Best Techniques for Spring Bass

Best Techniques for Spring Bass

There’s nothing anglers look forward to more than spring. After being locked in the cold, dark cage of winter for months, being out on the open water and casting a line in the sun almost feels like a personal revival. Rods in hand, we head out to our favorite waters to chase everything from trout and panfish, to pickerel and catfish. Still, the fish that most of us fantasized about catching while hibernating on the couch during our wintertime hiatus was undoubtedly the bass.

A mascot for the American fishing experience, bass are the most popular fish in freshwater, and catching the first spring bass serves as a symbolic kickoff for the fishing season. However, spring bass are a much different animal from their topwater-slamming, spinnerbait-crushing, slobber-knocker-summertime counterparts.

Spring bass are finicky and elusive and can be difficult for early-season anglers to really get a handle on. Yet, when you’re using the right techniques, spring bass fishing can be as good or better than summer fishing and even offer you the chance at the bass of a lifetime.

Finding Spring Bass

Both largemouth and smallmouth bass are warmwater species whose normally aggressive behavior is dulled by the cold waters of winter. When the waters finally begin to warm in spring, bass almost become like bears emerging from hibernation—lethargic and slow but extremely hungry. Additionally, bass are also spring spawners, further muddling their normally predictable actions as they are now doubly driven by the need to feed and breed.

Most spring bass will slowly begin to migrate from the deep waters where they spent the winter to the shallow flats where they plan to lay their eggs, feeding heavily along the way. Schooling together, the fish will move along underwater channels and work their way up drop-offs and along deep edges in 15 to 25 feet of water near the shallow gravel bars that will become their spawning grounds. Throughout the day, the fish will move up and down the water column, pushing into shallower water as water temperatures increase during the afternoon and then back into deeper water as they drop in the evening.

You can easily intercept these bass schools by using electronics or bathymetric maps to locate likely spots at the proper depth. Concentrate your efforts around rocky areas, emerging vegetation, and other cover that will hold pre-spawn bass, as well as the baitfish and panfish they’ll be feeding on. Bass emerging from their inactive winter season and preparing for the spawn will be absolutely ferocious. As long as you’re using the right fishing methods, you stand a good chance of having continuous bass-fishing action from dawn to dusk.

Equipment for Spring Bass Fishing

Spring bass fishing requires a lot of finesse techniques, so you’re going to be better off fishing with lighter gear. Instead of using that heavy-action casting rod that you use to rip around buzz baits and yank big largemouth out of weed beds during the summer, try using a softer, medium- to light-action spinning rod rigged with 8- to 10-pound test line. Using these lighter rods will allow you to easily slow down your presentations, help you detect structure along the bottom, and feel what can sometimes be some surprisingly subtle strikes.

Dropping In Soft Plastics

While there are a few different fishing techniques that will absolutely slay spring bass, drop-shotting or bottom bouncing with soft plastics is almost always going to be your best producer. Both methods allow you to slowly work baits in deeper water where they can trigger strikes from even the most finicky bucketmouths. However, there are certain times of day and certain areas when both techniques will work especially well.

Bottom-bouncing a soft plastic tube bait, crawfish, worm, or creature bait on a jighead hook or shaky head hook is great for drawing in more aggressive bass in the late afternoon or for when you have to cover water to find fish. Using a heavier ¼-ounce jighead or shakey head hook that will get to the bottom quickly, cast your soft plastics into deeper water with a lot of rocky bottoms and let them sink to the bottom. Once you feel your soft plastic hit the rocks, begin to jig-retrieve it back to the boat with a lot of slow, bouncing lifts of your rod. This will cause the bait to rise and fall in the water column and to clack against rocks and stir up the bottom while it does, calling in and hopefully triggering aggressive strikes from hungry bass coming over to investigate the disturbance.

On colder days when bass are sluggish or when you find a school of them locked up in deep water, a soft plastic rigged on a drop-shot rig is the way to go. Set up your drop-shot by first tying a size 2 to size 1/0 drop-shot hook or octopus hook to your line, leaving a long 18 to 20-inch tag end of line off the knot. Tie a small ⅛- to ¼-ounce casting sinker or drop sinker to the tag end and then add your bait. You want the presentation to appear natural, so rig the soft-plastic baits by hooking them once through the heads or tails, leaving at least two-thirds of the bait to dangle and flutter in the water.

Fish a drop shot rig by either casting it and working it slowly back towards you or by dropping it vertically in the water directly on top of the fish. Let the weight sink down to the bottom, then begin to gently jig it so you’re barely lifting the weight, concentrating your efforts on just trying to move the soft plastic. This creates a very natural-looking presentation of a baitfish or crayfish in distress and is just the thing to tempt a big spring bass into moving in and inhaling it.

Suspending Jerkbaits

Fishing with suspended jerkbaits like the Staredown and the Husky Jerk is another fantastic method for spring bass fishing. They are especially effective when fishing on colder days or in colder water when bass are less apt to chase down a fast-moving lure. These jerkbaits can also be held in the strike zone for long periods of time, making them perfect for targeting suspending bass holding above the bottom in deeper water.

Unlike classic jerkbaits, suspending jerkbaits don’t rise back to the surface once they stop moving, allowing you to fish them incredibly slowly with a lot of fast jerks and long pauses. They work extremely well in deeper water with a lot of deepwater humps, rock piles, and ridges along their path or when fishing along the slope of a drop-off adjacent to the bass’s shallow-water spawning grounds.

Fish jerkbaits by casting them across the top of underwater structures and reeling them down to depth. Then begin to add a lot of jerks and slashes to your presentation with a lot of long two- to five-second pauses mixed in, varying the cadence with every cast until you find a rhythm that the bass seem to like.

Ideally, the sudden frantic movements will attract a bass’s attention by imitating a wounded or dying baitfish and cause them to approach expecting an easy meal. Be sure to reel in your extra slack during the pauses in your retrieval because, most of the time, interested bass will absolutely smash the bait once it stops moving, and you’ll need to set the hook quickly.

A Spring Fling

Springtime bass fishing is almost like reuniting with an old flame. You haven’t seen them in a while, and you don’t exactly know how they’re going to react. Yet once you reunite, all the magic you had in the past can be instantly reignited.

Spring bass are fat and happy. In their pre-spawn, or even spawning mode, they’ll all be gathered in one place, meaning you can be quickly plunged right back into all the hard-fighting, lip-ripping joy you remember from the summer. So, if you’re one of the anglers who dreamed all winter of getting back out on the water and catching their first big bass, there’s no time to waste—they’re out there waiting for you.

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