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MONDAY, MARCH 12, 2007
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Opportunities are ripe to catch hawg largemouth bass

With air temperatures roaming in the mid-60s, nice catches of largemouth bass on Wheeler Lake are becoming a common occurrence.

Several different fish-catching patterns are working when it comes to hooking up with hawg largemouths. Anglers arenít catching a lot of buck bass yet, but many largemouth bass larger than five pounds are feeding aggressively.

One big-bass technique is working a Carolina-rig along the north ledge of the main river channel near and across from Finley Island.

Using a 1-ounce sinker works well as long as a swift river current is not flowing.

Youíll need a 2- to 3-foot fluorocarbon leader, and a wide variety of plastics work well for lures.

Tipping the Carolina-rig with something else other than a plastic worm may work, but some of the best catches are coming from anglers using a 9- to 10-inch, flat-tail plastic worm rigged Texas-style.

When working the Carolina-rig, youíll need a 7-foot or longer flipping rod to work the bait and set the hook properly. The bite will more than likely not be very aggressive, so be sure to set the hook at the slightest tap or twitch of the line.

One of my favorite big-bass March techniques is to work ditches and submerged canals in and near the Decatur flats. Over the years, casting baits in the ditches around Round Island in the Decatur Flats has produced many largemouths larger than five pounds.

When fishing this area, patience is a virtue.

If you are fishing in a tournament, obviously covering a lot of territory in a short amount of time is necessary. But if you are not tournament fishing, be patient, work carefully and mark the ditches on a lake map. Doing this can pay big dividends later.

My bait of choice around Round Island is a jig-and-pig combination. Good colors include green/pumpkin, black/red and watermelon/flake.

If current is flowing, be sure to watch your line carefully and set the hook if anything looks out of place.

Finally, one of my favorite big-bass techniques is fishing submerged grass in March. Largemouth bass accumulate around the grass in search of minnows, shad and especially crawfish.

When casting in and over grass, I prefer to use a high-vibration lure such as a Rat-L-Trap.

Using a Rat-L-Trap with chrome-colored sides gives off enough flash to attract the attention of any predator fish in the area.

Retrieving the lure above the submerged grass is one way to hook up. Another way is to let the Rat-L-Trap dig into the grass and allow the lure rest a few seconds.

After the resting period, quickly snatch the bait out of the grass, which often results in a reaction strike.

A few changes that I make to my lipless crankbaits can mean the difference in a good catch and a great catch. With a red, permanent lure marker, making a blood line or two gives the appearance of an injured baitfish as does switching the manufactured treble hooks to red-trebles of a larger size. The larger trebles gives an angler a better shot at a good hook set.

As always, check the lure, line and hooks. That often increases your chance of getting hawg bass into the boat.

Be sure to keep the hooks extra sharp with a sharpening stone or diamond device. Frequently check your line for any nicks or frays, and if you find an area that is damaged, immediately change out your complete outfit.

Lastly, check your lure for any damage that might have been caused by rocks, wood structure or even damage caused by fish. Doing these things can make for a rewarding spring day on Wheeler Lake.

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Paul Stackhouse
Outdoors
Paul Stackhouse

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