With the long-term weather forecast calling for 70-degree, mostly sunny days all next week, Mississippi fishermen are ready to get on the water and start chasing bass.
Bass pro Pete Ponds of Madison is one of them.
“There’s a lot of things coming into play, all of it next week, that should work for fishermen,” Ponds said. “But, what you have to remember is that it has been cold, colder than we usually are in winter, for a long time, so the process of the fish turning on is not going to be fast.
“The thought process is ‘easy does it.’ Don’t go out there this weekend with the temps getting right and expect the fish to bite right away. It’s not going to happen, but like I said with everything that is coming together there’s every reason to expect the fishing to get good next week.”
The factors Ponds speaks of include the warm days, but only in a supporting role to a couple of others.
“We got the full moon coming on Valentine’s Day, so the male bass are going to want to go shallow, and that’s a big factor,” he said. “But the biggest factor is that the nighttime temperatures are going to be in the mid to upper 50s all week. That’s much more important than it getting to the 70s during the day.
“The sun warms the water, but if the night temperatures drop back into the 30s, then you lose what you gain. When it stays in the 50s, you see the daytime water temperatures getting warmer and warmer. By middle or end of next week, we’re going to see a big change in fish behavior.”
Until then, Ponds recommends using a day or two to get your equipment in order, and that includes getting the boat cleaned and loaded with the right gear and re-spooling all the reels.
“Then you will be ready to go when it’s right,” he said. “I’d be making sure I had a good supply and variety of several early-season lures, like jerkbaits, swimming jigs, lipless crankbaits and lizards. I choose those because I’m more apt to go fishing for quantity than quality to start the season. You can take jigs and go punching and flipping the edges of heavy vegetation and try to catch big females, but you will be fishing for 3 to 5 bites. I’d rather go and get 15 or 20 bites.
“Especially since the buck bass (small males) will be moving up in the warming waters on this full moon. By the time the week rolls past, they will be shallow and they will be active.”
No matter what size or type of water is on the trip plan, Ponds suggest the pre-spawn pattern of identifying spawning areas and then the routes, i.e. creeks, ditches or even points, that bass travel to get there.
“I’d find the creek that runs through a spawning flat and fish my way in, starting out and fishing up,” he said. “I’d start with a jerkbait and fish the bends of the creek, both the inside and outside until I find fish. If that works, then I’d stick with it. If not I keep working in and as I get shallow, start mixing the lipless crankbait and the jerkbait.
“If I find more fish as I go then I will eventually start moving up on the flats and fishing stumps or pad stems or any other vegetation. I’d throw the lipless crankbait on heavy braid, like 30 pounds, to rip it through vegetation if I have to, and to bounce it off stumps.”
All the while, Ponds said, he is looking extremely shallow to see if there is any movement.
“Those buck bass will give themselves away,” he said, “but I will also be looking for things like a concentration of coots or other birds because they will be feeding on the green vegetation that bass like to use for cover. I’d look for green surface vegetation, too. If you see a green patch surrounded by dead grass then I’d fish that green patch for sure.
“Once I see the bass are back in the back of the coves or flats then I switch to the swim jig or a swimming lizard. I prefer the swim jig — and, yes, I throw the Pete Ponds Signature Finesse Jig by Talon with a Bruiser Crazy Craw trailer — because it catches bigger fish than the swimming lizard. But on places like Barnett Reservoir, I know the lizard is a proven tactic that has worked and been popular for decades.”
On smaller lakes with riprap banks, Ponds suggests a totally different approach, beginning with a 200-Series Bandit midrange crankbait fished along the dam.
“When you get a week of good sun and warm nights, the fish in a small lake will move up on the rocks and the bite can be really good in the afternoon on a crankbait,” he said. “These fish are hungry after the cold winter and they will feed. If this week comes together like I think it will, then, sure, I’d crank the rocks, too.”
Ponds also said there should be no rush to get on the water.
“Not at all,” he said. “I prefer afternoon fishing because the sun will have been on the water all day and it will help make the bass more active. Sleep in, get on the water and work it hard after lunch.
“This week, man, it ought to be special. I can’t wait.”