Strange things happen in the desert. Whipping winds change your plans, giant goldfish test your drag, suburban bass and neighborhood grass carp drive you to the edge of madness, and business owners operate in the nude. It’s not a freaky dream, just a week in the life of host Joe Cermele and F&S blogger Tim Romano, who set out to shoot the first episode of Hook Shots this year in Arizona to get a break from winter.
The Deal: March marks the beginning of the bass spawning season in the lakes of the desert, most of which are crystal clear. Hit the moon phase right and get a calm weather window, and you can pick off shallow smallies and largemouths on Lake Pleasant and Havasu all day long. If the weather gods don’t smile on you, there is always the stellar urban carp fishing around Phoenix.
When To Go: A visit to the desert can be timed based on what you want to do, and how you specifically want to target fish. Early spring is “sight-fishing season,” and it’s the perfect time to hunt bedding bass. The summer months see stripers schooling and attacking shad on Lake Havasu and Pleasant. As for the carping, well, barring the coldest months in the middle of winter, there is no wrong time for that action.
What To Bring: Because many of the lakes in Arizona are ultra-clear, light braids, fluorocarbon leaders, and spinning gear shine during the bass spawn. Guide Dale Merry of The Hook Up Outfitters prefers to drop white or chartreuse plastics on bedding fish. They don’t match natural forage, but the angler can see them, and sometimes the only tip-off you get that a defending bass attacked is the quick disappearance of the bait. Carp anglers can lean on 5- to 7-weight rods depending on the body of water and carp size. Many suburban carp haunts are clear, too, so don’t be surprised if you need 6X or 7X fluoro tippets to get eats. Salmon egg flies work well, as do marabou puffs and basic nymphs.
How To Fish: In the bass game, Merry simply cruises coves, bays, and marinas keeping a sharp eye out for bass that are either on a bed, or getting ready to make one. The further ahead you can spot the fish before getting on top of it, the better. He focuses his efforts on water ranging in depth from 4 to 20 feet…and even in 20 feet, you can see the bottom clearly. If there’s one trick Merry swears by for carp, it’s making the effort to target only the fish that are moving towards you, not away. It gives you a better chance to lead the fish without throwing your line right over their backs.
Where to Stay: We crashed at the Hampton Inn during our brief stay in Lake Havasu City, but for more lodging ideas (from resorts to private rentals), check out Golakehavasu.com. As for lodging in Phoenix, all we can tell you is DO NOT stay near the airport and DO NOT book the Days Inn on Van Buren!