Pro pointers from Bob Izumi
How to crush both largemouth and smallmouth on opening day
When he was 15 years old, Bob Izumi competed in Canada’s first-ever bass tournament—the Rondeau Bay Bass Tournament, run by his father, Joe. Almost 45 years later, the fishing legend’s winning resumé includes a GM Pro Bass Classic, a Costa FLW event, three GM Pro Canadian Open titles and a host of other individual and team accomplishments. He’s even won seven boats. Whether he’s chasing brown or green fish, Izumi says the first part of bass season is always his favourite. That’s not surprising. Along with his brother, Wayne, Izumi has won at least 30 tournaments during the early season. Here are some of his winning secrets.
Once the season opens, Izumi rarely targets largemouth in water deeper than five feet and doesn’t stray far from their spawning areas. He covers a lot of water to find the biggest fish, which are most often solo. Finding big, spawned-out females already off the beds and starting to recuperate is the goal. Izumi also looks for areas that are “alive” with other species, a good sign that baitfish are in the vicinity. If he hears sunfish smacking at the surface as they feed, for example, or simply swimming around, he knows he’s in the right place.
Play the angle of the sun early and late in the day, Izumi says, noting that docks are prime shady spots. But you have to fish them properly. For example, it’s always important that your first cast, skip or flip be to the shadiest side, he says. Under wavy conditions, however, he fishes the wind-blown side first. “The best docks offer ample shade and are constructed of wood.”
Even if a dock’s not ideal-looking, it can still be a high-percentage spot to hold fish if it’s the only dock in the area. If there are several docks around, on the other hand, first target the ones that are lowest in the water, as they offer the most shade. If they’re bordered by weedlines, Izumi adds, all the better. And don’t overlook the depression created by the prop-wash of a docked boat, as it can often hold fish.
As for presentation, Izumi skips a green pumpkin or black Berkley Havoc Flat Dawg or Yamamoto Senko soft-plastic stickbait beneath docks using a seven-foot medium-heavy spinning rod. He spools his reel with 15-pound braid and ties on a four-foot fluorocarbon leader. Rigged weightless—either Texas or wacky style—the stickbaits excel in clear water, Izumi says. “I skip it under a dock or throw it along a shade line and let it soak and use my rod tip to drag it three or four feet. The fish will hit it as it’s sitting on the bottom, or when I scoot it up and let it fall back down.”
Pick apart cover
In clear water, Izumi also seeks out largemouth that are using reeds and undercut banks as cover. He prefers isolated pockets of pads around the same size as a boat or the hood of a truck. “You can cast on either side, the front face, the side face and right in the middle, dissecting them in six casts.” For this, he uses soft-plastics with appendages, such as black-and-blue Berkley PowerBait Crazy Legs Chigger Craws. Strike King’s Rage Tail DB Structure Bugs are also a great choice. He rigs them on a stout straight-shanked hook with the lightest tungsten sinker possible that can penetrate the cover.
Meanwhile, on overcast days, early in the morning or when it’s raining, he targets weedflats in less than eight feet of water. In this case, he fishes parallel to the weeds, but targets the inside and outside edges, as well as the middle of the flats.
Since largemouth bass don’t group together in the early season, as they do later in the summer, you have to search as much water as possible to find them, Izumi says. A swimbait rigged weedless with a belly-weighted swimbait hook is one of his favourite patterns for covering a lot of water.
Izumi seeks out what he calls “contact spots” near spawning areas. “A contact spot could be some nice big boulders in 15 to 25 feet of water,” he says. “Many times, transitional bass that have moved from their spawning areas, but not all the way to their summer haunts, will stop there.” At this point in the season, he says, it’s still too early to start targeting isolated humps far from shore.
For his early-season smallies set-up, Izumi uses a drop-shot rod and reel spooled with six- to 10-pound fluorocarbon. For the most natural presentation of his preferred goby or minnow imitations (in natural hues), he uses sharp #1 or 1/0 wide-gap hooks paired with the lightest weights possible. A good backup offering is a 3½-inch Berkley PowerBait or Phenix tube in a minnow or goby pattern.
Fish the conditions
When the lake blows up from wind, Izumi heads to shallow water of six feet or less and throws small crankbaits and topwaters for quality post-spawn smallmouth. He seeks out sand/rock transitions, rock-laden reefs and isolated boulders. Under calm conditions, on the other hand, he makes long casts in the same spots with a small swimbait or 2½-inch smoke-with-silver-flake tube rigged on a 1/8-ounce head. “I always cast past the fish and bring the lure in front of it,” Izumi says.
Port Robinson, Ontario’s Jonathan LePera eagerly awaits the beginning of every bass season.