Spring brings about a unique time for bass fishing that can either be a fruitful one, or a frustrating one - the Spawn. For obvious reasons, this brings about a dramatic change in bass’s behavior and this needs to be taken into account if you want to catch fish consistently over this period. Let's talking about some key spawning bass fishing techniques.
Figuring out the spawning process of bass will greatly enhance your ability to catch fish during this season. Bass are protective, smart predators, and they’re extremely specific when it comes to selecting the zones where they’ll spawn.
During the months of April to June in the United States, largemouth and smallmouth bass undergo their crucial spawning process. With the onset of spring, as water temperatures rise, bass actively seek out suitable spawning grounds to initiate this essential stage of their life cycle.
What does a Bass Spawn Bed Look Like?
Rather than fishing the normal favorite areas in a system, start understanding which areas are best suited for a bass to spawn. Here are some of the key things to consider when looking for spawning bass:
Bass will look to hard surfaces: This is one of the most important requirements for bass, as a hard surface will give their eggs something to stick to, keeping them together for easier protection.
Hard surfaces come in different forms: The bottom of a lake or a gravel flat is not the only form of hard surface. Hard root systems of vegetation such as lily pads are thick, solid surfaces that’ll be ideal for eggs to stick to.
The surface doesn’t have to be flat: This is a common misconception when it comes to searching for spawning bass. They don’t necessarily require a flat surface when spawning. Slanted hard surfaces will be just fine for keeping their eggs together. The most important factor is the solidity of the surface.
Sunlight penetration is vital: Light penetration will enhance the incubation process, and bass will almost always spawn where there is some sort of sunlight. This is often why bass will move to shallower flats during the spawn.
Dirty water = shallower spawn: In slightly more stained systems, bass will have to move shallower in order to get that sunlight.
Clear water = deeper spawn: For clearer systems, sunlight will penetrate further down the water column, and bass won’t have to necessarily move shallow.
Key Areas to Target for Spawning Bass
Certain kinds of structure are better suited for spawning bass, and anglers should shift their focus to these kinds of areas during the spawn.
Fish Around Cover
Bass love having a bit of cover around them, especially for their spawn. Like humans, they enjoy having a more protected zone for their young, almost like a home.
Secured cover will also be easier to protect for the roaming males.
These are great spots to start at during the spawn. Sparse grass areas that are next to thick grass areas will be preferred for beds.
Bass will often make out holes or ‘trash cans’ in amongst these sparse grass areas, which provide great protection for their eggs.
If your system has fewer grass beds, zone in on isolated cover. Bass will always look for an object of some sort for their spawn beds.
Electronics will come in handy for finding these isolated objects, especially in stained water, where visibility is lower.
Walkways or Other Manmade Structures
Often these manmade objects will be some of the best options for spawning bass. These hard surfaces will hold eggs together nicely, which is exactly what they’re looking for.
Smallmouth Love Rocks
Smallmouth bass will generally spawn deeper and by isolated rocks or boulders. So if you’re a local to a clear Smallmouth system - get out the Sonars and find that rocky cover.
Bait Selection for Spawning Bass
Lure selection is a slightly different process during the spawn. A bass’s mindset alters during this period, as they become a bit more defensive - especially around their nests. Bass lose plenty of eggs to other predators, and males will do their best job to protect their young from any invaders.
In saying that, they are still looking to feed - but in order to catch them, you need to find where they’re spawning. In most cases, if you’re finding their beds - you’ll be targeting males, as they are in charge of protecting the eggs.
These are mostly effective when bass have moved into shallower flats to spawn. This is a great way to cover a lot of water when fishing shallow. A slower retrieve is recommended for topwaters, especially when cruising over beds. Males won’t venture far from their eggs.
Poppers: Noisy, slow, and annoying. Perfect for a male bass protecting eggs. Poppers are best for fishing in between bushes and other cover. A slow walking action is ideal.
Hollow-body Frogs: Great for throwing onto mats that are near beds. Slow down the retrieve of the frog, and give a solid pause in between each twitch.
Topwaters can be a great way to expose bass, and you may want to throw a different kind of bait to get them to bite.
