Plastic lizards are top lures for fishing largemouth spawning beds. Bass attack this unwanted intruder to protect their precious eggs. Yet it is surprising that a bass would pay attention to a lizard. In real life, lizards are not a threat.
So why are plastic lizards productive during the spawn? Maybe it’s because they are so darned ugly – nobody really knows why. But top bass anglers depend on plastic lizards when big sow bass are spawning.
“I use three techniques to catch spawning bass on a lizard,” said David Ryan, veteran tournament fisherman. “I use the Texas rig, the Carolina rig and a weightless lizard, depending on conditions.”
Ryan pinpoints areas when pitching or casting a Texas rig. He covers more water while determining productive areas. Carolina rigging is productive, but tends to hang up in brush more often than Texas versions.
“Carolina rigging is more effective for covering lots of water when bass are spawning or suspending on pea gravel,” Ryan said. “I use a 3/4-ounce worm weight followed by two glass beads and a barrel swivel with a 4/0 offset-shank Gamakatsu hook. A 4-foot leader is attached with 12- to 14-pound test line.”
Green line for leaders is preferred because of the natural camouflaging nature. Ryan says this colored line allows the use of heavier line because of its blend in characteristics. Tiny styrofoam squares from an old coffee cup are another useful Carolina-rigging addition.
Ryan threads his hook through the lizard head and then pushes it up past the hooks offset area. Next add three small squares of styrofoam on the hook, and then slide your lizard body on the hook point. The lizard will float higher for better visibility. Remember to paint the foam to match your lizards.
“A Carolina-rigged lizard helped me win a tournament some years back just after the spawn,” said Brent Chapman, Bass Angler Sportsman Society (B.A.S.S.) Tournament contender. “I was using crankbaits until the fishing slowed down, and then I tried the Carolina-rigged lizards. I caught a 3-pound smallmouth bass off a pea gravel bank, about 20 feet deep. I have always done well with lizards when fishing slows down.”
Ryan’s weightless rigging is effective when bass are in a protect mode on their beds. He uses an 8-inch lizard with a No. 5/0 Gamakatsu hook. This is especially effective when fishing boat dock ramps that connect to shore.
Bass love these covered, shallow areas during the spawn, especially when pea gravel is present. Skip the lizard sideways under walkways, low-hanging weeping willows or other likely areas. Twitch it and then let it settle. Many fish a Slug-O in the same manner.
I observed Ryan and Chapman using this technique several years ago on a western Missouri lake. The bass were predictably spawning on pea gravel banks in extremely shallow water. I watched through my polarizing glasses as a big female slowly moved over and picked up the lizard for removal. The bass grabbed the lizard’s tail, safely away from the hook. Ryan countered this by returning a 6-inch lizard.
The big female slowly moved over and picked up the lizard by the body. Ryan set the hook on the 8-pound girl and quickly released her after a brisk fight. The smaller lizard gave the bass less tail to grab. Both anglers used this technique of switching from 8- to 6-inch lizards through that afternoon. Six bass more than 5 pounds were caught and released.
“I especially love to fish lizards without weight,” Chapman said. “I use a 5/0 Eagle Claw offset hook when Texas rigging an 8- or 6-inch lizard. I generally use black neon or junebug colors. I let the lizard sink slowly, and then twitch, let it sink for five or six seconds and then twitch again over the top of spawning areas. I let the weightless lizard sink into the bed when I can see it. You will occasionally get a backlash when fishing a weightless lizard. Some of my biggest bass were caught when I was clearing the line when the lure was sitting on the bottom or sinking.”
During post spawn, Ryan fishes close to secondary points in low, clear conditions around steep banks. Bass use these types of areas for recuperating areas after dealing with the physical and mental strains of spawning. This area also allows quick access to feeding flats.
Scent and sight additives are effective when fishing lizards. Ryan uses Alka Seltzer as an additive for all three techniques, especially when bass are on their spawning beds. Insert a sliver of Alka Seltzer in the lizard. This gives the lizard a bubbling that occasionally triggers strikes.
Ryan uses a shorter leader in murky water when fishing lizards. He has been successful with 18-inch leaders. Beads add to Carolina-rigged lizards. Bass key on the weight and glass bead noise as the disturbance of bottom silt. Longer leaders of 5 or 6 feet are used in clear water. Watch closely for wind knots when casting long leaders. Wind may cause a half-hitch knot during the cast. This weak point will break when fighting a big bass.
“I fish different colored lizards for different conditions when Carolina-rigged,” Ryan said. “Watermelon seed, pumpkin with chartreuse tail, green pumpkin, cotton candy and black neon are my favorites. When Texas rigging I prefer black with blue tail, pumpkin seed, chartreuse and black neon. I use darker colors for weightless lizards – black neon, grape or a variety of grape colors.”
Finally, both anglers use high-speed reels to take up slack faster. Bass often hit when the lizard is dropping. Seven-foot rods allow both backbone and enough sensitivity to feel light taps.
Fishing a lizard during and after the spawn is extremely effective. Always return spawning bass to their nests. Otherwise several hundred fry bass will not survive.
– Kenneth Kieser, a veteran outdoors writer and member of the Waterfowlers Hall of Fame and National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame, writes a weekly outdoors column for The Examiner. Reach him at email@example.com.