By Rick Lawrence
Rule # 1 The key for spring bass fishing, (whether it be Largemouth or Smallmouth you’re after), is the water temperature. If the temps are below 40 you might as well stay home, because it’s going to be a very long row to hoe. Once the water hits 45 deg. you can start catching a few fish, at 50 deg. you can start having some pretty good days, and when the water temps hit 55 is on like donkey-kong.
Rule #2; The second thing to look for in spring for Largemouth fishing especially is wood in the water. Fallen trees, logs, stumps, brush piles, bushes and beaver huts all make good cover to fish this time of year. Ditch-pickles love to be near wood because the wood warms faster and radiates that heat into the water around it, plus it also provides cover for the fish that makes them feel protected. Smallmouths tend to be much more rock oriented, but will also use wood at times.
Rule # 3 is if the water is below that magic 55 deg. is SLOW down. You can hardly fish a bait to slow in cold water, but it’s easy to fish one to fast. Some of my go-to baits for early spring are; heavy salt soft plastics, slow falling jigs, weedless tube rigs, and jerkbaits. The key to catching fish on any of these baits is proper presentation. Heavy salt plastic bait like my world famous Sink-N-Fool baits (which I don’t sell any more) or the less popular Senko ?, are by far the easiest lure to fish in cold water. Just cast them near wood cover and let it fall on a semi slack line till it hits bottom. Lift it up a foot or two and let it fall again. Watch your line carefully as the bait falls for a tick where the line will move away from you about 6” fast then stops that’s when a fish sucked in your bait, so set the hook! If you cast this type of bait near wood cover in about 4 to 12 feet of water you will find fish.
My next favorite way to fish for early spring bass is dragging a tube. I fish them on a standard tube jig head with the exposed hook mainly, but if there is a lot of snags or weeds on the bottom to catch on I use the Jika rig. The Jika rig (pronounced Zee-ka) is an extra wide gap worm hook with a weight off the front of it. Some use split rings or snaps to attach the weigh, but as long as it is a short free swinging weight it will work. Just jig the tube Texas style and bury the hook point good.
I use the inch worm technique for this by dragging the bait very slowly. I reel a quarter or half turn at a time about 10 to 30 seconds apart. Many times I use my 2 pole permit for this and have 2 rod in holders. I switch back and forth, reeling one up a bit then the other. Bites are electric taps and set the hook as soon as you feel the fish give it a good hit.
Fishing jigs in the spring is a great way to put fish in the boat, and I have found the slower you can get your jig to fall the more time the fish have to bite the bait.
So my Rule # 4 is, never be afraid to modify your baits. I invented a lure about 15 years ago that has been one of my very closely guarded secrets. But I’m going to share it with you all now as I anit getting any younger, so I need to pass the knowledge on. I take an extra wide gap jig with a skirt on it and super glue a piece of soft round foam to the hook. I use a piece ½” round foam about an inch and a quarter long. Cut a slit in it from one end to the center of the foam to near the top on the other end so when glued in place it is straight with the jighead. I glue these on just behind the skirt by filling the slit in the foam with super glue and sliding into place on the hook. This makes the skirt flare nicely as well. If you use about a 1 ¼” to 1 ½” of foam on a 3/8 oz. jig this gives you a jig that casts and pitches great, but still has a fall rate of about 4 inches per second. Add a floppy tail trailer to this rig and you have a killer setup for sticking early spring toads. I glue my trailers to the foam as well as go through the bait with the hook to keep them in place. That slower fall rate can be all the difference some days on getting the fish to bite in cold water as it gives the fish more time to bite the bait and they don’t have to put out as much energy to catch up to the bait like it would if it was a fast falling lure.
Rule #5 always test your jerkbaits to make sure they suspended flat and not rise or sink. The key to fishing a jerkbait in cold water is fish it slow and get the bait to stay suspended in the water as the same depth you stopped it at and sit there perfectly flat. If it won’t tune the bait by adding weight there it needs it till it does. Most jerkbaits float up slowly out of the box and need a little added weight to make them work correctly. I use the lead suspend strips you can get at most major tackle shops for this. If the bait raises nose, up add some weight under the chin of the bait. It is raised tail up put some under the back of the bait. If the bait sinks about the only thing you can do is put on lighter hooks and split rings. Although I have more success for Smallmouth in the spring on jerkbaits, Largemouth like them as well. I like to throw jerkbaits in the spring in the eddies and coves off the main river channel in about 8 to 15 feet of water for monster Bronzebacks.
Rule #6 is be prepared. Get your boat serviced; get you rods and reels cleaned, oiled and ready to go with new line. Organize and label your tackle box so you can find what lure you’re looking for quick and easy. Fallow these few basic rules and you too can be putting fish in the boat or on the bank this spring in good numbers.