The phrase “big bass like big baits” has probably been bantered about for as long as there has been bass fishing. And, of course, there’s a lot of merit to the statement. However, that doesn’t mean only large bass will hit a large bait. In other words, just because an angler chucks an oversized bait into the water, it doesn’t guarantee a trophy bass. It does, however, tip the odds a little in our direction, and that’s the advantage we’re all searching for.
Catching big bass consistently requires more than just luck. Using big baits at the right times and under the right conditions can definitely play in an angler’s favor. While oversized baits may pay off throughout the year in varying conditions, perhaps no time is better for jumbo baits than right now while bass are feeding voraciously in preparation for the spawn.
More bass, especially big bass, are caught during the springtime than the entire remainder of the year combined. In part, the numbers of fish caught is attributable to the amount of angler effort in the spring. Nevertheless, literally tons of bass are caught at this time of year simply because the fish are on the move and looking to suck up every piece of forage they can find.
Bass fishing can be very scientific and even quite frustrating at times. Fortunately, fish movement during the spring is actually easy to understand and fairly predictable. The fish have been hanging out in deeper water over the winter, but now the water temperature is on the rise and spawning season is just around the corner. Both of these factors steer the bass into ever-shallower water as spring progresses.
Bass will not just shift from deep water into extremely shallow water immediately. Instead, they will follow tapering points, drift up coves and creek channels, and hang on the edges of dropoffs or other breaks in depth. By positioning along areas with depth variation, the bass can easily move up or down in the water table as temperature and conditions warrant.
While the bass are in this transition and looking for forage, anglers can throw a number of different large baits and find success. Lake habitat, water conditions and angler preferences all influence this success. With that in mind, let’s take a look at a few different baits to consider.
Soft plastics, especially plastic worms, are definitely one of the most prominent baits in a bass angler’s arsenal. Right now is a great time to use them. When the bass are moving up tapering points, in the brush, or even relating to structure along the banks, many big-bass chasers will start throwing oversized plastics.
In years past, worms were typically used one of two ways for the most part — either Texas-rigged with a bullet sinker or Carolina-rigged with an egg sinker. Nowadays plastic worms are still used in the traditional manner, but also with football heads trailed behind various jigs, and in a number of other ways.
Oversized worms add a new dimension to these methods. Many of the larger worms can be used with much less weight, or even no weight at all, giving anglers options on presentation, rate of fall and action. Some anglers will use worms up to 16 inches long, but most anglers will top out with worms around 10 inches or so.
To meet the demand for jumbo worms, many bait companies are introducing new products. Zoom has recently launched a magnum line including the Magnum Trick Worm, Magnum Finesse Worm, Magnum Ultra Vibe Speedworm and the Magnum Shakey Head Worm. YUM has the 10-inch Ribbontail and the 10-inch Big Show Paddle Worm.
Most of the time these baits are fished with as little weight as possible, very slowly with a finesse approach. Worms in the 10-inch range are usually fished with a 1/16- or 1/8-ounce pegged sinker. Larger worms can be fished without weight and worked methodically along points, in grass or other areas. Other anglers will use a large, floating worm on a football head or other jig so the bait stays up off the bottom better. Some of the most popular colors for spring include black, purple, pumpkin and watermelon.
Staying with the theme of soft plastics, one of the hottest trends in bass fishing today is the swimbait. Typically swimbaits have been soft-plastic baits with a distinct swimming action that imitates some type of forage fish. Lately, bait companies have been really upgrading the swimbait philosophy and are building baits so realistic they are almost scary.
Swimbaits are extremely versatile and a tremendous offering for spring bass. Lawrence Taylor regards the YUM Money Minnow as “one of the top lures for big pre-spawn bass.” He said, “Texas-rigged on a weighted hook, the 5- or 6.5-inch Money Minnow is fantastic when retrieved just under the surface.”
A lot of swimbaits are soft bodies, many times hollow, and they have a body and tail that give a lot of action as the bait is retrieved. As the name suggests, the bait actually swims through the water presenting a very realistic action.
Some swimbaits, though, are designed to not only swim like a fish, but they also look just like a real fish. One of the most realistic looking swimbaits on the market is the Tru-Tungsten Tru-Life line from the Fish Harder Company. These baits come in sizes from 4 inches up to a huge 9-inch version.
Color variations include bluegill, rainbow trout, and silver and gold tilapia. Another interesting aspect to these baits is that they can be adapted for use as a floater, wake bait, slow sinker or a fast sinker simply by the insertion of one or more tungsten balls that come packaged with the baits.
Another very realistic and versatile swimbait is the Big Fish Lures 5.5 or the 8-inch from D.O.A. Lures. These lures are designed specifically for anglers looking for quality instead of quantity. These baits come in a variety of colors and can be manipulated for floating characteristics and swimming action.
