By: Ryan Zeldenrust
Bugs: “Duck Season!”
Daffy: “Rabbit Season!”
Bugs: “Rabbit Season!”
Daffy: “It’s Duck Season! Fire!”
With all the different things that largemouth bass do in the spring, it
can feel like they are toying with our rational way of thinking just like
Bugs and Daffy arguing. You begin to get a feel for what is going on
and where the bass have hid themselves when all of a sudden they
move! What happened? Where did they go? I thought it was pre-
spawn and now they are all gone and there are no bass on beds
anywhere! What do I do now? Well, even though you think those little
green fish outsmarted you, they didn’t. They only reacted to their
environment. So lets find out where they are and why they are there
during this “Daffy” spring season. Lets face it, if you can’t find them,
you can’t catch them.
When spring rolls around there is love in the air…. and the water, too.
The waters in the shallow areas begin to warm and the bass’ spawning
instincts kick in. The only problem is none of the bass in a given lake
move together. Some of them will stay in their wintering place, others
will move into the shallow areas to feed, while others will search out
nesting areas and begin the spawing ritual. There are three major
parts to the spring season: pre-spawn, spawn and post-spawn. So lets
tackle where bass move in each of these starting with the pre-spawn
in natural lakes.
Where do you find them? I can tell you the number one factor for
finding the pre-spawn bass in two words…. WATER TEMPERATURE!
During the pre-spawn, bass will be moving around the lake looking for
warmer waters. There is no “magic” temperature for finding them. The
warmer water is going to be relative to the temperature of the main
body of water. For example, if the main body of water is 47 degrees
then you want to locate shallower water that is several degrees
warmer than the 47 degrees. You just have to do a little map reading
and on the water searching to find these areas.
A few great areas to start looking for these warmer waters are shallow
flats, shallow bays, shallow creeks and shallow channels. There are
aspects that will make these areas more likely to hold pre-spawn fish.
One aspect is having nearby access to deeper water since bass will
seek out a stable water environment when the weather changes.
They will want to find a stable water temperature when a spring cold
front moves through. If the cold front causes the water to chill down a
bit, the bass will make a fast move to some kind of structure or edge
in the deeper water, where the water is stable and warmer.
A second aspect would be shorelines that have wooded or protected
with structures like bluffs or buildings. The less wind that can stir up
the water and cool it down, the more potential the shallow water has
because of the stable warm temperature.
The final aspect to finding pre-spawn bass is to look for signs of life in
the water. Look for balls of baitfish, perch spawning or eating insects,
or you might see sunfish running around eating insects and enjoying
the warmth. If you can find a few of these signs of life you can bet
there are bass nearby!
Now that we have an idea of where to find some bass lets talk about
some patterns that will help you catch them.
Key factor: Cover lots of water.
The bass may be grouped up or they may be spread out. They may be
hiding in the new vegetation growth or they may be bunched up on a
lone rock or stump in the middle of a flat. You have to search them out
with your Lowrance electronics and reaction lures. Lets start by
checking on out patterns for shallow flats and bays
Shallow Flats and Shallow Bays
If you see some vegetation, you will need to try and stay above it or
just ticking the tops. The best way to accomplish this is with an ol’
fashion spinnerbait, one with a larger colorado blade that can be
fished slower works best. Fish it horizontally over the weeds, but let
it drop in the open areas where there is not any new vegetation
growing. Some anglers prefer to use crankbaits, both billed and
lipless types. Another popular bait is a suspending jerkbait. The idea
is to pull the bait slow a few times and just let it sit still suspended
over the open pockets or around rip rap and stumps. You will need to
experiment and let the fish tell you what they want. Try to start out with
baits that you have the most confidence with, that will cover a lot of
water. When you catch one, don’t leave the area until you are sure
there are no more fish there.
Channels and Creeks
There are two types of channels, rip rap and vegetation. Just like
shallow bays and flats, you will need to cover a lot of water. However,
your best bet is to search out the back third of the channel where the
water is more likely shallower and warmer.
In a rip rap or rocky channel with little to no vegetation the number
one presentation will be a small crankbait fished SLOWLY, deflecting
off all the rocks you can hit. Your best bet is to use a square billed
crankbait with a more streamlined flat body, like a Rapala DT Flat or a
Bandit Flat Maxx. These flat side crankbaits have a tight wobble that
seems to draw more attention from bass than the wider wobbling
crankbaits. Another option is to use a suspending jerkbait or the all-
time great spinnerbait. Keep an eye out for the baitfish and if you don’t
see any, try using lures in crawdad colors, since bass will be picking
crawdads out of the rocks as they emerge from wintering.
A channel with vegetation calls for a slow falling jig, like an Omega
Finesse jig, pitched to areas in the back of the channel with the
highest probability of holding some fish like laydowns or docks. Don’t
forget you still need to cover a lot of water so the same presentations
as the shallow flats will apply here too.
If the weather is changing and you can feel the cold wind blowing, the
fish may stop biting or move. Your best decision at this point is to look
for more stable water. It may be finding an area with shoreline
protection from the cold wind or even better is to move to the edge of
the flat or channel near the deeper water. Use your electronics to
locate some kind of structure, a point off the flat leading to deeper
water, a newly forming weedline or clumps of weeds in deep water off
the flat. These are the highest probability areas to find them. Typically,
they will group up when they are holding off the shallow areas, so if
you catch one, be sure to cast right back to the same area. You may be
surprised at how many fish will be holding there. These holding fish
are going to be very disinterested in chasing lures. What this means is
SLOW VERTICAL presentations are going to work best. I prefer a
spinnerbait that can be pumped off the bottom or ripped slowly out of
the weed clumps and left to fall slowly back down. Other popular
presentations are lipless crankbaits pumped like the spinnerbait, jigs,
spoons, swimbaits, soft plastics like a grub, and a float ‘n fly. Deep
suspending jerkbaits can be used too. This is especially true when the
fish are suspending off structure or weedlines.
I hope this has given you some insight to pre-spawn fishing. Keep in
mind that this is just a general outline for catching bass in pre-spawn.
There is no wrong way to catch these “Daffy” bass, so don’t limit
yourself to the presentations I discussed. This article and the others
that follow are designed to help you LOCATE where fish may be hiding
during each season and why. In the next article I will discuss the
actual spawn and the post-spawn.
***Ryan is an up-and-comer in the bass world, where he fishes
tournaments and promotes the sport, and you’ll be seeing more of him
in the future!