Anyone serious about fishing knows each season brings unique challenges. But only the best will take advantage of new opportunities this spring as waters warm and the spawning season kicks into high gear.
As mainstays of the Bassmaster Elite Series tournament circuit, Rapala pro-staffers Ott DeFoe, Bernie Schultz and Mike “Ike” Iaconelli know what it takes to land monster fish year-round. Now, the trio has joined forces to unveil their tips to help anglers make the most out of the spring fishing season and catch more bass than ever before.
DeFoe’s Go-to Spring Bait
For DeFoe, 2011 Bassmaster Rookie of the Year, spring means you’ll find him fishing the shallows, throwing Terminator T-1 Original Titanium Spinnerbaits, a bait that helped him catch his biggest five-bass tournament limit to date — 30 pounds, 15 ounces — on Texas’ Lake Falcon in 2013.
“This time of year, fish are more than likely going to be moving into the shallows near some type of cover off of points, and there’s no better tool for targeting these areas than spinnerbaits,” said DeFoe. “I almost always have a T-1 tied on during the spring. The key is to make sure you fish them at the right pace.”
Coming out of the colder months, a fish’s metabolism will still be slow, which means a moderate pace is best for triggering strikes, explained DeFoe.
“If you’re working spinnerbaits, take your time and don’t burn them,” advised DeFoe. “Try slowly rolling the bait around trees and rocks, making light contact. Keep it moving steady, and don’t linger in one area too long. I usually make one or two casts to a piece of cover, then go on to the next one to cover more water.”
In terms of presentation, he recommends a 1/2-ounce Terminator T-1 Spinnerbait with a small, silver Colorado blade to add a little extra thump to the bait. Choose a skirt in a color pattern that matches the local baitfish, and the fish won’t know what hit them.
Schultz’s Secret for Fishing the Grass
All the greats know that, when it comes to spring fishing, location is everything. In fact, it’s often the difference between a successful day on the water and going home empty-handed.
Schultz, an eight-time Bassmaster Classic participant, honed his skills fishing the grass-heavy lakes in his home state of Florida. However, he’s a firm believer that the Sunshine State isn’t the only place where anglers can find monster fish lurking in the green stuff.
“If you’re looking for the perfect spring bass spot, it doesn’t get much better than finding a thick grass bed near a busy spawning area,” said Schultz. “You can typically find fish gathered in shallow pockets with easy access to sunlight, where they’ll stage in or above the vegetation.”
Schultz recommends casting lipless crankbaits like the Rapala Rippin’ Rap or Clackin’ Rap into the grass and ripping them out to trigger reactive bites.
“The key with these lures is to make irregular contact with strands of grass and then rip the bait free,” Schultz explained. “When you snag a strand for just a moment, that slight pause, combined with the lures’ loud rattle, are sure to grab fish’s attention.”
Practice Patience in Cold Waters
Although novice anglers may look for the hot new spring fishing tactic each year, the best strategy is to not over-think things. By the peak of the season, the urge for fish to spawn will be irresistible, meaning anglers can usually turn to a tried-and-true approach that has produced for them in the past.
However, according to Schultz, in rare cases when the water is still very cold following a harsh winter — like the most recent one — anglers need to adjust their mindset more than their bait selection to find elusive lunkers.
“Patience is absolutely a virtue with cold-water fishing. To have success, you need to work slow and take time to detail where fish are settling in. Non-reflective jerkbaits will be some of the best tools in your tacklebox,” said Schultz. “The Rapala X-Rap or new Scattter Rap Minnow are two of my favorite lures for frigid days on the water. No matter which technique you use, you’ve got to be thorough and deliberate. The fish are there. You just need to make them bite!”
How Ike Finds Finicky Fish
Iaconelli, 2006 Bass Angler of the Year and 2003 Bassmaster Classic Champion, also said spring is one of his favorite seasons for catching trophy bass. But as anglers look to spend more time outdoors after a long winter, the season can also bring the year’s most crowded waters.
According to Iaconelli, anglers can set themselves apart from the crowd by targeting fish on cover and structure that is not visible to the naked eye. Using a depth finder, Iaconelli locates hard-to-find cover and subtle depth changes, then ties on baits that he can use to feel along the bottom, like the quick-diving cranks from the Rapala DT (Dives-To) Series.
“I also like to use more finesse presentations in the springtime,” Iaconelli said. “Sometimes, baits with an in-your-face action don’t do the trick. If the fish just don’t seem to be interested, it’s time for a change. That’s when I switch to a silent, tight-crankin’ lure like the Rapala Shad Rap to offer up what looks like an easier meal for finicky fish.”
With these tips from some of the world’s most successful pro bass anglers, even the most inexperienced anglers can fish like the pros this spring. For more helpful tips for on-the-water success, connect with Rapala online at www.Facebook.com/RapalaUSA.