When the month of March arrives, we are well on
the way to spring. Arrival of March does not set us up for all balmy days--though
this can occur. It does mean that kind of weather is in the offing. Shucks,
I have picked morel mushrooms from snow drifts in the throes of winter
as March blew out and April blundered in.
Still, there’s one thing you can count on in March--big
largemouth bass are perched on the threshold of spring, and ready to provide
some good action when lakes that are fed by streams are above normal and
murky. Bass don’t get big in numbers like they used to, but there still
are some hogs out there.
The rationale of March fishing for largemouth
is quite simple. Largemouth bass start feeding then with spawning in mind.
If their bodies are not in good physical condition, they simply delay spawning
until it is. It’s that simple.
After bass spawn in the spring or early summer
there’s a bit of a slowdown on feeding. But it doesn’t last long. And when
they start feeding again the two egg sacs (most fish species have two elongated
sacs that hold the eggs as they form) start filling. Many anglers are surprised
to find deposits of eggs in the fall or late summer in members of the bluegill
family. It means that voracious feeding in the pre-spawn spring is the
fish’s procedure for reproduction, simply topping off the egg sacks.
Tightly packed egg sacs, incidentally, are not
real appetizing looking, but they are very fine table fare. My experiences
with consuming fish eggs have dealt mostly with scaled fish. I have always
fried them just as I would fry other pieces of fish. The sac, a thin membrane
can trap moisture (steam) so it is a good idea to puncture it with a fork
to avoid mini explosions. Catfish eggs are very bad at that
Many years ago I schooled a nice family on this
egg frying business at Starve Hollow Lake campground, and later treated
them to some nice fried bluegill egg sacs. They liked them. I chanced to
see the lady and her husband some years later and she was as angry (pleasantly)
as the proverbial “old wet hen.” I guess I did not tell them catfish eggs
are prone to explode, especially when they are real well developed. Their
kitchen cleanup bill had been something like $1,500, they told me, and
I weaseled out of that.
Now back to the catching.
The thing that creates ideal bass-catching days
in March--some other times of the year, too--lies in a combination of “WW”--water
and weather. Of course, you don’t have to have “bluebird” weather, but
that makes the angling day pleasant for people. Bass seem to think weather
is weather when their metabolism is stirring. Often at that time of year
bass do not hit like Gang Busters, but simply pull a lure into their mouths
and release it (the lure) if it does not appear soft and good to eat. You
have to set the hook, and you can miss. This, incidentally make plastic
or rubber lures better than hard lures, at times. Bass go for soft, pliable
lures, especially now.
When water of lakes and flood control reservoirs
is above normal stages and rising, the time is ripe for this type of bass
fishing--especially in the flood control reservoirs. When such conditions
exist, bass turn their noses upstream and go out into the relatively shallow
water that often is a hillside loaded with all kind of insect, and other
forms of life. Flooded hillsides and fields become smorgasbords for bass,
which are on the feed.
The key is rising or falling water. Static water
probably is OK for some fish, but the minute that water level starts to
return to normal level, there goes the bass. Smaller fish may stay in above-normal
creeks longer, but the creeks tend to dry up--or get very low--and only
small bass and bluegills stay.
I have, over the years, done this kind of fishing
at spots where streams enter several of our flood-control reservoirs, but
my all-time favorite is Jones Branch at the upper end of Crooked Creek
where the old iron Browning Bridge crossed the creek on its route to Robinson
Cemetery (some three miles). The road was never in good shape after a few
years, but my Jeep would make it if the road was not covered with water.
I would park at the site of the old bridge (then down in the water), don
chest-high waders, and with wading staff head around the waterline into
the hills. It is about 6 ½ miles south of Belmomt on IN 46 in a
remote area of Brown County (south line) that is mostly creek at normal
The creek, itself, is only about knee deep above
the point where it starts backing up, so fishing this segment requires
great stealth. Below that point, the creek becomes relatively murky and
deeper. In most cases it is too deep to wade. One just has to work his
way along the inundated banks carefully.
Along the inundated hillsides, with spinning or
bait-casting tackle, I work my way around the shallows--maybe waist deep--tossing
artificials to the tangles of inundated brush, natural cover for bass.
It’s slow going, but it can be productive. My choice for a lure there usually
is the mid-size Johnson spoon (often black, and with 20-tail black and
yellow Hawaiian Wiggler skirt.) I call it my Boomerang Lure because it
always comes back, now and then with a bass.
On one of my early sashays for this kind of fishing,
I was standing waist-deep in cool, murky water potting a Johnson Spoon
rig to a pair of dead elm trees covered with o’possum grapevines. “This
place looks familiar,” I kept thinking. When I snaked a six-plus pounder
out, I realized in the previous fall I had put up two grouse there.
On another occasion, I was fishing with the late
Jerry Chandler in the early spring when we encountered a shale bank with
a small recess of about a foot and a trickle of runoff feeding in from
the bank, It looked bassy to me, but I couldn’t hit it. On the third or
fourth cast, my crank bait settled in the crevice and there was immediate
heavy action. I couldn’t move it. When I finally got it to the boat, I
learned that I had a 15 incher on the front hooks, another 15 incher on
the back hooks.
Size of the water doesn’t seem to make a lot of
difference. What does matter is the presence of running water entering
an impoundment at a time when bass are on the feed. I think it might work
in the bathtub.
There is, as a matter of fact, a big farm pond
where I wanted to try my theory, but it has only two water runoff entry
points, one being a yard-wide stream, and the other a foot wide drainage
ditch of a spring. I did catch a high-water time when every bass in the
pond seemed to be in the shallow flat area created by the entry of high
water, but I did not consider it conclusive. The bass were not in the creek
This kind of bass fishing can be accomplished
from a boat or float tube (if a boat, the smaller, the better), but I like
wading best because a careful wader (with a staff) is simply more stationary.
On the foot one can spend more time at a spot without the disturbance of
a boat, however small it is. There are times when success depends on perseverance
. . . repetition. If a bass hits a lure and does not get hooked, it may
turn and swim away. But it will be back soon, if it is not spooked, for
another shot at the same lure. It’s rather like a two shot free throw shooter.
Miss the first and he walks away from the foul line to retrace his steps
for the second shot.