Post Spawn Bass Fishing

Post Spawn Bass Fishing by Ron Howe


 

As the spring time rituals of spawning end and hot summer days are approaching us quickly, Bass move into a post spawn mode. These post spawn fish will be in a recovery mode from the spawning period. This can be a very tough time to catch Bass.

There are many ways to temp a lazy post spawn bass into a feeding response. First I recommend using plastic worms such as flukes in shad or pink colors. Cast these near spawning areas and dead stick them or barely move the baits with small twitches and long pauses. My next bait is a drop shot. I will use this on light line like 6-8 lb fluorocarbon since the bass are wary, tired and most likely have received heavy pressure all spring. I use primarily 2 colors, Zipper worms bad blood a dark purple worm, or Zipper worms screaming pink I will use both 4 and 6 inch sizes. I recommend using a 1/8oz Berserk Baits drop shot weight. Simply stick to coves and secondary points leading away from spawning areas. Toss your drop shot up there and don’t move it! We call it dead shottin! Twitch your rod slightly 1-2 times don’t move the bait let it sit there. Watch your line they will swim away with it! Remember many males will be guarding there fry and will remain shallow! Many big females will also remain shallow for many days after spawning.

 

This period of skinny fish that are finicky will pass and the next phase of post spawn will be feeding time. Bass will begin to school up and start to chase bait. This is when it can be fun! TOPWATER TIME! Now we have so many choices, but here is a few of my favorites. First I like wake baits and buzz baits, I can keep these baits moving slowly and they draw tremendous strikes and catch BIG fish!  I use a 7ft heavy action rod on wake baits with 20lb monofilament line. For colors I will use Trout, Baby Bass, and Bluegill colors primarily. I use a super slow retrieve at this time of year and the fish will tomahawk the bait! For buzz baits I will use Persuader double Buzzers and the Persuader Gold rush Buzz baits in white and chartreuse/white. I will use 15lb test monofilament line on a softer tipped rod with good backbone. Many Post spawn fish will just slurp the bait down and this softer tip will help to hook a few more of these fish. I always use a trailer hook in post spawn like a Daiichi bleeding bait trailer. Next is the spook type bait or zig zag topwter bait. They come in so many choices take your pick, my favorite is the good old spook made by heddon. I use 3 sizes small, medium and super spook! Shad and Baby Bass are the only colors I use. Slow walking this bait in post spawn can be deadly! If the fish are swirling on the baits and not committing to eating them I will use a popper and use very slow pops with long pauses.


 

Last but not least will be one of my favorites as Bass begin to gorge on bait fish Such as Shad, Bluegill, and Baby Bass its DR. Crankenstein time! There are so many Crank baits to choose from its crazy! I stick to a water column approach! Shallow ,mid, and deep. For shallow cranking I use speed traps. For mid cranking I use fat free shads, Norman deep little n’s and Strike King series 4-6 crank baits. For deep crank baits I use DD-22’s .Shad and Bluegill colors dominate my tackle box this time of year. A true crank bait rod is a must in my opinion. I recomend  7 foot for long casts and a 6-6” for target casting, the shorter rod can help you to make more accurate casts at a close distance.  I prefer fiberglass rods for a softer tip allowing the bass to better inhale the bait! If all else fails drag a 3/8-1/2oz football head jig in green pumpkin super slow!

 

Good Luck “Ron Howe”

It’s Spinnerbait Time by Phil Jigs Hill

IT’S SPINNERBAIT TIME

It is approaching that time of the year that I absolutely love. Early springtime is when BIG hog bass in the 10-pound range will be prowling the shallows going through their annual spawning ritual. Many different lures will be chunked at these big bass during the upcoming months, but I assure you that few will be as effective as the spinnerbait. Spinnerbait’s come in all shapes and sizes and more than a few pro’s believe the spinnerbait to be the best all-around lure that you can have tied on your line. As with all baits there are a few on the market that have a reputation for being “real killers”. (Chartreuse body with chartreuse willow leaf blades) accounted for some real heavyweight fish. You never know for sure what these bass will want, but I would sure have a few of these chartreuse on chartreuse baits in my tacklebox before I head to the lake. And as most of you know, during the springtime there is not a hotter color than red. This is basically because the red is an easy color to see in murky water and at this time of the year there are an abundance of red and red/orange color crawfish in area lakes. My son and I stuck some real heavyweight bass on red on red combination. One of the deadliest techniques for fishing a spinnerbait is what we commonly refer to as “slow-rolling”. Best results come when using a spinnerbait weighing between 1/2-ounce and a full ounce. The heavier spinnerbait will allow you to cast further and keep the bait deeper than when throwing the lighter varieties. The heavier weight will also allow you to feel the bait better when that north wind makes fishing other lures difficult. Best depths to fish tend to be between 5- to 15 ft. If you think you are fishing too fast… slow down even more. The key is to allow the bait to work slowly and stay in contact with stumps, grass, weeds, or anything near the bottom. You should be able to feel the blade as the bait “thumps” it ways along, and any interruption in the blade rhythm is a signal to set the hook hard because a big lunker bass is probably on the other end of your line. A longer rod is helpful when slow-rolling because it allows you to not only make longer casts, but it also provides the backbone to set the hook with authority. Keep a tight grip on your rod when slow-rolling a spinnerbait or a big bass might take it away from you. Here is a general guideline for selecting that early springtime spinnerbait: Blades – Murky water use larger blades. The red and chartreuse colors work well, but remember that vibration is really the key. Use a blade that will give off maximum vibration so that bass can easily pick up the sound through their lateral line. Some anglers swear by the Colorado blade because of it’s vibration, while others say there is no better blade than the willow-leaf, especially when fishing near submerged grass. Color – White and chartreuse are proven colors, but be sure to toss in a couple of black, yellow, or a combination of the two. If I had to select one color pattern it would probably be the white/chartreuse combination. It is an all-around dynamite color and has been for a number of years. Trailer – There is nothing that makes a spinnerbait come alive more than a plastic worm or pork chunk placed on the hook as a trailer. The trailer will slither and undulate through the water and make the bait look like something that a big bass just has to clobber. Spinnerbaits and early springtime weather go together like Burgers and fries, cowboys and rodeos or Cornbread and cabbage. If your not chucking a spinnerbait during the next few months you will definitely be missing out on some great fishing action.

GOOD FISHING FROM:

JIGS

WWW.JIGSTACKLE.NET

Spring Bass Tips By Ron Howe

As winter begins to pass and the days get longer the Big female Bass make there move back to there spawning grounds.

These big fish will stack up on steep bluffs that lead to spawning areas. Look for laydown trees or large boulders near spawning bays and coves.

Big Bass will hold here on these trees before and after they spawn. As we get a few warm days these bigger fish will move up in the water column

and suspend near the surface to incubate there eggs. The smaller male bass will be cruising the banks looking for good soil to make a nest on.

