Large Lures for Spring BassIt’s likely the best time of year for quantity and quality; if you’re lucky, maybe even a personal best for the wall. Spring brings not only the promise of soon-to-be warmer weather, but also the likelihood of big fish ready to eat big baits.

Why? Some of it is physiology—big mama bass need to pack on calories to finalize egg production. Then, after the spawn, a period of recuperation is followed by heavy feasting as waterways teem with life, both shallow and deep. Around the spawn, bass also get more defensieve and territorial, chasing other fish, but not to eat them.

“Bass get protective around the Spawn Period and they won’t tolerate a bluegill or even a turtle around their nest,” says Bassmaster Elite pro Kevin VanDam, “so bigger baits generally work well at this time of year. I almost always start with large lures and see if they’re working before downsizing. I won’t go to a finesse bait in spring, unless I’m not getting much response from a big bait.”

Conditions play a role, too. Water temperature can be considered the traffic cop of nature’s intersections, while wind, sunlight, and water clarity influence bass vision and can increase the appeal of big baits.

“I like larger than normal lures in stained water,” says Louisiana pro Greg Hackney. “The dirtier the water, the bigger the profile because its size helps bass find it. And your odds of a lunker go up with large lures, particularly at this time of year.”

And we can’t discount feeding competition. Because bass tend to stage in groups, move onto the spawning flats together, and then drop back into postspawn groups, securing meals leaves no room for indecision. With all this in mind, consider these strategies for presenting large lures.

Prespawn Patterns
During the Prespawn Period, water temperature plays an important role in fish activity and aggression. Temperature regimes vary greatly across the continent, but Alabama pro Gerald Swindle, who travels the country for work, shares a straightforward seasonal analysis. The 2016 Bassmaster Elite Series Angler of the Year typically opens the prespawn season by checking creek channel bends and secondary points with cover or riprap points in reservoirs. He often starts by probing such staging areas with a football jig or a shaky-head. As bass transition from winter to spring, seasonal lethargy restrains their feeding instincts, but not for long.

“When you start getting a few warmer nights—say it’s been in the 30s every night and rises into the mid-40s, you start to see bass becoming more active and willing to bite lures,” Swindle says. “You can tell by how hard they bite. When they first get to staging areas, the bite on a jig is soft and spongy. But after they’ve been there for some time and have started feeding, you start hearing guys talking about rod-shaking bites and jumping bass.

“The process depends a lot on trends in water temperature, as falling water can dampen the bite substantially, making it hard to catch much at all. Warmer water boosts bass activity and feeding. Pay attention to how bass bite and you can tell how far along the prespawn is. Are they getting fired up, or are barely getting there?”

When sufficient warmth flips the bass’ “on” switch,  Swindle says go big and bold. “When their activity level is rising, I try to reach those fish with a deep-diving crankbait,” he says. “Even though the water’s in the low 50°F-range, they bite it. Some of my best days on Lake Guntersville were with water 51 to 52°F, casting a big Norman Lures DD14 or DD22.

Large Lures for Bass“Bass tell you when they’re active; they can’t help it. And often they want larger lures. But that’s not the mindset of most anglers, who equate chilly water with finesse approaches. When you’re probing prespawn areas and getting aggressive strikes on a jig, switch to a big crankbait. But you don’t want to burn it; get the lure to the bottom with a long cast and slowly reel it. Pick crankbaits that can dive to the depths of the structure you’re targeting.”

Admitting his fondness for 1/2-and 3/4-ounce spinnerbaits, VanDam says he uses a double-willowleaf model from early prespawn to when bass first move up onto spawning flats or into bays. A spinnerbait’s efficiency in covering water and working through cover, combined with its ability to work in a variety of depths make it a top spring selection.

When Hackney’s looking for a prespawn bite, he targets the outer ends of ditches that run into spawning pockets, knowing that bass often follow these deeper cuts caused by small feeder creeks. He checks them with a Strike King Hack Attack Heavy Cover Swim Jig with a Rage Swimmer trailer. “Bass are not yet relating to the bank, but moving up the ditch, getting more active as they proceed,” he says. “A jig with a large profile that runs slowly and subtly through their holding areas often finds willing takers.”

You can also fare well during the Prespawn Period by covering a lot of territory with big-body squarebills like the Strike King 8.0 or Lucky Craft SKT Mag. Carolina-rigging an 8-inch lizard also is a good way to find big hungry females.

