March in Oklahoma; It’s the big-bass month, the transition month, the spring-has-sprung month, but it can also be what-the-heck-happened month.Early spring rains can muddy a reservoir, and a dry winter can leave it low and clear. An early warm spell can have the bass moving up. A late spring feels like winter fishing will never end.
Weather and water levels are most critical this month, but there’s no denying that most bass on this state’s Top 20 list were caught in March. Any angler with any appreciable time on the water knows that when the stars align, this is the month to drop the hammer on fat pre-spawn bass.
Three of Oklahoma’s best and most experienced Major League Fishing pros shared thoughts on where they would go in their home state and how they approach waters in this topsy-turvy terrific month of March.
Edwin Evers of Talala, Tommy Biffle of Wagoner and Jeff Kriet of Ardmore are longtime pro anglers well known across the world of fishing but also more than just a little familiar with their home waters.
We asked each one for their list of favorite lakes and tried-and-true baits and what anglers need to know in March. The baits all work from lake to lake, so we’ll tackle those (pun intended) separately.
TIPS FROM THE PROS
Knowing your lake or doing research ahead of time counts. What you know about the exposure of that water’s best points and back coves to warming sunlight or what you want to explore based on home research with your electronics or good ol’ fashioned lake maps might guide your decisions.
Stability And Temperature
Evers said stability of water conditions is a key.
“The most stable conditions for a period of time are always going to be best, not rising a lot or falling a lot,” he said. “The best fishing is when everything is stable for a while.”
The next consideration is temperature.
“A big thing that happens in March is it’s been cold all week and a guy looks and sees it’s going to be 70 degrees on Saturday and they get all excited,” Kriet said. “Outside it might be 70 degrees, but the water temp might still be 49 or 50. They’ll go out and fish a shallow area or back of a pocket like they would be doing in early April, and they’ll be disappointed.”
Stick to the transition areas and slow down your presentations, Kriet said. “March is a great time to catch big fish, but you shouldn’t expect to catch 40 or 50 bass a day,” he said.
Water temperature also is more about trend than the temp on any given day, according to Evers.
“I don’t worry as much about whether it’s 46-degree or 56-degree water,” Evers said. “But is it going up or is it going down? That tells me what kind of mood they’re in. If it’s on an upswing, they’ll be more aggressive. If it’s falling, it gets harder and you’re going to need to slow it down and use something like a weightless worm or let your jerkbait sit a little longer.”
learn Structure & Movement
In this transition month from what are essentially winter conditions up to and including spawning behavior, staging and structures the bass favor are key.
“There are days in March when the fish can move up real shallow, but generally that’s at the very end of the month or not at all,” Kriet said.A common misconception about movement trips up some anglers, Evers said.
“Through the day you’re better to think of it more in terms of vertical movement rather than horizontal,” he said. “A lot of times guys get caught up in thinking of it as a horizontal movement when a lot of the time they’re in those same areas, points or ledges, but moving up in the water column.”Ideal water temperature in March is in the mid-50s, Tommy Biffle said.
“If it’s 55 degrees, you’re going to catch them, and if it’s warmer than 55, it’s game on,” he said.
Northern banks, bluffs and pockets with southern exposure to the sun are the first areas to warm up, Biffle advised. Time of day is a consideration as well.
“In March if you have a choice of fishing daylight to noon or from noon to dark, you’re way better off going noon to dark,” Biffle said.
Fish Transition Areas
Kriet cautioned there always are exceptions, but as a general rule March is about transition banks, points and channel swings.
A transition is where any two types of substrates meet, whether it’s at a point or along a big bluff. “Two different kinds of rock, big boulders to smaller rocks, smaller rocks to pea gravel, those are always key places,” he said.
Channel swings seem to confuse anglers exploring creeks and rivers with lots of bends and turns, but it’s a simple concept, he said.
“It sounds technical or complicated to people for some reason, but it’s really not,” Kriet said. “Going back into a creek or a pocket, it’s the side with the steepest bank, that’s all it is. If you’re looking at a map or graph with contour lines, it’s where the lines are the tightest. They love to stage there on the drop, in that deeper spot, before they slide up on the flats.”
Still, the big rocky or gravel main and secondary points off the lake or in the mouths of creeks and around coves are the first places to explore, Kriet said.
“That’s my biggest tip for March,” Kriet said. “When the water temperature is still below 55, you just have to slow it down a little bit. Hit those big main deep points, and the quickest and easiest other places to look are the transition banks and the channel swings.”
THE PROS’ HOTSPOTS
As to which waters are the best places to look, well, if you follow bass fishing, you won’t be surprised who picked which lakes, and you certainly won’t be surprised at which one made all three lists. We’ll hit that one first.
Grand Lake O’ The Cherokees
The site of two Bassmaster Classic tournaments, including the 2016 event where Evers topped off the champion’s title with a 29-pound limit caught on a finesse jig up in Elk River, made the list of all three Oklahoma pros.