The bait comes with two different diving bills, which allows it to be very versatile. The large bill provides for a more stable retrieve. With the small bill, the bait has a more erratic swimming action and even creates a side flash. Fished with no bill at all, the bait can be fished with a twitching and pausing motion that creates a lot of action to attract strikes.
Swimbaits have gotten a bad rap from some anglers who say they are only effective on bedding bass. This is far from the truth, though, as swimbaits can be used in a variety of ways and under many different conditions. They can be fan-cast to cover lots of water; they can be retrieved along the edges of weedbeds or along breaklines, or they can even be slow-trolled.
One thing anglers need to keep in mind, though, is how much effort it takes to fish swimbaits for an extended period. Many of these baits require heavy gear, and casting them all day is very labor-intensive. However, the payoff for hanging into a monster bass is well worth a lot of casting leading to the hookup.
Everyone knows the bass are making their way toward shallow water in the spring, but that doesn’t mean they are going to get there overnight. The fish will work their way shallower as weather and water temperatures permit. If bass are hanging out in deeper water or are just simply difficult to locate, anglers may want to start throwing crankbaits. These lures cover a lot of water quickly and work through a wide range of depths.
Crankbaits can resemble many different bass food sources depending on color, size and how they are fished. They can be twitched and floated like a wounded baitfish. They can be retrieved deeper to simply mimic bluegills, minnows or other forage fish. In lakes with crawfish, crankbaits can be bounced along the bottom on tapering points or in areas of rock or riprap.
The only bass bait that rivals the crankbait in color choices is probably the plastic worm. Crankbaits come in almost every conceivable pattern and color combination one can imagine. Obviously, some of these catch more angler attention than they do bass, but the wide variety makes this bait workable in almost any situation.
A Bomber Fat Free Shad DB7 crankbait is a great choice for probing deeper breaklines and other cover. This crankbait is 3 inches in length and weighs 3/4 ounce. The bait comes in numerous color schemes, but two of the best for the spring are Foxy Shad and Citrus Shad. The Strike King Series 6 is another good choice in bigger crankbaits.
Lipped crankbaits are not the only crank game in town, though. Lipless crankbaits can play a big role in the springtime as well, especially those with a rattle attraction, such as the Rat-L-Trap from the Bill Lewis Lure Company. Although the Rat-L-Trap is probably best known, quality lipless crankbaits are also available from XCalibur, Strike King, Lucky Craft, Cotton Cordell, Jackall and others. Bomber makes a huge 3.5-inch rattling, lipless crank called the Super Pogy.
Another old standby favorite spring lure is the spinnerbait. Jumbo versions of this bait make a big target in the water visually, as well as creating plenty of noise and vibration. Spinnerbaits are great for attracting attention and covering lots of water in a shorter time. Nonetheless, spinnerbaits can be slowed down and fished more deliberately by slow-rolling and other methods.
Many anglers think of the spinnerbait as a shallow presentation either pulled in shallow water or just under the surface, but big oversized spinnerbaits allow the angler to reach deeper water. The slow-rolling method basically means the bait is retrieved just fast enough to make the blades turn. Anglers can vary the size of the bait as well as the choice in blades to vary the speed, look, vibration and noise. Blade choices include willow, Colorado or Indiana.
Spring rains often bring the water level up over good structure, such as logs and brush. Spinnerbaits can be worked through this cover and good quality baits will be relatively weedless. Good choices for spinnerbaits come from Booyah Baits, Lucky Craft, Strike King, Stanley, Punisher Lures and others.
So far, primarily, we’ve looked at only subsurface baits. However, anglers can’t ignore the opportunity for some great topwater action at this time of year. Topwater fishing and surface strikes can provide some of the most exciting bass fishing of the season.
Many anglers will use topwater baits in early morning and late evening, as well as sometimes at night (although night-fishing usually doesn’t get real good until later in the year). However, there are times when the topwater bite will last all day if anglers will just believe in it and stick with it throughout the day. Good spots for all-day topwater fishing are over grass, in coves and along undercut banks.
There are many choices for large-sized surface presentations. Big Zara or Super Spooks from Heddon Lures are always a favorite choice. Other baits include poppers, propeller baits, stick baits and frog imitations, such as the Stanley Ribbit. Other great topwater choices are available from Rebel, Rapala, Cotton Cordell and Arbogast.
Buzzbaits are always a staple when fishing the surface. They can be fished fast or slow, and oversized versions create a lot of surface disturbance, which can bring bass up from surprising depths. Color is not so important with buzzbaits, but the action and vibration is. There are many variations in buzzbait styles with some having an offset blade like a spinnerbait and some having an in-line blade. Poor Boys Baits makes a great version of the latter style.