Brave The Elements For Big Pre-Spawn Bass

by Mark Melotik

HuntStand Pro Contributor MORE FROM Mark

Early spring conditions promise two things for hearty anglers: challenging weather and a shot at some of the year’s biggest bass.

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In many parts of the country, early spring fishing days can take a toll on anglers and their equipment. Sadly, calm sunny spring days are rare, and worse yet, they usually occur on Wednesdays—when we are at work dreaming about being out on the water. When we finally find time to drop our rigs in the water, most of us will be dealing with “typical” spring conditions: Nasty winds and cold fronts that can seemingly cut quickly through your best-laid big-bass plans.

My simple advice when facing these challenging conditions? Don’t let a few spring “curveballs” from Mother Nature get you down. There are plenty of big pre-spawn fish to be had for those who are able to brave the elements and grind it out. Still not convinced? Come along as we prepare for the worst, and hope for the best, with some smart strategies for boating more big pre-spawn fish during the nastiest of spring days.

Your best weapon against challenging conditions is your mind. The cold can be a devastating blow to your positive outlook, and when you add some wind and precipitation to the mix, it can really tear you down. But only if you let it. It helps to remember that plenty of big fish are caught on nasty days, and if you can hold out, a “season-best” trophy might await. Building mental toughness is something that comes through experience, but smart physical preparation, and carrying the proper gear, can make things go a lot smoother when conditions get rough.

PreSpawn3 600Having a variety of lures rigged and ready on deck and in the rod box will help save time, and create confidence when it’s time to make critical decisions during nasty-weather conditions.
Making sure your boat, motor, and trolling motor and batteries are in sound condition are some obvious “big picture” starting points for a safe and successful trip. However, it’s often some much-smaller, time-saving preparations that will go a long way. I always carry a well-outfitted dry bag in the winter and early spring. Stuffing the bag full of an extra set of thermal clothes, rain gear, and yes, even underwear, can make you feel like a million bucks in the event you get drenched miles from the boat launch. Also adding some chemical hand warmers, and a pair or two of gloves, will keep fingers in working order and simultaneously offer a welcome mental boost that will keep you focused and otherwise “in the zone.”

Smart tackle prep before you get on the water is a crucial time-saver and can have a huge impact on decision making during rough conditions. Having rods pre-rigged with appropriate lures, or having those lures on deck ready to pursue a developing pattern, can make the decision to run to the opposite bank and try something new a whole lot easier. It’s hard to sit down and re-rig in 20-mile-per-hour winds. Your goal should be to anticipate any possible pattern that might arise on your chosen lake, and create “go-to” boxes and rigs before you hit the water.

When fish are close to moving up to spawn, they can be tough to catch because they are less focused on feeding and more focused on pairing up with other bass. However, a drastic change in the elements or local conditions—such wind or rain stirring up forage on a bank, staining the water, or creating a mud line—can often trigger bass back into “feeding mode” again for a while, or until conditions calm down. This typically means a short migration back out to points and cover-lined banks that are holding forage.  Good lure choices to target wind-blown banks include “moving” lures such as crankbaits, spinnerbaits, chatterbaits, and jerkbaits.

PreSpawn1 600Weather fronts rolling in mean it’s time to get bundled up and ready for rough water; these ominous-looking weather systems can be intimidating but they can also trigger the lake’s biggest bass to feed. Planning your on-the-water time around these game-changing systems starts with help from the ScoutLook Fishing app.
If it’s sunny and windy, I prefer to fish lures that have less flash such as crankbaits. During overcast or rainy conditions is a great time to throw “bladed” baits with lots of flash. Also, those nasty days are an ideal time to fish a bait a little more aggressively than you would on a calm day. With all the extra commotion in the water, it can be more difficult for the bass to track a lure down, so I like to use more dramatic jerks and pauses with all lure types, and I like to utilize crankbaits with built-in rattles.

Breaking down the areas of the lake is also a big factor in smart decision making. The typically warmer northern end, might have a lot less activity due to a big swing in water temperature during a nasty cold front day. Conversely, the lower end of the lake, or areas that have deeper water close by, will be less affected by a big drop in air temperature. The free ScoutLook Fishing app is a handy, useful tool to help you stay ahead of changing conditions such as cloud cover, moon phases, and barometric pressure. The ScoutLook Fishing app reaches out a full nine days, with hour-by-hour updates, to let you know what’s ahead; it can be especially important in the pre-spawn period to pay attention to the moon phase so you know it may be a day where fish are thinking more about spawning than eating, and help you locate fish more effectively.

In the end, we usually don’t get to pick the days we get to go fishing, so it’s best to make the most of what each day brings. Nasty-weather days on the water can be tough on the mind and body, but remember that the fish are already wet. A change in conditions can the trigger for a big bass to feed, and with a slower metabolism in the cold water, that fish might not feed again for a while. I’ve caught some of my biggest bass on the nastiest and windiest days in the pre spawn, but it’s hardly ever a slugfest. In fact, these types of days are almost always a grind, but catching a big one is what we live for as bass anglers. So the next time the weather goes south, prepare wisely to brave the elements, including securing a waterproof case for your camera-equipped smartphone. You might need it to snap a photo of your biggest bass of the season.



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