Now’s the time

About the author

Stephen Headrick

Stephen Headrick

Stephen Headrick is better known to the bass fishing world as the Smallmouth Guru. He lives in Celina, Tenn., and is the owner of Punisher Lures.

It seems like the weatherman’s beating me over the head with a stick. I feel like a rented mule. Every time I write something about what’s happening things change. If I write about warm weather, it turns cold. If I write about cold weather, it turns warm. That kind of fast weather change can make for tough fishing. 

There’s still one constant thing about this time of the year, though. The giants are generally moving towards the flats to spawn.

Over the years I’ve seen more big smallies after the February full moon and before the April full moon than during the rest of the year combined. It’s the best time of the year to go fishing if you want a trophy that you can brag about for the rest of your life.

The reason for this is simple. The bass are moving around in the creeks and cuts waiting for the best time to spawn and they’re feeding like crazy. The best feed is when they’re on the channels just before they move shallow but even on the flats they eat pretty good. When they’re like that you can catch them, even the big wary ones. But don’t forget that they’re smallmouth, not largemouth.

You won’t find them on flats in 2 feet of water, and they’ll rarely be shallow when they’re over the channels waiting to make their move. Here in Tennessee, it’s common for them to be below 20 feet on the channels and below 10 to 12 feet on the flats. Beds 20 feet deep are ordinary on some clear water lakes. Of course, specific depths depend upon where you’re fishing but the idea remains the same. Smallmouth will always be deeper than largemouth, even in the early spring.

When they’re out over the channels, I like to fish with crankbaits and hard jerkbaits. When they move up on the flats I’ll switch to spinnerbaits and soft swimbaits. I pick sizes, actions and colors that match whatever they’re feeding on. Sometimes you can ignore that advice. Other times, it’s real important.

I say that because smallmouth don’t feed quite like you’d expect, at least not always. Sometimes they’ll grab anything in the water; I don’t care what it is. Other times, though, they’ll only hit a certain bait, in a certain color, coming from a certain direction and traveling at a certain depth. It can get really crazy out there in February and March.

If I knew why they did that — or how to know when they’ll do it — I’d sure tell you. I don’t. It just happens. They’ll change their feed on a dime, and I can’t figure out why for the life of me. Fish every inch of water, every way you can think of, is the only useful advice I can give you.

The bottom line: If you want to catch a big one now’s the time. Get your tackle ready and go out the first chance you get. Every day you wait is a lost opportunity.

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