Early spring is a unique and often times tricky time of year for pursuing bass. Consequently, you need a good search tool to narrow down the areas and seek out the most productive stretches to concentrate you fishing efforts on. The best search bait is not a jig & pig, a spinnerbait, a crankbait, or even plastic, but the unassuming ?temperature gauge?. That's right, the best tool available to the angler in early spring is the temperature gauge.
During this time of year more than any other, I believe bass fishing can be likened to hunting situations. In saying that, I mean that during the late winter and early spring the level of success that an angler experiences is more directly proportional to the amount of time he/she has spent "scouting". As with any fishing trip, the purpose of all this scouting is to find the most active fish available on a body of water.
It's common knowledge nowadays that the majority of bass spawn when the water temperature reaches 67o to 72o. By utilizing your boat's electronic temperature gauge you can quickly scout a given lake for the warmest water areas. However, there are conditions when the warmest water may not be the best water. In order to support this statement, a basic understanding of the spawn is in order. Bass are most active during the pre- and post-spawn periods, with a brief period of inactivity during the actual spawn. Having said this, it becomes apparent that it?s quite possible that an angler could be more successful fishing for pre-spawn or post-spawn fish.
Let's say for example that an angler has scouted a body of water and found water temperatures ranging from 63o to 70o. The general rule of thumb is to find and fish the warmest water available, but in this example the warmest water available might just put an angler in the position of fishing for spawning fish that have already locked down on beds. At this point, seasoned anglers with good water clarity might try sight fishing for the spawners. But an alternate, and sometimes more productive technique is to drop back into the lower temperature water and target the much more aggressive pre-spawn fish. The pre-spawn fish must feed ravenously in order to endure the coming inactivity of the actual spawn, where they often fail to feed throughout the entire process. At this time crawfish imitations most often work the best because they are the food source that provides the bass with the highest amount of protein vs. the effort expended to make the catch.
Likewise, if the water temperature in this example had been shifted to 70o to 77o, then one could have the option of targeting post-spawn fish. The fish in this phase of the spawn will also be feeding with reckless abandon while cruising the shallows and protecting the recently hatched fry. At this time, perch imitations begin to work well, keying on the bass' instinct to protect the fry.
This is definitely only a surface look into the bass spawn, but it does provide you with enough basic information to see the necessity to scout for water temperature. Again, it's not about specific baits, but rather about location relative to water temperature. Remember, the wrong bait in the right place will always out produce the right bait in the wrong place.