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Finding the elusive bass at local lakes

Like the proverbial needle in a haystack, the bass in a weed bed can be difficult to find.

Bass love aquatic vegetation. Lakes like Mosquito, West Branch and Pymatuning are loaded with a variety of leafy green plants that harbor largemouth bass and the food on which they prey.

But thousands of acres of grass flats and lily pads are puzzles with which many anglers struggle. With all that greenery, the bass can be anywhere, so the temptation is to try to fish all of it.

Success, however, depends on weeding through the water to find spots likely to harbor the food that bass want and then locating the optimum ambush locations within the vegetation.

Breaking down the features of the weed beds and understanding how they factor into the fishes’ location is important. You will notice clumps, shady holes, straight lines, zig-zags, confluences of two or three varieties of plants and a myriad of other features.

Two additional factors play into the equation: wind and sun. Bass use shade to their advantage as they stalk food and they almost always prefer to point their nose into the wind-driven current.

All of this came into crystal clarity last week as I fished one of our local lakes. The same conditions that contribute to lush lawn growth this year apparently are working their magic on our lakes because the vegetation is as healthy as I have ever seen it.

Too healthy, I thought, as I struggled for the first two hours on the lake. I caught a couple of bass, but I wasn’t satisfied that I had all the keys to the day’s pattern.

The sun, meanwhile, climbed higher in the sky and a bit of a breeze ruffled the surface, creating a slight current that pushed the weeds to waggle downwind.

Experience kicked in and I soon discovered the bass were setting up in predictable hideouts. For the next 90 minutes, I picked off 2- to 3-pound bass as my boat drifted across the expansive 5-foot-deep weed flat.

Each bass was on the westerly edge of clumps of curly-leaf pondweed. As fish after fish reacted, it became apparent they were set up on the shade.

With the sun still in the eastern portion of the sky relative to high noon, that meant I could forget about pitching to the anything other than the west side of the best-looking clumps.

I zeroed in tighter by selecting the shady corners of the weeds where the breeze pushed current directly into the zone. Reading the sun and the wind put everything in focus.

That sounds pretty basic, but when all the factors are taken into consideration, it’s possible to eliminate three-quarters of the targets. Anglers know if they concentrate on the high-potential targets, they exponentially increase their chances of hooking up.

I finished my five-hour fishing trip with a dozen largemouth bass. The majority of them were a direct result of figuring out the conditions that eliminated guesswork and made the fishing far easier — and infinitely more fun — than hunting for a needle in a haystack.

Jack Wollitz is a writer and angler who loves fishing the lakes and rivers of Northeast Ohio and Western Pennsylvania. He also appreciates emails from readers. Send a note to Jack at jackbbaass@gmail.com

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