Ken Penrod’s Tidal Bass Calendar & Lure Selection
“Legendary Guide: National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame”
I use MY “man-made” calendar to schedule fishing trips. My “Fishing Seasons” are predicated upon water temperature-at first light, all year long. Following are “MY” seasons for tidal bass—along with the lures I have come to trust during those temperature ranges. Always remember-FOOD dictates just about every concern a fish has. Aquatic food sources require the same needs. Find the food and you find the bass. Do not rely on your calendar—lean on this one. Spawn has occurred from March to June—but always between 70-75 degrees water temp.
WINTER: 35-45 DEGREES F.
I will concentrate on areas away from the main current where depth and current-breaks provide a comfort zone. My go-to lures will include: Silver Buddy; 4” Mizmo grub; Campground “Teaser” tube & RAB jighead; 2” piece of Magic Stik on ¼ oz, 1/0 RAB jighead; drop shot with tube as weight and 4-inch Magic Stik wacky-rigged.
POST-WINTER’ 45-50 DEGREES F.
I will concentrate my efforts is the same areas as above, knowing that bass & bait will move to shallower water sooner or later for short periods-dictated by sun warmed water. I’ll use the “winter-lures” above until I notice a temp-rise. I will include a Big Mouth Lure Company spinnerbait, Vibrating jig (Big Shakey) and Swim Jig with Case Magic Swim trailer. Crankbaits must be in your arsenal including black/blue Rattle Traps, KVD 1.5 and Bomber Firetiger. Weighted Case Magic Stiks, Speed Worm, and jig/critter.
PRE-SPRING: 50-55 DEGREES F.
This is an oft-overlooked period but we take some of our biggest bass of the year. Post winter behavior is still expected but we will see big bass move shallow for short periods. Use Post-Winter baits but monitor your water-temp gauge constantly and rattling lures such as Rattle-Trap and Rapalla Rippin’ Rap, Big Mouth Big Shakey and yep—tubes and Magic Stiks,.
PRE-Spawn: 50-70 DEGREES F.
Pre-spawn simply means that bass are more committed to shallower water and cover. This is a “long” possibility but cold fronts stall it-warming trends enhance it. They will retreat from time to time but that’s a ‘frontal” thing. Food isn’t a problem now because almost every inhabitant has spawned. In those shallows, once you have determined the absence or presence of submersed vegetation—turn your sonar off. It make noise.
POST-SPAWN: 70-75 DEGREES F.
Remember-every bass in a river does not spawn at the same time. Many females spawn a few rimes also. Post spawn activity may be difficult to solve but move to the drop-offs near the spawn sites and cover lots of water with crankbaits such as Bomber Firetiger, Case Magic Swims and Big Mouth vibrating jigs. Case Magic Stiks and Magic Swims will save your day-if you are in proper areas.
SUMMER: 70-90-60 DEGREES
If you are not fishing vegetation during the summer season, you are in big trouble, especially on the tidal Potomac River. Every species has spawned so food is abundant—and much of your trouble. Not all tidal rivers have submersed grasses but they all have emergents (spatterdock etc.).Your topwater lures may kick-in but not every day or everywhere. I’ll “test” with frogs, buzzbaits, whopper ploppers etc. My absolute go-to will be the Case Magic Stiks, either wacky rigged or pinned to a 3.0 hook, Texas style but NO weight. The Big Mouth arsenal should be yours too, especially the Penrod spinnerbaits and the Big Shakey.
PRE-FALL: 65-55 DEGREES
Do not give up on vegetation until it’s all gone-but some days the early hours are best spent on the nearby drops. Actually, if the drop-offs are producing—why change. I love the crankbait season but Campground tubes, Magic Stiks and Zipper worms are must-try offerings.