UPCOMING EVENT: FLW SERIES - 2020 - Toledo Bend Lake

Hahner’s Early Season Largemouth Approach

Hahner’s Early Season Largemouth Approach

Not long ago the majority of lakes across the northern range of bass country were covered in ice, leaving plenty of anglers chomping at the bit to get back out there on open water. Thankfully, winter has let go, and lakes are ready to welcome eager bass enthusiasts back on the water.

For FLW Tour rookie Cody Hahner, who hails from Wausau, Wis., growing up in the North has allowed him opportunities to learn how to efficiently dissect a lake early in the year to find productive locations for laregmouths.

 

Where to look

Unfortunately for many anglers in the North, some of the first outings of the year could be seven or more months removed from their last open-water trip. Getting back out on your favorite lake or checking out a new body of water can seem like a daunting task after such a long break, especially since the fish can make major moves daily. Hahner welcomes the challenge.

“Once the ice comes off the lakes you could have fish up shallow or out deep, and for a lot of anglers it seems tough to try and figure out where to find fish,” Hahner says. “I like to look for the most obvious cover in the lake, like docks or laydowns. I’ll drive around and just look with my eyes to find that cover. This time of year there isn’t much for emergent vegetation, so hard cover is really all the bass have to relate to. It doesn’t even have to be a big dock or big piece of wood, either; just something different is enough to hold several fish.

“It also helps a lot to find cover in close proximity to spawning areas. Even though the fish may not spawn for a few weeks, they are still going to be fairly close by.”

Hahner notes that anglers can often get caught up in focusing too much on winter patterns or where they caught fish late in the fall when they first hit the water in the spring. Those patterns might work if you happen to get out the day the ice is coming off, but it doesn’t take much of a spring warm-up to get the fish pushing shallow.

“Largemouths want to be shallow,” Hahner explains. “If the weather outside feels warm to you, then there is likely fish up shallow because it feels warm to them. I’ve seen fish on beds in 49-degree water, so don’t get too caught up in water temperature and what the bass should be doing.”

 

Stay mobile

Since targeting visible, obvious cover is the quickest way to find active fish, you have to be willing to keep moving until you make contact.

“It really doesn’t take too long to get bit, so if you’re not getting bit or seeing any activity you’ve got to keep moving until you find some fish,” Hahner says. “I think a lot of anglers spend too much time in dead water. If they aren’t biting, they probably aren’t there.”

Also, bass won’t be too far from the food. Keep watch for pods of bluegills or small perch, which can help lead you to schools of bass.

Once you do contact some fish, keep working through the area, whether it’s a small bay or stretch of bank with laydowns or docks. Hahner says you’ll eventually notice the bite start to taper off as you get outside the school. When that happens, turn around and work back through the good stretch. You could be surprised how many fish can pack into a small area this time of year.

“It can be pretty easy to pattern fish this time of year,” adds Hahner. “I like to think that a pattern leads you to a good fishing spot, so if you follow the bread crumbs of the pattern it’ll eventually lead you to the whole loaf where you can find the mother lode.”

 

The jig is king

There are plenty of baits that can work wonders for early season largies, but Hahner believes less is more.

“I really like to keep it simple. I want something I can flip to docks or wood and something I can cast and wind to cover water,” he says.

“I like a 1/2-ounce Super K Skipping Jig with a Big Bite Baits Swimming Craw to flip around. For casting, I like either a 1/4-ounce Super K swim jig when I’m in less than 4 feet of water or the 3/8-ounce model when I’m in 4 to 10 feet. I’ll match it with the same Swimming Craw or a small swimbait. And I also like to have a vibrating jig in case there is some grass standing or some lily pads starting to pop up that I can bounce the bait off of. But those are the three baits that I’ll always have tied on no matter where I fish.”

Hahner likes any colors that resemble a bluegill or perch. Though, if the water has some stain to it, he’ll mix in the old trusted black and blue.

 

Go exploring

While it’s easy to revisit old faithful spots or lakes for your first outings of the season, don’t swear off doing some exploring on new fisheries.

“Spring is absolutely the best time to get out and try a new lake you’ve never been to,” says Hahner. “The fish are moving one direction, and fast. Since you can hit the high-percentage places that look like they should hold fish, it doesn’t take long to find out what kind of size and number potential a lake has.”

