By David A. Brown
Special to BassFan
If you think bass go directly to their spawning grounds from the outer pre-spawn staging areas adjacent to deep water, Oklahoma tournament angler Chad Warren will say "think again." He's a big fan of targeting flat points with chunk rock at the mouths of those spawning pockets because this scenario is like the final fast-food joint on the way to the delivery room.
Bass with bulging bellies will stop there to gobble crawfish and passing shad right before making their spawning move. When the big gals arrive for a visit, Warren’s usually there to greet them. Here’s how he does it:
The Right Area
“I’m not looking for giant flats; I’m mostly looking for those tapering points that have deep water like a channel swing running close to them,” Warren said. “I’m not necessarily relating to the channel swing while I’m fishing, but I like to have that deep water close, even though I’m fishing shallow.
“A creek that doesn’t have a channel running into it is generally not something I’d look at. Those fish still need a place to pull off if they need to.”
One of the biggest benefits of targeting the long, flat points is the solitude.
“A lot of guys overlook these spots this time of year because they’re looking for the steeper 45-degree banks, but there are a lot of fish that stage on those shallow points,” Warren said. “Those fish don’t pull up from 20 feet of water straight up to 2 feet of water to spawn; just like after the spawn they don’t go directly out to the deep structure.
“I like that chunk rock on the flat points because those fish are already up there in depths that they would spawn in, they’re just not yet set up to spawn. They’re waiting on the moon and the water temperature to get right. I think when they first move up, they need a few weeks to acclimate to that shallow water.”
The bottom makeup can be anything from pea gravel to big rock, but his preference is the smaller chunk rock, as this structure heats up quickly and provides abundant feeding opportunities. Chunk rock’s also the ideal environment for Warren’s No. 1 pre-spawn bass-getter.
For rumbling across that rocky bottom and triggering big bites, Warren trusts the Gene Larew Biffle Bug on a Gene Larew Biffle Head. The oblong head sports a dangling wide-gap hook for an articulated design that unleashes the Bug’s dance moves. Enticing – yes, but also highly efficient, says Warren.
“A lot of guys are throwing crankbaits like Wiggle Warts and you can get bit on those, too, but when I get a bite on the Biffle Bug, I’m going to land that fish 90 percent of the time,” Warren said. “Your odds go considerably down with treble hooks versus that one big hook on that Hard Head.”
Warren gives himself an edge here by fishing the Hard Head’s hook exposed; a move he can get away with on the chunk rock or pea gravel.
The articulated design of a Gene Larew Hard Head gives the Biffle Bug trailer tons of action.
“I’ll fish the hook exposed if I’m not seeing any (wood) in the water and I’m not fishing anywhere I think I might get snagged,” he said. “I’m keeping that bait moving, so the hook never really rolls over to where it might snag the smaller cover.
“Especially on days when the fish are just picking at it, I’ll leave that hook out because that’s just one less piece of plastic the tip of that hook has to go through. If one swipes at it, he has a much better chance of getting hooked. And if I get to an area with larger rock or snaggy bottom, it only takes a second to wind up and put that hook back in the bait.”
Positioning and Presentation
As with any scenario, dialing in the strike zone is best done by covering water and paying attention to the bites. Warren typically starts by positioning his boat in about 8 feet of water and casting from nothing to 6-8 feet.
“If I notice the fish are out a little more, I’ll sit deeper and cast parallel to that depth,” he said. “Wherever you’re getting bites, you want to keep your bait in the strike zone as long as possible.”
To summarize Warren’s Hard Head/Biffle Bug retrieve, think “crankbait,” at least in terms of steady motion. Versatility is the bait’s biggest asset.
“If I want it to run deeper, I just slow down my reeling, whereas you can reel a crankbait as fast as you want and it’s only going to reach a certain depth,” Warren said. “That’s what’s great about the Hard Head, I can throw it to the bank and fish it out into 10 feet of water.”
“You want that bait ticking those rocks. People want to drag it and hop it, but that’s not the way the Hard Head was designed to be fished.”
On the cast, Warren holds his rod tip high and maintains a steady retrieve as long as he’s hitting rocks. The instant he loses bottom contact, he’ll steadily lower his rod tip and decrease his retrieve speed.
“You never want to stop your retrieve,” Warren said. “You want that bait constantly moving; it’s that reaction that gets those fish to bite.”
Stick It to 'Em
Warren says you don’t need a broom stick for the flat-point game, but his 7-foot-3 Falcon Cara Amistad provides a good balance of casting accuracy and pulling power. He’s pairs that with a 7.3:1 reel, which allows him to catch up with a fish that bites and heads in his direction. Lastly, he spools with 20-pound Berkley Trilene 100 Percent fluorocarbon line to withstand close contact with the abrasive bottom.
As for hookset strategy, Warren offers this advice: “A lot of times, you’ll feel them thump it and you keep reeling; or you may not feel a thump but they start pushing the bait forward and you lose contact with it. The important thing is to keep the rod at a 45-degree angle from the bait.
“As soon as you feel the bite, you have to wind all of that slack out. If he’s not there, let the bait back down; if he is there, wind as fast as you can until you start to feel the fish, let him load up a little and lean into him.”