A Day on the Lake with Scott Rook: Early Spring
Updated: February 4, 2009, 11:46 AM ETBy Don Wirth | BASSMASTER Magazine, March 2007
This month Scott Rook takes the Bassmaster challenge. The amiable 46-year-old Little Rock, Ark., pro has five Classic appearances under his belt and is regarded as one of the pro tour's most versatile anglers. Here's how Rook played his hand on March 24, 2006, when he took on 1,300-acre Lake N during a powerhouse cold front.
›› 6:45 a.m. We arrive at Lake N's deserted launch ramp. It's partly cloudy and 30 degrees, with the expected high for the day in the upper 40s. Rook is towing a Ranger Z20 bass boat equipped with a Mercury OptiMax 225-hp outboard, Lowrance electronics and MotorGuide trolling motor. He pulls several St. Croix rod/Abu Garcia reel combos from the rod locker and fans them across the front deck.
›› 7:00 a.m. The water near the ramp is murky and 49 degrees. As we launch, I ask Rook how he normally patterns bass in early spring: "Even though we've got a major cold front today, it's been pretty mild around here for the past several weeks," he says. "I expect the cold nights have chilled the lake's surface temperature down five or six degrees from what it has been. I think these fish should be about on schedule for spawning they'll stage on points close to bedding areas, and some fish may be up real shallow in little protected cuts and coves where the water's warmer."
›› 7:02 a.m. Rook cranks the Merc, idles 50 yards from the ramp and makes his first cast to a shallow shoreline pocket with a red craw Bomber Flat A crankbait: "I like flat-sided crankbaits in early spring; they work well in cold water."
›› 7:05 a.m. Rook switches to a homemade 3/8-ounce green pumpkin/blue/orange jig with a Zoom trailer, pitching it around a semi-submerged tree.
›› 7:07 a.m. He speed-trolls to a nearby point and cranks it with a brown craw Rapala DT10 crankbait. The boat's sitting in 7 feet of water.
›› 7:11 a.m. Switching back to the Flat A, Rook continues cranking the point. "I must have seen 40 deer driving in here this morning," he comments. "Usually anytime you see a lot of game moving around, the bass bite is good."
›› 7:15 a.m. He presses uplake, casting the Flat A at scattered pieces of wood cover dotting the shoreline. Some baitfish ripple the surface two cast-lengths away: "That's a good sign."
›› 7:19 a.m. "There's a nice little ditch running through here," Rook comments as he checks his graph. "Bass should use this as a migration route into their spawning places." He cranks it with the DT10.
›› 7:21 a.m. Rook's rod bows as he dredges up a tree branch from the ditch: "First catch of the day!"
›› 7:22 a.m. Rook runs to the opposite side of the lake "to look for some deeper water." He stops at a point rising out of 12 feet of water and cranks the DT10: "I can feel some stumps down there."
›› 7:33 a.m. The pro runs a quarter-mile downlake, then casts the DT10 parallel to a channel bank on the western shore. The water is clearer here than by the ramp. "This side of the lake will get the most sun exposure during the morning, and in early spring, bass gravitate to quiet, sunny places to warm up," Rook says.
›› 7:41 a.m. Rook approaches a point at the end of the channel bank, cranks around it with the DT10 and hangs a fish on the side of the structure. He plays it carefully, drops to his knees and lips it. His first bass of the day weighs 2 pounds, 1 ounce: "That fish was in about 7 feet of water on the inside of the point, not on the end. It hit right where the side falls off into deep water, and was barely hooked! You need to really take your time playing crankbait bass in this cold water."
›› 7:47 a.m. Rook's crankbait drags up some slimy grass as it bangs bottom.
›› 7:48 a.m. He pulls a spinning rod from storage and ties on a crawfish No. 8 Rapala Shad Rap: "This is a classic coldwater crankbait that's caught a ton of bass for me over the years." His spinning reel is spooled with 6-pound line.
›› 7:49 a.m. He hauls in his second tree limb of the morning on the Shad Rap.
›› 8:00 a.m. A light breeze is blowing out of the northwest as Rook speed-trolls downlake to a nearby tributary point.
