A lot of people love to fish in April, and it’s easy to understand why. The weather has warmed up and settled, it’s a joy to spend a day on the water when it’s that pretty — and the fish will be biting.
February and March are probably are best big-fish months in South Carolina, so hopefully, you’ve already caught your really big fish for the year. But April is still a good time to catch quality fish, plus, you can catch big numbers of fish, and they’ll be in shallow water. And if the cold winter we’ve had extends well into March, we could have a lot of those big, big bass still around for the taking.
The reason all these bass are shallow is that on most of our lakes across South Carolina, it’s spawning time. On most lakes, the majority of fish will spawn in early April, depending when we get a new moon or a full moon. You’ll get the first spawners in late March on many lakes, so you can safely say that most of the fish you’ll catch in April will either be spawning or have already spawned. You can go all the way up a lake to the next day and find cold-enough water that there will be some prespawn bass up there, but not nearly the numbers.
So that’s why I’m almost always fishing down a bank this month. Bass are going to be as shallow as they’ll be all year.
One of the things I really love about catching bass in April is that it’s a good topwater month. I love to catch fish on a topwater bait; I love the explosion and the splash when they hit; I even fish topwaters a lot during tournaments. And when April comes, it’s been since October or November that I’ve had a topwater bite, so I’m really ready for it to happen. Topwaters and soft-plastic baits are my go-to baits.
I’ll start with a topwater bait, and I love to fish popping-type baits. My favorite now is a Rapala X-Rap Pop, a bait with a cupped face and two treble hooks. You’ve got some fish still spawning, driving intruders away from the bed, and the post-spawn bass that are guarding beds can be really aggressive, so a topwater bait will drive them nuts.
What I like to do is cast the bait, let it sit, the pop it, let it sit, pop it, let it sit — until I’ve got it out of what I consider the strike zone. I think both the popping action and the time you leave the bait still will cause a bass to strike, whether you’re fishing Lake Murray, Lake Greenwood or a farm pond.
You can cover a lot of ground fishing this bait, because the strike zone is usually limited to the first couple of feet off the bank. Bass will move a pretty good ways to hit a topwater bait at other times, but when they’re guarding fry or sitting on the bed, they just want that intruder out of the immediate area.
If the topwater bait isn’t working, I’m going to a soft-plastic. They come in all shapes and sizes, and if you drop one of them down in a bed or close to it, it’s going to get the attention of any fish that’s close by. In these situations, I’m fishing a Trigger-X Flutter Worm, a straight worm that’s a little heavier than a normal floating worm, because it’s all about the fall.
I’ll fish a Flutter Worm weightless, Texas-rigged on a 4/0 VMC offset worm hook. The hook and the worm are heavy enough to allow me to fish it on a baitcaster, although a lot of fishermen prefer spinning tackle. What I’ll do is cast the bait at a target, let it settle and sink. You’ll get most of your strikes while it’s fluttering down. If I don’t get a hit on the drop, I’ll reel it up quickly and fish it real fast just below the surface, where I can see it, like a floating worm. Then, when I get to the next piece of cover — whether it’s a pier post, a stump, even a hole in lily pads in a pond — I’ll stop it and let it drop again.
Both of these baits can be really effective for catching good numbers of bass, and quality fish that may still be shallow. You just have to recognize places that might be holding bass. This may sound simple, but if it looks fishy, cast a bait to it.
Although these baits work the same way, I fish them on slightly different tackle. The X-Rap Pop, I’ll fish on a 6-foot-6, medium-action All-Star baitcasting rod with a Pfleuger Patriarch reel spooled with 14-pound Trilene XT mono. I’ll fish the Flutter Worm on a 6-foot-6, medium-heavy All-Star rod with the same reel, but spooled with 15-pound Trilene 100-Percent Fluorocarbon. Even though the Flutter Worm is lighter, I’ll use a slightly stiffer rod because I need the hooksetting power. I can fight fish that hit the popping bait with a little-bit softer rod because I’ve got the treble hooks.
Either way, catching a bass out of a foot of water on a topwater bait or a Flutter Worm is a blast. It’s one of the reasons that I love fishing in April. If the bass are biting, the turkeys around my home won’t have much to worry about this month.