The "Rights" of Spring-Part 1
By Capt. Ken Penrod III
Perfect Spring Combination-
green grass and bass
The "right" lure - Case Magic Stik
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
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
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
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
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
our website at
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KP3 can be reached at 240-876-2144 and
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KP3 is a USCG licensed Captain, has a MD Guide License and is