April is probably my favorite month to fish in South Carolina, because there’s so much going on. The crappie are still biting, the bluegills are biting, the stripers will still be active, and you can catch bass most any way you want. You will have prespawn fish, spawning fish and postspawn fish on all of our lakes this month, so you can fish the way you like to and catch fish. It really would be nice to get out and turkey hunt for a couple of hours, then spend the rest of the day on the water.

This is a great time to take kids or adults who are beginners fishing because there are so many fish biting. There are literally thousands of 1- and 2-pound buck bass on the bank, and you can catch some really big numbers of them. As a tournament fisherman, I have to make sure I don’t fall under that spell, because I need to weigh in the five biggest I can, but I can understand how catching bass after bass after bass is a blast.

And because they’re biting just about anything, you can fish the baits you most like to fish, the techniques you’re best at, and catch plenty of bass. But there’s definitely a way to go about things. On most lakes this month, the lower end of the lake toward the dam, those fish are going to spawn the earliest, so you may have some postspawn fish on that end. In the middle of most lakes you get the big tributary creeks pouring in, and in the upper ends of the lakes, you’ve got the rivers, so the water is a little cooler, and the spawn is a little later. You’ll have spawning and prespawn fish up there to target.

If you want to topwater fish, you want to fish the lower end of the lake where the water is clearer and fish are postspawn, guarding fry, and they’re more likely to his a topwater plug or a buzzbait. If you want to sight-fish, go to the mid-lake, and if you want to fish for prespawn bass, move up the lake. The water is more likely to be stained, so you might be fishing a spinnerbait. If you go all the way to the dam, there will still be some prespawn fish you can catch on a crankbait like a square-bill or a DT-6 or DT-10. In mid-lake, you might be using a floating worm or a Senko as a search bait.

You get to fish to your strength. You can catch fish on a crankbait, a spinnerbait, a Chatterbait, a jig, a lizard or a worm.

If I’m out just fun-fishing, I’ll probably go with smaller baits that will catch bigger numbers. If I’m tournament fishing — and there will be at least one tournament on all of our lakes, every weekend this month ­— I’ll probably move up to a larger size of the same bait to target larger fish. I can catch an awful lot of bass on a 4- or 5-inch Senko, but if I’m out fishing for a big bass or in a tournament, I’m going to be fishing a 6- or 7-inch Senko. And if I find a little creek or a pocket that’s full of fish, I’m going to slow down and spend some extra time there.

Water clarity is a key in April. Typically, you will have some stained water in the backs of creeks or up the river, but you’ll have clear water on the lower end, which helps that topwater, post-spawn bite. You remember the April-showers-bring-May- flowers thing? We get most of our rain before April, and we’re actually drying out this month. 

If you have any question what stage bass are in, the first place to look is the temperature gauge on your depth finder. I look at my Humminbird the first thing after I blast off. If you have water temperatures in the high 50s, you’ve got prespawn fish. In the low 60s, you might have prespawn or spawning fish. In the high 60s — and we’ll see those kinds of temperatures toward the end of the month — you’re looking at postspawn.

There are a couple of other keys, and while they’re not as easy as looking at your depth finder, they still involve looking. I want to pay attention to what the fish are doing and what they are relating to. I keep an eye out for shad and fry. If you see bass fry just under the surface, you’re in postspawn and those fish are guarding. If you see shad fry, you can bet you’re in postspawn, because the shad usually spawn later than bass do. Bass that are on laydowns are usually prespawn or postspawn. They’ll spawn around stumps, in heavy cover, on  pea-gravel banks. They’ll stage on cover that’s a little deeper and maybe a little closer to the main creek, the corners of spawning pockets. Catch a fish there, and you’ve got a pretty good idea what’s going on.

The biggest key to enjoying April is just getting out there. Crank your outboard, put down your trolling motor and go fishing.