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MID SPRING
The Minnesota bass fishing season usually opens on the last Saturday in May. The season is closed before that time to protect the spawning females. The later date allows the male bass the opportunity to protect the nests without being disturbed. Once the bass leave their nesting areas, their primarily motivation is food. The pencil reeds are a key location for these springtime bass. These locations warm quickly and are teaming with all sorts of insect life. It doesnít take the smaller baitfish long to find these locations, and when they do, you can bet the bass wonít be too far behind. My favorite presentation for these situations is a Black 7inch Berkley power worm threaded on a 3/32 oz plain white Gopher jig. The Gopher Company makes a great worm jig. It has a 3x strong hook with a large gap, which is important if you donít want the hook to straighten when setting the hook on a big hawg. I really donít know if the color is important, but I use this color combination because itís easy to see in the clear waters that surround the Brainerd Lakes area. On calm days I like to move through the pencil reeds with my Minnekota trolling motor, sight fishing for bass. When I spot a fish, I pitch pass the bass about 10-12 feet so as not to spook the fish. I then slowly twitch the worm forward. Since I can see may bait, Iím able to crawl it right up to the fish. Remember, the water is still cool during this time of year and youíll catch more bass by fishing slowly. Twitch the bait right up to the bass and let it set for a few moments, then give the worm just enough of a twitch to make its tail jiggle. Most times thatís all it takes to make the bass swim over slowly and suck in the bait. Itís always fun to watch a bass inhale bait; just remember to SET THE HOOK!

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LATE SPRING
As the water warms in early June, so does the bass fishing in Brainerd, Minnesota. The largemouth bass, just like all cold blooded creatures, are governed by the temperatures of their surroundings. Bass located in colder water conditions are forced to move slower because the cold water slows their metabolisms. Locating and fishing the locations in the lake that have warmer water is an effective strategy during this time of year. The key locations are found in the shallows, on the backside edge of the second weed line. The sandy areas located on the backside of cabbage weed lines are some of my favorite locations during early June. The cabbage plant is very sensitive to sunlight. It dies when it gets too much sunlight and it also dies when it doesnít get enough. This special trait creates a distinctive edge on both the shallow and deep portions of every cabbage bed. The depth of the shallow weed edge will depend on the clarity of the lake that youíre fishing. The darker the water, the shallower the edge will be. The most common depth on the lakes in the Brainerd Lakes area will be found in 5 to 8 feet of water. But it can also be as deep as 12 to 14 feet on some of the clearer lakes in the region. I like to hold my boat in a water depth thatís 3 to 4 feet deeper then the shallow weed edge. This allows me the ability to make short ďfan castsĒ in the bassís strike zone as I move the boat parallel to the weed edge. My favorite lure in early June is once again a 7 inch, black, Berkley power worm. But I also like to fish other colors like red shad, blue fleck, motor-oil, and June-bug too. I fish these plastics, rigged hook exposed, on a 5/32 oz Gopher jig. I like to use assorted jig colors like black, white, yellow, and chartreuse in June. Fish the jig/worm slowly. Remember the water is still cool. Youíll catch far more bass at that speed than any other.

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EARLY SUMMER
As Summer progresses in Brainerd Minnesota, the angle of the sun becomes steeper. The more direct rays flood the shallows with sunlight and also reach deeper depths in the lake. Bass will still migrate back to the shallows in twilight conditions, but they will spend most of their day positioned close to the front side, or the deeper side, of the second weed line. The one exception to this pattern is the bass that opt of wait out the brightest part of the day hide in the shade, and security, thatís provided by a large section of dock. Fishing docks, or ďdock fishingĒ is an effective method of catching some very large bass during this time of year. Just remember that all docks are NOT created equal. It takes a special dock to hold big bass. Key locations are large docks that contain Tís, or other branch sections of dock platforms, in their construction. If you find a dock that contains sections for a pontoon, fishing boat, jet-ski, and a big runabout on it, then you might just have the start of a big bass magnet. The most important feature that makes any good dock structure into a great one is water depth. All the overhead structure in the world wonít make a difference if thereís only six inches of water under the dock. Search for the big dock complexes that have 3 to 5 feet of water under them. Pay attention to the types of boats on their lifts too. If the dock's got a lift with a big speed boat with an IO, Iíll guarantee you thereís a huge blow out hole down there at the base of the lift. It might be as deep as seven feet. If the dockís got several Tís, or maybe a double section, then you might have just found yourself a big bass paradise. Itís critical to fish these docks without exposed hooks or jig heads. You can bet the owners of those nice runabouts donít appreciate anglers banging lures against their boats. I like to use a hefty 4 to 5 inch soft, solid, tube bait in situations like this. One of my favorite is the Berkley Power Tube in the color purple. These soft tube baits weight about 2 ounces and require no lead to cast. I rig them weed-less with a 3/0 Gamakatsu worm hook buried inside. The key is to cast the tube bait sidearm and skip it as far back under the dock as you can. Once under the dock, just let the tube bait sink. This tubeís got good mass, so it sinks slowly, thus staying in the strike zone longer. Pay attention to your fishing line as the tube falls. Many times thereíll be a slight twitch, or maybe the line will move sideways, when the bass takes the bait. Set the hook hard and pull fish away from the dock as quickly as you can. I like to use 14 lb Berkley Trilene XT matched with a St.Croix, Medium/ Heavy, 7 foot, Avid series spinning rod in these situations.

