Let’s get ready to caaaaassssssttttttttt!

In this corner, weighing in at roughly 3/16s of an ounce and wearing mostly natural colors, the long-time champion of pre-spawn bass baits, the soft-plastic swimming lizard.

And in this corner, the relative newcomer and pre-spawn challenger, weighing either ¼ or ½ ounce, wearing a brightly colored skirt, weed guard and plastic trailer, the swimming jig.

When the bell rings to start the pre-spawn bass action in the shallows near grass, come out swimming may the best lure win.

OK, so that might sound a little goofy, but when it comes to sparring with pre-spawn buck bass, the males who move shallow first to prepare spawning beds and feed like crazy, those are the two champion lures in Mississippi, especially when vegetation comes into play.

“Both are extremely productive and I know the swimming lizard has a legion of fans in Mississippi where we have a lot of pad stems and other grasses in our spawning areas, places like Barnett Reservoir,” said B.A.S.S. Elite Series pro Pete Ponds of Madison. “I have used the lizard for decades and it has produced a lot of fish, but ...”

In recent years, Ponds has switched to the swim jig and became such a fan that he had one of his sponsors, Talon, produce his design.

“I don’t know if it gets more bites, probably not, but one thing the swim jig does do is attract bigger bites,” Ponds said. “That is true when the buck bass move in and it’s true when the females start moving from a staging area in deeper structure to the outside edges of the spawning areas in about 2 or 3 feet of water.

“If there are pad stems or cutgrass or anything like that, then I pick up the swim jig and work it first out there. I will fish my way back into the shallows watching for fish activity further back into the coves or flats. When those buck bass get so far back in the shallows that their slightest movement gives them away, then you just about have to switch to the lizard and as light a weight as you can get away with.”

Either bait, Ponds said, requires that you stalk stealthily.

“Push poles are a must,” he said. “If you can move around without noise when they are shallow, then you can really cash in. When you pole into an area, or if you use the trolling motor, stop and wait for everything to settle down. Then work 360 degrees around the boat. Then move again and start over.”

Of course, if you fish a lake or an area of a bigger lake where vegetation is not a concern, then things change and some other contenders enter the fray — things like the lipless crankbait, spinnerbaits and Senko-type worms.

“The key then is covering as much water as you can,” Ponds said. “No matter, what the key is just getting out there and throwing your hat in the ring.”