Not all lakes are created equal, but up north there is no shortage of options. A little map study can help plan out a milk run of new lakes to try in a single day. Hahner says it isn’t uncommon for him to sample four or five different lakes in an outing.

“I usually try to focus on smaller lakes since they warm up quicker,” Hahner says. “Bigger lakes, say over 500 acres, can be good to try only if the ice has been off them for a while to allow the water to get in the 50s. I’ll look at Google Maps to pick out lakes with good weed cover and plenty of docks and laydowns. If they have a creek coming into them that’s even better. That usually helps decrease the chance of a winterkill, and that leads to better quality fish.

“The bite won’t be great on every lake at the same time. That’s why hitting the obvious cover can allow you to gauge the bite. If you haven’t gotten bit on a few really, really good-looking places don’t be afraid to put it on the trailer and try a new lake. The next lake may be a degree or two warmer, and that could have the light switch turned on. I’ve found some of my favorite lakes I fish now simply by sampling a variety of lakes in the spring.”

There’s nothing better than the first few trips of the season, especially when it means you have potential to catch numbers of fish along with quality. It can seem like a big task tracking down fish that are constantly on the move trying to feed up before the spawn, but take notes from the easy program Hahner employs. Who knows, you may even find your new favorite fishing hole because of it.

Tags: kyle-wood  article 

Forrest Wood’s Legacy

Forrest Wood’s Legacy

Surrounded by his family, Forrest Wood passed away in a Mountain Home, Ark., hospital just after 9 a.m. Saturday, four days after suffering a heart attack in his home. Wood, who was 87 at the time of his death, was the founder of Ranger Boats of Flippin, Ark. A pioneer of bass tournament fishing, he helped launch the careers of hundreds of aspiring tournament anglers through sponsorships. During his 20-year span at the helm of the company he founded with his wife, Nina, Forrest is credited with laying the groundwork for the modern bass boat through his innovative designs and engineering advancements. READ MORE »

Forrest L. Wood, 1932-2020

Forrest L. Wood, 1932-2020

FLW is saddened to report that Forrest L. Wood, the namesake of our organization and a longtime member of the FLW family, passed away today at age 87. He spent his final days surrounded by his family, including his wife of 68 years, Nina. READ MORE »

Daniel Fennel to Direct Pro Circuit

Daniel Fennel to Direct Pro Circuit

At the registration meeting for this week’s Pro Circuit season opener at Sam Rayburn Reservoir, FLW announced that Daniel had been promoted to senior director of tournament operations for the Pro Circuit, FLW Series and Phoenix Bass Fishing League, with responsibilities to include directing the Pro Circuit. Bill Taylor, who served as tournament director for the FLW Tour from 2001 through 2019, has been promoted to senior director of operations, where he’ll lend his expertise acquired through more than two decades as a tournament director toward logistics, angler relations and event planning for all FLW circuits. READ MORE »

The Weather Factor: Rayburn

The Weather Factor: Rayburn

Weather is a storyline in almost every tournament throughout the course of the year, but from winter through spring it can often be the biggest influencing factor in a tournament. Warming trends and cold snaps can send fish flooding to the bank or retreating to the safety of deeper water in no time. READ MORE »

2020 Pro Circuit Predictions

2020 Pro Circuit Predictions

The Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit is at Sam Rayburn Reservoir in Brookeland, Texas, this week to kick off what promises to be another great season of professional bass fishing for FLW. In anticipation of great things to come during the inaugural Pro Circuit season, a few FLW staff members and one Pro Circuit pro decided to play pundit and make a few predictions.  READ MORE »

John Cox Making Most of Opportunities

John Cox Making Most of Opportunities

In addition to finishing second in the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit standings last season, John Cox finished runner-up in the Bassmaster Central Open standings and fourth in the Eastern Open standings, qualifying him to fish the Pro Circuit and Bassmaster Elite Series this year. While many pros were faced with some either-or decisions this offseason, Cox chose both – fishing the Pro Circuit and Elite Series – and he’s not even a bit nervous about doing both. READ MORE »

Tackle Warehouse Teams with FLW

Tackle Warehouse Teams with FLW

FLW, the world’s largest tournament-fishing organization, announced today that it has reached a sponsorship agreement with Tackle Warehouse, the sport’s leading online retailer that offers the guaranteed lowest prices on bass fishing tackle from every top brand. Effective immediately, Tackle Warehouse becomes the official tackle retailer of FLW and assumes title sponsorship of the FLW Pro Circuit, professional bass fishing’s premier five-fish-limit tournament series. READ MORE »

