Rip-Rap Rocks & Deep Cypress Trees For Blackshear’s March Bass
Scott Holland says all you need to catch March bass at Blackshear is a crankbait, a spinnerbait and a jig.
Brad Bailey | March 1, 2007
Scott side-armed his fishing rod, firing a shad-colored Fat Free Shad crankbait back under the low, concrete Gum Creek bridge on Lake Blackshear. His retrieve was slow, moving the bait only fast enough to feel the big lip on the crankbait ticking the rip-rap rocks in four or five feet of water.
“There’s a good one,” he said, as he raised the rod tip to the weight of a fish.
“You’re kidding,” I said, going for the camera. “That’s three in 10 minutes.”
The fish weighed upward of three pounds, the biggest of six keeper largemouths Scott boated in the first 30 minutes we fished Blackshear on February 12. His five best bass from that one run of rip-rap weighed between 12 and 13 pounds.
“That would be a good start on any Saturday tournament on this lake,” he said.
Scott Holland and his fishing partner Brian Davis have fished a pile of tournaments on Lake Blackshear and have taken home a tall stack of pay-checks. Last year they won the April Food Bank tournament on the lake, one of the biggest tournaments on Blackshear. Scott also holds the lake record for largemouth bass with an 11-lb., 7.84-oz. monster he caught April 1 last year.
Scott, 32, of Leesburg, has lived in Lee County all his life. He owns his own company, Scott’s Wall Covering, a wallpaper-hanging business, and being his own boss allows him the luxury of spending a lot of time fishing and hunting.
March, April and May are prime bass-fishing months on Blackshear, says Scott.
“In March, all you need is a crankbait early on rip-rap rocks, then a spinnerbait and a jig will catch fish in the trees all day long,” he said.
Scott concedes that March is a great month for fishing a Texas-rigged worm around the base of the deeper cypress trees, but the jig ’n pig has a decided advantage.
“The jig is a big-fish bait,” he said. “The guys throwing a worm or lizard to trees might catch 25 or 30 bass in a day. We are looking for bigger fish. We might only catch seven or eight fish on a jig, but they will be bigger fish.”
After fishing the bridge in Gum Creek, we idled back into Boy Scout Slough and briefly fished the bridge next to the state-park campground. On his second cast with the Fat Free Shad, Scott caught a keeper-sized bass.
“There are five or six of these little bridges on the lake,” he said. The first thing in the morning, the shad will pull up on the rocks, and the bass move in to feed. They are good places to start in March.”
After checking for the early morning bite on rip-rap rocks, when the sun comes up on a March bass-fishing day, Scott moves to the No. 1 springtime structure on Lake Blackshear: cypress trees. In the spring, there is no question that cypress trees are the key to catching bass at Blackshear, said Scott.
“Lake Blackshear bass fishing revolves around cypress trees,” he said. “I’ll bet nine out of 10 tournaments on the lake in the spring are won on cypress trees.”
Starting in March, the bass will move up onto cypress trees in preparation for the spawn.
“Cypress trees have a huge system of roots that is cover for the bass and the roots also create little bowls that hold sand and make ideal spawning areas,” said Scott.
Early in March, the deeper trees, particularly trees on the main lake, and especially around the mouths of the creeks attract bass first. As the month goes on, and the water temperature rises, bass will move up onto trees farther back in the creeks, and eventually onto the extremely shallow trees back in the sloughs.
All trees, however, aren’t created equally when it comes to their bass-attracting qualities. Scott says he and Brian have a single-tree strategy.
“There are thousands of trees all over the lake,” he said. “What Brian and I try to do is fish trees others don’t want to take the time to fool with.”
If there is a group of trees, and a solitary tree, the first one they fish will be the single tree. As we motored out of Boy Scout Slough, Scott pointed out a solitary cypress on the south bank.
“A lot of guys won’t take the time to stop and fish that one tree, but in March or April if you pull up real careful and throw a jig or a Senko on that tree, you can just about depend on a bass being there.”
They also keep their eyes out for trees in hard-to-reach locations, like single trees tucked in behind a boat dock that most anglers overlook.
Generally, when Brian and Scott move to the trees, they fish a spinnerbait from the front of the boat, and follow with a jig ’n pig from the back of the boat. The spinnerbait will pick off the more aggressive fish, and the jig will sometimes pick up a fish unwilling to run down the blades.
Scott likes to pitch a Strike King Bitsy Flip jig in 1/4- or 3/8-oz. Dark colors like black or blue work fine, and he dresses the jig with a black, Zoom Super Chunk Jr. Casting accuracy counts.
“You want to let the jig fall right down beside the trunk,” said Scott. “Most of the time, they will hit it on the first cast, and they will knock the fire out of it.”
If a bass doesn’t hit immediately, slowly hop the jig through the roots.
Repeated casts can pay off, if you are a patient angler, says Scott.
“Roy Layfield is probably the best bass fisherman on the lake, and he is patient,” said Scott. “He will sit in one place and make 20 or 30 casts to one tree before he catches a fish. I think it finally aggravates them into biting.”
If you are patient enough to pitch a jig all day in March and April, Scott says your chances of a 5-pounder — or better — are excellent.
When he is fishing a blade, Scott likes the FLW Rabbit Dog spinnerbait, so named, according to FLW promotion “because it runs through cover like a beagle after a cottontail.”
“I like a 3/8-oz. double gold willowleaf,” said Scott. “That’s my favorite all year.”
A spinnerbait is also pitched under the trees and then retrieved bumping and clattering over the roots.
“When you reel a spinnerbait through the roots of a cypress tree, the bass will knock the blades off it,” said Scott.
With the jig or the blade, presentation is everything; you’ve got to reach the truck of the tree,” Scott said.
If you haven’t mastered the technique called pitching, an under-handed cast that sends your bait low and fast over the water, you are at a huge disadvantage fishing trees at Lake Blackshear. Most of the cypress trees have a low-hanging curtain of branches and Spanish moss skirting the trunk. With a jig or a worm, the trick is to shoot the gaps in the branches, thump the tree trunk and gently drop the bait down to the base of the tree. An overhand or sidearm cast won’t usually succeed.
Blackshear is lined with hundreds, if not thousands of boat docks, that also make tempting targets. Scott and I fished crankbaits around some docks in Swift Creek, but if the choice was docks or trees, Scott is going straight to the trees. We passed one bank with a few cypress trees scattered between boat docks.
“You can catch bass around the docks,” said Scott. “I have caught them with something like a Rat-L-Trap running right up against the posts, or by flipping a jig, but I think the docks are harder to pattern. There may be bass under these docks, but in March and April, you can count on them being on those trees between the docks.”
We fished the trees in the mouth of Gum Creek, including a group of trees on the right-hand side going out where Scott caught his 11-pounder on a spinnerbait last year. We also tried trees in the mouth of Cedar Creek, around Little Duck Blind Slough, on the main lake, and in Swift Creek without success. The water temperature was a chilly 50 degrees.
“It’s a little too early for the bass to be on the trees, yet,” said Scott, “but a month makes a lot of difference. By March the bass will be all in the trees — and it’s the best bass fishing of the year.”
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