It's Wintertime! Time to Start Thinking About Springtime Fishing

Typical Springtime Bass Lures. The Devil's Horse is second from the top, beneath the firetiger stickbait.
Typical Springtime Bass Lures. The Devil's Horse is second from the top, beneath the firetiger stickbait.
A good bass plug for springtime. This lure is about 6" long
A good bass plug for springtime. This lure is about 6" long
Devil's Horse bottom view
Devil's Horse bottom view
Devil's Horse top view
Devil's Horse top view

Plan Ahead!

The best time to begin thinking about early spring fishing is now…in the dead of winter! (Well, it’s not quite the dead of winter yet, but it is beginning to get darned cold here in the Appalachians!

Now is when you want to start planning your early spring fishing, because one morning in March, you will look out of your bathroom window and realize that you are missing the first greenup of spring, that first warm sunny day when the bass start pulling themselves out of the mud and start moving around.

If you are lucky enough to catch a “first day awake” bass, you will find this fish pale with lack of color and the fish will seem skinny and underfed, and won’t put up much of a fight. That’s because he is still half asleep. He hasn’t had much to eat all winter and has been “chillin’” at the bottom of the pond or lake using what stored energy he has to keep warm. The fish has been almost dormant, feeding very little. (This goes for eastern and Midwestern/Northern fish. You Southwesters probably get some action all year round!) Once these bass get awake enough, they begin feeding ravenously and gain their weight and color back rapidly.

What are they feeding on? Whatever they can grab that moves, and being springtime, that could be anything. Think about it. It is springtime, the aquatic turtles, salamanders, smaller yearling fish and crawfish are all coming out as the sun warms the shallow waters. Even snakes and lizards will be coming out and occasionally one will fall into the water to become a quick meal. Don’t be surprised to see a baby duck suddenly disappear. Try to match up your bait to what they are feeding on.

On one early spring trip that I recall, I was using a Lowrance fish finder on my little boat. The pond I was fishing on was partially covered with ice, but the sonar on the fish finder showed a lot of activity under the ice. As I cast over to the edge of the ice, I got no hits with my “sure fire” bass lures, so utilizing a lesson taught to me by my dad, I went smaller. Sure enough, I got some immediate reactions…from a school of crappie! They were out enjoying the springtime sun under the cover of the ice. From that point, I surveyed the pond, and realized that the bass were doing the same thing, only under more clandestine conditions. They were staying close to the shore, under the thin ice, and coming out only to feed on some interesting prey. The crappie were staying far out in the middle, under the ice to keep away from the feeding bass.

So what you have to do this winter to be ready for that first greenup is simple. Use this time to restring and service your reels, make repairs on your rods, and accumulate as much tackle and lures as you can. During this time of year, especially going into Christmas, you can find that many of your favorite tackle items are selling at sale prices. Take advantage of these sales. Wal-Mart is one place to buy a lot of these items at reduced prices, but lately Wal-Mart has been cutting back on some of their stock. I have found a treasure trove of fishing tackle on line at E-bay, and at Born-To-Fish.com. Born to Fish has an incredible supply and assortment of jigs, lures, spoons and spinner baits for an incredible price. My favorite purchase so far this winter has been for the vintage “Devil’s Horse” lures, made by Smithwick. They are not made anymore, but are a classic. You can still find them on E-bay for a reasonable price, be ready for a bidding war! The real DH’s are made of wood and are held together with small screws. They are awesome! They are the best topwater lure that I have ever used, and excellent springtime bait.

When you choose your lures for springtime fishing, choose bright vibrant colors like yellows, chartreuse, neon colors or fire tiger. You want to stick mainly with topwater or shallow diving lures during this time. Poppers, Devil’s Horses, stickbaits, buzz baits, chuggers and Zara Spooks are all good choices. The longer and skinnier the bait is, the better.

Look for sloping terrain at the water’s edge to begin your springtime fishing. The water generally stays warmer if the bottom gently slopes away from the edge than if it had a sudden drop off. The fish will be out in the 4-6 foot deep range in the early mornings and in the 6-8 foot range as the water is warmed. Occasionally at sun up, you can see the larger fish in the 2 foot range of the lake or pond feeding on the smaller fish, but they will spook out to deeper water easily, so be careful!

Be sure to have your rod tooled with 8-10 lb line, because once these early spring bass get their strength back, they will tear your tackle apart! They will feed ravenously and hit your topwater lures with enough of an explosion to give you a coronary! It won’t be uncommon to find a 6-8 pound bass on the end of your line in the early spring feed, and it is not uncommon for these fish to go airborne when they hit your lure. These guys are hard to catch the rest of the summer, but they are hungry when they first wake up.

You should try to stock your tackle box seasonally, have separate boxes or removable boxes and one larger box so you can adjust them accordingly. As early spring fades into late spring and summer, the fish will be deeper and more wary. That’s a whole ‘nother kind of fishing, and I will be back with that one for you as the time draws near.

Good luck to you.

 

© 2010 By Del Banks

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