I have made no bones about having trouble catching bass in April, because I’m a crankbait fisherman and it’s probably the worst month in North Carolina to fish a crankbait.
This year, I might actually be looking forward to April — at least the first week or two — because I think the first part of April is going to fish like March.
Coming out of the winter, water temperatures in lakes around the state are lower than normal. We had snow and ice storms about every other week for six weeks, and all that cold runoff has, I think, backed up our spring fishing patterns. Sooner or later, the weather is going to warm up, but I think we’ll have a late spring.
For me, that’s a good thing. My best tournaments are ones when I can fish on a crankbait pattern, and I can usually find them in March. I think the first two weeks of April this year will definitely fish like March, so I’ll be looking for deep water close to shallow water.
If you think of March patterns, you think about fishing jerkbaits and Shad Raps. With the water temperature in the 50s, bass are going to be staging. They’ll be in places that are close to shallow water and close to deep water. I’ll concentrate on riprap, any kind of rock, places with a laydown tree on the bank. Wood, chunk rock or any kind of hardbottom; those are the kinds of places you should be looking. I’ll be cranking baits that are either crawfish or shad colors. It’s hard to beat crawfish before the water warms up; as April progresses, shad comes in more.
I’ll small crankbaits and jerkbaits on a my 6 ½-foot Lew’s cranking rod, paired with a Lew’s BB1 reel filled with 10-pound Trilene Sensation, which is a low-stretch monofilament. You can get away with 12-pound test because the water is stained, but sometimes going up in size will affect the action of small baits.
One thing you really need to do in April is keep your eye on the water temperature. When it gets to around 60 degrees, you can bet those fish are moving up shallow, and some of them will be bedding. From the places I’ll catch them at the beginning of the month; they’re going to move to little corners outside of the pockets where they’ll spawn. And when they move up shallow, you can throw anything at them you want; it’s wide open. Floating jerkbaits — the ones that won’t go any deeper than about two feet — spinnerbaits, plastics, jigs; they’re all good. And the warmer it gets, the better the plastics get.
The first fish that spawn will be closer to the mouth of creeks. By the end of April, they’ll be halfway back in pockets. The spawn works its way back in creeks; the last fish to spawn will always be in the backs of creeks. On most of our lakes, if you’re fishing in May or June and want to find some late spawners, you go to the backs of the creeks.
If you’re a fisherman who likes to catch bass shallow all the time, even though this appears to be a late spring, you can do that. Go to any of the power-plant lakes that has a warm-water discharge, a place like Belews Lake, and you’ll find those fish shallow. But if you’re like me, take it as a blessing. Either way, it’s better than fishing in 35-degree water.