Bass fishing for the biggest lunkers of the year at the Raleigh-Durham area's three big lakes - Jordan, Shearon Harris and Falls - is on the brink of beginning, even though temperatures have been at or below freezing at night.

At least that's what guide Jeff Thomas believes.

"I've been prefishing for tournaments," he said, "and from now to March 1 is the time to catch a really big bass. But it'll all depend on the weather."

Thomas, who recently fished shoreline cover, particularly wood laydowns, at Jordan Lake with small, shallow-running crankbaits, said water temperatures are just a few degrees too low to trigger the first movement of egg-laden female bass toward the shallows.

"I wasn't fishing all the way to the backs of the creeks, and the water temperature was in the upper 40s," he said. "But if we can get three warming days in a row, that's generally all it takes to trigger the big bass toward the shoreline.


"It could happen this weekend because we've had two nice days in a row, and a front is coming in, and it's supposed to be cloudy and rainy. Sometimes, that'll trigger things. I'd like it to be four or five straight days. I know that'd make the big sow bass move."


Thomas said bass won't go directly to the backs of creeks and coves with the first warm snap, but they will orient near the ends of laydowns trees near deep water.


"The best places will be if you've got a tree or laydown on a point near deep water that leads to a flat or staging area," he said.


Instead of a spinnerbait or Rat-L-Trap, he prefers to flip jig 'n pigs at the ends of cover.


"Female bass can be spooky this time of year, so the key is laydowns near deeper water," he said. "Bigger bass will be coming up from deep water, and they want to get where it's warmer, but they like to be near deep water (for safety)."


Early spring lunkers don't eat a lot, so that's another reason Thomas likes to use a slow-falling lure such as a jig 'n pig.


"They're looking for a bigger bait," he said. "They're not into chasing baits much this time of year."


Thomas likes to flip a half-ounce black-and-blue jig tied to 20-pound-test line with a fluorocarbon leader.


"Fish aren't line shy when it comes to flippin'; you can drop (a lure) right on their heads," Thomas said. "I like Vicious fluorocarbon because it gives me a little better feel in cold water.

"From now to March 1 is a good time to catch the fish of lifetime at Harris, Jordan or any of the local lakes," Thomas said. "The big females will be full of roe and weigh 2 to 3 pounds more than they will after spawning."