“If any grass made it through the winter on fisheries like the Delta or Clear Lake, that’s my No 1 target,” Smith said. “Grass is a magnet that time of year because fish tend to group up during the pre-spawn.”
Smith’s first choice for grass work is a 1/2-ounce green pumpkin Strike King Thunder Cricket vibrating jig. (If a lot of spring rain muddies the water, he’ll go black/blue or fire craw to stand out.) This size is just heavy enough to flutter over the shallow vegetation and occasionally grab enough for Smith to snap it out and trigger bites.
“I like a Strike King Blade minnow for the trailer because it’s very subtle,” Smith said. “That time of year, the water is a little colder, so you don’t want too much action. Just enough to bring them in.”
Smith’s second option is a Strike King Redeye Shad lipless bait in the 1/2-ounce size for 2- to 6-feet, or a 3/4-ounce for deeper water. He’ll choose a green gizzard or a natural craw for clear water, while sexy shad and a crawdad work best in darker water.
Docks and natural wood absorb the heat that pre-spawn fish want that this time of year. Smith said afternoons often these fish pull up and suspend in the tops of laydowns and under docks to sun their back and incubate their eggs.
“For this scenario, I like a 1/2-ounce chartreuse and white spinnerbait with nickel/gold double willow-leaf blades,” Smith said.
“Especially for natural wood, that’s one of the only baits you can get through the laydowns.
“I will use trailer hook, but only if I have to because where I’m throwing that spinnerbait — over a laydown or under a dock - it will tend to sling around and catch a piece of wood or a dock piling.”
In pressured waters, Smith works in a KVD 2.5 squarebill to deflect off the cover and trigger aggressive responses.
On highland reservoirs like Shasta, Oroville, Berryessa, and the Motherlode lakes, which are devoid of grass and lack significant wood or docks, Smith focuses on rock transitions. From large river channel rock to pea gravel or