This is a great time to take out your slow sinking TY Lures 6-8″ swimbaits. These big suspended females will come and chase a swimbait and eat!

Another good technique is weightless senkos. Make long casts with lighter line like 8lb test watch your line the bites are light. Many times a 4″ senko will be best as it is close to the size of a bluegill or other anoying bait fish. Pumkin colors will work well. Wacky rig in open water areas and Texas rig near cover.

If there is a front that comes in and the weather clouds up these big fish will move down in the water column.

When This happens A Zipper Worm Monkey bug will be a good bait to use. Drag this bait right on the bottom they will attack it.

Good Luck!



All about Large Mouth Bass

SENSES: Largemouth bass have the five major senses common to most animals: hearing, sight, smell, taste and touch. They have another sense, the lateral line, which is a series of sensitive nerve endings that extends from just behind the gill to the tail on each side of the fish. The lateral line can pick up underwater vibrations as subtle as a swimming baitfish. Largemouth bass hear with external ears located within the skull. They may be attracted by the ticking or popping sound of some artifical lures. But when they hear loud unfamiliar sounds, they usually swim to deeper water or cover. Bass can see in all directions, except directly below or behind. In clear water, they can see 30 feet or more. But in most bass waters, visibility is limited to 5 to 10 feet. Largemouths can also see objects that are above water. Largemouths smell through nostrils, or nares, on the snout. The nares are small passageways through which water is drawn and expelled without entering the throat. Like most fish, bass can detect minute amounts of scent in the water. Bass use their sense of touch to determine whether to reject or swallow an object. Sense of taste is not important to largemouth bass as it is to some fish species, because bass have few taste cells in their mouths.

FEEDING: Newly-hatched largemouths feed heavily on tiny crustaceans and other zooplankton until the bass reach 2 inches in length. Young largemouths eat insects and small fish, including smaller bass. Adult largemouths prey mostly on fish, but crayfish, frogs and insects are important foods in some waters. Wherever they live, bass rank high in the aquatic food chain. A bass 10 inches or longer has few enemies and will eat almost anything it can swallow. Because of its large mouth and flexible stomach, a bass can eat prey nearly half its own length. Bass inhale small foods. The bass opens its mouth quickly to suck in water and the food. It then forces the water out the gills while it either swallows or rejects the object. Bass usually grab large prey, then turn the food to swallow it headfirst. As the water warms, the metabolism of bass increases and they feed more often. Largemouths seldom eat at water temperatures below 50 degrees. From 50 to 60 degrees, feeding increases and from 68 to 80 degrees, they feed heavily. However, at temperatures above 80 degrees, feeding declines.

GROWTH: The amount bass grow in a year depends on the length of their growing season, or the number of days suitable for growth. The growing season in the south may last twice as long as it does in the north. Largemouths gain weight most quickly in water from 75 to 80 degrees. They do not grow in water colder than 50 degrees. Although bass in the south grow and mature faster, they rarely live as long as largemouths in colder, northern lakes. In southern waters, bass occasionally reach 10 years of age; in northern waters, bass may live as long as 15 years. Female bass live longer than males, so they are more apt to reach a trophy size. In one study, 30 percent of the females were 5 years or older, while only 9 percent of the males were 5 years or more.

SPAWNING: In spring, when inshore waters reach about 60 degrees, largemouth bass swim onto spawning grounds in shallow bays, backwaters, channels and other areas protected from prevailing winds. Spawning grounds usually have firm bottoms of sand, gravel, mud or rock. Bass seldom nest on thick layer of silt. Some spawning areas are in open water; others have sparse weeds, boulders or logs. Male bass may spend several days selecting their nest sites. The beds are usually in 1 to 4 feet of water, but may be deeper in clear water. The males seldom nest where they can see other nesting males. For this reason, beds are generally at least 30 feet apart, but may be closer if weeds, boulders, sunken logs or stumps prevent the males from seeing each other. Largemouths spawn when the water reaches 63 to 68 degrees and temperatures remain within this range for several days. Cold fronts may cause water temperatures to drop, which interrupts and delays spawning. A female bass lays from 2000 to 7000 eggs per pound of body weight. She may deposit all of her eggs in one nest or drop them at several different sites before leaving the spawning grounds. After spawning, the female recuperates in deep water, where she does not eat for 2 to 3 weeks. Alone on the nest the male hovers above the eggs, slowly fanning them to keep off the silt and other debris. He does not eat while guarding the eggs, but will attack other fish that swim near the nest. Sunfish often prey on bass eggs or newly hatched fry. In waters with large sunfish populations, the panfish can seriously hamper bass reproduction. Bass eggs hatch in only 2 days at 72 degrees, but take 5 days at 67 degrees. Cold weather following spawning will delay hatching. If the shallows drop to 50 degrees, the fry will not emerge for 13 days. At lower temperatures, the eggs will fail to develop. A severe cold front sometimes causes males to abandon the nest, resulting in a complete loss of eggs or fry. From 2000 to 12,000 eggs hatch from the typical nest. Of these, only 5 to 10 are likely to survive to reach 10 inches in length.

4 seasons of a Bass

GENERAL FACTS ABOUT BASS LOCATION: Bass are cold blooded creatures, meaning that their body temperature is directly related to the temperature of the water in which they swim. Thus the temperature of the water can have a great deal of impact on where bass will be and how active they are on any given day. In general, bass in most lakes and reservoirs are most active when the water ranges from approximately 60 to 85 degrees. Bass will be less active in colder or warmer water. In cold weather, bass will usually seek out the warmest water they can find, provided they don’t have to move too far to find it. The amount of cover ( weeds, rocks, submerged wood, etc. ) that exists in the water varies dramatically from one lake to the next. Some lakes are full of weeds, others have acres of standing timber, still others appear barren, with little visible cover at all. The amount, location and type of cover available to the bass will also help determine its location at any given time during the year. Cover is not as important to smallmouth bass as it is to largemouths, and is important to spotted bass only at certain times of the year. Perhaps most important, the bass is driven to new locations throughout the four seasons by its need for food and procreation. Bass will move to certain areas for spawning. Other areas may better serve their forage needs. Bass do not migrate in the same sense that waterfowl do. An individual bass may not move a great distance during the course of the year; rather, bass try to locate in areas where all their seasonal needs can be met without traveling long distances. Some species of bass inhabit different depth zones than others. Largemouth bass, in most bodies of water, are shallow water creatures much of the year. Smallmouth bass spend most of their time deeper than largemouths. Spotted bass have been tracked at depths of 100 feet, but will also inhabit shallow water during the course of the year.

