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Lake Mead presents many challenges to bass anglers

Updated March 13, 2019 - 5:57 pm

“If you can learn to catch bass at Lake Mead, you can catch them anywhere.”

Those words were from a veteran tournament fisherman years ago while I was picking his brain for tips on catching bass at Lake Mead. His point was this: Lake Mead is a challenging place to catch fish and will test the most experienced angler. Not that there aren’t any fish in the reservoir; there are plenty of them. There also is a lot of water. The key is learning to fish it.

“Lake Mead is the equalizer, and it’ll humble any angler. I’ve been humbled here many times,” said Tim Klinger, a pro angler from Boulder City, when I asked him what he thought about that counsel. And that was just minutes after Klinger completed a come-from-behind victory in the Costa FLW Series Tournament on March 2 at Lake Mead.

Then Klinger reiterated that thought and clarified it pertains to all anglers, even pros. “Lake Mead is the equalizer, like I said. It will humble every pro out there.”

One of the challenges is Lake Mead’s sometimes unbelievably clear water. Another is its drastic and rapid depth changes.

“Clear water, and you can catch (fish) here in a foot of water and you can catch ’em out in 60 feet of water, you know. It’s just a game that you really gotta learn out here on this lake,” Klinger said.

While some anglers weighing in on the tournament’s final day said they caught fish in deeper water, one as deep as 35 feet, most were pulling their fish from water less than 15 feet deep.

Another factor common to the anglers’ stories was submerged vegetation. Some pulled fish out of the vegetation, and others caught their fish a short distance away. Either way, targeting vegetation was key to catching fish.

With water and air temperatures beginning to warm, smallmouth and largemouth bass are moving into shallow water in preparation for the spawn. That also means Lake Mead is about to provide some of its best bass fishing of the year.

For the next couple of months, Klinger recommends that anglers use spinnerbaits and Texas-rigged worms and tubes. He especially likes spinnerbaits when the sky is overcast or if it’s windy or raining. He also said anglers should fish shallow, focusing on secondary points and pockets.

Secondary points are smaller or lesser points of land that come off the main or primary point that marks or creates a cove or bay. These points might be submerged or rise above the surface and sometimes create a separation between deep and shallow water.

Jesse Parks, of Avondale, Arizona, won the co-angler side of the FLW tournament with a weightless Senko. Parks said he was “draggin’ it through the bushes” in water ranging from 6 to 15 feet deep. His color of choice was watermelon seed.

Looking forward to the prespawn and the spawn to follow, “You always have to have a drop shot on. A Senko’s really good,” Parks said. “Just make real long casts to any kind of visible cover. And then if the wind picks up, you got to pick up a reaction bait like a spinnerbait or a chatterbait.”

As for the challenge of Lake Mead’s ultra-clear water and its impact on bass, Parks said, “I think a lot of people, when they see that super clear water, it throws them for a loop. They’re still going to eat heavy line. They’re fish, and you just got to understand that their brain’s really small and you can outsmart them.”

Freelance writer Doug Nielsen is a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His “In the Outdoors” column, published Thursday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, is not affiliated with or endorsed by the NDOW. Any opinions are his own. Find him on Facebook at @dougwritesoutdoors. He can be reached at intheoutdoorslv@gmail.com.

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