Welcome to Panfish!

Part One Hundred fourty-eight

Largemouth Bass in Spring

By Tom Keith, Lincoln, Nebraska


Largemouth bass fishing begins in the spring after warming temperatures melt all of the ice from the lake. Because farm ponds and other small bodies of water warm rapidly in the spring, bass fishing on these small waters starts earlier than it does on large lakes and reservoirs.

After a few warm spring days shallow water temperatures begin rising and largemouth bass drift into the shallows to feed. Many minnows and small fish look for food in that same shallow water and become food for the larger bass. Streamer and bucktail patterns are especially productive in the early spring because a bass is programmed to depend on minnows for most of his groceries, and a well-presented minnow-imitating fly is sure to attract his attention.

The fly fisherman should work "fishy-looking" spots as thoroughly as possible by making several casts before moving on. Because the fishes' metabolism is slowed by cold water, bass won't move very far for a bite to eat in spring, nor will they expend much energy trying to capture a fast-moving lure. Fishing deliberately, thoroughly and very slowly will produce many more strikes than using a quick hit-and-miss, rapid retrieve system.

We recommend an 8-foot long fiberglass or graphite rod and size 7 or 8 weight-forward floating line for cold water bass fishing. Streamers such as the Black Ghost Bucktail, Woolly Bugger, and Super Silver Minnow . . .are excellent early season bass lures. We recommend sizes 1/0 to 8 for use on largemouths, though small ones will also take fish. Use a leader at least 7 1/2 feet long, tapered to about 4 pounds at the tippet, and concentrate your efforts on fishing water from 1 to 5 feet deep.

Remember, bass are in the shallows feeding on small minnows which are there eating zooplankton and insects associated with vegetation growing in the warming water. If you can locate a shallow, weedy spot adjacent to a deep water dropoff, so much the better - bass will use the deep water travel lanes to move from one shallow spot to another.

Early season fly fishing requires accurate casting and deliberate, slow retrieves. Casts should be made from deeper water to shallow for several reasons. For instance, it allows the angler to fish the deep-water side of cover which is more likely to attract fish during certain parts of the year. It puts him in a position to guide a hooked fish away from weeds, branches and other obstructions. It also allows the fisherman to cast accurately to fish-holding shallow water spots that are difficult to see or recognize from the bank.

Heavy cover, like submergent and emergent weedbeds, weedly or brushy shorelines, and even logs, stumps and downed branches always attract early season bass. Sometimes fishermen accurately locate spots bass are using but fail to find fish because they don't work the area thoroughly. The best method is to start shallow - sometimes early season largemouths will venture into water less than a foot deep - and work slowly and methodically away from shore, covering every foot of potentially productive water along the way.

An angler fishing submergent weedbeds may have success using a wet-tip or sinking tip line that puts the streamer low in the water where bass do much of their feeding.

Bass are usually considered to be rough-and-tumble fish, known for their hard strikes and stubborn fights when hooked, but several months of cold winter temperatures have a calming effect on even the largest, most belligerent old sow bass in the lake. ~ Tom Keith


Credits: From Fly Tying and Fishing for Panfish & Bass published by Frank Amato Publications. We greatly appreciate use permission.

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