With an unusually mild winter so far — even by Southern standards — it’s anyone’s guess as to how timing of the bass spawn will play out this year. 

With 80-degree-plus highs recorded on Christmas Day, the state’s water temperatures haven’t exactly plunged so far this fall and winter, and Bassmaster Elite Series pro Cliff “Cajun Baby” Crochet said that could move up this year’s pre-spawn, spawn and post-spawn calendar.

“In my mind, I think you could have had fish that spawned in December,” Crochet explained. “The water temperature was still in the 60s, so I think some will have spawned. And if it stays warm, come February, you’re not going to have any pre-spawn fish.

“But it this thing cools off, and they start spawning in January, you’ll have all three going on.”

Regardless of the exact timing, Crochet said knowing proper tactics to deal with passing fronts are key to catching more fish.

“Everything revolves around fronts this time of year,” Crochet said. “Cold fronts are coming through, followed by high-pressure days. The prettier the day and the more sun you have — days that your momma likes to be outside sitting on her porch or cleaning out her flower bed — I slow way down.

“The sun has them relating to heavy cover, so I’m making more-precise casts and multiple casts to the same pieces of cover. And again, I’m slowing my retrieve down on all my baits.”

When the weather is a bit nastier, Crochet said the exact opposite is true.

“That’s when you speed up and the fish get aggressive,” he said. “I think the (lower) pressure on the nasty days overrides the cooler water temperature. Most of the time, you’re talking about mid-50s, so it’s really not that cold.

“(That’s) cold for our area, but it’s really not that cold to make the fish not want to bite.”

His go-to lure for the pre-spawn is a black-and-gold Luck-E-Strike Rick Clunn STX floating jerkbait.

“You jerk it down and it floats back up,” Crochet said. “It’s almost like a Louisiana tradition for a pre-spawn fish to get on jerkbaits. They have forever, and they’re going to continue forever.”

Crochet favors dead-ends with clear water and less current when he’s thinking pre-spawn bass.

“The good thing about pre-spawn and spawn fish is, a lot of times during the year you’re trying to stay away from that clear water, but in pre-spawn and spawn conditions, that clear water gets good,” he said. 

Next in line in his pre-spawn arsenal is a ¼-ounce Humdinger swim jig, with either a single-tail grub trailer or a Luck-E-Strike Chris Lane Drop Dead Craw.

“Color-wise, black-and-blue is always a big deal,” he said. “The one thing that changes with the swim jig for now from the rest of the year is right now I stay away from white.

“It’s more black-and-blue and black-and-brown, crawfish and bream-type stuff.”

Finally, he recommended fishing a creature bait on a ½-ounce jig. His preference is Luck-E-Strike’s Ringmaster in bream or crawfish-type colors.

“The fish will be feeding and full of eggs,” Crochet said. “This time of year big fish show up, so when you have big fish, you can use big baits.

“Another deal is fishing them slow. So you’re fishing big baits around big fish, and fishing them slow. That’s how you catch them.”

If the spawn has kicked in by February, Crochet takes advantage of aggressive, territorial behavior by moving to a Texas-rigged Luck-E-Strike Pow Stick, possibly with a Humdinger Power Spinner.

The swim jig is taken out of the equation during the spawn, he said.

“I’m trying to fish baits that stay in that area longer,” Crochet said. “When you have a spawning fish, they may not chase a whole bunch, so if I throw that swim jig out and start reeling it in, I’ll probably go right by them.”

During the spawn, Crochet recommended throwing your bait up on the bank and dragging it into the water.

“A lot of times, they spawn really shallow, and the only way to make a cast is to throw it on the bank and drag it into them — that could be the best approach sometimes,” he explained.

The most-important thing is to get out on the water — whether it’s pre-spawn, spawn or post-spawn — because now’s the best time to possibly get that lunker you’ve been dreaming of.

“No matter what the water does, at a certain point you’re going to have fish at all three stages at the same time,” he said. “The biggest thing this time of the year is it’s probably the best chance to catch the fish of a lifetime.”