The weather can be a deal-maker — or a deal-breaker — when fishing for bass on Lake Russell this month, according to guide Jerry Kotal of Elberton, Ga.

“By the first of March, the bass should be in prespawn, but that all depends on the weather. And by the end of March, they should be on the bed — but that depends on the water temperature,” he said.

March is noted for drastic swings in weather, with winter often unleashing a last blast of frigid air and precipitation before succumbing to the rise in temperature brought on by the arrival of spring. That can turn off the shallow bite in a hurry, Kotal said.

“If you are catching them real shallow and a big cold front moves in, the fish will move back out to deeper water and suspend. It makes them a lot harder to catch when it does that,” said Kotal, who believes bass typically are in a prespawn mood in March, with the largemouths moving to staging areas back in the creeks and coves and the spotted bass staging out along points and near drops.

“Russell doesn’t have a lot of structure, but there should be largemouths around blowdowns and any other structure you can find along the banks,” he said. “They are staging on little flats, getting ready to go into the spawning areas in pockets.”

Kotal (706-988-0860) starts out in the mouths of the pockets as the water begins to warm up, and then moves on to the backs of the pockets when it gets warmer and the fish move back to spawn.

“When they are in prespawn, I catch fish mostly on a spinnerbait, crankbait and a Texas-rigged worm,” he said. “I’ll throw a Blade Runner when I am targeting spots.”

However, if he has a guide party, Kotal usually has clients fish with live bait because there’s not as much of a need for talent with a rod and reel.

If he is fishing a tournament, Kotal said he goes after the biggest fish, whether they are largemouths or spotted bass.

“It doesn’t really matter. Sometimes they are mixed up together, but you just about have to catch both fish on Russell to win a tournament,” he said. “It used to be just largemouths for tournaments, but the spotted bass — although not necessarily bigger — have taken over. There are so many spotted bass they have run the largemouths out.”

Whichever species you target, it pays to keep an eye on the weather in March, he said.