Better Make Those Spring Plans Now

 by Steve Welch


Most of you are sitting around bored stiff already. I know I am and I have only
been off the water a few days. So I thought why not tell some readers some little
ins and outs that I use to get on big fish on my little three day weekend getaway's. 


First of all my guide service keeps me pinned down after April first so I always
take a little trip down to Paris Landing on Kentucky lake. I usually take one or
two buddies and I tell them that they have to plan three weekends in March to just
drop everything and go on little notice. We will go on the weekend with the best
wind forecast. Cold doesn't bother me but March rain can be too cold to go so
you might throw that in as well as wind.


Since I have been so many times, I don't need a guide so my plans can be a spur of
the moment type thing. If you do need a guide then I would book towards the very
end of the month on into mid April. I like to go earlier before the ledge fish
start leaving and going on into the bays. This will happen when water temperatures
get to about fifty. You can fish much shallower and even cast sliders, if that is
your bag but the fish are spread out and chances of that big fish of a lifetime
are better earlier.


I go down to Paris Landing all I can during the winter because of my quest for very
big crappie and it is just a five-hour drive and I can do that on a normal
weekend. I just got back from down there and had a ball and I am going again
first of the year.


Another great trip for you guys that just want to get a good pull on your rod is
opening day at Clinton Lake hot water discharge. That is April 1 and if the heat

is turned on, you won't believe the smorgasbord of fish you can capitalize on.

Last year we threw blade baits looking for walleye as I had done very well the

year before only to be very limited on them but instead caught huge white bass

pushing three pounds and tons of nice channel cats up to ten pounds, all on gay

blades and cicadas. I had stringers of catfish you couldn't lift. I guide up
there for about three weeks then move back to Shelbyville to stay on the crappie

for the entire spawn. My guide trips fill very quickly for this bite as people

are really wanting to get out and early.


Mid April has Shelbyville water temperatures getting into that mid-fifty range

and that means the males will start moving to mid depth ranges and will chase

a bait with the warmer temperatures. Hovering over fish in brush will work but

since it is the sun they so desire. The fish tend to be on top the brush so

hovering isn't as effective as casting to brush and retrieving. I have buddies

who fish a fixed cork to do this but for me I like to just cast and count down

a Charlie Brewer slider grub in either white and chartreuse or chartreuse. I put
this on an eighth ounce jig. I just run it about four feet down in ten to twenty

foot of water.


The spawn at Shelbyville really gets going in May, as does the Corp of Engineers

bringing up the lake to summer pool. They drop the lake almost six feet in mid

December and try and keep it there until May first. That is another good reason

for my short jaunt to Clinton Lake, no fluctuating water levels to fight.


However, the best thing about fishing on a corp. lake is that when the lake

rises the fish go up in the feeder creeks and will get into the flooded smartweeds

and remain shallow long after the spawn until the food leaves. I have caught

male crappie and nice ones up in two foot of water Fourth of July weekend. Way

better than having to fight the big boats. This again is my busiest time of

the season and since I only guide weekends. It doesn’t take long to fill my schedule.


Once we get into July, I am walleye hunting slash white bass fishing for the

entire month. July is my best shot of getting walleye, mainly because I am so

busy crappie fishing. 


The fish are shallow and up on the windswept flats and once they leave I just

switch over to the white bass. From late July through Labor Day it is the hard

fighting white bass that I am after. I catch them schooled up on steep drops and

just catch a ton of them. We fish just two rigs. One is a drop-shot rig with a

minnow about two-foot up the line on a short one-inch loop knot. The other is a

quarter ounce jig and slider grub. We catch more fish on the drop-shot rig but

I catch more species that are different on the slider. I have had crappie; big

bass and huge buffalo all hit this bait. These trips are a young angler's dream.

I had a young boy tell me last year that he had more fun than going to Disney.

Now that has to be my best complement ever. We actually catch a hundred fish

before lunch on many outings and on this trip we caught ten of those big buffalo

with one pushing thirty pounds.


Then after Labor Day it is six weeks of musky fishing. They move into the backs

of the coves on the south end of the lake and will blow up on anything. I tell

clients it is hours of disappointment followed by seconds of what dreams are made

of. This my little window in which I would guide for them. I have turned down way

more trips than I have taken just because my mentality is put a ton of fish in

the boat every guide trip and you just can't do that.


Then November hits and we are smack dab in the best crappie fishing that we have.

November and December are my best months to limit out every trip. Fish are

bunched up and we catch a ton of them. 


For those of you who want to learn more about seasonal patterns I am giving

seminars all over the state this winter. First I am at Collinsville Jan. 5-7

then Bloomington Jan. 26-28 then Peoria Feb. 16-18 then at Midwest Marine

fishing school but the dates are not nailed down as of yet.