April 3, 2014 by Shinichi Fukae
Editor's Note: The writer's opinions and observations expressed here are his own, and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views, policies or positions of FLW.
I have lived in the Southeast for the past 10 years and I feel that this year's transition from winter to spring is quite a bit different than in the past. It is cooler than usual. That gets me confused on both the mental and the fishing side of things. Although weathermen have said that spring officially has come, I would like to question bass personally and ask whether it has come for them or not.
Early spring is the one of my favorite fishing seasons since you can catch a bunch of pre-spawners, most of them active in predation mode and their bodies pretty chubby. Generally, in many lakes it is the time to target them with reaction baits such as jerkbaits or lipless crankbaits. Some lakes are still on the cool side, and fish will not proceed with the spawning process until the water temperature gets to at least the 55- to 60-degree range.
To me, tournaments in March such as the Walmart FLW Tour at Lake Hartwell (March 6-9), the Rayovac FLW Series Southeastern Division on Santee Cooper (March 13-15) and the Walmart FLW Tour at Sam Rayburn (March 27-30) were supposed to be good times to catch pre-spawners and I actually tried to find those fish.
At Hartwell, the water temperatures were a bit lower, but it was about the right range for pre-spawn fishing. However, brutal cold weather came in during practice as well as tournament days on the both of tournaments. That got many anglers confused and I was the one of them. I also would say that the fish got confused as well. You can see from the results that it was a hard tournament to bring fish to the scales consistently each day.
In fact I had decent bags at Hartwell but not so at Santee Cooper. On Hartwell, I had to junk-fish with jerkbaits, jigs, finesse baits and others to try to get bites in patterns ranging from late winter to spawning. I had so many lures tied on that my boat deck was full of Shimano EXPRIDE rods. (Thankfully, I have a Ranger Z521C that is wide enough to put all of them on the front deck.) On Santee Cooper, I did aim at making the game stick to the basics with lipless crankbait patterns since I only had a few bites during practice and thought that would be the best way to get kicker fish. It worked on day one, with me catching 20 pounds, but I didn't repeat it on day two.
At Sam Rayburn, I fished shallow most of the time and was tied for ninth at the end of day one. On day two, I dropped to 11th, and finished 20th in the tournament. The bass in Sam Rayburn didn't have their minds made up. Some wanted to spawn, some wanted to stay away from the bank, and some just wanted to swim around.
From those experiences, I have felt that this year's cold spring has made it harder to make the right decisions. I am not sure whether to stick to my general patterns/areas for this time of year or try to fish some new patterns/areas. I am still thinking about it and have to figure out which way to take. Coming up next is Beaver Lake (April 10-13). Will the fish be spawning or still in pre-spawn? The weather between now and then will decide, and then I will decide. Stay tuned with FLW Outdoors and we'll see.