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For Maine’s bass fishermen, June is prime time for some of the best shoreline action of the year. Bass of both species (largemouths and smallmouths) are busying themselves with the responsibilities of procreation. The biggest fish move into warm, shallow water, build nests and lay their eggs, guaranteeing an abundant supply of fish for future generations to enjoy. Known by anglers as “the spawn,” June is the time to be on the water. Fishing from shore or boat is productive throughout the day and into the night. Even river fishermen can get in on the fun as big bass move along the shoreline and take up residence in the deepest, darkest pools.
Picky trout and salmon traditionally drive fishermen to the brink of frustration with their finicky ways, but bass have few mysteries to solve. Toss anything remotely edible into their path and they will strike with eager abandon, hitting the same lure or bait again and again until they catch it or it catches them. During the spawning period it’s difficult to find a lure or bait a bass won’t take, which makes a day on the water all that more enjoyable. Sometimes it’s just fun to catch fish without all the intrigue and hocus-pocus that plagues aficionados of many other species. An angler armed with just a spinner, a spoon or diving lure can catch fish all day and never have a dry spell. All it takes to attract spawning bass is something small, glittery and active. If it moves a bass will respond, size and color notwithstanding. Many times bass smaller than the lure will attack and it’s not unusual to catch two, even three bass on the same lure – at the same time!
“Fishing” as an industry has become remarkably complicated, with hundreds of tackle combinations to consider, boats worth more than most small homes and lures enough to fill a dozen large suitcases, but, fortunately, the fish themselves have not changed since the sport became an obsession. Any basic spinning or spin-casting rig loaded with 6-pound-test line and a small, busy lure attached will keep the angler busy all day long. Toss a lure into the shallow water along shore, targeting rocks, logs, overhanging limbs and fallen trees and hang on. A moderately skilled angler can catch bass on nearly every cast by simply putting his lure as close to an obstacle as possible and reeling it back in with a jiggle-the-rod-tip, erratic retrieve. Most bass will strike by the third turn of the reel handle, and if a fish strikes and misses or follow the lure back to the boat, simply wait five minutes and try again. This time he won’t miss!
Some remarkably large bass can be caught in some surprisingly shallow water. For this reason, it’s a good idea to wade or paddle 20 to 30 feet from shore and then cast inward toward land. If the lure lands on dry ground there’s no worry; simply skip it back into the water, let it rest for a few seconds and then start reeling it in. Any bass within 10 feet of the lure will take a crack at it, and it’s the rare smallmouth or largemouth that misses in such cases. When fishing with exposed-hook lures it is fine to set the hooks as soon as the fish hits the lure, but when using rubber worms, grubs and similar plastics, give the fish a few seconds to turn the lure in its mouth. At the same time take up the slack and, at the count of three, set the hook. You won’t miss many fish, and if you do, just come back a little later for a rematch.
Spawning bass tend to stick close to the nest so a cast that goes wide of the mark may not produce the desired results. It is important to cast accurately, dropping the lure as close to the obstacle as possible. The smallest stick, reed or overhanging limb can hide some remarkably large bass but they won’t venture far, so keep casting till you are sure you have exhausted all options. Every so often a sloppy cast will make a fish disappear in a disdainful swirl. If this happens, mark the spot for later and make the best, most accurate offering possible. Odds are you won’t miss on the second try.
If river bassin’ is your preference, put your wading shoes on and work the water downstream and closest to rocks, logs, and other so-called structure. In flowing water there may be a dozen fish in the same pool, so continue casting to each spot until the action dies down. Some of the deepest holes in larger rivers, especially where smaller streams feed into the main flow, can keep a practiced angler busy for hours. Fish will stack up in the dark current and fight over every morsel that comes their way. The water beneath bridges, railway trestles and other large obstacles can provide good fishing as well. One of the largest bass I never caught took a 3-inch Rebel minnow lure nearly at my feet but, alas, broke off and disappeared into the depths. The smallmouth was about the size of my Old Town ash canoe paddle! I fished that spot again many, many times but never saw that bass again. This was about 40 years ago and yet I remember the event as if it were this morning. I’ve caught a lot of June bass in the years since then but nothing like the one that got away.
Most folks don’t know that night fishing for bass can be very productive. Pick a spot on a lake, pond or river where there is room to make long casts with few obstructions and try fishing them in the hours just after sunset. Big bass will move into shallow water after dark to feed in the cooler water where minnows, crayfish and other forage species abound. A lure that floats, gurgles and makes noise on top is irresistible to hungry bass and is easy to keep track of in the dark. The only hard part of night fishing is keeping track of where the lake is!
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