If you’re a largemouth nut, you’re not waiting for the weather to turn balmy before hitting water. You’re out there right now, as early in the spring as possible, with a jacket and gloves if necessary. You know to head for the warmest parts of the lake, the north end and the stained water. And you know that big pre-spawners will be staging along those first steep drop-offs not far from the flats where they’ll eventually spawn.
But do you know exactly what bait you’re going to tie on, and how you’re going to fish it? Well, the bass nuts below do, and they can help you make the best choice—and catch more largemouths, right now. We asked 10 B.A.S.S. and Major League Fishing pros to pick the best bass lures for early spring fishing. Here are their go-to baits and how they fish them.
1. Double Colorado Blade Spinnerbait with Zoom Split Tail Trailer
The Pro: Wes Logan, Alabama-based Bassmaster Elite Series Angler
Why it’s his favorite: I like a Spinnerbait during this time of year because it allows me to fish around almost any type of cover at a variety of depth ranges. If I want to fish it in a foot of water I can; if I want to fish it in 8 feet of water I can.
How he fishes it: This time of year, I just about always want to be throwing a spinnerbait near some type of structure on the bank, whether it’s rocks, wood, or grass—whatever is available for a largemouth to pull up onto before going to spawn. I like to use a LEWS Custom Pro 6.8:1 reel, which allows me to slow my retrieve down or speed it up. I use in an ARK Rods Invoker Pro 7′3 Mag Medium Heavy that allows me to make precise casts with enough tip but also plenty of backbone to get the fish out of any type of cover. From early spring into the middle of spring, the best place to throw a spinnerbait 90 percent of the time is to cover near spawning pockets or bays where the fish are coming to you to begin their spawning process.
2. Googan Baits Bandito Bug
The Pro: Skylar Hamilton, Tennessee-based Bassmaster Elite Series Angler
Why it’s his favorite: I love the Bandito Bug because it’s a highly versatile bait during the spring. I can fish it in lots of different ways.
How he fishes it: My go-to presentation in the spring is to fish the bait on a Texas Rig with a ¼-ounce Angler Tungsten weight and Hayabusa 5/0 FPP Flipping Hook. I pitch the rig around docks and any shallow cover. The Bug also works great as a jig trailer and on a Carolina Rig. Most bites will come on the initial fall when fishing cover. I generally pitch to a piece of cover, hop it a few times, and then make another pitch—slowly but still covering water.
3. IMA Pinjack 200 Crankbait
The Pro: Paul Mueller, Connecticut-based Bassmaster Elite Series Angler
Why it’s his favorite: This crankbait will run 4 to 7 feet deep and is great for covering water and catching some of the largest pre-spawn females in the lake. My favorite color is called sungranny, which imitates a yellow perch.
How he fishes it: I fish it on a Dobyns champion 764 crankbait rod, 6.4:1 Lews BB1 pro reel, and 10-pound gamma edge fluorocarbon. I look for rock-to-grass transition areas in that 4 to 8 feet deep zone, where largemouths are staging to spawn, and I am usually paralleling the bank unless it’s a major flat that I’m fishing. The key is making bottom contact with the bait and altering your retrieve speed to trigger reaction bites.
4. Swim Jig with Googan Baits Krackin Craw
The Pro: Dustin Connell, Alabama-based Major League Fishing Angler
Why it’s his favorite: A swim jig is so versatile. I usually fish it around grass, but it’s also great to use around wood, stumps, and cypress trees. It allows me to cover water quickly, and it catches those giant pre-spawn brim-eaters.
How he fishes it: I use a ⅜-ounce black-and-blue swim jig paired with a Googan Baits Green Pumpkin Krackin Craw. As far as line, I go with 50-pound Seaguar braid, and my rod is a Favorite Summit 7′2″ medium-heavy. My favorite way to fish the swim jig is very slow around any cover—popping the rod up and down to imitate an injured brim.
5. Picasso Shock Blade Pro Bladed Jig
The Pro: Aaron Martens, Alabama-based Major League Fishing Angler
Why it’s his favorite: A ⅜-ounce bladed jig is ideal now, when you have a warming-weather pattern and water that’s stained or slightly dirty, with any kind of wind. The Shock Blade is most erratic action bladed jig bait on the market, and it gets larger pre-spawn fish to react.
