Early spring can produce some of the biggest bass of the year. This season finds bass emerging from the winter doldrums hungry and ready to feast, but cold conditions can also make them sluggish and disinclined to chase the big, flashy lures that draw strikes in summer. But there’s no need to worry. A little planning and some solid springtime bass fishing tactics can but big fish on the line when there’s still a chill in the air.
- Work with the weather. Seldom can a small change in the weather make as great a difference as in early spring, but it’s important to remember that it takes several days of warm weather to significantly change water temperatures. Focus your fishing efforts on shallow areas that warm up the quickest. During a cold front, cast around the drop-offs that provide a link between deep and shallow water. Some of the best fishing of the season often takes place on the first overcast day following three or four days of warm, sunny weather.
- Focus on shallow cover. When bass fishing in shallow water during early spring, individual pieces of cover can be the most productive spots. Rocks, stumps and patches of gravel retain heat better than sandy and muddy bottoms, and bass often congregate in these areas. The north end of a lake usually warms up first and fastest.
- Downsize. When waters are still in the 40s, bass may not be willing to commit to a big meal. Downsizing your offering can tempt even the biggest bass at this time of year. Grubs, jigs, soft stickbaits and other natural baits are frequently productive. Watch your line carefully. Many strikes will be a barely-detectable twitch on the line. If you prefer crankbaits, scale down to 3- and 4-inch models.
- Slow it down. Speed is another big consideration. A lot of bass in cold water simply don’t have the energy to go chasing after a fast lure. Jerkbaits are one of the most reliable bass-catchers in early spring, and the best way to fish one is with a methodical start-and-stop retrieve. Suspending models are particularly effective because they hover lifelessly in the water column during a pause, and many strikes come right when you twitch the bait after a long pause. You can also work the bottom with a jig using a similarly hesitant retrieve.
- Set your sights. Springtime is a great time for sight fishing. Armed with a pair of polarized sunglasses, you can work your way through clear, shallow water, spotting individual bass and making well-aimed casts ahead of them. Fish may be skittish, so keep splashes and boat noises to a minimum, and pay attention to where your shadow is cast.