Early spring. It's the time of year that every Bass fisherman who is worth his salt looks forward to. The thought of Bass that haven't seen a lure for at least 3 months is enough to stir any of us into a frenzy. Early spring has it's advantages but it can have it's own unique problems as well. Rising water temperatures can send Bass into flurries of activity that are a Bass fisherman's dream come true. But, just as quickly, a stubborn early spring cold front can be a nightmare that puts the fish back into hibernation. The key to successful fishing during this time of year lies in using the proper lures, presenting them properly and using the weather conditions to your advantage. Paying attention to the smallest details can sometimes mean the difference between a respectable day's catch and going home skunked.
When starting out in the spring you can expect water temperatures to be in the low 40 degree range. Most people shiver when they even think of fishing in this kind of cold water . But the temperature should clue you in as to what type of lure is apt to give you the best results. Think small. 3 inch grubs, 4 inch plastic worms of the straight-tail variety and 1/4 oz. Jig & Pig combinations fit the bill. Another consistent producer under these conditions, in shallow bodies of water, is the Rapala original in the 3 1/2 inch & the 4 3/8 inch sizes. Spinnerbaits may also have their place but will not be as consistent as the previously mentioned lures.
With any of the aforementioned baits the key is S-L-O-W. The Bass's metabolism is still in low gear and they aren't in much of a chasing mood. The 3 inch grub should be rigged on a 1/8 oz. jig-head. Preferred colors are smoke, chartreuse or white depending on the clarity of the water you are fishing. This should be retrieved either on a slow lift & drop or by letting it sink to the bottom, lifting it slightly and swimming it back just above the bottom of the lake. With either method a hit will usually just feel like extra weight on the end of the line. When in doubt set the hook. The 4 inch worm is best rigged on a 1/8 oz. Slider type head or Texas style with a light wire 1/0 hook & a 1/16 oz. bullet weight. Color is a matter of personal preference. However, black is always a good starting point. Smoke and pumpkinseed are also proven colors. A slow lift and drop retrieve is the standard method of presentation. Just remember; keep it slow. The 1/4 oz. Jig & Pig combination is known for its ability to attract big fish. But this is not saying that it should necessarily be a big, bulky bait. Trimming the skirt way back and combining it with a #11 Uncle Josh pork frog make it a meal that a big Bass finds hard to resist with its slow fall and natural appearance. Proven color combinations are a black, black & purple, or black & blue jig with a black or brown pork chunk. A slow lift and drop is by far the best method of retrieval. Watching your line is critical. Most bites will be nothing more than a heavy feeling or a slight jump in the line as the jig falls toward the bottom. When a fish hits your jig don't be afraid to cross its eyes when you set the hook. Remember, you have to penetrate the weed guard as well as the tough old mouth of Mr. or Mrs. Bass. The Rapala is simply cast past your target and retrieved slow and steadily. Just fast enough to feel the wobble as it makes its way back to the boat. When a Bass hits you'll not usually have any trouble knowing. Many times, when the other presentations have failed, this one will coax Bass into biting. Productive colors are gold, silver and fire tiger. Be sure, no matter what presentation you choose, that your hooks are sharp.
Line size can be an integral part of your presentation. The "light is better" school of thought is not always the way to go. 6 lb. test is probably your best bet for the jig & grub. But the plastic worm and the Rapala perform well on 10 lb. test and the fish don't seem to mind. Fish the Rapala with a #2 snap attached to the front for a livelier, more natural appearance. The Jig & pig are best fished on line in the 14 & 15 lb. test range. The heavier line gives the jig a slower fall thus making it an easier and more tempting target for lethargic Bass. Berkley's Big Game line in the 15 lb. test size and lo-vis green color is hard to beat for durability and invisibility.
The weather is always the controlling factor in early spring fishing. But its not always the enemy. Knowing what to look for in weather patterns can play a big part in being a successful early spring fisherman. A bright, sunny, warm spring day, as nice as it is, is not usually enough to turn the fish on unless the body of water you are fishing is extremely shallow. At least 2 or 3 days of stable weather are needed to really get things moving, although 4 or 5 days are better. By the end of the 3rd day the fish will be starting to feed more aggressively and will be more responsive to any of your presentations. Most fisherman think of cloudy, overcast days as being the ideal conditions for aggressive feeding on the part of the Bass. This is only partly true. A cloudy day , after having 2 or 3 other cloudy days isn't worth a whole lot. A series of cool, cloudy days does nothing but drop the water temperature and put a damper on the Bass's metabolism. The key to the cloudy day theory, especially in the early spring, is to fish the first cloudy day after a warming trend. If you have 4 or 5 warm, sunny days and then a cloudy, rainy day be sure to get out on the lake, even if it means calling in to work and taking the day off. It'll be well worth it. Not only will you increase your chances of catching numbers of fish but your chances of connecting with a genuine hawg increase, in my opinion, by 25-30%. Under these conditions the Jig & Pig and the spinnerbait are probably the best choices to throw. The spinnerbait allows you to cover water quickly and locate active fish. Once you locate fish with the spinnerbait don't be afraid to use the Jig & Pig to tempt the less active, bigger fish. A sincere effort on the part of the angler will generally pay off with some good quality catches without leaving the area where the fish were slamming spinnerbaits. Pay attention to these details. You'll increase your catch and unlock the secrets of early spring fishing.