How he fishes it: I use 20-pound FC Sniper fluorocarbon on a G. Loomis GLX 854C heavy, fast-action rod for the grass and medium, heavy-fast elsewhere, both on a high speed reel, the best being the Shimano Metanium XG. If the bite is slow, I got with a slow retrieve and let the jig get down into cover and bump stuff. If the bite is good, I use a faster retrieve. I like to let it fall and then rip it.
6. River2Sea S-Waver 168S
The Pro: Randy Pierson, California-based Bassmaster Elite Series Angler
Why It’s his favorite: I like the S-Waver because it catches big fish, and I can use it as a search bait, too. It gets a ton of followers, along with the fish that will eat it. Now, with the Lowrance ActiveTarget, I can see fish on my forward facing sonar, and this helps adjust my presentation. If I get followers and none are eating the bait, I’ll slow down and throw a Texas-rigged trick worm to catch those.
How he fishes it: I look for shallower points, docks, or trees leading into spawning pockets or bays. I cast directly to the visual targets and just do a slow retrieve back to the boat, pausing and twitching the bait at least twice during the retrieve. I like to cast across points in 5 to 10 feet of water, then let the bait sink to the bottom, and do the slow retrieve, pausing and twitching it at least twice.
7 and 8. Bill Lewis Original Rat-L-Trap
The Pros: Brock Mosley, Mississippi-based Bassmaster Elite Series Angler, and Boyd Duckett, Alabama-based Major League Fishing Angler
Why it’s Mosley’s favorite: A Ral-L-Trap works year round but really shines during the pre-spawn when fish are getting ready to move on to the beds.
Why it’s Duckett’s favorite: A Trap is extremely effective in cold water; I can cover tons of water quickly, and I can use it from 2 feet to 8 feet.
How Mosley fishes it: I throw it around grass, rocks, on flats, and through ditches and depressions. One of my favorite ways to fish it is called the yo-yo retrieve. I simply keep my line tight and work the rod from the 10 o’clock position to the 12 o’clock position, so the trap goes up and down.
How Duckett fishes it: I never just cast and retrieve a Trap in the late winter or early spring. Cast the bait, let it sink to the bottom, and slowly yo-yo it back. The bites will all come as the bait slowly falls on a tight line.
9. Optimum Baits Fred Roumbanis’ BoomBoom Swimbait
The Pro: Fred Roumbanis, Arkansas-based Major League Fishing Angler
Why it’s his favorite: Fishing my BoomBoom swimbait is an absolute blast, and I’ve caught some of my biggest bass doing it.
How he fishes it: I go to a swimbait as soon as water temps hit the mid 50s in the early spring. I rig it on a 958 ¼-ounce 7/0 HAYABUSA belly-weighted hook on 20-pound fluorocarbon. The key is having the right equipment; I use my signature 8-foot Swimbait rod by Dobyns rods and pair it with a 8:1 Hamarr Baitcaster by SixGill. I use this long rod for making extremely long casts in super shallow water, and the high-speed reel to pick up the line for best hook ups. In that skinny water, fish tend to bolt towards you, and you need every advantage you can when hooking them. There’s just nothing like throwing way back in no man’s land and watching bass “V” behind the bait before striking it. As far as colors, I usually go with something dark like Junebug in dirty water or under low-light conditions. I go with the Sexy Minnow color in clear water or sunny days.
10. Greenfish Tackle Skipping Jig with Zoom Super Chunk Jr.
The Pro: Casey Ashley, South Carolina-based Major League Fishing Angler
Why it’s his favorite: This skipping jig is my favorite for early-spring bass because it’s such a versatile bait. I can fish it deep or shallow.
How he fishes it: I usually throw this jig on 20-pound Hi-Seas fluorocarbon with a 7′4″ Quantum Smoke rod and a Quantum Smoke S3 7:3:1 reel.
In clear water, I’ll go with a Green Pumpkin Super Chunk Jr, and I’ll switch to throw Black and Blue in dirty water. If water temps are at 55 or below, I target deeper structure like rock, brush, and deeper docks. When the water warms to above 55, I target shallower cover like blowdowns, bushes, shallow docks, and shallow rock. I’ll even swim this jig if the opportunity comes.