Turn the Page
Here I am
On the road again
There I am
Up on the stage
Here I go
Playin' star again
There I go
Turn the page
The holidays, the Super Bowl, and Groundhog Day are all in the rearview mirror. If you are anything like me, you’ve had your fill of gloves and heavy coats. I’m already looking forward to flip-flops, shorts and a little vitamin-D therapy. It’s time to turn the page from winter to spring. OK, so maybe I’m getting a few weeks ahead of myself, but it won’t be long before the grass starts growing, the dogwoods are blooming, and the bass are shallow and hungry.
Late winter and early spring can be a challenging time to consistently find tournament bass. The fish seem to be on the move a lot and sometimes hard to pin down. They can be here today, gone tomorrow. On the other hand, early spring fishing is the time that one of my favorite lures, the jerkbait, really shines. I have had some tremendous days on a jerkbait in February and March. Let’s talk about a few keys to jerkbait success.
I used to believe that a good jerkbait rod was all about being able to cast the bait well. That is until I saw first hand on a February day what a difference the rod action can make in the catching. I was fishing a tournament on Lake Guntersville with my friend Adam Wagner. Adam and I were fishing the same jerkbait in 39-42 degree water. In places, we were literally casting the jerkbait up to the ice line coming off the bank and twitching it back to the boat. Adam caught seven or eight good bass on a jerkbait, while I had to resort to a jig just to help the team out. I couldn’t get a bite on it. Too late, I figured out what I was doing wrong (other than lacking skill). Adam was using a rod with a very light or soft tip. When he twitched the jerkbait it barely moved. I was using a heavier rod and moving the bait way too much in the frigid water. After that trip I switched to a rod with a softer tip and found the bites much easier to come by.
I prefer fluorocarbon line, especially early in the spring. It seems to let the jerkbait get down an extra foot or so which helps with bringing up those deeper fish. 10 pound fluorocarbon gets the call unless I am fishing around a lot of grass or structure, in which case I’ll use 12 pound test.
Location, Think Verticle -
I wish it were as easy as simply defining the exact type of spot to look for, but if you’ve fished very much, you know that sometimes bass don’t read the textbook like they are supposed to. In general, in late winter and early spring you need to think vertical. I don’t mean that you have to fish sheer bluff walls to catch bass. Although bluffs can be very good, what I mean by vertical are areas where bass can move up and down in the water column over a fairly short distance: steep channel banks, points with sharp drop-offs, shallow flats very close to deep water and ledges. Some of the best vertical places are going to be very close to spawning areas.
Speed and Water Temperature-
The general rule of thumb here is the colder the water, the less the lure should move. I usually try to establish a jerk, pause, or jerk, jerk, pause rhythm. Once I’ve gotten a bite or two, the fish can usually tell me if I am going too slow or too fast. If the bite comes on a long pause, I’ll slow down. If it comes as the bait is moving, I might speed up. The key is to experiment until you figure out something that seems to trigger a bite. As spring progresses and the water warms, I progressively start moving my baits faster. I have seen April days when I couldn’t move a jerkbait fast enough.
If you’ve spent the winter in the house, the deer stand, or the duck blind, it’s time to get ready for spring. Oil up your reels and break out the jerkbait box. Pretty soon I’ll be on the road again, up on the stage, dropping bags full of big jerkbait bass on the scales. It’s time to turn the page!
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