Kelly Bostian: Special bass-catching technique works in Missouri
BY KELLY BOSTIAN World Outdoors Writer
Sunday, January 13, 2013
1/13/13 at 8:40 AM
Go to Kelly Bostian's blog Original Print Headline: Going vertical
THE BOTTOM of a lake in January, 50 feet down, even if the water is clear as that of Table Rock Lake, seems a dark, impossible, foreboding place.
To longtime Missouri angler and guide Tim Sainato it just happens to be where the bass spend their winters at his home lake.
"We could go and fish the rocks shallower, closer to shore and I'm sure we could find some fish, but this is the place to catch them," he said last Sunday as we trolled into a brisk wind on that 40-degree morning. "This is really my favorite way to fish."
Most anglers don't get into this fishing mode simply because they lack the confidence that it will work, Sainato said. "I tell people it's just about two boat lengths, that's all, and when they can visualize that it helps. They think, 'OK, it's not that far.' "
Grand Lake guide Ivan Martin invited me to join him and his friend on Table Rock for a look at Sainato's vertical fishing technique for winter bass. The Branson, Mo., area is just about a two-hour drive from Grove, so Martin has enjoyed a few day trips to the lake to fish with Sainato this winter.
Mixed bags of spotted, black and smallmouth bass await those who figure out how to probe the depths of Table Rock for schooled bass. "It's not something that would work on Grand," Martin said. "It's the wrong kind of lake."
That's not to say largemouth bass aren't caught with vertical fishing techniques on Grand Lake in winter, especially around brush piles. But finding them 50 feet down on a relatively flat substrate? No. Not hardly.
The Grand Lake guide said he believes Table Rock's relatively clear water is what allows the fish to move deep for the right water temperatures and oxygen levels.
Sainato's fishing technique is part presentation, part hunting, part video game. He cruises into coves and follows the low valleys and old creek channels closely watching the screen of his Lowrance LCX-112c sonar. It's an older model, but it suits his needs. He can read it and describe what's happening as if he's looking right at the fish.
"I'll see if I can get one to raise his head," Sainato said, looking at a sonar screen that appeared empty, save the thick smooth line that represented the bottom of the lake. I asked if he knew what the substrate was like, if it was muddy or rock.
"It's just like that up there," he said, pointing to the wide beach of golf-ball to baseball-sized rock exposed by the currently low lake level.
"You don't always see them," he said of the fish. "They hug the bottom. I mean they are right down there - flat." On Sunday, Sainto used a drop-shot finesse rig with a 4-inch purple worm to hook several spotted bass for the camera. Sometimes he uses a half-ounce Rapala Jigging Rap, sometimes a Blakemore Road Runner spinner jig.
He dropped the rig, watching it on-screen as it fell, and he searched for bass.
With the finesse rig he might entice the bass by lightly jiggling the rod tip to give the worm a little extra action. Sometimes he raises it a few feet and lets it drop. "That worm is always moving anyway," he said. "You can't hold it still if you try."
Often the action begins with just one streak on the screen, but stirring one fish may bring an entire school to life. "A lot of times you get into them and it fills up with streaks everywhere," he said. "That's the thing. You have to look for them, but once you find them you're usually into a bunch of them."
He has had clients who have simply enjoyed watching the screen to see what the fish look like on the sonar and how it all comes together.
"You'll see them, even if they're just moving away from it," he said. "Worming up" is the term he uses for bass that appear on the sonar as dark-blue streaks and lines above the substrate.
Sainato narrated the action below as he watched his bait Sunday. "Here we go," he said. "Come on up, come on, there you go, here he is, yep!" He set the hook and reeled in a beefy 16-inch spotted bass.
"It's a great time of year, and this really is one of my favorite ways to catch bass," he said.
It's his favorite way and apparently an effective way.
Contact Sainato at 417-335-0037 or see tulsaworld.com/timsainato
Table Rock Lake guide Tim Sainato admires one of the spotted bass he caught last week nearly 50 feet deep using a drop-shot rig and 4-inch purple finesse worm. KELLY BOSTIAN/Tulsa World