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Finding Spring bass
  |  First Published: September 2013



We had covered a fair bit of ground with only one small bass to show for our efforts. It was the start of the open season for wild bass and we were keen to catch a few to get the season rolling.

I was casting a spinnerbait, while my mate was throwing a topwater.

We were fishing quite quickly, covering ground to try to find the fish.

The electric motor was working hard as we rounded a bend in the river, the bottom shelving down a bit and then dropping away, and my attention was starting to focus on my sounder.

So when the hit came I wasn’t really expecting it.

There is just something about a bass hitting a spinnerbait that makes you want to keep casting these lures. The rod was wrenched sideways and as I leaned back, the drag gave up a bit of line as the fish tried to turn and head back to where it had made its ambush.

The fight was spirited but short-lived and I slipped the net under the fish and lifted it into the boat.

It was a good bass of around 38cm and in excellent condition. I unhooked it and as I was releasing the fish, noticed others marking up on my sounder.

After several unsuccessful casts at the bank, we altered our approached and started to target the fish holding deep.

It was the start of a great little session in which we caught bass at regular intervals on a variety of lures. This is what Springtime bassing is all about.

COVER GROUND

In small river systems and medium-sized dams, bass can be fairly predictable, frequenting the same places year in and year out.

This can also be the case on our larger systems. The difference, however, is that the fish can move through these areas and how long they stay there can depend on a lot of things.

Often the key to finding these fish in the Spring is to cover a lot of water.

You need to fish fast but still effectively.

This sounds a like a bit of a paradox but it is possible to cover water quickly if you use the right lures that can be fished fast, yet effectively in and around cover.

Lures like spinnerbaits, crankbaits and even to a degree topwaters are good choices to start off with while you are covering ground trying to locate the fish.

You need to remember that the key at this stage is to find concentrations of bass and not necessarily to catch them.

Instead, you need to be moving along through an area that you are confident in yet not get stuck for too long trying for fish.

If you get a hit or raise a fish on the topwater, then you can start to slow down and really pick apart the bankside structure with a variety of lures

LURE CHOICE

When selecting a spinnerbait, try to choose a heavier model, like a 1/2oz version, and if necessary downsize the blades and even look at using tandem willow leaf blades, as opposed to a single Colorado.

This will allow the lure to sink faster and you can retrieve it a bit quicker, yet it still stays relatively deep in the water column.

This way your lure will spend more time in the strike zone and give the bass that little bit of extra time to commit to grabbing your fast-moving lure.

Remember that by now the water temperature would have started to increase and the bass should in essence be more active. If you put your lure in the right places, they should eat it.

Crankbaits can also be worked along the bank quite quickly, with the deeper models the pick early in the season. These will crash dive straight into the strike zone instead of taking a few feet, or even metres, to attract the fish’s attention.

Same thing with your topwater choice: a popper or even a surface walker can be worked quite aggressively at this time of year and the bass will often chase the lure a lot further.

Remember that you are trying to locate the fish early on in your fishing day; you definitely don’t want to be finding the mother lode of bass on the last cast of the day.

Once you have found the fish by getting a few hits on the spinnerbait or even a few boils or bust-ups on the topwater, then you can slow down and start to work over the area a lot more methodically, confident in the fact that you have located a few fish.

Casting also plays a major role in fishing areas quickly, yet effectively.

If you can put your lure right on the money first cast, as opposed to needing two or even three casts, then it stands to reason that you can move a fair bit quicker.

Spinnerbaits are great for this because they are quite heavy, cast well and, most importantly, don’t generally snag up anywhere near as easily as your other lures of choice.

Fishing your spinnerbaits without trailer hooks will also increase their snag-resistance when fished tight around cover. Once you start getting the hits, you can then add a trailer hook to pin the short-strikers.

THEN SLOW

Now that you have had a few hits, or even hopefully caught a few fish, slow down.

You are in the area and you just need to spend a bit more time fishing the likely-looking spots.

Try a variety of lures, or even the same ones with a slower retrieve.

For instance, when your crankbait or topwater lands, let it sit for a few seconds longer before commencing the retrieve.

If a bass is in the area it may take a bit of time to swim over to your lure. If the fish are active, they can move a fair way to attack a lure.

The extra time spent on the pause may be just enough for the fish to close the gap before you start working the lure.

USE YOUR SOUNDER

I have two sounders on my boat, a Humminbird 898 on the console and a Humminbird 587 on my front casting deck.

I am always glancing down at the units, no matter where I am on the boat.

You would be amazed how many fish that we drive over while casting at the bank. If you catch one or even a few fish on the bank, always take a bit of time to sound around the area just out from where you just caught your fish.

Quite often the bass will school up in the deeper water and then move periodically to the bank to feed. The fish that you may have just plucked off a snag may be the tip of the iceberg and the main group of bass is actually holding just out from the bank, waiting to keep heading upstream or down.

When you do find these deep bass, you will often need to make a further adjustment to your choice of lures.

Variations that sink will be a lot more effective, because they will get down to where the fish are. If the fish are in less than 3m then the deep-diving minnows or spinnerbaits will still tempt them.

If they are holding deeper than this then you may well need to look at lures like metal vibes or blades, lipless crankbaits, plastics rigged on reasonably heavy jig heads or even ice jigs.

These schooled-up bass can often have a serious case of lockjaw to start off with, but if you can get one or two to bite then the rest of the fish will generally fire up as well.

Take your time on them, keep the noise in the boat down to a minimum and mix up your lure choices and techniques until you find something that they want.

If you can’t get them to bite then mark the school on your GPS. If you don’t have one then take a rough landmark, and then return to the same area a bit later in the day.

The fish may turn on later in the afternoon or be waiting for something like a tide change to fire up, so be wary of subtle changes in the weather while you are out there.

Any of these things may change, which will ultimately affect the fish.

Spring is a great time to be out on the water. The more clement air temperatures make an early start a bit more bearable and there are more daylight hours. It’s also a great time to be catching bass so get out there and have a go.

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