50-degree magic

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Kevin VanDam

Kevin VanDam

In the world of professional bass fishing, Kevin VanDam is at the pinnacle and arguably the best in the world.

Once we get further into late winter and the water starts to tick into the low 50s, bass begin to move into the prespawn mode and it’s time to get after them.

It’s my opinion that the 50-degree mark signals the bass to pull closer to the areas where they will spawn later in the spring. It’s an excellent time to catch a boat-load of big, aggressive fish.

To find those areas, I look at maps and pick the places that have the largest spawning flats and the best structural elements nearby. It might be a channel that swings near a bank or a steep break on a corner of a large flat.

Spawning areas are those flats that have less than 10 feet of water. The more expansive the flat, the more fish it will likely embrace, so a 50-yard flat isn’t nearly as good as one that runs 200 yards or more.

Secondly, I look for flats on the northerly side of the lake because they draw more sunshine that time of year and warm up quicker. Keep in mind that, even though the water temp may not change much, having the sun on that flat will move the fish tighter to the cover and structure and make them easier to target. Also, radiant light from the sun will heat the cover making it even more attractive to prespawn bass.

They need deep water access for when the weather changes. A good area might be a riprap bridge located halfway in back of a shallow bay; the steepest bank in a large flat pocket; or even a creek channel kissing the side of the flat.

When the temperature starts to rise, the fish get active, move a little shallower. My primary baits are going to be a crankbait or a big, slow-rolled spinnerbait, the latter of which is my favorite for attracting bigger fish.

When I say “big” spinnerbait, I’m talking about the blades on the lure, not necessarily the weight. If the water is clear, I like willowleaf blades, but if stained I prefer Colorado blades. The key is to have a bulky bait that gives off a lot of flash and vibration.

Crankbaits are the best choice for covering water and hunting for bass in that 5- to 10-foot zone, and my favorite is a Strike King Series 5. It’s a great choice on northern lakes or southern reservoirs that have grass where I will parallel the deeper edges.

My crankbait color choices are based on water clarity, but I like crawfish colors when prespawn bass are focused on crayfish. In stained water, I like the chartreuse crawfish Series 5.

Now, if the water temperature is dropping, the bass will back off the flats and hold on the first available drop or structure closest to deep water. When that happens, I revert to winter presentations, fishing a jerkbait or a Red Eye Shad as I discussed in the previous article.

One bad thing about fishing the early prespawn is you get a lot of fronts passing through that muddy the water or raise the water level. However, if the lake gets up into the shore bushes and the water is still cold, I’ll fish a jig there. The dirty water puts fish closer to whatever cover is available and the jig can get in there and root ‘em out.

I’ve had some tremendous days fishing high, muddy water with a jig during the early spring. It’s a pattern you should never overlook.

Again, I want a big, bulky jig — not necessarily a heavy one, but one with a large trailer, like a KVD Senior Chunk. I hook the chunk through the tip so that it makes the jig profile bigger than it does if you thread it on and only the legs dangle.

Regardless of where you live, remember that 50-degree water temperature can be magical for putting big, prespawn bass on the prowl!

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