Look for schools of live bait getting crushed by sunshine bass and schooling largemouth bass at the mouths of the lakes and in the deep river bends at first light or late evening. Topwater is the name of the game! Nothing beats that explosive topwater strike – these hungry fish will destroy a Heddon Spook Jr. in bone color, or you can also try your favorite saltwater topwater baits if they are small-sized. Second best are rattling crank baits – Rattle Traps and their look-alikes (no rattle works great too). If the bass are finicky, tie on a white jerk bait – first try unweighted and use a walk the dog style retrieve just beneath the surface.
March means trophy bass in the St Johns River. Large wild shiners are the best bait if you can find some. For giant largemouth, remember these female fish are the breeders for the future – lift them out of the water supporting their belly and hold them out of the water only as long as you can hold your breath. Avoid holding large bass vertically by the lower jaw. Take measurements of length and girth, take pictures to save and share the memory. Practicing catch and release for trophy bass is honorable.
Panfish will readily eat minnows. They love red worms, night crawlers, and crickets. Look for bedding areas in shallow waters. Bluegill and Shellcrackers will take over beds used earlier by bass and crappie, look in those same areas and concentrate efforts where there is a shell bottom near drop-offs, and nearby cover (lily pads). Crappie will be found in the pads during full and new moons, other times try long-line trolling or spider rigging the drop-offs along the river.