almost invariably sit and feed over shallow weeds like milfoil, hydrilla, and coontail. Then use your depthfinder to pinpoint grass in flats that bottom out at 6 feet or less: Such areas are among the first to warm up in spring. Work an XCalibur Xr50 Rattle Bait with a medium to medium-fast retrieve over the grass to trigger strikes.
Q: Is there a good rule of thumb regarding springtime water temperatures and the speed of my presentations?
A: It varies somewhat geographically, but generally speaking when water temperatures drop below 48 degrees, force yourself to slow your retrieve. At 49 or 50 degrees, you can pick up the pace a little.To me, though, it’s a relative thing. That is, if the water has been 55 degrees and a cold front suddenly drops it to 50, that’s “cold” water and I’m going to slow down my baits. When it warms from 45 to 50, I expect fish to get more aggressive.
Q: When and where can I expect the first prespawn bass to hit the shallows to feed?
A: Some bass move shallow much earlier than you might think—even when the weather and the water temperatures are still very cold (say, in the upper 40s). Once those fish head shallow, they’re reluctant to go deep again. I start looking for skinny-water bass on the north side of a lake. It’s protected from cold north winds and warms up fastest. Try hitting the mouths of spawning coves with a rattling crankbait and a 1⁄4-ounce Booyah spinnerbait.
Q: In summer, I catch lots of fish near boat docks. Are they productive now?
A: Boat docks can be great in spring, especially on warmer days. Cast under the walkways leading from the bank to the dock, as well as next to the shallowest post. The bass might be in only a foot of water. You probably key on the shady side of docks in summer, but look to the sunny side now. I find that a 3⁄16-ounce black-and-blue Booyah jig dressed with a Yum Chunk really seems to turn these fish on.
Q: How do I get close to bedded bass without spooking them?
A: That’s difficult—I typically find bedded fish by spooking them. The key is what to do afterward: I leave the immediate area for at least 10 minutes, then sneak back. Move in just close enough so you can see the fish—and no closer. Be still and patient. Eventually, the bass will get used to your boat’s presence. Wait until the fish is looking away from you. Then cast beyond it and drag your bait into the bed.