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Best Early-Season Bites: Bass, Walleye, and Crappie

February 19, 2014
Best Early-Season Bites: Bass, Walleye, and Crappie - 0

You don't have to wait until June for the fishing to get good. With the right tactics, you can have consistent success on the most popular freshwater species. Here's how to find and catch early-season bass, walleye, and crappie.

Bass


Illustrations by Pete Sucheski

Where to Find fish
Suspended in deep water with cover stumps, riprap, rocks, etc. in places adjacent to ­shallows.

 

Water Temp pre-spawn trigger
0 to 58 degrees
(smallmouths);
55 to 63 degrees
(largemouths)

structure to search
Riverbeds, roadbeds, and old-growth tree lines leading from deep to warming shallow feeding areas

Primary Baits
Jigs, tubes, and worms in traditional patterns like crawdad and black-and-blue

Bait weights
In depths of less than 20 feet, use ³⁄₈ to ½ ounce; greater than 20 feet, use ¾ to 1 ounce

Presentation
Slowly crawl or drag heavyweight baits through structure, staying in contact with stickups.
Fish s-l-o-w-l-y.

Walleye

Where to Find fish
From a spawning area, locate the closest spot with a depth of 30 feet and a flat bottom.

Water Temp pre-spawn trigger
38 to 44 degrees

Structure to search
Back bays, lake bottoms, or anywhere there is a depth closest to the 30-foot mark near shallows

Primary Baits
Lindy rigs tipped with the largest live minnows available, or vertical jigs tipped with a minnow

Bait weights
Walking sinkers in ¹⁄₈ ounce in 6 to 10 feet of water; ¼ ounce for 10 to 15 feet; ½ ounce for 15 to 25 feet

Presentation
Position the boat on the upwind side and drift through the target area as slowly as possible, with the Lindy rig.

Crappie

Where to Find fish
Structure pathways such as rock ledges, rocky shoals, roadbeds, and creekbeds. Look for suspended baitfish.

Water Temp pre-spawn trigger
40 to 45 degrees

Structure to search
Areas with stained or muddy water and a dramatic depth change nearby

Primary Baits
Bass Pro Marabou Stump Jumpers, Road Runner Bang Shad Buffet Rig, and Northland Mimic Minnow

Bait weights
¹⁄₈ to ¼ ounce

Presentation
Slowly wind-drift jigs on long lines around pronounced tributary points.

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