›› 8:01 a.m. Upon reaching the inside of the point, he immediately cranks up his second keeper on the DT10; this bass tips the scales at 1 pound, 8 ounces. "That was the identical scenario to my first fish it was sitting on the side of the point whereit drops off deep. This one really hammered the lure! I'm gonna keep hitting main lake points for a while to see if there's a definite pattern here."
›› 8:10 a.m. We cross a narrow tributary mouth to the opposite point; it's 17 feet deep off the end of the structure. Rook moves in a bit shallower and cranks it with the DT10.
›› 8:21 a.m. Rook breaks out a rod equipped with a Carolina rig and threads a green pumpkin Berkley Power Craw on the business end: "I want to probe this deep point a little more thoroughly." He drags the craw over the structure from a couple of different angles, and then switches back to the DT10.
›› 8:26 a.m. Rook continues cranking his way downlake along the western shore. The air temp is about 40 degrees, but the wind has picked up considerably and it feels like midwinter.
›› 8:30 a.m. We come to another point. Rook cranks all the way around it without a strike.
›› 8:41 a.m. He pulls a baitcasting rod from storage and rigs it with a Lucky Craft Pointer 100 suspending jerkbait in the Aurora Black pattern: "The water's considerably clearer down on this end of the lake, although it's not as clear as I normally like for jerkbaits." He moves into a nearby cove and jerks a secondary point with no takers.
›› 8:45 a.m. He pitches his homemade jig into some laydown trees.
›› 8:48 a.m. Rook ties on a chartreuse/blue back Bass Pro Shops RC 1.5 squarebill crankbait (made by Lucky Craft): "Now that the sun's getting higher, I want to check out some of these shallow pockets, and this is a great search lure around shallow cover it'll come through a tree like a squirrel!"
›› 8:50 a.m. Rook casts the 1.5 into a shallow shoreline pocket; a bass grabs it, but shakes free.
›› 9:00 a.m. Two hours into the day, Rook has posted two keepers. The wind has increased to 15 mph and some scattered clouds are beginning to appear. He's back on a main lake point cranking the DT10.
›› 9:02 a.m. Rook whacks his third keeper of the day, a 2-pound, 4-ounce largemouth, on the DT10: "Carbon copy of my two other bass: right on the drop of the inside of the point. I was sitting in 13 feet and casting into about 5; I felt the bait bounce off a stump and the fish ate it. Fast-dropping points are good places to fish in early spring when there's a cold front; the fish can just drop back a little deeper on 'em and hold until conditions improve."
›› 9:11 a.m. He pulls out another rod and rigs it with a Yo-Zuri Rattlin' Vibe lipless crankbait, which he has custom-painted in a Texas craw pattern: "This bait puts out awesome vibrations! I've caught some monsters on it in early spring." He moves into a nearby shallow pocket and fast-cranks the lure with no takers.
›› 9:20 a.m. After working his way around the pocket with the Rattlin' Vibe, he returns to the channel point to crank the DT10 around.
›› 9:23 a.m. The Rapala bangs off several stumps on the point, but doesn't get bit.
›› 9:28 a.m. He jerks the purple-back Pointer on the point: "I really don't see this as jerkbait water, but I'll give it another try."
›› 9:33 a.m. Rook follows the point around to a shallow cove, casts the 1.5 toward shore and a good fish loads on. He runs to the back of the boat, giving it ample time to play itself out, then finally works it close enough to lip it. His fourth keeper of the day weighs 4 pounds even. "I was sitting in about 5 feet of water, the same as when I had that good fish on a little while ago. The fish was shallow, maybe a foot and a half deep, and wasn't on any cover it was just sitting out soaking up the sun."
›› 9:40 a.m. Rook moves to another shoreline pocket on the western bank, chucks the RC past a log and immediately gets bit. His rod loads up, but the fish comes unglued: "I couldn't tell how big that one was."
›› 9:50 a.m. Nearly three hours into his fishing day, Rook has two viable patterns working. He moves back to the point where he caught his 2-4 and cranks it with the DT10.
