Buttercups and skunks

Now’s the time, guys. The big ones are on the move. I know that even though I’ve been at the Bassmaster Classic the last week because I see buttercups pushing up all over the place and skunks running around everywhere. That’s as good a sign as there is that things are happening. It’s never failed me in all the years I’ve been fishing.

Mother Nature’s funny about stuff like that. It might seem too warm or too cold to us but the creatures of the earth know what’s going on. They know when spring’s here and it’s time to start making babies. They’re real good at following their instincts.

I’ll write a column one of these days about watching squirrels and birds on the shore sometime. They’re a good indicator of what’s happening in the lake. If they’re active, the fish will be active. If they’re quiet; the fish will be quiet. That’s enough of that for now.

As soon as I get caught up here at the store, I’ll be out there fishing. My first stop will be on deep flats along a north shore. The best ones are usually in a creek or cut, but sometimes you can find a good one in the main lake. I’ll look around. You should do the same thing on your lake.

If that doesn’t produce a big female, I’ll head to a southwest bank or shoreline spot. The reason I go there is because the spring winds blow plankton to those spots and the baitfish follow. The smallies feeding up before the spawn won’t be far behind.

I like two lures for the next couple of weeks, spinnerbaits and hard jerkbaits. I regulate the running depth of my spinnerbait by weight. If you’re fishing real shallow, you might get away with a 1/4-ounce model. If you’re down near the bottom in 20 feet of water, a 1 1/2- ounce bait isn’t too heavy. Make sure you cover every couple of feet from the top to the bottom.

The most important thing about the jerkbait is the pause. I vary it constantly until I find what they want. Sometimes a 2 or 3 second stop will do. Other days, though, it’ll take as long as 30 seconds to make them bite. (Thirty seconds is a long time — longer than you think. Time it with your watch, and you’ll see what I’m talking about.)

And just because you find a depth or a pause that works right now doesn’t mean it’ll work all day. Sometimes they change preferences every hour or two. They’re fish. Do whatever they want. You’ll catch them that way. If you do it your way, you won’t catch them.

Don’t worry too much about color. If the water’s clear, go with something natural. If it’s dark, go with something bright. These are spawn or prespawn fish. They’re aggressive and are mostly hitting movement and vibration.

Go outside right now. Check around for buttercups and skunks. If you see them head for the water.

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