Early spawners provide plenty of action
This month, I’m picking Lake Okatibbee, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reservoir just north of Meridian that’s part of the Pat Harrison Waterway, to fish for bass.
Although Okatibbee wasn’t producing good bass for a while, in recent years, the lake has bounced back. I’ll fish a typical spring pattern at Okatibbee. Remember, Mississippi’s mild winter may mean the bass will be spawning early.
In the early spring, with warmer weather and brighter skies, bass will move to the shallow rocks along the dam and get ready to spawn. I’ll fish parallel with a crawfish-colored Mann’s Baby 1-Minus, because in March, the baitfish and the shad seek the most heat in the shallowest water — up against the rocks.
I like to cast a shallow-running crankbait as close as possible to the rocks so the lure will deflect off the rocks and mimic an injured baitfish. Also, the crawfish and shad will be in shallow water. I’ll use 20-pound White Peacock fluorocarbon on an Elias Legend Series 6.2:1 Bruin reel mated to a 7-foot-1 medium-action FX Custom rod and fish fairly fast down the rocks to cover lots of water. I want that lure to lightly bump off those rocks.
I’ll also slow-roll a 3/8-ounce, chartreuse/white skirted Mann’s Classic spinnerbait with gold Indiana blades on a 7.3:1 Elias Legend Series Bruin reel with a medium-heavy, 7-foot-1 FX Custom rod down the rocks out to about 4 to 5 feet of water.
My boat will be about a boat-length from the rocks, in 8- to 10-foot deep water, so I can make short casts with the spinnerbait. Somewhere between 2 inches below the surface where I’m fishing the Baby 1-Minus and from the surface to 5 feet where I’m fishing the spinnerbait, I should locate where the bass are and learn which lure they want.
Later in the day
As the sun climbs and the day warms, I’ll go above the bridge and fish the lily pads and the bladed grass along the shoreline on the east and the west sides of the lake. I’ll be pitching a watermelon red Mann’s SpringR worm rigged wacky style with a weedless, wacky hook and no weight close to the lily pads and the bladed grass. I’ll allow the worm to wiggle slowly to the bottom of the lake.
Short-strikes from bucks
When the worm’s high in the water, you may get a number of short strikes from male bass protecting the nests of the female bass holding on or near the bottom. I’ll fish a spinning reel when I’m pitching with 15-pound bass braid on the reel and a 6-foot, 10-pound fluorocarbon leader. I’ll attach the bass braid to the fluorocarbon with a Uni knot. I’ll fish very slowly, wait for the SpringR Worm to reach the bottom, and then be patient for some time while that worm’s motionless on the bottom. Next, I’ll jerk the worm up off the bottom a couple of times and let it wiggle and fall back. If I don’t get a bite after two jumps off the bottom, I’ll reel in and pitch it to another target.
While I’m pitching and letting the worm fall, I’ll be looking for bass moving in the grass and the lily pads. The bass will be running bluegills and other fish out of their beds to keep them from eating the bass eggs. This movement will alert you to where the bed is.
Buzz ’em up
Another tactic I’ll use around the rocks, lily pads and bladed grass is to fish a black buzzbait and a white buzzbait, one tuned to run to the left and the other tuned to run to the right. Bigger bass generally key in on a buzzbait during late winter and early spring. I’m not fishing buzzbaits the way most people do. My black buzzbait will feature a black-painted blade and the white buzzbait a white-painted blade. Besides casting to the lily pad stems and the bladed grass, I’ll also run it through those types of cover.
I’ll fish a buzzbait on an Elias Legend baitcasting reel with an 8:1 retrieve ratio spooled with 30-pound braid on a 7-foot-4 FX Custom rod. The secret to catching these early bedding bass in March is to reel a buzzbait slowly, just fast enough to keep it up on the surface.
While fishing Okatibbee in March, you’ll have a good time catching 10 to 12 buck bass that will weigh up to 2 pounds each, and three to five females for up to a 20-fish day. Of those female bass, several will weigh 4 to 6 pounds or better.