To attract strikes, some lures, such as jigs and surface baits, require the angler to impart action to them with the rod. Other lures, such as spinnerbaits and lipless or square-bill crankbaits, have built-in action; cast them out and wind them back in. Certain topwater baits, such as Arbogast Jitterbugs and River2Sea Whopper Ploppers, also require no manipulation beyond a steady retrieve. The theory is that, like a cat that sees a mouse running by and pounces on it whether it’s hungry or not, bass will react the same way sometimes when a lure swims by.
Natural shapes that mimic shad and crawfish, and colors, such as pumpkinseed and watermelon, are popular throughout spring, but when sight-feeding smallmouths are targeted in the clear waters of northern lakes, crankbaits in wild colors such as hot pink, chartreuse and hot orange are productive.
In a manner of speaking, there are three bass seasons in the spring— prespawn, spawn and postspawn—and they overlap somewhat in terms of the best lures to use and where to fish.
Prespawn: Concentrate on mid-depth to shallow water. Bass might be positioned at the mouth of spawning coves, a third of the way in or halfway – it depends on the water temperature. Be sure to fish around and under docks thoroughly and use lipless crankbaits, square-bill crankbaits, suspending jerkbaits, spinnerbaits and soft-plastic swimbaits that mimic minnows.
Spawn: Look in shallow coves on the north side of a lake that gets afternoon sun, or anywhere there’s not a lot of bank shade. Scattered aquatic vegetation, submerged horizontal trees and brush and woody bank cover are bass magnets. Try unweighted plastic lizards and worms, jigs that imitate crawfish, buzzbaits and topwater lures.
Postspawn: Bass will stay close to shorelines or in intermediate depths, depending on their food sources. Find pockets where bluegills are spawning, and ravenous bass will be close by. If threadfin shad are present, look for bass around spawning shad schools at daybreak. Otherwise, fish secondary drop-offs near the banks, bridge pilings and shoreline riprap, submerged points and docks. Spinnerbaits, topwater lures, jerkbaits, buzzbaits, topwater propbaits, mid-depth square-bill crankbaits and a variety of soft plastics will produce now.