By Rick Lawrence
One on my favorite times to fish for the allusive Ditch Pickle is in the pre-spawn during early spring. When the water temps are in the high 40’s to high 50’s you can have some great early spring action for pre-spawn bass. I will cover my 5 best tactics for landing some early spring lunker largies.
By far my favorite early spring tactic for Ole Mossyback is dragging a tube. In years past I used a standard tube jig and tube and worked the bait by just inching it across the bottom. This works great and catches a ton of fish, but you lose a lot of jigs this way as they get hung up on everything. In the last 2 years or so I have gone to the Jika rig for my tubes. It catches a lot of fish as well and I don’t have any snagging problems as I do with the normal tube jig. I will put a picture of a Jika rig in the photos for a reference as to what they are. This rig works great with a host of other soft plastic baits as well so it’s not just a way to fish tubes. You can buy premade rigs, but they are super easy to make. All’s you need in a EWG hook in the correct size to match your tube, a small split ring, a weight on a wire of some kind (like a dropshot weight or casting weight, and a small swivel. I make my own weights with hallow core pencil lead and soft wire by bending a loop on one end and sliding the weight on and just bend the wire to hold it in place. That way you can change the size of your weight without making up a new rig. Here is a video I did a few years ago on my drag the tube technique using a regular tube jig. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dKVZUEg2XpE&t=687s
My second favorite way is jerkbaits. The key to catching early spring largemouths is having a properly tuned bait and how you work the bait. Some jerkbait work good right out of the box and most others need tuned to get that perfect suspending action you want to see. You need to test all your jerkbaits in cold water either in your tube at home of in your body of water you plan to fish, if it is clear enough to see what the bait is doing. A properly tuned bait will suspend perfectly flat in the water and not raise or sink. If it doesn’t you need to add weight or put on lighter hooks or split rings to take off weight to make it suspend properly. Most bait’s need just a little added weight to work like they should. If the bait floats up slowly with the head up I put a suspend strip on the nose of the bait to pull it down level and make the bait not float up.
The other key to catching fish after you get a properly working bait is how you fish it. In water in the 40’s and 50’s bass are not going to chase a lure down, so you need to work the bait slowly with a few twitches of the rod tip then wait. Start with a 5 second pause and go longer up to about 12 seconds till you see what works. I very how many times and how hard a twitch the bait as well as how long I wait till I find what is working that day. All of the fish will hit on the pause, so watch your line and hang on because the strikes can be fierce. Some of my favorite jerkbaits are the KVD 300, Megabass vision 110 and the vision 110+1, the Rapala Shadow rap deep and Xrap #8, and the Lucky craft pointer 110.
There are a lot of other good jerkbaits out there, but any of these are proven fish catchers as long as they are tuned properly. A word of warning though, if you have any Pike or Muskies in your waters you plan to fish, you better either be using a leader or be prepared to get bit off.
Up next are slow sinking stick bait like my World famous Sink-N-Fool baits or your standard Sinko type bait. This type of bait catches cold water fish anywhere in the country rigged either with a normal Texas rig or on a wacky rig. A 6” Pumpkin Blue Pearl, Green Shad, or Watermelon Red Sink-N-Fool on a 4/0 EWG hook fished near or in wood cover will always get fish in the early spring. The key to this type of bait is to fish it on a semi slack line on the fall. You really need to be a line watcher with this technique as the line will jump when the fish sucks in the bait as it falls. I fish this in and around the heaviest wood cover I can find this time of year. Just Tex-pose your baits and bury the hookpoint good so you don’t get hung up.
Up next is the lipless crankbaits like your Rattletraps and Rattlin Raps. This a great bait to fish somewhat deeper water using the yoyo method. Make long casts and let the bait fall on a tight line or semi slack line, then rip it up and let it fall again. You want to YoYo the bait just off the bottom all the way back to the boat. The fish will always hit the bait on the fall. This same technique works with blade baits as well. With either bait you want to rip the bait up just hard enough to feel a good vibration or rattle.
One bait I feel I need to give at least an honorable mention to is, the KVD 1.5 square bill crankbait. There are times in the spring that you can load the boat with this bait. I really like to bounce it off as much cover as I can find and just crank it , it catches fish.
My last pre-spawn tactic is slow falling jigs. I make my own by cutting a piece of foam in a round cylinder shape about an inch long I slit the foam on one side from deep to shallow and super glue in just behind the skirt of the jig on the hook. I use jigs with an EWG hook for this. I use a marker to paint the foam body the same color as the jighead. Then add a trailer and you can have a jig that weighs a ½ oz. so it casts really well, but falls super slow at about 4 inches per second. That super slow fall is what really makes this type of jig work in cold water.
If anyone has any inquiries about how I make baits you can email me at; firstname.lastname@example.org