Here are our top lure picks for spring bass fishing.
Water temperatures are rising and in many parts of the country, bass are already in a pre-spawn mode. Spring is an ideal time for bass anglers to catch their largest fish ever before and after the fish move into their spawning areas.
The bass are often hungry, and anglers can get onto a fantastic bite if they find the right pattern.
Big bass can be caught on a variety of fishing lures during the early spring. Here are some of the top bass fishing lures you can have in your tackle box this time of year and what situations to use them.
For the Pre-Spawn
One key to spring fishing is to match what the fish are feeding on. Before bass start moving into the shallows to spawn, they hang out in deeper water where they try to fatten themselves up. Remember that fish generally don't feed while they are spawning. They need a lot of protein to bulk up get them through that period. You're going to want to focus your efforts into "matching the hatch" as you might hear a trout angler say. To be honest, that saying applies well to almost any type of fishing. The lures aren't necessarily the only ones you can catch bass on in the spring, but ones similar to these are going to be your best bets in the pre-spawn period when the fish are in deep to moderately shallow waters.
Rebel Big Crawfish
Fish need a lot of protein to get them through that period and many bass love to chow down on crayfish. The Rebel crawfish has consistently been a favorite of mine. It's a diving crankbait with tight action that works as well on largemouths as it does on smallmouth bass. If you get a variety of sizes, you can use this one to fish both deep and shallow water all spring.
One can't go wrong with a classic search lure. These lipless crankbaits will help you cover lots of water in a hurry. It's good for finding those pre-spawn bass that are suspended and snacking while waiting for the cold water to finally warm up. Again, a red or orange color to simulate crayfish is a good idea. Don't forget about a silver or blue color to simulate a shad either. These baits give off a great rattling sound that helps trigger the fish's instinct to take out a wounded animal. There's a reason you'll see so many pros throwing lipless baits this time of year.
Rapala Shad Rap
As we just discussed, depending on the body of water, most bass will be feeding heavily on crayfish or shad. This bait is more for the latter. The Shad Rap is a proven design that mimics a wounded baitfish very well. If you drag one of these through the strike zone, expect good things to happen. The large variety of colors means you can closely match the baitfish in your main lake. Some of the larger sizes have huge bills that allow these baits to dive down to 15 feet. That's perfect for when the largemouth bass are staging slightly offshore.
Booyah Blade Spinnerbait
Have a lot of clear water to cover and you're not sure where the bass are? Spinnerbaits are another excellent search tool. A white and silver color scheme like this Booyah spinnerbait is a great option for imitating shad. Try the "perch" or "gold shiner" schemes if the bass are primarily feeding on bluegills or sunfish in your area or the water is murky or muddy. Whatever spinnerbait you use, something with both willow and Colorado-style blades is ideal because it's going to give the most vibration, which will make it easier for the fish to find it with their lateral lines.
If you're in a northern state like I am, it may take the bass a bit longer to warm up than other parts of the country. If you're consistently encountering cold conditions, you need to slow things down a bit. That is where jerkbaits are deadly. You don't need to be super aggressive in your retrieve, you just need to get it front of their face and mimic a dying baitfish. Sometimes all it takes is a few short twitches to entice a bite. We like the silver finish of this KVD jerkbait, it gives off shad or minnow vibes that bass everywhere will find hard to resist.
For the Spawn
Spawning bass aren't going to wander far from their beds. Sometimes they can be frustrating for bass fishermen to catch because you can often see them hanging out in the shallows, but they just aren't responding to what you're throwing. Be prepared to experiment a bit to figure out exactly what's going to trigger the instincts of the fish the best.
One thing to keep in mind with spawning bass is defense. They don't like anything near their eggs or fry and you can take advantage of this by tapping into their paternal instincts. For instance, bluegills love to raid bass nests. Therefore, your bait should imitate that threat.
For extremely stubborn big fish, sometimes you need to get larger and noisier before you'll be able to get a strike out of pure anger. These baits will help you do that.
Strike King Bleeding Jig
Jigs are another great option for spring fishing, especially if an unexpected cold front suddenly moves in and the fishing slows down a bit. There's a ton of options on the market for bass fishermen, but I've been partial to Strike King's offerings for a few years now because of the great price point compared to other jigs. These jigs are available in a variety of natural color schemes to help mimic crayfish and should do well for coercing bites out of finicky bass at any time in the spring.
Z-Man DieZel MinnowZ plastic swimbait
Swimbaits, both hard plastic and soft plastic should be in your tackle box in the spring months. Both for those feeding frenzies before the spawn and for bedding fish that are chasing off predators. Many anglers in the Bassmaster Classic this year had a ton of luck on Z-Man plastic swimbaits in natural colors that simulate shad. When the fish start moving shallow on their beds, switch to a color that mimics a perch or sunfish for an aggressive parental response!
One great thing about chatterbaits is their versatility and it's why we like them for spawning bass. You can buzz this over the top of their beds and draw out aggressive fish. Alternatively, you drop one of these baits right into a bed and work it like a jig to draw a strike from a bass that's ignored everything else.
When all else fails, it never hurts to try a plastic worm that is either Texas or Carolina rigged. Worms work great for spawning fish because you can work them slowly though a bed. Eventually, that fish is going to get majorly irritated and want to move the intruder away from their young. Worms work great for post-spawn fish too as the bass start to transition from spring to their summertime haunts. Don't be afraid to try a weightless rig either if you're fishing an especially shallow or weedy area. It results in the worm sinking slower and provides a different sort of presentation than fish are used to seeing. It works well for lakes that receive a ton of angling pressure.
Heddon Zara Spook and Puppy
Topwaters are always a good bet in the springtime, for both bedded bass and transitional fish easing into their summer habits. I've always liked the Zara Spook and the smaller Zara Puppy stickbaits. These lures are deceptively simple, but walked across the surface, they resemble a small fish flopping and dying. It's hard for any bass to resist at least taking an exploratory strike at it. Sometimes, for stubborn bed fish, the only way you can entice a strike is through a bunch of aggressive splashing right above them. While I've used both sizes in Michigan to great effect, I think the smaller "puppy" is going to work better in a northern climate simply because it's a better representation of the smaller baitfish we have here.
If you keep a selection of these lures or similar offerings in your boat this spring, you're likely to have many memorable fishing trips before the summer hits. Who knows? You may even boat a new personal best bass!