FOCUS ON THE FLATS
"I fish a natural, clear, rocky lake. Can you offer any tips for catching smallmouths before they spawn?" - Member Bob Wetzler, Saratoga Springs, New York
My favorite approach for finding pre-spawn smallmouths is to throw a suspending jerkbait. It covers a lot of water and mimics perch, which smallmouths love.
I fish a Strike King Wild Shiner in a perch color, and use a slow, subtle retrieve. Don’t jerk it very hard, and impart one- to three-second pauses.
I start by focusing on the edges of flats. Smallmouths spawn on the flats, but in April, they’ll still be around the edges. However, if you get a strong warming trend, they’ll often move from the edges onto the flat itself. In that case, be sure to thoroughly scour the top.—Kevin VanDam
"When fishing matted grass, is it better to use a jig with a craw trailer, or just a softbait crayfish with a heavy weight?" - Member Jim Osborne. Union Park, Florida
I prefer just a Texas-rigged plastic with a heavy flipping weight—like those from Tru-Tungsten or Penetrater. The presentation is a lot more streamlined, so it penetrates the mat and sinks much more easily than a jig.
Another reason I opt for the simple craw is that you’d have to use a much larger jig to punch through the same amount of vegetation. Giant jigs are available, of course, and they attract bigger bites at times.
But I believe that, even if you can get through the mat, you still have a fixed weight attached to the hook, and that makes it easier for the fish to throw the bait.—Shawn Grigsby
PONDERING THE POST-SPAWN
"I struggle to follow bass during their transition from the spawn through post-spawn on my home reservoir. How do I refine my search for fish, and what presentations are best when I find them?" - Member Jacob Dewhurst, Huntsville, Alabama
I try to identify prime spawning areas at this time of year (usually the shallow, sun-baked ends of creek arms), then use a lake map to identify potential stopping points for bass moving into or out of these areas. As the water warms into the 70s, key on any bend or turn in the creek or river channel, brushy flats, stumps and rock slides, especially if the associated structure is connected or close to the bank. Any point, including a main lake point, that juts out toward the channel is a prime spot.
Timing is another factor to keep in mind. You can typically rely on bass in most reservoirs to spawn in the first-to-warm upper reaches of the lake, followed by the mid-lake region and then by the deeper, cooler, lower reaches. That means you may be dealing with bass at various stages of the spawn even when fishing the same lake.
As for presentations, I’m a fan of topwaters this time of year.—Steve Pennaz