As mentioned earlier - bass will have a more defensive approach during the spawn, and invaders will not be welcome. I consider a spinnerbait an invader, as well as a meal. This will be one of my go-to baits for the spawn, especially for Smallmouth.
I’ve had trips during spring where I couldn’t get anything to bite. The way I saw it was that bass weren’t feeding, but rather in full defensive mode. Bringing out a bait such as a spinnerbait is always worth a shot in these situations.
Color and weight will depend on depth and water clarity. My general rules are:
Clear water: More natural color, heavier spinnerbait to get to deeper beds.
Stained water: Shock colors such as a white, lighter spinnerbait for shallower beds.
Something you’ll always want with a spinnerbait is wind. No matter the season - wind is your best friend when throwing a spinnerbait.
Creatures baits imitate potential threats to a bass’s eggs, as well a meal. I love throwing these baits on a Texas rig, as it causes a fair amount of disturbance in and around beds. More often than not, this will bring about an aggressive reaction in male bass.
Here are a few of my favorites:
Gary Yamamoto Cowboy: Thrown on a Texas rig, this bait will imitate anything from a lizard to a craw. I like a heavier weight for this, for that added disturbance.
Berkley Power Hawg: A crazy-looking bait that bass will want to eliminate - perfect on a heavier Texas rig.
There’s always space for a finesse application, no matter the season. Getting the spinning rod out and slowly moving and twitching a finesse presentation around a bed is never a bad option.
The following are my favorite finesse techniques for the spawn:
Drop Shot: Twitching your drop shot rig around a bed will be an extremely effective way to get a male bass to bite. I prefer drop shotting when bass are spawning by isolated cover. My first cast will always be a Dream Shot.
Shaky Head: Slowly twitching and jerking a shaky head-rigged finesse worm is another go-to technique when it comes to my spawn finesse methods. A Squirrel Tail on a lighter jighead is often my first pick.
Weightless Texas Rig: As simple as it gets, but a Senko on a weightless Texas rig will often be your best bet. Big surprise there, right?
Although finesse is a great option, you may want to cover water at a faster rate - which is where other applications may be preferred.
The swim jig can be seen as an invader or a meal. This technique gives you the opportunity to cover plenty of water, and it’s capable of getting plenty of bites.
I usually do a few things with my swim jigs during spawn:
Downscale: A smaller profile seems to get a lot more bites during this period.
A trailer to match: Adding a trailer to match the size of the swim jig will give it a more lifelike action. I tend to use a finesse swimbait as a trailer, such as a Strike King Rage Swimmer.
Slow down the retrieve: A slow-rolling retrieve amongst the beds is often the most appealing for an aggressive male protecting his eggs.
Tips for Catching Spawning Bass
Slow it Down
Slowing down your presentation will greatly increase your chances of getting a protective male to bite. As mentioned earlier, males won’t venture far from their beds, purely because of their defensive nature during this period.
Keeping your bait near their beds for as long as possible means keeping your bait in the strike zone for a longer period. For each presentation you choose, slow it down.
Bass Don’t Enjoy Wind in the Spawn
Wind brings about unfavorable conditions for a bass during their spawn, such as a current. Calmer conditions will benefit the chances of their eggs staying together, and bass know this when searching for beds.
Know the main wind within your area, and search for zones that are protected from it. Apply this knowledge when searching for potential spawning areas.
Persistence is Key
Bass become rather hesitant during the spawn, and food isn’t necessarily their main priority anymore. For this reason, it may require more than one cast to entice a bite from a spawning bass.
Several casts covering the strike zone are necessary, especially when fishing in slightly stained water where you can’t spot fish.
The Spawn Can Be Tough
Expectations can often be higher than reality within the spawn. Bass can be extremely hard to catch in this period, which can be frustrating.
Focus on areas that bass find attractive for their eggs, and be experimental with your bait selection. Another key thing to remember is the mindset of bass. It’s not just feeding for them, but protection as well.
The spawn is a time of change for bass, as they engage in the most important stage of their life cycle. Knowing the kinds of areas and structure that bass prefer to spawn in, will greatly increase your chances of finding them, and from there, one can experiment with bait selection.
Patience and learning are two key values for this season and anglers should look to understand the spawning process as much as possible, especially within their local waters.
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