The most important clue is when the weather has three or four warm consecutive nights.
I have found that the early morning bite is normally better. The weather is the significant factor that triggers the bass to move shallow compared to the time of year or month of the year. So, even if it is January, if there have been three to four warm nights that have followed days of warmer-than-normal weather, the first wave of bass can move up to spawn.
Now on another note, if the weather does not warm up until the middle of March or even early April, that is when I start looking for the bass moving shallow. However, here in California, the middle of February is typically when you catch the bigger pre-spawn bass. I have found the big pre- spawn bass right up against the bank that is composed of a hard surface.
WB: Where would you first start looking for those spring bass?”
THAO: The larger bays that are protected from cooler winds and have the sun shining all day long are the coves I first check. These coves warm up faster and are normally one to two degrees warmer.
I always start out on the farthest point out from a spawning cove as I move towards the back. I fish the points that have some type of hard cover – that being wood or rock and even hardpan mud. These points are highways that bass use to move to the back of the cove. I look for ledges near the points that have flats in conjunction and that are near the very back of the cove.
Here in California, we have many cold fronts that move through during our spring, and the bass use the slightly deeper ledges, brush, and standing timber in eight- to 10- feet deep to move back to when conditions change. Once the weather warms, the bass can easily move back up and spawn.”
WB: What lures do you use in search of spring bass?”
THAO: I use a Deps 250 with a steady retrieve to see if I can get some followers to show themselves. This lets me know that the fish have moved shallow. I throw the Deps 250 on a Dobyns Champion 867 rod spooled with 20-pound CXX P-Line. Then I’ll go back with an S-Waver 168 with a steady retrieve and reel twitch to follow up and try to catch those fish that showed themselves. The key to trigger those fish to bite is to let the S-Waver sink down so I cannot see the lure. When I throw the S-Waver 168, I use a Powel
Endurance 723 rod spooled
with 15-pound P-Line Tactical.
During spring, I can
normally catch them pretty
good with a squarebill
crankbait. I use a Powel
Endurance 711 spooled with
12-pound P-Line Tactical when
cranking. I also use a Carolina-
rig and a Texas-rig dragged
and hopped aggressively,
both techniques use a Brush
Hog. On the Carolina rig, I use
20-pound P-Line Tactical line
and the leader varies from 12-
to 15-pound-test, depending
on the structure and the size of
the Brush Hog. For the Texas-
rig, I use a Dobyns 744 spooled
with 15-pound P-Line Tactical.
I also like to use a jig.
The Senko always comes
into play during the spring.
I Texas-rig the Senko with
either a 1/4- or 1/8-ounce
weight with a red glass bead.
I normally cast these lures
towards the bank and work it back to deeper water, but during cold front conditions, I Power-Pole down shallow and cast out to deep water and work the bait uphill. The weather determines what retrieve I use.”
WB: Do you use a map or Google Earth prior to arriving at a lake or do you just show up and go from there?
THAO: I just show up and go with my feel about what to check and where to go. I look for the areas that have the most sun on them and the coves that are protected from the north cold wind.
This is when I adjust my electronics to the water level once on the water. I can tell which way the wind is blowing and where to start searching with the conditions available at the moment in time.
WB: How would you handle this common springtime scenario for a tournament? During practice the nights were warm and the days hot. You located shallow and aggressively feeding fish. Then there was a week of off- limits and the weather changed to extreme cold and water temperature dropped four to five degrees. On tournament day, the off-limits conditions continued. The weather was cold, with the dip in water temperature, and bluebird skies. What adjustments would you make to your practice strategy and where would you look to find those fish that were shallow the week before?
THAO: During these conditions, I start to back track from what I had found. I check the first break that has hard cover on it like a rock drop-off or ledge. I then check the middle of the channel. If the fish are not there, I keep moving back to the points leading into the cove and as far out to the first