By Nick Simonson
With our increasingly condensed spring, the spawning runs of fish are beginning to stack up. Pike have just begun in earnest, well behind normal. It’s likely walleyes across the region will get going shortly as well. Behind both of those species, smallmouth and largemouth bass will next stake out their nesting sites. And as the latter two species do, they’ll be aggressive and on the lookout. Offerings from stickbaits to soft plastics will help you connect with those prespawn lunkers. The best part is, both species can be caught on a few of the same lures when worked in known haunts, so you don’t have to spend twice the money just because you’re jumping from lake-to-lake or between bass species in this shortened season. What follows are five favorites that will pull double-duty for both green and brown bass this spring and keep you hooked up for however long the late spring fishing lasts.
Be a Jerk
For both bucketmouths and bronzebacks, the herky-jerky motion of a stickbait reeled, ripped and rested on its way back to the boat or shore is tough to beat, and savage strikes can come at any time, but are prevalent on that longer pause after some erratic action. Rapala’s X-Rap and the new RipStop are ideal jerkbait offerings and come in a variety of natural and exotic colors to match local forage or those confidence hues that trigger strikes on your water. Covering the shallows nicely, these sleek baits dive to four or five feet at maximum and suspend on the pause, but also come in long-lipped models, like the X-Rap Deep, to get down off breaks for when fish have pushed out after a spring front.
Stout diving crankbaits have a place in spring too, and models like Rapala’s DT series cover shallow, middle-depth and deeper strata where bass are hanging out depending on conditions. Along with these baits, classics like the Bomber Model A provide compact targets with that profile of nest raiders that tick bass off and also serve as common forage. Try crayfish-patterned cranks along with bluegill colors to anger bass, and bang and bump these lipped lures off timber, rocks and other structure in the shallows to trigger that reaction strike in spring.
Stick to the Plan
Plastic sticks like the Yamamoto Senko pull double-duty on shifty spring bass. One day, they’re a subtle slow-falling bait worked deeper off the break for finicky post-frontal smallies; a couple days later, they might be worked shallow and sight-fished for largemouth patrolling near their nest sites. Whether Texas-rigged, or hooked in the middle wacky-style, the key to good stick fishing is not doing much. Seriously. Let these baits fall slowly, when they’ve hit the bottom, wait a few seconds, lift and repeat until that subtle take of a spring bass is detected or the line starts swimming off.
In recent seasons, as drop-shot rigs became all the rage for pressured or clear-water fish or for those bass that are just plain picky, slender worms have become a staple in many anglers’ selections. Thinner worms with paddle- or pointed-tail forms, like the Strike King Dream Shot work not only for the aforementioned drop-shot rig which is great for bass holding deeper when shallows haven’t quite warmed for that first spring rush, but also when cast up shallow with a light weight up front and worked through skinny water when something subtler is needed. Longer versions of these little offerings, such as the Zoom Trick Worm provide a middle option between bigger creature baits or plastic sticks and those smaller worms.
Finally, having a selection of plastic creature baits is important to cover other items of spring forage for bass. With the first salamanders of the season making their way out of hibernation and into the water, having at least one plastic lizard bait on hand is a good idea. Modifiable creature baits that can be nipped, trimmed and adjusted based on the mood of spring bass are also a good option, and models like the Baby Crack Craw from Bass Pro Shops have fins, legs, tails, antennae and other plastic parts that can be kept or removed to give the fish a big, busy offering or something that’s a little more compact.
With this handful of helpful lures at your disposal this spring, bass of both stripes don’t stand a chance. Watch the weather, adjust the presentation accordingly and work these baits through high percentage places to hook up with some of the region’s most exciting angling this time of year.
Simonson is the lead writer and editor of Dakota Edge Outdoors.
Featured Photo: Largemouth bass will stage for the spawn come the end of May, even in this cool spring. After the rush of the condensed season we’re experiencing, those same baits you threw the week or two before for bronzebacks will pay off for bucketmouths! Simonson Photo.