Finding baitfish is key for April bass anglers

Finding baitfish is an often-overlooked key to catching bass in April.

I love fishing in April; it’s probably the most-popular month to fish anywhere in the Carolinas, no matter what species you are targeting. The weather is stable – mild – and you can really catch all species. It’s really a great month to be on the water, and it’s made even more enjoyable because the recreational boat traffic hasn’t really started up; the lakes aren’t quite as busy.

One thing that’s going to surprise a lot of fishermen is my belief that finding baitfish is a key to April success in your bass boat. I know we talk a lot about how much bass key on baitfish in the winter, summer and fall, but the fisherman who isn’t paying attention to bait is really missing out in the spring – even if spawning is the main activity on the mind of most gamefish.

In April, a couple of things are going on you need to pay attention to. Some bass will be spawning, and you’ll have some bluegill and readears and crappie spawning. If you want to fish for panfish for a fish fry, great. But blueback herring and threadfin shad area also spawning, and that’s a big thing to keep in mind, because finding those baitfish is a great way to get around some active bass.

Go shallow

Blueback herring tend to spawn in places similar to where threadfin shad spawn, but not exactly the same. Threadfins like to spawn around riprap and floating docks. Bluebacks like to spawn on shallow, flat points with little contour. Places where you have 6 inches of water on top of the point, and you go 100 feet out and you only have 1½ to 2 feet. Those are the kinds of spots where you’ll find bluebacks spawning.

There’s a reason shad and herring like to spawn in places like this. They use extremely shallow water for cover. They’re targeted by predators – birds and fish – and if they can get up in 6 inches of water and spawn, the largemouth bass and spotted bass that like to eat them can’t get that shallow. It’s great to have vegetation or willow bushes for shallow cover, but when that’s missing, those baitfish will use shallow water as cover.  In a lot of our lakes that have been built up, there isn’t as much shoreline cover to hide in. That’s why they’ll spawn in the shallowest water they can find.

One thing you can count on is that bass are going to be following those baitfish. They’ll be there to feed on them when they come out of that shallow water and head a little deeper. That’s why we’re going to have our bass boats around these spots, and it’s why I’m casting into 6 inches of water.

Catch and cull

I use my electronics every time I fish in April, but almost as important is a good pair of polarized sunglasses, because you’re looking for shad or herring, signs they’re spawning, or bluegill and bass spawning. I keep my eyes open in shallow water.

I love to topwater fish, and this is the perfect time to haul out baits you can fish in extremely shallow water. I like to throw a handful of baits: a Rapala Skitter V – which is a cigar-shaped plug you walk across the surface – a Yamamoto D Shad soft jerkbait, a Senko, and a floating worm. I fish the D Shad, and the floating worm on 3/0 VMC Redline offset hooks, and I fish the Senko rigged wacky style on a 1/0 VMC Redline Neko hook. I like to fish the floating worm in bubble gum, and I like the Senko and D Shad in Disco Green.

Whatever I’m fishing, I’m going to use a fast retrieve. Bass are as aggressive in April as they’re going to be all year. The baitfish are moving fast, and bass are moving fast. I’m going to throw very shallow and start moving it immediately. I’ll keep the Skitter V on top, and as it gets deeper, I’ll keep the soft-plastic baits down about a foot below the surface, where I can see them. I will fish the Senko a little deeper, and I won’t move it as fast, because the bass will bite when it shimmies down to the bottom.

A lot of things are different in April than they were in February and March. In late winter, we’re fishing steep banks; in April, shallow, flat banks. In February and March, the fishing can be best later in the day, say, noon to 2 or 3, because the water warms up. In April, the shad and blueback herring spawn early, so the best fishing is the first couple of hours after sunrise.

That doesn’t mean you quit fishing by 9 a.m. You just fish in the same areas, a little deeper, because those bass will follow the herring and shad out into deeper water when they leave their spawning areas. I won a BASS tournament on Clarks Hill several years ago, during the blueback herring spawn. I had a limit every morning by about 8 o’clock, then I tied on a Mop Jig and culled the rest of the day.

You might like turkey hunting in April, but I’m telling you, it’s a great time to be on a lake in a bass boat. Bass are shallow and hungry, and the food isn’t hard to find.


Going up top:

April is a great month for topwater fishing, and anglers can use a big variety of lures, including ones that are capable of running in extremely shallow water.

About Davy Hite 174 Articles
Davy Hite is a native of Saluda, S.C., who now resides in Ninety Six, S.C. He began fishing professionally in 1993, when he qualified for his first Bassmaster Classic. He was the BASS Angler of the Year in 1997 and 2002, and he won the 1999 Bassmaster Classic and the 1998 FLW Tour Championship.

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