Spring Bass Fishing Secrets From the Pros
Tournament veterans reveal their favorite early-season hotspots and tactics
The first hint of spring’s warming weather gets bass anglers going because it gets bass moving toward shallow water, where they’re more accessible. However, they’re not necessarily easier to catch. Even pros admit that spring bass fishing can pose a real challenge when it comes to locating and catching fish. That’s why most of them keep notes on how they do it. Below, five of America’s best bass anglers, including the 2020 Bassmaster Classic winner, share their top spots, favorite tactics, and best baits for finding and catching bucketmouths now.
1. Target mud lines and floating docks when spring bass fishing.
“Mud lines along wind-blown banks are excellent places to key on for spring bass fishing,” says Hank Cherry, who won the 2020 Bassmaster Classic in March. Fish will often hunt and feed aggressively in this off-colored environment, and the pro uses crankbaits, bladed jigs, spinnerbaits, and standard jigs to take advantage. “Usually, when you find one fish along a mud line like this, you’ll find others and will get multiple bites.”
A second favorite spot of Cherry’s for big early bass is floating docks. “Bass will use these for cover during all phases of the spawn,” he says. “You can fish them with a variety of baits, depending on the spawning phase, but two of my favorites are jigs and a weightless, whacky-rigged worm or stickbait. Just skip the bait beneath the floating dock, and let it settle.” Most bites will come on the initial fall. “It’s a very easy presentation that can produce incredible results.”
2. Jig for bass in shallow woody cover.
“Even when water temperatures are still in the low to mid-50s, I look for spring bass around stumps, flooded trees, laydowns, and brushpiles in coves where the fish will later spawn,” says Texas pro Gary Klein. “This type of cover provides enough protection that the bass can suspend near the surface, where the water is warmest.” Without such places to offer security, the fish will often stay deeper.
“When spring bass fishing, I usually target the northwest shorelines in protected coves, using either a buzzbait with a slow retrieve or a jig, depending on how the fish are acting. Frequently, the bite gets better as the day progresses.”
3. Work soft-plastics along shallow points.
“Bass often stop at points during their migration into shallow water,” explains Arizona pro Mark Kile, “especially if it’s the last structure they encounter before reaching their spawning flats. If a point features good cover, it will be even more attractive to them, and you may find several bass in one spot.”
Kile fishes plastic worms, lizards, and tubes, letting the lures just fall to the bottom before picking them up right away for another cast. What’s surprising, he says, is that the fish are often in water less than 10 feet deep.
4. Look for spring bass along submerged ditches.
“Bass use small drainages as migration highways,” says Larry Nixon, an Arkansas pro who competes in both Major League Fishing and B.A.S.S. events. “These routes may be only a foot deeper than the surrounding flat, but that’s all the fish need.
To find ditches, Nixon slowly crosses potential spawning coves while closely watching his depthfinder. “Once I locate a ditch, I’ll typically follow it toward deeper water, but if I don’t catch anything, I’ll turn and head shallow. I concentrate on bends, intersections, and depth changes. Jigs, plastic worms, and even crankbaits can score well,” he says.
5. Crank rocks and riprap for staging bass.
Terry Baksay, an Major League Fishing pro based in Connecticut, finds spring bass on rock piles, old rock fences, and long riprap walls. “These spots give bass the option of vertical movement as water temperatures change. Normally, I can find fish within 15 feet of the surface.”
He recommends hitting the outer points of rocks (such as those commonly found near dams or bridges), or wherever the rocks form a sharp angle or indentation. His favorite lures include deep-diving jerkbaits, crankbaits, and plastic tubes, which allow him to cover different depths. He casts parallel to the rocks and bumps them with his lure during the retrieve.
Any of these five hotspots can remain hot for spring bass fishing from the prespawn right through the spawning period—so be sure to jot each of them down in your own bass playbook.
Frequently Asked Questions
When should I start spring bass fishing?
That depends on where you live. For anglers in Florida, spring fishing usually gets going in Mid-February, whereas anglers in the Northeast wait until April or May for good conditions. Ultimately, it comes down to water temperature, though. No matter where you live, you can expect spring bass fishing to get good when the water gets above 50 degrees. In the sweet spot between 50 and 60 degrees, the bass begin their push from the depths to main points and secondary points to begin staging for the eventual spawn when the temperatures rise above 60 degrees. When spring bass first push from the depths, they’re aggressive and ready to pounce on almost any bait cast in their general direction.
What colors do bass like in the spring?
The ideal bait color for spring bass depends on the water clarity. In murkier water, many bass anglers lean heavily on red. As the water begins to warm, crawfish will turn bright red, so, essentially, you’re matching the hatch and presenting a bait that is exactly what the bass are keyed in on when they’re feeding. Other bright colors, like chartreuse, can also help your bait stand out in heavily stained water. In clearer water, whites and natural colors meant to imitate a baitfish are usually better options.
How deep are bass in the spring?
In the spring, the bass begin pushing to the shallows. How deep that is depends entirely on the body of water. In a deeper highland reservoir, they might winter in 40 to 50 feet, so in the spring, a push shallow might bring them to 15 or 20 feet to feed. In a lowland reservoir doesn’t offer as much depth, on the other hand, they might winter in 20 to 25 feet and push up into 10 or 5 feet of water in the spring to feed. The key is finding areas near the deep wintering holes where the bass will initially push up as the water warms. Main lake points and secondary points are common first stops as they push shallower and shallower leading to the spawn in the backs of coves and on the sides of shallow banks.