SEASONAL LARGEMOUTH BASS LOCATION: Winter. In most bodies of water, the largemouth bass will locate near the deepest parts of the lake, but usually not in extremely deep water. Many bass will navigate to the main lake and hold around bluffs, channel ledges and channel banks, and the ends and sides of deeper points. Food is not a tremendous factor driving largemouth bass location during the winter months; bass consume far less forage in cold water than in warm water, and digestion takes much longer as well. Finding the warmest possible water can be a major key to largemouth location now. Early Spring. The slowly rising temperature of the water and the lengthening daylight period are cues to largemouth bass that they should begin moving shallower. Look for ditches, channel banks, stump or fencerows and other structures leading from deep to shallow water in the prespawn period; these serve as pathways along which bass make a move to their spring locations. Largemouths seldom stay in shallow water for extended lengths of time in early spring; rather they hold where deep and shallow water meet and make short feeding forays into shallower areas. Breaklines are critical structures during the prespawn period; here largemouths have access to both deep and shallow water only a few feet apart. By locating over a breakline, a dropoff at the end of a big flat from 25 to 8 feet in depth, the bass can hold in deep water when less active and travel up into the shallows to feed. Determining the timing of these short, infrequent feeding movements is critical to fishing success; check them several times throughout the course of the day. Spring Spawn. Largemouth bass prefer to spawn in shallow water. They often bed in coves and tributaries protected from the chilling effects of a harsh north wind. The nest will usually be no deeper than the depth at which sunlight can penetrate to incubate the eggs; this is seldom deeper than 4 feet. Bass like a hard bottom condition for spawning, as opposed to mud or silt. But these fish are highly adaptable, they have been known to spawn in the tops of submerged stumps and on old tires. Post Spawn. After spawning, many largemouth bass reverse their movements along ditches, channel banks and other migration routes and move back out to deeper channel structures. However, if there is sufficient cover in shallow water, they may not move far and may stay quite close to their spawning grounds for extended periods. Summer. Convex structure: humps, rockpiles, saddles and the like is a major key to largemouth location in summer. Bass will locate on these structures and tend to move shallow or deeper on them as their mood dictates. Many largemouths will move into shallower water at night to feed. In reservoirs without much current movement, stratification occurs in hot weather. Lower layers of the lake may be poor in dissolved oxygen. any flow, however insignificant, can increase dissolved oxygen levels and stack up largemouth bass; check for schools to be holding around channel drop offs and ledges. Fall. Largemouths tend to follow their forage more in the fall than in other months, which can make them hard to locate. Rather than relating to structural breaklines or objects, they may be out in open water, chasing big schools of shad. Largemouth bass binge feed in the fall. Food is plentiful and they take advantage of the best feeding opportunities. Often small, scattered groups of bass suspend offshore or hold at the ends of long mainlake points waiting for the right opportunity to bust a big school of baitfish. These feeding binges often occur 2 or 3 times a day at scattered intervals.

10 Spring Tips

Spring may be the best time of the year to catch largemouth bass, but lots of fishermen don’t make the most of it. Far too many of us tend to fish the same way day after day, randomly casting along shorelines in a hit or miss fashion. If the bass don’t cooperate, we figure they just aren’t feeding and let it go at that. Sure, we manage to catch a few bass, but that’s because even a blind hog will find an acorn occasionally. If this sounds familiar, it’s time to make some changes. This means giving more thought to things like weather, water temperature and the changing patterns bass adapt to as they go through their long spawning cycles. The following tactics can get you started on the right track. Use them and you’ll not only catch more bass this spring, but you’ll also have a much better shot at hooking into a lunker.

1. Get Started Early: One thing that bass have in common with us is that they think about spawning a long time before they get around to it. That means largemouths – and especially the biggest females – often begin making forays into shallows to check out spawning areas weeks, even months, before the first leaves appear on the trees. During this prespawn period, it’s not unusual to make outstanding catches in March and April, even February or earlier from the mid-Atlantic states on south. One key is to fish during warm spells in the early spring, especially if these periods last several days. It doesn’t take a heat wave to launch big bass on a feeding spree. Often daytime highs in the upper 50s will do it. Look for two distinct patterns. If it’s still early in the spring, fish points and deeper shorelines in water four to eight feet deep using spinnerbaits, rattling minnow lures, jig n pigs or diving crankbaits. Bass use these mid-depths as transitional staging areas before they move shallow into the shallows. Don’t neglect the shallows, however. Even early, big bass often move inshore, but a cold snap will quickly force them back to deeper water. When you find bass in shallow areas, they’ll be hungry. Try them with spinnerbaits, rattling lures or shallow diving minnow imitations.

2. Fish the Weather Fronts: Those warm periods in the spring are frequently followed by bitter, fast moving cold fronts. Knowledgeable bass fishermen learn to look for these patterns because the best fishing is likely to occur on the last warm day before that sharp cold front passes through. Sometimes fishing peaks as the wind begins to rise and the weather deteriorates. Ideally, you’d like to start fishing in your shirt sleeves and finish in a goose down jacket. Slow moving fronts that don’t create sharp and rapid drops in temperature aren’t usually as reliable, but they may still provide decent fishing. After a cold front passes you’ll almost invariably have very poor fishing the first couple of cold, clear days.

3. Keep Track of the Water Temperature: Get a thermometer and use it. Although it is possible to catch early spring bass in nasty weather in 40 degree water, your chances improve greatly after the surface water temperature passes 50 degrees. For many anglers, the magic mark seems to be about 57 degrees. At that point, and as water temperatures rise into the 60s, bass often become more active both in mid-depth staging areas and increasingly in the shallows. Largemouth bass begin active spawning when the water temperature reaches 68 to 72 degrees F, and some bass eat less often when they’re actively bedding. However, all bass don’t spawn at the same time. Even at the peak of spawning there will be plenty of fish still feeding aggressively, including some that haven’t spawned yet and some that may have finished. Where it’s legal, it’s also possible to catch fish while they’re on their beds, although such fish should certainly be released. The trick is to approach quietly and use smaller lures or lightly weighted plastic worms and lizards. Even a bass that’s not feeding will sometimes attack these baits simply to remove the threat.

4. Fish the Correct Side of the Lake: Bass are especially sensitive to temperature changes at this time of year, and will often seek out spots where the water is only marginally warmer. Your thermometer will help, but knowing where to look will save time. Creeks feeding into lakes often carry rainwater runoff that is warmer than the lake water, and bass tend to gather in and around the mouth of these creeks. Such areas also provide likely spawning grounds. Sunlight and wind also influence surface temperatures, and you’ll often catch more bass in coves and along shorelines on the north and east sides of the lake. Not only do these areas get more afternoon sun, but they are also protected should there be chill winds blowing from the northeast. Only the surface layer will be warmer early in the spring, so don’t be surprised to find bass suspended on top. Look for them on the submerged ridges of long points, in shallow coves and over expansive flats where they may be basking. They may be wary, however, so make long casts. Rattling lures are very effective, and they cover open water quickly.

