It’s time to fish for big ‘uns

It’s big bass time across the country, and now is when it’s great to be on the water.

We’ve had a warmer-than-average winter and spring is popping earlier than normal. I’m hearing about spawning bass in Texas, Alabama and most of the southern states. In fact, we’ve got a lot of open water in northern states and bass are already showing signs of prespawn activity.

When approaching this time of the year you have to remember everything is focused around the spawn. This isn’t so much about going to your favorite lake and throwing your favorite baits. To catch big bass, you need to adjust your fishing approach and think about how to get the really large ones to bite.

My recent Bassmaster Elite event at Okeechobee is a classic example. The bass were spawning and we had to think about where they might spawn, where they were coming from and the transition areas they would use.

At Okeechobee, which is such a unique fishery, the fish were funneling between the reed beds. The lake has no depth change so the fish use the terrain instead of channels or contour line changes as they move into spawning areas.

That’s a key to finding big spawning fish. Sure, you want to look for beds on flats, but those transition areas are critical to finding the big females.

Mapping tools come into play and will guide you to potential areas, but then you have to find the right habitat that will hold the fish. For example, it might be grass beds, bushes, cattails, reeds or even boat docks that give you something to target.

And not every area is as good as it looks.

At Okeechobee, another key was to find areas with protection from the wind. That’s true wherever you fish; bass don’t like to spawn in exposed areas susceptible to wind-driven turbid water. That’s why you’re more likely to find bedding bass on the inside edge of habitat that protects them from the main lake.

And remember, not all lures or presentations will catch bigger bass.

In Florida, there were a multitude of keeper males in spawning areas. You could catch fish on smaller baits and finesse presentations, but that wasn’t going to get many big fish bites.

I caught 90 percent of my weighable bass on a heavy jig that I punched into heavy grass, cattails or mats and used a little lighter jig in the sparser cover. I knew that if I wanted to appeal to the 7 and 8 pounders, I had to give them something they would bite.

Most of the big ones – I weighed in an 8-5 one day – came on a 1-ounce Strike King Hack Attack Jig with a Magnum Rage Bug pitched in less than 2 feet of water. The females were cruising around those spawning areas but using the heavy cover as transition areas.

I know it seems odd to use those big baits in shallows and have them crash through the water column like a bowling ball. But the big spawners were focused on spawning so I had to trigger reactionary strikes.

I keyed on getting a few big bites rather than covering a lot of water, catch a number of bass and hope to run into a big one.

So remember that when you go out this spawning season: Alter your approach toward big fish in those transition areas and not get too concerned about generating a lot of bites from smaller bass.

‘Cause like I say, it’s all about the attitude!

Kevin VanDam's column appears weekly on You can also find him on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.