We’re just getting over the rainy season in Spain. The rain starts in March here and it refills Spain’s reservoirs to the peak levels they have not been at since last year at this time, after suffering several drawdowns, especially during the summer. Understand that the primary use of the reservoirs we fish in Spain is to provide the water supply to the population and hydropower generation. Reality is we have no large natural lakes, just artificial dams to supply water and power.
Large amount of water cascade into these lakes from the rivers and from the mountains (retaining water pockets refill underground over winter and when the snow melts and the spring rains arrive, every mountain releases a deluge. This coincides with the pre-spawn period for largemouth in Spain. Every year, a few weeks before the bass begin to build their nests, all this fresh, new water fills the reservoirs, raises the water levels, and allows the bass to spawn on the same bank levels as prior years. They will find the newly-watered spawning shorelines full of cover and obstacles, the perfect places to give birth to their offspring, providing the most protection and silt-free nests on hard bottoms.
Pre-Spawn and Spawning Periods
As soon as the water rises and peaks, it is not yet suitable for spawning because the water temperature drops sharply due to this influx of cold mountain and river water. Still it’s not so strange to see fish roaming the cold shoreline. Some early lunkers can always be seen looking for a good place to make their nests, even well in advance of the primary spawning times which won’t come until later in April when the water temperature starts rising to the mid-50’s.
Because this rainy ritual is repeated every year, my good friend Javivi and I arrived at the dam with this understanding of the rainy season in our heads, pretty much knowing where we had to look to find the bass. This time of year is one of my favorites because, since all fish do not have the same biological rhythm, we can find largemouth in almost every situation possible during Spain’s rainy season: shallow, suspended in flooded trees, staging over drop-offs, on the surface at dusk and daybreak, so many possibilities!
Javivi and I started fishing the shoreline cover and submerged trees with jigs. Two minutes was all it took as I landed the first fish of the day, a beautiful 4 pounder that could not resist a black jig with a black soft plastic trailer; I caught this fish in 3 feet depth, casting my jig to a semi-submerged tree. On the next cast, I got the second bass, a good fish close to 5 lbs, flipping the jig in just 1 foot of water under some floating plants…how can any fishing trip start any better! All this while my buddy, Javivi, was readying the lures on his rods, so he made me agree to not crow about it until he was also fishing.
The shore here was covered with logs, branches, pine needles and other flotsam pushed up by the rising water, Basically, everything that had been on the shore all year long had started to float with the sudden rise in the water level. So the bank becomes a festival for flipping floating cover. One can spend the whole day flipping and pitching jigs. And as you know, bass usually eat actively with lot of confidence when they have so much floating shoreline cover, so the bites were solid and strong, without giving rise to the question…Is it a rock? Is it a fish?
As we moved along the shoreline, we saw a row of semi-submerged trees ahead; it ran parallel to the shoreline, about 30 feet out in 15 feet of water. After many casts to this treeline with our jigs, with so many possible angles, we figured out only one is correct, incredibly. We had to hit the main trunk of the tree, and let the jig fall within inches of the trunk, to the bottom, where the bass would be waiting with open mouths. Javivi caught two lookalike bass in two neighboring trees with a 3/8 oz jig. They both weighed 1.4 kg. (3.1 pounds).
At the Inflow
As we continued to fish down the shoreline, our goal was to reach the area where the river spilled into the lake. There we hoped to find the bass concentrated, eating baitfish. These small baitfish congregate in this area to feed on everything that’s carried into the lake by the river: small insects, crustaceans and other miniature organisms and creatures. The river inflow itself is a shallow area 3 to 6 feet deep with a bottom full of large stones, trees and other obstacles that have been washed down and emerge partly out of the water.
To fish this area, our choice was jerkbaits to cover the largest area in the shortest possible time, seeking out those active largemouth that were there to eat those small baitfish.
The water started to become cloudy as we got closer to the river inflow, so the choice of lure color was easy: flashy colors, opaque (solid) colors natural or bright, bold (fantasy) schemes. Right away I had a big lunker lunge at my Sebile Koolie Minnow jerkbait as I jerked it only two feet from the boat. Somehow the big fish shook off even after being hooked on one of the trebles. But Javivi did not fail, and after having a fish follow his jerkbait as he jerked it up to the boat, he landed a good bass by making a “Figure Eight” swimming pattern in the water beside the boat – a common technique for pike and musky, that consists of putting the rod tip in the water, with only 40cm (approx. 16 inches) of line between it and the lure, and drawing an 8 pattern with the rod tip. With pike and musky, this technique is a last chance used only used when a fish follows your lure showing enough interest, and you have no more line left to reel anymore. Now I can die in peace having seen a bass fall for this trick; it was just AWESOME!
Our elation was short-lived as after that, we had no more action at the river inflow, which was the place we thought would be the hot spot of the day. Hey, that’s fishing, and so we had to find new patterns and look for active fish that wanted to eat our lures in other areas.
At the Giant Stairsteps
We returned to the main lake, and soon we approached a very rocky shoreline, one with a peculiar shape. Imagine a giant staircase with steps 12 feet high, and 80 meters (yards) wide. In my head, I envisioned the Sebile Koolie Minnow Long Lip 138 as the perfect lure to traverse these giant stairsteps. This big deep-diver can easily plunge off the step from 12 to 24 feet deep no problem. Here I was looking for deep largemouth, and at the same time, why not some walleye or pike too? Both those species are sufficiently abundant in this reservoir.
A strong mountain wind was a little bit of a challenge here, but I began to work out the logistics of wind, casting distance, boat drift and depth to where I began to feel the Koolie Minnow Long Lip 138 working along the bottom, approximately 24 feet deep, hitting branches and stones. Just as I thought to myself, “I’m going to get a bite soon,” I was right. I hooked a beautiful zander (walleye) of about 5 pounds. And about two casts later, I got another heavy bite. After a good fight, I landed the biggest largemouth of the day, a nice 5 pounder.
It was a very interesting day. We learned or confirmed many positive things, like the importance of fishing tight up against the main trunks of the trees. Also that at this time of year there are a variety of different patterns and locations for the bass, and also the importance and fish-pulling power of the jerkbait in cold water, either to jerk it in shallow water or to reel it slowly, continuously contacting bottom in depths from 12 to 24 feet. As always, I hope you had a good time reading my story. From the rainy season in Spain, it’s time for me to dry out my gear and I’ll be writing you again soon about my next escapade.