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lingering winter’s effect on spring fishing

I’ve spent the past few days prepping my new Z21 for the Bassmaster Elite Series opener at Sabine River, Texas and thinking about the conditions we could face.

The crazy winter that has lingered into March has me thinking about how winter could affect our spring fishing.

This week’s weather is a good example. A huge storm rumbled through the Midwest and South on the heels of one that hammered those regions the week before. It dumped snow in places that aren’t accustomed to late snowfalls.

In southern Michigan, we have 18 inches of ice on our lakes and just as much snow pack on top of it. February was the coldest on record here as well as in some southern states. Water temperature on the Tennessee River System, which includes several of my favorite lakes, is hovering around the 40-degree mark. That’s abnormally cold for this time of year.

The cold weather will undoubtedly prolong spring fishing or at least affect how we have to catch ‘em in the coming weeks.

I was discussing that the other night with some friends who are planning their fishing trips to the south.

I told them that the length of daylight and time of year affect bass spawning movements as much as anything. But for that to get into full swing, environmental conditions have to be right, too.

Although the bass are programmed to make those moves toward spawning areas, keep in mind that the melting ice and snow will create a runoff that is colder and clearer than normal spring rains. That runoff moves into the lakes and river systems slower and drops water temperatures faster than rainfall. Because there is such a volume of cold water moving into those systems, the main river and lake will warm up slower than normal.

Those factors will make us rethink our techniques and lure choices and has me believing it will be a great prespawn period for jerkbaits, especially since the water is clearer than normal.

Regardless of the water temperature, the bass are beginning to stage in southern waters and want to be near their spawning areas.

With us currently in a full moon phase, I wouldn’t be surprised that you’ll find a few fish moving shallow right now. I saw that on cold days at the 2014 Guntersville, Ala., Bassmaster Classic.

If I were fishing southern waters in the coming days, I’d target those pockets and bays that are in close proximity to creek channels or deep water access. In other words, don’t run to the backs of shallow creeks; key on those flats closer to deep water. I’d also focus on northerly flats that get the longest benefit from sunshine this time of year. If they have dark or muck bottoms, some rocky areas and perhaps dying vegetation or last year’s lily pads, it would be even better. Those areas will be a few degrees warmer and the bass will be drawn to them.

I’d fish a jerkbait in the staging areas along the flat and utilize a swim jig, Rage Blade (bladed jig), Red Eye Shad or square bill crankbait in the shallower areas around the cover.

And while northern regions won’t see spring for a few weeks longer, I believe these same patterns will hold up when the lakes thaw.

The good news is that we’re coming out of this ice box and will be fishing sooner rather than later!

Remember, it’s all about the attitude!