To an open water fisherman in Minnesota, this warm spring has been a blessing and I have already begun tackling the Mississippi River. Recently, I have been fishing on Pool 2, a stretch of river from the Ford Dam in St. Paul to the dam in Hastings that offers catch and release fishing year round. The lack of snowfall is evident in the low water we are experiencing, as we are nowhere near flood stages that typically occur soon after the snow melts. This warm spring also equates to warm water, and I am reading surface water temperatures that are above 50 degrees in the main channel and close to 60 degrees in some of the back water areas. Although I predominately fish for bass, I have unintentionally caught a variety of fish species. The diversity of the fishery and the challenge of locating and catching river bass have always intrigued me and the Mississippi River provides an unique analytical challenge that I thoroughly enjoy.
With the river in optimal spring fishing conditions, I have been out chasing largemouth and smallmouth bass the past two weekends. There has been a variety of baits that have worked for me, but one needs to pay close attention to the conditions in order to be successful. Hopefully, I can relate some of my insight from the past two weekends.
1. Spinnerbait and Swim Jig. I use these two baits to fish quickly and effectively to seek out active fish. I am able to cover a lot of water and the fairly quick retrieve will get those aggressive fish to bite. These lures are great in the spring when there is a warming trend, either during the week or even throughout a day. When a spring cold front quickly sweeps in overnight, it has been very tough for me to get bit using these baits. I love to pick up one of these baits to cast while I am moving to the next tree laydown. As I approach the next laydown, I will cast in and around the laydown to try for a quick reactionary bite. Once I approach closer, I pick up a lure I can more thoroughly pick apart the sticks and stumps.
|Tonka Tackle Halo Craw||Fish|
2. Creature bait with ¼ ounce Tungsten bullet sinker, Texas Rigged. Creature baits are one of the most popular ways to catch bass no matter what season or body of water. My favorite baits are Tonka Tackle’s Halo Craw Tube, Berkley’s Chigger Craw, and Strike King’s Rodent. These baits easily slip in and out of heavy cover and since I am burying the hook (texas style), I can virtually fish snag free when pitching into and around fallen trees.
3. Rapala’s Shad Rap. This is a well known spring bass catcher on rivers due to its tight, rattle-less wobble. This is a great bait when fishing the main river channel because of its versatility. I will fish it over shallow rocks and also along undercut banks and rip rap. Also, don’t be surprised if you catch a few “bonus” fish. Last weekend I landed a 24” walleye on a number 8 Shad Rap in Shad color. It was awesome!
4. Jerk Bait. Rapala’s X rap has been my most successful jerk bait. There are a variety of jerk baits on the market, so finding one that fits your style and budget shouldn’t be a problem. Again, I really like to use this bait when fishing on the main river and chasing smallmouth bass. One’s timing and technique can be critical in getting bit and from my experience each day may require a change. What I mean is that sometimes I can jerk/jerk/jerk/ and 2 second pause and I will get bit. Other days, it may be jerk/jerk and 10 second pauses to entice a bite.
For the past two weeks, these have been my go-to baits and techniques for early spring fishing on the Mississippi River. Since the water level is fairly low, take your time when entering and exiting the back waters. If you are fishing laydowns, my advice is to thoroughly fish them with multiple casts at multiple angles. Last weekend I made at least 10 casts to a very small laydown. Finally, I got bit in the hardest-to-reach casting area and the hard work paid off. Casting accuracy can be critical this time of year, so dust off your gear and start making some casts and hunting those lunkers!