By USA Guest Columnist and Pro Angler Kevin Wirth
Depending on where you are in the U.S., April can be good, tough or frustrating for a bass angler. At least it is for me. It’s a geographic thing. As you go down the latitudes the bass are pre-spawn, spawn or post spawn. I’m going to take at look at all three and share with you my best way to catch fish in each situation.
Pre-spawn is my favorite—but that doesn’t mean it’s always the easiest. Fishing beds can get some super big bass but it can drive me nuts. And then there’s the post spawn when sometimes it’s just best to stay at home. Those fish can be the toughest of the year but not always. The rule I follow for April is “keep it simple.” I try not to get hung up on colors and try to use just a few baits for all situations. Patience is the most important virtue.
Before bass start spawning, they start staging. Here’s the easiest way to find them: Ask yourself, where are the best spawning areas in the body of water I’m fishing? You’re fairly sure they are going to be towards the back of pockets and coves. You know the fish will need a hard bottom. So where will they stage up before moving in to these areas? Most secondary points that have some cover within, say, a quarter of a mile from spawning areas will hold bass. It’s just that simple. Now, not all of the points will hold them so you need to look around some. And some points may not be as obvious as you may think. It may be a point in the grass or some sort of manmade structure extending out from the bank, but most likely it will be a point. When fishing some of the grass points, don’t forget to look at the inside grass line as well as the outside edge.
There are lots of different baits that different fishermen use in these pre-spawn situations, but I think a Berkley Gulp! Shaky Worm is the best for my style of fishing. I put in on a 1/8- or ¼-ounce ball head jig Texas style. The deeper the water, the heavier the jig head I will use. I’ll cast across the point and keep moving until I get a bite, then I’ll slow down and pick it apart.
Water color will tell me what size line and color of bait. In stained water I’ll use 10-pound test Berkley Vanish on my spinning rod and dark colored Gulp!, say black or black with black with red fleck. In tannic-colored water you find in some of the southern lakes, I’ll still use 10-pound line, but I might switch to June bug or red shad baits. And in clear water, I’ll drop down to 6-pound test line and I‘ll use typical clear-water colors like watermelon of green pumpkin.
I find spawning fish frustrating. We already talked about where these beds will probably be. If they are on the beds they are generally not all that hard to find. However, you can spend hours working on a big bedding fish and then not catch her. It’s almost a psychological game we play with these bass. They want to go one way and we want them to go another. I try to get them mad at the bait, and once I’ve done that I know I will win.
The best way to get them really riled up is to find the sweet spot in the bed. Usually there is one small spot in the nest that they will guard a lot closer than the rest. Finding that spot is key. I have watched a bedding fish as long as 30 minutes before making my first cast. Small sunfish and minnows will often move into a bed and they will be run off but if they get into the sweet spot the bass will react much more than in the other parts of the bed.
Casting to and working that spot requires precise casting. My favorite bait is a ½-ounce white Berkley Power Jig with a two-inch pumpkin orange frog trailer. Color is just not that important as long as I can see it well. There are times when the bass will pay little attention to the bait and then I’ll start changing colors around, but you must be able to see it. Again, that sweet spot is critical, and if I can’t see the bait I won’t know if I’m in it.
Post-spawn bass drive me nuts. There are times when I should’ve stayed off the water for all the good it did me to go fishing. But that was before I started to simplify my methods. Think of it like this: Wherever the bass move to after the spawn is going to be fairly close by, a few hundred yards at most. They will probably be sulking and most likely holding tight to cover. There are two methods I find work out best for me. The Shaky Worm on a ball head under docks and flipping the Gulp Nuclear Nellie at the heaviest cover. I use the same method to help me choose colors as I did during the pre spawn.
I like to skip the ball head under docks for these post spawners. That’s not near as easy as it sounds. It takes lots and lots of practice. A ball head jig with a Shaky Worm is not designed to skip, and with all the practice I’ve done about one out of five take a drive. But once this bait is under a dock and the fish are there I’ll often catch them. I’ll swim it under the deeper docks and bounce it along the bottom on shallow baits. The further I get it under there the better.
Flipping the Nellie is another outstanding way to catch these fish. This bait glides on the way down and it disperses enough sent that the bass just can’t help themselves. I use 65-pound test Spiderwire Stealth for this and a weight to match the cover. Mats call for a heavy 1 ½-ounce sinker and I’ll use the smallest weight I can get away with in other types of cover.
There’s no doubt about it, April bass fishing is great. Oh, it has its ups and downs to be sure, but it can mean catching good bags of bass. Every time I go out, I tell myself over and over, “Kevin, keep it simple”.