5. Fish Small Bodies of Water: One of the most effective tactics in the early spring is to pass up the big lakes and spend more time on smaller waters. Ponds and small lakes warm more quickly because they aren’t as deep, frequently have clearer water and are sheltered from the wind. As a result, small-water bass often become active weeks before they do on large impoundments. Fishing pressure is also often less intense. On a massive lake, you may spend hours fishing spots virtually devoid of fish and not even know it. However, you can fish an entire pond in just a few hours and be relatively sure that big bass will at least see your offerings.

6. Don’t Pass Up Murky Water: You might want to avoid lakes the color of red mud, but moderately stained water with a greenish tinge is better than water that’s too clear. Bass can see lures surprisingly well in all but the muddiest water, and they can hear even better. If other conditions are favorable, don’t let a little mud deter you. Bright, noisy rattling lures and spinnerbaits are your best bets, and chartreuse is probably the best color. Silver also seems to work well, and black is surprisingly visible in muddy water.

7. Pay Attention to the Bottom: Even many knowledgeable bass fishermen overlook this vital factor. When bass move into the shallows, they’re looking for food and also an ideal spot to fan out a bed. For spawning, bass will seek out a sandy or pea-size gravel bottom before they settle for anything else. You won’t find bass spawning on solid rock or bottoms that are too soft and mucky from accumulated silt. How do you determine what you can’t see? If possible, fish where you’ve caught spawning fish before in previous years. Otherwise, you can often identify the type of bottom by looking at the nearby shoreline. The residue on your anchor may also give you a clue, or you can probe shallow spots with a paddle. Even your depth sounder will help by distinguishing the rock or muck best avoided.

8. Don’t Overlook Cover: Fishing the right cover is the most important tactics at this time of year. Early in the season before bas go shallow, those deeper staging areas almost always have plenty of stumps, brush or rough bottom structure. As the season progresses and bass begin to move towards the shallows, you’ll want to concentrate on a different type of cover. High water is common in the spring, and you’ll often find bass in flooded brush, willows and trees on points. Fish the tip of a point and both sides, then get in close and cast among the trees and stumps, if possible. Be sure to fish flooded stands of willows and other similar brush in the backs of coves. Bass love to spawn in these areas, and the biggest females will move in earlier than you might expect. Fish flooded brush and willows first by probing the outer edges with lipped crankbaits and rattling lures, then move in close and fish the thickest cover using spinnerbaits and jig n pigs, both of which are nearly weedless. Weighted soft plastic lizards, Texas rigged, are also effective in heavy, shallow cover.

9. Fish Close: Think of spring bass fishing as hand to hand combat. With few exceptions, you’ve got to mix it up inside to be effective, especially after the fish have moved into the shallows around heavy cover to spawn. Make short, accurate casts into and under willows and clumps of grass or other cover. This is also where flipping is effective. Spinnerbaits, jig n pigs and lizards are your tools now, and you want stout rods and strong line – at least 20 pound test – for muscling whoppers out of cover. There’s one other tactic that you definitely don’t want to overlook in the early spring, and it may come as a surprise. Many weeks before traditional topwater lures begin to be effective, bass often show a fatal attraction for buzzbaits, those splashy, gurgling surface spinnerbaits with the huge blades. Even very early, whopper largemouths will often eat these lures when they won’t hit anything else. Fish buzzbaits close around cover (they seldom hang up) or make long casts over flats. Use a steady or slightly erratic retrieve, but keep them moving.

10. Stick To Proven Lures: You can cover every spring situation with a selection of spinnerbaits, rattling lures, jig n pigs, buzzbaits, soft lizards and shallow and deep diving crankbaits, but you may not need them all. Of these, the spinnerbait will handle both heavy cover and mid-depths, whereas the rattling lure is a superb choice everywhere except in the thickest cover.

That’s it for the basics. You’ll add refinements, no doubt, and you’ll still have some poor days. Everyone does. But if you’re persistent, you’ll be rewarded. 

Spring Topwater Tactics

 

The object with topwater is to present bass with a vulnerable, unaware “creature” that is an easy target, then allowing nature to take its course. In the process, fishing surface lures can bag the biggest fish in any water, especially when egg-heavy females are moving up shallow to spawn. Here’s a simple blueprint for fishing floating lures during this special, exciting season.
Regardless of where they live, bass follow the same general life cycles. The two primary influences in their lives are spawning and feeding, and both figure prominently in topwater spring patterns. 

• Here’s why. During winter, bass hang in deep water, normally in large schools, and they 
vacillate between long periods of inactivity and short, frantic feeding sprees. They generally hold in main lake areas or near the mouths of large feeder creeks. Typically, these fish suspend along channels or bluffs where they have immediate access to sanctuary areas. But when winter starts giving way to spring, these large schools break up as bass drift toward spawning areas. This breakup and migration occur when the water temperature nudges into the 50s, and this is the prelude to topwater time. As the water temperature creeps progressively higher, bass move closer to their spawning areas— rocky or sandy shoreline banks, flats bordering channels and ditches, small pockets in the sides of embayments, submerged roadbeds in the backs of creeks and other shallow, hard-bottomed, protected structure. If cover is present — logs, reeds, brush, stumps, grass or docks — so much the better. These are the places topwater anglers should fish. When the water temperature cracks 60 degrees, it’s time to begin throwing surface baits. Now the bass are fully active, and they’re feeding heavily to prepare for the rigors of sweeping nests, laying eggs and protecting against predators. Crawfish, sunfish, shad and other creatures are regular items on their menu. Still, any bait that appears alive and struggling on the surface is a likely candidate for attack.

• Several types of surface lures will seduce bass during the pre-spawn and spawning periods, 
but some work better than others.
High on this list is a long, slender minnow (Rapala Original Floater, AC Shiner, Bomber 
Suspending Long A, XCalibur Xt3 & Xs4). This is the traditional “first topwater” for many fishermen, and for good reason. When the water temperature hits 60 degrees, bass still aren’t far removed from the lethargy of winter. However, on a calm, warm day in early spring, these fish will 
attack a floating minnow that is bobbed within easy striking distance. This bait’s delicate 
presentation matches the fish’s reticent mood at this time of year.
Because they are bantamweights, top-water minnows must be fished on fairly light tackle. An ideal rig would be a medium-light baitcasting rod/reel spooled with 10- or 12-pound line. A suitable alternate would be a medium-action spinning combo with 10-pound-test.
The best strategy with these baits is to cast them where there is little wind — pockets, back 
bays or protected shorelines. Because floating minnows make very little commotion, they should 
be used only in quiet, relatively shallow water, (1 to 6 feet) where bass are more likely to notice their subtle surface disturbance.

