California Boating Card


Feature Article: Lake Skinner

Lake Skinner rounding into fine fall form

BY BLAKE WARREN/WON Staff WriterPublished: Nov 09, 2017

Largemouth fattening up and in the thick, strapping on their mid-autumn feed bags

A PERFECT FALL morning to make some casts (minus a lack of help from some hoped-for but non-existent cloud cover).

WINCHESTER — When a Hall of Famer shoots you an invite for a little time on the water, you go. And that’s just what I did this past Friday, cruising down Warren Road just after sun up toward the launch ramp to meet former WON staff writer/WON BASS Editor, current WON BASS contributor and friend George Kramer, to see just what Lake Skinner had to offer us amid the then-prefrontal conditions. We motored across the lake and began perusing things, which happened to look pretty fishy despite the hoped-for — but non-present — cloud cover, which George said provided the right conditions for some spots of striper boils earlier in the week.

I had last been to Skinner in mid-June on a morning that seemed perfectly primed for a killer buzzbait bite, only to learn upon arrival that the lake had dropped three feet over the previous two days, pulling the largemouth off the banks and away from their accessible shallow cover. It was clearly evident in the early going that wasn’t going to be the case here on this early November day.

George, who’d just fished the reservoir a few days prior, putted the boat up tight to the tules. With hardly a lick of breeze in the air, he had a pretty good idea of just what might be cookin’.

George went to work with a weedless drop-shot worm on a spinning setup, flippin’ anywhere from 4 to 12 feet back into the matted tules. I started off with an underspin along the reed edges in hopes of running into some kind of reaction bite. After an hour without a sniff and George with 3 solid Skinner chunks on the board, it was as clear as the blue skies above that there were only going to be a few ways to get bit on this day — and the underspin wasn’t going to be one of ’em.

A HEAVY NET for George Kramer with the kicker fish of the day, a solid bass going over 5 pounds. WON PHOTOS BY BLAKE WARREN

“I know it isn’t exactly your favorite style of fishing, but I’ve got a set-up rigged up for you right here if you want it,” George offered. This time, unlike many other times in the past, I put down my stubbornness and picked up the spinning rod.

Those first 3 largemouth of the day had been noticeably healthy and clearly on the feed, a trio of stout 2 to 3 pounders. Fat, butterball bellies would prove to be a common theme amongst these Skinner bass that were holed up in the thick of the tules at the moment. These boys and girls clearly hadn’t been merely nibbling at the salad bar the last couple weeks.

Not long after adopting the Kramer method, I had my first bite. Go figure? And then another one. Of course, George added a few more too and we had ourselves a solid little two-hour window with 8 or 9 fish and our best 5 going maybe 14 or 15 pounds. Something I’ll take any Friday morning, especially considering the particular company involved.

One seemingly subtle but important key to flipping back up into these tules — which many times you can be aiming for a spot of open water no larger than a tennis ball — is taking it up a notch in the size of drop-shot weight. I’ll let the Jedi Master Flipper explain it perfectly...

“Whether it’s flippin’ or it’s pitchin’, it’s not just about getting your bait in front of the fish... it’s about dropping that bait right on top of that fish,” George said, essentially implying that with the right presentation, you can turn a finesse bait into a reaction bait for a second — a subtle tweak that can lead to more not-so-subtle bites. Hence the uptick in lead. In this particular case, up from 3⁄8-ounce to ½-ounce. Might not seem like much, but it can mean the difference between a few more — and bigger — bites and not.

freshwaterfishingFRESH WATER FISHING Hall of Famer George Kramer with the fish of the day, a 5.4 pounder he connected with deep in the tules on a weedless worm on the drop-shot.

It’s certainly not anything deeply scientific on any sort of NASA-esque level, nor by any means any kind of some long-hidden bass fishing secret that no one knows about. But just speaking for myself as a board-certified overthinker, sometimes those poignet-yet-simple concepts hitting home can recalibrate your entire approach and thought process for the better, and put you back on the right track.

Fishing with Jedis isn’t bad work when you can get it.

After maybe an hour-long lull in the bite, we picked up a couple more fish in a new batch of matted tules. And just as George had mentioned in passing earlier in the morning of how he thought the bite might turn on around 11:30, the tail end of a cast deep into the reeds produced the grande bite of the day — almost exactly at 11:30 on the nose. Obi Wan? That you?

When the open mouth of the bass barged through the matted tules like it was an apartment door on an old episode of Cops, it was crystal clear that it was a good fish. After some gentle maneuvering and a bit of reed wrang­ling, I slid the net underneath the big bass. The digital scale shortly thereafter showed a healthy 5.4-pound Skinner bucketmouth. “I sure could’ve used that fish in the Open,” the Jedi quipped.

In the end, the outing proved that Lake Skinner is alive and well, and its bass are gorging on both shad and crawdads (coughed up in the livewell) and fattening up nicely. With the prospect of trout plants just beyond the horizon, here’s thinking there could be a handful of very good days on the water in the coming weeks ahead.

flippingtulematsFLIPPING TULE MATS with weedless worms on the drop-shot proved to be the required approach of the day. It can be a little tedious at times, but you gotta fish where the fish are, regardless of the level of patience required in your method. Going up a tick or two in your drop-shot weight can be key in getting a more vertical presentation deep in the reeds to tucked away bass. WON PHOTOS BY BLAKE WARREN

EVEN SKINNER’S 2-POUND clone bass are clearly intent on fattening up at the moment.

A SOLID SKINNER bass is safely in the net.

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