Photo Credit: Eric Engbretson
When winter finally loosens its grip and the days become warm enough to melt our frozen lakes and ponds, antsy largemouth bass anglers flock to all the popular sweetwater fishing holes. This time of year, the favored spots generally are main lake points in close proximity to deep water. If these are adjacent to spawning flats, they can be especially productive and, you can bet, heavily pressured.
If you would rather fish with a little more seclusion, there is a lesser-known spring largemouth pattern that can be just as effective as—or even superior to—the traditional “prominent point” approach. This pattern revolves around fishing timber. The vast majority of bass mavens won’t give flooded trees a second look until the weather becomes more comfortable, but in passing up these potential spring bass lairs they are overlooking a number of fish that have seen little or no pressure through the winter months.
Bass can potentially be found in any fallen tree on a year-round basis. In early spring, however, anglers should focus their efforts on timber located in certain areas of a body of water. It is common knowledge that bass tend to spend their winters in deeper water. Deep, however, is a relative term. In small ponds, 6 to 8 feet may be plenty of water, but in larger lakes and impoundments the magic number might be 25 feet or greater. Find some timber near an appropriately deep pocket, cut, or channel, and you have a potential honey hole to prospect.
As a rule, groups of fallen or flooded trees will attract more fish than a single tree. On the flip side, tangles of trees also provide bass with more places to hide, requiring greater effort from the angler to ferret them out. My favorite submerged trees for targeting early-spring largemouths are the ones that offer vertical cover. Most all fallen trees offer horizontal ambush points, but standing timber or fallen trees with large, widespread branches are a rare find because they offer cover in which your quarry can move up or down in the water column while still being able to ambush prey.
When fishing flooded timber in early spring, I look to three specific lures to wake up the bite. The first is a square-bill crankbait, which is particularly effective when fishing trees in the 6-foot depth range or when the bass are suspending a few feet down but above the trees in deeper water. Color does not make too much of difference for me when fishing the square-bill, as this lure usually generates reaction strikes. I simply match the color to the clarity of the water.
The second lure I favor for early-spring bass that have taken up around submerged timer is a heavy swim jig. A ½-ounce Buckeye Lures J-Will Swim Jig in green pumpkin is my favorite, but I will go to pearl color if there is a lot of visible bait around the trees. This swim jig can be fished throughout the water column from the surface to the bottom.
My third choice for this time of year is a ¼-ounce Blakemore Roadrunner Curly-Tail Jig. This offering is best when the bass are neutral or inactive. It can be presented very slowly and seems to draw hits simply from its ability to stay in the strike zone. I primarily use the black-chartreuse pattern, but it’s fine to experiment with different colors; sometimes a change from the routine can bring better results.
I use a 6-foot, 8-inch, medium-heavy Denali Rosewood Worm and Jig rod paired with a 6.8:1 Lews Speed Spool LFS Series spinning reel and 14-pound-test fluorocarbon when casting a square-bill or swim jig. With the Roadrunner, I switch over to a 7-foot, light-action Wally Marshall Signature Lite Series coupled with a Lews Laser Lite Speed Spin Series reel and 6-pound-test fluorocarbon line.