Lynn Burkhead — Keys to winning the springtime bass fishing game
With baseball being played by local high schools and colleges and with the Texas Rangers preparing to welcome an opening day crowd to its new stadium — albeit a year after the COVID-19 pandemic kept the new baseball digs from opening up properly — spring is definitely in the air.
And that’s not just the case with those who enjoy America’s spring pastime, mind you. It’s also true for bass anglers across the state of Texas as waters slowly warm up from last month’s historic winter weather barrage that dropped water temps into the 30s and 40s for several days.
And as the sun shines — hopefully, that is — and trees begin to bud out with new leaves, a key to winning on the diamond is to know what your opponent is up to in terms of pitching, hitting, defense, and strategy.
In other words, you need a scouting report for on-the-field patterns employed by your next opponent.
And according to Gary Klein, a two-time B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year award winner and a tournament bass fishing legend who now lives near Mingus, Texas, that’s pretty good advice for springtime anglers too.
“What I'm going to try to do is to establish a pattern,” Klein once told me as we discussed upcoming spring angling prospects. “The only way a pattern can be established is when an angler starts receiving strikes.”
“Early in the day, I'm more prone to fish more and more stuff, but once I get the bite isolated, then I'm good about going from target to target without wasting time,” he added.
“I’m trying to increase my efficiency as an angler.”
Keep in mind, however, that there is more to fishing a springtime pattern than just flinging lures at similar looking water.
“The biggest difference between a weekend angler and our level of fishermen (in the pro game) is that we just don't see a tree in a pocket (of water), but we see where the fish will be positioned on that tree,” said Klein.
“In other words, we become very precise with our lure presentation,” he added.
“That's what we call establishing a pattern, and then while you're doing that, establishing a pattern within a pattern.”
Once Klein — who finished in fourth place as a rookie during the 1979 Bassmaster Classic at Lake Texoma — isolates the primary and secondary patterns in a given situation, the eight time B.A.S.S. winner and 2018 inductee into the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame will then work hard to slow down the tempo of his angling game.
“Probably the most important thing I can encourage anglers to do is to fish (slowly),” said Klein, a 30 time qualifier for the Bassmaster Classic and the co-founder of the Major League Fishing franchise.
“Don't fish at a fast pace, but instead, really fish an area very thoroughly.”
Klein has always been one of my favorite professional anglers and a great interview during my time spent covering B.A.S.S. events for ESPNOutdoors.com and Major League Fishing derbies in recent years.
I’ve been privileged to have a number of in-depth conversations with him about the art of angling and the chance to see him put his words into practice as I sat in a nearby camera boat. As I did so, I would marvel at his slow, deliberate, and thorough approach that usually kept him in the hunt for a tournament win like his runner-up finish at the 2012 Major League Fishing Challenge Cup held at nearby Lake Ray Roberts.
So, I can assure you that Klein practices what he preaches and that if it works for him, it will work for you too.
While Klein grew up in the Oroville, California area and mastered the art of flipping under the tutelage of fellow Hall of Fame member Dee Thomas, the ability to succeed at the time honored flipping and pitching game and today’s power fishing techniques have enabled him to build a legendary Hall of Fame career that has resulted in more than $2.1 million dollars being won as this is written.
Along the way, Klein has learned to expand his repertoire and versatility, including where to look for success in the springtime game.
“I would tell (anglers) to not try to fish the whole lake,” he said. “Pick an area out and go to it and learn it (thoroughly). Fish it all day long and don't try to run from one end (of the lake) to the other.”
The Lone Star State angling legend also suggests keying in on portions of a water body that most often provide favorable conditions during the spring season.
“The north wind is the coldest and the south wind is the warmest, so I try to key on the northwest side of reservoirs in protected waters, in back bays, and in back coves,” said Klein. “That’s where the water warms up the quickest and these are the places that fish will move into the earliest to spawn.”
Of course, as springtime progresses, the wave of spawning action will proceed from north to south throughout a given water body, so adjust accordingly depending on where and when you’re fishing this spring.
What should you be throwing at springtime bass here in North Texas? Probably the same kind of lures that Klein throws, many of them being Berkley lure products. His “Five Fab” list of potential springtime lure selections that he told me about years ago still holds true today in many instances for the 1989 and 1993 B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year.
While the legendary pro obviously has no shortage of fishing tricks up his sleeves, or tackle within his spacious bass rig, he has often relied on a ½-once black and blue jig at this time of the year.
Next, he’ll often have a 1/2-ounce spinnerbait and a ½-ounce buzzbait tied on to his rods-and-reels lying on the front deck. Relying on white/chartreuse color combinations a lot, these baits have served Klein well over the course of his career. In fact, while many think of the surface lure as a late spring or early summer bait, Klein once used a Lunker Lure buzzbait to coax a 10+ pound Lake Ray Roberts lunker into biting…in the pre-spawn days of late February!
The final two selections on Klein’s springtime angling lineup card — at least at the time of our interview — is a 6-inch black Power Lizard and a 5-inch sinking minnow imitation in green pumpkin hues.
Look closely enough at this list of potential springtime lures and you might notice a couple of common themes to those baits — they’re all good in shallow water as well as in a target-rich environment filled with vegetation, stumps, laydowns and shallow boat docks.
“I like to fish target oriented baits,” Klein said with a smile. “Those include spinnerbaits, buzzbaits, lizards, and jigs, lures that I can cast to a target and effectively fish that target with.”
That’s good advice to heed as the springtime bass fishing game prepares to heat up across the Lone Star State the remainder of this month.
Put Klein’s advice into practice during the month of March, and with any luck, you’ll soon be hanging on for dear life as the lunker of a lifetime comes calling and makes you reach for a big landing net!