After relying on a handful of lures throughout the winter, your lure options for bass increase during the prespawn stage of spring.
“The water temperature is going up, so that is going to open up your tacklebox,” says Jack Uxa, a Lake of the Ozarks guide and tournament competitor. “There is a whole number of baits that start working now.”
The difficulty of catching bass in cold off-colored water limits what you can cast for bass in the wintertime. However, when the water warms in the spring, you can catch bass in clear or muddy water, which expands your lure choices.
Here are five lures Uxa counts on to catch prespawn bass.
“The A-rig is just the easiest way to get to 20 pounds,” Uxa said. During the March 2021 Major League Fishing Toyota Series tournament at Lake of the Ozarks, Uxa caught most of his key fish on an Alabama rig to finish in third place with 15 bass weighing 46 pounds, 6 ounces.
The Missouri angler targets brush piles 10 to 20 feet deep along secondary points in clear water sections of a lake to catch heavyweight prespawn bass. His Alabama rig consists of a Yum Yumbrella rig equipped with 3 1/2-inch Tackle HD Swimmers swimbaits on 1/8 ounce Berkley Fusion 19 swimbait jigheads. His favorite swimbait color is alewife, although he occasionally throws green pumpkin swimbaits.
Uxa relies on his Garmin Panoptix LiveScope to watch his Alabama rig run over the top of the brush piles and see how the fish react to his retrieve. “I am barely turning (the reel handle) sometimes,” he says. “Sometimes, I will pick up my speed if I know I will get hung up to get it going a little higher over the brush pile. Then there are times when I will barely turn the handle or do not even turn it after I come over the brush pile and let it fall. Sometimes that will trigger a bite too.”
Uxa recalls Kevin VanDam saying a crankbait will get fish to bite even when they are not ready to eat this time of year.
A stop-and-go retrieve works well for Uxa during the prespawn. “Bass tend to follow baits this time of year, and sometimes they bite, and sometimes they don’t,” he says. “But if you stop and go, it triggers them into biting.”
Uxa’s favorite prespawn crankbait is the shallow-running Berkley Frittside flat crankbait in red and orange hues. He favors running his crankbaits along 45-degree banks and creek channel banks and tries to make his crankbait tick the rocky bottom with a stop-and-go or slow, steady retrieve.
“A spinnerbait is one of the best baits out there for catching a huge bass,” Uxa says. “It is a bait that some people don’t throw as much as they used to because other baits have become more popular.” The spinnerbait produced a 10-pound, 11-ounce Lake of the Ozarks bass for one of Uxa’s clients during a March 2016 guide trip.
Uxa varies the sizes of his spinnerbaits, choosing a 3/8-ounce model when the water is still cold during the early prespawn but upgrades to a 1/2-ounce blade bait when the water warms. He also experiments with blade sizes throughout the prespawn. “You have to have spinnerbaits in a variety of blade combinations because some days you throw it to them (with big blades), and the fish are receptive, and other days they don’t want you to bother them,” he says.
His favorite spinnerbait setup for dirty water is a Colorado blade combo with an orange or red smaller blade and a number 6 gold blade. He switches to double silver blades in clear water. His favorite skirt color is chartreuse and white, and he occasionally throws a blade bait with an all-white skirt.
Uxa fishes the spinnerbait along the same banks he runs his crankbaits and slowly retrieves it, so the blade bait bumps into shallow wood or ticks off rocks. He cranks his spinnerbait out to depths of 8 to 9 feet; if he has to fish deeper, he switches to the Alabama rig.
When prespawn bass are moody after a cold front, Uxa pitches or flips to shallow wood or along open banks a Berkley PowerBait MaxScent Creature Hawg attached to a 5/16-ounce Tackle HD jighead. His favorite lure colors for the soft plastic bait are green pumpkin party, green pumpkin, black, and South African Special.
“I just crawl it along the bottom with little hops now and then,” Uxa says of his Creature Hawg presentation. “For the most part, I am just working down little ledges.” Uxa also likes the Creature Hawg as a follow-up lure for pitching down a bank where he has just caught bass on moving baits.
Shaky Head Worm
“I don’t throw the shaky head as much, but it is one of those baits that I have on the deck when I need to milk an area where I have caught fish on my other baits, and I still think there are fish there,” he says. “That is also a bait you can follow other people with. It is just a mop-up bait and a fish catcher.” Uxa resorts to the shaky head when fishing an area where he sees other anglers throwing crankbaits and action lures.
The Missouri guide’s favorite shaky head rig is a green pumpkin 6-inch Berkley Bottom Hopper plastic worm attached to a 1/8-ounce Berkley Fusion 19 Shakey Head jig. If he is fishing in off-colored water, Uxa enhances his worm by dipping the tail in chartreuse JJ’s Magic Dippin Dye fish attractant.
Pea gravel or chunk rock banks and brush piles in depths of 2 to 15 feet are prime targets for Uxa to throw his shaky head worm. He will switch to a 3/16-ounce jighead if he needs to fish the worm deeper.
A slow presentation of shaking the worm on a slack line produces the best for Uxa. “I am going to do a lot of shaking with it and barely move it along,” Uxa says.