›› 9:54 a.m. Rook pauses to make some tackle adjustments. He switches the RC 1.5 from the 7-foot rod he'd been using to a 6-8 baitcaster "so I can fish these little pockets with underhand casts more easily." He also ties a 1/2-ounce black and blue Berkley Power Jig with a matching trailer onto another rod.
›› 10:00 a.m. Clouds are starting to build up as Rook moves into a nearby pocket. His first cast with the RC 1.5 results in a strike, but the fish doesn't hook up. "Listen to that wind howling out on the main lake and look how calm the water is in here," he remarks. "Prespawn bass will often try to get out of a cold wind."
›› 10:08 a.m. He catches a short fish on the 1.5 off the point leading into the pocket. The water here is 52.5 degrees.
›› 10:10 a.m. Rook rears back and sets the hook in a submerged limb: "I'm gettin' trigger happy now!"
›› 10:15 a.m. A bass smacks the 1.5 in a foot of water; this one won't measure.
›› 10:18 a.m. The pro zips to another nearby pocket and works it over with the Power Jig and 1.5.
›› 10:21 a.m. Rook casts the 1.5 down the middle of the pocket and catches his fifth keeper, 1 pound, 10 ounces. "Always check the middle of these little pockets during a prespawn cold front bass that were right up against the bank will pull out and suspend here until conditions stabilize."
›› 10:27 a.m. After making multiple casts to the same pocket, Rook runs 100 yards downlake to a tributary arm on the west side of Lake N: "There are dozens of little shallow pockets here; I'm gonna make a quick milk run to see if I can't catch some bigger fish."
›› 10:41 a.m. Rook is progressing deeper into the tributary arm, keying on shallow indentations in the shoreline with the 1.5. Cloud cover is building up, intermittently blocking out the sun.
›› 10:48 a.m. We're in the back of a large pocket. Rook tries the Rattlin' Vibe here with no success.
›› 10:50 a.m. "I just had a bump," Rook says under his breath as he continues cranking the Yo-Zuri.
›› 10:53 a.m. Moving up the creek arm to the next pocket, Rook switches to a firetiger Rattlin' Vibe: "Normally I get lots of bites on lipless crankbaits during a spring front; I wanted to try one with some chartreuse in it like that RC 1.5." But it doesn't score a strike.
›› 11:03 a.m. Rook fan-casts the 1.5 around the pocket and hangs it in an unknown obstruction. He drops a plug knocker down and brings up the lure, together with what appears to be part of an old car seat.
›› 11:10 a.m. Rook moves to the next pocket and catches a short fish on the 1.5.
››11:13 a.m. He tries the firetiger Rattlin' Vibe in the cut.
›› 11:17 a.m. Rook runs to a big flat in the upper end of the tributary arm and cranks the 1.5.
›› 11:18 a.m. His line jumps sideways, but the fish doesn't hook up: "He knocked the absolute crap out of it!"
›› 11:20 a.m. "This is a good one!" Rook exclaims as his rod bows. He runs to the back of the boat as the bass surges for deeper water. Finally he works the fish close enough to lip it; it tips the scales at 4 pounds, 3 ounces. "This fish was sitting in the little channel that snakes through here," he says.
Rook's seventh keeper culls his 1-10. "If that sun would just stay out, I'm pretty sure I could bust 20 pounds today. There's gotta be at least one of these pockets with a bunch of good fish stacked up in it."
›› 11:35 a.m. Rook has combed the back of the tributary arm thoroughly without another bite.
›› 11:43 a.m. Rook runs to a steep channel bank at the entrance to the creek arm and cranks it with the 1.5.
›› 11:47 a.m. He pitches the Power Jig down the bank without a bump.
›› Noon. Rook moves to the next pocket in the creek arm and cranks the 1.5 in the back of the structure. "This one hasn't got any ditch or channel in it that I can see," he surmises. "I think that's a key to holding those bigger fish in this cold front."
›› 12:10 p.m. Rook runs directly across the lake to a tributary arm off the eastern shore. He tries the 1.5 without success.