•The technique with a floating minnow is simple. Cast it into likely areas near cover, if any exists, reel up slack and wait until all ripples disappear. Then, simply twitch the bait with the rod tip, bobbing the head down with a minimum of forward movement. Next, wait for these new ripples to spread away, then repeat the process.
Many pro anglers describe floating minnows as “twitchbaits” because of this tedious bobbing method. They are most effective in confined areas rather than along broad banks or flats. 
Since they are worked slowly, bass have a chance to examine these lures before striking. A 
floating minnow’s lifelike appearance and natural, injured action pass the closest inspection.
As water temperature climbs into the mid-60s, bass’ metabolism rises correspondingly. Now faster, 
louder baits come into play. Three standard choices are poppers, propeller baits and walking 
baits. Popular examples of poppers are the Rebel Pop-R, Storm Chug Bug, Luhr-Jensen P. J. Pop, 
and the venerable Arbogast Hula Popper. In prop baits, the Smithwick Devil’s Horse, Heddon 
Tiny Torpedo, Ozark Mountain Woodchopper and Luhr-Jensen Nip-l-Diddee are all winners. And 
standby walking baits include the Heddon Zara Spook, Ozark Charlie Campbell Woodwalker and 
Poe’s Jackpot.

• Poppers (also called chuggers) are concave in the front. When pulled with short, repeated jerks, a popper makes the “slurp, slurp, slurp” sounds of bass surface-feeding on minnows. This noise excites fish within hearing and visual range, drawing them in from long distances. The best tackle for fishing poppers is a medium-action baitcasting rig and 12- to 20-pound line. Basically, these lures are meant for covering broad, random areas rather than small targets. Anglers should work poppers down banks, over shallow flats, parallel to weed or grass edges, through standing timber or along other, similar structure. True, these baits may also be used around specific targets such as logs or stumps. However, their forte is covering water quickly and attracting scattered fish.

• Propeller baits come in several models and blade configurations. Some are thick and have large blades fore and aft. When jerked, these lures cause maximum surface disturbance. They are appropriate when the water is choppy or stained and plenty of noise is needed to get the fish’s attention.
At the other end of the spectrum are pencil-thin prop baits with small blades at the front and back or perhaps only at the back. These lures stir far less water than their noisy counterparts. Thus, they are best for calmer conditions and when the water is clear.
Propbaits are equally good at fishing broad areas and small targets. Like poppers, propbaits can be worked with a pull-stop, pull-stop action along linear structure. Or they can be thrown past a specif-c target, jerked up to the prime strike zone, then stopped and quivered as explained earlier. When a bass is eye-balling a propbait overhead and those blades barely rotate, he can’t stand it! Propbaits are noted for inciting savage attacks.

• Walking baits cut an enticing trail along banks, standing timber, roadbeds and docks. These cigar-shaped plugs should be fished with medium-action baitcasting tackle and 15- or 17-pound-test monofilament. The rod is held near the water’s surface, and the rod tip is jerked in a steady cadence with the wrists. When done properly, this causes the bait to walk back and forth through the water with a pronounced zigzag action.
Normally, a continuous retrieve is most effective on bass. However, if some object lies along the bait’s path, the angler might pause the bait momentarily beside the cover, then start the walking action again. Frequently, this restart convinces a stalking bass that its “prey” is getting away, and a lunging strike results.

• Certainly other topwater lures will take bass in the spring. Wobblers (Arbogast Jitterbug), buzzbaits (Lunker Lure, Norman Triple Wing) and surface skimmers (Rat, Snagproof Frog) all take their share. However, these baits are better in the post-spawn, when water temperature is warmer and bass are “chasing.” In early spring, floating minnows, poppers, prop baits and walking baits are wiser choices because of their slower, hesitating actions.
So which of these baits is best on any given day? Actually, the right pick is easy; the selection is based on weather and water conditions and the preferences of the fish.
Again, slender minnows are tops for the pre-spawn period when water is calm and relatively clear. However, if the water is choppy and/or dingy, try one of the other three. For reasons known only to the bass, some days they prefer one type of bait over the other two, and this preference can change from day-to-day. So to cover broad areas of water, alternate between a popper, propbait and walking bait, and be alert to which one draws the most attention. Once the bass indicate their choice, stick with it.

• Perhaps the biggest mistake most fishermen make with floaters is working them too fast. It is critical to avoid being in a hurry with these baits, especially when working specific areas. After casting a surface lure, an angler should wait at least 30 seconds before starting his retrieve. This allows spooky fish to get over the intrusion of the bait into their territory and to become curious or even enraged by its presence.

•Time of day is very important in fishing surface lures in early spring. Dawn and dusk are always good bets when bass are hitting topwaters. However, in early spring, noon through midafternoon can be the magic time. This is because the warmest daily water temperature occurs in the early afternoon hours on sunny days, and this is when bass may be most active.
Another factor that affects water temperature, hence surface feeding, is the size and depth of the lake or pond. Smaller, shallower waters warm faster than larger, deeper ones. Therefore, surface activity normally begins up to two weeks earlier on stock ponds, watershed lakes, oxbows and sloughs than it does on large reservoirs in the same region.
Similarly, certain areas on these bigger waters warm up quicker and offer earlier topwater action than do other areas of the lake. Sheltered pockets along northern shorelines enjoy a southern exposure and catch direct sunlight for longer periods of the day. Also, since these pockets are shielded from north winds, their waters don’t chill as much when cold fronts blow through. Therefore, anglers hunting for topwater activity should check out these spots first. 
Because topwater fishermen work thin, often clear water, they should take extra precautions to avoid spooking bass. Approaches to fishing areas should be quiet and made with the electric motor instead of the outboard. Casts to specific targets should be fairly long to keep from getting the boat too close. A fisherman’s shadow should never fall across a stump, log or other object where he expects a fish to be.

• Topwater anglers should maneuver their boats in a manner that is appropriate to the area/target 
they are working. For instance, a fisherman working long linear structure (banks, weed lines, docks) should position his boat so he can make long casts parallel to the structure. This allows him to keep his bait in the prime strike zone through most of the retrieve. On the other hand, when working single objects, the angler should first decide where a bass is most likely to be, then he should place his boat in the most advantageous position to cast to that spot. 
For instance, on sunny days bass like to hang in shadows next to stumps or logs, so this fisherman should hold that first cast until he can hit the shaded side.

When fishing topwaters, it is imperative for anglers to keep constant eye contact with their bait and to concentrate on working it as effectively as possible. Sometimes, especially with floating minnows, bass suck the bait under instead of smashing it. Fishermen who are daydreaming will miss their chance.
And finally, when a bass does strike, don’t set back too soon. It’s possible to be too quick on the trigger and yank a topwater away from fish. Instead, prepare yourself mentally to “feed” the bait to the bass, literally waiting until you see that the lure has disappeared and your line is swimming away. Then drive the hooks home, and chances of a solid hook set will rise appreciably.

