March is a month when you take your whole tackle box with you to the lake, because you might catch a bass on just about anything in there: a crankbait, a jerkbait, a jig, a spinnerbait, a Chatterbait.

Of course, after the winter we've had, let's hope the ice is off the water.

Seriously, I think everybody knows that March is a prespawn month on almost every lake in North Carolina, and it's a month when you can catch a big fish. You just sort of need a little variety in the baits you use.

I concentrate on three baits: a Shad Rap, a jerkbait and a jig.

I think the No. 1 bait in March is a No. 7 Shad Rap in crawdad color, silver/black or shad. Throwing a little bait is hard, but if you can stand a No. 5, it's great, because it will catch a lot of fish. I've caught bigger fish on a No. 9 at Buggs Island and Gaston. But a No. 7 is probably the best.

One thing that really makes a Shad Rap good in March is that the fish are looking up, and you can fish a Shad Rap over deep water; they'll come up a long way to hit a bait. The other thing is, a Shad Rap has sort of a swimming action instead of a diving action. It's like a baitfish just gliding along. It sort of glides from side to side and has a little roll, and the fish love it.

My No. 2 bait would be a jerkbait like a Husky Jerk. That's a bait that has been around a long time, and it's still really good. I like to fish it in gold, chrome or shad/blue. If the water is cold, you have to fish it real slow - the same way with a Shad Rap - and you can. If you really need to fish it slowly and have it suspend for a while, you can wrap some lead wire around the shank of the middle hook. Again, the fish will be looking up when they hit it, and you want it right there. You don't want to move it out of their strike zone.

I'll get a jerkbait down a few feet, then I'll fish it by jerking it and letting it sit. It's a real hard bait for me to fish, because in cold water, you might jerk it three times and let it sit for 30 seconds. That's tough for me, but it will catch a lot of fish.

My No. 3 bait is a jig. Right now, I'm using a Fat Raz jig that a guy in Kernersville makes. I like to fish it with a Zoom Super Chunk, a Critter Craw or a Speed Craw, and I have gotten bigger bites on a split-tail eel, but they're hard to find. Sometimes, you can put a worm on the back of a jig and cut it way down, and it will get you a bigger bite. I'll fish the Super Chunk when I'm fishing a bigger jig and need it to sink slowly.

I like a black/brown jig, and if I'm fishing in really clear water, like at Badin Lake, I'll fish a blue trailer, an emerald blue. That's a really good combination, and you can fish it very slowly.

Now, even more important than what you tie on is where you fish it. You want to fish steep banks. If you're running down the lake and see a pocket, they'll be on the corner going in, staging. They'll be on a rock point or rip-rap. Not all fish come in at the same time, but the best place to fish is usually something with a hard, rocky bottom that drops off pretty quickly. You want your boat to be in 20 feet of water, throwing up in nothing, because this is a time when fish want to be able to move up and down vertically, according to the weather.

If you have a warming trend where you get the water temperature up in the 50s, some of the fish will move on back, but not all of them. And toward the end of the month, you will have some fish moving to flatter banks, but steep banks are probably the ticket.

You're also looking for the clearest water you can find, and that's going to be the same any lake that you fish. You don't want to fish in an area where the water's got a lot of color, because dirty water will be colder; it won't warm up as quickly, and you don't want that in March.

About the only things you can do wrong in March are fish in dirty water and fish too fast. Or not fish at all. That's even worse.

David Fritts is a 54-year-old pro bass fisherman from Lexington. He won the 1993 Bassmasters Classic champion and the 1997 FLW Tour Championship, and he was the 1994 BASS Angler of the Year. He is sponsored by Ranger boats, Evinrude outboards, Rapala, VMC hooks, Zoom, American RodSmiths and Bass Pro Shops.