Let’s define our terms before we do anything else. When I talk about the prespawn, I’m talking about water temperatures from the mid-40s into the low 50 degree range.
It’s a great time to fish. The weather’s getting better after a long, cold winter, and the bass are feeding. It’s also the best shot we have to catch that fish of a lifetime, for most of us anyway. But, the prespawn is also characterized by unstable weather and moving fish.
The best way I’ve found to take advantage of the positives and deal with the negatives is to be versatile. Typically I launch with four techniques ready to go.
My first choice, and the one I like the best, is a shallow crankbait.
I start fishing in the back of a creek and work my way out. You never really know where they’ll be so it’s best to cover everything. Generally the best places will be along a bank with a steep vertical drop nearby. I crank the areas close to and in the more vertical banks rather than any flat areas in the vicinity.
Which particular bait you throw is largely a matter of preference. I want something with flat sides — that’ll give it a tight wiggle — and something that has no rolling action to it. A bait that runs in the 3-5 foot range and pivots on a vertical axis works best. My personal choice is the original Little John made by SPRO.
The water usually has some stain to it during the prespawn so I prefer a chartreuse body with an orange touch on the belly or on the throat.
My next most productive technique is a drop shot. This takes a real commitment to use. You must be willing to spend more time looking than fishing.
I idle around the last swing in a creek channel and watch my electronics for bass in the 20-40 foot range. They’re usually in or right along the channel. When I find three or more — competition makes for a better bite — I mark the spot and drop my rig down right on top of them.
I build my drop shot rig with 6-pound-test fluorocarbon line, a 3/8-ounce weight and a 12-18 inch leader. I use a No. 1 Gamakatsu drop shot hook. My bait is a straight tail worm in an in-between size — not too big, not too small. Color is unimportant, but it’s critical that your worm hang perfectly straight when it suspends in front of the fish. Kinks and bows don’t get it. I use a Missile Fuse 4.4.
Don’t overwork your rig. Go with a slack-tight, slack-tight presentation and do not move your sinker.
Next on our list are swimbaits. I’m not talking about the big, California types but rather the smaller plastic boot-tail models. Something between 3 and 6 inches is usually about right.
This is a really versatile lure. You can fish it almost anywhere and at almost any depth. And, if you change head weights around, you can swim it fast or slow at any of those depths.
Swimbaits like this are still in their infancy as far as technique is concerned. The umbrella rig taught us that there are lots of bass holding off structure and cover that we can catch if you target them appropriately. Swimbaits are similar in that regard.
My best advice is to work your swimbait at different speeds and at different depths until you find what the bass want. For the most part, these are feeding fish. When you find the right combination of factors they’ll let you know. You can adjust the speed of your swimbait, and still hold your desired depth, by changing the weight of your head. A 1/4-ounce head is a good place to start. You can move up or down from there.
My best catches have come when I tried to match the hatch as far as color and size are concerned. I fish with Missile Shockwave swimbaits.
My final suggestion is a jig, especially if you’re looking for a big fish. There’s nothing fancy here. All we’re going to do is drag it along the bottom making sure to crawl it up, over or through any obstruction we find on the bottom. It’s especially effective around brush piles, boat docks and secondary points.
I like back and blue when the water has some color to it and green pumpkin with orange when the water’s clear. If you use a trailer, make sure it’s one that doesn’t offer a lot of action. The water is still cold. Nothing is moving very fast.
My jig will have a well-balanced head that doesn’t roll, and it’ll be compact with a fine cut skirt. My choice is a Missile Jigs Ike’s Mini Flip Jig.
OK, there you have it: my four choices of baits for the early prespawn. They’ll cover just about anything you’ll be fishing this year.
But, don’t think you have to use all four when you go fishing. It’s fine to pick two and concentrate on them for the day. In fact, most anglers will actually do better that way because they’ll have more expertise with the techniques they’re using.