Spring largemouth bass fishing is usually a shallow-water affair as these fish are often in, and around, shallow water cover at this time.
Pencil reed patches, boat docks, fallen trees, and any other shallow cover will often harbor largemouth bass as they go through their spawning ritual, and also roam the shallows looking for food. When chasing “largies” at this time, I often rely on two bait presentations.
I like to start my day using a presentation that fishes fast, allowing me to cover water searching shallow cover. Obviously, I am hoping to catch some fish, but am also trying to read what the fish are doing as far as how they are relating to the shallows.
When starting the day, my bait is a swim jig tipped with some sort of soft plastic trailer. A swim jig is simply a skirted bass jig, though often in a somewhat smaller size than we often use for the classic bass flipping and pitching techniques. For example, when flipping and pitching, many bass anglers prefer jigs from 3/8- to 5/8-ounce in sizes. When swimming the jig, however, I often like a 1/4-ounce sized jig.
My jig of choice is, in fact, a 1/4-ounce white shad Jungle Jig. I tip the jig with various trailers, but recently have had good success tipping with a white or fathead-colored Impulse Paddle Minnow. This bait has a wobbling, injured-minnow appearance as it moves through the water that the bass seem to like. I prefer the white jig and light-colored trailer combination because I think it does a good job of “matching the hatch” in mimicking baitfish that largemouth feed on.
When fishing swim jigs, I simply make long casts to the shallows and reel the bait back using a steady retrieve. Some days, the fish will be roaming the shallows and I encounter fish scattered here and there using this presentation.
When that is the case, the swim jig is the bait I often use all day. Other days, however, the fish will be holding closer to the actual docks, reeds, and timber and are less willing to chase. When that happens, slowing up, and using another bait often yields better results.
My bait in this situation is the “do nothing” stick bait. This bait, in shape, resembles a pen we would use for writing. When fishing shallow, I hook the bait wacky-style, which means hooked in the middle, and use a weed-less hook. Without the addition of any weight, this presentation has a slow, “do nothing” fall that shallow largemouth often can’t resist. Simply casting it to cover and slowly letting it fall is usually best.
I prefer an Impulse Dip-Stick Worm when “wacky rigging” the shallows for largemouth as this bait has a tantalizing fall and features the Impulse scent and flavor formula that the fish bite and hold onto, giving me ample opportunity to set the hook. The white shad pattern Dip-Stick works well in the shallows because I can often see the bait and watch fish bite it. On other days, the fish prefer darker colors like black and blue and June bug. As always, the only sure way to determine the color the fish prefer is to experiment. Regardless what colored baits largemouth bass prefer on a given day, one of the two presentations just detailed will probably fool some into biting this spring.
As always, good luck on the water, and remember to include a youngster in your next outdoors adventure!
Mike Frisch is a western Minnesota fishing guide and co-host of the Fishing the Midwest TV series. Follow Fishing the Midwest on Facebook for more “fishy” information.