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Don’t be fooled by early spawners

It’s been a crazy spring. The water has warmed so early that the Elites were catching fish off the bed back at their Seminole event. At Okeechobee they were catching postspawn fish as well. The downside for the pros who like to sight fish was that there weren’t enough spawners to go around.

Despite the early spawning activity, the winner at Okeechobee caught prespawn bass by twitching a jerkbait over 15 feet of water. The winner at Seminole sacked prespawn bass fishing more than 20 feet deep.

Some bass don’t care that the water temperature is already soaring into the 60s in March. In fact, most of them are still in the prespawn mode. The big wave of spawners is still coming.

When the water warms so early in the spring, the first bass that move shallow work fast. They lay their eggs and leave. They’re not hanging around. This is one of those weird years.

There were early arrivals on the bank when I fished the first Elite Qualifier of the year at Lake Eufaula. Those fish had me kicking myself when the tournament was over.

When I see bass on the bank, I get pumped about sight fishing for them. I have a hard time thinking of anything else. That’s what I love to do. I’m a shallow-water guy.

So, I fished a bank at Eufaula in a creek that had a bridge over it. I idled under that bridge several times in practice and during the tournament. I saw fish there 12 to 15 feet deep on my electronics but didn’t check them out.

The reality is I was so set on fishing the bank I didn’t even have any Berkley Dredger crankbaits in the boat that would get down to those fish.

I fished the bank during the tournament and caught bass on flipping baits and Berkley’s Powerbait Swim Jig and Slobberknocker Bladed Jig. I bagged just over 16 pounds the first day and was in 47th place.

I needed to do better the next day, but that didn’t happen. My fish were leaving and getting caught. Because new fish were not pushing to the bank, I struggled to get bites.

I managed only 12 pounds and finished in 60th place. Throughout the tournament, another competitor fished around the bridge I had been idling under every day. He finished in the top 10.

I passed up a wad of bass because I was too stubborn to try something different. I had been hoodwinked by those early shallow arrivals.

I’ve learned that I need to be a lot more versatile in practice. Not just in my fishing but in my tackle prep too. I always need to carry things like Berkley Dredger crankbaits and drop-shot rigs.

I also need to spend more time looking with my electronics. I should have fired up Active Target on my Lowrance and tried to find fish with it. I’m getting better at it the more I do it.

After finding bass in shallow pockets at Eufaula, I should have checked out the bridge, secondary points and channel swings for prespawn bass on my way out of the creek. If I had done that, I might have used my bank fish as a backup.

Don’t get fooled by the first shallow bass when there’s an early spring, as I did. There are plenty of prespawn bass to be caught that have not yet moved up to the bank.