It's getting to be the time of the year when the big ones start moving towards the bank and start biting real good. The giants do it first. Now's the time to get ready for them.
As far as I'm concerned, this is your best chance to catch the biggest smallmouth of your life. But before we talk about that, I want to say something about safety. I fish all winter, but I know a lot of you don't. If you've been hibernating all winter, you need to check your life jacket and make sure it's in good shape, especially if it's an automatic inflatable type.
Believe me, if you fall overboard, hypothermia will visit you in no time flat, and you won't like it. Let's get back to the big ones. They'll start moving when the water temperature rises above 48 degrees. Mostly, they'll be along the shoreline, in cuts and in the deeper creeks on the north side, where the sun warms things up first. My first early prespawn lure is a crankbait.
I'll give you two that'll imitate crawfish and one that does a great job with shad and other types of baitfish. They're about the only lures I fish with at this time of the year. (I know a lot of guys like spinnerbaits, but I'll take a crankbait over a spinnerbait at this time of the year.) My crayfish baits are the Storm Wiggle Wart and the 1/4-ounce Luhr Jensen Hot Lips. I throw a red craw pattern in the Wiggle Wart because it has a green back rather than a black back. I like that. It looks more like a real crawfish.
My preference is light brown with a Hot Lips. That pattern has a green-yellow cast to it that looks real in the water at this time of year. Neither one of these lures is dark colored. That's good because cold water makes crayfish shells turn pale and light. The two colors I've mentioned look like the real thing.
That's important. A dark color looks good to you and me as fishermen, but not to the bass. It's unnatural. They shy away from it. If I'm fishing around minnows — shad or something else — I usually go with a Rapala X-Rap. They come in all different sizes and running depths. Pick the one that meets your water conditions. As far as color is concerned, I suggest you match the hatch as best you can with a shad finish of some sort.
Make sure you fish everything from different directions and at different depths. These are the early females. They're big, but there aren't a lot of them. You have to catch every fish you can. It's not like they're in schools. Until next time, if you have any questions or comments, I'd love to hear from you. Please e-mail me at Stephen@thesmallmouthguru.com.