I look forward to March like no other month on the calendar, and it has very little to do with college basketball tournaments. As a bass fisherman, it’s the month I wait for all year, because here in South Carolina, it’s the best time of the year to catch a big fish. You can catch the fish of your lifetime almost any time during March.
First off, the fish are prespawn. A few fish will spawn in March on many of our lakes, but the biggest part of the spawn is the first two weeks of April. So for most of March, bass are in a prespawn mode; they’re the biggest they’re going to get all year, the water is warming up, and they’re feeding aggressively. It’s a great opportunity to catch a big fish, and I’ll have my big-fish baits tied on: a crankbait and a Mop Jig.
You can catch big fish on a jig almost any month of the year, but it’s best in March, and I’ll use it a lot, but it’s not the first thing I’ll be throwing. I’ll start out with a crankbait as a search bait, while I’m looking for concentrations of fish that are staging. The bait I really like right now is the deep-diving version of Rapala’s Scatter Rap. Last year, all we had was the shallow version, but this year Rapala has one that will dive 10 to 12 feet. I can use that one to go out and catch prespawn fish on those places they like to stage: flats, humps, points — places that hold the last deep water before you go into a spawning pocket.
I’ll fish a Scatter Rap on a 7-foot, medium-action All-Star cranking rod, with a Pfleuger Patriarch reel spooled with 10-pound Trilene 100 Percent Fluorocarbon. I’m searching with this bait, making a lot of casts, trying to find an area that’s holding a lot of prespawn fish. The good thing about trying to find them is that typically, they’ll stage and spawn in the same places every spring. Where they go has more to do with the spawning area than it does following bait. There are some places where fish really have to struggle to get enough to eat, but our lakes in South Carolina have so many shad, blueback herring and bluegill that they’re plenty of forage. This is the only time of the year that bass aren’t totally concentrating on trying to relate to baitfish.
You can actually spend several weeks fishing for prespawn fish in different areas of the same reservoir, because not all bass will spawn at the exact same time. They go up in waves in different areas. I usually start on the lower end of, say, Lake Murray or Clarks Hill, in the eastern creeks, because they’ll warm up the earliest and the fish will spawn there first. I can fish those places, and when they really start to spawn in a week or so, I can move up the lake and target fish that are just getting into the prespawn. I’d much rather stay on prespawn fish, because they’re easier to catch than spawning fish, and because they tend to get grouped up on the places where they stage before doing in.
I’m searching with the Scatter Rap, and when I catch a fish, or especially if I get more than one bite, I can really slow down and fish an area out with a Mop Jig. The only time I’ll fish a jig when I’m really looking for fish is if I come to a piece of cover that I can’t fish with a crankbait, like a boat dock or a big laydown tree where I can’t cast back in the middle. Then, I’ll pick up a jig. But when I think I’ve found a concentration of fish, I’ll go to the jig.
If I’m on the lower end of a reservoir where the water is a little bit clearer, I might tie on a Mini Mop Jig, which is a little smaller. But if I’m fishing anywhere the water’s got a little color to it, I’ll be fishing the regular Mop Jig. I’ll use a Trigger-X Flappin Craw as a trailer. I just like to cast it out and crawl it back across the bottom — depending on the weather. We have days in March that are 20 degrees, and we have days that are 80 degrees. If it’s cold, I’ll just drag it on the bottom. If I can the temperature rising, I’ll make my retrieve a little more erratic.
About color. I’ve had biologists explain it to me, but all I really need to know is that bass really key on crawfish in March. Maybe they know they need to eat meals that are high in protein, so they start to concentrate on crawfish. Maybe it’s just because the crawfish have been down in the mud all winter and the bass haven’t had a chance to eat any. What I care about is that they will key on crawfish, so I want my crankbaits to be crawfish colors: oranges, yellows, reds and browns. When I’m fishing a Mop Jig, I’ll fish a green pumpkin or brown jig with a green pumpkin Flappin Craw, but I’ll put a little orange or chartreuse on the bottom and on the claws of the trailer with a Spike-It pen.
So there you have it. Get on the water, and get on it as much as possible this month. And it should help while you’re out there to know that at any time, that next cast may wind up right in front of the biggest bass you’ve ever hooked. I hope you get her in the boat.