Spawn Time
Another prespawn lure that carries into the spawn is a hollow-body frog. Protein-rich frogs fit the bill for females looking for big meals before locking down. Once bass commit to the spawning process, they shift from consumption to protection and pseudo amphibians lurking around the nest often meet a hostile response. Sometimes adding rattles to increase the irritation effect helps draw strikes. Also, leave the skirt full-length since long strands create more drag to limit forward motion, so you can keep Kermit in the bedding area.

Large Lures

There are two more big-bait strategies for bedding fish—make ‘em eat and make ‘em mad. First, in lunker factories like Toledo Bend, Lake Okeechobee, Falcon Lake, or the California Delta, pros go big for marsh melons up shallow. In Toledo Bend’s big-fish areas like Indian Creek, Hackney tries to cover water with his 3/8-ounce Strike King Hack Attack Heavy Cover Swim Jig and a Rage Craw trailer. If he’s not rewarded, he dead-sticks an unweighted Strike King Caffeine Shad along inside grass edges. Similarly, Hackney’s fellow Elite pro, Todd Faircloth focuses some of his spawn effort on casting or pitching a Strike King Ocho stickbait on a 5/0 wide gap hook into likely pockets within thick vegetation.

Experts find that targeting beds with big baits can get a big female hopping mad, evidenced by gill-flaring and rapid rushes around the nest. Sometimes a smaller follow-up lure can finish the deal. Knowing this, California pro Ken Mah usess a hookless 9- or 10-inch Osprey swmbait to infuriate bed fish. Repeatedly bumping their tails with this imposing imposter has often resulted in a crushing bite. Then Mah typically tags out with a drop-shot rig as the fish red-lines.

Alabama Guide Jimmy Mason uses a 6½-inch Yum Money Minnow on a 1/2-ounce leadhead for precise casts with fast fall rates ending in a nose-down posture that mimics an intruder looking for eggs. He also bumps fish  with it to get them turning and shifting with growing aggravation. Then he may unleash a less-imposing closer—a Yum Houdini Shad rigged on a 5/0 Mustad KVD Grip Pin hook.

Postspawn
Arguably the easiest part of the spring season to figure out is the Postspawn Period. Thin-bellied bass coming off an arduous effort often retreat to deeper lounges and gorge shamelessly. It’s not to say they won’t suck in a shaky-head or drop-shot rig, but they’re in feeding mode, so why not go for big bites with big baits.

Leveraging the shad spawn that often follows bass spawning, Elite pro Greg Vinson tempts hungry postspawners with a hollow-body swimbait like the 5-inch Netbait BK. In shallow areas, he uses a 1/4- to 1/2-ounce Fish Head Lures V-Lock Swimbait Head. As bass progress toward their summer locations, which typically are deeper, he follows them out with the same lure on 3/4- or 1-ounce heads.

Large Lures for Spring Bass Fishing Full-size walking baits, big spinnerbaits, and jigs with larger, more active trailers that match the warming conditions also do the trick, as do big crankbaits and Carolina-rigged lizards. VanDam’s game to rig an 8-inch Strike King Bull Worm on a Strike King Tungsten Swinging Head and rumble along drop-off areas.

Dave Mansue, a native of New Jersey now living in bass-rich Louisiana, offers another postspawn worm tactic: Thick vegetation in 8 to 10 feet of water offers a comfortable postspawn habitat with ample feeding opportunities. Top options include swimbaits and big bladed jigs during low-light hours. When sunny conditions push postspawners into the salad, he fishes a big Texas-rigged worm and teases bass out with a dragging presentation.

“It’s important to use the correct weight,” Mansue says. “One that’s too heavy digs down in the grass and tears up the vegetation. I often go with a 3/8-ounce slipsinker, but upsize to 1/2-ounce if the vegetation is thicker. Its growth patterns and density often vary from spring to spring.

“I want the worm to penetrate the grass, but not to reach bottom. You can feel the worm coming over clumps of grass and as it falls, you lose contact with it. That’s when they’ve got it. It takes some practice to get the feel for it, but at times, this technique can save the day with a couple of grass pigs.”

We all know spring can be unpredictable. It’s the season of emergence and development; a tone-setting time that paces the rest of the year. Specific timing and location can vary greatly, especially in reservoirs subject to water-level fluctuations and drastic changes in clarity. But that’s what makes it such an exciting time—the lure of exploration and the anticipation of reward.

*David A. Brown, Tampa, Florida, is a freelance writer and photographer who operates Tight-Line Communcations. He often contributes to Bass Guide.

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