Big bass

Now is the time to catch the biggest bass of the season.

Largemouth bass are the favorite gamefish for thousands of Midwestern anglers. They are abundant, often large enough to put a nice bend in the rod and challenging enough to give personal satisfaction when ever one is on the line. There’s one other thing that makes them exciting.

It’s like a deer hunter heading out on opening day. A deer hunter knows while their chance of them bagging a really big buck is statistically small, there is the chance. That twelve-pointer could end up in their sights.

A bass fisherman knows most of the fish he or she is likely to catch any day they head for the lake is likely to be somewhat mediocre. Still, there’s always the chance, any time, any place for a “hawg” to end up on the line. That chance could come on the very next cast.

Here’s a dirty little secret. For any bass guy (or gal) wanting to catch their biggest largemouth bass of the year, this next month, may be the best bet to net “bass-zilla.”

That may sound a bit odd, but, according to fish managers keeping an eye on such things, a lot of very big largemouth bass are caught this time of year as Mother Nature moves from winter to spring. As water temperatures increase, largemouth bass shake off the cold and become increasingly active. In the pre-spawn, they’ll fatten up; while spawning, largemouth bass will become even more aggressive, protecting against threats to their eggs.

Through out Indiana and Illinois, we’re blessed with some incredible largemouth bass fisheries right here in our area. Sure, it’s fun for on-the-go anglers to head to far off waters to fish, but many of those trips are for fish not common closer to home. They go north for walleyes and pike, south for stripers or to the coast for a variety of saltwater species.

Whether it’s mid and down-state reservoirs or natural lakes in the northern parts of our states, there are bass, and some big bass to be found and caught without having to book hotel rooms.

That also means the bass chasers have to be adaptable. By and large, water levels in natural lakes are stable from year to year. Sure, they can be a couple feet higher or lower in a wet spring or dry spring and anglers will have to make small adjustments. In a reservoir the difference may be 20 feet different, year to year, and the conditions vary from fishing flooded timber one year to relying on open points in the low water years.

That’s part of the fun and the challenge. Regardless, the bass are there and they can be caught. There’s no good excuse for leaving your bass tackle box and rods at the back of the gear closet. Now is the time to catch that big one.

Most people associate bass fishing with pitching artificial lures. If that’s you, bring it all! There are no bad choices at this time of the year and plastic worms and other plastic imitations, crankbaits, spinner baits, surface lures, jigs and other artificials, imitating minnows, crayfish, frogs, salamanders and nightcrawlers are good bets. You won’t use all of them everyday, but a little experimentation can show which is best for the day you are fishing.

For you live bait lovers, try jumbo shiners, small bluegills, crayfish or nightcrawlers. This is the time of year when “big lure equals big fish” can be proven true.

There’s one trick that is perfect in the spring and may fall flat at other times of the year. Especially on bright, sunny days, the afternoon hours to late in the afternoon can be the best time to fish. The shallows often cool down overnight, sending bass deeper or out over deeper water, but when these same areas warm up four or five degrees or more under a spring sun, the bass will move in and be looking for bait and prey to snap up and fuel their rising metabolism.

If you want to catch that fish of the season, maybe even the fish of a lifetime, there’s no better time than right now and the best place may be the bass lake closest to where you live.