I enjoy fishing Bay Springs Lake in March, because I like catching largemouth, spotted and smallmouth bass on the same lake, often in the same places and sometimes on the same lure.
With bass in a prespawn mode and moving shallow, I depend heavily on my Garmin Panoptix depth finder to actually see the bass and learn whether they’re suspended or moving. I can spot schools of baitfish 60 to 80 feet off the bank and any bass related to those schools.
Two tactics work best this month for bass. Early in March, we’ll be fishing a suspended jerkbait, since the water is still cold, and the bass will be schooled up, lethargic and moving toward spawning areas. From mid-March until the end of the month, I’ll be fishing a Carolina rig and a Mann’s C4 square-bill crankbait.
Early March tips
I’ve found a bait like a Suspending Rogue in the Saturday Night Special color — a clear body with some purple and chartreuse on its back — to be productive in 42- to 48-degree water. I’ve always been able to catch fish on one in places and times when bass needed a suspending bait.
I like to fish a Rogue on a 7.4-to-1 Shimano Curado reel with 12-pound White Peacock fluorocarbon line on a 6-foot-6, medium-action Shimano baitcasting rod. After casting, I’ll reel the bait down until it reaches 5 to 7 feet of water. I’ll stop the bait, jerk it a couple of times, let it sit motionless for seven to 10 seconds, next twitch the bait and allow it to sit another seven to 10 seconds.
One of the problems associated with fishing a suspended jerkbait is that most anglers won’t let the bait sit that long without moving it. However, the colder the water, the longer I let the lure sit still. And I’ll get more bites.
When bass bite, they bite lightly — like the small peck you’ll feel when one picks up a plastic worm. Once I feel the strike, I don’t try to set the hook hard, but instead pull the bait to me and reel at the same time.
These jerkbaits usually carry small hooks, and that’s why you use a soft hookset and not rush the bass to the boat. Play the bass down before you get it to the boat. The good news is that a bass generally won’t jump that much in the cold water.
You need to be careful when you’re putting bass in the boat. Many anglers will try to lip a bass and put it in the boat, but I’ve found a better method is to place my hand in the water under the bass’s stomach and lift it into the boat. That keeps my hands away from those treble hooks.
I concentrate on the lower end of the lake and fish the riprap around and at the face of the dam for nice spotted bass. Sometimes, you can catch a big smallmouth there, too. I’ll also fish ends of bluffs and underwater points that quickly fall off into deep water.
From mid-March on, bass will move up on the points more, and although the jerkbait still will produce bass, I’ll go to a Carolina rig. I like having that 1-ounce lead drag on the bottom to feel depth changes, mussel shell beds and gravel points.
A Carolina rig will produce bass year-round, but especially in the spring. I’ll have the barrel swivel tied to 60-pound bass braid with a 1-ounce lead above the swivel. On the other end of the swivel, I’ll have a leader of 23-pound fluorocarbon tied to a No. 5/0, wide-gap hook. I’ll use a 6-inch, green pumpkin Mann’s Hardnose Lizard with the tail dipped in chartreuse dye on a 7½-foot, medium-heavy Curado rod and 6-to-1 reel.
I’ll concentrate my fishing on points, both main-lake and secondary; main-lake pockets are where smallmouth will be spawning. I’ll fish from the bank out to 15 feet of water. I’ll also throw a crawfish-colored Mann’s C4 square-bill crankbait in these same places.
Using these techniques,, you’ll have a mixed bag of bass at the end of the day. If you catch 12 bass, you’ll have had a good day with numbers of 2- to 4-pounders — and possibly a 5-pounder as a bonus.