March is Rogue season in these parts. That doesn't mean a bunch of scamps and scoundrels are on the loose. It means a Smithwick Lures' Rogue is often wreaking havoc with largemouth and smallmouth bass in area lakes.
To a wintertime bass fishermen, a Rogue is a twitchbait, meaning it is slowly retrieved with subtle, enticing twitches. An angler wields a medium-action baitcasting outfit spooled with either eight- or 10-pound test line.
Line size is determined by the water clarity. When the water is gin-clear, most anglers opt for eight-pound line. That weight also sends the Rouge a few feet deeper than the 10-pound line, and depth can be a significant factor at times.
To the line, a 412-inch Suspending Rattlin' Rogue is affixed. Often some weight has to be added to the Rogue to make it neutrally buoyant. This is accomplished by adding one or more Storm SuspenDots in front of the first hook.
When the water temperature is 42 degrees and colder, some anglers have found that a slowly sinking Rogue will inveigle more bass than a neutrally buoyant one. To get the Rogue to sink slowly, another SuspenDot is placed on the Rogue.
History has shown the most enticing Rogue in the eyes of the bass in northeast Kansas is clown-colored. But such color combinations as black-silver-orange, blue-silver-white and black-gold-orange regularly beguile a lot of cold-water bass.
Some Lawrence anglers, such as Tom Fritschen, Steve Ortiz, Alan Geiss and Bob Laskey, begin plying the small, clear community lakes as soon as the ice melts in February. On a few of these outings the water was so cold that small shards of ice gathered along the windward banks. As the waves push these shards against a rocky shoreline, the shards chimed, making it sound as if there were wind chimes hanging in the trees.
In winters past these anglers have been able to entice a dozen or more largemouth bass on outings as early as Valentine's Day. not this winter, though.
Even though it has been as unseasonably warm winter, bass anglers note that several severe but short-lived cold fronts, such as the ones that hit on Feb. 25 and March 2, have periodically buffeted the area. And the timing of these fronts kept the water too cold and bass too sullen for bountiful fishing.
When the water temperature hovers around 40 degrees and the bass become persnickety, anglers have to use an excruciatingly slow retrieve. To do this, a fisherman makes a long cast, allowing the Rogue to land about five feet from the shoreline. Then the angler points the rod tip at the water and makes four quick revolutions of the reel handle, pulling the Rogue about four feet under the surface.
Next the Rogue is allowed to suspend or slowly fall for 10 seconds. After that 10-second pause, the angler delicately twitches the rod once by flexing his wrist and then slowly reels up the slack line. This twitch and 10-second pause continues until the Rogue is retrieved.
Once the water temperature broaches 43 degrees, as it did on Feb. 23, the pause can be shortened to six seconds or less. Using a five-second pause on Feb. 23, Ortiz caught and released 15 nice-sized bass at Lone Star Lake in five hours and Fritschen tangled with 60 small ones at Leavenworth State Lake during a two-hour outing.
When the water temperature reaches the high 40s, the pause is seldom longer than three seconds, and anglers often employ a double or triple twitch.
Fritschen and Ortiz predict Rogue fishing will continue until the water temperature surpasses 52 degrees in early April.
What's more, the traditional March winds, which some fishermen cuss, seem to enhance the Rogue's allure in the eyes of the largemouth and smallmouth bass. Perhaps that's why this month is Rogue month in these parts.
Ned Kehde's column appears monthly on the Journal-World outdoors page.