If you’ve got big bass on the brain, March is your month around here. Generally, we’ll see big hen bucketmouths in our local lakes go into a pre-spawn mode sometime over the next few weeks (depending on the weather) – and that’s when they’re at their largest.
Full of roe and still actively feeding to store energy for the upcoming breeding season, pre-spawn largemouth are fat and sassy and great fun to pursue. You just have to know where to look for them.
The first key to success is to check your water temperature. As a basic rule, the pre-spawn pattern starts when the water creeps into the low 50’s (that’s about where we are at most lakes right now) and then picks up as the temperatures climb towards the magical 60-degree mark.
When the water’s in the 50’s the fish shake off the winter-induced cobwebs and start migrating towards the banks. They also begin feeding heavily. The biggest mistake most anglers make this time of year is fishing too shallow. You really need to locate some deepwater structure that’s close to a spawning cove. Use your electronics to search for rock piles, ledges, submerged trees, bridge pilings or humps that are 15 to 30 feet deep – yet close to shallow water.
The big hens will hang out in these deeper spots as they wait for the water to warm and their eggs to ripen. You can catch smaller males up on the flats this time of year, but for the big gals, again, stay deep. In these situations, crawfish imitations become your weapons of choice.
Jigs are my all-around favorite things to throw in the early spring, though tubes are also productive. Go with the darker craw patterns like brown and orange and crank them according to the water temperature. If the temps are in the low to mid 50’s, retrieve them at a snail’s pace – slow and steady. As you find water that’s closer to 60 degrees, you can speed up and even switch over to deep-diving craw crankbaits (I like Norman Deep N’s and Berkley Frenzy Deep Divers).
It’s a good idea to have plenty of gear on board when you fish in the spring as conditions can change quickly. If we get a shot of warm weather and the water temps shoot up above 60 degrees, you’re going to have to start working the shallower flats. Until the bass get bedded up, I like to fish quickly with rip and jerk baits like Lucky Craft’s Pointer 80 in the American Shad pattern. Unless, of course, the water’s off-color due to storm runoff. In that case, chartreuse or white spinnerbaits slow-rolled just off the bottom can produce when nothing else will.
So, there you have it – now’s a great time to start thinking about big bass.