By Brandon Rowan
The high tides and strong winds of spring can create some real challenging conditions on the bay and in the marsh. Tired of fighting the wind? Look inland and hit the lake or local pond for some of the best bass fishing of the year.
3 Phases of Bass Fishing
This period occurs during late winter and early spring. As temperatures rise, bass move from deeper water and stage near the shallows. Bass begin feeding in anticipation of the spawn and can typically be found on submerged cover in creek channels or the first drop off from the flats.
Bass move to the shallowest areas to spawn. Beds are easily identified as circular areas cleared of most vegetation. You’ll find a mating pair, very protective of the area and ready to bite. This is one of the easiest times of the year to catch a bass.
Immediately following the spawn, bass leave their beds. Big females are lethargic as they recover, but are susceptible to reaction lures or slow sinking lures too tempting to pass up. Find them on cover or laydowns just off the shallows. As we get closer to summer, bass start feeding to replenish their energy lost during the spawn.
Lures & Tactics
These lure selections will get you on the right track to catching some bass this spring.
SQUARE BILL CRANKBAIT
The square bill crankbait is shallow diving lure with an erratic wobble and random searching action. It can be successful throughout the entire spring bass season. When waters warm in early spring, bass begin feeding more aggressively in anticipation of the spawn. Find these fish near, or just off the shallow flats and protected coves. Colors like red and orange are a good choice as crawfish start becoming more active and are a favorite forage of bass.
During the spawn when fish are shallow and protective of beds, fish a bluegill or bream pattern. Bluegill are notorious egg thieves and bass will often annihilate this threat with vicious strikes.
After the spawn, big females will move away from the extreme shallows to recover. These fish are lethargic but can be provoked into a reaction bite. Burn bright colored crankbaits through areas just off the flats. Crashing the lure into brush or stumps and pausing is another great method to entice bites. The square bill shape is excellent at deflecting off cover.
Chatterbaits are extremely versatile baits that produce big bass. They have the flash of a spinnerbait, profile of a jig and vibration of a crankbait. They also excel in waters that have been muddied by spring rains.
The most popular retrieve is straight and steady, fished just above the bottom. But the possibilities are endless – you can use a stop-and-go retrieve, bump it into cover like a squarebill or drag and jig it slowly across a bed.
This is another lure that can imitate a variety of forage depending on colors and trailers. Colors like green pumpkin and bluegill/bream work great in the spring. Choose soft plastic swimbaits or creature/craw baits for more bulk and action. I like a Super Fluke Jr. when I want a more subtle tail wag. Single and double tail grubs are popular choices as well.
Texas rigged creature baits are a solid choice when sight fishing bass on beds. Two of my favorites are the Berkley Havoc Pit Boss and Zoom’s Baby Brush Hog, although a lizard is also a great option too. Bass don’t take kindly to these strange invaders trespassing on their nests. Sometimes they bite aggressively for the kill, but other times bite lightly to pick up and remove the invader. The compact size of most creature baits can lead to better hook-up ratios when bass are biting light.
Another advantage of using soft plastics is the ease in which you can change lures and colors if fish aren’t interested in your initial offering. Make your first cast beyond the bed and work your way into it. Experiment with retrieves until bass react, keeping your lure on the bed as long as you can.
WEIGHTLESS SOFT PLASTICS
Weightless plastics can be tremendous for sight fishing beds when nothing else seems to produce. This is a slower fishing method so I save it for when all else fails. Senkos, Super Flukes and Trick Worms are all good picks when you want to hover and slow sink something above a bed.
Senkos, Texas rigged weightless or wacky, are also great to flutter past sluggish bass in the early post-spawn stage.
Pitching or flipping jigs is a time-tested bass fishing approach that is responsible for many big fish. Choose a jig you can work around heavy cover like the Strike King Hack Attack Jig. Minimal movements create action from your soft plastic trailer and flutter around the silicone skirt. This is important when you’re trying to agitate bedding bass or maximize time on a bed or in the strike zone.
Jigs are also great for probing cover and laydowns during the post spawn period. Use lighter finesse jigs or swim jigs with big trailers for suspended fish and heavier jigs if bass are closer to the bottom.