Bass fishing ahead of schedule this spring

Northeast Ohio’s bass fishing is ahead of schedule based on my Kentucky Derby seasonal yardstick.

Historically, I’ve always enjoyed the peak of my spring bass fishing as the thoroughbreds lined up at Churchill Downs, the ladies donned their fancy hats and everybody sipped mint juleps. Whether I’m casting for largemouths or jigging for smallies, the first Saturday in May is hot stuff on my fishing calendar.

This year, of course, the mild winter surrendered early to spring. The reservoirs sported ice for only a few days and Lake Erie never froze, so the bass made an early and easy transition to warm-weather behavior.

From Mosquito and Pymatuning to Milton and Berlin, Ohio anglers are notching nice catches of largemouths as they gear up for the next full moon’s spawning opportunities.

Smallmouth bass have been rocking the shallow sandbars and rocky structures all along Lake Erie’s shoreline the past several weeks, while their Ohio River cousins have been cooperating in the Montgomery, New Cumberland and Pike Island pools.

Spring bass fishing, of course, can be as fickle as Ohio weather, but based on the action we’ve seen so far, this is a season to remember. Big fish and big numbers are showing up fairly frequently.

As the bugler sounds the Kentucky Derby’s Call to Post later today, it will be as though he’s signaling bass anglers to get out there and get busy.

My favorite spring largemouth bass fishing involves casting spinnerbaits, bladed jigs and squarebill crankbaits around shallow cover. I also love pitching soft plastics into the snaggiest trees and bushes. With accurate casts, heavy-action rods and stout lines, I am confident of getting big bites and wrestling bucking bass to the boat.

My other top spring bass tactic is casting unweighted whacky-rigged stickworms to shallow holes where bass are setting up for nesting. The rig mimics small nest-robbing bluegills, which largemouths will chase and eat.

I have enjoyed banner days on the north end of Pymatuning, the west banks of Mosquito, the cattail ponds up the river at Milton and the willow thickets in Berlin’s creeks and coves.

For smallies on Erie, it’s hard to beat a small natural-color jig. Tube jigs have been top producers for many years, but today’s anglers also are enjoying great success on hair jigs and Ned rigs.

Weightless stickworms also work well on Erie smallies, especially as they move shallow for their own spawning season.

My third choice this time of year is an aggressive topwater plug. Smallies will crush the Zara Spook, Luckycraft Sammy and other walk-the-dog lures danced enticingly around their nests in the sand and gravel flats.

Ohio River smallies also love the topwater lures. I work the eddies behind current breaks with splashy plugs and follow up dragging Ned rigs across the bottom.

Come Derby day, attention is focused on Fierceness and Sierra Leone. For bass anglers, however, the race is on to the productive bass waters here in Northeast Ohio.

Jack Wollitz is the author of “The Common Angler,” a book about the experiences that help define the “why” behind anglers’ passion for fishing. Email Jack at jackbbaass@gmail.com.


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