This month, I'll be returning to 500-acre Calling Panther Lake, located in Crystal Springs. March is the best month of the year to fish Calling Panther, and in my opinion, Calling Panther is the best lake in the state to catch a big bass.

The majority of the big bass here in March will be moving into shallow water where they'll be much more easy to catch. These bass either will be on the beds or about to go on the beds and roaming the banks and the flats. This month, I'll fish a buzz bait, a Mann's HardNose FrankenToad and a Mann's 1/2-ounce Stone Jig to catch Calling Panther's bass.


Importance of a buzz bait

The buzz bait will be my No. 1 lure because Calling Panther isn't a very old lake. During March, the bass will be extremely aggressive, because this probably will be the last feeding spree before the spawn or the first feeding activity after the spawn. By fishing a buzz bait, I can pull the bass to the surface and catch them. The water temperature will be in the low- to mid-60s, which is the perfect temperature to fish a buzz bait.

I'll have two buzz baits tied onto two different rods - a 1/4-ounce black buzz bait on one and a 3/8-ounce white buzz bait on the other. If I see a bass move, I'll be able to pick up the heavier buzz bait and make a longer cast to a bass that may be out of range of the lighter buzz bait. I'll fish with different colors, since I prefer a darker-colored buzz bait on dark or cloudy days and a lighter-colored buzz bait on clear days.

Buzz bait fishing this month on Calling Panther Lake is bank fishing. I'll be fishing down the bank and casting toward any type of cover. The lake has plenty of timber in it, so there will be laydowns, stumps, shoreline grass and all types of other cover where the bass can spawn. I'll be fishing the buzz baits on 17-pound-test fluorocarbon line.


FrankenToad for thick cover

If the bass aren't hitting the buzz bait, I'll start casting the FrankenToad. I prefer the FrankenToad at this time of year, on this lake, because I can pop it across the surface or pitch it to bedding bass, like a pitching bait. I'll have two FrankenToads rigged on two rods - one on a weighted No. 6/0 Gamakatsu hook with a 1/8-ounce slip sinker in front of it and the other rigged Texas-style with a 5/16-ounce bullet weight in front of it and a No. 6/0 Gamakatsu hook that's not weighted.

In thick-cover areas and places where I can't cast and retrieve the buzz bait, I'll throw the FrankenToad on a 7 1/2-foot light flipping rod with 30-pound-test Sonic braided line. I'll be using the heavier braided line because I'll need the power to pull bass out of that thick cover. I prefer a black/blue flake or a watermelon-red FrankenToad. When I'm swimming the bait, I don't set the hook until I feel the bass on the line.

I'll pitch the FrankenToad rigged with the weighted hook and the 1/8-ounce slip sinker to bass I see on the beds, into little holes in the vegetation where I think the bass will be spawning or to bass moving in shallow water that won't hit the buzz bait or the FrankenToad on the surface. I'll throw the weighted FrankenToad to any place where I think there may be a bass bedding, even if I can't see the bass or the bed.

Once the weighted FrankenToad hits the water and falls to the bottom, I'll let it sit absolutely still. I may shake the line every now and then to make the bait quiver, like I'd fish a shaky-head worm.

If I don't get a bite, I'll pitch the weighted FrankenToad to another spot close to the first, allow it to sit for a while, shake it, let it sit and then make another pitch. By dead-sticking the bait and letting it sit, I'm expecting a spawning bass to move up to the FrankenToad and suck it into its mouth. Bedding bass don't want a toad or a frog around their beds. As soon as I see the line move, I'll set the hook.


Stone Jig for bedding bass

At this time of year, I'll fish the Mann's Stone Jig just like I will the weighted FrankenToad and pitch it into an area where I see a bass bedding, or where I think a bass may be bedding. Often a bass on the bed will bite a jig but not a soft-plastic lure. I prefer a white jig with a white trailer. Then I can watch the bait and see if a bass picks it up. As soon as I see the white jig disappear off the bottom, I'll set the hook. I'll be fishing the jig just like the FrankenToad. I'll dead-stick it, shake it and make multiple casts with it.

At this time of year at Calling Panther, I'll catch a number of male bass that will weigh from 1 1/2 to 3 pounds each. But there are some really big female bass in that lake, and I'll not be surprised if I catch a 10-pound-plus female bass. I expect to catch a number of bass this month, and I may catch 20 bass in one day of fishing at Calling Panther.

The Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks reports that it expects the next state-record largemouth bass to come from Calling Panther Lake, and if you catch that bass this month, please let us know.