Targeting Clear Water Bass in All Phases of the Spawn with Bryan Thrift

Bryan Thrift excels in different fishing situations across the country as he travels on the FLW Tour. When faced with clear water around the spawn, he relies on several techniques with a swimbait, wacky-rig and a shaky head being among his favorites.

He discussed the similarities in the behavior of different species of bass.

“Smallmouth and spots are very similar. They are nomadic and very much ‘here today and gone tomorrow’, largemouth in clear water also act more like that than they do in dirtier water,” says Thrift. 

To counter this he has a specific approach that includes finding the right locations, choosing the right gear and maximizing his success with the correct lure retrieves.

Light Line Swimbaits in Clear Water Conditions

When faced with clear water bass around the spawn, Thrift doesn’t hesitate to downscale his line size, even on baitcasting gear.

“I like to throw a small swimbait on 8-pound P-Line Tactical Fluorocarbon with a lighter baitcasting rod,” he begins and feels that it helps the bait perform better and also allows him to make longer casts. “The Tactical is softer and limper, it also has a touch more stretch. That is important when you have a big fish surging right next to the boat.”

Thrift prefers a Damiki Anchovy Shad on a 3/16-ounce Damiki jighead and fishes it on a 7’ medium-heavy Stunner from Fitzgerald Rods. Thrift says the action of the rod and light line will allow anglers to cast it long distances, even with the light jighead and small swimbait.

For the retrieves, slow and steady is often the best approach.

“I fish it near the bottom, but not on the bottom. A slow roll retrieve is good and with that light jighead, down to about ten or fifteen feet of water is ideal,” says Thrift and adds that there are many places that the bait will work this time of year. “45-degree banks are always good. You want something that is not quite a bluff and not quite a flat, typical staging areas before and after they spawn.”

Tactical Fluorocarbon BOGO offer here.

Wacky-Rigs for Clear Water Bass

Wacky-rigging a soft stickbait is commonplace in bass fishing and around the spawn it is hard to beat. “Everyone is throwing one, so I like to use a Damiki Stinger because it has a different shape than the others. I have found that it also falls much slower because of the tapered edge,” says the North Carolina pro. He says weightless is the way to go and rigs the bait on a Damiki Viper Wacky Hook in the 1/0 size.

While many anglers have gone to a braid to fluorocarbon leader for all spinning applications, Thrift has held back when it comes to wacky-rig fishing.

“I feel like I can get more accurate casts with straight fluorocarbon for wacky-rigs because there is no knot coming through the guides. It handles better for this technique,” he says and prefers a standard sized spinning reel spooled with 8-pound P-Line Tactical Fluorocarbon.

He prefers the same rod for both wacky-rigs and a shaky head, a 6’10” medium-heavy Versa from Fitzgerald Rods. “It has enough backbone for good hooksets, but the tip is still soft enough to let you feel what the bait is doing,” he adds.

There really isn’t a wrong choice when deciding where to fish a wacky–rig up shallow.

“I use it a lot when I am cruising the bank looking for bedding fish. I’ll cast it out in front of me and let it sink while I am looking around and moving towards it on the trolling motor. It’s also great around docks and timber,” he says.

Shaky Head in Clear Water

The shaky head can be used anywhere and anytime but excels in the spring months. Thrift will fish it down points and around shallow cover but has found the key is to have the right depth. “Once you find what depth range they are in, you can parallel the bank and stay in that zone. It really helps if you find that all of your fish are coming from one specific depth,” says Thrift.

He keeps it simple and uses a homemade 1/8-ounce jighead with a 6.5-inch Damiki Finesse Miki in either Watermelon Candy or Green Pumpkin. When it comes to line selection, Thrift spools up with 15-pound P-Line TCB Braid with a leader of 8-pound P-Line Tactical Fluorocarbon. “You get great distance on the cast with that setup and that is very important with a shaky-head,” he says.

Springtime fishing in clear water can be approached with finesse techniques on both spinning and baitcasting gear. For FLW Tour superstar Bryan Thrift that means swimbaits, shaky heads, and wacky-rigs.