You just knew it. All week at work you have enjoyed calm, sunny, warm days and could not wait till the weekend to hit the water and catch some bass. But Saturday morning dawns lion-like, with high winds, dropping temperatures and rain. By noon the ragged clouds fly across the sky and you need a snowmobile suit to stay warm. Welcome to March fishing in the south!
Longer days make bass start moving toward spawning areas from their deep winter holes in March. They move to main lake structure and cover near the mouths of spawning pockets and hold there until conditions are right to move in. They like cover near deep water so they can drop back when the temperature drops but move back up quickly when it starts to warm again.
Weather like cold fronts, wind and rain affect them, but longer days and the overall warming trend controls where the bass will be. They will move and be harder to catch under bad conditions but they won’t be far away, and when conditions get good they can be found and caught much easier.
When searching for transition largemouth, look north. Small creeks, coves and pockets on the north bank of the lake get sun all day long and tend to warm faster. Those are the areas bass will move to first in March. The more protected the cove the faster the water will warm, and shallow water warms faster. Watching your temperature gauge for a slight increase in water temperature can point out a good area to check carefully.
Hard bottoms attract bass. If you can find a clay, shell or rock point near the mouth of a spawning area that drops off into deep water, bass should be on it. If it runs out to the channel it is even better. Bass will move up and down on this point, taking advantage of any food they find, while waiting to move into the shallows.
Cover will sweeten any good area. Stumps, brush, big rocks and blowdowns all hold bass this time of year, and they will hit a bait presented to them. Under some conditions bass will hold tight to cover but they will roam and feed, moving from one piece of cover to the next, under favorable conditions.
If you are lucky enough to hit the water when the weather is good, tie on a bait you can cover a lot of water with, put your trolling motor on high and make lots of casts. That would include the end of a warming trend and also early in the next front, when wind moves water and bass feed.
Under good conditions many baits will work well. One of the best is a lipless vibrating bait like a Rat-L-Trap or Strike King Red Eye Shad. They can be fished fast, they make a lot of noise and flash in the water and can be run at different depths and speeds. Crankbaits and spinnerbaits are also good under these conditions.
Under less favorable conditions, like the bright, high pressure day after a cold front comes through, tie on a bait you can use to pick apart the cover and fish slowly and carefully. The bass will be less likely to chase your bait.
A jig and pig is one of the best baits for tough conditions, especially for bigger bass. You can fish it slowly in thick cover like blowdowns and bass have a hard time resisting it. A jig head worm and a Carolina rigged worm also work well under tough conditions and downsizing to finesse size worms will draw bites from bass that ignore bigger baits. Both can rake points to find deeper cover where bass hold.
Wind can be your friend. As long as you can control your boat and fish, you can catch bass on wind-blown points and banks. Wave action stirs up the water and confuses baitfish, making them easier targets. It also moves schools of baitfish if strong enough to create a current, and moves food like algae that baitfish follow if just a gentle breeze. Either way, windblown points and banks attract bass.
Find a hard bottom point at the mouth of a cove and make long cast across it with a lipless crankbait. Try to keep your bait near the bottom, ticking it every few feet. If there is a lot of wood cover you need to switch to a spinnerbait or crankbait with a lip that will bounce off it better. Work either bait with the wind in a natural way.
Watch for a mud line made by the waves hitting the bank then washing across the mouth of the cove. Bass will hold in the mud line and use it for cover, then jump on any food that comes by. Run your bait parallel to the mud line a foot from it or cast into it and bring your bait from muddy water to clear water.
Work fast and hit as many similar places as you can. Slow down when you catch a bass, chances are there is a school using the area. When you move, try to duplicate conditions where you caught bass earlier, fishing similar points and cover.
After the cold front bright blue-bird skies make fishing tough for a day or two. Bass will move deeper and hold tighter to cover. The lack of wind on the water surface means they can see your bait better and are less likely to hit. So, go with natural looking, smaller baits, fish them deeper around heavy cover and fish slowly.
If you caught fish shallow on a point a few days ago, the bass will still be there. Look for them in water several feet deeper. This is when a Carolina rig or jig head worm shines. Put a natural colored four inch worm on either bait and fish it slowly. Probe for cover and slow down even more when you hit brush, rocks or stumps.
This is also an excellent time to find a blowdown where deep water hits the bank near the point and fish it out with a jig and pig. Use a natural colored bait in clear water and a bright color in stained water and try to work it along every limb. Work the trunk of the tree harder. The heaviest cover is where a big limb comes off the trunk and that is where the biggest bass will take up residence. Don’t overlook the very end of the tip of the tree, in the deepest water, too.
Under these conditions pay very careful attention to your bait. Strikes will usually be very light whether you are fishing a jig and pig or worm. Often a bass will suck the bait in and not move, so set the hook if you feel any mushy resistance. Don’t wait for the tap that tells you the bass has spit your bait out.
Muddy water offers a whole new twist to catching bass. If the water is clear enough to see your bait a foot or so down bass can see it even better. But early spring conditions often present you with water so muddy a chanteuse crankbait disappears as soon as it goes below the surface.
Extremely muddy water may affect fishermen more than the fish. After all, they have to eat. So adapt. Fish a very bright, loud bait. A chartreuse Red Eye Shad slow rolled along the bottom can be found by a hungry bass. Bigger baits are usually better, too. Go with a half to three quarters ounce bait under muddy conditions.
When the weather turns, don’t give up. Adapt to the weather and changes in it and you will catch bass. You may be uncomfortable, but landing bass after bass will warm you up better than any coat!