Prepare For Prespawn Bass Fishing Season

Get your gear and boat ready now to be ready for some of the best fishing of the year.

Shaye Baker | January 30, 2023

It’s almost here. Spring is right around the corner. Warmer weather beckons from just a little ways out now, and cabin fever will be cured soon, for several months at least.

We’re fortunate here in the South to only be dealt a mild, though still unbearable winter. I have no clue how our northern brethren survive with their lakes, rivers and even their driveways frozen over and covered with snow. Meanwhile, I’m sitting here some 400 miles south of the Mason-Dixon Line considering flying even farther south for what’s left of winter.

As spring approaches, it’s the perfect time to start preparing for the prespawn period of bass fishing.

Throughout February and into March, the bass will be feeding up and developing eggs, making them the heaviest and most aggressive that they’ll be all year. This is a tantalizing combination for anglers who have been licking their chops all winter in anticipation of colliding with a few big ones as soon as possible.

If you’ve had your rear end warming the seat of a tree-stand just trying to survive the monotony of winter, I understand. But now it’s time to lock that rifle back up in the closet and head to the tackle room, the boat shed or just to knock the dust off your tackle box. It’s time to get ready.

One of the biggest tasks each year for me is making sense of the madness that is my fishing tackle. Like many of you, I still fish some through the winter. But I just grab and go and find very little motivation to spend hours in the cold organizing my tackle. So it’s left in a state of disarray.

And it pains me to admit that, because I really do like being very particular with my gear. If you’re anything like me, you understand. If you’re not, you could still probably use a little reminder to check on a few things.

Let’s start with something fairly simple—treble-hook baits. These baits are some of the most susceptible when it comes to the war on rust, corrosion and wear and tear. And they’ll be some of the first we reach for during a prespawn bass fishing trip.

Baits like Wiggle Warts, Shad Raps, squarebills, lipless crankbaits and jerkbaits are synonymous with the cold-water fishing of the prespawn season. So you’ll want to pay special attention to these baits before you get back on the water. Check for rusted or bent hooks, and change them out accordingly.

And make sure you have an ample supply of the lures you like. If you wait much longer, you can about bet on many retailers selling out of specific lures that always perform well in the spring. It’s a good idea to stock up on anything you plan to use the next few months, and this includes lures as well as line, rods, reels and other gear.

Mentioning fishing line, this is another big area of your tackle that you should check up on. It’s a good idea to stock up, yes. But you should more importantly check the line that’s on your reels to ensure that it’s still in good condition.

You can’t boat a bass with bad fishing line—or at least your chances go way down. It is easy to avoid that unnecessary disadvantage by simply re-spooling your reels now.

If you fish a lot, it’s a good idea to change your fluorocarbon and monofilament every three to six months. In that course of time, most of us will have suffered several backlashes, scraped a few feet of line on cover dozens of times and lost a few inches to re-tying half a hundred times.

All of these scenarios either damage the integrity of your line or combine to cost you a significant portion of your spool. And though braid will typically hold up a little longer, we’re about to move into the most action-packed fishing season of the year. So this is typically a good time to spool up a fresh reel of line and begin anew.

While talking about reels, it’s a good practice to go ahead and check the drag on them before you hit the water. The big star-shaped drag adjuster found on most reels make this an easy task, whether preparing for the fishing season or adjusting your drag mid-fight. But because the drag mechanism is so large, it’s easy to get it knocked out of whack in the shuffling of tackle during the offseason.

I’m often throwing a few rods in my dad’s boat, loading them up in my car or just moving them from one place to another in the shop. In doing all this, it’s easy for my drag to get loosened. And it could even get tightened a little too tight at times. The last thing you want to do is set the hook on that first big bite of the spring, only to break your line or feel your drag slip too easily.

If you have a boat, there are serval things that you’ll want to check before you hit the water. First and foremost, make sure the plug is in. Most anglers will pull the plug when winterizing their boats, and this is a smart practice. But many of these same anglers don’t regularly pull the plug out of their boats during the fishing season, myself included.

This makes it way too easy to forget to put the plug back in before your first trip after the boat’s been sitting during the winter. And this is a disastrous thing you want to prevent at all cost. Yeah, it’s embarrassing to have to load the boat back up and put the plug in while other anglers are waiting to launch. Almost as bad as forgetting to unhook a trailer strap, both of which I have done.

But I contend that if this happens to you and you catch it at the ramp, you’re really quite lucky, considering the effects of leaving the plug out often don’t show up until you’ve left the dock and have been fishing your first hole for several minutes. That’s when the water starts making its way into the floor of many boats, and the first time the angler is made aware of the mishap. Believe me, you do not want to have to hop off in the frigid water to fix it then.

Whether you have the aforementioned misery take place or you just accidentally fall in, having a dry set of clothes in the boat is an absolute must in the winter, and that’s includes a trip during the February prespawn. If your ego gets in the way and you think this is an unnecessary precaution, do it for the other guy.

Think about the angler that’s fishing with you who might fall in. Or the unfortunate soul you may stumble upon that has fallen out of his boat nearby. It’s just a great idea to have a dry set of clothes in the boat while the water and the air temps are still so low. This simple practice could save someone’s life.

The cold air temperatures in the winter are also your batteries’ biggest foe. If your cranking or trolling motor batteries are getting a little older, those first couple of cold nights can drain and effectively kill your boat batteries, leaving you dead in the water when you launch. Use a battery tester to check the health of your batteries before you hit the water, and change them out if necessary.

It’s also a good idea to check your spark plugs, stock up on oil if you have a 2-stroke engine, make sure you haven’t raided your boat’s tool box, and check the air pressure of your trailer tires. You should give your trailer lights a quick test and check the integrity of your life jacket, especially if you use an inflatable one with a CO2 cartridge.

These simple steps are what is called preventative maintenance, and I’m terrible at it. But taking a little time to give everything a once over could not only save your trip, but also save your life or the life of another.

You should also make sure you didn’t leave any snacks in the boat to ferment over the winter and look to see if any birds or mice have built nest in your rig or chewed through any wires. These things happen, and they really stink, literally and figuratively.

It’s a good idea too to do a little studying as you prepare for the prespawn. If you keep a fishing log or journal, look back on some past trips to prepare of the next ones. One tendency I have is to fish too fast or too slow in the early spring—based on the air temperatures. The air temps are all over the place this time of year. But the water temps are climbing very slowly.

On a warm day, many of us have a tendency to fish faster than we should, considering the water temps are still pretty could. Conversely, it’s easy to fish too slow on a cold day later in the spring, as well. Looking back at your fishing log, you can figure out what you were doing that worked or didn’t work in previous years. And then take the water temperatures from those records and the water temps you observe out on the water, and base your approach on that data.

A little map study is a good idea, especially with many of our lakes across the South having winter pools. The governing bodies draw these lakes down to prevent flooding from heavy winter rains, and then begin in the early spring to slowly raise them back up to summer full pool levels. You can monitor this process and look at past water level records online.

Taking the old satellite images that can also be found online, and pairing the dates of those images with the corresponding water levels for many of our lakes, you can get a good idea of where you want to fish before you ever even hit the water. Satellite imagery taken when lakes were low is also a fantastic way to find brush, rock and other cover that will soon be hidden by the rising water, providing great places to catch bass.

Preparing for the prespawn is imperative as spring approaches. We often think we’re ready, until we hit the water and find out otherwise. Take a little time to check and organize your gear. Make sure your boat is ready for the water. Take any necessary precautions to ensure a safe outing, to the best of your ability. And take a little time to study. If you do all or at least most of these things, you’ll get your fishing season off to a great start.

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