Across the Carolinas, March is the best month, in my opinion, to catch a trophy largemouth bass. I know you can catch one in January, February or April, but everything points to having your best chance this month.

Our March days can be very, very different, depending on the weather and water temperature. The days are getting longer, but that doesn’t matter as much as water temperature, and it can be from one extreme to the other. By the last part of the month, it’s usually starting to warm up pretty good.

That said, when I head out on Lake Murray, my home lake, or on any other lake in the Carolinas this month, I am absolutely going to have a handful of rods on the front deck of my Phoenix bass boat, with the best March baits I can possibly tie on. Here they are:

Jerkbaits 

Jerkbaits really work better when the water is colder, so they’re great in early March, when we’re subject to have water temperatures in the high 40s and low 50s. Fish can be lethargic, and a jerkbait will suspend in front of them.

I’m fishing a Rapala Rip Stop, which can get down to about 6 or 7 feet. I’ll fish it on a 6-foot-7, Lew’s Speed Stick jerkbait rod and a Lew’s Super Duty baitcasting reel spooled with 10-pound fluorocarbon. I like to fish shad and herring colors.

I am looking for situations when I can see bait and bass suspended on my depth finder. A perfect situation is when we’ve had a few warm days in late February, maybe a week, and then we get a cold front and the water temperature drops back down. That’s when I love a jerkbait. The fish have moved up, and they’re so far along toward the spring that they won’t go back down, but they’ll move off cover and structure and suspend. That’s when you catch ‘em on a jerkbait.

The cadence you fish a jerkbait is very important. When the water temperature is in the high 40s, I’ll slow down, but I’ll mix it up. I’ll start with a jerk-jerk-pause-jerk-jerk-pause cadence, at different speeds. If I see bait and fish on my Humminbird and I’m not catching anything after 15 minutes, I’m going to change something up.

Crankbaits

I love fishing jerkbaits, but if I had to choose my Nos. 1 and 2 baits for March, they’re going to be crankbaits. I love to fish a No. 7 Shad Rap, and a Rapala DT-6 or DT-10, depending on how deep the fish are.

Crankbaits come into play when I see fish relating to the bottom or to some kind of cover or structure on the bottom — as opposed to fishing a jerkbait when fish are suspended. I love that I can cover a lot of water with a crankbait and use it as a search bait. 

Every bass fisherman in the country has at least one Shad Rap in their tackle boxes. It’s the best cold-water crankbait ever. If the water temperature is in the mid-40s, the high 40s or the low 50s, that’s what I’m going to be throwing. If the water temperature is in the mid-50s or higher 50s, I’m going to be throwing a DT-6 or DT-10.

I want to use crawfish colors: reds, browns, oranges. I want to look for wood, rock or even grass. This time of year, you may have some hydrilla, but you’re more likely to have some kind of stubble left from vegetation that’s gone dormant in the winter.

I want to fish these crankbaits on a 7-foot, Lew’s David Fritts Perfect Crankbait Rod and a Lew’s BB1 baitcasting reel spooled with 10- to 12-pound fluorocarbon. If I was fishing a stiffer rod, or a rod with a faster action, I’d use monofilament.

Mop jig

I will fish a Buckeye mop jig anytime during March, depending on the cover and what bass are doing.

I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but I’m adamant about this: a mop jig is a great, big-fish bait. Anywhere I’m fishing, I’ve got to throw it two or three times just to keep the big fish honest.

What I’m looking at is fishing it around targets that I might see: maybe a dock post with brush, blowdowns, stumps. Obviously, I’m going to throw it anywhere I catch a few fish on a jerkbait or a crankbait. 

One important thing is, look for crawfish. In late fall and winter, you’ll see more crawfish around the banks of most of our lakes, because the water is usually down and very clear. I’ve heard more people tell me about the big crawfish they’ve seen on Lake Murray this winter. What you’re looking for is the color of the crawfish. They can be different colors at different times of the year — and on different bodies of water.

I want to match the color of the crawfish I see, whether they’re brown or black with red spots — that’s a big one — or any other color. I’m going to fish a mop jig with a crawfish trailer, a Yamamoto Flappin’ Hawg. 

I’ll fish a mop jig on a 7-foot, Lew’s Magnum Pitching Rod, the Super Duty reel and 14- to 17-pound fluorocarbon.

So when you hit the lake this month, make sure these baits are tied on, so you can get the most out of your March trips. 

We got the beat:

Cadence is extremely important when you’re fishing a jerkbait like a Rapala Rip Stop (above) for late-winter largemouth bass that are suspended around suspended bait. Choose one cadence to start with — jerk-jerk-pause — is a favorite, but experiment, especially if you’re not getting bit when you see fish on your depthfinder. Slow down, speed up, go to a different cadence, by try something else.