Story by Tom Pagliaroli

This is the time of the year that the majority of largemouth bass anglers wait for: bass on the beds, aka nests.

In select waters in the northern tier counties (Lake Hopatcong, Monksville, Spruce Run, Merrill Creek and Round Valley reservoirs, among others), smallmouth bass will also be on the beds.

In The Hawk listening area, expect rod-bending mayhem on the likes of Lake Shenandoah, Prospertown Lake, Lake Carasaljo, Lake Assunpink, Lake Lenape, Turn Mill Pond, Allentown Lake, Oakford Lake, Manahawkin Lake and Manasquan Reservoir, to name a few.

Recently laid eggs are being guarded by the bigger males…the spawning females having retreated to deeper haunts to recover from the rigors of constructing a nest and lustily partaking in the procreative process.

To be sure, the guards tolerate no intrusion on, in or around the bed and are particularly aggressive. This behavior translates into hot action as lures and live baits are set upon with a fury…most of the time.

“This period (bedding) offers great fishing, but it can be frustrating, too,” opines Garden State bass pro and national FLW/Costa tournament competitor John “Big County” Hagaman from Atlantic County.

His suggestions for smashes, thrashes and hits from bass daddies include the use of fluorocarbon line or leader for virtual invisibility, and plastic baits that mimic egg eating predators such as crayfish and salamanders (lizards), and, of course, the tried and true plastic worm in 4-1/2, 6, 8 and even 10-inch lengths. These are crawled, bounced and/or slithered around or over the bed, and strikes will be lightning quick, with the bass inhaling and then rapidly ejecting the bait. With the decreased stretch afforded by fluorocarbon (not as much as braid, but still significantly less than nylon monofilament), the chance for a successful hook set is increased.

A hot kind of new (it stormed on the scene last year) bait is the Ned Rig, basically a stub (2 to 4-inch) stub of plastic worm on a mushroom jig head that stands the offering upright. In colors that imitate the egg-stealing champ bluegill or pumpkinseed sunfish, this lure is a L-O-C-K for goading a bass blast.

As the bass season does not officially “open” until June 16 (when possession is allowed), this is strictly a catch-and-release dealio. And by all means get the bass back in the water as soon as possible.

Fluke Frenzy: the early season summer flounder fandango continues unabated, and while this weekend’s weather will dampen (pun intended) participation, figure next week to be another fillet-maker stretch, especially in the likes of Barnegat Bay, Great Bay and Great Egg Harbor Bay, and the ICW. The 3 and 4-inch Gulp! Swimming Mullet, the 3-inch Gulp! Shrimp, live killies, mackerel strips and the Mr. Twister D.A.R.T. are all putting flatties in the livewells and coolers. Nice size fish, too, with many in the 2-1/2 to 5 lb. range, with 6-plus pounders not uncommon. This back country bonanza should continue for another few weeks, with bigger fluke action then centering on inlets and the out front wrecks and reefs.


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