Bayou Outdoors | Dial Them In
article by DAN CHASON
There is no time of the year that brings more anglers to the lake than during the spawn of largemouth bass and crappie. That time of the year is absolutely the month of March. Waters are warming and the muddy high waters of February have subsided and the fish are calming down and starting to heed nature’s call. I have written many times about where to go and what to throw but this month let’s dial it down a little closer to reality. First let’s examine the times not to fish and the days you need to be on the water with rod in hand.
The moon phase has more to do with the spawn of game fish than any other factor. There is a crawfish hatch on a full moon which causes all game to react. Game fish react as the hormone in a crawfish is crucial to initiate spawning activity. Three days after a full moon is the prime day to be on the water. I’ll bring in the other factor that will get you more bites as well.
I never go fishing that I don’t look at the barometric pressure. The barometer has an effect on fish as barometric pressure puts pressure on a fish’s air bladder. On a rising barometer, the fish will hold tight to cover or suspend in the thermocline and not be as active. On a falling barometer, the fish become more receptive and active. This means that on falling barometer days (prior to a front) fish will position themselves in an ambush posture making them more aggressive and easier to catch.
Water temperature is so very critical. You need sustained temperature of 56 degrees to kick off spawning activity. The most understood thing about the spawn is that not all fish spawn in shallow water. Certain conditions change where they spawn such as fluctuating water levels and water clarity. I’ve caught spawning fish in 8 plus feet of water. The bass in Caney Lake for example are notorious for spawning deep as they get a lot of pressure and the water is clear/semi-clear. Don’t get caught up in pounding the banks when you are actually passing up spawning fish to look for them shallow.
Wind is a killer when it comes to spawning fish. Not being able to see the fish or see their movement hurts the results. Always approach spawning fish from the down-wind side. If you can anchor, do so. Trolling motors and boat shadows spook a spawning fish. Wind really affects the outcome if you aren’t mindful of its affect.
Right bait at the right time
Probably the most crucial part of the equation as most anglers don’t have a clue when it comes to the right presentation. I approach this time of year with a simple selection of 4 lures: Red Rattletrap, Chatter bait (chartreuse and white), Creature bait (brush hog/jig), Suspending stick bait.
You will rarely see me with anything else tied on in March. If the fish are scattered or on the flats, you can cover a lot of water with the trap and chatter bait. If they are suspended in the Thermocline, the suspending stick bait is the ticket. I like to find the edges of a creek and fish the points. Fish that have not engaged in the spawn (and no, they don’t all spawn at one time) will suspend on these points and use the ditches as a road to the spawning beds.
I have an old saying during the spawn: Fish slow, then slow down. Fish are just like us when living in cold environments, 56 degrees is cold. Think about how you react when you are out in the cold. You move slower and you react slower. So do the fish. If you are zipping a lure through the water with your trolling motor on high, you will not have much success. Work every inch of cover and then work it again. Fish are not going to be super reactive to any lure but if you are smart enough to slow down and fish cover thoroughly, you will have success.
The water is going to be the warmest on the Northwest side of any body of water as it has the sun on it for the longest during the day. Rocks are a natural draw as they draw shad and baitfish as the water temperature is going to warm faster and will hold that heat and maintain that temperature. Up your odds and fish where it is warmest. A temperature change of 4 degrees is a big deal this time of year.
Bass in particular give out tell-tale signs when they are in the spawning mode. Water will be more stained in spawning areas. It may just be in a very small area but this sign gives away the fact that a big female is near and active.
Baitfish will always be more skittish and reactive when big bass are near. Look for movement and breaking of schools near spawning fish.
Disturbed grass is my favorite. Whether by feeding or just fanning, the disturbed grass gives away the location of spawning fish.
The most overlooked item in this list is tackle. Many anglers think that braided line or heavy line is paramount as you are chasing big fish. Bill Dance once said, “You can’t get them in if you don’t get them on.” That is a very true statement. If an angler is fishing 25lb test line and not getting bit, what’s the point. I rarely use over 12lb flourocarbon line this time of year. I like to go as light in line choice as I can so I have the chance to “get them on”.
These are a few examples of how to not only choose the right time but the right day to pursue a lunker bass. Good luck and remember to catch and release.