By Nick Simonson
Spring brings with it regrowth of vegetation both on land and in the water. While the former in the appearance of light green leaves bursting from buds gives us a sign that the season has finally arrived, the latter provides a signal as to where fish will be and exactly the places to target to find success. Identifying and keying in on spring vegetation for largemouth bass will help connect with fish staging in the shallows and knowing what to offer them will make angling more exciting.
When sight fishing the shallows for spring largemouth bass, it is important to look for developing vegetation that will hold fish. Relying on previous seasons’ experience as to where lily pad fields and reed beds have been is a great way to start searching for what’s coming up from the bottom, and where fish will be relating in these early weeks of spring. Utilize a set of polarized glasses to check for the stems and buds of lily pads that are forming near the bottom of shallow bays, while the green summer state of the surface pads are what often first come to mind, the developing stalks and pads forming under the surface will have a red tinge, making them easy to identify. A good set of sunglasses will also help identify and cruising or staging bass in the shallows as well. For developing reed beds, look to stands of old reeds first, which provide some cover as the new vegetation fills in. As it does and the old reeds crack and fall away, the new stands will fill in and grow tall, taking their place, providing more cover for fish.
There’s an old study – perhaps now more anecdotal angling legend than anything – relating to the love bass have for structure in which an ichthyologist placed a bass in a bathtub and put a small teacup in the middle of it. The largemouth never left the only piece of structure in his holding tank, relating to it at all times, despite its small size. The first emerging weeds, or the denser patches of unfurling lily pads often serve as that initial piece of tiny structure that bass will relate to – the proverbial teacup in the tub. Therefore, these spaces will be the ones that bass, usually the biggest and most dominant, will stake their claim to. However, they are often shallow, and their growth is faster and more abrupt, triggered by warmer water and easier penetration of sunlight to spur it along.
As a result, targeting these shallow stretches of growing plants and the bass holding near them requires some skilled casting and the offering of baits that don’t cause too much disruption that would spook fish. Soft plastics without a whole lot of appendages and splash can make stealthy entries into the clear, shallow water where weeds are coming up. Utilize soft plastic sticks, slender worms or minnow-style baits Texas-rigged to prevent hang-ups to carefully work the area and target staging fish. If necessary, cast to the shore beyond the target area and slowly work the bait back to the boat, dropping the lure in the hot zone or pausing it in likely areas where plants are starting to grow.
Even developing lilies and reeds can present a challenge when setting the hook on fish and wrestling them out from the season’s newest cover. Spooling with superline to cut through the vegetation in case of an unfortunate wrapping is key to getting free from the stalks in the shallows. A powerful hookset pulling fish up to the surface and then out into open water will help eliminate some of a charging bass’ options from the get-go, providing a chance to battle them in open water, on more favorable terms.
Utilize these tips when searching the shallows for developing structure and for staging largemouth bass in spring. With the right vision, skilled casting and a little extra oomph, good fishing is sure to come up as spring vegetation gets established.