The Best Times To Go Bass Fishing: Catch Bass Throughout the Year
When it comes to bass fishing, it can be confusing as to why fish aren’t biting or why you’re just not catching anything. Bass react very specifically to slight changes in weather, so the conditions you’re fishing in will play a large role in how successful your session is. We thought we’d write a piece on the best times of the year to go bass fishing and how to approach each season.
When Does Bass Fishing Season Start?
Bass fishing is so unique in the sense that every season brings upon new opportunities to try out different styles of fishing and still get success in every season.
If you’re looking for the season that has bass the most active in terms of feeding, you’re probably looking at early spring (pre-spawn) where bass are preparing for the spawn, and fall, where water temperatures are ideal for both baitfish and bass, and bass are preparing for a not-so active winter.
Winter is definitely the quietest season when it comes to catching bass - but be sure to hit the water once spring kicks in.
Bass Fishing by the Season
Bass act very differently towards food in each season and you’ll want to understand which lures work better for each season.
For each season, we’ll discuss when the best times in the day are best for catching bass, as well as which lures are best suited for the season.
The best time of day for bass fishing is often going to be those early mornings and early evenings/late afternoons. These periods are generally the more productive feeding times for bass.
Overall, spring can be a slow and tough time for bass fishing - especially during spawning season.
Bass are rather focusing on spawning rather than eating, meaning it might be tougher to get them to bite. However, early spring (pre-spawn) is a great time to get fishing, as bass are moving out from deeper winter waters and moving closer to their spawning locations, while feeding to get the energy for their spawning season.
Spring is divided into three sub-seasons, namely: Pre-spawn, Spawn and Post-spawn. For each section of spring, bass’s actions are slightly different and these will be discussed. Water temperatures range from around 50-70 degrees fahrenheit during the spring season.
For each season, the best time in the day to fish are early mornings (5-10am) and late afternoons (4-7pm), as this is when bass are most active.
Pre-Spawn (early spring)
This is a great time to be bass fishing. Fish are moving out from deeper spots where they’ve stayed all winter long - and are looking to find warmer, shallower water to feed and prepare to spawn.
For this time, you’ll want to find the warmer waters on the lake you’re fishing. To do this, you may want to look for waters where:
- There is a cove, or shallow water with some sort of protection from wind
- There is an inflow of water from a stream, which could be warmer rainwater that could spark the life of the ecosystem, enticing bass to feed there
- A culvert is on the lake, which could become a hot spot for warm water
- Muddier, shallow water may warm up faster
- Structure points between deep winter waters and likely spawning grounds
In terms of what lures to use during this time, you’ll want to use bigger, slower moving lures as baits will have grown comfortably over the winter. Some lures which will work great are:
- Large jigs
- Swim jigs with large trailers
- Pitching Texas rigs around shallow cover
- Crawfish-like lures
- Drop shot
- Shaky head
- Wacky rig
Another tip for early spring fishing is to keep moving and cover large areas until you find fish. Once you find a few fish, keep working those areas until you aren’t getting more bites/fish.
Spawn (middle spring)
During the spawning phase, the bass's attitude changes completely. They become defensive and look to protect rather than feed. Species such as bluegill, crawfish, and salamanders are seen as threats to the bass’s nests and bass will attack if necessary.
During spawn, you’ll want to find the spawning spots in the lake, as this is where bass will be spending most of their time - and you’ll want to fish these spots hard. A few things to look out for:
- A flat, hard-bottomed shallow area, protected from weather and hard blows - which is close to a section of deep water
- Shiny spots at the floor of the lake - these spots will be about two to three feet in diameter and will be almost polished white
- Look for cover. Largemouth bass especially almost always spawn by some sort of cover - look for rocks, tree stumps, dock piling
- Once again, you’re going to want to find the water warmer of the lake, as this is preferred for spawning
- Look for nests rather than fish
For lures, you’ll want to use something that seems as a threat to the nests - so that bass feel the need to defend. You’ll want to agitate the bass, and get a reaction from them. Some great options are:
Some more notes about spawning:
- Northern parts of lakes are expected to have spawning bass earlier, as these parts of the lake warm faster
- For murkier lakes, you can expect bass to spawn in shallow areas
- For clearer lakes, spawning areas may be found deeper
- Fishing during spawning season may be demotivating if you’re not finding the bass’s nests - stay patient and keep working their spawning areas
Post-Spawn (late spring)
This can be a challenging time to catch fish. Bass enter a full recovery mode after the spawning process, and enter a lazy mindset. Females will leave the spawning area and be suspended undercover, while males will remain in the spawning area to protect their fry.
