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Spring’s Fluctuations Present Challenges For Bassmaster Open On Ross Barnett

RIDGELAND, Miss. — It’s nothing new, but Bassmaster Elite Series pro Brock Mosley advises competitors to expect a moody and inconsistent playing field when the St. Croix Bassmaster Central Open presented by Mossy Oak Fishing visits Ross Barnett Reservoir.

Competition days will be April 28-30 with daily takeoffs from Madison Landing at 6 a.m. CT and weigh-ins each day back at the landing at 2 p.m. Full coverage can be found on Bassmaster.com.

A week before the tournament, Ross Barnett’s water level was right at normal pool. But, as Mosley explains, this 33,000-acre Pearl River impoundment is feeling the effects of unsettled spring conditions, courtesy of late-season cold fronts and fluctuating water levels.

“We’ve had a lot of rain recently; Easter weekend, it rained three days nonstop,” said Mosley, who lives in Collinsville, Miss., about 90 minutes east of Ross Barnett. “We probably got 5 or 6 inches of water up my way, upstream from Ross Barnett. The river has been up and down and I think the lake has also been up and down most of the spring.

“I’ve talked to several of my buddies that fish there every week, and they said we haven’t had a big wave of fish come up and spawn. Not saying they haven’t spawned; but with the water up and down and the cold fronts we’ve had every week this spring, they’ve just been trickling in and out.”

Mosley’s generally expecting a postspawn event with isolated bed fish opportunities. Given the lake’s current turbidity — caused by rainfall runoff and persistent wind — he said the latter won’t offer any sight-fishing scenarios. Instead, anyone seeking bed fish will be blind casting to likely areas.

“Usually by mid- to late April, we’re into the shad spawn and some fish are starting to show up on some offshore places by late April or the first of May, but everything is behind,” Mosley said. “More than likely, with the warm weather coming, we’ll see some of that next week.

“I don’t think the lake has been fishing terribly well, but I do know that it took nearly 22 pounds to win (an Easter weekend tournament). It was a full moon and there could have been some spawning fish that moved up.”

With stocked Florida-strain largemouth bass swimming in tournament waters, Ross Barnett offers the kind of potential where one swing could dramatically change someone’s day. Mosley reports an 8-pounder was weighed in during Easter weekend, with another 8 showing up about a month ago.

These stocked fish retain much of their genetic predispositions, with a distinct intolerance to weather changes topping the list. Fortunately for anglers, the ill effects of spring cold fronts lessen as the season progresses.

A week before the event, a warming trend had daytime highs in the mid-80s, but another cooldown will pull that number to the low 70s, with an overnight low in the upper 40s by Tuesday. Warm weather returns quickly and the tournament should see highs in the low to mid-80s.

A key factor will be the overnight lows, which are forecast to remain fairly warm — upper 50s to low 60s. That should have the fish in a good mood each morning.

In nature’s perpetual give and take, mostly sunny conditions will help warm the shallows and possibly stimulate those morning shad spawns that Mosley mentioned. Those frantic periods of baitfish reproduction often produce a furious bite with opportunistic bass, but bright sunshine usually terminates the soiree shortly after daybreak.

Overall, Mosley predicts a junk-fishing tournament in which anglers will need multiple areas to fare well. From shallow wood, lily pads, cypress trees and mats to offshore structure, success will favor those who pair a mobile strategy with a big dose of open-minded diversity.

“There’s going to be a lot of things guys can do to catch them,” Mosley said. “It’s going to be a shallow-water tournament, and I don’t know that it will be won out of a specific spot or just a guy just running into them every day.

“It’s a lake where a lot of stuff works; it’s just that time of year, whether it’s cranking, flipping, frogging, topwaters — you name it. I think the fish are up there shallow and it will just be a matter of guys figuring out how they’re most comfortable catching them.”

Fry guarders also could factor into an angler’s overall game plan. Those males protecting the new hatchlings won’t be the bigger fish, but they can definitely help fill limits. Swim jigs, poppers, frogs and wacky rigs typically trigger these bass to bite.

While muddy conditions may limit the river’s productivity, Mosley believes the entire lake will be in play. That being said, Mosley points out that Ross Barnett tends to fish small — especially with a 225-boat field.

“This is one of those lakes where you’re constantly fishing behind people, no matter what you do,” Mosley said. “You just have to accept that and keep fishing.”

Predicting what he called a “postspawn grinder event,” Mosley said 15 pounds a day will give an angler a solid shot at fishing on Championship Saturday. Twenty-pound bags are possible, but it’ll be difficult to do that more than once.

“Ross Barnett is one of my favorite lakes, because it wakes up in a different mood every day,” Mosley said. “Just because you caught 100 doing one thing doesn’t mean you’ll catch 10 the next day doing the same thing. It’s a lake that keeps you on your toes.”

The tournament is being hosted by the Ridgeland Tourism Commission.

2022 Bassmaster Opens Series Title Sponsor: St. Croix
2022 Bassmaster Opens Series Presenting Sponsor: Mossy Oak Fishing
2022 Bassmaster Opens Series Platinum Sponsor: Toyota
2022 Bassmaster Opens Series Premier Sponsors: Bass Pro Shops, Berkley, Humminbird, Mercury, Minn Kota, Nitro Boats, Power-Pole, Progressive Insurance, Ranger Boats, Rapala, Skeeter Boats, Yamaha
2022 Bassmaster Opens Series Supporting Sponsors: AFTCO, Daiwa, Garmin, Huk Performance Fishing, Marathon, Strike King, Triton Boats, VMC

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