Some of Clausen’s top producing lures are Z-Man Evergreen Jack Hammer ChatterBaits and Sling BladeZ spinnerbaits. He also keeps his color selection basic.
“A black and blue ChatterBait and a spinnerbait in all chartreuse or chartreuse and white are hard to beat,” he said.
For jerkbaits, he’s a fan of the Jackall Rerange in a host of different colors, including solid colors like matte pearl white. He prefers black and blue for jigs, and one of his top producers is a lure of his design, a Dirty Jigs Luke Clausen Compact Pitchin’ jig.
“The brighter jerkbaits do well in the spring months when the water clarity is a little dirtier,” he added. “We get a lot of runoff from snowmelt and the water will be the dirtiest it is all year long on most of the lakes I fish around the house. That’s also why I like a black and blue jig, because it works great in dirtier water, but they will still bite it when the water is clear.”
KEY ON SOMETHING VERTICAL BEFORE FLATTENING OUT
One constant for Clausen, no matter where he is fishing during the spring in the Northwest, is to focus on vertical cover and structure. It could be many different things, from rock walls to bridges and dock pilings.
“The vertical stuff will be some of the first places the bass show up in the spring after spending time in deeper water during the winter,” he said. “I like to focus on deep dock pilings, bridges, or steep rock banks. It allows the fish to move up and down in the water column easily and you’ll often find them suspended on this type of cover early in the year.”
The vertical cover is always where he starts the year and moves along with the bass to flatter terrain.
“There is always a progression from deeper water for bass each spring and they start on the vertical before moving to flats,” he stated. “When it is warm enough, they will start to move towards flatter banks to feed and spawn. Once that happens, I target the flats for the remainder of spring and all the way into summer and fall.”
CHASING THE PRE-SPAWN AND SPAWN
In a roughly two hour radius around Clausen’s hometown is a surprising diversity of fisheries. There are well known rivers such as the Columbia and Snake that offer excellent smallmouth fishing and popular Washington tournament fisheries, including Banks Lake, Potholes Reservoir, and Moses Lake. Eastward you have mountainous lakes such as Lake Coeur d’Alene and Pend Oreille in Idaho and many other quality smaller bodies of water in between.
“There is quite a variety of places to fish here and some have largemouth, some have smallmouth, and others have both,” he said. “There is also a big range in terms of how the lakes fish and how quickly the bass spawn. The spawn could last from April to July, just depending on where you want to go that day.”
The timing is highly dependent on the weather, but Clausen has a theory that the pre-spawn period is longer in northern climates.
“Down south, when I am fishing tournaments, it seems to go pretty quickly as bass are in a pre-spawn pattern then all of the sudden, they are spawning everywhere on the lake,” he said. “In the northwest, the bass start to move up shallow in February or March and won’t spawn for another two months. It is a long pre-spawn period where the bass
are shallow and feeding, but not quite
ready to spawn.”
Another factor that affects some lakes
is the presence of ice, a foreign subject to
those in southern locales. It can shut a
season down late in the year and dictates
when the fishing season begins on many
bodies of water.
“A lot of our smaller lakes will freeze and
even some of the bigger bodies of water will
be completely frozen if we get a hard winter,”
shared Clausen. “The waters that have a river
influence and current don’t freeze very often,
but they can if it gets really cold. The ice-out
period all depends on the weather we get
in the spring, but in my experience, if there
is open water, you can find bass. There are
times when half of a small lake will be frozen
and you can still catch bass in the open
water and they’ll be surprisingly shallow.”
The Pacific Northwest is home to
some excellent fisheries and quality bass
that may surprise those who don’t live
there, as tournaments are regularly won
with weights in the mid-twenties and
higher. Clausen and other northwest
anglers know just how great it can be and
spring as good as it gets. •