March is when big sow largemouth reach their heaviest weights, fat with eggs and stored reserves to carry them through the busy and rigorous spawning process ahead.
It is also a time when they are vulnerable, when personal, lake and even state records can be set.
Keep your eyes on four lakes this March, including Davis Lake, which is operated by the U.S. Forest Service on the Tombigbee National Forest. The others are all part of the MDWFP’s state lake system, the aforementioned Calling Panther Lake, plus Lake Bill Waller near Columbia in south Mississippi and Neshoba County Lake near Philadelphia in the east central region of the state.
“The great thing is that no matter where you live in the state, there is a trophy bass lake with the potential of producing a fish of a lifetime,” said Ron Garavelli, retired chief of fisheries for the MDWFP. “We have three of our lakes at a peak of maturity of bass that were part of an original stocking at Calling Panther and restockings at Waller and Neshoba.
“All three of the lakes have been producing huge bass, some as big as 14 or 15 in recent years, and we can now add another year’s growth to them. The same can be said at Davis Lake, which is the Forest Service’s lake but we provided the Florida bass that were stocked there in 2000 when it was restocked after renovation.”
Davis Lake produced a 17.34-pound bass two years ago. It is the No. 2 heavyweight largemouth ever recorded in Mississippi.
FLW Series pro Pete Ponds of Madison hates that the national tour takes him out of the state in March, forcing him to miss the opportunity to bag a brute. He will be able to fish the BASS Central Open in March, but that and his FLW commitments will ruin other chances.
“I’d love to be here going to those lakes and trying to find a monster,” he said. “I’d start at Waller in early March because they bed there earlier than the others. Then I’d go to Calling Panther next and work my way up to Neshoba and then Davis Lake.
“If you know how to catch bedding fish and have the patience to look for the beds and devote the time to get the sow to bite, I’d just about guarantee you a trophy bass, and in those lakes it could easily be the fish of a lifetime.”
Ponds adds this caveat: “I urge everyone to be conservative with these bedding fish. They are vulnerable. Enjoy catching them, but take some pictures, take some measurements and let them go. These days, taxidermists can recreate a fiberglass mount that is more realistic than the old-style where a fish has to be killed.”
Bobby Cleveland works for Mississippi Sportsman.