastly, the swivel helps with line twist.
Getting the action right is actually pretty easy, with the Hopkins and the Revenge spoons, I’ll let the spoon fall while controlling the line as it goes out, I want it to sink pretty fast but not quite free spooled. While controlling the line, you can feel if you get bit on the way down. Once the bait hits the bottom, snap your rod upwards 1 to 3-feet varying the upward distance and the speed in which you jerk upward.
This is similar to the retrieve on other lures where you experiment letting the fish tell you how they want it. Sometimes it takes big hard jerks off the bottom letting the bait fall on a slack line and there are times when you just flop the spoon over while it’s on the bottom, moving your rod only a few inches at a time.
The River2sea spoon is different, it’s a flutter spoon where the spoon glides back and forth on the fall. When I’m fishing this one, I’ll cast it out 30 to 40-feet letting it fall to the bottom then give it a good jerk upward letting it fall back to the bottom until I get under the boat. Then, I’ll jerk it up and down a couple times, reel it in and cast again. The River2sea flutter spoon has a bigger profile where most of the fish that bite are better quality.
Also, the River2Sea spoon has a stinger hook where you can occasionally catch two bass at the same time.
Lake Berryessa Fishing: Conclusion
Spoon fishing is pretty simple, find the fish, drop the spoon and set the hook. The biggest problem I see is, anglers will lose patience when stopping to fish when they see only one or two fish. Sure they may catch a few but if you wait and find the big schools, you can hammer 20 to 30 or even 100 quality fish in a day.
Fishing is an ever-changing game – experiment and let the fish tell you what they want. Use the ANGLR app it will help you for years to come.
Mark’s Spooning Equipment
River2Sea Spoon River2sea James Watson Spoon – Chrome: https://bit.ly/2Ql7XC7
Hopkins Spoon ¾ and 1oz Chrome Shorty: https://bit.ly/2Kw4gUM
Revenge Spoon ¾ and 2oz – Silverside: https://bit.ly/2r6dyy4
Okuma TCS 7.3 heavy rod: https://bit.ly/2rakZEu
Okuma 7:3.1 Helios reel https://bit.ly/2r7YJLf
Sunline Natural Monofilament: https://bit.ly/2r6IKNo
Sunline FC Sniper Fluorocarbon: https://bit.ly/2TPmq8l
P-Line Cross lock Snap #2: https://bit.ly/2BCOox1
P-Line Ball Bearing Swivel 2: https://bit.ly/2DNKAuj
Depth finder Garmin 7610: https://bit.ly/2DPtk89
Aqua-Vu Underwater Camera: https://bit.ly/2AvUrBC
This article was contributed by an ANGLR Expert
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