April kicks off great smallmouth bass fishing on Lake James

Colt Bass of Colt Bass Fishing said that trips to Lake James in April offer anglers a decent chance at a handful of nice smallmouth bass, including 4-pounders like this one. (Picture by Colt Bass)

Smallmouth go shallow, feed heavily in April

Guide Colt Bass of Collettsville, N.C., can’t wait for April to arrive at Lake James, when smallmouth fishing heats up.

“With the right weather, April can be one of the best months for smallmouth bass fishing,” said Bass (www.coltbassfishing.com). “The smallmouth are basically as shallow as they will be the whole year.”

Bass said fish will move to depths to 20 feet or less when the water temperature ranges between 60 and 70 degrees. During this time, Bass catches both prespawn and post-spawn smallmouth.

“Not all fish spawn at the same time,” he said.

If there’s no cloud cover, Bass favors casting small crankbaits, usually around 3 inches long, to mimic the small shad that dominate the Foothills lake in April. He sticks with crankbaits in natural colors because Lake James is so clear. Occasionally, he ties on a “wild” color, like fire tiger, lime green or clown, to shake things up a bit.

“I feel like where you fish the bait has a lot more to do with getting a bite than the color of the bait,” said Bass, whose arsenal of small crankbaits include Shad Raps, Flicker Shads and Smash Shads.

Look for ledges

When the fish are shallow, he uses 4-inch Flukes in natural colors.

On cloudy days, Bass goes to his old reliable, a 2 1/2-inch Rebel Pop-R.

“I was raised using them. They work, so why change?” he asked.

More than any other structure at James, Bass covets ledges, especially those that run from 4 to 50 feet deep in a matter of 20 to 30 yards — and there are plenty in that category.

“I catch more smallmouth on ledges than I do anything else on the lake,” Bass said. “If there’s a ledge, there’s a smallmouth on it.”

Shallow, high spots with deep water around them are also good places to target, he said.

Scale down your line size

“These can be great places early in the morning as groups of fish push shad up into the shallows to gorge on them,” Bass said. “I’ve watched shad jumping out of the shallows trying to get away from smallmouth.”

Other smallmouth magnets at James are the backs of creeks and secondary points.

Current isn’t much of a factor to Bass.

“I know guys swear by it. But I catch fish when the dam is pulling water and when it isn’t,” he said.

Line size is critical to Bass because of the lake’s clear waters.

“When using spinning tackle, I spool the smallest line I can without fear of losing too many fish,” he said. “I will drop down to clear, 6-pound test line”

Bass said James is an awesome lake where you can catch 10 or more fish in the morning in the 2- to 4-pound range with a good chance of hooking a smallie weighing 4 pounds or better.

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