|Spring Bass And Stickbaits
By: Scott M. Petersen
If I had to pick one of the toughest times of the year to catch bass it would have to be during the springtime. During this time bass will be on the move towards the shallows from their deep water winter homes they will be looking for new sources of food and they also will have spawning on their minds as well. So where does the catching part come into play at this time of the year? It may be tough but if you do a few things right you might just have some of your best days on the water this spring.
Water temp will be key at this time of the year when the bass start to move into shallow water. North lake, dark bottom bays will be the first to warm, as they will get protection from the cold north winds, so you may want to start your search on the north side of the lake. A little trick that I do when checking the lake is to record all the temps on my lake map as I go, this way all I have to do is look at the map for the warmest water and work my way back to the coolest. To get your temp readings you will need a temp attachment on your LCR or you can use a hand thermometer that you can get at a department store or a pet shop for a few dollars. The only draw back in doing it this with the hand held is the speed at which you can get your readings. It will be a little bit slower than having an LCR readout. Once you have found the warmest area this will be your starting spot. Another place you may want to target at this time of the year will be areas that are close to main lake points. Points will be used as pathways by the bass to travel from the deeper water to the shallows or back again. The deeper water on the point may also hold some bass waiting for the shallows to warm up but in this case you will want to target the shallow water areas on either side of the point, as these will be the most active bass of the bunch. This is where the bass will start to disperse when they hit the shoreline as they move into the shallows.
When it comes to bait choices at this time of year you would have to give stickbaits the nod. Stickbaits will allow you to cover water and still give the bass a natural looking bait. When you look at stickbaits you have two types, regular stickbaits and suspending stickbaits. Examples of regular stickbaits would be Rapala Original Minnow Baits or Storm Thundersticks and examples of suspending stickbaits would be the Rapala Husky Jurk or the Storm Suspending Thunderstick. Both of these baits are equal but will act differently when fished thus each have a distinct time when they should be used.
Under regular conditions meaning stable weather with the water temp on the rise you will want to use either the Rapala Original Minnow or the Storm Thunderstick. I prefer to fish these baits on a spinning system. My rod choice will be Pinnacle Limited 7' spinning rod (SPX3701SPMH) matched with a Pinnacle Peak spinning reel spooled with 8lb Berkley Sensation Line. This set up allows me to cast the bait the distances needed to not spook the shallow bass. As for the bait action let the bass tell you what they prefer for the day, you may have to experiment as to what they will want. They may want a stop-n-go, steady retrieve or a steady movement jerk, but once you have found a favored retrieve stick with it.
When faced with unstable weather or cold front conditions you will need to make a few changes to still catch bass. The first move is you will have to fish a little deeper. Bass that were holding on the shoreline in cover or on the bank will start to move out a little deeper to ride out the falling water temps. During these weather changes you can still catch bass if you slow your bait down and fish a little deeper. To facilitate this change in location and mood switch to either the Rapala Husk Jerk or the Storm Suspending Thunderstick. One other change I will make will be to throw these baits on a baitcaster system. You will be throwing baits that will weigh up to a 1/2oz and that is too big to use on a spinning system. Pinnacles 6' Limited rod (SPX3601CAMH) teamed with a Pinnacle Scion baitcasting reel spooled with 10lb Berkley Sensation is the setup that I prefer. I can not stress this enough to get bites you will have to slow down. The strike zone of the bass will be smaller now than it was before so you have to give the bass ample time to react to the bait. When you get the bait down start to move the bait slow with time in between jerks or movements, this will give the bass time to react. Places where this pattern works at its best is around emerging lilly pad fields.
If you need to get the bait down a little deeper and even fish the bait slower you can doctor your bait by adding weight. Two popular ways of add weight to your baits is to use Storm Suspend Dots or Strips or you can wrap lead on the hooks. If you are not familiar with Storm Suspend Dots and Strips they are lead dots or strips that have adhesive on the back that you can stick onto your bait. This way you can add weight to your stickbaits to modify the action or take the weight away when it is not needed for a more erratic motion. The best part of the whole system is it will not damage the lure in any way, you are just changing the action of the lure not the make up of the lure.
So when it comes to early spring fishing yes you can use a tube to catch bass but if you want to cover water and catch bass at the same time, stickbaits will be your best option. And if you are faced with a cold front moving into the area with dropping water temps make the proper lure and location change and slow down. Chances are you will be right on track to take these bass during the change. Please remember to practice CPR (Catch, Photo and Release) The future of fishing is in your hands.