Special to BassFan
Josh Bertrand is fast becoming a household name on the Bassmaster Elite Series and he makes no secret about the fact that the same tricks he uses back home in Arizona have helped him to cash a few checks. During the off-season, he hones his techniques for the year ahead on the trail, among them working a jigging spoon over deep water.
Where to Look
Bertrand says he catches fish off specific structure with jigging spoons like deep trees, a deep hump, or a deep channel, but most often they’re roaming, schooling fish over a general area following the baitfish. When shad go deep, so will the bass. Bertrand cautions anglers not to get hung up on water temperature – it’s irrelevant to this deal.
Key lakes for this tactic include the Salt River Chain in Arizona like Canyon Lake, Saguaro Lake, Roosevelt Lake as well as California’s Canyon Lake along with Northern California lakes like Berryessa, Oroville and Shasta. In the Ozarks, Table Rock and Bull Shoals lakes are a given. There, Bertrand will fish floating boat docks over 30-50 feet over water.
“Stick your boat into a slip and drop your spoon down and start jigging it there,” Bertrand said.
Video Game Fishing
Bertrand idles with his big motor until he sees fish on the screen on his Garmin 7612 units that he’ll run with both 2D and DownVü displays depending on the structure he is fishing. DownVü excels when fish are holding in trees, while 2D excels when scanning rocky bottoms.
He’ll rarely see the perfect arch – Bertrand is simply looking for a group of dots.
“When you idle over a shallow ledge, they’ll be super prominent and obvious,” he said. “When you’re over a spot 40 to 60 feet deep, even if you’re zoomed in on your graph, fish are simply going to look smaller. Fish in deeper water are going to sit closer together and closer to objects.
“If I see two or three dots on a spoon lake, I’m stopping for sure. If you catch one, you’ll see the whole school blow up but rarely do you see 10 to 20 dots in deep water.”
When pulling fish from deep water, anglers need a game plan. Bertrand cautions not to horse fish out of deep water straight to the surface. If the fish starts with heavy head shakes, it takes nothing to throw a spoon. At the same time, it isn’t healthy for fish to rise to the surface so quickly.
“If they look like they are hesitating or jacked up, I fizz them right away,” Bertrand said. “If they’re going in the livewell, I fizz them automatically, and if you don’t have a needle and go out and do that, you’ll kill everything you catch. That isn’t a cool thing to do.”
Generally, Bertrand aggressively rips his spoon once real fast trying to it to jump 3 to 5 feet and let it flutter on slack line.
“A lot of times, you will feel the fish when you are making the rip up, and the way I work that spoon, you are setting the hook at the same time if a fish bites,” Bertrand said.
Letting the spoon fall on slack line is the deal as it allows the spoon to have a good side-to-side flutter on the way down. Multiple pops often causes the spoon to foul.
When fish are close to bottom or are inactive, he’ll work it with a fast little pop and then dead stick the spoon for 5 to 7 seconds in between pops.
“That spoon isn’t sitting still because it still has that bit of line twist, even when you use a ball-bearing snap swivel like I do,” Bertrand added. “It’s still spinning until that line straightens.”
> Light spoon (half-ounce and under): Abu Garcia spinning rod, Abu Garcia spinning reel, 8-pound Berkley Nanofil tied to 8-pound Berkley Trilene 100% Flurocarbon leader, 3/8-ounce Kastmaster spoon (silver on shad fisheries; gold for different forage or slightly less water clarity), #6 or #5 Berkley Fusion19 treble hooks.
> Heavy spoon (half-ounce and higher): 7’ medium-heavy Abu Garcia Villain casting rod, Abu Garcia Revo SX casting reel, 15-pound Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon line, Bass Pro Strata Spoon (pearl for early morning or cloudy days; silver for sunny days), #4 Berkley Fusion19 treble hooks.