March is my favorite month to catch big bass in the Carolinas, because fish are stirring after largely shutting down for the winter, and they’re hungry, stoking up for the spawn and getting as big as they’ll ever be.
And when I back down the ramp this month, I’m going to have at least three different lures tied on the rods on my casting deck: a lipless crankbait, a shallow-diving crankbait and a jig. You can fish any of these three baits and catch bass no matter what the water temperature is, from the mid-40s to the mid-60s.
My philosophy has always been to search for bass in the spring using lipless or diving crankbaits, and then, if I find an area I’m confident is holding fish — or I catch a few — I’ll pull out the jig and flip, pitch of cast it.
Each one of these lures has certain advantages.
• Lipless crankbaits. This is a bait you can use year-round, but it’s a really good bait in March. My favorite is a Rapala Rippin’ Rap. You can reel the bait fast, hold the rod tip up and keep the bait within a foot of the surface if you’re fishing a shallow flat or shallow vegetation. You can count it down and fish it in the middle of the water column, or you can let it drop, fish it close to the bottom, fish it slowly and yo-yo it, raising your rod tip and letting it fall back on controlled slack line.
If the water is clear, I like to fish a shad color, because threadfin shad are very active in March. The size I choose will depend on the depth of the water I’m fishing. If I need to fish it slowly, close to the bottom in 5 to 10 feet of water, I’ll use a bigger bait, maybe a 1/2-ounce. If fish are moving up and I need to fish it faster, I’ll go as light as a 1/4-ounce bait.
• Shallow-running crankbait. If I feel like the water has warmed up a little and fish are still in prespawn, if I need to fish a little deeper or fish water that’s outside but adjacent to a flat there they’ll stage, I’ll use a shallow-running crankbait like a Rapala DT-6; it is a great bait, and it has just the right vibration that I think prespawn fish can’t resist.
I’ll fish it 4 to 6 feet deep around points, little places of deep water adjacent to or just outside spawning flats — the last places fish are going to stage before they really move up, the last hard cover they’ll relate to before they move to the bank to spawn. When I think fish are going to be close to the bottom or tight to cover, that’s when I’ll throw a DT-6.
I really like the Demon color, which is sort of reddish like crawfish, if the water is clear to stained. If it’s dirty, I’ll fish chartreuse or chartreuse/black back.
• Jig. I have caught hundreds of bass over 6 pounds in March on a Buckeye Mop Jig; it will always catch you a big fish. I’ll fish it in some of the same places where I fish a DT-6. What’s neat is, I can hop it along fast enough that I can fish it as fast as I can fish a DT-6. But I really like to fish it if I’ve got a specific target I want to hit: a dock post, a log, a laydown, a shallow stump — a place I think a bass will live.
Almost always, I try to match the color of the jig to the color of the trailer, and my favorite is a soft-plastic trailer, a Yamamoto Flappin’ Hog. My two favorite combinations are a black/blue Mop Jig and a sapphire Flapping’ Hog, or a brown jig and green pumpkin trailer.
I pick the size of the jig I use based on how deep I need to fish. The deeper I have to fish — or if I have to get bait down in some cover — the bigger jig I tie on. If I’m fishing a shallow target, I’ll drop down to 3/8-ounce. Most of the time, however, my go-to bait is a 1/2-ounce jig. There’s just something about how that living rubber skirt flares when the Mop Jig is sitting on the bottom that a bass can’t resist.
Make sure you have these three baits tied whenever you head to the lake or river in March. On any given day, in any conditions, at least one of these three baits will catch bass — and sometimes all three. I hope there’s a 6-pounder waiting for you.