Catching Bass in Spring
Spring Fishing The Bass Transition
If you have been keeping up with the last few articles, you know that we have been focusing on jigs and jig fishing techniques. After all, that’s what we do best here at OneCast Fishing. But, I also have to apologize for the delay in keeping up with the bass fishing information. Thats what happens when you travel to an austere environment. However, I hope the topic this week helps prepare you to start catching some big bass as the weather warms. We are going a little more general as we discuss high percentage places to search for bass as they migrate from their winter depths. In the spring, when you locate the fish, usually you can catch them on a variety of lures.
For the last couple of months those consistently on the water probably know where the fish have been located. They may have been playing hard to get, but they were in the predictable places. These usual winter spots include deep structure, main lake points, bluff walls, etc.
As the weather warms, days become longer, and the calendar turns to March and April (in most sections of the country at least) the bass have one thing on their minds. The only thing they care about is the spawning. They know they need to gorge on bait for the coming exhaustion involved in laying and protecting their eggs. They know they need to start swimming towards protected waters. Waters where current and wind won’t destroy their beds and nests. Once they find the perfect bedding area, they know they must wait tp spawn until the conditions are optimal for the survival of their young.
So pre-spawn fishing is all about finding the most likely places bass relate to as they migrate from the depths of the main lake to the spawning flats. Keep in mind every lake is different; your location in the country drive some of these factors, but the following is what I have noticed about pre-spawn fishing over the years. Take the following as a guide and apply it to the waters you fish.
Rising Water Temperatures are the Signal
As water temperatures rise a consistent 5-7 degrees from the winter average bass begin their transition. I judge this rise in temperature based upon readings first thing in the morning. In the South it’s not uncommon to have warm days in December and January where the water temperature can jump 5 degrees from morning to late afternoon. However, the cool or cold nights drop that temperature right back down. It’s when the early morning water temperatures are consistently 5 degrees warmer than deep winter’s that I know I need to start searching for the first migrating bass.
Here in the Piedmont of North Carolina, I have noticed this shift in bass movement occurs when the water temperatures rise above 55 degrees. In winter, many of our lakes maintain an average winter temperature between 48-50 degrees. So the rise above 55 degrees and the lengthening sunlight tell the bass that its time to jump start their feeding. Within 6 weeks many will be sitting on bed.
Fishing the Bass Migration
The bass migration will begin slow. A few will start to move, then a couple of main waves, then the stragglers. Now they probably don’t get together and draw straws to determine whose going to go spawn in what order, but Mother Nature designed the bass stagger their movement. If a severe cold front rolls through and kills the eggs or fry, there are still more bass waiting to ensure the lake remains populated.
As the migration begins, the first place I am going to search for bass are points on the mouths of creeks near the main lake. This is the first stop on their way to spawn. The bass will stage here and feed until the conditions are a little more optimal to move further back a creek or tributary. Locating bait is key here, and actually all through the pre-spawn period. A point may look juicy for staging bass, but if there isn’t any bait fish around, there probably won’t be any bass. The bass need to get to the spawning flats, and can only afford to stop at the buffets along the way.
Once the main population of bass have seemed to move on from the mouths of creeks its time to start pushing back. A popular tactic is to break a creek into thirds. Still early in migration, fish the first third of creek. If the bass are still there, they should be located on the secondary points, humps, stumps, a deeper dock, a few rocks on an otherwise barren bank, or a log that protrudes further into the water. Really, it can be any anomaly that presents a hidden ambush point for the bass to feed. If you can’t find fish in the first third, fish the second, and then the third. Wherever you locate them, you can use this to pattern the bass migration all over the lake. Keep in mind too, if you find fish in the first third of the creek one week, but the next week is significantly warmer, you might want to begin your search in the second third of the creek. Use the sectioning of creeks during the pre-spawn to reduce your search time.
Now eventually, the bass are going to reach the back of creeks and pockets. Often this is when to water temperatures inch up into the mid to high 60s. When the water is this warm, I will start in the backs of creeks and will first look for bedding fish. If the banks are chalked full of bedding fish, and especially if I notice fry too, then I know the main wave of bass are spawning or already spawned. There may only be a few straggling pre-spawn fish staged. Of course, at this time there are going to be post-spawn fish, but they are likely to be skinny. I may choose to bed fish at this point especially if I am in a tournament.
However, if I search the back of a creek and notice only a couple bedding fish, that tells me the majority are right behind me waiting for their final push. I could bed fish, but why spend the frustrating time finessing a bedding fish to bite, when there are plenty of fish still feeding. Instead, I will back up to last pieces of structure from the spawning banks and begin working my lures. Targeting the last points, stumps, and rocks are prime real estate. But what I really like to work is that last major depth change. I have noticed that if the bass are spawning in 2-3 feet of water, I look for that major depth change from there. Often the flats will drop from 2-4 feet to 6-7 feet fairly rapidly. These depth changes can really hold the fish, and the best part they are often overlook. Many fisherman often overlook these places and instead focus on those points and stumps. Some of my best pre-spawn fishing has come from targeting depth changes in the middle of a large spawning cove. My boat has been located a couple hundred meters from the nearest bank, but the fish were staged on some rock and unseen stumps right on that 5-7 foot depth change.
Pre-spawn fishing provides some of the best fishing all year. It's a great time to catch your personnel best as even the largest and smartest bass cant resist the urge to spawn. Bass fishing during this transition phase is all about understanding how and when the bass will migrate. Fish the spots most likely to hold bass as they migrate and I guarantee you will catch fish.
I hope this article provides you a little more insight and helps you target bass as you get back out on the water and enjoy the warming days.
Let me know in the comments what tactics you like to use to target pre-spawn bass.
As always, Tight Lines, and don’t forgot to hit the subscribe button for notifications on new articles , products, and promotions.