During the peak of summer when the water is hot, fishing can get rather tough. Fish pull off from the bank, ledges can be more hit or miss, and chasing schooling fish only works early in the day. When this happens a lot of angler get frustrated and call it a day by late morning. Don't let this happen to you! In this blog post I will go more in depth about another way to catch fish on Lake Travis that you may not have thought about.
Obviously during the summertime the surface temperature in the lake gets very warm. Something anglers often forget though is that the surface temp of the lake is prone to fluctuating a fair amount. On nights when it cools down or days when we get a summer rain, the surface of the lake can fluctuate several degrees. Largemouth Bass are masters at adaptation, so don't get the impression that they can not handle these temp swings. With that said, they don't like such fast changes in water temp.
It is for this reason that summertime bass move out deep to where the water is not only cooler, but also more stable. Cooler water holds more dissolved oxygen, thus requiring less movement and less energy expended from bass to live. Thermoclines factor in here, but that is a topic for another discussion. I attribute this behavior to why bass become even more opportunistic in the summer months and tend to not exert as much energy or want to swim as far to catch prey. They would rather an easy to catch meal be put right in front of their face if possible.
One place that bass go during these tougher months is marinas. If you read my last post, I mentioned catching them around marinas when they school. This pattern is still working and will continue to work, however it has its limitations. This is an early morning or late evening pattern due to the activity levels of the Threadfin shad. When fish are hitting the surface schooling you can catch them on small swimbaits, spybaits, flukes, and a myriad of other baits.
The pattern I am going to teach you about is a little lesser known, and something I can teach you much more in depth about during a guided trip. There is so much more to fishing this pattern that doesn't translate well into text. I will do my best to teach you as much as I can in this article. If learning more about how to fish this pattern interests you, give me a call and let's get on the water! For the cost of a half day trip I can teach you a new technique that you can add to your arsenal to make you a better angler on Lake Travis.
How to Fish a Spoon on Lake Travis
Spoons! I love it when Travis fish will eat metal. First off I should note that there are two kinds of spoons I throw. Knowing when to decided between the two can make a big difference in how many bites you get in a day!
First off is the flutter spoon, this is a much larger bait, typically anywhere from 4-6 inches long with the exception of a "magnum flutter spoon", which can be a foot long. For fishing Lake Travis I rarely throw the magnum flutter spoon as the fish out here aren't normally as large and hooking them can be tricky, this is a great bait on other lakes though. My preferred spoon is a chrome Nichols Lake Fork Flutter spoon in 3/4 ounce. While heavy, this type of spoon has a fairly slow fall. The key to fishing it is to let it sink on a slack line. When allowed to fall to the bottom without your line affecting it, it flutters as it descends... hence the name. This fluttering action mimics a dying shad and can be irresistible to a hungry bass.
I consider a flutter spoon to be a big fish bait! Often times when you get a bite on it, it tends to be a larger fish. This bait works well fished vertically over suspended or schooling fish. My favorite way to fish this bait is to pitch this bait into empty boat stalls or in docks between the dock and the boat. I will then let the bait fall approximately 10 feet then rip the rod tip in once quick jerking motion. Rip it back up 3-4 feet, then let it fall again on a slack line. I will do this a few times, then put the reel in free spool and let it fall another 10 feet. I will let the bait get down to my desired depth, then do the same thing in reverse and work it back up.
If I notice I am catching most of my fish at a certain depth, I will only focus on that depth. In that case let it fall deeper to the desired depth before ripping it back up. Figure out how long it takes to get down to that depth by counting it down on a test cast next to the boat, then remember that time for the next casts.
Another tip is to sometimes change out the treble hook with a single Octopus style hook. Some marinas have a lot of cables running under them anchoring them in place. I find a single hook is easier to jiggle free and get un snagged. At $10 each those spoons get expensive to lose! The downside is your hook up ratio goes down a little. If you don't want to change hooks, keep a plug knocker handy. Spoons are actually pretty easy to get back with a plug knocker, so don't go breaking that spoon off the first time you get snagged!
A jigging spoon is a tried and true proven fish catcher. I find this bait is better for numbers compared to the flutter spoon, but still produces plenty of big fish. Often times bass will spit up shad after you catch them, and the shad are typically about the size of a jigging spoon. My preferred spoon is a 1/2-7/8th ounce sized Cotton Cordell or War Eagle jigging spoon in silver. I will change the size depending on the depth I am fishing or if I want a larger sized spoon to match larger sized bait fish.
As far as color I usually am throwing silver, however gold and white/ chartreuse also have a place in my boat depending on water clarity. I recommend switching up colors sometimes and testing to see if one out fishes the other... let the fish tell you what they want.
A little tip when fishing these baits... replace the stock treble hook with a better quality one. You can get some big fish on these baits and they are tough on the hooks. They also get a lot of leverage when they shake their head with that large piece of metal attached to the hook. Good hooks will help you hook and land more fish. Another huge tip is to add a split ring and a barrel swivel to the eye of the spoon. Adding a swivel will help tremendously with line twist.
When fishing a jigging spoon in marinas, having your 2D sonar on is critical. I can not tell you how many fish I have caught that I have seen on the graph before dropping a spoon down to them. Run your bow graph with 2D sonar at 200kHz and put your console graph on standby to avoid cross talk between the bow and transom transducers. Pay attention to the depth you are seeing fish cross under your boat at. To reach them you can either pull out line in 3 foot increments and somewhat measure it down. What I prefer to do is simply put my rod tip next to the trolling motor (where the transducer is mounted) and put the reel in free spool. You should be able to watch your spoon drop down the screen. Properly tuned 2D sonar will allow you to literally watch your bait bouncing up and down the screen.
Move you boat into an empty stall and watch the sonar looking for fish. Be patient, these fish move around under these marinas and its not uncommon to see nothing on the graph, then all of the sudden see a huge school pass underneath. I will usually give a spot 15 minutes, and if I am not seeing fish under the boat I will move.
How to Work a Spoon
When fishing a spoon, I generally fish it one way. With this said, this is how I fish it, and there are times a different style of presentation may work better. As I said before, let the fish tell you what they want. In bass fishing nothing is set in stone!
When fishing a spoon it is important to always let it fall on a slack line. If you put tension on the line as it sinks it will fall vertically and not have that enticing fluttering action. Once the bait has reached the depth you are targeting put your rod tip down close to the water. In once swift upward stroke, rip the rod tip about 3-4 feet up. Now immediately drop your rod tip back to the water. Fish often hit these baits on the fall, so make sure you are watching the line as it sinks back down. If you see the line stop sinking, set the hook!
I will jig the bait at one depth 2-3 times, give it a pause, then repeat. After a minute or so I will bring the bait up a few handle turns and repeat. The fish finder will tell you all you need to know about which depth to be fishing. Spoons especially excel worked off the bottom. The thumping noise of it hitting the lakebed can be very enticing. If you see fish down deep on your graph simply let the jig fall to the bottom and work it back up the water column.