Spring Lure Selection by Ben Hanes
It’s getting to be that time of year again when the big mama’s from the deep are sniffing the shallows. In Eastern Washington, the migration of both small and largemouth occurs around the end of February, where we’ll see our first biters in relatively shallow (less than 20 feet) water. However, the fishing doesn’t really start to get good until about a month later, when a migration occurs that pushes the first wave of fish to enter the 5-10 foot range, and almost always at this point they position themselves adjacent to deep water, so that at any point, especially after the passage of a strong front, they can ‘chill out’ deeper. But on those days when the weather has been stable, in late March and early April you will find both smallmouth and largemouth shallow.
Typically, I look for main points, or secondary points that are adjacent or en route to spawning areas or, I’ll look for a sharp contour line off of the edge of a spawning flat (could be a roadbed or natural contour). Sometimes fish can also be found around outflows and inflows of reservoirs during this time, and finding even 1 fresh green weed can be a sign of fish activity. I generally only use a few different techniques in the “early” Spring (April-ish). I rely on crankbaits heavily. I want a crankbait with a tight wobble, and I prefer patterns that are heavy in the red-crawdad color. I’ll always change out the stock hooks and replace them with better hooks (pick your poison, could be Owner Stinger Treble or Mustad Triple Grip, the list goes on). Typically stock hooks are too small. If I’m trying to attain depths beyond 6 feet, I’ll also put Suspendots on the bottom of my crankbait, and will pause after deflections for several seconds. This has a similar effect as a suspending jerkbait, which is also a very effective Spring-time bait, but as a crankbait it will cover more specific ground.
Beyond crankbaits, I choose tubes, generally bigger tubes in a green-pumpkin type of color. I definitely prefer darker plastics in almost all cases. I would say crankbaits and tubes are my bread and butter for the Spring (for smallmouth). For largemouth, it’s pretty simple: a jig. The following would be a typical sample of Springtime items I’d have tied onto my Dobyn’s rods if I were tackling a reservoir that had both smallmouth and largemouth: crankbait (shallow), crankbait (mid), crankbait (deep), suspending jerkbait, tube, jig, leadhead spider grub, senko, swimjig, spinnerbait and/or chatterbait, and possibly an underspin.
I could go into great detail for each of those baits, but we’ll save that for later. For now, I hope we all just have the privilege of getting out on the water and chasing Big Mama’s Margie and Mallie. Thank God it is finally Spring again!