With so many excellent lure options, picking the best lure can be challenging. These five lures will handle a host of commons early season bass fishing situations.
Spring is a great time to be on the water fishing for bass, but in ways it almost seems too good. Every spot seems like it should hold fish, and many lures seem like they ought to produce. While just casting your favorite lure close to whatever looks good sometimes produces bass, the truth is that bass follow predictable patterns during early spring, and intentional consideration of those patterns can help you catch far more fish.
We talked with veteran bass angler and lure designer Frank Scalish about early spring strategies and the key lures that keep him catching bass from the time the fish start moving from winter holding areas until they are on their beds.
Smithwick Elite 8 Rogue
An Elite 8 Rogue, which is a suspending jerkbait that dives a bit deeper than a classic Suspending Rattlin’ Rogue, is Scalish’s top pick during the “pre-pre-spawn” in very early spring when water is around 40 degrees. At that time, the bass move out of winter haunts, but they don’t moved far.
Scalish mostly looks at main-lake structures at this time and pointed toward long tapering points at the mouths of creeks and channel swings with bluff edges as good areas. He looks for the bass to be over 10- to 15-foot depths, so the boat is normally over 20 feet or more.
His default presentation is a slow pull followed by two twitches and a LONG pause. “They are not aggressive at this time,” he emphasized.
Fished on 8-pound fluorocarbon, an Elite 8 Rogue gets down to 8 or 9 feet, which Scalish considers the perfect depth for that time, and he can work it slowly with a super subtle action and keep it in that zone.
Norman Speed N
As early spring progresses and the water temperature hits the mid-40s, the bass move into the creeks more and start relating to shoreline cover. They move toward spawning grounds but aren’t quite up on the flats, instead relating to the tops of points and to 45-degree sloping banks.
Scalish’s clear choice at this time is a Norman Speed N, which he designed with pre-spawn bass in mind. The Speed N runs 4-6 feet deep with a tight wiggle and pitch and roll action, which Scalish considers ideal for when the water remains pretty cold.
Depending on the bank slope, he’ll cast at a 45 degree angle from the boat to the bank or will position the boat tight to the bank and cast parallel. He wants his lure kicking bottom most of way, if possible, or staying close to the bank if it’s a very steep slope.
Scalish mostly fishes the Speed N on 12-pound fluorocarbon, although he’ll go to 14 or 15 if the water is a bit shallower and has more cover. Either way, he keeps his presentations pretty steady and lets the lure’s natural action and subtle rattle do the work for him.
BOOYAH Hard Knocker
As the water warms more and the bass hit the true pre-spawn, Scalish begins making heavy use of a BOOYAH Hard Knocker, which is a loud lipless crankbait with a tight wiggling action. At this time the bass are immediately out from where they will spawn, in very predictable locations, and a Hard Knocker is ideal for working these flats.
If submerged vegetation is prevalent, Scalish slow rolls a Hard Knocker so the bait barely tics the grass as he reels. When it hangs in the vegetation, he rips it free, which commonly triggers strikes.
Lacking significant vegetation, Scalish opts for a yo-yo retrieve off the bottom. He lets it find bottom after casting and then works it back with pronounced lifts of the rod, so it rises and wiggles and wobbles back down.
Depending on the amount cover in the area, Scalish will work a Hard Knocker on a 17-pound fluorocarbon or 50-pound braid.
BOOYAH Bankroll Jig
From the pre-spawn through the end of spring, Scalish virtually always has a BOOYAH Bankroll Jig tied on and handy. Bass relate heavily to blowdowns throughout spring, and a Bankroll Jig is ideal for pitching into downed trees and thoroughly working every branch without getting snagged. It gets through the cover well, and is easy to skip to get under docks and low limbs. It also has a stout 3/O hook that’s well suited for getting fish out of the cover.
Scalish always starts with the outermost branches of a blowdown and then works his way toward the bank with respective pitches.
“Pay attention to where the fish hit,” he emphasized. “Wherever you get bit in one blowdown is where you’re likely to get bit in the next one.”
If Scalish catches fish from the same part of two or three different blowdowns, that gives him enough confidence in that pattern to go straight to that zone for successive trees and not worry about other areas.
By the time the fish are in the laydowns, they are active enough that Scalish wants extra movement in his bait, so he normally matches his Bankroll Jig with a YUM Spine Craw or Christie Craw.
YUM Break’N Shad
Scalish uses a YUM Break’N Shad late in the pre-spawn and especially during the spawn, when it becomes his primary bait for targeting spawning fish he cannot see. It is subtle, yet at the same time invasive, as it drops toward a bed. A Break’N Shad also is easy to skip, which can be important for getting under docks and overhanging trees.
“When you see fish on beds up shallow, often there will be larger females on beds in just a little bit deeper water, where you can’t quite see them,” Scalish said.
Scalish works the Break’N Shad subtly, with series of twitches and pauses, so it darts and then falls. He rigs it weedless and almost weightless, inserting a small nail weight in the nose to make it sink a tiny bit faster. He likes to work the bait mostly out of sight, so it barely comes into view when he twitches it.
Scalish fishes the Break’N Shad up on spawning flats and targets any cover he sees because bass tend to spawn close to cover. It could be a support of a dock or ski lift, a stump, a stick-up or a gap in the weeds. Whatever the cover, he casts past it, works the bait toward it and then lets it fall close to the cover.
Scalish fishes a Break’N Shad on 14-pound-test fluorocarbon and baitcasting tackle. He noted, however, that spinning tackle works fine and is a little easier to skip a lure with for many anglers.
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