Southern CA Freshwater

Santa Margarita: Lake kicking out quality largemouth

White bass boiling at Lake Nacimiento

BY BLAKE WARREN/WON Staff WriterPublished: Sep 12, 2019

SANTA MARGARITA – The first days of September are treating bass anglers plying the waters of Santa Margarita Lake kindly thus far, with a nice run of quality largemouth through this past weekend. Big bass ranging from 4 to nearly 7½ pounds are making appearances with increased frequency and giving locals a shot at some banner days at the lake. While the bite's certainly not wide open by any means, those grinding it out and covering water with the right approach are scoring nicely on the bucketmouths.

THE TWO BIGGEST bass of Doug Rice of Atascadero’s hefty 31-pound limit on a recent outing at Santa Margarita Lake, where a steady run on quality largemouth has been going for the past week-plus with the larger models preferring crankbaits and jigs along with the occasional drop-shotted worm.

One such angler was Doug Rice of Atascadaro, who, despite having a fuel problem with his main engine, put the trolling motor and went to work covering water this past weekend. When all was said and done, Rice had strung together a hefty 31-pound limit capped by a 7.3 kicker largemouth by the early afternoon – quite a day of bassin' at any fishery, especially so in the dog days of summer. Rice said he put together his bag by “cranking where I could, punching a heavy jig in the mats and working a ½-ounce jig on areas with hard bottom.” When the fish slowed to those techniques but showed on the meter, Rice slow-crawled a drop-shot worm for a few more quality bites.

There's been a bit of a crankbait bite emerging at the lake recently, particularly cranks in bluegill color schemes worked in the 6- to 10-plus-foot zone. It’s been mostly small- to medium-size crankbaits getting bit and the key has been ripping them down into grass beds or ridges to entice the strikes. The lake level has been stable without seeing much of a drop over the past month-plus, so expect the bite to continue similarly, or even better with a little drop in overnight and day temps. Mealworms are getting bit well by panfish in the 12- to 22-foot depths for those targeting them.

BRADLEY — Up the road at Lake Nacimiento, white bass continue to get more and more active with more and bigger boils cropping up around the lake near the Oak Shores area and in isolated areas holding bait — look for the birds and the bass have usually been in the vicinity. Area WON source Rich Lingor confirmed this scenario on a recent outing just prior to the weekend.

“I found maybe the biggest white bass boil I’ve ever been in about halfway from the launch ramp to Oak Shores,” Lingor said. “Maybe about a 300-yard area of boiling fish that went on for about an hour. There was a good-size bird school on it and then the birds quit eating, but the bass stayed on the bait. There were some good fish in it too, with some pushing the 3-pound mark, which is a pretty nice fish especially considering these white bass tend to pull like a saltwater fish.”

Spoons, inline spinners, small swimbaits and topwater lures like Whopper Ploppers are all working when running into a white bass boil at Naci but, “…you can swim just about anything through it right now when you come across it and they’re gonna eat it.” Lingor added. When the busting fish slink down deeper between boils, anglers are also connecting by marking fish on the meter and going with vertically worked spoons in 16 to 22 feet. Spotted bass have been considerably slower going in recent days, with finesse 4½-inch worms on the drop-shot doing as well as anything. There have also been some decent-sized crappie hitting minijigs in shade pockets in anywhere from 8 to 15 feet with some bluegill mixed in, while catfish are on tap for anglers offering up mackerel dipped in Bite-On scent.

Nacimiento’s nearby sister lake San Antonio is in full-throttle catfish mode at the moment with what is essentially a wide-open bite for those who have it dialed in, Lingor said. “I was out there during the week and a few guys fishing red plastic worms from the shoreline and they whacked on catfish to 12 pounds, so if they’re hitting worms like that you can be sure they’re taking just about anything organic.” Mackerel dipped in garlic scent, nightcrawlers or various packaged baits have been working best for San Antone’s cats. Lingor noted that the best overall setup for targeting the whiskerfish is using little to no weight on 10- to 15-pound line and a #4 baitholder hook.

Increased water drawdowns up to 275 cfs at San Antonio during the week have most of the bass now pulled off the banks, but by the weekend flows had dropped back down to a trickle at 10 cfs, so look for those largemouth to settle back into shallower water along the shoreline in the near future so long as the water level stays stable. Best bet for bass is working finesse plastics in darker colors on the drop-shot, with a few fish also taking shad-pattern crankbaits in 6 to 15 feet of water.

SANTA MARGARITA TOAD — Jason Buchanan of Santa Margarita was throwing one of his own Jason’s Custom Baits 2.5-inch crankbaits in a bluegill pattern at his home lake when he connected with this nice 6.9-pound bucketmouth.

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