By Dave Wolak
It’s March, and that means it’s time to release all that cooped up enthusiasm and get back on the water. Bass fishermen around the country are de-winterizing their boats and spooling nine million yards of fresh line only to get out on the lake and drag lures across the bottom all day at a snail’s pace. To me, that’s like drinking 5 Red Bulls to get pumped up to paint your garage floor. Sorry, but I find the cold-water drag utterly painful, and I could never figure out why so many fishermen lean on it this time of year, especially considering it’s so often aimlessly executed, even when it’s not producing.
If you pay attention you’ll notice that most March tournaments in colder regions, especially those on lakes where the bass are pre-spawn, are won with “fast” techniques; fast-falling, fast-ripping, fast-punching, fast cranking…whatever.
There’s nothing wrong with presenting baits with speed and erratic movement in early spring refuge locations, because despite their slowed metabolisms, bass are opportunistic predators that instinctively react to forage that comes zipping by.
Let’s say I find wintering or staging bass suspended on a deep bluff wall in one part of the lake, and hovering around a stump on a channel edge in 18 feet of water in another. The first thing I’m going to do is work a suspending jerkbait with a fast twitch for the fish on the bluff instead of letting a lightweight jig slowly fall through the school. As for the fish on the deep stump, I would sooner snap a spoon, aggressively pop a heavy jig, or try to get an erratic deep-diving crankbait deflecting off the stump or surrounding bottom.
If none of that works, I’ll move to another location before starting the slow drag around fish I’ve already found, because I know that nine times out of ten, I’m going to score the heaviest bass in the school out of the gate (see photo from this February in North Carolina) working baits fast. And when they hit, it’s not going to feel like that subtle cold-water Carolina rig nudge.