Eufaula’s Postspawn, Shad-Spawn Bassin’
FLW Pro Micah Frazier said Eufaula is exciting as the bass come off the bed and the shad move up to spawn.
Understanding bass movement on a specific lake gives anglers a big advantage. It’s a foregone conclusion that largemouth bass move to the shallows to spawn when the water starts to warm back up. The next movement is a little harder to track, but postspawn bass can be real hungry after they’ve had time to rest a week or two. This can offer up some great opportunities for anglers fortunate enough to be able to follow the postspawn movement. I had the honor of spending some time with Micah Frazier on Lake Eufaula who agreed to help GON anglers with some exciting tips for doing just that.
Micah currently competes on the FLW Tour, fished as a boater in the 2012 FLW Cup and has had some great spring results on Lake Eufaula. On April 7, 2011, Micah finished in seventh place in the Eufaula BFL and returned last year on March 17 clenching a second-place BFL finish, only 2 ounces shy of the win.
It’s always interesting to learn how anglers are attracted to competitive fishing, so I asked Micah to share his story. He said, “When I was growing up, Dad always had a simple rule; either get a job, or participate in a sport.”
He chose baseball but wasn’t really satisfied with playing ball. He loved to bass fish, so one day he sat down and looked at the BFL schedule, showed it to his dad, and his dad agreed to let him do it. He quit baseball in the 10th grade and hit the tournament trail.
It didn’t take Micah long to hit his first homerun in tournament fishing. He won first place in April 2005 on West Point Lake, on a day he described as not being able to do anything wrong, finishing nearly 6 pounds ahead of second place, beating 142 other boaters and earning the title of youngest boater ever to win a tournament in BFL history. Micah is still looking for his next homerun but continues to pile up the hits, including his dramatic second-place FLW finish last year on Lake Hartwell.
Micah loves to fish shallow, and his favorite times to fish Eufaula are February and March, so he can sight fish for bedding fish. He believes the bass spawn has sped up a little over the past couple of years and thinks it is due to the milder winters and earlier springs. This year appears to be on the same schedule.
“The spawn will have pretty much run its course after the full moon in March, and the shad should be swarming the shallows for their chance,” said Micah.
That’s really good for the bass that have skipped a few meals and need to recharge.
In an almost perfect chain of events, as the postspawn bass begin to work their way back out of the shallows, the shad start their move in from their wintertime depths and open water. It’s almost as good as pizza delivery, if you like anchovies, of course. It’s also a great opportunity for the angler, because when it all clicks, it typically creates an absolute feeding frenzy.
Anglers have a good probability of having some of the fastest action of the year, but Micah suggests doing some homework to make the best of your trip. Micah will be targeting the routes postspawn bass use to move from the backs of creeks, coves and flats back out to their early summer hangouts. Grab your trusty lake map, or jump on the web and hit an online chart, like Navionics, and do some exploring to find some of the puzzle pieces before you go. If you’ve fished the bass spawn, you’ve already got a key piece of puzzle.
Mark the areas where you saw bedding fish, and if possible, the routes you believe the bass will use on their way back to deeper water. Then, look for places where shad are likely to spawn, keeping in mind that they will be searching for areas close to deeper (relevant to the area) open water. Although bluff walls may be a little too drastic, search for areas that have fast-sloping banks and places where the deepest channels swing in really close to the bank. The places where these two intersect are likely to become hotbeds for fast action once the bass reach these areas.
If you haven’t fished during the bass spawn, or simply don’t have the confidence or patience to locate the potential areas on your map, Micah says, “Search for the birds! When the shad hit the banks at the break of day, the birds will almost always be right on top of them.”
I asked Micah to give us a look at his front deck when he’s chasing the shad spawn. It’s no surprise to see that everything he’s planning to throw is designed to resemble or mimic a shad. The greatest thing about plunking a bait into a feeding frenzy is that it’s a feeding frenzy, and most of the time the finicky is abandoned. Micah’s top-five shad-spawn baits are: a spinnerbait, a shallow crankbait, a swimming jig, a ChatterBait and a swimbait. The crankbait and spinnerbait are his best baits, because, “The bass think they are hitting shad.”
