When it comes to spring bass, patience pays. Slow-moving soft-plastic stickbaits deliver the kind of subtle, enticing action that can trigger even the most finicky of fish.
Spring bass fishing is what most anglers daydream about all winter long. All those fat, healthy bass cruising around in the shallows, waiting for the right day to move up and spawn. Fast-moving spinnerbaits and crankbaits are great ways to trigger strikes on days when bass are actively feeding, but we all know that those days are few and far between. Luckily, there is another deadly answer. Using soft-plastic stickbaits in the spring is a foolproof way to hook up with even the finickiest of fish; it simply requires a slower approach, and a bit of patience.
What Is A Stickbait? Stickbaits are soft-plastic lures that are more or less “straight” with no appendages. They don’t have very much action when pulled through the water, but an underwater “walk the dog” action can be achieved by jerking and twitching the rod tip. The sink is the key. When rigged weightless, stickbaits have a subtle wiggle when they sink that is natural and enticing for stubborn bass not willing to chase other lures. Senkos, Ring Frys, and even Flukes are good examples of soft-plastic stickbaits.
Rigged weightless Texas Style, or wacky, as shown here, soft-plastic stickbaits have a slow and subtle “shake” or “shimmer” as they fall, which seems to trigger strikes from even the most-reluctant fish.
Texas Or Wacky Rig? The wacky rig is well known for its fish-catching ability in the spring. It provides a different look and action from the same plastic. When soft-plastic stickbaits are hooked in the middle of the bait, they “fold” on themselves and look like some sort or free-swimming worm, squirming and undulating like a jellyfish. This action is typically better in the earlier part of the spawn and pre-spawn. A weightless Texas-style rig has more of a “darting” action and is a bit better in clear water, but is still very effective in the pre-spawn. During the post-spawn, these rigs can be worked fast and very close to the surface, to entice strikes from fry-guarding bass. Consider using two different hooks for wacky rigging, and weightless Texas rigs. I like to use a 4/0 or 5/0 offset-worm hook on weightless Texas rigs, and a 3/0 to 4/0 finesse wide gap hook on wacky rigs. This “finesse” hook will give the bait better action, effectively conceal the hook from sight in clear water, and allow better hookups.
Think Shallow And Stumpy. Typically the best areas for throwing soft-plastic stickbaits during the spawn are the backs of creeks, and pockets or calm banks where you can see bass cruising around. Look for the depth changes where you can no longer see the bottom, or dark spots on the bottom that bass can use as cover. Any sort of grass line, dock or overhanging tree is also good cover for bass at this time of year, but my personal favorite are stumps. The best stumps are below the water level, and can barely be seen with polarized lenses. Getting just close enough to pitch or roll-cast a weightless stickbait, right against the stump and letting in sink straight down, can get some big bites in the spring! The bigger female bass will often use stumps and standing timber as vertical cover in the pre spawn, rising up and down like a thermometer. Of course, this rig can also be used as a sight-fishing tool for bedding bass or fry-guarders. A stickbait is often my first choice to throw at bass I think might be guarding fry or in a bed, because it makes almost no splash when it hits the water, and is subtle enough that it won’t spook wary bass.
Grass lines, tree overhangs, stumps, and lily pads are great cover to find bass with weedless soft-plastic stickbaits. Fishing them slowly around these and other spawning areas can pay off with some very big bass.
Proven Stickbait Arsenal. Stickbaits don’t have much weight to them, so it will be much easier to cast your lure with a softer rod. I prefer to use baitcasting gear that has some backbone, for solid hooksets, but also features that all-important soft tip. One of my favorites is a GLoomis Jig and Worm 852 medium power, extra-fast-action rod. Its 7-foot,1-inch length delivers plenty of casting distance and good leverage on long-range hooksets, and the medium power allows you to twitch and work the bait effectively. Your line size will depend on water clarity; typically I like to spool up with 12- to 15-pound fluorocarbon line on a 7:2:1 gear ratio baitcasting reel. There are smaller, “50 size” bait casting reels that are more-efficient at throwing lighter lures, but a standard 200 size model will work just fine.
They might not look too impressive to fishermen, but to spring bass, slow-moving soft-plastic stickbaits are filet mignon. Before you go be sure to check your ScoutLook Fishing app for optimum stickbait conditions; the author prefers low-wind, sunny, high-pressure days.
Often the best presentation is to allow your stickbait to simply sink slowly, rather than a fast-twitching retrieve. The bites are often subtle (since there is no weight resistance as a bass inhales), so pay close attention to your line. You’re looking for a subtle “tick,” or a slow movement in most any strange direction.
Also, before you go, be sure to check your ScoutLook Fishing app regularly for ideal stickbait weather conditions; a great tipoff is watching the barometer. I have found that calm, sunny, high-pressure spring days are a great time to fish these weightless stickbaits, when the bass seem to consider them an easy, irresistible meal.