Now is the time to fashion your warm-weather plan for catching bass. Different patterns work best for varying situations in the spring. So, let’s do some patterning.
The Early Bite
The pre-spawn is an optimum period for producing lunkers. In fact, I’ve caught my five biggest bass over 10 pounds during this time. The bass ranged from 10 pounds, 2 ounces, to 11 pounds, 12 ounces, and all were caught in shallow water from two to five feet deep. These bass were cruising the banks or holding in cover and gorging on baitfish. Female bass must lay up spare fat to nurture the eggs they are carrying and to get the fish themselves through the long spawning ordeal ahead.
My lure picks now are some sort of minnow imitator and a black plastic lizard, Texas-rigged with a small bullet sinker just heavy enough to sink it. Keep in mind how bass react to salamanders, which plastic lizards imitate. A salamander is a predator of fish eggs, and bass hate them. A spawning bass will pounce on the critter, crush and kill it, then blow it out by flaring its gills closed. Consequently, when fishing a bogus lizard, you must be alert and set the hook instantly on the take.
In the Spawn
Once a nest is made, both male and female bass guard it and are aggressive toward intruders. After the eggs are laid and fertilized, the female takes off at some point and leaves rearing duties to papa bass. Almost any plastic lure, such as worms, lizards and tubes that intrude into the nest area, will get whacked, usually by the male first.
It takes persistence and hitting just the right spot in the nest to get big mama interested. If you care anything about fishery conservation, handle spawning bass carefully and release them at the nest site.
After the Party
Male and female bass eventually desert the nest and the fry, then loll around without feeding for a week or so before beginning their regular early-summer patterns. They stake out ambush cover and take advantage of the new crop of crayfish, young bluegills and other forage that hug the shoreline. Ambush cover is made up of shady spots like shoreline weeds, brush, lily pads, reeds, boat docks, riprap and laydowns. Fish these with lures that resemble the various critters that emerge with the advent of spring. Likely baits include leadhead jigs with crayfish, worm or minnow bodies, as well as soft- and hard-body jerkbaits and Texas- or Carolina-rigged plastic worms and lizards. Fish worms slowly, as bass are choosy when they’re not actively chasing baitfish. In short, try to find the key to opening reluctant jaws in each of your favorite haunts.