Micah said fishing the shad spawn doesn’t demand highly specialized gear because of the high level of activity, so he goes armed with his general purpose Lew’s baitcasting reels mounted on 7-foot IRODs and spooled with 10- to 12-lb. test SeaGuar fluorocarbon.
Not totally satisfied that I had a fool-proof gear list put together for the readers, I asked Micah to give me the specific details on his starting lineup of baits. Here are the specifics:
Spinnerbait: Buckeye Lures, 3/8-oz., Colorado/willow combo, chartreuse/white.
Use the spinnerbait in rocky places. Throw it out, reel it, pop it every now and then and reel. The stop-and-go action draws attention from the other baitfish.
“If you feel the shad hitting the blades and are occasionally hooking them, or if you see shad following the spinnerbait in, and you’re not catching anything, the bass aren’t there yet. Try backing off of the bank or edge 10 to 20 yards, and see if they are holding a little deeper,” said Micah.
Crankbait: Lucky Craft LC 2.5DRS, chartreuse blue.
Use the crankbait around hard objects like rocks, stumps, pilings, etc. The square bill has corners that deflect the hooks away from the snags. The design also makes it somewhat weedless. If you feel it hit the grass, let it stop. It’ll usually float up and over.
“You want to cause a reaction strike,” said Micah. “Flip it on the rocks or banks. Run it into rocks or hit the stump, give a short pause, and then crank again. The square bill action creates strikes. They just can’t help it. It gets their attention, looks like something different and triggers them. A lot of the big ones will come from crankbaits.”
Swimming jig: Buckeye JWill (Jason Williamson) Swim Jig, 3/8-oz., pearl with a NetBait 4-inch Baby Paca Craw, pearl.
Use the swimming jig in and around heavy grass and vegetation. It is pretty weedless. If you are making a lot of contact with the weeds, check your line for abrasion a little more often.
“The JWill has a unique angle and positioning of its line-tie, which distributes the weight lower and creates a belly that makes the jig ride better and retrieve truer,” said Micah.
Z-man Original ChatterBait: 3/8-oz., chartreuse/white with a Zoom Ultra Vibe Speed Craw, pearl.
Use the ChatterBait in and around sparse grass and vegetation.
Swimbait: Basstrix Paddle Tail Tube swimbait, 4-inch, chartreuse blue and a 3/8-oz. Buckeye JWill Swimbait Head, pearl.
Use the swimbait in open water and around and under docks and similar structure.
Now that all the technical stuff is covered, what can you expect to catch?
“Fifteen to 20 bass would be a decent day,” said Micah. “If you catch less than 10, you’re off track. Once you find the right place, you’ll catch them in 30 minutes.”
Micah also said, “Don’t be satisfied catching one an hour, and be sure and throw what you’re comfortable with.”
Even if you’ve got all five of his favorites tied on, you need to fish your confidence, albeit, catching 10 bass in 30 minutes could go a long ways in building some confidence.
If you are completely new to the shad spawn, it might be worth your time to study up on them a little, especially their spawning habits, so that you can understand what you are experiencing on the water and know what to anticipate.
Threadfin shad typically spend most of its life offshore, or in otherwise open water, without much concern for structure or cover. Since they feed on the little stuff in the water, they are always going to be near that stuff. They typically spawn in the spring when water temperature is in the upper 60s and usually early in the morning on available vegetation. However, their tiny eggs tend to stick to just about anything they come in contact with.
Fortunately for anglers, all of this activity comes with a pretty good commotion on the surface. Micah suggested looking for several things to identify a spawn sight: Birds hanging out on or very near the shoreline, shad tails flickering on the surface and maybe even flipping around on the bank where they have literally jumped out of the lake as the school sometimes moves into just inches of water to lay their eggs. Look for the sight of shad chasing your bait, bumping into your bait and occasionally even getting hooked on it. When that happens it’s also a good sign that you have “matched the hatch” pretty well, or confirmed that love is truly blind.
No matter how much homework and planning he does, Micah knows he has to be flexible when he actually hits the lake. Unless he sees something immediately, he is going to hit his favorite holes first and watch for things to unfold around him. Next, he will try any new areas he has identified from his maps. He’s not going to drop anchor on a spot that’s not producing. If that doesn’t produce, he’s not afraid to spend a few minutes in the seat looking for spawn activity.
