By TJ Maglio
“Life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re gonna get.” – Forrest Gump
Bass fishing in the spring is a whole lot like that quintessential line from the legendary 1994 Tom Hanks movie. On any given day, on any given lake – you never know what you’re gonna get. In a single day, it’s very possible to encounter bass in all three phases of the spawn (pre-spawn, bedding fish, and post-spawners).
Because of this, it’s extremely important in the spring to do away with pre-conceived notions, and rig up so you’re prepared to catch bass in all phases.
As a full-time touring pro, Bassmaster Elite Series angler Brandon Card has spent a lot of time on the water during the spring – and he never leaves shore without the following three presentations on his deck. No matter where the bass are along the spawn continuum, he’s ready to catch them.
Pre-spawners: Vibrating Jig
“The vibrating jig is the perfect combination of a swim jig, lipless crankbait, and spinnerbait,” Card said. “Each of those are great pre-spawn lures in their own right, and it’s that combination of vibration, flash, and profile that makes the vibrating jig so deadly on pre-spawn bass. No matter where you live or what your home lake is like, you’re going to be able to catch pre-spawners on a vibrating jig.”
The key is to tailor your vibrating jig presentation to the waters you’re fishing. On clear highland reservoirs, Card uses a vibrating jig in shad patterns. In grass lakes he’ll opt for a bluegill imitation, and on rivers and muddy lowland reservoirs it’s a black and blue version. No matter which you frequent though, the vibrating jig’s versatility will let you know pretty quickly whether there are any hungry pre-spawners around.
“The types of places you throw it may vary from lake to lake,” Card said. “In grass lakes, you’re likely going to be fishing emerging grass beds near the mouths of spawning areas, ripping it through the grass. On the blueback lakes of the Carolinas, you want to target seawalls, docks, and rip rap. In highland reservoirs, you may be throwing it around stumps and creek channels. As long as you’re in the right areas – pre-spawn bass will jump all over a vibrating jig.
Card’s vibrating jig of choice is a 3/8 or ½ ounce Evergreen/Zman Jackhammer – and he tips it with the new Yamamoto Zako swimbait, which perfectly emulates pretty much anything bass can eat.
“Brett Hite has proven what a vibrating jig can do to pre-spawn bass,” Card said. “And he hit the nail on the head when he designed the Zako. It’s got a subtle wiggle, compact profile, and it skips super well. Since they came out last year, I’ve barely fished anything else.”
To fish a vibrating jig, Card relies on a 7 foot 3 inch Abu Garcia Veracity baitcaster paired to a 6.4:1 ratio Abu Garcia Revo Premier reel spooled with 16 or 20 pound Yo-Zuri Top Knot fluorocarbon, depending on the thickness and type of cover.
During the course of a spring day on the water, it’s common to randomly stumble onto a bedding fish. When this happens to Card, he quickly reaches for the most popular, and legendary Yamamoto bait on the market - the Senko.
“I’ve fished tons of plastics,” Card said. “But the Senko is still my number one choice for catching bedding bass. The way it falls is just irresistible, and you should never leave the dock in the spring without a Senko on your deck.”
When he’s in an area with bedding bass, Card actually fishes a Senko two ways – to maximize his efficiency. He starts out by blind casting a wacky rigged 5 inch model while working down the bank to catch any deep spawners, or those that he hasn’t seen yet. Then, if he ends up spotting one that’s locked down, he reaches for a Texas-rigged version of the same bait.
“If possible, I prefer to catch bedding bass before they can even see me,” Card said. “I prefer to stay way back and lob casts to likely bedding areas like stumps, holes in the grass, or light spots. If they don’t see you, there’s a very high probability that they will bite on the first cast. However, if they spy me, or are just locked on and not eating, that’s when I’ll pitch the Texas-rigged Senko in there.”
Card’s wacky rig setup is a 7 foot, medium power Abu Garcia Fantasista Premier rod paired to an Abu Garcia Revo MGX spinning reel spooled with 15 pound Duel Hardcore braid and a fluorocarbon leader.
For Texas-rigging, he starts with a 7 foot 6 inch Abu Garcia Fantasista Premier Casting rod mated to a Revo Rocket reel spooled with 20 pound Yo Zuri Top Knot fluorocarbon. He fishes a ¼ ounce tungsten weight 90 percent of the time.
If Card suspects that there are bass in the post-spawn mode, his weapon of choice is the Yo-Zuri 3DB Pencil, a topwater walking bait that has been racking up accolades in recent years.
“Depending on where you are, post-spawn bass could be doing a number of things,” Card said. “They could be on a shad spawn bite, guarding fry, or even feeding up around bluegill beds. Either way, they’re going to be relatively shallow – and a topwater walking bait is about the best way I’ve found to get better than average bites from these bass.”
Although some anglers dote on poppers, or prop baits during the post-spawn, Card prefers the walking bait because it casts farther, and can be worked faster – which allows him to cover more water in a day.
Typical post-spawn targets include seawalls, rip rap, backs of pockets, and outside grass lines. Card tries to fish as many of these key areas as possible in a day – in hopes that the bass will show up on one.
To fish the 3DB Pencil, Card relies on a 7 foot, medium power Abu Garcia Veritas baitcaster paired to a high-speed Revo MGX baitcaster spooled with 40 pound Yo Zuri super braid.