March 16, 2022
Often, "they" say that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb, but "they" forget to mention bass, and that’s a big oversight. For bass angling, March comes in like a lunker inhaling a jig and goes out like a leviathan hammering a swimbait.
When you’re talking about weather, March is one of the most unpredictable months on the calendar. But when it comes to giant bass, March is money—the closest thing to a sure thing we have. February can be tough, and April and May can be easy if you’re looking for numbers of fish, but March is your best bet for a true-blue, honest-to-goodness Southern hawg.
Just look at the record books. Eighteen state-record bass were caught in March—six for each of the major bass species.
The record largemouths came from Arkansas, North Carolina, Oklahoma, California, New Mexico and Wyoming. The smallmouths were caught in Georgia, Oklahoma, Texas, Virginia, Arizona and Illinois. And the states recording top spotted bass in March were Alabama, Arkansas, Texas, Illinois, Nebraska and New Mexico.
That doesn’t include any records for which a state did not identify the month it was caught, and it’s a far more impressive tally than any other page on your calendar.
If that’s not enough, a look at the list of the 25 biggest largemouths ever certified shows that 8—more than a third—were caught in March, which, again, is more than in any other month.
Depending upon your latitude, bass can be in either pre-spawn, spawn or even post-spawn mode in March. For most bass throughout the South, though, March is the pre-spawn period, and that’ll be our focus here.
Pre-spawn bass are typically feeding more, more aggressively and shallower than at other times of the year. Those traits make them more vulnerable to you and me, but also to every other angler on the water. That’s why we need to find whatever edges we can to tip the odds of catching a lunker in our favor. Three simple steps will do that, but we need to follow them carefully. When our goal is the biggest bass in the lake, we can’t leave anything to chance.
STEP 1: HIT THE RIGHT WATER
For any number of reasons, some bodies of water are simply better than others for producing lunker bass. The biggest factors are genetics, habitat and forage. Do you know the fisheries near your home that turn out great numbers of big fish or the heaviest bass each year? Check with state biologists to get the lowdown on this, or keep a personal tally based on what you hear from friends and biologists or through the grapevine.
Consider fishing smaller waters rather than the giant reservoirs with big reputations and crowded boat ramps. Small waters warm faster than big ones and generally get less fishing pressure. You can learn the nuances of a smaller body of water faster and more thoroughly than you can a large impoundment. Those are big considerations when it comes to finding and catching the bass of a lifetime.
Being on the right body of water is just part of the equation. You also need to be in the right part of that body of water. To get there, look to the wind and the sun.
As the water starts to warm after winter, sustained winds will push the warmest layer—near the surface—to one side of the lake. This windward area will hold the warmest water available, and the bass there will be the most active. Second, because of the angle of the sun in late winter and early spring, the northwestern corner of your lake gets the biggest boost from its rays. If the water’s still cold (below 55 degrees), consider concentrating your fishing efforts in the afternoon when the sun has had a chance to do its work. The bass may be more inclined to feed later in the day.
STEP 2: GO BIG
It’s March, and unless you’re in the extreme South, there’s no young-of-the-year anything for bass to feed on—no bass fry, no bluegill fry, no shad fry. The baits you choose should reflect that. Go big or go home lunkerless.
Spinnerbaits, large soft-plastic swimbaits, bladed jigs, jigs with plastic trailers and soft-plastic lizards will help swing the odds in your favor. Use the first three as search baits and to cover water. Use the last two to work the heaviest cover thoroughly. Slower is mostly better in March, though there will certainly be days when bass are in a chasing mood.
Apart from the fact that these lure types are generally regarded as "big-fish baits," they have another thing in common. They are all single-hook lures. That’s important when you’re chasing the bass of a lifetime. A single hook means better hook penetration, and it decreases the chances that a big fish will "throw" your bait during the fight due to the hook size and bend gap. You can also cast a single-hooked lure into places that a treble-hooked bait could never navigate.
STEP 3: BE THERE
The unfortunate truth is that there are few substitutes for hours on the water when you’re targeting the bass of a lifetime. As Woody Allen once said, "Ninety percent of success in life is just showing up." Well, that could be an exaggeration, but showing up is critical, and the more time you’re out there, the better your odds of connecting with a personal best.
Sadly, few of us have the freedom to be on the water every day, so we take what we can get—a weekend or holiday here and there. If you can, hit the water several days before the full moon, especially if water temperatures are in the high 50s to mid-60s. That’s when you can expect lots of bass to spawn. It’s also when big bass are most active, most apt to be shallow and aggressive and most likely to fall prey to our lures.
It’s likely that no one in history spent more time underwater studying the behavior of bass than the late Glenn Lau. The legendary cinematographer spent thousands of hours breathing through a scuba tank and watching the lifestyle of the Micropterus clan. As he wrote in his book Bass Forever, "Six days before the full moon of the spawning season, the females congregate around rubbing logs, bumping and scraping against them, perhaps in an attempt to loosen their eggs before laying."
This activity will last for about three days, according to Lau. “This is one of the very best times of the entire year to catch a truly big bass,” he wrote. “If you can locate a rubbing log at this critical time, it’s a good bet that several big females will be nearby. A good rubbing log can be almost any size, but it needs to have sufficient diameter and strength that it won’t flex or ‘give’ much when a big female rubs against it. In areas with no logs, I’ve seen bass use rocks for the same purpose.”
The lesson to be learned when fishing for March bass is this: Establish a game plan based on the physiology of the bass in your area. Map out the most logical places for fish to congregate and then approach them with the right gear to maximize your chances of catching a March monster.