Spring is just around the corner, and if you’re anything like me, you’re dusting off the rods, organizing tackle boxes, and sharpening hooks. As water temps begin to increase, aggressive bass move from deep wintering areas into shallow water looking for bait and preparing to spawn. Knowing when, how, and what baits to use will improve your chances of catching a mega bass.

The prespawn is arguably the best time to catch your biggest bass yet and dial in on landing a lunker. Depending on location and water temperature, the prespawn will occur at different times of the year. Each area of the country varies, but where I fish in New York, late May and early June is usually prime time. I look for water temps in the low 50s and fish hard during this period while staying mobile and switching up tactics.

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Exploring marinas, abandoned docks, and shoreline structure is a surefire way to come tight with a monster. This is a short period of the year when a density of big bass are in shallow spots and accessible for shore fishermen. You don’t need a fancy bass boat to catch your personal best this spring. Add these five baits to your arsenal for strong versatility so you can hook into bass no matter the situation.

How to Fish a Ned Rig for Bass

This finesse-style rig has quickly become one of the hottest baits in bass fishing over the last couple of years. It’s simply a mushroom jighead paired with 2 ½- to 3-inch soft plastic stickbait. Created by longtime outdoor writer Ned Kehde, this bait excels in shallow, clear water. The Ned rig will catch bass in various situations like shorelines, under docks, and off of points. I use this bait with a 7-foot medium-heavy spinning rod, and it is one of my go-to prespawn baits.

Color choice and presentation are area-specific but should match local conditions and baitfish as much as possible. “I like to use the Ned rig during prespawn when the fish are finicky, and you want to slow your presentation down,” says former collegiate bass angler Jimmy Zaccagnino. “I like to flip it in docks, timber, and rocky bottoms to target fish relating to structure.”

How to Catch Bass with a Jerkbait

Jerkbaits should be in your box when you head to the water this spring. They are ideal for open water and will cause a reaction strike. During the prespawn, bass are traveling from deeper areas into shallow water looking to feed. Reactionary baits work best for this situation, as there’s a good chance to intercept a migrating bass. When you need to cover water and dial in on fish, moving baits are your best bet.

Suspended fish are some of the hardest to catch, and keeping your bait in the strike zone is critical to generating bites. Just after the ice thaws in northern New York, I like to throw jerkbaits as the bass start to move around with the rising water temps. Use this bait in early spring and switch up your retrieves to find more fish.

A young man holds up a smallmouth bass.
Big-bellied bronzebacks are very aggressive during the prespawn as they fatten up. Ryan Chelius

Why a Chatterbait Should Be Your Go-To Bass Lure

The chatterbait is one of the most versatile lures out there, and if I can only have one prespawn lure in my box, this is it. Throw it around docks, rocky structures, and in weeds. Bladed swim jigs are deadly in shallow water when fish are active. As big bass move into spawning flats, they will often crush any sort of threat. Submerged grass and vegetation from 3 to 6 feet is golden for producing strikes. Wooded areas and laydowns are also great spots to make a cast. Having a moving bait in thick cover and shallow water that doesn’t get caught up is a significant advantage.

Vary your retrieves until you key in on a pattern. Sometimes burning the bait back will generate strikes, and other times it’s a slow roll. Often, it’s somewhere in between, and getting creative with your retrieve will help you figure out what works. Your trailer should be generating movement and drawing attention. Try to match the color to common prey and increase motion with paddle tail baits and other attractive trailers.

“Chatterbaits are my go-to for largemouth, and their versatility is what makes them so great,” says Zaccagnino. “You can fish it slow, fast, and cover a lot of water. It’s great for locating bass and has helped me land some giants.”

How to Catch Bass on Crankbaits

Throwing crankbaits this time a year is one of the best ways to target prespawn bass. Fish are cruising, looking for baitfish, crawfish, and other prey to fatten up before spawning. Crankbaits are yet another moving bait that produces big results in the prespawn. There are two main kinds of crankbaits, diving and lipless.

There are different diving crankbaits for various depths—but the objective is to get the bait down in the water column to hit bottom. On the other hand, lipless crankbaits suspend above the weeds and rocks to target fish higher up. If you know the bass are hanging out at a particular depth, having the right crankbait can make all the difference.

Vibration is a factor to consider, and it’s smart to match your bait vibration with water temperature. The water is still pretty cold during the early prespawn, and bass are just coming out of their wintering grounds. A slower vibration works better when fish haven’t hit peak activity yet. As temps climb into the 50′s, baits with more action are likely to do better. Your lure should “match the hatch” and resemble common baitfish and prey that bass feed on. Crayfish patterns are a common choice and a safe bet, but get creative and tailor your baits to your area.

A young man holds up a smallmouth bass.
Prespawn smallies put up one hell of a fight. Ryan Chelius

The Simple Senko Is Still One of the Best Bass Lures Ever

The senko is one of the most popular bass baits of all time—and for good reason. Senkos can be rigged in a variety of different ways. You can go weedless, wacky rig, Carolina rig, etc. They are useful in almost every situation.

During prespawn, I like to wacky rig a senko and flip docks and structure. The movement produces big aggressive bites and has resulted in some of my biggest bass. A senko is a shore angler’s best friend. Work edges of vegetation with a weedless rig and flip your bait into cover. Senkos come in numerous colors and sizes. Water clarity often dictates bait color for me as I like to use a darker senko in murky water. Watermelon black flake and black blue flake are two of the most popular colors, and I always have them in my box.

For the prespawn, wacky rigging and Texas rigging are two of the most effective ways to land fish. It is a great finesse-style bait to flip both thick cover and docks. “I caught my personal best largemouth on a wacky rigged senko during prespawn,” says Zaccagnino. “I was flipping murky, stained water under a dock from shore, and a monster came out and crushed it. You can never go wrong with a senko.”