To effectively catch bass — especially those that weigh in at eight, nine, or 10-pounds and better — one must understand where the bass will be on a lake at any given point in time.

To effectively catch bass — especially those that weigh in at eight, nine, or 10-pounds and better — one must understand where the bass will be on a lake at any given point in time.


This is especially true in the late winter and early spring when fish are preparing to go through their annual spawning ritual.


To figure out where big bass are at on a particular lake at this time of the year — and where they are positioned in the water column — an angler needs to know some basic bass biology.


Over the next several weeks, that basic biology will include finding bass that are on the move for the pre-spawn phase of the spring.


What is the pre-spawn phase? It is the time of year when bass move betwixt and between, traveling to transitional holding spots that are located between the deep water of winter and the shallow spawning flats of spring.


During the pre-spawn, as temperatures begin to warm into the mid to upper 50s (this typically occurs in North Texas and southern Oklahoma from late February into March), bass will begin to gravitate to such spots on the upper ends of a lake or reservoir.


Why the upper end? Because this is where a lake’s water warms up the quickest thanks to shallower, dirtier water and to the maximum exposure of daily sunlight hitting northwestern banks.


Find a stable period of three to four days of bland February or early March weather — the kind that makes for boring television on The Weather Channel — and you can be assured that some bass are on the move towards the skinny H2O.


This is especially true when the full moon cycle is happening, a phenomenon that can be the final trigger in starting a pre-spawn bass migration.


Anglers venturing out-of-doors to search for these fish should pay particular attention to the migrational corridors that bass will use over the next few weeks to journey from winter’s deep stuff to springtime’s shallow liquid.


Those migrational corridors — think of them as a pipeline or a highway — will often lead bass to stop and hold at the first major breakline. Find this initial big drop in bottom contour and you will often find pre-spawn fish sitting in eight to 15-feet of water.


Finding these pre-spawn bass is the first challenge an angler must meet this month. And tossing the right lure to them and actually catching a fish is the second one.


Fortunately, largemouths during this phase are reasonably aggressive, especially the females that are feeding up for the spawn.


Lures that an angler needs to use during this phase should be sub-surface and centered around crawfish and shad color patterns.


Crawfish lures — which represent the protein rich mudbugs that big female sowbelly bass indulge on to prepare for egg formation and release — should be red, orange, yellow, and brown.


Shad lures — which form the bulk of the forage base for bass in North Texas and southern Oklahoma waters — should be white, silver, and clear with chartreuse, blue, black, and olive accents.


Top lure choices over the next few weeks include lipless crankbaits like Rat-L-Traps (especially red, orange, and brown ones fished around grass); suspending jerkbaits (especially when fished around points and staging areas); square-bill crankbaits (near timber); spinnerbaits (with a Colorado blade); jig-and-pig combos; and big crankbaits.


Believe it or not, the Alabama Rig can also work on pre-spawn bass.


Just ask Dale Miller, owner of the current Oklahoma state record largemouth bass that tipped the scales at 14 pounds, 13.7 ounces.


Using a modified A-Rig, Miller caught his Sooner State benchmark bass on March 13, 2013 at 80-acre Cedar Lake in the Ouachita National Forest.


What size bait should you use? Given their desire to load up on protein, bigger is often better when it comes to catching a bucketmouth bass in February or early March.


But if bigger is better in terms of bait sizes, then slower is often better in terms of bait retrieval speeds.


This can be especially true in colder water temperatures. But on some days, however, bass want baits to be burned to the boat. You’ve simply got to figure this out on a day-to-day basis.


Whatever the speed of retrieve, there is little doubt that Red River Valley anglers need to get out on the water during the next four to six weeks.


Because the best big bass fishing of the year is about to commence on a North Texas or southern Oklahoma water body somewhere near you.