Here in Minnesota we can’t really fish for early spring bass. Our bass season opens at the end of May each year. But, with certain areas bordering Wisconsin and the Mississippi River in-between, we have the ability to fish year round because the river has no designated seasons. Learning to fish so early in the year, especially on the river, is a skill that I have had to work hard to acquire.
This is my first year at Winona State University and I have been able to experience some different bass fishing that I am not necessarily use to being able to do this early in the year. Winona is located on the lower eastern part of Minnesota and borders Wisconsin on the River. Because of our location, we have access to the river at all times which the Winona State University (WSU) bass fishing club and team takes advantage of and has annual club tournaments on.
One of the biggest obstacles to conquer when targeting these river bass is the search for warmer water. The bass will be in search of the warmest water because they are starting to think about pulling up into shallow water to spawn and to feed on baitfish. The water temperatures fluctuate so much this time of year because of the constant rising and falling of the water. Weather conditions really affect these bass this time of year because they are so sensitive.
Along with finding warm water, you need to be able to find what the bass are relating to, whether it be wood, rock / rip rap banks, grass, or muddy banks. Typically man made structure with any sort of metal or wood will heat up the quickest in the sun and retain that heat the longest, which gives the bass something to relate to. This time of year, bass seem to relate to steeper cut banks that still have access to deeper water, the reason for this is it gives fish somewhere to pull up fast but go back down with the fluctuating weather conditions. Another thing to look for when targeting largemouth is lack of current, backwater areas act as wintering holes and can really be popular this time of year. When targeting smallmouth, current seams and eddies, or simply just anywhere that has slack water can be a holding ground.
Finally, after figuring out where you fish are located and what they’re relating to, you need to be able to catch the fish. Typically the bass’ metabolisms are low and they are not looking to exert a lot of energy to catch a meal which means you need to slow down your presentation. Around this time of year when the water temperatures are below 50 degrees the fish are more likely to eat baits such as jigs, texas rigged plastics, and finesse techniques. My go to in this situation is a texas rigged Berkley Powerbait Chigger Craw with a 1/2 oz. pegged bullet weight. Once you start to see waters in above that 50 degree mark, moving reaction baits like jerk baits, swim jigs, chatter baits, rattle traps, and square bills, tend to shine because fish become more active and begin their pre-spawn feeding frenzy.
These three basic steps can really be a starting ground for locating early spring river bass and help you put more fish in the boat.