TIPS FROM A PRO
Lake Hamilton - Lynda Gessner
If the water is muddy, well, good luck. Stained/muddy water puts fish in a funk, especially if it’s recently stained, and it will take bass about three days to adjust. If the lake is too clear, fish are more skittish and finesse tactics are required.
If I can find water that is slightly stained, the fish can be apt to bite, especially a reaction bite with moving baits. Additionally, dirtier water heats up faster, moving the fish shallower.
Get a map of the lake before you go out. Look for north shore pockets with channel swings that come close to the bank to start. Then move to more tapering points (primary and secondary) moving from the mouths of the coves to the back.
The north shores of pockets are where the sun shines the most and where the water warms the fastest, especially stained water. I like to look for rocky transitions and shell bed, hard bottom areas as these hold heat better.
I like to start shallow (0-15 feet in stained water; 10-30 feet in clear), and then go deep if nothing works. If I can’t find anything shallow, I will move out to the first drop-offs with some rock on it and use the same baits. If that does not produce any fish, I will chunk a football jig on deep points and channel swings.
After the water temperature gets above 55 degrees, I’ll start tossing several types of frogs. My go-tos for Lake Hamilton are a Live Target Hollow Body and a Horny Toad. Fish are moving in the shallows to spawn and when I throw a frog, it can be a great reaction bait. If they are not biting a frog, I will change to a shaky head Senko.
I like to start with moving baits because they cover a lot of water. The color of these baits depends on water color. Use natural colors for clear or lightly stained water; fire tiger, chartreuse/black for stained water. I start with jerkbaits (shad colors, clown), Rat-L-Traps (red or shad colors), Alabama rigs, white or chartreuse/white finesse spinnerbaits with a Colorado/Willow blade combination. Swimbaits and square-billed crankbaits or Wiggle Warts can also be a good choice.
If the moving baits are not working, go to a slow presentation: Finesse jigs with a compact trailer, Ned rig, shaky head or Texas rigged creature bait are all good choices. Again, plastics color depends on water clarity; I would start with watermelon or green pumpkin for clear water and black or black/blue for stained.
To get a bite to eat on the water before you take the boat out, Bubba Brews is a great spot. Another great Hot Springs place for pizza and a beer is Grateful Head, but parking is limited so leave your boat at home. For a nice evening out, the Steinhaus Keller has great German food. Again, there is limited parking, so leave the boat at home.
Lynda Gessner is a champion angler with Mr. Bass of Arkansas (MBOA) and Lady Bass Angler Association (LBAA), as well as competing via Hawg Hunters of Hot Springs and St. Louis Gateway Bass N Gals tournaments. Her heaviest competitive bass stringer weighed in at 22.50 pounds.