Stages of Spring Bass Fishing

 

Early Spring: Regardless of where they live, bass anglers get the “itch” early in the spring. But this is a tough time – a period of hit or miss angling. Some days you’re going to get lucky, but the majority are going to be tough. Don’t be too disappointed if you don’t catch fish. (1) Water Conditions – The water temperature at this time will range from 45 to 54 degrees F., depending on locality. Water clarity in lakes and reservoirs will normally run from clear to extremely clear because spring rains and runoff have nor begun yet, although snowmelt can be a factor in northern areas. (2) Bass Locations – Bass will be found where even a slight warming of the water occurs. Key spots include the south-facing banks of coves, creeks and the tributaries of most reservoirs and lakes. Upper ends of reservoir tributaries warm first, as do turbid water areas and places with standing timber, rocky shoals, scattered boulders, even boathouses or marina docks. Bass will, however,, still be keyed to winter holding spots and can be concentrated. Look for deep water winter holding spots with potential spawning areas nearby. Early spring bass will often be located along a migration route between these two areas. When the day warms up, they move shallow; when the temperature drops back down, they move back to the deeper water. Many pros start looking for bass on the first major drop-offs between shallow and deep water. Good spots are bluffs, creek channels, channel bends and flats just off creek channels. (3) Water Depth – Look for bass anywhere from 8 to 30 feet deep. (4) Lure Choices – The absolute best lure at this time is a jig with some sort of pork, plastic or leather trailer. Select a 1/4 to 3/8 oz. jig in black or brown, perhaps with streaks of red, blue, chartreuse, etc. The No. 11 Uncle Josh Pork Frog is the top choice in trailers. Plastic crawdads, too, are also good trailers at this time of year. Weighted spinnerbaits or crankbaits retrieved slowly can also be good. These are weighted by simply sliding a worm sinker over the line before tying on the lure. Or you can simply crimp on split shot, but you’ll have more problems with hang-ups. Tiny 1/8 and 1/4 oz. jigs such as the Blakemore Road Runner, which has a spinner added, can be deadly. Fish these just off the edges of creek channel drops. (5) Tactics – Early spring bass are just starting to come out of their winter pattern. Their metabolism is extremely slow, so they’re usually slow to move and won’t chase a lure far or make fast strikes at it. The best days to fish are those after a couple of days of warming weather. Fish through the middle of the day when the sun and heat are the highest.

Pre-Spawn: (1) Water Conditions – Normally the water will run slightly warmer than early spring, although there may be occasional fronts that will drop the temperature. Look for water temperature between 55 to 65 degrees F. Clarity can change rapidly and can range from extremely clear to turbid due to incoming spring rains. (2) Bass Locations – As water temperatures continue to rise, bass begin an ongoing migration from their deeper water winter holding spots to spawning areas in the shallow bays and coves and on sloping rubble or gravel banks. At this time you can hang the biggest fish of your lifetime. Bass go on a feeding binge in preparation for spawning, and females are heavy with eggs. The fish are more scattered now than any other time of the year and are continually roaming. This is also the time when anybody can catch a bass and, appropriately, the time when most bass anglers hit the water. Key locations will still be the migration routes between deeper waters and spawning areas, although bass will be continually moving shallower. In reservoirs, search out the shallow flats close to major creek channels. In natural lakes, shallow bays and coves are the best choices. Best action occurs when the water temperature stabilizes above 55 degrees F., which usually occurs once both the nights and days start becoming warm. When bass move onto the spawning areas just prior to the actual spawn, the action is the best of the year. Not all bass in a lake spawn at the same time, so if you wish to extend the productive prespawn season, merely follow the rising water temperature. For instance, you started in early spring on the north side of the lake in the coves against the south facing shore. When these areas warm to the point bass are spawning there, move to the lake’s southern shore facing the north. Some bass also live and spawn in the middle of lakes and reservoirs where cover is good, and these will be the last to spawn. It’s not uncommon to see bass spawning in flooded treetops and on underwater islands and humps and other structure such as old roadbeds, even into early summer. (3) Water Depth – Prespawn bass are located relatively shallow. Look for them in water from a foot or two down to eight feet depending on water clarity and amount of cover. (4) Lure Choices – Although the pig n jig can still be productive now, “locator” lures that are retrieved at a faster pace allow you to search for roaming bass. Thee include spinnerbaits, crankbaits, jerkbaits and at times topwaters and buzzbaits. (5) Tactics – Even these faster moving lures should be used fairly slowly at the start of this prespawn period; speed them up as the water continues to warm. It’s also a good idea to explore with these lures. If you get a strike but don’t hook the bass, switch to a slower lure such as a jig n pig or plastic worm, and rework the area. Or simply slow down your retrieve with the spinnerbait or crankbait. If you get several short strikes with a buzzbait, try using a stinger or back hook. Normally, the smaller males spend more time in the shallows than the bigger females do. If you continually catch small fish, back out to the next deeper water layer.

Spawn: (1) Water Conditions – At this time the water will normally range from 65 to 75 degrees F., while clarity will run from turbid to clear, depending on lake location and amount of runoff. Good spawning locations can vary a great deal from lake to lake, depending on the structure available, but they have three general requirements. First is a fairly solid bottom such as gravel or rocks. Soft, mucky, weedy areas are rarely chosen. Second is depth, which will be fairly shallow so that plenty of sunlight can reach and incubate the eggs. Spawning area depths range from about a foot to 10 feet, depending on water clarity, structure, etc. Third, there should be little or no current that can wash the eggs away. Most spawn areas will be located fairly close to deep water such as a submerged channel. (2) Lure Choices – Although tube lures, plastic worms and topwater lures such as Zara Spooks are all productive during this season, the single most productive lure across the country is the plastic salamander. (3) Tactics – Many serious bass anglers do not fish for spawning bass, but follow the prespawn cycle mentioned earlier. Their reasons are two: First, spawning bass seldom feed, and although you can sometimes trick them into striking, it’s best to look for bass that are still in prespawn period. The second reason involves conservation. Although fishing for spawning bass is legal in many states, removing nesting bass can have negative effects on a heavily pressured lake. If you’re set on catching nesting bass, plastic worms and salamanders, tossed time again into or over a nest, may provoke a nesting bass to hit. Biologists say such strikes are generated more by protective instinct than a need for food. Make sure you release any bass caught during this period.