“Of course, Grand Lake,” is how Evers put it. “It has a little bit of everything”
The lake at the edge of the Ozarks is 60 miles long and covers roughly 46,500 acres between the communities of Grove, Monkey Island, Bernice, Ketchum, Disney and Langley.
The Arkansas River At Muskogee
The Muskogee Port Authority’s Three-Forks Harbor and its River Center facilities off Oklahoma Highway 62 near the Muskogee Turnpike are a centralized jumping-off spot on this area of the McKlellan-Kerr Navigation System, with access points from Catoosa, northeast of Tulsa, to the Robert S. Kerr Reservoir and up the Grand River to areas below Fort Gibson Reservoir.
For March bass, it’s all about finding areas, small or large, outside of the main river current.
“Look for the cleanest water and a hard bottom,” Evers said.
The Grand Lake Chain
The next two lakes downriver from Grand Lake, Hudson and Fort Gibson lakes, are “in a lot of ways every bit as good as Grand,” Evers said.The 12,000-acre Hudson is north of Locust Grove, with jumping-off spots near Salina. Fort Gibson Lake, at Wagoner, is Tommy Biffle’s home lake and the proving grounds for his popular Gene Larew Biffle Bug. The 20,000 surface acres there include numerous rocky points that are a draw for Biffle, especially those pea gravel points where he can put his signature bait to its best use.
Eucha, that’s pronounced “Oochie,” is “always a fun place to go. You can catch ’em on it anytime, anywhere,” Biffle said.The secluded 2,800-acre impoundment of Spavinaw Creek is near Jay and offers clear waters among steep Ozarks hills.
Tenkiller Ferry Lake
Lake Tenkiller is the classic rocky lake for working a jerkbait in March for fat largemouth and smallmouth bass, and both Evers and Biffle have it on their lists.
“It’s really pretty hard to beat,” Biffle said. “A lot of great ledges there.”
The 12,900-acre Illinois River impoundment in the forested Cookson Hills has many public parks and private marinas top to bottom.
“I’ve caught a lot of big ones in Eufaula over the years,” said Biffle. “It’s different there because of all the trees. Those can hold the heat in March, and it can warm up a little faster.”
The Canadian River impoundment is the largest inside Oklahoma’s borders at 102,000 acres and is home to fishing-friendly campgrounds and businesses from Crowder to Eufaula.
Texoma isn’t just a big striped bass and catfish lake, Kriet said. “The bass fishing there is really improving, and there are a ton of places to go,” he added.
This impoundment is the largest of the region at 89,000 acres. The best license option for the dual-state lake is a Lake Texoma license, honored by both states.
“You can catch smallmouth or largemouth, and I love the clarity of that lake,” Kriet said of his home lake. The 5,700 acres of south-central beauty is near Ardmore and is home to historic Lake Murray State Park.
Lake Of The Arbuckles
If Oklahoma has a lake famed for 10-pound bass, this is it.
“A big one is always a chance there, on any cast,” Kriet said. About 8 miles south of Sulphur, the 2,350 acres of clear water is surrounded by the Chickasaw National Recreation Area.
Broken Bow Lake
Kriet described the 14,000-acre lake in the forested mountains of southeast Oklahoma like this, “it’s a big, beautiful lake, clear water, rocky, and not many people seem to think about [it] for bass, but I love it.”
Head down to Broken Bow and Hochatown and find yourself some March magic.
TRIED-AND-TRUE BAITS FOR MARCH
Always, it’s the Gene Larew Biffle Bug on a 7/16- or 11/16-ounce Hardhead jig depending on how deep you need to go on 20-pound fluorocarbon line, or a rattleback jig in blue and black with a Gene Larew Salt Craw in black neon with chartreuse pincers, or try black and yellow with a black neon craw trailer.
“I like to reel that bug along there pretty quick, and if they’re not biting or it’s hanging up, then slow it down or switch to a jig and cast or pitch it around those bigger rocks and fish it slow,” he said.
Use a Megabass Jerkbait for long casts and use nothing heavier than 10-pound fluorocarbon line.
“Make long casts and use varied retrieves until you hit on what they like,” he said.
A great bait for beginners is a Zoom Fluke Stick fished weightless on 12- to 17-pound fluorocarbon with a 4/0 round Mustad hook (Texas or whacky, your choice).
“Just throw it out and let it fall,” he said. “It’s great for blind casting.”
The jerkbait of your choice is always a good choice. Crankbaits can work well around the rocks, too. But finesse baits are tried-and-true in clear water.
He likes a 3/8-ounce tungsten finesse jig with something like a Big Bite Baits craw trailer on anything from 12- to 20-pound fluorocarbon line depending on color of the water.
“Fish it slow and feel those rocks,” he said. A spinning-rod option is a shaky head with something like a Big Bite Bait Coontail Worm on 10-pound braid with a 6-pound fluorocarbon leader.