Fishing the Mixture with James Niggemeyer

Bucks Falcon Mercury

Story by Dan O’Sullivan – photos courtesy James Niggemeyer and Chris Brown

This can be a magical time of the year. Spring is in the air, a man’s fancy turns to… bass fishing.

This time of the year is what most bass angler anticipate all year long. Warming water temperatures coming out of the winter mean one thing; bass are looking to spawn. With spawning bass on the mind, the thought of big fish can be enough to make any angler stay up all night imagining the possibilities.

We’ve all heard the stories about water temperatures reaching the mid 60’s and seeing waves of giant bass entering spawning coves, and we assume that the spawn happens all at once. However, the reality of the spawn is that it can happen anytime the water temperature is in the high 50’s to the mid 70’s. What that means is that bass spawn anytime over a three to four month period all over the lake.

This also means that the smart angler will consider all sorts of possibilities each time they go to the water. This time of the year it means that a good angler will leave some options open for targeting bass in all facets of the spawn.

James Niggemeyer; Bassmaster Elite Series pro from Van, Tex. is one of those guys who fishes the mixture.

What is the Mixture?
“The mixture is being able to target areas where bass will be heading to the spawn, spawning and leaving the spawn,” he said. “I’m basically looking to take advantage of bass that are in prespawn, spawning and postspawn modes, and I’m prepared to go after all of them on a given day.”

FishingMixtureWackyOchoHe said he can find them all in areas that are fairly close to each other.

Where to Find the Mixture
Niggemeyer said that he likes to find the mixture that have fishing coming and going because they give him multiple opportunities to capitalize on a good bass population. “Obviously, I’m going to be looking at spawning coves,” he said.

“But, the kind of specific areas I’m looking for are those that often get overlooked by others.”

With that in mind, Niggemeyer looks for pockets off of the main lake areas that have a few secondary points leading into the pocket. “If I can find little pockets with secondary points, they are often passed by for bigger, more obvious spawning areas,” he said. “They have to have secondary points or cover in it to give the bass something to stage on when they are moving in for prespawn or out for postspawn.”

When to Target Which
Niggemeyer has a philosophy for when he decides whether to target each of the seasonal portions of the mixture. “If I am fishing in a tournament, I’m always on the lookout for spawning fish,” he said. “There is always a chance to catch higher quality fish if I can find some that are spawning.”

But, he said that if he is having difficulty locating big spawners, or he is just fishing with clients of his guide business on Lake Fork, he targets the transition areas. “I look on the secondary points in the front half of the pockets,” he said. “That’s where I’ll find fish heading in to spawn, and those coming out to recover.”

What to Use
Niggemeyer always has three lures tied on during this time of the year. “I’ve always got a Strike King KVD 1.5 squarebill, a Strike King Hack Attack Swim Jig and a soft baits like an Ocho or Caffeine Shad,” he said. “I can cover water with the crankbait and the jig, then have the Ocho for when I see spots I want to target cast at.”

He throws the Hack Attack swim Jig on a St. Croix Legend Tournament 7’3″ medium heavy Carolina Rig rod paired with a 7.1:1 Ardent Edge Elite reel and 30-pound-test green TUF Line XT braided line. With the crankbait he prefers the original Ardent XS100 reel spooled with 14-pound-test Gamma Edge Fluorocarbon on a 7′ St. Croix Mojo Crankster glass rod.

He will rig the Caffeine Shad on a 7′ medium-heavy St. Croix Legend Tournament rod with the Ardent XS1000 reel and 14-pound-test Gamma Edge Fluorocarbon. He switches to spinning gear for a wacky rigged Ocho, using the St. Croix Legend Tournament Finesse rod and 10-pound-test Gamma Edge Fluorocarbon.

What to Throw At
While he is swimming the jig or the crankbait, Niggemeyer searches for signs of spawning bass. “On Lake Fork, I will see light spots around the bank that could be beds,” he said. “If I see those light spots, I will make precise casts with the Ocho or Caffeine Shad to see if there area spawners near the nest. They will usually tell you if they are there fairly quickly.”

He also said that it works great for clients who don’t sight fish. “Sightfishing with clients can be difficult,” he said. “But staying back an casting at the light spots can be a great alternative. I recently had a client on Lake Fork catch a fish between nine and ten pound doing that.”

Wrapping it Up
Niggemeyer suggested that anglers keep moving and keep their eyes peeled. “You can cover a lot of water with the jig and crankbait and run into pre and post spawn fish,” he said. “But keep looking and you might find spawners mixed in. It’s a great time of the year to catch a lot of numbers, but have a chance at a truly big fish as well. It’s one of my favorite times to fish.”