Rookie Profile: Laramy Strickland

Rookie Profile: Laramy Strickland

Being a rookie on the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit can be daunting no matter what age you are. This year, there are 28 newcomers eager to prove themselves against some of the best in the game. And while the bulk of them have been chasing the dream for a while, 22-year-old Laramy Strickland of Bushnell, Fla., will be one of the younger pros looking to make a name in the industry. READ MORE »

How to Prep Like a Pro

How to Prep Like a Pro

When it comes to getting ready for a season of tournaments, there are plenty of ways to do it. But, there’s no denying that for most people, being prepared will lead to better performance on the water. READ MORE »

Previewing the 2020 Pro Circuit

Previewing the 2020 Pro Circuit

With the kickoff of the 2020 FLW Pro Circuit coming up January 23 on Sam Rayburn, we've put together previews of every stop of the regular season. Below you'll find an overload of information on the fisheries, prospective patterns and anglers to watch throughout every minute of the season.  READ MORE »

2020 Cherokee Lake Preview

2020 Cherokee Lake Preview

Built in the 1940s by the Tennessee Valley Authority, Cherokee Lake is nestled in the hills of east Tennessee. The Holston River impoundment lies roughly between Norris Lake to the northwest and Douglas Lake to the southeast. The clear waters of Cherokee can fluctuate about 30 feet between winter pool and spring flooding, which sounds like a lot, but isn’t out of the ordinary for the average east Tennessee reservoir. So, depending on the water level, Cherokee has about 400 miles of shoreline and 28,780 surface acres. READ MORE »

2020 Lake Martin Preview

2020 Lake Martin Preview

Lake Martin was created back in 1926 when the Martin Dam was completed on the Tallapoosa River. At the time, the 44,000-acre reservoir was the largest man-made body of water in the world, though it obviously no longer holds that distinction. READ MORE »

Silver Carp Found In Chickamauga

Silver Carp Found In Chickamauga

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources received a report on Jan. 10 that a silver carp was captured on Chickamauga Lake in October. READ MORE »

2020 Sam Rayburn Preview

2020 Sam Rayburn Preview

Sam Rayburn has a reputation as a phenomenal bass fishery and a giant in the tournament world. At more than 114,000 acres, it’s the largest reservoir contained entirely within the borders of the Lone Star State. READ MORE »

The Importance of Having a Mentor

The Importance of Having a Mentor

If you want a chance to have a pro as your personal coach and mentor for 2020, keep reading. READ MORE »

Florida Spawn: Key on Bottom Hardness

Florida Spawn: Key on Bottom Hardness

According to FLW Pro Circuit angler Tim Frederick, who’s lived in Florida since he was 4 years old, one of the most important factors for successfully locating both spawning and staging bass in the coming weeks is bottom hardness. In most situations, the harder the bottom the better, but there’s more to it than that. READ MORE »

Check-In Time: Matt Becker

Check-In Time: Matt Becker

From time to time, FLW checks in with its anglers to find out what they’ve been up to, what they’re listening to, who they’re following and where they’re heading while out on the tournament trail. This week, we caught up with Matt Becker.  READ MORE »

FLW Series Championship Returns to Cumberland

FLW Series Championship Returns to Cumberland

FLW (Fishing League Worldwide), in conjunction with the Somerset Tourist & Convention Commission and the Burnside Tourism Commission, announced today that the 2020 FLW Series Championship will be held at Lake Cumberland in Burnside and Somerset, Kentucky, Nov. 5-7, 2020. READ MORE »

FLW PHOENIX BONUS Announced for 2020

FLW PHOENIX BONUS Announced for 2020

Phoenix Boats has announced the creation and details of the brand new FLW PHOENIX BONUS for the 2020 FLW tournament season. READ MORE »

The Top 19 Stories of 2019

The Top 19 Stories of 2019

From the beginning, 2019 was a good year of fishing. The FLW Tour got off to a rollicking start on Sam Rayburn, and it really stayed pretty great from there, with a lot of good fishing and a killer Angler of the Year race. Beyond the Tour, all the other circuits had plenty of highlights, too. We saw impressive feats accomplished at all levels and some very exciting individual events. READ MORE »