Early-spring bass fishing offers a chance to clear the cobwebs of winter and catch really big fish.
I think a lot of us bass fishermen look forward to early spring bass fishing more than any other season of the fishing year.
Winter ice fishing is great, but there's a lull between ice and open water that seems long and endless. By the time the water warms enough to take the boat out or fish from the banks, a lot of us are itching at the baitcasting trigger.
Of course, if you're a southern angler you don't have to wait like us northern or Midwestern anglers do. However, I've never fished in the South. This piece is mainly for folks living north of the country's imaginary winter hard-water line.
Not only is early spring a great time to catch pre-spawn bass, but it also promises some fast action on fish putting on the feedbag for spawning. Bass are moving out of their deep-water hangouts preparing to move into shallower water to spawn.
They're hungry and their metabolisms are starting to warm up, meaning they're more active. It's a great time to target big bass.
Water temperature is a more important gauge of fish activity than the calendar. A big part of how and where you decide to fish will hinge on the water temperature.
Pre-spawn temperatures run 48-55 degrees. Water above 48 degrees acts as a sort of trigger, raising a bass' metabolism and compelling it to begin to roam in search of food.
This is a great time of year to learn the body of water you're fishing. It's never boring (not that fishing is ever boring anyway) because if you're paying attention you can learn a great deal about the structure of your lake. Some areas of the lake warm up before other areas. You can eliminate a lot of water by using your judgement to determine which areas will naturally warm before others.
Northern banks and steeper slopes are very good bets for finding warmer water. These in turn are magnets for active fish, especially if those banks and slopes are close to the main lake.
I believe it takes bass a little while to get comfortable moving out of deep water and up the water column. There's a sense of security in that deeper, cold water that only extended periods of warmer water can shake them loose from.
Your thermometer is the single greatest tool you can use, outside of the actual fishing gear, to catch bass at this time of year. Plus, taking temperatures around the lake is great way to help you learn your body of water.
Another factor worth considering is water clarity. While water visibility doesn't supersede water temperature, if you have the choice between stained or cloudy water versus clear water at this time of year, choose the darker water. Like nearby deep water, I believe that darker or slightly cloudier water offers fish a sense of security during this early period.
Wear Polaroid sunglasses when you fish, especially on sunny days. Oftentimes, you may actually be able to spot fish near shallow water, even if water visibility isn't a ten.
In many areas the pre-spawn period is brief, with conditions changing fairly rapidly. You've got to take advantage of whatever factors you can and hit it hard when conditions are in your favor. Concentrate on transition areas, meaning locations where winter holding areas are close to early spring pre-spawn and spawning areas.
By doing this, you should also be able to move smoothly into spring fishing areas with relative ease. You'll have a feel for where the fish are located as the water continues to warm up.
There's a lot out there about what bass lures to use during the early-spring period. I love those kinds of articles and opinions. But, in all honesty, lure selection is a very personal thing.
While I love to see what other anglers are using to catch bass--and I'll often try some of those recommended lures myself--I don't put as much stock in it as I do water temperature, lake structure and geography and day-to-day weather.
Having just said that, allow me to give you a couple of my favorite early-spring bass baits.
I am a Rapala man. I love their selection of crankbaits and have had very good success with them.
For early-spring bass fishing I'm particularly partial to their Shad Rap Crankbait in gold, silver, perch and crawdad color schemes. The No. 7 is my go-to size, especially early in the season, but I'll often switch to a No. 5 as the water continues to warm and I go shallower. If I was forced to carry only one lure with me, this would probably be it.
Another lure I've only recently become excited about is the Storm Swimmin' Stick swimbait. I like the 6-inch perch color. I retrieve the Swimmin Stick fairly quickly or jerk it, depending on the fish bite and how I feel at the moment. It's a fairly large lure, which can be effective for catching big bass at this time of year.
Bass like a lot of different lures in early spring. Jigs, crankbaits, blade baits, topwater lures, stickbaits and plastics all have their place and are effective on feeding bass. And again, all bass are feeding during this time.
More than specific lure choice I'd suggest, generally speaking, you go big and fish those big lures aggressively to trigger strikes. Big lures catch big fish, and lures fished aggressively will trigger strikes from bass looking to put on weight for spawning.
Early spring is an exciting time to be on the water again. The bass are hungry and aggressive, and the sun seems a little brighter and warmer. It's a great time of year to shake off the winter rust and possibly land a few giants.