Chasing West Point’s Transition Bass

March means changing weather and prespawn bass. Try Rob Boswell’s methods of chasing often-picky largemouths at West Point.

“I want to reschedule,” Rob Boswell said.

Being a fisherman myself, I felt his pain. It’s tough enough to go out and catch fish with the pressure of a magazine interview under ideal conditions. The conditions we faced made this proposition nearly impossible. Despite that, Rob was able to find fish and we caught a limit.

Before I begin with the details of our trip, let me tell you a little about Rob, who is from Winder, and is a regular on several tournament trails at both the local and regional levels. He competes in Walmart BFL, Stren Series (previously Everstart) and B.A.S.S. events. He also competes in several team trails, such as HD Marine, R&R and Valley Sportsman. He cashes checks in all of these events on a regular basis, which is a testament to his angling skill. Most notable — at least for this article — are his accomplishments in the highly competitive HD Marine events.

Rob and his partner Tim Hoskins have won the last two HD Marine tournaments held on West Point. Last year they had more than 20 pounds, and in 2004 they brought more than 22 pounds to the scales. It’s hard enough to win one of these tournaments, but to win two in a row on the same lake is phenomenal. That alone speaks volumes about Rob’s knowledge of West Point. Now that you have met the angler and seen his credentials, let’s read as Rob explains some of the keys to his success on this fickle, often difficult fishery.

“In March I’m looking for mostly prespawn fish. I like to concentrate in creeks and pockets where the fish will be spawning. The structure the fish will be on depends on the weather. If it’s been cold they will usually be on deeper stuff, but if it’s been warm they will be shallower,” Rob says.

West Point is really no different than other lakes with regard to staging areas in the three phases of the spawn. Points and flats are key structure during all phases of the spawn. Knowing which of these structures will hold fish and when is the key.

“Early in the month the weather and water are usually a little colder, so the fish relate to deeper points,” Rob said. “Rock and clay points near the mouths of creeks and pockets are a good place to start. The colder the weather is, the more important it is to have deep water close by. Points with rock on them warm faster, and these are usually best if it’s been cold. Clay points are good too, but they are usually better if the weather has been a little warmer.”

An important factor to remember is that both rock and clay points are home to crawfish, which are a staple in a bass’ diet in early spring. Crawfish will usually emerge from hibernation when the water temperatures reach the mid 50s, and when this happens the bass will aggressively seek them as a food source. It’s a lot like the shad spawn, only not as evident or visible. While nearly all rock points will hold crawfish, not all clay points will. Close inspection of clay points will often show crawfish holes, which range in size from a quarter up to fist-sized. A crankbait and a jig are good choices for this type of structure.

As the month progresses the weather usually begins to warm up a bit. The warming water works to push the fish back into the creeks closer to their spawning areas.

“As things warm up a little later in the month, I look for fish farther back in the creeks. I like flatter, more rounded points. Sand, gravel and clay points that have a gradual slope into deep water are better. Rat-L-Traps and Carolina-rigged lizards work best on these points,” Rob says.

When the fish are on the flatter points, they tend to be more scattered. Baits that will allow you to cover more water will work best and enable you to find fish faster.

“I like to cover a lot of water with the Trap and Carolina rig. A lot of times the fish will hold on points that don’t have any real cover, so you need to be able to cover water. If I see a stump, blowdown or brushpile, I will always flip a jig in it and run a spinnerbait by it. You can catch some big fish doing that,” Rob explains.

Usually by the end of the month the weather has warmed up enough to push the fish to the backs of the creeks and pockets. The fish are usually ready to spawn, and some will actually be spawning. Expect to find the fish on flats that are sandy or have gravel. Bass prefer a hard bottom to spawn, and finding such areas is a key to success.

“When conditions get right toward the end of the month, most of the fish should be in the back of the creeks. They will get on the flats and cruise. Any cover will hold fish. I look for stumps and brushpiles. The water is usually still down a little, and you can see a lot of crappie brushpiles. I like to run a spinnerbait by them and kill it to make it flutter. You can catch some big fish doing this. If they don’t want a spinnerbait, I’ll flip a jig. Some of the pockets will have stumps in the back of them. I’ll fish a spinnerbait around the stumps.”

Remember cold fronts this time of the year can really make fishing tough, especially if the fish have moved shallow. If you have to fish right after a cold front, expect the fish to pull out to a little deeper water. A ditch running out of a flat or a brushpile in a little deeper water can really concentrate fish after a front. A slow presentation with a jig or Carolina rig can save a day of fishing.

After spending a day on the lake with Rob, several things were evident. He is a modest man, not really even taking credit for his success. He is a student of the sport, and is very knowledgeable and highly skilled. When I asked him what his secret was for the success he has had on West Point in March, he answered rather matter-of-factly.

“Man, I’m not doing anything different than anybody else.” Rob said. “People asked me after we won the second HD Marine tournament what we were doing. We’re doing basically the same thing everyone else is doing. We’ve just been lucky enough to get the right bites to win.”

I don’t know about the “lucky” part. Judging by Rob’s track record in tournaments, skill has an awful lot to do with his success. As far as a particular area of the lake he fishes, there isn’t one. He fishes from south all the way up north.

“The HD tournaments go out of Southern Harbor,” Rob said. “We start down there and work our way north. We tend to fish in bigger creeks down there, and more in the pockets up the lake. We fish more Shad Raps and Carolina rigs in the clearer water on the south end, and more spinnerbaits, Rat-L-Traps and jigs the farther north we go. We really don’t have any secrets, we just go to where we find fish in practice.”

One good point Rob made was to be cautious about relying entirely on fish that you find north of Highland Marina. If you get a big rain, that area of the lake will be ruined with cold, muddy water. It’s best to have fish in different areas of the lake so you will have something to fall back on in case the lake does get a lot of rain.

The day Rob and I fished the weather was working against us. The wind was blowing 20 to 30 mph, and it never got above 50 degrees all day. In fact, the water temperature dropped three degrees during the day.

Faced with all of that, Rob still managed to put us on some fish. We put five keepers in the boat. One came on a Shad Rap and four came on a Stanford Razor Shad. These five fish would have weighed in the neighborhood of 12 pounds. Under the adverse weather conditions, we had a very good day.

Many thanks to Rob for taking GON readers fishing with him. The information he provided will help anyone be more successful on West Point this month.

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