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The "Rights" of Spring-Part 1
By Capt. Ken Penrod III

Perfect Spring Combination-
bright green grass and bass

The "right" lure - Case Magic Stik
with spinner.

The next few months will be your best opportunity to experience the Tidal Potomac bass fishery at its very best. This is the season when the bass magically appear at their biggest, hungriest and most aggressive- like an out of state mother in law’s unplanned visit at Christmas. It is that special time when we can suspend (hopefully) all the talk of their demise and enjoy the reincarnation of a long lost friend- the largemouth bass.  However, Spring alone is not a guarantee of bass fishing success and I have been the victim of pursuing many of the “wrongs” instead of the “rights” of Spring.  The “rights” of Spring have been critical to me in optimizing my fish catching success during this very brief but most productive time of the bass fishing year. So let me go over a list of my “rights” of Spring..

Right #1- Start Early.. Some of the best bass fishing on the river begins much earlier than many anglers believe – that’s good for me but bad for the angler looking to catch the biggest fish of the year. Last year was an exception but in most years I can count on the magic water temperature of 42 degrees to announce that big pre-spawn largemouth are on the edge of their spawning flats and feeding. The key is visiting small ditches and the last deep water prior to spawning flats while casting shad colored, tight wiggle crankbaits.  I like crankbaits with no rattles and made of balsa- there is no better than the Rapala DT4. I also utilize a “drag and stop” method of working the crankbaits- that is similar to working a worm. I believe fluorocarbon line is also critical in allowing you to properly present in this “drag and stop” retrieve. I recommend Sunline Super FC Sniper in 12 pound test. It is also “right” that you visit key areas several times during the day at different stages of the tide. The bass this time of year visit traditional, high percentage areas and it is “right” to keep your boat and casts in these areas. Also remember that deep water is relative and that at this time of year that could be 2 feet dropping into a ditch of 4 feet. There is no better time of year to catch a big largemouth than the feeding period of 42 degrees and rising.

The color of the fish will often tell
you a lot- this fish just moved up.
Compared to this color- indicating
fish has been shallow.

Right #2- Look for Grass.. Early in the year it is very productive to find healthy submerged grass growth. This is a traditional pattern and can be best found by looking for boats. Over the years I have found these early season hot spots have varied from the back of Pohick, to the mouth of the Pomonkey, to the mouth of Little Hunting to Belle Haven. It’s best if you find them first but most of the time – boats will reveal their locations. I am not a big fan of fishing in crowds so I often avoid these locations. However, I must admit that some of my most memorable days were a result of locating these emergent grass beds early in the year. The “right” thing to do when you find these locations is to key on certain productive spots within spots. These can be a cluster of thicker weeds, a point, a hard bottom,, etc.. It’s not necessary to cover the most ground in these situations but to find the best spot and work it over. The bass are covering the ground for you so stay in these key stopping areas, turn off all electronics, and vary your lure selection. Although I am aware that Chatterbaits and Rattle Traps are very productive, it is “right” sometimes to throw something different such as a Case Magic Stik with a spinner imbedded in the tail or a Case Sinkin Salty Minnow to entice pressured fish.

Right #3- Fish Windblown Banks .. One of my favorite “rights” of early spring is to fish windblown flats off the main river channel near spawning areas. A favorite spot of mine and a definite “right” is to look for a combination of 46-48 degree water temperature and a strong west wind. I then move to large flats on the east bank near the river channel adjacent to spawning locations. I then fish the entire flat with fast moving Rattle Traps while making very long casts. It is a mistake to believe that largemouth will not strike a fast moving lure in colder water temperatures- they will and they do. It is my belief- with the caveat that I am not a fish- that the bass move onto these flats to feed on vulnerable baitfish that are blown onto the flats by strong current. It is “right” to fish fast in this situation and to hold onto your rod because the strikes can be vicious. I also recommend moving closer to these flat banks as the tide rises and fishing chartreuse colored square bill crank baits near wood or other cover. In the early Spring I don’t really have a favorite tide. I find that bass will bite on all tides this time of year but they will change their positions while staying in the same general areas.  Consequently, my most important “right” of Spring is to stay on the water and keep fishing. The hardest worker usually reaps the most rewards. How about that for some advice!

Right #4- Fish Wood…As the water temperature moves out of the 40’s and into the low to mid  50’s, larger females will often be the first to move up to spawning locations. It has been my experience that these bigger fish stage slightly deeper, slightly earlier, and closer to prime cover- usually logs. This can be a magic time for a fisherman who positions himself carefully and makes casts to visible and submerged logs. Last year it fascinated me how close these fish will move to cover and only strike when a lure is placed in a precise spot. It is at this time of year that I assume that every log has a fish on it and usually I am right or at least I fish with the confidence that I am right. The true test is to locate those logs that are not visible and off the bank in just slightly deeper and less pressured water.  These are the “magic logs.” I found one of these “magic logs” last year and had one of the best days of my fishing life.  I like fishing a jig or a Case Curly Craw with the pinchers painted orange/red with “Spike it.” The “right” of Spring also applies here in that the fish will be spooky and it’s important to be as stealth as possible. It is “right” to turn off your depth finders, make minimal use of your trolling motor, fish thoroughly and utilize “Power Poles” to maintain boat position.

Right #5- Look for Fish Activity.. In early Spring it is “right” to look for any kind of fish activity in the area you are fishing. Look for baitfish activity near the surface. Look for mud dusts from the river bottom. Look for birds. I have found that if I hook yellow perch in the early Spring – bass are in the area.  The “right” thing is to look for life in the Spring. Bass will be following and feeding on baitfish – especially very early in the year. Also, look for small strands of very green hydria on your crankbaits- this is a sure fire indicator that you are in the right area. So a great combination for early Spring success is baitfish activity near the last deep water hard bank of a spawning creek where green hydria is located. That is the “right” combination!

These are a few of my “rights” of Spring for largemouth bass fishing on the Potomac River. In the coming weeks, I will provide you with more “rights” of Spring as they apply to warmer water temperatures. I also hope to supplement the written word with on water tutorials so that you can get a better picture of locations, lure selection, lure presentations, and bass catching strategies. 

           

I am a full time licensed and insured guide with Life Outdoors Unlimited after completing a career of 27 years as a police officer. I am a USCG Captain and I own and operate a 20-foot Ranger Bass Boat with a 225 HP Mercury Verado. I am on the Pro-staff of Ardent Rod and Reels and Under Armour Clothing. I can be reached by Email at Fishdetective729@hotmail.com or by phone 240-876-2144.  Monitor our website at www.penrodsguides.com for our weekly fishing report and more articles in the LOU Magazine.

KP3 can be reached at 240-876-2144 and Kenneth.Penrod@montgomerycountyco for the time being. We will post new contact information in the future.

KP3 is a USCG licensed Captain, has a MD Guide License and is commercially insured.