The Southern Tackle Box by Jim Farmer
April has always been a special month for me when it comes to the outdoors. Growing up in a rural farming community in the middle of the heartland gives me a special appreciation for April and the arrival of spring. The cold frozen ground would finally thaw and everything was changing from haze grey to a fresh color of green. The dark rich freshly plowed farming soil always gave off a distinct smell and the threat of tornadoes were what I remember most about April. Another memory I have of April is the crappie and bass spawn and fishing with my grandparents as a child. My grandfather spend more than 30 years in the Army and survived 3 wars as well as atomic testing in the Bimini Islands when he retired. My grandmother worked at the local armory for years and when my grandfather retired from the military my grandmother retired from the armory. At the time I was still in grade school and my parents worked so my retired grandparents watched me after school and during the summer months. One of my fondest memories I have of the time period is fishing with my grandparents. They loved to pond hop for bass and crappie and we had the green light to fish any of our neighbor’s ponds. My granddad was a well decorated veteran and well known by all in our community. There wasn’t one farmer within a thousand miles that would deny my grandfather access to their property out of respect. My granddad had an old truck with a minnow bucket, a cooler filled with cold drinks and lunch and 3-4 fishing rods hanging out of the truck bed. We would set out in search of spawning crappie in our favorite crappie ponds in April. Granddad would be driving, my grandmother sitting on the passenger side and I’d be right there in the middle flying down dirt roads laughing without a care in the world. Lord, we caught so many crappie and the occasional big ole pond bass along the shallow shorelines with minnows and bobbers; those memories of sitting on the tailgate listening to my granddads stories are forever etched in my mind.
Every year when April rolls around I still have a desire to scour the shoreline for spawning fish in hopes that just one of those fish will bring back a memory of my childhood, long forgotten by time. When it comes to fishing, certain months and seasons drive me to pursue a certain species of fish. As the water warms into the upper 50’s and lower 60’s I start thinking about spawning fish. Whether it’s big female stripers moving up our rivers, driven by genetics or our smaller predatory fish like bass and crappie crowding into the shallows, driven by the same genetics. When these fish are driven to spawn, they are also driven to eat. In the case of a striper, a female can produce up to 3 million eggs and can gain weight in leaps and bounds, after all, she’s eating for 3 million. I believe its relative with size, as the bass and crappie follow suit and have a healthy appetite prior to the spawn. A hearty appetite coupled with these fish getting very territorial during this period provides the angler with a great opportunity to score big in April in shallow water. Not every striper decides to move up river in April, there are plenty of striped fish moving into the shallow backs of our larger creeks in April too. Along with the stripers, the crappie are moving into the shallows, looking for structure in the shallows to perform their yearly ritual. Bass are still moving around the shallows before pulling out to deeper water in a post spawn mode.
Harassment is a great strategy in April and I believe in pestering shallow fish into biting is a valid plan. Every year my wife Lisa and I spend hours paralleling the shoreline with light tackle and smaller offerings like 2-4 inch plastic fluke type baits, small creature baits and little bucktails with lead head jig weights of 1/4 ounce or smaller. We’ve always been able to figure the shallow fish out and 2 colors have always stood out for us, those colors being either chartreuse or plain white. Lisa has become a master with the little white ¼ bucktail and I’m convinced that if there are fish in the area, the little bucktails will get em. Sometimes I use a combination of chartreuse and white with success and other times it may be one color or the other, but generally speaking, if the bite is on you can’t go wrong with those two colors. In April it’s all about shallow aggressive fish and shallow grassy shorelines and areas around docks are a good location for bass in April. Long shallow points, flats and the shallow backs of creeks are a good location for stripers in early April and there should be a few crappie cruising the shallows looking for the perfect spawning areas around structure. With the higher lake levels, the shoreline bite should continue to be great throughout April with some great spring fishing. Good Luck!