Smallmouth in shallow water at Lake James

Lake James
Smallmouth bass at Lake James will be heading toward relatively shallow water — relative to their usual deep-water haunts — as the spawn arrives this month. (Photo by Colt Bass)

At Lake James, April is the month bronzebacks are in range

Guide Colt Bass said April can be one of the best months for smallmouth bass at North Carolina’s Lake James.

“The smallmouth bass will be as shallow as they will be the whole year,” Bass said. ”A lot of fish will spawn this time of year, bringing them up into the 20-foot and shallower range for either the prespawn or spawn, depending upon the weather.”

The movement to the shallows begins with the water temperatures in the low 60s.

On cloudy days, Bass ( swears by Rebel Pop-Rs.

“That’s all I use as far as topwater goes,” he said. “They work, so why change?”

Under sunny skies, Bass favors crankbaits 3 inches and smaller, in mostly natural colors.

”I stick with 3-inch and smaller lures because the shad are pretty small this time of year,” Bass said. “I stick with natural colors, because Lake James is so clear and doesn’t hardly ever muddy up.”

Bass occasionally gets adventurous and throws crankbaits in fire tiger, clown or lime colors.

“I really feel like where you throw a crankbait has a lot more to do with getting a bite than the color,” he said.

Look for smallies on ledges

His arsenal includes Rapala Shad Raps, Storm Smash Shads and Berkley Flicker Shads. He also uses Zoom Flukes in natural colors. He primarily targets ledges, especially those featuring shallow water with deep water nearby.

“If there’s a ledge, there’s a smallmouth on it,” Bass said. “I’ll throw shallow and work my way off of them. Lots of spots at James will go from 4 to 50 feet in a matter of 20 to 30 yards. I’ll catch more fish on ledges than I do anything else.”

Bass said ledges are great morning spots because groups of fish will push shad into the shallow sections and gorge on them. At times, shad can be seen jumping trying to evade hungry smallies.

If ledges don’t produce, Bass tries the backs of creeks and secondary points, mostly ignoring main-lake points.

“I don’t fish many points this month because the fish haven’t worked their way out to the main lake as yet,” he said.

Current isn’t that important to Bass.

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

What Bass considers critical at James is clear line; he frequently uses 6-pound test.

“James is an awesome lake; you can catch fish in the 2- to 4-pound range and sometimes up to 10 fish in the mornings,” Bass said.

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