Even though early March has been cold, dreary and wet, it’s when lunker largemouth bass head for staging areas to prepare for the spawn at lakes around the Raleigh-Durham area, especially Shearon Harris.

“March is one of the best months to catch a big female largemouth,” said guide Jeff Thomas of Broadway. “The weather has been terrible, and the water is as cold as I’ve ever seen — in the mid-30s. But I think (a change) will happen quick. All we need is a few days in a row of warm weather.”

When temperatures rise, bass will be ready to eat, especially large females that must put on added pounds to withstand the rigors of the spawn.

Thomas (919-770-4654) said the influx of rain and melting snow has created two conditions, one good and one bad.

“Lake levels are up, which is good, but the cold water has turned off fishing,” he said.

High water floods more shoreline structure where prespawn largemouths gravitate. But when the weather improves Thomas said he’d avoid water pouring into the lakes from feeder creeks, but he’d seek other stained-water areas.

“I’m going to target flats at Harris with dirty water that’s stable, not fresh,” he said. “If we get some sunshine, that water will warm up quicker than moving water and hold that temperature. And that’ll attract baitfish and bass.”

Thomas prefers to fish at Harris in the early spring because it’s crammed with bass, including lunkers. His biggest March largemouth at the lake south of Raleigh weighed 9 pounds, 2 ounces.

“The lake will have waves (of prespawn bass) moving up,” said Thomas, who ¬†seeks out shallow-water flats near channel bends and points, areas with 5 or 6 feet of water.

“I throw a shallow-running crankbait a lot,” he said, “but you can’t go wrong with an unweighted wacky-rigged Senko when fish are moving. Senkos have won a lot of Harris tournaments in March.”

Thomas spools the reel on his 7-foot baitcasting rod with 12-pound fluorocarbon line and impales a green-pumpkin or pumpkinseed wacky worm on a 1/0 to 3/0 circle hook.

“This type of fishing is prone to gut hook bass, so I like to use circle hooks,” he said.

With the water high at Harris this month, Thomas seeks out cattails points.

“I throw in front of them,” he said. “If the water’s up, bass will stage just off the cattail points, and Harris has a lot of them.”