March Madness: Some tips to help anglers capitalize when the big bite comes

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Matt Williams

NCAA basketball fans aren’t the only ones getting a good dose of March Madness these days. My guess is Texas bass anglers are just as stoked about their chances of making big points with a monster largemouth. Those who aren’t should be.

March marks the arrival of spring in Texas. As a result, armies of heavyweight bass with spawning on their minds are beckoned towards the sun-baked shallows, thus making themselves more vulnerable to getting caught than at any other time of the year.

More big bass are caught during the month of March on Texas bass lakes than any other month, or at least that is what Toyota ShareLunker records indicate. Since 1986, 234 of the program’s 549 entries have been caught during March. February is the only other month that comes remotely close with 127 entries, followed by April with 86.

Ripe as conditions are for catching a big bass in Texas during spring, closing the deal is hardly a slam dunk. For every springtime lunker that is caught, several others are probably lost because something doesn’t go just right out there on the water.

Here are five tips that will help improve your chances of connecting with a career bass and sealing the deal when the big bite comes:

LAKES WITH A REP: To catch a big bass, you have to fish where they live. Naturally, some lakes have better reputations for producing the big bite more frequently than others.
In Texas, more than 60 public and more than nearly two dozen private lakes have combined to produce more than 550 ShareLunkers. At last count Lake Fork was responsible for 254 of those fish, followed by lakes Alan Henry and O.H. Ivie with 25 each, Sam Rayurn (23) and Falcon (20).

If I had one day to catch an eight-pound bass and my life depended on it, Fork would probably be my first choice, but not by far. Lake Falcon also has rich history of kicking out numbers of big bass. Some other good choices include Toledo Bend, Sam Rayburn, Pinkston, Nacogdoches and Naconiche.

GEARED FOR THE OCCASION: Going fishing for big bass with gear that isn’t sufficient tackling the job is risky business. Make sure your reels are spools are filled with a premium line with a breaking strength of 17-20 pound test. A stronger braided line might be a better choice for muscling large fish out of bushes, brush and other abrasive habitat.
Use stout hooks and a rod with a medium, medium/heavy or heavy action. A rod with too much flex can spell trouble, because it could allow a big bass to get the edge, particularly in areas with heavy cover.

STEALTH IS BEST:  A big bass is no different than a big whitetail buck. It didn’t get get big by making stupid mistakes. Heavyweight bass are inherently spooky, so it is always a good idea do be as stealthy as possible to avoid alarming them.

Among other things, this means:
– Keeping the trolling motor prop out of the mud and brush.
– Avoid banging stuff carelessly about the boat.
– If you are fishing at night, don’t shine lights across the water ahead of the boat in the same direction you are fishing.

WATER TEMPS and MOON PHASE: Certain areas are prone to attract spawning fish sooner than others. Coves and isolated pockets that are protected from chilly north winds and get plenty of warm sunshine are always a good bet, because water temperatures there will warm faster than in unprotected areas.
Shorelines with rock, concrete or wood also can be good. All three absorb heat and displace it, which can result in water temps a few degrees warmer than surrounding areas.

Many anglers assume that all the bass in lake will move shallow to spawn at exactly the same time. This is false. Bass spawn in “waves,” usually after water temperatures stabilize around 60 degrees.

In Texas, the madness tends to be the wildest in coincidence with full moon phases in February, March and April.

WHEN YOU CAN SEE THEM:  Bedding activity often takes place at depths shallow enough that fish can be seen hovering over the spawning nest when water clarity allows. A good pair of polarized sunglasses are a big asset when “sight fishing” for bass, because they reduce sun glare and make it much easier to see the fish and how it reacts to the bait.

Sight fishing for spawning bass can be tricky, mainly because they can be extremely spooky. The easiest fish to catch off beds are often those that are unaware of your presence. If you spot a fish that is reluctant to bite, make a mental note of the location and return an hour or so later. Position the boat just close enough that you can reach the sweet spot with a long cast. Be ready to set the hook quickly if the fish takes the bait.

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