The early season can offer some of the most exciting bass action.
SECTION: freshwater feature
Spring is an exciting time of year for anglers. It’s when traditional warm-water species begin to shake the Winter chills and become increasingly active and if you’re a keen bass angler, it’s time to gather your favourite lures and get ready for some hectic action.
While it’s true you can catch bass all year round (apart from the news closed season from June 1 to August 31), it’s during the warmer months that they really fire up. And no period can be more productive than Spring. September and October are arguably the best months of the year for bass, with many fish feeding heavily after months of cold water and very little surface activity.
Warming water and a massive increase in insect activity are the main catalysts. And if your timing is good, you can expect some very memorable action indeed.
No matter what time of year you target bass, it’s important to time your outings to coincide with good weather – ideally a rising barometer.
You don’t need years of training and a prolonged stint at the Bureau of Meteorology to work out when the barometric pressure is going to rise – simply look at your local synoptic chart and see when the next big high-pressure system is coming. These systems move from west to east, with the centre of the high producing the highest barometric readings. As they approach, you’ll often get a southerly change (and a rapidly rising barometer) and during the ensuring settling days you should enjoy some good action.
A dramatic increase in insect activity also fires up the local bass. During Winter you’ll struggle to find any insect activity but as soon as the warm sea breezes kick in, you can expect plenty of six- and eight-legged critters to move about.
While it’s possible to catch bass on surface lures year-round, it’s during the warmer months they become far more interested. Boisterous surface plugs send out super-inviting shock waves that are effectively dinner bells for any nearby bass.
The key during this early period, particularly when working bankside timber, is maximum commotion and minimal distance covered. Generally, the longer your lure struggles and flounders close to cover, the better.
You can simply flick the lure out under an overhanging branch, twitch it once and leave it there. How long to leave it will depend on your confidence and patience.
It’s really surprising how long you can leave a lure out before it gets taken. Last year a mate cast his Jitterbug midstream and set about eating a sandwich. It must have floated around for five minutes before it was smashed.
We looked at each other and remarked that was a good surface hit, not for a second thinking it was on Vic’s lure. When the rod tip dropped and lure peeled off, we soon worked it out!
That bass was a ripper of 49cm to the fork. It just goes to show that they’ll happily cruise around looking for food and when they find it, they usually don’t muck around.
While that fish was out in the open, snag-dwelling fish react much the same. You have to imagine where the fish are in relation to your lure.
The overhanging tree may have good submerged timber close to the bank or perhaps several metres out in deep water. Either way, you should give you lure a reasonable time frame in which to be found.
If, after a few twitches, nothing happens within 30 seconds or so, recast or simply move along to the next likely spot.
Minnow lures and spinnerbaits are a different ball game. Cast tight to cover and slowly work them out. If the lure’s not clobbered first cast, flick it in again.
You don’t have to cast to every snag have a dozen times to get results but if the fish are playing hardball, it pays to work the likely haunts thoroughly before moving on.
Wild river bass can become active right through the entire freshwater reaches during Spring, though early in the season you’ll find many fish just above the brackish zones on their way home from the Winter spawn.
As the water warms, edge your way up-river, fishing the lower freshwater reaches which these post-spawn fish can access with little trouble. Skinny water heats up (and cools down) quite quickly so by mid to late Spring, you can expect fish to be active throughout the entire system.
While impoundment bass can’t head down to the brackish zones to spawn, they do tend to move around a lot as the water begins to warm again.
Deep, cold water is of little interest to impoundment bass so start exploring the shallow zones of the dam. In very early Spring, when dormant fish are craving every speck of warmth, start fishing the very shallow edges, and particularly those with weed beds on the and northern western banks.
With a bit of luck you’ll have some coastal sea breezes which will push food and warm surface water to the opposite bank from which they’re blowing. In Spring they’re usually nor’-easters, making the western banks even more likely to produce fish.
Spring is a time where previously lethargic, seemingly disinterested fish spark up. But it can also be a season of feast or famine.
You have to pick your days, keeping a good eye on the weather maps, and head off during spells of rising barometric pressure and plenty of warmth. As the season wears on, you’ll get away with more but during the early stages – and particularly after such a freezing winter as we have just endured – you need the right conditions to experience some truly exceptional fishing.