Outdoors: 50 days of fishing

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 17, 2011

By Glenn Hudson
For the Salisbury Post
You’ve got about 50 days to catch your biggest bass of the year on High Rock and Badin lakes.
That’s not an absolute. There are no absolutes in fishing because there are too many variables that determine when and where fish will bite. But the fish are going to be rather predictable — shallow and aggressive. That gives the advantage to you, the angler, for the upcoming weeks.
The bass are in pre-spawn mode, which means they are out of their winter funk and are feeding hard to build up energy for procreation. The triggers were the back-to-back days that air temperatures hit the 80-degree mark at the beginning of March and the warm spring rains that filled High Rock over the last two weeks.
Those factors brought the water from the mid-40s to the mid-50s. Now bass will be more willing to chase a lure. It’s not necessarily time to beat the banks with your offerings, however. Just motor back into the creeks that feature the warmest water you can find and have your eyes glued to your electronics.
You can still find gulls working above shad schools. Go to those places and then when you are able to mark the bait on your electronic fish finder, cast lures that you can easily get to the bottom because bass will be holding below these schools. Don’t start your retrieve until your line goes slack and you are 100 percent sure you are on the bottom. You’ve still got to put it in their face to make them hit it. That is especially true on High Rock where the water resembled chocolate milk just last week.
Most strikes come when you lift the lure off the bottom. With spinner baits or lipless crank baits, you can feel the thump of the lure as you lift it. If the lure feels heavy or the lure stops vibrating, set the hook. As the water continues to warm the fish will move shallower and become even more aggressive. Then lipped, diving crank baits will start to work better as well.
And it’s only going to keep getting better. That is what makes this time of year so exciting for bass fisherman. It’s not time to be retrieving lures quickly though. Work baits slowly and give the bass time to strike. They are not up to speed yet.
It’s probably not the time to throw the biggest lures in your tackle box now either. According to Keith Jones, who wrote, “Knowing Bass — The Scientific Approach to Catching More Fish,” bass metabolism, or the speed with which they turn food into energy, is directly related to water temperature. The warmer the water, the more they eat. Bass aren’t looking for a huge meal this time of year. They would likely prefer smaller meals based on their lower metabolism.
By the way, I can’t recommend Jones’ book highly enough. It reads like a textbook for anyone willing to go to school to understand bass from a physiological perspective. Never before have I been more confident in formulating my plan to catch fish than this year. Now is the time to put that knowledge to use to catch a big bass.