The text message from a friend was terse, but said exactly what an avid bass fisherman wants to hear.
L.J. Watts was letting me know that the big female bass had moved up on the banks at one of our favorite fishing holes and it was time to grab the gear, hook up the boat and go.
“I went out the other day and made five casts from the bank, and I caught three fish all between 3 and 5 pounds, fat as they could be, in no more than three feet of water,” Watts said, when I immediately called him back. “They killed a Red Eye Shad.”
Two days later we were on the same lake and it took us all of two minutes to find fish in the same size and depth. In two hours of fishing before the wind made it impossible to hold the boat in place, we caught 20 fish. One was under 16 inches, the rest over 4 pounds.
The water temperature was 62 degrees on the west bank of the 70-acre lake in Madison County.
It may still be winter in Mississippi, but some early spring weather last weekend with temperatures hitting 70 during the day and not dropping below 50 at night led to a sharp increase in surface temperatures at least in the southern half of the state.
Fishermen on Barnett Reservoir, for example, reported finding 57-degree water and a lot of 3- and 4-pound fish moving up on the main-lake flats in the pad stems. Barnett’s magic number for the big push shallow is 58, and with more spring-like weather in the forecast fishermen can start looking for that number on their temp gauges.
“Won’t be long and it’s getting better every day,” said Greg Thomas, who lives on Pelahatchie Bay at Barnett Reservoir. “I’ve been hitting the water every chance I get in the afternoons and it has really changed over the last two weeks. I started finding buck bass shallow in mid February, and the bigger females were still out on the first ledges. I was still catching fish better on the rocks especially on an east-facing shore with riprap.
“Last weekend, I found a few of the females in the shallow pad stems but the temperatures were in the low to mid 50s. The Bay was just a little warmer, but not quite there. Thursday I found some 56- and 57-degree water in the main lake on the Rankin (County) side and I pulled in and caught about 25 fish, a mix of males and bigger females, in 3 feet of water. It is fixing to explode.”
Tony Jenkins of Hattiesburg said he caught big fish shallow both days last weekend in South Mississippi.
“I fished over at Lake Bill Waller Saturday and I caught and released two big females, one about 7 and the other about 5 or 6 pounds,” he said. “I don’t know if they were on the beds or not because the wind had the water murky. One hit a 7-inch black lizard and the other a swim jig. The water temperature was 62.
“On Sunday, a friend and I went to a private 50-acre lake and it was on like Donkey Kong. We have always caught plenty of fish there, but not like that. The surface temperature was 61 and we wore them out on lipless crankbaits and square-bill crankbaits. He had one over 10 and we had several between 6 and 8 pounds. We must have caught 35 or 40 fish, so many that we quit counting.”