Avoid these bass fishing mistakes to make the most out of your next trip to the water.
Some think March Madness is all about whittling down college basketball teams all the way to the national championship.
Nope, not the case to the bass anglers who have been sitting on the sidelines since last fall waiting for the water to warm and bestir their favorite quarry. Some will rush out in an effort to be first on the water.
Others will make sure to avoid these five spring bass mistakes. Read on to find success.
1. BUT, IT WORKED LAST YEAR
The first rule of spring bass fishing is to forget everything that worked on the last day of fishing last fall. OK, keep the rods and reels but make sure the reels are in good working order.
Inspect the line for nicks, snaps or frays and replace as needed. Line that has deteriorated over a season or two of use can mean a lost fish.
Forget where the fish were concentrated months ago because they won’t be there now. Black bass are cold-blooded creatures. Their seasonal movements, their reproductive drive and their food consumption are all driven by the temperature of their environment. Successful fishermen take note, adjust tactics and catch fish. Unsuccessful anglers don’t.
The single most important spring bass adjustment is the speed of the retrieve.
Cold water means lethargic fish that need to be finessed into biting. Steelheaders understand the concept of putting the lure in the face of a cold-water fish. Slow down. Take a deep breath.
Bass fishermen need to slow things down and let the crankbait or spinnerbait slowly tantalize fish into striking. Save the fast ripping retrieve until the water heats up.
Think about what food source is most abundant and available this time of year. If the water being targeted has threadfin shad and the winter water temperature dropped below 45 degrees, those temperature-sensitive bass morsels are all dead.
Instead of throwing that shad-like bait, consider running a crayfish crank or soft plastic instead. Go big now because the new crop of crayfish likely hasn’t hatched yet.
2. IGNORE THE WEATHER
You’ve heard it said and perhaps have the same thoughts — tough guys fish in all kinds of weather.
It’s true that fishermen do indeed fish in many different weather patterns. The successful anglers pay attention to the weather and not just the day when they are on the water. They modify their game plan based on the weather trend, and so should every fisherman.
Spring is the time of rapid weather changes. There can be a few days of bright sun that brings increasing water temperature followed by a day or two of cold rain.
The fish react to those trends in predictable patterns. Those few warm days bring bass up higher in the water column, with the warming effects more pronounced in shallow lakes, especially those with a dark bottom.
If the fish were holding at 15 feet before the warm trend, it would be a mistake to spend all day running baits at that same level. They will have moved up to enjoy the warmer water, and you need to fish a bit shallower.
Use a compass to help sort of the weather factor. Years ago John Wayne starred in a rollicking gun fight, fist fight movie titled “North To Alaska.” Not saying fishermen need to go to Alaska, but they should pay close attention to north in both location and wind direction.
Northern shorelines warm up faster than other shorelines because they get more exposure to sunlight that sets a sequence of events in motion. The warming water triggers the growth of fish food at the same time as it kickstarts bass metabolism. A hungry bass is a feeding bass.
All things north are not favorable. Areas pummeled by cold north winds should be avoided. Who knew that a magical magnetic device could put anglers on fish?
3. BE CONSPICUOUS
Yes, that’s right. Make a lot of noise. Damn the torpedoes — drive your boat up to your fishing spot on plane at full speed. Fling the electric over the side, making sure to bang it against the side of the boat. Drop rods, reels and rod cases in the boat. Crank up the music.
Sound travels four times faster and farther in water than in air.
All those clunky boat noises put every fish in the neighborhood on alert. Research shows even electric motors increase tension in bass.
Oh, yeah — stand tall and wear bright clothes as well. On the other hand, you might want to tone it down to catch more fish.
Spring can mean the clearest water of the year. The weedbeds, lily pads and other vegetation have yet to sprout. That means the fish lack protective cover and can be skittish.
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The lack of cover combined with clear water means the fish have unobstructed sight lines and that fluorescent orange logo shirt you love so much will stand out like a beacon of light. It’s OK to wear it on the way to the ramp, but something more subtle on the water will mean more fish to the boat.
4. IGNORE TRAVEL PATTERNS
As the water warms, the fish move from their winter haunts, first into the pre-spawn locales and then onto the spawning beds as the water continues to warm.
To get from Point A to Point C, the fish don’t wander hither and thither. They take the usual and customary travel routes of ditches, flooded creek beds, drowned timber and tapering points.
Careful use of electronics can reveal these travel routes. Fishermen without electronics can get on the water when the lake is at winter’s lowest depth and map all that structure before the lake begins to fill.
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Last fall when the water was warm in rivers, the fish were concentrated in the riffle water because the dissolved oxygen concentrations were higher.
Smallmouth favor faster water, with largemouth willing to tolerate a bit slower current. As the temperature dropped over the winter, the smallmouth moved out of the riffles and into the deeper and slower moving pools while largemouth looked for backwater and sloughs. Until the water fires up to 50 degrees, the fish will still be in their winter locations.
5. RUN AND GUN
Sometimes it seems those bass fishermen operating boats with tons of horsepower are more interested in running from place to place at breakneck speed instead of carefully and methodically working each bit of structure in front of them. Hurrying from place to place makes for an enjoyable boat ride but maybe not much of a catching experience.
There is nothing wrong with quickly working a shoreline or structure when the water temperature has cranked up. But as noted above, spring water temperature means cold fish that are unwilling to chase down food. That requires the fisherman to make more casts to each area.
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Make three or four casts to each likely looking spot. Cast to each side of a laydown and fan cast all points of a brush pile before moving on to the next structure. Carefully work stumps and any other large woody debris because that stuff attracts largemouth in big numbers.
Smallmouth are more attracted to rock piles in lakes, and the biggest fish will be hanging near the biggest rock in every stretch of cobble-bottomed rivers. That fish-holding rock needn’t be huge, it only needs to be larger than any other nearby rocks. In this case, size does matter.
In spring bass fishing, it’s better to be the tortoise than the hare. The successful bass fisherman will curb winter’s pent up energy and transform it into close observation, thorough prospecting of structure and a nice, slow retrieve. See you on the water.