March is the prime month for catching big bass in Mississippi. Bass at Calling Panther Lake, near Crystal Springs, will be in prespawn, spawn and postspawn conditions. This relatively young lake has some trophy size, double-digit bass.
The key to catching these fish will be the moon phase, especially the full moon. Expect bass to be in shallow water, unless a cold front hits during that time. I’m a strong believer in consulting the Solunar Tables, especially during the spawn.
How to catch spawners
You can catch spawning bass throughout March. I can cover a lot of water with Mann’s new Reel N Shad that swims like a baitfish, and not have to give that lure much more action. This lure doesn’t have a swimbait-type tail. I like to fish it in watermelon red on 20-pound test Balsax White Peacock fluorocarbon line on a Pinnacle 7.3:1 baitcasting reel on a 7-foot Pinnacle medium-heavy rod.
I’ll use my trolling motor to move slowly down the bank, casting as far as I can and moving the Reel N Shad parallel to the bank all the way back to the boat. You’ll probably not see bass bedding in March, but you may see ripples on the surface indicating they’re there. Stay as far away from the bed as possible and cast past it, then swim the Reel N Shad through the bed. If that type of retrieve doesn’t get a strike, swim the bait right up to the bed, kill the bait and let it fall right in.
How to catch prespawners
The bass not ready to spawn may hold in the lily pads stems further out than the spawners. That’s when I’ll use a blue Chatterbait with a black and blue Reel N Shad as a trailer. I’ll fish 40-pound braided line on a 7-foot, 3-inch medium heavy Pinnacle rod and use a 7.3:1 reel. I’ll keep the Chatterbait coming fairly quickly through the stems, only bumping them. Depending on the amount of rain the lake has had, you may not be able to see the Chatterbait as you reel it back to the boat, but keep it just under the surface in this relatively shallow water.
Take the point of the hook on the Chatterbait, put it in the nose of the Reel N Shad, then bring the point of the hook out of the head of the Reel N Shad after about ¾-inch, and slide the head of the lure up against the back of the skirt of the Chatterbait. Then cover as much water as you can with it: those prespawn bass will be holding in or around the lily pad stems.
How to fish a cold front
During March, often one or more rogue cold fronts will move through the state, pushing the bass off the beds, primarily because of the barometric pressure change.
But the bass won’t go far from where they’re holding in a spawning or a prespawning condition. Look for small ditches, little creek channels and major creek channels close to the spawning flats. Most often when a cold front hits, the bass will pull back to the first bottom break or the points with fairly deep drop-offs closest to the spawning flats. The bass often will stage there before they move on to the spawning flats.
On these drop-offs and ditches, I’ll change tactics and fish a Carolina-rigged lizard with a 7-foot, 6-inch Pinnacle Flipping & Pitching Rod, a ¾-ounce teardrop-shaped slip sinker up the line and a plastic bead below the weight. I’ll tie the line to a barrel swivel and the swivel to 40-pound braided line. On the other end of the swivel, I’ll tie 2 feet of fluorocarbon leader line and then a No. 4/0 TroKar wide gap hook before threading a Mann’s HardNose green pumpkin plastic lizard on the hook and rigging it Texas style.
I’ll keep my boat on the deep-water side of the first bottom break closest to the spawning flats and cast my lizard on the top of the flat, then bring it to the lip of the break and fish it down in that bottom break. The bass either will be up on the flat, holding right at the edge of the lip of the break, or further down in the ditch. Depending on the severity of the cold front, the bass may be anywhere from the bottom of the drop off all the way up to the flat. The bass usually will come up to the edge of the flat to feed. When you catch one bass, you’ll probably catch another in the same place.
Why to fish the dam
Especially during the early part of March and right after a severe hard freeze, fish the riprap up near the dam with a Mann’s crawfish colored C-4 crankbait. Those riprap rocks catch the heat from the sun and transfer that heat back into the water, heating up the shallow water near them where crawfish and bait fish become active. Prespawn bass will feed before going onto the beds after a cold front due to the abundant bait there. I’ll be fishing the crankbait on 15-pound fluorocarbon line on a 6.3:1 Pinnacle reel with a medium action Pinnacle crankbait rod parallel to the riprap. I expect to catch at least 20 bass during a day of March fishing at Calling Panther, generally 1 ½-pound male bass and a few big spawning females.