A brisk wind was blowing hard into the cove, curling the edges of the few lily pads that had either survived the winter or were already emerging to face a new spring.
Coming out of the south, it was a warm touch, which figured to make the inlet on the 170-acre Bill Waller Lake a good choice to look for bass. The sun had been hitting the surface for a couple of hours and the breeze had to help. The surface temperature was still in the low 50s in the open water, but as I entered the cove, it start coming up quickly.
By the time my trolling motor had put me 40 yards around the point, it was 55 degrees and I saw activity. There seemed to be some fish chasing bait around the edges of the vegetation.
I chose a soft plastic crawworm that I could pitch into openings, and eased toward the bank.
As soon as my second pitch hit the water next to the grass, I felt a solid thud. I jerked and the 15-pound fluorocarbon line landed a 10-inch bass right on the deck of the boat.
Thirty minutes later, I had put 10 more small bass in the boat and released them all.
The buck bass had already moved up into the shallows, but where were the females, the big fat sows that make this lake near Columbia in south Mississippi such a popular destination for bass fishermen?
My partner and I discussed the possibilities and settled on the obvious. We had to move deep, and find where the females were staging in the pre-spawn cycle of early March.
It took a little while, but man, was it worth the effort.
We found the big girls out at the mouth of the cove, just where the water was starting to warm, and they were holding on all kinds of cover. We found two good patterns and wound up catching a dozen fish all larger than 5 pounds and all fat with full egg sacks. Half came on a soft plastic swimbait, unweighted, and reeled slowly around stumps. The other half came on jigs and 7-inch black lizards or 4-inch craws pitched around the deepest vegetation on the points.
Not a bad afternoon at all on a bluebird type day in March, one that began in thick insulated jackets and ended in t-shirts. That’s typical fishing weather for the season in the southeast.
It is a variance often seen in the fishing, too, with some lakes still too cool for any semblance of spawning or pre-spawn activity and others on a peak. And, as evidenced by the 2011 BASS Masters Classic in New Orleans just two weeks prior to our trip to Lake Bill Waller, the change in fish behavior can come as quickly as a change in the weather.
The Mississippi River Delta is another great March destination, and there the entire direction of the tournament changed in less a week. A hard freeze a week before the event was replaced by 70-degree weather on classic week.
Predictions of the winning weights coming from fishermen making long runs to Venice to produce 15 or 18 pounds a day, were cast aside and the tournament was dominated by anglers who stayed north in the Delta, a few miles from the Bayou Segnette launch at Lake Cataouatche.
In the span of a few days of warmth, shallow Cataouatche filled with sow bass, feeding heavily in the pre-spawn. Suddenly, if pros weren’t catching 20-pounds a day, they were not in competition. Kevin VanDam won his fourth title with a three-day total a few ounces shy of 70 pounds.
He gambled that a warm front would hit and change the fishing and it paid off.