First-Grass Bass

A hidden haunt, where spring largemouths lurk.

Field & Stream Online Editors

One of the best times to fish submerged vegetation, such as hydrilla, milfoil, and cabbage, is when it first begins to grow early in the season. The short, young stalks, typically 1 to 4 feet tall, lie hidden beneath the surface and must be located with a depthfinder. But they're well worth tracking down. Bass gravitate to this new weed growth, and if you know how to fish it properly, you'll score big.

Natural Lakes
In natural lakes, which typically have little fluctuation, bass swarm to early grass on flats in 3 to 12 feet of water as soon as water temperatures begin to approach 50 degrees.

Cabbage and milfoil predominate in many natural lakes, and both can offer excellent spring fishing. However, bass often show a preference for cabbage, which is also easier to fish because most lures break cleanly through the plant's broad, crisp leaves.

Concentrate on the largest grass flats, as they typically hold the most fish. And be sure to cast to any irregularities in the grass that might draw bass, such as a thick spot, a hole, pocket, boulder, or log. Because early-spring bass scatter widely across grass flats, you need to cover a lot of water. To do so, fan-cast floating jerkbaits and lipless crankbaits and retrieve them so that they tick along the tops of the submerged grass. Another excellent technique is to slow-roll a spinnerbait so that it intermittently contacts the vegetation.

Man-Made Reservoirs
Bass relate differently to submerged grass in impoundments that are drawn down during the winter. Hydrilla and milfoil flourish in many reservoirs, but these plants die wherever the bottom is exposed during the drawdown. When the water level rises in the spring, grass that survived at winter pool level forms a very distinct edge roughly 5 to 10 feet deep. Since the bottom is bare between the newly flooded bank and the vegetation, bass gang up along this inside edge.

"I do especially well fishing inside edges around bald points and high spots," says widely traveled Cincinnati bass pro Joe Thomas. On sunny days, when bass hold tight to the vegetation, Thomas uses a stiff flipping rod to pitch a ¿¿-ounce black-and-blue bass jig tipped with a pork frog to the grass. He hops the lure a few times until it clears the vegetation, then pitches the jig a few feet farther along the grass edge. Under low-light or windy conditions, bass cruise above the grass and feed more aggressively. Thomas takes advantage of this situation by switching to a ¿¿-ounce orange Rat-L-Trap. He works over inside grass edges with long casts and runs the rattling lure deep enough to clip the vegetation. "The strikes are jolting," he warns.