Post Spawn: (1) Water Conditions – Temperatures will range from 75 degrees on up. Water will quite often be clear to extremely clear, although occasionally runoff may produce some murkiness and windy weather can create turbid conditions on shallow lakes. (2) Bass Location – As soon as the spawn is over, a majority of the bass, particularly the males, retreat to the nearest deep water to recuperate. Look at the migration routes between spawning areas and deep water, starting shallow and working your way outward until you discover fish. Key areas are the deep ends of major lake points, creek channels, etc. (3) Water Depth – Will range from between eight to 15 feet. (4) Lure Choices – A few very slow-working lures such as the pig-and-jig, plastic worm grubs and tube lures are the best choices, although crankbaits bumped along the bottom in a medium to slow retrieve will also locate bass. Spinnerbaits pumped slowly near the bottom are also good choices. (5) Tactics – This is a tough time of year because many bass have become inactive. You can continue to fish for the active fish, such as prespawners in other parts of the lake, or wait for the fish to enter their summer pattern. Dawn and dusk often provide the best angling during this period.

Best Spring Baits

 


Best Spring Lure

Crawfish are to bass what peanuts and popcorn are to humans — a snack too tasty to pass up. It’s no wonder that savvy bass anglers for decades have relied on lures that mimic these crustaceans.
Crawfish lures will work anytime, though they’re especially deadly in the spring. When the shallows warm, crawfish emerge from their hidey-holes and become sushi for bass (as well as most other game fish). Knowing why, how and where crawfish-imitating artificials work can help make this spring your best bass-fishing season ever.
CRAWFISH BASICS: Some basic information about the natural history of the crawfish will shed light on this important bass forage and, in turn, help you become more proficient with crawfish-imitating lures. Crawfish are secretive aquatic invertebrates that are abundant in most lakes, rivers and streams. They’re such an important bass forage that many biologists theorize that the gaping mouth of the largemouth was evolved so the bass could feed on crawfish more easily. In nature, crawfish spend much of their time hiding beneath rocks or bottom debris, in vegetation or buried in mud. They’re scavengers, feeding on whatever small living tilings such as worms, insect larvae, even tiny fish. They also feed on decaying organic matter and aquatic vegetation.
Crawfish survive by use of camouflage and concealment, and are most vulnerable when they’re scurrying about hunting a meal. They are so well camouflaged, they virtually disappear unless they’re moving. Their long legs and pincers and the scalloped edges of their tails serve to break up their form, making them very hard for predators to spot when they’re sitting on the bottom.
The curious propulsion method a crawfish uses is familiar to any angler who has tried to grab one in a brook. Crawfish don’t flee by swimming, but in a shoot-and-stop manner. When alarmed, a craw will kick its muscular tail and shoot backwards a short distance before crawling under a rock or settling to the bottom. This reverse movement puts the craw’s pinchers in the most effective position for warding off potential predators. The best crawfish-imitating bass lures aren’t exact imitations of the real thing. But they are convincing suggestions of reality. To fool bass, a crawfish-imitating lure should have roughly the same size, profile, sound and movements of a live craw. And, with the popular Carolina rig kicks up silt like a live craw rooting on the bottom, and gives any floating lure a highly erratic action. Try soft-plastic craws tube jigs on the end of your leader. And don’t overlook shallow-diving crankbaits. A bottom-bumping jig or rattling crankbait imitates the clicking sounds that a live craw makes as it scurries over a rocky bottom, but remember that bass feed mainly by sight. Sound is multidirectional under water. It comes from everywhere. Thus, a bass has a hard time locating its food through sound alone. It’s more important that your lure captures the erratic, bottom-rooting movements of a live craw than to sound like one. Craws go through color phases, seasonally or when they shed their skins. They may display bright orange or green patches on their bodies, even hot red claws. So while brown and olive green are convincing lure colors, so are red, orange, even fire tiger. But for the ultimate change-up when these popular crawfish colors aren’t working, switch to blue. Crawfish often occur in a blue form, similar to that of the blue crab. Blue craws are so visible, however, that they’re easily spotted by predators, which explains why we seldom see them. Many bass anglers rely on a blue jig, but try a blue crankbait, too.
FISHING CRAWFISH LURES: First, lure size is critical when fishing any crawfish imitator. Bass in many waters seem to have a definite preference for live craws in a certain size range. Check under shoreline rocks to see what size craws are most common. Then match the hatch. Bass may show seasonal color preferences in crawfish lures. In spring, when water is murky, June bug (purplish blue with green flake) might be productive. But in summer and fall, more realistic colors like pumpkin and drab green may work better. You can credit this to seasonal changes in water clarity. As a rule, try the brighter colors in low visibility and the more subdued hues in clear water. Crawfish lures are naturals for lakes with dense cover. In the spring, bass will bed in pockets in shallow grassbeds. You can flip a heavy jig with a pork or plastic craw trailer. Or you can take the finesse route and use a small plastic craw rigged on a 1/16-ounce sinker, fished on a medium-action spinning rod. Pitch the craw into the hole, shake the rod tip and watch the bass suck in the bait.
MORE TIPS FOR FISHING CRAWFISH LURES:
• Unless bass are suspended in open water, avoid chrome or metallic-finish crankbaits and use crawfish colors (brown/orange, red, blue, fire tiger). Root these lures on the bottom, or bump them off rocks and stumps for maximum crawfish appeal.
• Tiny tube baits in pumpkin and June bug colors are effective mimics of small crawfish. They are especially deadly when sight-fished in open pockets in grassbeds for spawning bass.
• Many anglers find lure scents most effective in cold water. Try them in early spring on your jigs and other slow-moving crawfish lures.
• Don’t use a stiff rod when fishing any crawfish lure. Bass often inhale live crawfish. Using a rod that’s too stiff may cause you to overreact and pull the lure away from the bass. Unless you’re flipping dense cover, use a medium-action rod.
• Balance the triggering and attracting qualities of your crawfish lures. Drab colors are more natural and therefore more convincing to wary bass. Bright colors can trigger strikes, however, especially in muddy water. Start with a lure that’s two-thirds natural colored and one-third bright colored (for example, a brown crankbait with an orange belly or a black jig with a chartreuse pork frog). If you’re not getting strikes, perhaps it’s because the bass can’t see the lure. Shift the balance to the triggering side with brighter colors.
Having trouble with bass pecking or short-striking the lure? This may be a signal that they’re reacting negatively to its bright colors once they’ve moved close enough to grab the lure. Switch to the same lure in a more subdued color.

Crawfish lures are potent medicine for big bass. Keep them in contact with the bottom, bump them around cover, fish them patiently. Then hang on! Chances are you’re about to tangle with the lunker of a lifetime.

Spring Time rippin

 

Versatile Springtime Jerkbait Bassing

Now’s a prime time to select your favorite hard or soft jerkbait to fool sluggish bass into biting during the early season. Here’s how to use these lures effectively!

Early-spring jerkbait fishing is some of the most exciting sport of the year. Though early-season bass aren’t likely to chase down fast-moving baits, it’s not always necessary to drag jigs slowly along the bottom to elicit strikes. Bass — both largemouth and smallmouth — will, in fact, move to take bait, a suspending jerkbait in particular. And the hits, well, often they defy the frigid water temperatures, as irritated bass will often slam these hovering baits with line-stretching enthusiasm. The key is having the knowledge of when and how to work hard jerkbaits.

