Give March fish plenty of options

Something as simple as a small lure enhancer like the purple Trout Trailer added to this Matrix Shad can be a big difference-maker this month when fish are finicky. (Picture by Brian Cope)

Fickle weather means fickle fish

At some point, anglers all over the Carolinas are happy to see March, when winter turns to spring. And even though some days are more like winter than spring, we know those long, consistently warm days are coming — and closer than they’ve been since the fall.

The fish like it, too, and the bite improves, no matter what species you’re targeting. But as fickle as the weather can be, the fish can be just as fickle. This month, whenever you hit the water, be prepared. And be flexible.

Even with the weatherman giving out somewhat reliable predictions, smart anglers generally prepare for just about anything in March. Rain, wind, cold, heat — it’s all possible. So dressing in layers and bringing along a jacket of some sort is always a good idea.

But the preparation — or over-preparation — shouldn’t stop with just the clothes you’re wearing. A good selection of baits and lures is also a must. The fish are warming up and easing into their spring feeding mode. But some days are better than others. And what works like a charm one day may not draw a strike the next.

Going live

Live bait is often a great choice this month, but even then, which live bait is best? Generally, whatever you can catch yourself in the area you’re fishing is your best bet. So if you’re hoping to catch some shrimp but your net or trap is full of mud minnows, don’t toss them back. And don’t give up on hunting for shrimp either. Or crabs. Or pinfish. The more choices you have, the better chance of hooking up.

The same goes for cut bait. Come armed with more than you think you’ll need. Show up with only one type, and you may hit a home run, but you may strike out. Show up with two or three different types, and you’ll likely have something the fish will hit consistently, something they won’t, and something in-between. This month, more than probably any other, the hot bait can change day to day and even hour to hour.

Anglers who like to fish artificials fall in the same boat, but they probably find this month easier when it comes to being prepared than anglers who use natural. Their tackle boxes and boat hatches are usually full of a wide variety of lures, so they’re all set. But it’s also easy for them to get stuck in a rut of using the same thing that worked this time last year, or earlier in the week, or yesterday.

Take a walk

Topwater lures like the Super Spook Jr. are always good choices, and some days this month, they’ll be unbeatable. But when they just aren’t drawing strikes, try something slightly different, like a wake bait, or even a different-sized Spook or even another manufacturer’s walk-the-dog type lure.

Come armed with a wide variety of lures this month, and don’t be shy about changing frequently. (Picture by Brian Cope)

The Rapala Skitter Walk, the Berkley J-Walker, and the MirrOlure Top Dog all  have a look slightly different look and their own subtle differences in actions. Some days, it won’t matter to the fish. Other days, opting for an ever-so-slight alternative to what worked the day before can mean the difference between catching fish and getting skunked.

Change size, manufacturers

And if you caught them hitting a D.O.A. Shrimp as hot as fire one day, but the next day they’re ignoring it, something as simple as using a slightly larger or smaller bait just might get them cranked up again. Even switching to another company’s shrimp might do the trick. The Betts Halo Shrimp is different enough in its profile and action that it might be the ticket.

Even swimbaits vary from one lure-maker to another. The angle of the foot on a Z-Man MinnowZ creates a different disturbance, sending slightly different sound waves into the water column than a LIVETARGET Slow-Roll Shiner.

Scents, lure enhancers

March is also a good month to try something a little different than your normal. If you don’t often use a scent like Pro-Cure, it might make a big difference this month. Other lure enhancers like a Trout Trailer from Crappie Psychic added to the jighead, holding your soft-plastic lure in place, can also make a huge difference.

To really increase your odds no matter what mood the fish are in, this is a great month to have a rod secured in a rod holder with live or cut bait, then reel your preferred artificial lure past that bait. It’s typical for many fish in late winter/early spring to follow a lure all the way to the boat but never strike.

When a fish like that suddenly happens upon a live bait or a chunk of cut bait giving off natural scent, it often strikes it immediately. The artificial lure makes it curious, and the natural lure seals the deal.

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Brian Cope
About Brian Cope 1775 Articles
Brian Cope is the editor of CarolinaSportsman.com. He has won numerous awards for his writing, photography, and videography. He is a retired Air Force combat communications technician, and has a B.A. in English Literature from the University of South Carolina. You can reach him at brianc@sportsmannetwork.com.

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