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MID SUMMER
By late July, the water temperatures in the Brainerd Lakes area have finally reached the lower eighties. This warmer water causes the largemouth bassís metabolism to kick into high gear. Thereís only way a cold blooded creature can maintain higher levels of activity. The bass will have to eat, and eat often. A bass is constantly looking for food during this time of year. This short period of time is when most of the bass in Northern Minnesota make their greatest gains in growth each year. The ďhotĒ water has given these bass an extra shot of energy and they now seem able to swim down any bait they wish. No longer is there the need to fish your presentations slowly. These bass are capable of catching just about any offering you present at this time of year. I truly think that itís impossible to reel too quickly during this time of year. The key now is to cover water quickly. Thatís one reason why crank-baits are so effective during this period. A crank-bait allows the angler to fish these locations quickly, thus being able to present their lure to more fish over the day. †The key location for daytime, summer bass is just off the second weed line, where the sand grass starts to grow. The second weed-line this time of year will be located in 18 to 20 feet of water on most lakes in the Brainerd Lakes area. Once again, the exact position is dependant on the clarity of the lake. My favorite crank-bait for this situation is the deep diving, Rapala Fat Rap in the black/silver color. I like to hold my boat in water depths that are 3 to 4 feet deeper than the edge of the weeds. Set the trolling motor on low and let it pull you slowly down the outer edge of the weed-line, always moving parallel to the weeds. Make long casts with you bait. The instant the lure hits the water, drop your rod tip into the water and reel as fast as you can for 20-25 cranks. This will get you bait to dive down quickly to where the bass are holding. Once the bait has reached the proper depth, slow your retrieve slightly to allow the bait to remain in the strike zone for a little longer. Pay attention to your lures action. When a bass hits from the front, or the side, the strike is hard to miss. But when they strike from behind, they just push the crank-bait forward on a slack line. Your only clue will be when the normal vibration of your lure just suddenly stops and the line feels slack. This is a bass! SET THE HOOK!

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EARLY FALL
In the fall, the sunís angle to the horizon becomes less and the shallows are now longer bathed in sunlight like they were in the middle of the summer. The majority of the bass are now back in the shallows, where they spend most of their time cruising the flats in search of food. But unlike the early spring when the water temperatures were cooler, the shallows are now a warm water environment. The bassís metabolisms are still high, although maybe not as high as in August, but theyíre still willing, and quite capable, of chasing down most prey types. Slow rolling a spinner-bait over the weed flats is an effective method of catching both numbers and good sized bass in the fall. The term rolling means reeling in the spinner-bait just fast enough to keep it up off the bottom. The best locations for using this technique are long, slow tapering weed beds that have access to deeper water. I like to use a white, 1 Ĺ oz, spinner-bait that has a single silver Colorado blade for this pattern. The best locations are found in water depths that range between 7 to 12 feet of water.† Put the electric trolling motor on medium/low and use it to work your boat parallel to the shoreline. I like to make long casts that are also parallel to the shoreline when using this method. By this time of the year, the larger bass has seen many different lure presentations. But most of them have been on a path that was perpendicular to the shore. By casting the spinner-bait parallel to the shoreline, the bait not only stays in the strike zone longer, but it also follows a path that the bass havenít become accustomed to. My favorite setup for this technique is a 7 Ĺ foot medium/heavy St.Croix casting rod in the Avid series. I spool the reel with 17 lb test Berkley Trilene XT.

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