Knapp 4-6-21

Jason Knapp displayed a nice Keystone Lake largemouth bass caught and released from Keystone Lake last spring.

Despite the recent setback with a momentary return to winterlike weather, things are progressing nicely regarding spring bass fishing.

With warm weather in the forecast, bass are waking up and will be moving shallow to feed and eventually spawn, providing anglers with some of the best fishing of the year.

Here are three suggested places to wet a line.

PYMATUNING LAKE: When it comes to black bass, Crawford County’s sprawling Pymatuning Lake manages to fly under the radar, as most angler attention is directed toward walleyes, muskies and panfish.

But this 13,000-acre border lake (shared with Ohio) supports a dense bass population featuring largemouths and smallmouths.

There’s an axiom about Pymatuning’s largemouths: “If your trolling motor isn’t kicking up mud, you’re fishing too deep.” This certainly applies to springtime fishing there.

Bass-fishing expert and tournament veteran Deron Eck finds Pymatuning largemouth in both back bays and main-lake shorelines in May.

“One of the key areas in May is flats with old lily pad stems,” noted Eck. “Also, black bottom areas draw in largemouths, like ones around Red Cross and Padanaram. And they set up on sandy bottomed main lake shorelines.”

Laydowns sitting in a foot or two of water can be picked apart with a jig-n-pig, or Brush Hog-style baits rigged Texas-style.

Smallmouths, Eck has found, tend to be a big more nomadic during the pre-spawn. He uses a spinnerbait or Zoom Super Fluke around spots near Tuttle Point, and near Stocker Island, for smallies.

SUSQUEHANNA RIVER, NORTH BRANCH: The North Branch of the Susquehanna River continues to provide some of the finest river smallmouth bass fishing in the state. This reach of the river hasn’t been negatively impacted by columnaris-caused young-of-year die-offs as has portions of the main stem to the south.

Many year classes are well-represented. Of particular significance to 2021 anglers are exceptional spawns that took place in 2010 and 2015. Surrounding years also produced average spawns which means smallmouth bass of many sizes in the system.

It is suggested anglers concentrate on the lower end of the North Branch, which seems to contain plenty of above-average sized smallmouths. Danville, Berwick and Bloomsburg all sit close to good smallmouth water and have good boat access.

Boaters should understand that the Susquehanna (other than impounded sections downriver) is a shallow river, suitable for non-powered boats and jet-driven boats.

KEYSTONE LAKE: Armstrong County’s Keystone Lake is a great venue for a springtime bass outing. By summer, many of Keystone’s bass move to offshore structure and open-water forage options. But in May, they populate the shallows, making them more accessible.

Keystone contains decent numbers of largemouth and smallmouth bass. Trophy-class fish of both show up each year. The lake covers nearly 1,000 acres and is 5 miles long.

Though the lake level dropped more than 15 feet last year, it has slowly refilled. As of last week, it was within 5 feet of full pool; the Atwood Access ramp was again usable.

Many bays and coves break up the western shoreline of the lake, which generally is the shallower side. Though both largemouths and smallmouths will be caught in proximity, odds favor green bass back in the bays and their bronze counterparts along sandy/rocky main lake shorelines.

Soft jerkbaits like Zoom’s Super Fluke are great for working over the shallows, as are no. 8 Rapala X-Raps. Popper style surface lures like Rebel Pop-R at times excel. When the bass aren’t quite willing to move for a jerkbait or topwater, they’ll usually take a finesse-style bait like Z-Man’s TRD or TRD Tubez.

Also, of note regarding Keystone, last week the Fish and Boat Commission conducted a walleye assessment.

I met Fisheries Biologist Brian Ensign at the lake midweek, at which point he was pleased with findings at that point, having captured approximately 85 to 90 adult walleyes from 16 to 29 inches in nets.

The agency plans on looking at Keystone’s bass population later this spring.