The biggest bass in any given body of water are the first to increase their feeding activity in the spring. This may be nature’s way of giving the females a head start. They need additional food to nurture their eggs and gather strength for the spawning ordeal soon to come. If they had to compete with smaller bass, they might not get all the sustenance they need. Bass don’t become truly aggressive until the water warms past 55 degrees, and the peak spring feeding generally occurs when the water temperature climbs into the 60s. But that’s when you’ll get bass of all sizes. You’ll catch more big bass when the water temperature is in the 40s and low 50s. They may be sluggish in the chill water, but they’re still mobile enough to feed. After all, they managed to catch forage fish while the lake was covered with ice. You’ll greatly increase your catch of big, early season largemouth if you fish for them when they’re in a positive feeding attitude. How can you tell when the bass are hungry? The basic rule is: the bass will be biting whenever the water is warming. In the spring, big bass are very sensitive to changes in water temperature. Even an increase as slight as three degrees can start them on the prowl. The more prominent the warming trend, the more it will stimulate the bass. During this period, you need concern yourself only with the surface water temperature, so an inexpensive hand held thermometer will do the job. In a nutshell, you’ll want to go fishing whenever the air is warmer than the water. It makes no difference if the sky is cloudy or clear; warm air will bring up the water temperature. A steady water temperature can also be productive, especially on a heavily overcast day after a significant warming trend. Falling water temperature, on the other hand, will turn the bass off. Probably the worst time to fish would be on a cloudy, breezy day when the air temperature is lower than the water temperature. On most northern lakes, you’ll catch more early spring bass from bays and banks along the northern shoreline. These areas receive the most exposure to the sun and are the first to warm. Riprap or rocky areas tend to hold the heat and can be productive on sunny days. Stumps, brush, and other wood cover are also good bets. Old weedbeds, especially lily pad fields, may attract early spring bass. It all depends on what the lake you’re fishing has to offer. Generally, any cover will have a much greater chance of holding big bass if there’s deep water nearby. Most of your early season bass can be caught with a very small lure selection, such as a jig-n-pig in 1/4 and 3/8 oz. sizes, a thin six inch worm with a straight or curly tail, and a 1/4 oz. spinnerbait with a single blade. The jig is mostly the only lure used when the water temperature is between 40 and 50 degrees. The bass are very sluggish in water this cold, and fishing a jig slowly with a lot of bottom contact is an unbeatable presentation. Cast the jig up on shallow flats and ledges and work it out over dropoffs. When you move it forward, lift your rod only a few inches. Be sure to let the jig sink to the bottom after each hop, and don’t be afraid to let the jig sit for a few seconds before moving it along. Most strikes will come as the jig is falling, but sometimes the bass will suck it right off the bottom. The strikes are usually very light, so pay attention. Set the hook whenever you sense something that doesn’t feel just right. When the water temperature ranges from 50 to 55 degrees, try pitching the worm and spinnerbait in addition to the jig. Cold water bass like smaller lures, hence the thin four or six inch worm comes into play. Rig the worm Texas style with a 1/16 or 1/8 oz. slip sinker and fish it slowly through the best cover you can find in the warmer areas of any given lake. When the water temperature is in the 50s, the bass will take jigs and worms with more authority, so you’ll feel more distinct strikes. A 1/4 oz. spinnerbait is about the right mouthful for early season bass. Single blade models are prefered because they run with a harder, pulsating throb than the tandem blade models. That steady throbbing attracts the bass and helps you detect strikes as well. Early season bass will often latch onto a spinnerbait rather than belt it, and you may not feel the strike. All you’ll notice is that the spinner blade has stopped throbbing. If you don’t set the hook immediately, the bass will spit the lure. And in the early spring, the chances are good that you will have missed a very big bass. During the early season, cast the spinnerbait to cover and use three basic retrieves. One is a slow steady retrieve, just fast enough to keep the blade thumping. Also bring the spinnerbait over a submerged log, stump or brush pile and then stop the lure, letting it sink down into or right next to the cover. Another method is purposely bump the cover before letting it fall. The bass may take the lure as it sinks or just as you continue retrieving. The third early season retrieve consists of a slow lift drop that allows the spinnerbait to touch bottom on each drop. It’s similar to fishing with a jig, only faster, and you lift the spinnerbait higher off the bottom, generally about two feet. These tactics will work on any bass lake, but keep in mind that some lakes consistently produce more action in the early spring than others. Keep in mind also that the early season fishing doesn’t normally yield limit catches of bass. This is lunker time. Seek out warming water and fish jigs, worms, and spinnerbaits slowly and diligently. You may work all day for precious few strikes, but the bass you catch will be enough to make the effort worthwhile.