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Fishing with square bill crank baits

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Rodney Johnson with a striper from the Pasquotank River.

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By Mike Sweeney
Columnist

Saturday, February 23, 2019

I know that a lot of anglers out there are thinking that the bass are still in winter mode but around our area the pre-spawn is already happening and the bass are feeding.

There is a lot of bait fish in our rivers and the largemouth are chasing them in order to gain weight for the spawn.

You may not catch 15 a day but I bet you can catch 4 or 5 good ones in a day.

The thing about this time of year is most anglers don’t like to get out in the cold but if you prepare for it with proper clothing then you can catch some nice bass right now. The fish spend the winter in the cold water and still manage to eat enough to not only get through it but they manage to grow so all you have to do is give them a bait that looks like what they are feeding on and that bait is a square bill crankbait.

The square bills have proven to out fish almost every other crankbait on the market this time of year because you can bounce the bait off structure like stumps, rocks and brush with little to no hang ups. You can fish them deep or shallow and the colors are as endless as any other bait available.

I like to have more than one tied on at a time with shallow and deeper running baits so I can switch up during the day depending on the water depth and clarity. My favorite colors are red crawfish and shad with some blue so I can give them different looks. I make sure that I aim for structure and try to bounce it off as many times as possible and when I do I will pause it or give it a quick jerk then pause. This will bring the fish from the cover and give it time to locate the bait. Some strikes are subtle while others will try to knock the rod out of your hands so be ready once you feel the cover. The colder the water the slower the retrieve so keep an eye on the water temps because a couple of degrees will make a difference.

What’s biting, where...

The offshore bite is about the only good news coming from the beach this week with yellowfin and some mahi coming to a few charters and bluefin coming to the commercial boats. The hardest part was finding a decent day to get out on the water. Some boats braved the rough seas and it paid off while others went out on the better days and they scored so it seems to be a good tuna bite right now.

On the beaches this week it was tough to say the least with high seas, cold winds and driving rain and the only thing to report is some drum and spot caught at the point and around Buxton. Other than that it was dogfish and skate.

Locally we still have a good striper bite on the Chowan and Pasquotank rivers. On the Chowan local guide Terry Payne of Tunis Landing Outfitters tells me that all you have to do is put your boat in 10 to 12 feet of water and troll shallow stretch baits and swim baits till you get a bite. When you do work the area till you are convinced that the fish have moved then work farther up the river. Terry is catching up to 20 fish a day with this technique and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down.

On the Pasquotank River Captain Jeff Onley of Albemarle Fishing Charters has been catching stripers on three quarter ounce Rattle Traps and 5-inch Storm swim baits with his charters.

Local angler Rodney Johnson went out this week with Jeff and caught around 25 fish a day plus a couple of largemouth with one fish over 4 pounds.

He called me this weekend and let me know that my articles are paying off because on Saturday he saw more boats on the Pasquotank than he has seen in a month.

I hope I had something to do with that but make sure you stay in and around 10 feet of water when you do. If anyone does get out this week then make sure you send me a report and some pictures to fishingwithmike921@yahoo.com or hit me up on Facebook at Fishing with Mike.

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