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Early Season Equals Cold Bass

By Brian Athern - March 1, 2001
As I continued retrieving the #1 sized Vibrax, the bait's motion was disrupted by a mean THUMP! I jerked back on my light action spinning combo to find a pretty angry bass attached to my lure. I allowed him to wear himself out by peeling line from my ultralight Gold Max unit. The 13 inch combatant didn't pose a real threat to my 4# test but he got an "A" for effort. After lipping the vermin, I unhooked the plain nickel in-line from his jaw and sent him on his way.

This month could prove to be a character builder or ego booster depending on the stability of our weather. If you've ever heard the old "If you don't like the weather in Chicago, wait a day and it'll change!" line, you know exactly what I mean. Fortunately for the brave at heart, there's the beginning of chasing largemouth bass again. With a few techniques to throw at them, we hope to improve your catch soon!

From about mid-March through April's end, I've found success with two combinations that seem to consistently take bass. First the slip float rig and Mini Mite (or new Big Mini-Mite), with or without adding live bait. Secondly, the age old in-line spinner. Both seem to have what bass are looking for early into your fishing season.

With the slip float and Mini Mite rig, I can work specific cover and structure like break lines while "dabbling" an interesting offer at the end of Mr. Bass' snoot. Dabbling is what I refer to my fishing buddy, Ed's method of working the rod tip and float to swim an inactive jig. He seems to attract twice as many hits, even from panfish, as I do using this ploy. Good colors to experiment with are white, chartruse, orange, shad sparkle, red, blue, chartruse/metal flake, and glow in stained waters and while fishing in low-light situations.

By adding live bait to the original Mini Mite set up, it adds that icing on the cake. Not many bass can pass up a fathead minnow that's frantically swimming with his chartruse/white body partner. That's my spring sleeper rig for cold front bass that may have experienced a dip in temperatures that put the lock in lockjaw. The trick is to use the smallest Thill Float you can get away with. This aids in the fish's ability to pull the rig under. Stealth is key, along with a longer, light to medium/light action rod. I prefer a 6 - 6 ½ foot, soft tipped rod that allows you to sweep a hook set much like a walleye angler would. I also spool my Abu Garcia Ultra Cast reels with 4-6# mono or 6/2 or 8/3 Fireline for this "finesse presentation". It's basically an upgraded panfish presentation geared towards spring bass.

The next lure, although a true classic, eludes many anglers' tackle assortments. I have to ask the question - WHY? This time tested favorite catches fish from Florida to Maine and Seattle to Arizona. The in-line spinner should be rated very high early in the season because of its flashy, fish calling ability. The beauty is you control the lure's effectiveness by changing your retrieve speed or switching to a lighter, or heavier model. That's it!

I've always said I'm not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I do my share of cutting. The use of the in-line spinner is the same. You don't have to own a $25,000 bass boat or fish for money to reap the benefits from enjoying good catches of bass on them. There are several good makes of in-lines including South Bend's "Lunker" Spins, Blue Fox's Vibrax and Minnow Spin, Mepps Comet and Fury, Worden's Rooster Tail, and Eesti Lures, sizes 0-3 up to 1 / 4 ounce or so. The one word of caution is do not, under any circumstances, use these baits without the aid of a quality ball bearing snap swivel! Line twist is a mess, but not until 20 or so casts after it starts.

Several good patterns and colors include, plain nickel, chrome, gold, rainbow, white, red/white, blue, black, brown, firetiger, orange, chartruse, lime, yellow, shad, and firetiger. The basic colors are tried and true and should produce bass on warmer or sunny days. The rule of thumb is gold in stained water and nickel or chrome in clear. Painted blades shouldn't be avoided either. Remember that the rule is just a reference point, as I have seen first hand where chrome will produce in stained waters and gold very well in gin clear strip pits lakes.

Now that I've spilled the beans on my "magic lures" for cold spring bass, please remember to practice CPR (Catch-Photo-Release) on your favorite waters, as well as mine. Pick up the chatruse jig head/white body original Mini Mite for cold water, frontal spring bass and work the wind for a deadly drift presentation (darn another insider secret!). Blow the dust off those in-lines and work them on warmer and sunnier days and just enjoy your time well spent in the great outdoors!

Good Fishing!

Author Brian Athern
Brian Athern
Brian J. Athern is a Field Editor with MidWest Outdoors Magazine, Fishing Facts Magazine and has also worked with the former If you have any questions or comments regarding this article you can email Brian at [email protected]
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