UPCOMING EVENT: T-H Marine BFL - 2019 - Kentucky / Barkley Lake

FISHING LEAGUE WORLDWIDE

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 

Takeoff Delayed at Lake of the Ozarks

Takeoff Delayed at Lake of the Ozarks

The final Costa FLW Series Central Division event on Lake of the Ozarks – which is presented by Evinrude – was originally slated to begin at 7 a.m. CT this morning, but Mother Nature had other plans. A massive thunderstorm has been rolling through Osage Beach, Mo., this morning bringing heavy downpours and lots of lightning. READ MORE »

Major League Fishing to Acquire FLW

Major League Fishing to Acquire FLW

Major League Fishing (MLF) announced today that it has reached an agreement to acquire Fishing League Worldwide (FLW), the world’s largest tournament-fishing organization. The Letter of Intent (LOI) sets in motion the most significant brand merger in competitive bass fishing history, linking a tour and original, award-winning programming featuring the top professional anglers in the world to an extensive grassroots organization that serves tens of thousands of competitive anglers from high school and college students to weekenders and tour pros.  READ MORE »

How the MLF Acquisition will Affect Me

How the MLF Acquisition will Affect Me

The Thursday announcement of Major League Fishing’s acquisition of FLW signifies a historic shift in the landscape of competitive bass fishing. Here’s an overview of how the competitive circuits of FLW will operate. READ MORE »

Newberry Wins Southwestern Division AOY

Newberry Wins Southwestern Division AOY

It was sweet redemption in many ways for the Texas legend who still owns and operates his Houston-based HVAC company despite spending so much time on the tournament-fishing circuit. Redemption for missing out on the FLW Cup in his first season. Redemption for what Grand did to him earlier this year on Tour (dropping from sixth to 41st with only one fish on day two). And, in a way, validation for a career filled with big accomplishments. READ MORE »

Rampey Stays Red Hot on Hartwell

Rampey Stays Red Hot on Hartwell

After winning a T-H Marine Bass Fishing League (BFL) Super Tournament on Lake Hartwell a few weeks ago, Jayme Rampey of Liberty, S.C., was certainly one of the favorites heading into the BFL Regional on the same pond this past weekend. Lo and behold, he wouldn’t disappoint, and notched his 11th career BFL win – five of which have come on Hartwell – and won a Ranger Z518L with a 200-horsepower motor, plus $20,000 cash for his efforts. READ MORE »

Rapala Varsity Bass Ep. 3 Airs Friday 

Rapala Varsity Bass Ep. 3 Airs Friday 

Join FLW for a Rapala Varsity Bass watch party on Friday, Oct. 4 at 2 p.m. CT for the premiere of Episode 3 in the series. READ MORE »

Valdivia is Best in the West

Valdivia is Best in the West

California pro David Valdivia has consistently finished near the top of the standings in the Costa FLW Series Western Division. This year he finally won his first Strike King Angler of the Year award, and he did it by just one point in the standings. READ MORE »

Super Tournament Winning Ways – Week 4

Super Tournament Winning Ways – Week 4

The final five T-H Marine FLW Bass Fishing League (BFL) Super Tournaments took place over the weekend, bringing BFL regular-season competition to a close. Regional tournaments will kick off Oct. 10, and by the end of the month the majority of the field for the 2020 All-American will be set.  READ MORE »

Wild Card set for Kentucky Lake

Wild Card set for Kentucky Lake

Fishing League Worldwide, the world’s largest tournament fishing organization, announced Sunday that the 2019 T-H Marine BFL Wild Card tournament will take place on Kentucky Lake in Gilbertsville, Kentucky, Nov. 8-9. The two-day event, hosted by the Kentucky Lake Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, will launch from the Kentucky Dam Marina in Gilbertsville. READ MORE »

