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Warmer weather is prompting big bass to feed throughout the region prior to the spawn, offering local anglers an excellent opportunity to tangle with Bassmasters' quality fish in the coming days.
By Chris Prozor
The author shows off a 6-pound largemouth caught in recent days while on a father-son trip to a local reservoir searching for pre-spawn lunkers.

The warm weather we are finally starting to enjoy throughout the region has been great, and we are not the only ones enjoying it as largemouth bass are actively feeding again.

As spring-like weather brings water temperatures up, it gives bass the indication that spawning season is close at hand. Largemouth bass will feed up on all the forage that any body of water you’re fishing provides, and they are going after the bigger meals.

I was out at a local reservoir recently seeing if could pull out a bass or two, starting out using a smaller size hair jig because it is my go to lure in most situations. I have caught many different species on hair jigs, and they have been proven to produce fish. Anyway, the few bass I was able to pull out were small, but very useful because I noticed red, “beat-up” looking lips which told me they were feeding near the bottom.

The lake you might be fishing might not have fish feeding off the bottom, so pay attention to their tiny little teeth as well; when a bass has larger teeth than usual, it indicates that they are feeding on baitfish. It is always a good idea to pay attention to the fish you catch so that you can make a game-changing choice to further your success.

Realizing these fish were feeding near bottom, I dug through my bag looking for a bottom bait. Picking out a plastic called a Hula-Grub, pretty much a double-tailed grub with a skirt at the base of the lure; it was not something I use too often. I was using this for a while with just a simple Texas rig, weighed, without much success. My father, on the other hand, was using the same rig, but he had a bead between the bait and the weight. This caused a subtle clicking noise every time he jigged it. After a couple casts and a few twitches, my father hooked into a nice late winter largemouth. I still didn’t think much of the bead until he hooked into two more bass in the next 10 minutes, even though they were small, they were still convincing.

I then went back to my tackle box and added a bead to my rig. About 15 casts in while jigging, I felt dead weight, and I didn’t set the hook because it could have been some sort of structure. I lowered my rod, and saw the line shoot to the side, which is when I set the hook. At first the fish was not budging, it was just holding me down. I eventually tired it out, and it got close to shore. As soon as I lipped it, I immediately knew it was a giant largemouth. It measured 23 inches, and weighed a bit over 6 pounds.

We were targeting shallower water because we figured that the fish would be there, taking advantage of the warmer weather. The lake we were fishing had a large underwater point with a nice drop-off; most lakes have target areas similar to a point. We cast as close to the point as possible making slight, 2- to 3-inch twitches to bring it into the “deeper” water. After a series of the slight twitches, we let the bait sit up to five seconds because bass will sometimes eat things off the bottom after seeing them move a bit.

I was rocking a 7-foot, medium-heavy spinning rod which was spooled up with 10-pound test fluorocarbon (I like the extra clarity). When fishing a Texas rig, I don’t usually peg the weight, unless I am flipping, because the weight will slide not giving the fish the opportunity to spit it out as easily. The bait that we were using looks very similar to a black and blue jig in the water, so if you have some of those give them a shot, maybe add some small rattles, they should work just as well.

Again, sometimes the bass are keyed on baitfish instead of things on the bottom, and this is where crankbaits, and jerkbaits shine. Crankbaits are especially useful when trying to cover water. If you are fishing an area with a lot of stumps and rocks, use a square-bill, and every time you bump into something let it pause and float up. The bass will often take it after hitting something. Lipless crankbaits are also good for covering water, but I prefer a squarebill around structure.

If you aren’t able to hook up at first to determine how they are feeding, it’s smart to assume that in dingy water they are eating off the bottom, and in clearer water where baitfish may be present they’re probably on that forage. Just use that knowledge to match the hatch as much as possible, and hook into some big largemouth bass as they’re actively feeding before the annual spawn.