In early spring, when bass are moving from their winter areas to staging areas and eventually to the shallow flats, few presentations consistently produce better than a crawfish imitating lure. The reason these lures are so effective is the bass’s fondness for the freshwater crawfish. Even though bass will eat crawfish through out the year, this predator/prey relationship is strongest in the early spring.
I believe that a bass’s early season preference for the crawfish is due to the important nutrients the crawfish provides the pre-spawn bass and during this cold-water period, the crawfish matches the low metabolic activity of the bass making it an ideal forage .
Early spring the crawfish are in the deeper water just of flats. Bass move up from their cold water homes and stage in the same area as the crawfish. As the cold shallow flats warm up both crawfish and bass become more active and move into the shallow water.
It’s my opinion that the jig out produces all other crawfish imitating lures during the pre-spawn period, at when it comes to taking trophy bass. Some anglers limit the role of the jig/pig to flippin & pitchin, but I have found that the lure is effective when cast out and slowly dragged over deep structure.
The water temperatures in early spring are lower and so the bass’s metabolism has slowed down. And for this reason, I want a bait to fall slowly staying in the strike zone as long as possible. That’s why I use the jig/pig. In early spring I find it very important to match the hatch and go with the lightest jig possible. I use a ¼ ounce jig. I use two color combinations – a black/blue jig with a metal flake trailer and a green/pumpkin with a green/pumpkin trailer.
The trailer gives the jig a natural appearance, The pinchers on the trailer move as the jig falls and dragged across the bottom. Also, a scented soft plastic trailer encourages the bass to hold onto the lure longer. The jig/pig combo is hard to beat during the pre-spawn period but when the fish want something a little smaller I go with the next best setup a Carolina rigged worm. This technique is very effective when they are staged on deeper structure and feeding on crawfish. I put on a rattler because it imitates the noise of the crawfish’s pinchers, which attract bass. Dragging the lure whether it be a jig/pig combo or a worm across the bottom kickin up a lot of silt imitates a crawfish emerging from its winter home. When a crawfish emerges from hibernation they’re covered with mud, when they try to kick the mud off it creates a disturbance, a cloud of dirt along the bottom that draws the attention of the bass.
Spinnerbaits are considered to be one of the better shad imitating lures of all time, however I find a large spinnerbait that is properly dressed and fished also imitates a fleeing crafish. The largest population of crawfish is found on weed beds and timber filled flats at the back of creeks. My go to spinnerbait is a 1 ounce black spinnerbait with a no. 7 or 8 Colorado blade with a black/blue trailer.
Like the slow rolled spinnerbait , a rattlin lipless crankbait worked over shallow flats is an effective way to catch big bass in early spring. I’ve been using a red lipless crankbait to catch big bass for years. I believe actively feeding bass are on the move flushing crawfish and other forage from the grass-beds and shallows, that’s why I think the red Rat-L-Trap crankbait is so effective in grassy areas because it draws a reaction bite and because it thinks it a crawfish fleeing the grassy area.
The key to drawing the reaction bite with this lure is retrieving it so it stays in contact with the grass throughout the retrieve. You want to keep in touch with the grass and when the bait catches or snags on the grass, you want to rip it free. The quick acceleration and pause mimics a craw fish fleeing danger.
The key to catching Big Bass in early spring is choosing a lure that accurately mimics the crawfish.