Dobson Wins First FLW Series AOY

Dobson Wins First FLW Series AOY

Scott Dobson has earned a pile of accolades up north, but this year, he earned his biggest title yet. Winning the Strike King Angler of the Year in the Costa FLW Series Northern Division presented by Gajo Baits, the Clarkston, Mich., angler finished third at Lake Champlain, 13th on the Potomac River and wrapped the season and the title with a second-place showing on the St. Lawrence River. READ MORE »

The Cal Delta is Looking Good

The Cal Delta is Looking Good

This week the Costa FLW Series Western Division will conclude with the final event of the season on the California Delta. The tournament, which is presented by Power-Pole, should showcase a different side of the Delta, given that most of the Western Division tournaments on the famed fishery take place in the spring. That said, last year’s event on the Delta fell on nearly identical dates as this year and could be a good tease for how things may shake out this time around. READ MORE »

Super Tournament Winning Ways – Week 3

Super Tournament Winning Ways – Week 3

The third round of T-H Marine Bass Fishing League (BFL) Super Tournament action saw smallmouths, spotted bass and largemouths all make an appearance as six divisions put a bow on the season with their respective two-day events. Here’s a quick recap of what all played out in the action spanning from the Detroit River down to Lake Okeechobee. READ MORE »

Buy a Hat, Help USA Bass 

Buy a Hat, Help USA Bass 

Bass fishing fans have a chance to help the USA Bass team achieve its goal of winning the 2019 Pan American Championship in Canada next month. To help fund the effort, USA Bass, which is a 501c3 nonprofit organization, recently launched a limited edition hat drive with the goal of selling 1,000 USA Bass hats. READ MORE »

A High School Kayak Tournament Experience 

A High School Kayak Tournament Experience 

A recent high school kayak bass fishing tournament showcased the potential of kayaks to get more young anglers on the water and competing. READ MORE »

Hough is Fighting to Fish

Hough is Fighting to Fish

Fishing just her second full season as a co-angler in the T-H Marine FLW Bass Fishing League (BFL) South Carolina Division, mother of two and first-grade teacher Kate Hough was planning and preparing for a chance to do something no woman has ever done in her division: win Co-Angler of the Year. Instead of preparing for the Super Tournament on Lake Hartwell on Sept. 28, however, Hough is simply fighting to leave her hospital bed. READ MORE »

Super Tournament Winning Ways – Week 2

Super Tournament Winning Ways – Week 2

The second weekend in September saw seven more T-H Marine Bass Fishing League (BFL) divisions conclude their seasons with two-day Super Tournament events. From the Tennessee River to the St. Lawrence River and a few places in between, here’s a quick look at how the seven events were won. READ MORE »

Check-in Time: Matt Reed

Check-in Time: Matt Reed

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 Texas pro Matt Reed.  READ MORE »

Big Smallmouths, Big Water for Season Finale

Big Smallmouths, Big Water for Season Finale

Any tournament with smallmouths in it is a good one, but when the Costa FLW Series Northern Division presented by Gajo Baits heads to the St. Lawrence River it's usually a show-stopper. This year’s event, which is presented by Realtree Fishing, shouldn’t be any different as the Northern Division looks to close its season out on one of the best smallmouth fisheries in the world September 19-21. READ MORE »

When to Fish the Flashy Swimmer

When to Fish the Flashy Swimmer

In April, FLW Associate Editor Justin Onslow documented how Gross likes to cut the belly of his two favorite hollow swimbaits – the Scottsboro and the Zoom Swimmer – when rigging on a weedless hook to achieve a high hook-up ratio. However, that article didn’t break down where and why Gross prefers to use the Beast Flashy Swimmer hook versus a standard weighted, weedless swimbait hook. So we reached out to Gross for more info. READ MORE »

FLW Mourns Passing of T. Boone Pickens

FLW Mourns Passing of T. Boone Pickens

Businessman T. Boone Pickens, who in 2010 partnered with FLW to promote an alternative energy plan to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, passed away Wednesday at the age of 91.  READ MORE »