Are you ready for Lake Gaston during the Spring?
Collins Boating Pro Raymond Jones, III
In April, food tastes better, my Ranger 520L is prepped faster, and there’s a huge smile is on my face when I have upcoming trips to Lake Gaston. While, there is something for everyone on and around the lake – food, fun, boating, and fishing – it’s the ability to work bass fishing patterns that keeps me coming back all year. After winning the 2017 Walmart Bass Fishing League Piedmont Division Tournament on Lake Gaston last April and offering guide trips, I get allot of calls and texts around this time of year… “Dude, hook me up!” All fishermen throw curve balls when it comes to information. It’s all in good fun and I enjoy the playful ribbing as much as anyone but, I plan to share how I approach the lake during this time of the year in hopes of making your trips more enjoyable and successful.
Section the Lake Off:
Wither you are a local or a first timer, I recommend sectioning the lake off into multiple parts. This 35-mile long (covering 20,000 acres with 350 miles of shoreline) lake will fish smaller this time of year. Tournament angling pocket jumpers, recreational boaters kicking into gear, and fun fishing for multiple species are all underway. I partition the lake into three sections 1. Up the river end, 2. Mid-lake, and 3. Down-lake. Regardless of your fishing style, you can utilize classic lake or river tactics but if you are not aware of what the lake has to offer, it’s hard to be successful on a consistent basis. Review a good map or your Navionics Map Chip, get out on the lake, and ride. Section 3 does warm up faster normally but I would not rule out any section of the lake during the spawn.
Split Up your Spring Fishing Time (Spawning Fish You Can & Cannot See)
With consistent weather, most anglers know the spawn is starting or well underway with the fish making their magic happen in the shallows. I’ve seen allot of big bass on beds in practices and while they are a primary focus, you still need some areas that have varied water clarity (more stained water) to fall back on and compliment your primarily cleaner areas. Anglers will have no trouble finding docks, grass, stumps, or some rocks to target during their practice. Water Temperatures are also important to monitor, but I prioritize the water clarity over temperature during this time, even though most anglers are doing the opposite. My reasoning behind this is that bass get started enough spawning and a few degrees change in water temperature is not normally going to push them off the beds unless it’s a pretty drastic change. I can’t count the number of times that fishing unfamiliar but more stained water clarity during the spawn has saved my tournament days than sticking to some of my best areas. I’ve stumbled into what are now some of my favorite areas because I was willing to go hunting in clear & stained waters to find the consistently better-quality fish during the spawn. You can’t put all your eggs in one basket (just clear or just stained) water during your tournaments and produce consistent bags come weigh in time over multiple days.
Boat Setup Specifics
Before I even begin this topic, your priorities in fishing and in life normally revolve around where you spend your time and money. A lot of anglers don’t believe in or spend time and money on so-called gadgets, bling, or add-on accessories. I totally respect that, but I do focus on these things and use everything that I can that works to my advantage. I assist clients with boat upgrades and adding “bling”, as many guys call it. I have 24 upgrades on the front portion of my Ranger 520L. I admit, some are just bling, but some of these items allows me to control variables that other anglers overlook while on the water.
There are several key products I would like to highlight that avoids vibration & masks my presence in shallow water:
- Bowjax.com Shaft Dampener for Trolling Motor: Even if anglers are using a dampener on their trolling motor lower unit, most are not using a shaft dampener. It looks different and draws allot of interest. It’s not a beauty contest, I want whatever accessory that makes me quieter to land more fish.
- Bowjax.com Trolling Motor Vibration Dampeners: Laboratory sound test confirm these dampeners make your trolling motor have at least 25% less vibration. Have you ever seen a hunter have a bow that does not have a silencer? No! This is a silencer for your trolling motor and utilizes the same principle. It’s hard to argue with this logic, if you think about it.
- TM Marine G-Force Eliminator Trolling Motor Prop Nut: It is designed to lessen prop noise & vibration.
- Hydrowave H2:It produces multiple sounds to make baitfish & bass more active, but more importantly helps mask the sounds of my trolling motor.
- Transducer Shield & Saver Shaft Mount for Hydrowave H2 Speaker: Mounting this speaker on your shaft protects the speaker and allows it to be pointed in any direction with better sound quality when you turn your trolling motor. If you are talking through a Megaphone, you don’t point it straight up or away from the group you are addressing. You need to point the sounds where you want it to go. Again, it’s hard to argue with this logic.
These key items working together does make my trolling motor setup quieter and more efficient than other anglers. I can prove that my trolling motor setup is at least 30% quieter, but by adding the masking also, I truly believe it’s about 40%.
This is what most initial conversations I encounter sound like, “So, what do I need to throw?” I want to stress I think water clarity and temperature basically dictate the answer to that question, but I am happy to share some of my thoughts (even my wife was shocked when I told her I was going to share some of this information). I am a tackle junkie and like a variety of lure brands but here are some of my Lake Gaston must haves during the spawn.
- The Lobina Lures Rico in Lightning Shad or Striper Colors: I love all kinds of top waters, especially some others I can fish around or over top of debris but, I prefer the Rico on Gaston spawners. Its small size is ideal as it emulates a small injured baitfish hovering over or working around beds. The spawning strikes can be breathtaking.
- A DSTYLE D-Spiker Spinnerbait: After you get over the price tag and attempt to read another language on the packaging, you will find it has a unique swinging arm for the blades that provides a different action especially when fishing around grass or debris. This prevents the blades from getting tangled too much, and the blades will stop turning as the free-flowing arm allows it to bounce away from obstructions. How many times have you ever wanted to get grass off your bait right away to continue fishing over a piece of cover? This spinnerbait has been a special one for me to be able to do exactly that and achieve a better presentation. I only fish an Ardent Apex Grand 6.5:1 ratio reel with all my spinnerbaits because I believe this ratio achieves an ideal speed that works best for my style of fishing spinnerbaits.
- Ah, The Senko!I carry nine Kraft cheese jars in my Ranger, each one containing three packs of Senkos. I have three of my favorite senko colors for each water clarity: clear, stained, and muddy. These jars make it super quick to get a bait change done without needing to carry senko bags. I place the colors three-digit number on top of the jar so I can look down at a glance and see the colors. For the record, I don’t think there is a bad colored Senko and its more about presentation that dictates success! But, if I must, here is one color from each water condition I prefer in April: Black Blue Flake (021), Green Pumpkin(297), Firetiger (327). Don’t tell anybody!
- A Creature Style Bait: If I only had one or two creature bait choices for specifically this time of year on my favorite lake, I would choose the ZOOM Baby Brush Hog or the Strike King Space Monkey.
- The ZOOM Trickworm: I’m sure that some of these baits recommendations are not surprising. However, if you drop five to ten drops of Gulp Alive Scent in the ZOOM Bag and add an actual Gulp Bait to the bag as well, you will find that in two or three days, the trickworms have become even more pliable with action, have swelled into larger worms, and smell much better.
I believe some avid Lake Gaston anglers will question why a jig is not on this list. I like jigs but again, during the spawn, I will have one tied on but it is not normally where I am going to start with lure selection unless water clarity and temperature are not to my liking.
In summary, Lake Gaston can be a temperamental place to fish, but with some planning, preparation, and the right gear, there’s no reason you can’t earn some disposable income or have a big fish story to tell after your next tournament or fun fishing trip.