Let’s throw a cliche statement out for starters, the prespawn is the best time of year to catch a giant bass. Now, though that statement has been made at the onset of a thousand articles by now, it still holds true and warrants repeating because of one simple, fact… people miss it.
Every year, anglers get a little punch-drunk from the monotony of cabin fever and stumble their way through the end of winter, only to hit the water a little too late to capitalize on one of the best fishing seasons we’ll have all year. The early February to mid-March time frame is fantastic for finding groups of fish and, yes, catching the always talked-about fish of a lifetime.
So today, let’s look at five must have baits that you can use to catch a big one this prespawn season.
Vibrating jigs like the ChatterBait come in all shapes and sizes, many of which work exceptionally well during the prespawn. The erratic action of a vibrating jig is enough to send a bass into a feeding frenzy, as the fish aggressively pack on weight in preparation for the spawn.
Vibrating jigs are also a great choice because they efficiently come through a lot of the cover bass stage in during the prespawn. Submerged vegetation, in particular, is a frequent favorite of bass that are holding in less than 10 feet of water. This vegetation is the remnant of the previous year’s topped out mats, all that’s left after a cold winter. And the bass love to hunker down in this stuff.
You can fish a vibrating jig slowly through submerged vegetation like this, popping it free whenever it snags a blade of grass, making for a very effective presentation. The sharp vibration of a bait like this also makes it easy for fish to find it in the regularly stained to muddy conditions that accompany spring rains and rising water levels.
A spinnerbait is another of the prespawn essentials. Though many consider a spinnerbait and vibrating jig somewhat interchangeable, they both bring a little something different to the table. Yes, both use vibration, colorful skirts and the flash of blades to draw fish in but a vibrating jig is much easier to skip, for instance. This makes it a clear choice as opposed to the spinnerbait in situations where there’s overhead cover, like a bush or a dock.
But a spinnerbait has its own sweet spots too where it outshines the vibrating jig. One of the more notable instances becomes apparent when targeting fish around shallow woody cover. Though vibrating jigs are effective at getting bit here too, they are far more likely to hang up as compared to the spinnerbait. So slow rolling a spinnerbait around stumps, laydowns and brushpiles is the way to go.
There’s also a vast spectrum of situations in which a spinnerbait can be the key to prespawn fishing. You can fish these baits through submerged and shoreline vegetation as well, and in shallow muddy water. But even in clearer water, a willow leaf/Colorado combo can work great. It helps if there’s some wind, and opt for the more natural colors on sunny days and then a translucent chartreuse on cloudy days.
From lipped to lipless, a crankbait is perhaps the best bait to fish in the prespawn. To be fair, I am cheating a little here, lumping lipless crankbaits and all the other crankbaits out there into one category. You could easily do a piece like this on five must have crankbaits for the prespawn. So let’s look at a few standouts in this category.
A red lipless crankbait is one of the baits more commonly paired with prespawn fishing, especially on fisheries with submerged vegetation. Letting a lipless dip down into the vegetation and then ripping it out has caught countless prespawn bass.
Medium-diving crankbaits and finesse crankbaits both work really well a little more towards the early prespawn. You’ll want to fish baits like these along 45-degree banks that transition from deep to shallow heading into creeks and pockets. Then there’s the trusty squarebill, a great bait to throw shallow as fish push farther up.
A jerkbait is another of those all-time favorites for prespawn bass. Though you can catch bass on a jerkbait throughout the year and especially throughout the prespawn, it seems this bait shines the brightest in the early prespawn, when the water temps are still hovering somewhere between the mid 40s and the lower 50s.
At this point, bass are still a little sluggish and the water is typically still a little on the clearer side, compared to where it will be as more spring rains start to fall. This is the best time to use a jerkbait to draw fish in as they have time to catch up to the pausing bait and they can see it better with the higher visibility. There’s certainly lots of cadences to choose from, but the old faithful pump, pump, pause is hard to beat.
If you’re about over winter, the good news is winter is about over itself, too. The spring is on the horizon, but the last few weeks of winter have a lot of great fishing to offer. Muscle your way through the chilly mornings, get out there and get ready to tie into a big one. Hopefully you’ll find what you need to do it with these five baits.