›› 12:18 p.m. It's clouded over, and Rook hasn't had a bite for nearly an hour: "I was afraid this was going to happen," he moans. "The sun is your friend this time of year."
›› 12:23 p.m. "Nice little ditch back in here!" he remarks as he cranks the 1.5 through the depression but evidently no bass.
›› 12:28 p.m. He's proceeding uplake quickly along the eastern shore, hitting main lake nooks and crannies with the 1.5.
›› 12:37 p.m. Still crankin' shallow pockets. The air temp is about 45 degrees with dense cloud cover. "I'm glad I got on those big fish when I did," Rook says.
›› 12:43 p.m. He runs straight across the lake to a shallow point and cranks it with the Rattlin' Vibe.
››12:47 p.m. Rook has fished all the way around the point without a hit.
›› 12:50 p.m. He fires up the Merc and runs farther uplake to the point where he caught the 2-4 earlier. He probes it with the DT10, but can't score a bite.
›› 1:05 p.m. With a little less than an hour remaining in his fishing day, Rook cranks a big pocket with the Rattlin' Vibe.
12:41 p.m. With a little over an hour to go, Rook searches for the right lipless crankbait to turn Lake N's bass back on. Photo: Don Wirth
Where And When Scott Rook Caught His Five Biggest Bass
›› 1:07 p.m. He gets a light bite near a brushpile in the center of the cove, but the fish fails to hook up.
›› 1:10 p.m. He hangs the 1.5 in a submerged tree and retrieves it: "It's hard not to throw at this cover!"
›› 1:13 p.m. "Notice how quiet it's gotten?" Rook observes as he cranks another shallow cove. "This morning when the sun was out, it was like a Disney cartoon out here deer running around, birds chirping, squirrels everywhere. Now everything's dead, including the bass!"
›› 1:17 p.m. Rook is back where he tagged his 4-1 earlier, cranking the ditch running through the shallow cove with the 1.5, but can't come up with a fish.
›› 1:19 p.m. He cranks the Rattlin' Vibe through the ditch still no takers.
›› 1:25 p.m. Rook makes a bone-chilling run uplake to a big flat, where he cranks both the 1.5 and Rattlin' Vibe.
›› 1:34 p.m. He runs 200 yards back downlake to a short cove and cranks it with the 1.5.
›› 1:45 p.m. With 15 minutes remaining, Rook exits the pocket and cranks the point leading into it with the DT10.
›› 1:48 p.m. He pitches the Power Jig around a big laydown log on a steep channel bank.
›› 1:50 p.m. Rook moves to the next main lake pocket downlake and cranks it with the 1.5.
›› 1:56 p.m. Rook cranks the middle of the pocket with the DT10.
››2:00 p.m. Back to the ramp. Rook has caught seven keepers from Lake N; the five biggest weigh an impressive 16 pounds, 9 ounces.
2 pounds, 1 ounce; main lake point; brown craw Rapala DT10 crankbait; 7:41 a.m.
2 pounds, 4 ounces; main lake point; same lure as #1; 9:02 a.m.
4 pounds; shallow pocket; Bass Pro Shops RC 1.5 crankbait; 9:33 a.m.
4 pounds, 1 ounce; shallow pocket; same lure as #3; 10:32 a.m.
4 pounds, 3 ounces; shallow flat; same lure as #3; 11:20 a.m.
TOTAL: 16 pounds, 9 ounces
THE DAY IN PERSPECTIVE
"It's late March and the bass should have been stacked in the back of those shallow pockets," Rook told Bassmaster. "But these cold nights have kept the air and water temperatures down. I started out catching some keepers on main lake points, but I'm glad I left this pattern early in favor of cranking the shallow pockets, which resulted in three 4-pound fish. The cloud cover totally killed the bite today even when I changed lures and colors, I couldn't come up with another fish. If I had to come back here tomorrow and it stayed cloudy, I'd start out cranking a few shallow pockets, then if that didn't pay off I'd back out and fish deeper and slower with a jig. I'd also try some more deep points in hopes of contacting a group of fish, which is something I never encountered today. If the sun came out, you can bet I'd pound those shallow pockets hard with the RC 1.5."
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