A variety of techniques will catch bass in the spring, so it has become essential for an angler to select the right rod, reel, and line for each application.
Whether you use spinning or baitcasting equipment, rods, reels, and lines are the essential tools for properly presenting a lure and then hooking and landing a fish. The broad range of today’s bass fishing techniques has resulted in a specialization of rods and reels for using various lures and line sizes.
The pros match various rods, reels, and lines to handle all the unique tactics it takes to catch springtime bass on the tournament trail. A beginner angler on a limited budget can start with several multipurpose rod-and-reel combinations and gradually add more gear later. If your budget allows, you can try the pros’ choices for the following springtime techniques:
- Flipping: When fishing clear Northern lakes or for sight fishing in clear water around thick cover, try a 7-foot medium-heavy action rod and size 40 spinning reel with 12-pound test fluorocarbon line.
- Punching mats: A 7 1/2-foot medium-heavy rod with a fast tip will give you better control of your delivery yet still have plenty of backbone to bury a large hook into a big fish and winch it out of the weeds. Match the rod with a 7.1:1 low-profile baitcast reel and a 60- to 80-pound braided line to punch the lure through thick weed mats.
- Pitching: A 7-foot medium-heavy action baitcast rod with a fast tip works best for long distant pitches to sparse cover. The rod also has a soft enough tip that if you don’t detect a bite, you will not drag the lure out of its mouth when you lift your bait and feel the weight of the fish. Pitch with 20-pound fluorocarbon line on a high-speed baitcast reel (6.1:1 or higher gear ratio) that allows you to quickly retrieve the line and prevent bass from burrowing into the cover.
- Spinnerbaits: The best rod-and-reel combination for fishing a blade bait in open water is a 7-foot medium-heavy casting rod and 6.1:1 baitcast reel filled with 17- or 20-pound fluorocarbon. A 6 1/2-foot rod is best for making short, precise casts to cover, such as flooded bushes and laydowns. Novice anglers should use a lower-speed reel (5.1:1) whenever they need to slow-roll this lure.
- Crankbaits: A 7-foot medium action rod with a fast tip and a high-speed reel are good choices for cranking in the spring. You can crank with either monofilament, which stretches on the hook set and prevents you from jerking the crankbait away from the fish too quickly, or fluorocarbon, which sinks and allows you to fish the lure deeper. Use 8- or 10-pound test line to generate the best action from your crankbait.
- Carolina rig: Match a 7-foot medium-heavy rod with a high-speed baitcast reel for dragging soft plastics along the bottom. The long rod makes it easier to cast the rig farther--even with a long leader—and the extra length provides good leverage for long-distance hook setting. The high-speed reel lets you gather in slack line quickly after pulling the lure with your rod. Fill your reel with 30- to 50-pound braid and complete your rig with a 12- or 14-pound fluorocarbon leader.
- Soft jerkbaits: A 6 1/2-foot medium-heavy action rod and size 20 spinning reel are good for twitching plastic jerkbaits. Filling your reel with a main line of 30-pound braid and attaching a 6- to 8-foot leader line of 10- to 12-pound fluorocarbon will reduce line twist created by the jerkbait. The same rod and reel combination matched with 12-pound monofilament line is ideal for skipping a floating worm around cover.
- Plastic tubes and grubs: Change to a medium action spinning rod for these finesse lures but stay with a 6 1/2-foot rod. Opting for a size 20 spinning reel permits you to use lighter line such as 6- or 8-pound test monofilament. If you are adept at tying knots to combine two lines, fill your reel with 30-pound braid and attach a 6- to 8-foot leader of 6- or 8-pound fluorocarbon.
- Drop-shot rigs: A 7-foot medium-action spinning rod is preferable for this vertical presentation. The longer rod lets you control the lure easier during your presentation in shallow water. The rod’s softer action also helps you drive the rig’s sharp tiny hook into a bass without ripping it out of the fish’s mouth. You can use the same size spinning reel and line as you do for finesse fishing with plastic grubs and tubes.
- Mojo and split-shot rigs: Casting a weight followed by a long leader requires a longer spinning rod (7-foot medium-heavy action) for these rigs. The longer rod also improves your hook-setting power. Select a size 40 reel to hold heavier line (40-pound braid with a 10- to 12-pound fluorocarbon leader).
- Topwaters and minnow-type lures: Choose a 7-foot medium action rod and size 20 spinning reel spooled with 8- to 10-pound test monofilament for working tiny topwaters, minnow-type baits, and small crankbaits. The longer rod helps you cast these lightweight lures farther, and its softer action prevents the rod from ripping the hooks out of a fish during the hook set.
- Depending on your height, a 6- to 7-foot baitcast rod with a medium action should be your choice for working topwater lures. Since many topwater retrieves consist of jerking and pausing the lure, you need a soft-action rod to prevent it from pulling the lure too much. A high-speed baitcaster enables you to crank in slack line while simultaneously twitching the lure quickly. Use 30-pound braid for long-distance casts because the low-stretch line will ensure better hookups. Monofilament of 12- or 14-pound test works well for topwaters cast to shorter targets.
- Buzz baits: A 6 1/2-foot medium-heavy rod and a high-speed baitcast reel are necessities for this fast-moving lure. The rod length allows you to make long casts in open-water situations but is also short enough for delivering underhand casts to tight spots. The high-speed reel filled with 30- to 50-pound braid is essential for keeping the lure buzzing across the surface.