“Don’t fish long without catching anything; you want to find ’em and whack ’em! You have to keep moving and looking,” said Micah.
Remember, he is looking for something between bass-spawning areas and the main river. Or if he is up a tributary, something between a spawning pocket and the main creek channel.
“Because I am targeting transitional fish plus transitional forage, the hot spots can change day to day,” said Micah. “If I’m on the north end of the lake, I’m looking for weedlines near deeper water. As I go farther south, the lake has an obvious habitat change, and I target rocky clay points.”
Another potential hotspot can be the rip-rap around bridges. Shad already seem to have a natural draw to the channels under the bridges, and maybe the constant flow of edible stuff from upstream. Look for the nearest bass spawning area(s) to confirm if it might also be a good potential shad-spawn hot spot.
Regardless of what area of the lake you’re fishing, and whether it’s rip-rap, clay points, or weedlines, “The fish will be on the bank.” It’s very common for Micah to have his boat sitting in 15 feet of water while casting into “nothing,” often actually hitting the dirt and pulling it into the water. Micah’s natural pace of fishing is very fast, but once he catches a fish, he puts on the brakes and stays on that spot as long as it’s being productive.
“The shad are drawing them there. Once you catch one, another gets in its place,” said Micah.
Micah also says when a spot really heats up, you will often catch a wide variety of fish. That might be a little bothersome if you’re competing in a tournament, but for most anglers, it just adds to the fun.
It became very obvious that Micah loves to fish and is right at home in the tournament grind. He’ll be headed to Beaver Lake in Arkansas this month with the Tour and then back to Lake Eufaula in May. Micah said tournament fishing requires an enormous amount of effort and total dedication, but he loves it. Interestingly, when given the directive, “either get a job, or participate in a sport,” he chose one that would become both a sport and a job!
Be sure and watch Micah as he travels the country looking for his next homerun. For up to date details, visit his Facebook page: Pro Angler Micah Frazier.
After The Weigh-in
A question-and-answer session with Micah Frazier.
Q: What is the single most important factor in accurately timing the shad spawn?
A: “Water temperature! Largemouth bass tend to spawn when the water is between 55-65 degrees. Shad prefer it a little warmer, between 65-70 degrees. Do your best to be on the lake the first time it hits 65 for more than a few days.”
Q: Without giving readers the actual waypoints of your best shad spawn hot spots, what do your preferred areas look like?
A: “I look for spawning flats and pockets that are adjacent to points that fall off into the main river and/or creek channels. There are tons of areas or points like that on the lake, probably 50 or more.”
Q: If shad spawn at daybreak, what do you do afterward?
A: “It’s better first thing in the morning, but they don’t just vanish once the sun comes up, so stay in the area. If a particular hot spot gets a little windy, it’ll work all day. The shad are already there, and the wind tends to stack them up for an easy ambush.”
Q: What if your fishing days are limited, and you seem to miss the shad spawn?
A: “Check the water temperature. If you’re early (water temp lower) backtrack to the bass-spawn areas you have identified. If the beds are already empty, consider searching for and targeting postspawn cover. If you think you showed up too late (water temp higher), move into water a little deeper. Remember the shad come from and return to deeper, more open water, and often the bass will shadow them for a while, especially if it’s an area with good cover.”
Q: What do the shad look like?
A: “Size is the most important thing to consider when choosing your lures. The average size of the shad we are targeting are about 2 1/2 to 3 inches long.”
Q: What do you consider to be the most unique characteristic of Lake Eufaula?
A: “Without a doubt, it is the tendency of the bass to pile up. On numerous occasions I’ve caught my limit in a single spot. They tend to bunch up in little-bitty places. It may not always be obvious, but there’s a reason they’re there, so when you catch a fish, it’s very important to stay there for a few minutes to determine if you’ve hit the jackpot. It can tend to be a two-edged sword though: stay too long and you waste too much time; leave to early, and you might pass up a first-place check.”
Q: What is your best catch on Lake Eufaula?
A: “I’m not sure it was my ‘best catch,’ but one day I caught a fish on a clay-bottom point that had a nice rock on it. I decided to stay, and probably caught more than 50 bass that went 3 pounds or more!”
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