photo of mourning doves

[Q] I’m a pretty good bass fisherman once the fish reach the shallows–and a pretty bad one before then. Early-spring fish just seem to elude me. What’s the trick?

[A] Look for the first dropoff near known spawning areas–say, a creek ledge or a secondary point. That’s where the bass will hold before they move shallow. Search for them with a 3/16-ounce shaky-head jig dressed with a 4-inch green pumpkin Houdini Worm on 6-pound line. After you find the fish, switch to a crankbait or a jig to catch the bigger ones.

[Q] In the summer, I catch loads of bass with diving crankbaits. Do these lures work now, too?

[A] Yes, but in spring your diving crankbait shouldn’t run any deeper than 5 to 6 feet. Try a Bomber 4A. I prefer shad colors for clear water and chartreuse for stained. Bump the bait over isolated stumps, logs, and rocks, using a medium retrieve and a lot of stop-and-go action.

[Q] My lake has matted vegetation in spring. What’s the best way to catch prespawn and spawning bass in this type of cover?

[A] I do really well fishing sparse matted cover, where enough light gets through that bass will spawn under it. A good example is cattails that have folded over. Texas-rig a Yum Big Show Craw with a 5/0 hook and a tungsten bullet sinker weighing 3/4 to 1 1/2 ounces–whatever it takes to punch through the mat. Using a flipping rod and 65-pound braided line, pitch the bait out and work it under the cover. For bedded bass, lightly twitch the bait in one spot for 20 to 30 seconds to give the fish time to react.

[Q] When I try sight-fishing beds during the spawn, all I ever see are small males. How do I catch the big females?

[A] Most of the time, the big female swims off before you get close to the bed–you don’t see her at first. If you back off and wait a few minutes, though, she’ll often swim back. I stick a wooden dowel at the back of the bed and retreat until I’m out of sight but still in casting range. Then I toss a 3/4-inch Texas-rigged Yum Craw Papi to the stick with a 3/16-ounce sinker on 20-pound fluorocarbon line. Give it a try.

[Q] I don’t have the patience for dragging a jig or tube onto a bed and shaking it there all day. How can I catch spawning bass with a more aggressive presentation?

[A] When I’m in an area where I know the bass are spawning, I spend the early morning burning a 3/8- or 1/2-ounce white Booyah Buzz bait over cover until it’s light enough to sight-fish. It’s a very active, fun way to catch spawners.

[Q] If I can see a bass on a bed, I assume it can see me, too. Can it? And will it bite anyway?

[A] Yes, it can see you, too. Whether it will bite anyway depends on exactly where the fish are in their spawning cycle. If the moon’s right and the bass are really wanting to get the job done, they’ll bite even when they can see you. But most times, marking the bed and backing out of view is the best way to catch that bedded lunker.

Name: Terry “Big Show” Scroggins, 38

Hometown: Palatka, Fla.

Job before becoming a bass pro: Automotive painter

Biggest largemouth:14 pounds

Credentials: Five Bassmaster Classic qualifications; five Bassmaster event titles; over $1 million in career earnings