The types of areas you want to fish during post spawn are:
- Nearby cover to likely spawning spots, females will move to nearby covered areas after spawning to recover
- Spawning nests - males will stay by the spawning area after the spawning process to protect fry
- Males will position their young in shallower waters for greater protection from threats - so fan cast around shallow cover and structure, such as grass, stumps or rocks
- Females will most likely move to deeper, more underwater structured areas - so keep a look out for underwater cover
For lure selection, this can be a difficult process, and there may be some experimentation. Males tend to be more active during post-spawn, so you can try faster moving lures in and around spawning areas. Females are a little less predictable, and will likely look at slower moving lures in slightly deeper waters. Some good lures for post-spawn are:
- Swim jigs
- Frogs (in the morning)
- Bluegill and shad imitators in the shallows
- Soft plastics ideally watermelon red or pumpkin
- Wacky rig
- All kinds of crankbaits
This can be a challenging time to fish for bass. The recovery from spawn can cause unpredictable activity from bass, so there may be a lot of experimentation required. Your best bet is to keep working in shallow, covered areas and try to pick up on the hungry males.
Summer months can be a successful, but also challenging time to go bass fishing. The heat pushes bass away from the shallows and spawning areas, back to the deeper parts of a lake where temperatures are cooler, and bait fish are plentiful.
Summer months often bring out the biggest bass, so it can be an exciting time to be on the water. Water temperatures range from 75-100 degrees fahrenheit.
This time of year may seem similar to winter, as bass are found in deeper waters - however, bass are more active and will be more aggressive when it comes to feeding. They’ll just use their energy in shorter spurts - which can be classified as frenzy feeding. For this reason, your best chance of catching bass will be in the cooler times of the day - such as early mornings, or late afternoons.
Some things to look out for while bass fishing in summer:
- Deep channels with ledges
- Drop-offs around shallow areas
- Humps in the deeper areas
- Bass will feeds in shallow areas that have shade or low light exposure
- Shallow areas in the morning/late afternoon
Lures can vary a lot during summer. You’ll want to use different lures at different times of day. For early mornings and late afternoons, bass will be very active and feed aggressively, but in the middle of the day, they will go top deeper, cooler waters and will likely go for slower moving baits. Some great lure options in summer include:
- Topwater frogs in morning or late afternoon
- Slow-rolling spinnerbaits
- Deep crankbaits (10-15 feet)
- Football jigs
- Drop shot
- Ned rig
- Shaky head
- Swim baits
Bass fishing in summer can be a lot of fun but also quiet. Lure presentation needs to change throughout the day, as temperature plays a massive role in bass behavior. Some more tips about summer bass fishing include:
- Make sure you’re on the water in the morning and evening. This is when bass most likely enter their feeding ‘frenzy’
- Bass will move deeper during the heat of the day, so be ready to slow down your presentation and hit those drop-offs
- Bass will feed in shallow areas where there is less light exposure and shade - so don’t be shy to fish shallow waters during the day, if there is shade for the bass
Fall is considered a rich time to go bass fishing. Bass move from deep summer sanctuaries to shallower water, as temperatures drop. Bait fish like shad also play a large role during the fall, as they also migrate into the shallow tributaries - and bass will try to stick close to bait fish. Water temperatures range from 55-75 degrees Fahrenheit.
A few locations to look out for when fishing during fall:
- Bass will be where the bait fish are
- Long points
- Large flats near the mouths of small tributaries or creeks where bass are looking to intercept bait fish
- Shallow humps
- Coves around cover
- Green weeds and other grass cover
- Shallow rock areas
Shad and baitfish imitation is key - as bass are on the hunt for a very specific feed. Once again your lure choice will differ throughout the day. Faster baits during early and evening hours, and slower baits during middle hours. Some lure options for fall include:
- Shad imitators such as pale swimbaits
- Willow-leaf spinnerbaits
- Topwaters during evening and morning hours
- Drop shot
- Lipless crankbaits
Fall fishing can be a great time for bass fishing. Bass can be extremely active when it comes to feeding, as they prepare for the not-so active winter. Search for the bait fish, and the chances are you’ll find some bass.
From one of the most active seasons of the year to the most inactive season of the year: winter.
Cold water causes bass and bait fish to migrate to deeper waters, where temperatures are more stable and aren’t as cold as shallower water. Bass don’t hibernate - they still feed and move, but they just do less of each during this time of year. Water temperatures range from 20-50 degrees Fahrenheit.
Some potential locations to catch bass during the quiet winter months:
- Structural areas with steep drop-offs
- Rock ledges which are near shore, but lead to deep water
- With clearer lakes, you’ll find bass in deeper waters
- With more stained/murky lakes, you’ll find bass slightly shallower
- Bass will be looking to cover depths with exerting as little energy as possible, which is why steep drop-offs are a big thing to look out for.
This is the time to use your slowest moving baits, and just work lures slowly in general. Bass are less likely to attack aggressively, and will look to the easiest option for food. Some winter lure options include:
- Finesse presentations
- Slow, deep diving crankbaits
- Bladed baits such as under spins
- For clear water, jerkbaits work well in winter
- Small albino swimbaits
A lot of people think it’s impossible to catch fish during winter. It is definitely more quiet, however, if you work the right areas with a slower action lure, you’ll definitely have a shot in catching a big bass during the winter months.