Everybody who knows me knows how much I love to catch big bass on a Mop Jig, but I usually start my day with a crankbait rod in my hand. With bass moving up and staging to feed and look for places to spawn, I want to be covering a lot of water and looking for groups of fish. With the water temperature rising and bass getting more aggressive, you're more likely to catch them on a bait that's moving, a bait that you wind – like a crankbait or a spinnerbait.
If the water is real dirty, I'll cover water with a spinnerbait as my search bait, but if it's clear or stained, I'll go with a crankbait, because I think the bass will feed a little deeper in clear water. I think bass stage in little schools or groups, and if you can find one of those little groups, you get really get well in a hurry.
In March, I think bass are concentrating more on crawdads than shad, so I like to fish crankbaits in crawfish colors: red, brown or orange. I always like a little bit of chartreuse on all my crankbaits, but I'm going away from shad colors. Because I'm not really fishing them real deep like I will in the summer, I'm not going to fish them on a really long crankbait rod. I'll probably fish crankbaits on a 6-foot-6 or maybe a 7-foot, medium-action All-Star rod, with a Pfleuger Patriarch reel spooled with 10- or 12-pound Trilene 100 Percent Fluorocarbon. I like the fluorocarbon because it's so sensitive, and it's also heavy and will help get a crankbait down.
People who have trouble catching fish on a crankbait, the one mistake I see them making most of the time is not getting that bait to the bottom. Those bass are staging on the bottom where the crawdads are, and it's real, real important to keep that bait right down there with them.
I fish Rapala's DT series crankbaits, and they just about tell me how deep to fish. If the weather's been warm and I think they're closer to spawning, I'll fish five or six feet deep, using a DT-6. If it hasn't been as warm and I think they've just moved up, I might fish eight or 10 feet deep with a DT-10, or maybe if they're a little deeper a DT-14. If we're in a cold spell and I think the bass may not be as aggressive as I'd like, I'll tie on a Shad Rap. I think the difference in the bait's action can make a difference.
When I start out looking for bass, I'll fish main-lake points with pretty good, steep drops, if we've had a cold winter and I don't think they're that far along toward the spawn. If we're having a warm March, I'll look on more sloping, tapering points in the creeks. These are the kinds of places bass will stage. And if they're up there feeding, they'll be around some kind of cover – a stump, a rock, a brush pile – because they always want to be around something that they can use as kind of an ambush point.
The key is finding them, getting one or two of them to bite. Since they're usually aggressive, if you can get a crankbait near one of them, he's going to bite it. When you catch that one fish, you want to stay and make a dozen more casts around that same area, because there's usually a bunch of them there. If you catch one or two more on a crankbait, that's when I'll slow down and pick up a Mop Jig or a Carolina rig and fish the area out very carefully, trying to get as many bites as I can. In March, you can catch a good limit of fish in one general area if you find them biting.
So tie on a couple of crankbaits and get set to make a lot of casts, but it only takes one to get you in the right place, and you can wind up having a really great day on the water.