largemouth bass

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Getting bass into the net is fun, but you’ve got to get them on the hook first.

I remember when the early part of the year was my favorite time to bass fish. Over the past five years or so, that has changed. It’s not that I don’t enjoy bass fishing in winter, but I’ve really struggled to locate the fish.

I can’t say exactly what changed over the past five years, but I can tell you I’ve had a tough time locating bass. Sight fishing was always one of my strong points. I loved to cruise the shallows and find those little spots where bass would hang out in or hide during the spawning season. Lately, I don’t seem to be able to find those spots. Maybe it’s me. Maybe it has something to do with the lakes I fish early in the year, or a variation in the pattern the bass used to adhere to. All I know is I’m getting frustrated.

I tend to think that it’s a change in the lakes. Maybe I’m not hitting those bodies of water at the best time. Maybe I’m simply not getting into water shallow enough to locate those bass. Whatever it is, it is causing me some serious frustration as I struggle to get back to the results I used to have when this time of year came along.

Now, it should be easy. This is the time of year when bass spawn. When it’s time to reproduce, they head to shallow water and look for some sort of structure, then create a spawning bed nearby. Clear lakes tend to spawn a little later than the lakes that have a tinge in the water because they don’t warm as fast as those other lakes do.

In a darker lake, identifying a spawning bed gets a little tougher because you can’t see into the water as easily as you can on a clear lake. However, those big white circles dusted off on a sandy bottom reflect through the water on a bright sunny day and can be picked out fairly easy.

Truth is, I can’t remember the last time I caught a bass off a spawning bed. Forget about tournament fishing, I’m talking about just going out to a lake where I know the bite should be on fire and catching some early-season spawners. I have missed the boat on that bite for a while now.

For a long time, my biggest weakness was the late summer and early fall. It seems my fortunes have changed. From late spring through the end of the year, I can pretty much catch bass in my sleep. I think I have spent so much time learning to locate bass during those times of year that I have lost my edge when it comes to early season bass.

Nothing would make me happier than to head out to the lake in the next week or two and load up on a pile of bass in shallow water, but for now, I’ll keep plugging away. I know the pattern for early season bass. I simply need to stick to it and find some bass in that shallow water pattern to restore my confidence.

This year has been a little tough to pattern fish. The warm weather is short-lived and then a blast of cold will come through that lasts for a few days. The water temperature has not stabilized or followed a trend either up or down over the past two months, so the bass haven’t yet committed to the spawn. They’re probably as confused as I am. They don’t know if they should head for shallow water or hang on the edges and keep feeding. Once the weather stabilizes, I think we will see a mass movement of bass to the shallows.

So, my plan is simple: Remain diligent in my efforts to restore the fortunes I used to have with shallow early-season bass fishing. I think it will take only one good day on the water to get me going again. At least, I hope that’s all it takes.

Greg Bartz is a tournament bass fisherman based in Lakeland. Greg fishes lakes throughout Florida’s Heartland and enjoys RV travel around the Southeast with his wife and tournament partner, Missy. Contact him at Greg.Bartz@SummitHoldings.com.

Greg Bartz is a tournament bass fisherman based in Lakeland. Greg fishes lakes throughout Florida’s Heartland and enjoys RV travel around the Southeast with his wife and tournament partner, Missy. Contact him at Greg.Bartz@SummitHoldings.com.

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