It’s the million-dollar, age-old fishing question: “What are they biting on?”
The great answer for bass anglers across Texas: “Whatever you’ve got on the end of your line.”
The spring spawn, when large females move into the shallows to spawn and smaller males stand vigilant over the nest, is prime time for anglers to be on the water, and the most notable aspect of this period is that largemouths and their spotted cousins will hit just about anything that crosses their path.
There are hundreds of varying lures and techniques for catching big bass this time of year, and in reality, there really is no one single lure that stands out head and shoulders above the rest. All you have to do is inspect the entries in the Toyota ShareLunker program, which runs Oct. 1 to April 30 annually, and uses fish exceeding 13 pounds in a selective breeding program while highlighting the everyman anglers who haul in these massive fish.
Here’s a breakdown of what artificial lures those bass hit, if the angler disclosed it, during the current season: Panfish Assassin (small bait used by a crappie angler); Norman DD-22 (deep-diving crankbait); jig and craw tandem; Alabama rig (umbrella setup of multiple lures); Zoom Speed Craw; swimbait; spinner bait; and of course, a plastic worm.
Based on the largemouth’s unrestrained feeding habits and its predictable locale from now through early summer, even someone without a professional angler’s skill set can find behemoth fish on many bodies of water, and most notably, by using lures they likely already have in their tackle box.
The most positive thing to know about technique this time of year is that fish loafing in the shallows near beds will attack almost any intruder. They may just be trying to keep that phantom from getting close to their eggs, but they will strike the same as if they’re trying to pack on some calories.
While bass of all varieties tend to move shallower in the spring, they don’t lose their wits: there remain some that will be easy to catch, others that will be impossible to hook and many more that make you want to scratch your head in disbelief. In the instances involving the latter, sometimes it doesn’t matter what you throw, the fish simply aren’t interested.
This time of year typically is geared toward artificials of all shapes and sizes, but that doesn’t mean anglers shouldn’t consider staying lively. Considering that the 18.18-pound state record largemouth from Lake Fork was caught by a crappie angler dipping minnows, and an angler targeting crappie hauled in a 13-pounder this year, maybe it’s not a bad idea to fish with some of the real thing every once in a while.
Among the most-used baits for ShareLunkers during previous seasons might surprise you, but it really shouldn’t, especially considering it’s a staple of the hefty largemouth’s diet. A live sunfish was responsible for multiple entries into the program, all from West Texas lunker lair O.H. Ivie Reservoir. Another live offering, the waterdog, which is the larval form of the tiger salamander, was responsible for another ShareLunker entry.
It’s clear that being on the water this time of year is the most vital aspect of bass fishing success. It’s also undoubtedly obvious that almost anything you throw into the water could come back a winner, with the biggest bass of your life at the other end.