Talk about some weird weather, cold then warm then cold with snow. But I think spring is finally here and it’s time to go bass fishing. The trick is knowing what lures and tactics to try. Today sonar and other devices make bass fishing more of a calculated adventure.
Let’s take a look at different scenarios of spring’s two early bass fishing seasons:
PRE-SPAWN: B.A.S.S. Elite and FLW Tour pro angler Jason Christie learned the magic of jerkbaits for bass long ago and has been perfecting the art since. It’s one of the most productive pre-spawn lures for both largemouth and smallmouth bass. Christie found the cold-water period is the best time to fish jerkbaits.
“I have caught pre-spawn bass with the water at 37 degrees,” he says. “I’ve actually thrown one onto the ice, brought it off and started catching bass as soon as I started jerking. You can catch fish on the bait in warmer water temperatures, too, but I’m most-comfortable fishing jerkbait until water temperatures reach about 55 degrees.”
“I have a Perfect 10 Rogue lure on one and an original Smithwick 1200 Rogue on another,” he said. “On the third I’ll have either smaller jerkbait like the new Elite 8 or one in a different color.”
The deep diving Perfect 10 Rogue achieves 10-foot-plus depths with a short lip. Other deep divers have long lips that change the bait’s performance characteristics.
The key to working jerkbait properly is keeping a slack line when imparting the wrist-snapping rod twitch. Twitching or jerking the rod when the line is too tight results in a slower bait movement that may move the lure too far, and lacks that strike-triggering, erratic darting action.
Color and action are key components of working Rogue or other kinds of jerkbaits.
“The jerkbait is visual bait,” said Christie. “This bait attracts bass with visual cues such as action and flash. That’s an important point to keep in mind when fishing for bass in winter or early spring patterns.”
Christie noted that during pre-spawn, a bass wants to feed upward. Place the bait 5 or 10 feet above bass and they will likely come up to get it but won’t usually dive for lures.”
Christie determines the areas he fishes, type of jerkbait and color selection based on water clarity. Conversely, cold water will not keep a bass from climbing the ladder for well-presented jerkbait, as long as the water is clear enough.
Stained, dark and dirty water calls for bolder, brighter colors. In sunny conditions in dirty water, Christie opts for oranges, blue/chromes and fire tiger finishes.
“If it’s cloudy I like more of the darker colors, the black and gold,” he says. “I feel they can see those better on darker days.”
THE SPAWN: Plastic lizards are top lures for fishing largemouth spawning beds. Bass often attack this unwanted intruder to protect their precious eggs. Yet it is surprising that a bass would pay attention to a lizard. In real life, lizards are simply not a threat.
“I use three techniques to catch spawning bass on a lizard,” said David Ryan, veteran tournament fisherman. “I use the Texas rig, the Carolina rig and a weightless lizard, depending on conditions.”
Ryan pinpoints areas when pitching or casting a Texas rig. He covers more water while determining productive areas. Carolina rigging is productive but tends to hang up in brush more often than Texas versions.
“Carolina rigging is more effective for covering lots of water when bass are spawning or suspending on pea gravel,” Ryan said. “I use a ¾-ounce worm weight followed by two glass beads and a barrel swivel with a 4/0 offset-shank Gamakatsu hook. A four-foot leader is attached with 12 to 14-pound test line.”
Bass love covered, shallow areas during the spawn, especially when pea gravel is present. Skip the lizard sideways under walkways, low-hanging weeping willows or other likely areas. Twitch it and then let it settle. Many fish a Slug-O in the same manner.
Crankbaits are designed to dive and crash into cover and structure. This is important when bass are chasing minnows in hot weather. Cline throws crankbaits over open-water ledges when bass are suspended off the bank.
“Hot weather bass are often suspended in deeper water,” said Billy Murray, veteran tournament fisherman from Houston, Texas. “Bass suspended along tree lines in 20- to 25-foot depths can be caught on long-billed or spoon-billed Rebels. These lures can be dropped deep and fished slowly along trees.”
Crankbaits that stop and suspend are essential when fishing for deep, suspended bass. A suspended lure allows you to stop, twitch and sweep. This shows the bass an injured baitfish that is easy to catch. A grub is also productive here.
Bass are not as likely to suspend deep in stained water. Murray starts in 10 to 15-foot depths. Clearwater bass may be found in 20- to 25-foot depths. He looks for creek areas close to old spawning beds with a long protruding point. Bass move out to the long point and stay.
This is a great area for the slow-wobbling crankbaits. The classic Storm Wiggle Wart or the Bomber 7-A are good choices. Reel the crankbait to a tree or log, let it bump and continue. Try not to hesitate at the bump or you will hang up.
“Most lakes in late spring are low, an ideal situation for plastic worms, “said Woo Daves, professional bass fisherman from Spring Cove, Virginia. “I look for two different patterns – lakes with feeder rivers and lots of flats and places with lots of stumps, logs and brush. The bass in both areas are generally shallow. Low water generally means the water is clear.”
Daves starts by throwing worms around these isolated logs and stumps. The clearwater conditions make long cast necessary. Bass spook easier in these conditions. He generally fishes a 4 1/2-inch plastic worm in shallow conditions.
– Kenneth Kieser, a veteran outdoors writer and member of the Waterfowlers Hall of Fame and National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame, writes a weekly outdoors column for The Examiner. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.