Research before you hitch your bass boat

A crankbait is a great search bait for prespawn bass when they move to points and pockets with steep banks to stage before moving into the shallows.
A crankbait is a great search bait for prespawn bass when they move to points and pockets with steep banks to stage before moving into the shallows.

Some simple homework can save a lot of time once you get to the lake in March

March is one of my favorite months to catch a big bass, probably my favorite month at home in the Carolinas, because big fish are on the move and the weather is improving.

Fishermen who are getting ready for a trip to chase bass can eliminate a lot of the guesswork and wasted time by doing their homework and breaking down the lake before leaving home.

Start with understanding that on most lakes in the Carolinas, bass are going to be on a prespawn pattern in March. In a warm winter, you might get a late-February spawn at Santee Cooper, but you’ll be fishing for prespawn fish.

Break down the lake

I start by breaking any lake down into three sections: lower lake, mid-lake and upper lake. That sounds elementary, but we’re trying to make things as simple as we can. I want to look at the weather for the week I’m going to fish, because March temperatures can vary from highs in the 50s to lows in the 50s and highs in the 70s. Then, I look at the wind predictions. If it’s going to be blowing 20 to 25 miles an hour, I’m going to steer away from the lower end, which is usually the biggest and has the most open water; I don’t want to be out in that kind of wind.

That sends me to the mid-lake or upper lake. I’m going to look at the weather again; if we’ve had a lot of rain, then the water could be extremely dirty and cold in the upper end. That would push us to the mid-lake. If it hasn’t been a wet winter, then I’m going to want to fish the upper end and take advantage of the stained water. If the weather has been warm, that will be the warmest section of the lake; it will warm up the quickest of any where. On the other hand, if it isn’t going to be windy, then the lower end might work out better because it will be the most stable part of the lake.

So, with a little homework, I’ve eliminated two-thirds of the lake before I’ve even left my house or hitched my Phoenix bass boat to the truck.

Time-saving info

What we’ve done before we ever launch the boat is to save a lot of time and effort. I know — because I’ve done it — that a lot of guys just go straight to the nearest ramp and put in and run all over looking for places to fish. By dividing a lake into thirds and figuring out what third we want to fish, we can pinpoint a ramp close to that section and drive to it. It’s much cheaper to drive your tow vehicle and boat to a ramp that’s 25 miles away than it is to run 25 miles up the lake to where you’re going to fish, especially at about three miles to the gallon through your outboard.

Now that I’ve got everything narrowed down before I put in, I’m going to spend the first hour on the water evaluating the water temperature. If the water temperature is from the upper-40s into the low 50s, I’m going to fish on the main lake. And if f it’s in the upper 50s or the 60s, I’m going to fish pockets and ditches in the creek.

If I’m in the creek, I am going to fish from the main lake to about one-third of the way back in the creeks. I am going to look for points and pockets with steeper banks. Fish will be just moving up, out of the main lake, to stage on points or in pockets. I want to be fishing a place where I can have my boat in 10 to 12 feet of water and be a cast from the bank. They get on these kinds of places because the weather is still unstable, and bass can adjust to depth in the water column without having to swim 100 yards.

Pick a search bait

I will start with a crankbait like a Rapala DT-6 or DT-10 in crawfish colors, red crawfish for sure. If the water is real clear, I’ll have two jerkbaits tied on: a Shadow Rap Deep or a Shadow Rap Shad in some kind of baitfish color. I will use those baits to cover water once I get on spots with those steeper banks; the weather is so iffy in March, that the water temperature can be in the upper-40s or the low 60s.

I am going to pay attention to my electronics when I decide which baits to pick up. I’ll keep an eye on my Humminbird Mega-Imaging depth finder to see where the fish are in the water column. If they’re on the bottom, I want to throw the crankbaits. But if you find them suspended, say, midway up in the water column to the surface, I’ll go with the jerkbait or with a swimbait or Alabama rig. If I’m going to fish a single swimbait, it will be a 360GT on a quarter-ounce jighead. If I throw a Alabama rig, I’ll have five swimbaits on quarter-ounce jigheads on the Alabama rig.

Alabama rig requires special gear to throw

An Alabama rig will really catch fish, if you can get it down and retrieve it at the depth where your bass are holding. I’ll also throw a single swimbait or an Alabama rig when I know I’m casting around bass but can’t get them to bite. I want to switch up baits and see if I can get a reaction bite.

An Alabama rig is really something to throw. I’ve said that if you’re throwing a No. 5 Shad Rap, that’s like throwing a potato chip. If I put down that rod and pick up an Alabama rig and  throw it, it’s like throwing a tennis shoe full of water. I’ll fish it on a 7-foot-6 Johnny Morris Carbonlite rod, a medium-heavy flipping stick. That’s what it takes for such as heavy rig.

So when you get ready to go this month, try and do an hour’s worth of homework to eliminate several hours worth of work on the lake. It will give you that much more time to really cast at that 8-pound bass you’ve been dreaming about.