Being forever aware is one of the bass angler’s most valuable traits. Conditions are forever changing and as these happen so all fish react.
“What the season brings (Part 1)” Being forever aware is one of the bass angler’s most valuable traits. Conditions are forever changing and as these happen so all fish react. At one moment the weather is calm with not a breath of wind in sight and the next there is a bank of dark clouds approaching and the wind and temperatures develop and change – Roger Donaldson
At one moment the weather is calm with not a breath of wind in sight and the next there is a bank of dark clouds approaching and the wind and temperatures develop and change. Being cognisant of these will help you develop your proficiency as an angler and especially around the spring months.
Unlike all other seasons of the year the spring time presents some exciting, yet very testing opportunity for the bass fisherman. At every other time of the year you would be most likely to find bass locating to structures where they can hunt down or ambush their prey. You’re fishing for these spectacular opportunistic predators which are utterly focused on food. If you present a lure which remotely resembles the food they are currently feeding on then the chances of successfully landing the bass are very good. However, this is not so much the case in the early season.
Bass become quite territorial about the areas they have chosen now. They are not feeding, but rather protecting areas from potential predatory fish, protecting nesting sites and protecting their chosen partners, as well as keeping their bedding areas clear of matter and destructive objects. Humans may use all kinds of tools to help them with these tasks. However, the only possible way bass can do this is with their mouths.
At this time bass will be very selective about how they react to your lure and as we touched on earlier, it will not be for reasons of feeding or hunger, but rather as a protection, or shielding mechanism. Detecting and reacting to a bite will be that much more challenging for the angler. Instead of engulfing the lure bass will be more inclined to “mouth” the bait, move it away only slightly, and then expel it quite quickly, almost instantaneously. Because of this you’ll need to prepare adequately in terms of your bait and tackle and also your “timing”.
This could possibly be your best chance to get some impressive strikes on a jerkbait, not only because big fish abound, but also because the lure imparts such an erratic imposing action. I remember a day on Rust der Winter dam when I had forgotten to loosen my reel drag. I was aggressively retrieving/jerking my lure back to the boat when the rod loaded and the fish pulled violently downward as it dived deeply, shaking its head while my rod stretched perfectly straight and the tension directed solely on my drag the hooks on the lure. Within second of the fight the fish tore free. Clearly a sizable one is all I could say saddened to not be so promptly rejected of the opportunity to marvel over my adversary.
Nevertheless, the jerkbait is a clear winner when it comes to scratching through areas looking for activity. They cover water quickly, except you really need to be willing to put in some effort with your retrieve and into keeping the lure away from getting snagged. At R150 to R250 a piece this could become expensive.
Crankbaits will work in pretty much the same way as you retrieve them across expanses of water looking to nail down areas of confidence. I thoroughly enjoy “feeling” my way beneath the surface with these lures, retrieving and waiting expectedly for a fish to engulf the lure.
Early season bass, and certainly in between the phases of full moon will hang “loosely” around areas while they hone in to a chosen spot to spawn and make final their destiny. Please consider though that not all the bass will spawn at the same time. Those that match the most appropriate area and conditions will attempt to spawn and those that don’t will hold back until they have managed to select the time suited to them. This may be on the next full moon if the weather conditions promote it. Otherwise the bass may choose to move away and migrate to source alternative areas within the fishery, where temperatures, water conditions, substrate, current, human interference, and a host of other potential factors may influence their choice more positively. This may very well be two, or even three months down the line. So don’t think that because you missed one bedding opportunity that you need to wait another year.
The season brings an extended period of opportunity to target bass and anglers will need to stay in tune with all the conditions affecting the fish at this sensitive time in order to capatilise on opportunities to find them.
In the next part of the series we will look at alternative bait options to target bass as the season progresses.
*Roger Donaldson is an experienced journalist and knowledgeable bass angler who has enjoyed many enlightening hours with many of South Africa’s top, competitive bass fishermen. As a competitive angler himself, he also enjoys sharing his expertise with fellow bass fanatics in the hope that they find the same joy in this unique sport.
Search baits including both jerkbaits and crankbaits, large and small are excellent lures for finding activity in the early season