In Tennessee, northern Georgia, and northern Alabama, the water temperature is still rather cool at this time, and the bass are not overly active. They are eating, but they are eating in slow motion. Most anglers continue the wintertime technique of presenting a jig/pig or spinnerbait. It is at this time that this angler has, for years, attempted to present a minnow imitation as slowly as possible.
Below are the two techniques that I have used with a reasonable amount of success.
1. Suspending Crankbait a. For the past 20 years, I have taken medium running crankbaits and carefully weighted them so that they would sit perfectly still in the water. b. Once the preferred depth of the fish was determined (that's the hard part), I simply select the crankbait that will easily dive to that depth. c. After the cast, the bait is cranked down to the desired depth, then very slowly worked back to the boat with a series of jerks, snaps, or pulls. d. Most of my strikes have come when the bait was sitting still. There have been times when I would leave the bait still for 30 seconds before twitching it. That seems like forever. e. It requires a great deal of patience to fish in this manner. As soon as you catch a fish, it is difficult not to make a cast and go into a faster gear. I still have that problem.
2. Suspending Jerkbait a. There has been a great deal written about the suspending jerkbait, and I probably cannot add to its already documented effectiveness. b. I usually purchase floating jerkbaits and weight them in order to control how it sits in the water. c. Like the suspending crankbait, this angler has had better luck fishing the suspending jerkbait very slow. d. Vary your retrieve - after getting the jerkbait down to the desired depth, experiment with the retrieve. Try quick, snapping, jerks followed by doing nothing but watching your line. Try sweeping the bait three or four feet then doing nothing. Try anything! Sometimes it is some little something that triggers a strike. Just remember what you did on every cast. It would be a shame to catch a fish and not remember what you did to catch it.
3. Weighting your Crankbaits and Jerkbaits a. In the spring, I like to concentrate the weight toward the front of the lure. This keeps the nose pointing down, and each jerk, snap, or pull will tend to force the lure deeper, counteracting the upward pull of the line. b. In the fall, I do just the opposite with a jerkbait. With the nose pointing up, each jerk, snap, or pull makes the lure appear to be heading for the surface in an attempt to escape. This requires placing the weight to the rear of the center of gravity. c. Personally, I prefer to permanently weight my crankbaits and jerkbaits instead of clamping on pieces of lead. I don't think one way is any better than the other is; I just don't like the looks of a bait with a chunk of lead hanging on the hooks. (The fish apparently don't care.) d. The method I use is simple. I cut and trim a small piece of lead until it allows the lure to slowly rise to the surface. The piece of lead is then formed to fit the contour of the underside of the lure at the selected point of attachment and epoxy the lead to the lure. I then use stick on dots or strips to complete the weighting process. Sometimes I paint over the lead, but I don't think it really adds to anything except how I view it. e. Properly weighting a jerkbait or crankbait is not an easy process. I have spent as much as an hour tuning one lure to my satisfaction. f. If I use suspending crankbaits in the fall, I weight them so that they sink a bit faster than the springtime baits do. This is to give the appearance of a wounded or dying baitfish slowly drifting toward the bottom. This technique can be dynamite when fished under a school of feeding white bass or hybrids. The trick is to cast as far past the school of feeding as possible and get the lure to the bottom as quickly as possible, hoping that there is a bass down there waiting for an easy meal. To better imitate a wounded or dying baitfish, I move the crankbait very slowly. I might give it an occasional twitch, but I don't think a hard jerk or pull is representative of a dying minnow or shad.
This angler's has consistently had better luck in the spring and fall using a very slow presentation with suspending crankbaits and jerkbaits. Research has indicated that a bass will always take the easiest meal, and a minnow-looking offering just sitting there in the water is much easier to eat than a moving crankbait or spinnerbait. If your patience can hold out, try the "Slo-o-o-o-o-ow" approach. If you think it is hard to keep it slow when you start using this method, wait until the few casts right after you catch a good fish.