By Dr. Hal Scrhamm

“Spring has been slow to come to Lake Kissimmee, and the bass will be just starting to pull up to begin spawning in mid-March,” said veteran Bassmaster Elite pro Terry Scroggins. “The bass spawn is all about fishing vegetation and finding hard bottom where the bass will nest.” 

Eel grass, pepper grass, and reeds all grow in areas of hard sand. Pads grow in areas of soft bottom; here, the bass will spawn on the thick roots (rhizomes) that are 4-to-6 inches in diameter.

Plan A: You can sight fish, but most bass will be caught blind casting to likely beds.  

“Look for holes in the reeds, eel grass, or pepper grass. In the pads, look for large roots attached to the bottom,” advised Scroggins. The Florida pro tempts bites with a Texas-rigged 5-inch YUM Dinger in water less than 4-feet deep, switching to a 6-inch Dinger in deeper water. Scroggins will have three 7-foot heavy power rods rigged with Dingers — one weightless, one with a 1/32-ounce weight and the third with a ¼-ounce weight. The weightless Dinger is his go-to setup and usually the most productive presentation, but Scroggins uses the weighted Dingers for a little different look and to penetrate the vegetation. He recommends 20-pound fluoro to wrestle heavyweight Kissimmee bass from the often thick vegetation. 

Plan B: Try a Smithwick Devil’s Horse during the first and last couple hours of light. This is a patience-confidence game. Scroggins makes precise casts to holes in the grass, reeds, or pads or likely bed sites at the edge of the reeds.

“Make a precise cast, then let the Devil’s Horse sit until the ripples fade. Twitch the lure, then let it sit for another 30 seconds. The twitches should move the bait as little as possible. You want to get at least four or five twitches on each target," Scroggins said.

The idea is to irritate the bass into striking. If the fish reveals itself but doesn’t hook up, cast the Dinger to the spot.

Pro pointer: Springtime at Kissimmee is about quality-fish, it’s not a numbers game. Fish very slowly. Learn to recognize likely fish-holding spots. Then make multiple casts to a 3-to-4 foot area. Patience and persistence will be rewarded.

Lake Fork, Texas

Lake Fork popped onto the bass fishing radar screen in the early 1980s as a place to catch giant bass. It was the perfect storm of good habitat, good genetics (Florida bass were stocked into “tanks” - Texan for farm ponds - before impoundment), and a then-new regulation now familiar to all — the slot length limit. Thirty years later, this reservoir continues to be the No. 1 producer of bass over 13 pounds in Texas.

Our guide for this trip is Texan and 2016 Bassmaster Classic contender pro Alton Jones. Whether Jones is fishing a tournament or just on the water for fun, he’s all about big fish. “You go to Fork to catch a giant, a bass of a lifetime,” said the former Classic champ. This report is about how to catch magnum bass. If your fishing is about quantity, not quality, quit reading now. If you are looking for a bass of a lifetime, see what Mr. Jones has to say.

Plan A: With hydrilla largely absent from Lake Fork this year, Jones sticks with one pattern: a swimbait around stumps and timber. Jones casts a 5-inch YUM Money Minnow, usually pearl white, Texposed on a 6/0 Owner 1/16 or 1/8 ounce weighted Beast hook. Jones ties the Money Minnow directly to 50-pound braid.

Bass in Fork spawn in the backs of coves and along flat shorelines in 2-to-5 feet of water. From a known or suspected spawning area, take one step back toward deeper water to find areas of stumps and timber in 4-to-8 feet of water. The big fish hold tight to the wood. Cast 8-10 feet past good looking targets. Make long casts to keep from spooking the fish. 

This is a cover-water pattern, so keep moving. Multiple targets are always in sight, and long casts ensure that your bait will also pass unseen targets. But make multiple casts to superior targets or if a fish follows. Always give cedar trees with their branches intact a couple casts. And keep your eyes open for big fish up in the water column around standing timber.

Pro pointer: Large swimbaits rarely have a silent entry. A splashdown above the bass often alarms them; a plop several feet away seems to alert them to something coming their way. Retrieve the swimbait slowly - just fast enough to make the tail wobble - and as close as possible to the stump or tree.

Lake Dardanelle, Arkansas River

The Kerr-McClellan Waterway Project created a series of impoundments on the Arkansas River to allow commercial navigation from the Mississippi River to near Tulsa, Oklahoma. Midway in that waterway is Lake Dardanelle, the bass-fishing gemstone of the series of those impoundments. It is also where local pro T.J. Miller learned to bass fish and cash a lot of tournament checks. “It’s a great bass fishery,” said Miller. “It’s a lake where you can fish river conditions or you can fish backwaters. You can fish your strength.” For Miller, that strength is power fishing.

Miller expects the spawn to happen in mid to late March.

“This could be a great year or tough year depending on the weather,” said Miller. “The unusual winter flood created some difficult conditions. The lake is back to normal. If it stays like that, fishing should be great.”

Here’s Miller’s take on how to load up on spawning Dardanelle bass.

Plan A: Spawning bass. Catching spawning bass in Dardanelle begins with finding clearer water. Miller starts his search in the middle of creek arms and pockets where the early spawn is most likely to happen and works to the back of the pockets. You probably won’t see the beds, but fish likely bedding areas. Miller does his blind casting and searching with a 6 inch, black/blue Yum Dinger. Any bass Miller sees on a bed get to watch a jig or a white soft plastic bait drop into its bed. If the shallow water/bedding bass bite isn’t happening or the fish he catches are all small males, Miller switches to Plan B to catch staging fish and bigger females.

Plan B: Pre-spawn bass. Miller drops back to creek channels leading to spawning areas. Although Dardanelle is aging and sediment has accumulated in many backwaters, creek channels can still be identified with your electronics as a 2- to 3-foot increase in depth. Miller focuses on creek channels in water 8 to 12 feet deep and seines them with a red craw or LA shad 300 Series Bandit crankbait.

Pro pointer: Bass bunch up in the Spring. Power fish to cover water and keep searching. When you find fish, slow down and thoroughly fish the area to fill the livewell.

Lake Eufaula, Oklahoma

Bassmaster Elite angler Jason Christie’s pick for a great pre-spawn bite is Lake Eufaula. This 106,000-acre Canadian River impoundment has 600 miles of shoreline to entertain bass anglers during the spawn. The 2016 Bassmaster Classic contender has a simple battle plan for this sprawling, eastern Oklahoma reservoir.

Plan A: “Bass will be starting to move shallow in mid-March. Pick an intermediate size cove and search for good cover - brush, vegetation, or rocks - or a depth break or ledge between the creek channel and a spawning flat,” advised Christie. “There is no magic depth; every creek is different. You are looking for something that will hold bass.”

When he finds a spot with promise, he begins his search with a Booyah spinnerbait in stained water or a Smithwick Rogue in clear water. When he finds an area that gives up a few bass, Christie slows down and saturates the area with a Booyah Pigskin Jig with a Yum Craw Chunk.

Pro pointer: You can win a tournament off one group of fish; be patient, keep searching.