A glance at the calendar shows that today is the first day of March, the beginning of meteorological spring and a sure sign that the seasons are changing.
But you certainly wouldn’t have known that yesterday, a late wintertime day where freezing drizzle caused a traveling nightmare to our south in the DFW Metroplex and the temperature never climbed above the freezing mark here in the Texomaland area.
And from the looks of the current weather forecast — which includes another arctic cold front, a chilly rain that could change to a little snow, and temperatures bottoming out in the teens by early next week — and the prospect of spring and its good bass fishing action will remain an illusion at best this weekend.
So if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll put another log on the fire and top off the coffee mug.
But even if the firewood pile has to work overtime during the next few days, it won’t be long now before trees are budding, wildflowers are blooming, and the big bass are pushing into the skinny stuff on area lakes.
Soon, the increasing daylight hours will work to warm water temperatures towards the lower and middle 50s. And as that happens, area bass will be prepping for the coming spawn by staging on main lake points, humps, and ridges.
So once Old Man Winter’s latest temper tantrum dies down, how do you go about catching a pre-spawn bass at this time of the year?
First, watch the weather and look for a tranquil, sunny period of several days that warms the water temperature steadily.
Then, make sure you pack your thinking cap and a good map - either old school paper or the latest electronic version – into your tackle box.
Why? Because you’re going to want to figure out where the bass will be spawning in a few weeks and then back up from such spots to find them somewhere along the migrational corridor, or aquatic pipeline, they’ll use to move from winter haunts to springtime spawning grounds.
Those piscatorial causeways are typically going to lead from deeper main lake points near major creek channels through the middle portions of those creek channels and onto the shallow spawning flats.
If your search finds that the bass aren’t on the points themselves, then odds are that they have moved deeper into the creek channel and will position themselves along structural features like the first breaklines away from the bank in addition to hanging out around submerged timber and grass near spawning flats.
Keep in mind that bass are very much thinking about moving shallow during this time of the year so you’ll typically find them in 10-15 foot staging depths — or even less depending on the weather — during the pre-spawn phase.
In fact, just the other day, a good angling friend of mine texted me as he got off a decent bass lake in North Texas, giving me a report that I found a bit surprising.
Surprising because he and his angling partner had enjoyed a pretty good day of fishing, boating 12 bass between three and five-pounds…and all but one of them being caught in two to five-feet of water.
“Not bad for late February,” he said.
While the two anglers referenced above used a bladed jig and a spinnerbait to do most of their fish catching, the use of a Rat-L-Trap style lipless crankbait and a suspending jerkbait can also work wonders right now.
Rattlebaits — especially red and orange ones, the kind that imitate a protein packed crawfish — are especially useful in the late winter and early spring when an angler finds some submerged grass on the lake that is being fished.
A conversation I had a few years ago with Texas angling pro Alton Jones featured some good advice on how to fish such baits around grass at this time of the year.
According to the Bass Pro Tour angler — and 2008 Bassmaster Classic champ — simply toss it out over the grass bed, reel it back slowly enough to tickle the top of the vegetation, and then rip it free when it hangs up.
If there’s a bass around, don’t be surprised to feel the bait get clobbered as it flutters back down.
On lakes like Texoma that typically feature some clearer water, a suspending jerkbait can often be a good choice right now too. Toss it out around a breakline, hump, or ledge and then put on your best Kevin VanDam imitation as you reel it back.
Meaning to jerk it erratically with your rod tip, pause for a few seconds as the bait flutters down and away, and then do it again. If there’s a big pre-spawn bass hanging out in the vicinity, expect to feel a pretty good thump at the end of your line.
As most bass anglers know, the pre-spawn phase is a great time to fish for bigger fish in many Texas waters. In fact, just this past week — prior to winter’s latest hurrah, that is — reports on social media and TexasFishingForum.com indicate that a couple of great bass were caught.
One was a 13.1-pound largemouth at Lake Fork, one that was photographed, weighed and released. The other was a 10 pound, 11 ounce lunker from nearby Lake Ray Roberts.
What does all of this mean? Simply this — that winter can’t last forever, that spring is coming fast, and that it’s time to get out onto your favorite big bass water when conditions permit.
Because odds are, there’s a lunker largemouth bass somewhere out there with your name on it, one that’s probably as sick of wintertime as you and I are.