Lees Spring Seasonal Approach Guide is a system I’ve adapted to help find bass on unfamiliar waters. With spring arriving in most of the northern waters and the spawn completing in the south I thought a spring time article from my book (Strategies For Bass) would be appropriate. As a retired touring pro, I fished all kinds of lakes and rivers in many regions throughout the year. Obviously, I didn’t have time to become intimately familiar with each of these venues prior to tournament competition. When you only have three practice days to unlock the secrets of a large river system, you need some guidance to help you quickly get on a viable fish catching pattern. Lees Spring Seasonal Approach provides that information, regardless of where or what part of spring I’m fishing. It helps me make educated guesses about where bass are most likely to be in all stages of spring bass migration. It’s a system that quickly eliminates unproductive water and helps me home in on areas holding the most bass.
Lees Spring Seasonal Approach Pre-spawn: (48 to 55 degrees)
Some diehard early season fishermen know to head for the waters with current. Rivers and river system lakes will most often offer you some of the best early season bass fishing (especially smallmouths) in your area. There are things that are beginning to happen on these bodies of water in the spring that trigger the fish to begin this early season feed. The water temperature and the water level in river systems are on the rise. And we can all feel the suns rays are becoming stronger and more direct. All this is leading to an increased activity level for bait and bass.
Temperatures reaching into the mid to upper 50 degree mark will begin to trigger bass activity. Few however, acknowledge the fact that river smallmouths thrive in SPRING cold water (low 40’s) and will begin the spawn ritual before the water reaches the low 50’s. As mentioned earlier, even a slight increase in temperature is all that is needed to trigger the bites in a river system. A temperature rise from 38-43 degrees is a great temperature change for an early season river basser, especially if it happens over a period of only a few days. Bass will become extremely active during the first water temperature increase they encounter after a long cold winter.
Some of my best smallmouth catches on the Connecticut River happen in the early season. “One trip in particular was with a great friend of mine Don Sanzo. We were fishing an early season tournament. The river water temperature was hovering at a whopping 46 degrees. I had found these really big smallmouths holding on a shallow ledge in some of the shallowest and fastest water in the river. We ran 40 plus miles to get to those fish through rapids and some pretty nasty ledge only 18” deep to get there. When we arrived at this ledge we preceded to catch smallmouths from 3-4 pounds. As a matter of fact we hooked up on big smallmouths on the first 12 consecutive casts”. Not only did we have a great day of fishing but we won the tournament and set a standing record for the Connecticut River. A record setting 10 fish limit of smallmouth bass that weighed in at 31.14 pounds.
Some of the greatest early season smallmouth locations are shallow ledges of shale, gravel or hard packed sand adjacent to drop-offs with scattered rocks, brush and weeds that might have survived the winter. The rocky shore adds warmth to the water and awakens food (crawfish, insects and minnows). This hard bottom also has acted as a current break for these fish to stage near all winter. One thing is for certain rock ledges and shelves stay the same for the bass through-out the winter and high water periods. It is this consistency that makes ledges and rocks the best choice in the spring.
I will usually begin my fishing on these current waters with the water temperature being as low as 42 degrees. During this real cold water I prefer to use jigs, and tubes to entice these early pre-spawn smallies. Fishing however, becomes far better as the water temperatures reaches the mid 40’s, with the action reaching phenomenal proportions when the water temperature reaches the low 50’s. The smallmouths will bunch up in the above mentioned areas; these places will give you action all day. Some of the biggest smallmouths of the year are caught during the rivers early pre-spawn period.