The category of hard jerkbaits is well represented by the major lure makers, and includes Rapala’s Husky Jerk and X-Rap, Bomber’s Suspending Pro Long A, Smithwick’s line of suspending Rogues and Lucky Craft’s Pointers. Mega Bass produces a line of high-quality suspending jerkbaits. My personal favorite is XCalibur’s Xs4 (clown pattern), a 4-inch stick bait that suspends perfectly and features extremely sharp hooks.Whatever your personal choice in suspending jerkbaits, the chief factor is that it maintains its position when on the pause, neither sinking nor floating. 

The longer days of early spring instigates bass to move shallow to feed. On lakes, this typically occurs over extensive flats, especially ones that are protected from harsh, water-cooling winds. At times, bass will suspend high in the water column, over deeper water, in the band of warming surface water. Though riding high, these fish still tend to relate to the bottom structure below.

The same holds true on rivers, where smallmouth bass typically are the primary black bass species. In areas where winter carries with it ice cover, bass will become more active soon after the frozen stuff makes its seasonal exit and the water temperatures rise into the 40s. Brown bass looking to feed after a period of relative inactivity will move to specific shallow areas where they are vulnerable to a suspending jerkbait. (Continued)

Unlike floating jerkbaits, a suspending jerkbait’s feature of hanging in the water column provides a strong trigger for any bass to strike, particularly in cold water. Moving erratically from the force of the angler’s twitch, the bait then suspends helplessly on the pause. It’s a powerful blend of attraction and trigger, one that’s completely under the control of the human on the other end of the line. For it’s the angler who determines the strength of the jerk and the length of the pause, which in the case of early-spring outings leans strongly toward moderate twitches and lengthy pauses.

Early-spring jerkbait patterns rely on a bass’s ability to see the lure; thus, fairly clear water conditions are called for. The water need not be gin clear, but if the visibility is less than 2 feet, it’s best to rely on other approaches.

Here’s a specific look at lake and river jerkbait fishing for smallmouth and largemouth bass during the early spring.

EARLY-SPRING JERKBAIT PATTERNS IN LAKES
The first step is narrowing down the search of potential areas. Look at the lake as a whole, and ask yourself: What areas of this lake will warm up the quickest? Usually these will be protected areas along the northern portion of a lake, places that see a much more direct sun angle at this time of year. Expansive areas of shallow flats and points are important, too, as such places experience the initial spring kickoff of the awakening food chain.

Weather patterns are also a consideration. Sunny days are often best, though jerkbaits will produce on cloudy days following a day or two of sunny, warming weather. The sun’s presence also allows you to better see submerged objects like logs, rocks and emerging weeds. These are objects that are likely to provide cover for bass foraging on a flat.Since they cover the water quicker than a jig-type offering, suspending jerkbaits make good search lures. Granted, you don’t work them with the same machine-gun approach you might three months from now, but in the grand scheme of things, they are efficient tools given the time of year.You need to match the running depth of your jerkbait to the depth of the area you are fishing. Short-lipped baits will dive to a depth of around 3 feet, while longer-billed deep divers get down to at least 5 feet, depending on the specific model. I’ve found the most productive flats to be ones in the 3- to 5-foot range, so typically I opt for a shallow-running lure. You want the lure to run at a depth a bit higher than where you expect the fish to be holding, so they can look up, see the lure’s action, and react to it. 

Given the “spread out” nature of an extensive feeding flat, it’s common to contact “a fish here, a fish there,” as you work it. If there is a slight breeze blowing across the flat, I like to begin on the upwind end, allowing the breeze to silently push the boat over the structure. Use the trolling motor to make the necessary corrections to keep the course on line. If no wind is present, use the trolling motor to move along the flat. In strong winds that push the boat too fast, working into the wind allows you to work the water without blowing over it too quickly. Lengthy casts are the norm for this type of fishing. After the lure’s splashdown, engage the reel and wind the bait a few feet to get it down to its running depth. Then give it a short jerk, followed by a pause. Often the pause is the most important component of the deal, as this is when most strikes occur. Bass will hit a jerkbait 30 seconds after you kill it, and while pausing it this long is on the extreme end of things, it’s important not to twitch it too soon. Give the bass an opportunity to eye up the lure and react to it. Continue the twitch-pause retrieve back to the boat, paying close attention to the cadence, so you can repeat it once the bass have told you what they like.Small features on a flat will hold bass. Good polarized sunglasses allow you to see rocks, newly forming weed patches, submerged logs, all high-percentage places fish use as cover. Specifically target these areas as you move along.

EARLY-SEASON JERKBAITS ON RIVERS
As with lakes, river bass (usually smallmouths) begin feeding long before most folks realize it. Jerkbaits figure in strongly in early spring patterns.In general, when the water jumps up into the low 40s, river smallmouth bass will move to the edges of the deep, slow wintering holes that held them over the past few months. These “edge” bass will take a variety of presentations, jerkbaits included.But the best river jerkbait bite occurs in a very specific location: shallow, rocky flats located immediately downriver of a current deflecting obstruction like a sand/gravel/rock bar.

Typically, rock bars are formed where feeder streams enter the main river. Over time, material is washed into the river during high flows in the tributaries. The resulting rock bar pushes the main flow of the river outward, leaving a pocket of quiet, rocky water tucked in behind the structure. Smallmouth bass, often the biggest ones in the river, tend to set up shop in such places. And suspending jerkbaits are one of the best ways of taking them.

Approach the spot from upriver, allowing the boat to go with the flow as it slides around the rock bar. As soon as the boat clears the tip of the bar, use the trolling motor to slide in behind the current edge. Fire a cast up next to the bank, and then begin a slow, twitch-pause retrieve. Most fish will be up close to the bank. As such, it’s rarely necessary to fish the bait all the way back to the boat; so when you are down to the last 20 feet or so, wind in and cast again, working the boat slowly down the area of quiet water. 

The area of productive water will vary from spot to spot. Some places are small, and can be fished with only a couple of dozen casts. Other areas will stretch for 50 to 75 yards, and can produce a several 3-pound-plus fish.

Both spinning and baitcasting tackle can be used to fish suspending jerkbaits. I prefer a baitcasting reel and a 6 1/2-foot-long jerkbait rod. Either 8- or 10-pound-test fluorocarbon line completes the outfit. I like to impart jerks by snapping the rod tip downward, and setting the hook by rotating my hips to the right, sweeping the rod along in the process.

Be sure to consult your state’s laws regarding early-spring bass fishing. Many states have restricted seasons with special regulations regarding creel limits and minimum length limits. The use of barbless hooks may be required. And regardless of what you are allowed to keep, wise anglers religiously practice catch-and-release at this time of year when bigger fish are more vulnerable.