March is here! Roosevelt Lake is at 100 percent of capacity, and the warmer temperatures are starting to return to Arizona. To the warm-water angler, this means bass will be heading to the spawning grounds of shallow water, and great fishing is right around the corner. The migration of bass boat owners from northern communities, which have been digging out of numerous winter storms, is on the increase daily, because the word is out.
With each warm day, the water temperatures start inching upward, which triggers largemouth bass to begin staging or entering a pre-spawn pattern. This generally happens in shallow water in the back of coves or at the two main sources for Roosevelt Lake, the Tonto and Salt River. Finding 60-degree-plus water as the sun’s rays are soaked up by the rocks and dark bottom will determine if the fish will be in an active feeding stage.
These areas of the lake in a pre-spawn pattern need to have deeper water very close by, where bass will tend to hold to structure until they have the urge to move to the spawning beds. This often means a river channel or other drop-offs can be a key to locate fish. Obviously, a graph that will show the contours of the bottom is invaluable at this time of year when bass are the target fish.
There is so much submerged structure that any spot with these mentioned characteristics could hold fish.
Spending time on the water and studying your graph can pay big dividends on any future spring trips to Roosevelt Lake. If the water level remains constant, that structure, whether it is a point or some other kind of drop-off, will continually have fish throughout the spring, as bass prepare to move to the shallows to spawn.
The depth of these target areas, or fish zones, will vary from 8 to 15 feet and deeper in some areas where channels have been carved by years of erosion. Sometimes a bend or significant contour along the bottom will attract more bass because of their predatory nature, making these spots the perfect ambush for smaller baitfish.
There is a lot of trial and error in locating these bass, but that is why it is called fishing.
Another tip would be to slow down at this time of year and work each area thoroughly with a very deliberate retrieve.
Bass are cold blooded and are just now coming out of the winter doldrums, which dictate allowing them more time to see the bait. This retrieve pattern will change as water temperatures rise and fish become more aggressive.
Choosing the right bait is definitely trial and error, but it would be a good bet to have a spinnerbait tied on one rod and a spider jig on another. These baits are very good at this time of year, but changing color patterns may be necessary to entice a bass to bite. Again, there is so much experimentation trying to find the right bait and correct presentation.
Keep in mind the slot is 13 to 16 inches and only one bass may be kept in that size range.
If you want a fish dinner, I would recommend keeping the “unders,” which are perfect for fillets, and let those “overs” return to the water to make more healthy bass for Roosevelt Lake.
This weekend, take a friend fishing and enjoy God’s creation.