Jonathan is an avid tournament bass fisherman. He currently fishes on the Penn State Bass Fishing team. He has placed in the top 15 in multiple FLW BFL tournaments as a co-angler. He competed on the United States Youth Fly Fishing Team, where he placed 11th in the world and was a part of two world championship team gold medals. Jonathan serves as an ANGLR expert to help the ANGLR community constantly improve.
First, let’s learn about pre-spawn. This is the phase fish are in before their instincts tell them it is time to start looking for that special someone. This being said, this is the transition period that bass go through lasts from when they leave their winter staging area, to just before they lock onto beds. The most important thing to note is where fish are coming from and where they are going. If you know this, then you can intercept them in their route and thus, have plenty of fishing photos to show off to your friends!
Pre-Spawn: Where The Bass Are Coming From
Before these bass are starting to get antsy, they are in their winter homes just trying to survive the winter months. These are areas most often characterized by areas of steep drop offs into deeper water. This allows fish to easily slide up and feed during the warmest times of the day, and then slide back into deeper water for the remainder of the day.
The deeper water tends to stay at a more stable temperature, where shallow water can change fast. Most people associate shallow water as being warm, but in the winter, it is the opposite. The shallower water is actually colder than the deeper water is, so this is where the majority of the fish are going to hang out. Now the biggest takeaway is that the term “deep” is a relative term. For some fisheries it can be 8 feet, while on others it can be 60 feet. That being said, there will always be some subset of bass that will be trying to thrive in the shallows all year long. For some reason there are resident bass on every fishery that will spend their lives living in the shallows.
During this time of the year, the baits that excel in catching fish are your slower moving baits such as jigs, tubes, and dropshots. As well as reaction baits such as a jerkbait, a swimbait, or a lipless crankbait to cover water with.
It’s mainly all about finding the areas that these bass are schooling in and fishing them as thoroughly as possible.
Pre-Spawn: Where The Bass Are Going To
As the water temperatures start to warm, and the days start to get a little longer, those bass living in deeper water will begin to make their transition to the shallows to spawn. This is triggered by water temperatures getting into the mid to low 50’s, and the first full moon around this time. Bass are more active on nights where the moon is full because they are able to see better. This means there will be huge surges of bass shallow on these early spring nights.
To help find these roaming fish, key into the warmest water in the lake. These areas will be packed with fish as they try to warm up, if you’re unsure where to start looking, then start with the wind. The wind will be pushing all of the warmest surface water into smaller areas and is
Bass won’t just spawn anywhere, they are looking for hard bottom to which they will make their nests. They need this hard bottom to have a solid surface in which the females will lay their eggs on.
You’ll know a nest when you see one, as it looks like a big yellow frisbee that someone stuck on the bottom of the lake.
Just like in this photo you are going to want to look for cover that these fish will spawn around. This is the most vulnerable point in their lives, as well as for their young. This means they will try to find something to make that nest around that will give them a better chance of having a successful and safe nest. However, sometimes fish will make nests in the dumbest places that are open and have no cover nearby. So, always be on the lookout. They will most often be in the backs of coves that do not have creeks in them, but as we said, always be watching. As these fish begin to lock on beds they become aggressive and will more than likely, not always, be willing to eat anything that comes onto their nest. So, to take advantage of this, you should use baits that are easily visible to your eye. This means your white, black, and pinks baits will do the trick. Something that you can clearly see when a fish eats it.
The first fish you will catch off of a nest is more than likely going to be the male. Don’t shy away after that, make more casts, especially if you can see the female. The female will most always be the biggest fish on the nest. This is because female bass will always outgrow male bass. As the female gets bigger, it can carry more eggs to lay. Now this can be a magical time to catch loads of bass, and to catch some giant bass. All of these big fish are pushing into the shallower water and are easily visible for only a short period of time, so be prepared for it.
During the spawning period, you will constantly have fish in all three phases, pre spawn, spawning, and postspawn. A way to tell what type of fish you are catching, other than fish on beds obviously, is by their body shape. Prespawn fish will be round and fat while they are still carrying eggs. While postspawn fish will be lean and skinny.
These post spawn fish are now on the hunt to find a meal to recuperate from the stressful spawn. They will be looking for quick and easy meals, and lucky for them, they have evolved to end their spawn as two prime feeding opportunities are taking place. The shad spawn and the bluegill spawn.
These two beautiful spectacles can provide some of the best bass fishing of the year.
All of the fish that were shallow are now dispersing and making their way to their summer haunts, but before they do, this is their last congregated stop. So, here’s what you need to know to take full advantage of them.
Just as the bass spawn begins to taper off, the bluegill spawn heats up. You’ll know a bluegill nest when you see one, because there will be dozens if not hundreds of them around it. This mass congregation of perfect snack sized panfish will get a lot of attention from hungry bass, big ones too.
To cover these areas effectively you can’t go wrong with a couple of key baits. A square bill crankbait, and a swim jig. These two baits, in bluegill color, mimic these panfish perfectly and will elicit a strike from a hungry bass. These bluegills will be spawning in very similar areas that the bass were spawning in, as they are technically species cousins, so always be on the lookout.
Another primary postspawn bite that will be going on in any lake around you that has any kind of shad in it, will be the shad spawn. These beloved bait fish lay their eggs in shallower water, anywhere from two to ten feet, on hard surfaces. Notice, it is not on hard bottoms, but on hard surfaces. This can be anything from dock pilings, to grass edges. You’ll want to look for this to be going on first thing in the morning.
On cloudy or overcast days this can be drawn out into mid-morning and on sunny days it can die off right at first light. You’ll know it when you find these magical shad spawn areas because there will be shad flickering at the surface and all around the hard structure they are spawning on.
To efficiently cover these areas, stick to shad style baits such as a swim jig, a spinnerbait, a chatterbait, or even an underspin if the fish are being finicky. Don’t be afraid to use top water either, a well-placed buzz bait or spook imitates the shad as they school near the surface. Just be sure to use trailers that mimic the action of the shad. If your bait mimics well enough, you will feel the shad schooling with your bait as you pull it through these primary areas.
After the shad spawn and bluegill spawn start to fade away, the water will begin to warm up and these bass will begin to move into their summer homes. Bass deal with warmer water in two ways. They will either begin to slide into more offshore areas into the deeper, cooler water, or they will move into extremely shallow water into grass beds, laydowns, and docks.
Most people think of this time of year as a “lull” period, that the fishing slows down and the fish become less active. This couldn’t be further from the truth, what really changes is that the fish aren’t as easy to find. The fish are no longer positioned right on the bank, they are now where people typically position their boats. Again, this idea of deeper water is a relative term, it truly depends on how deep a fishery is. This could be ten feet or it can be fifty feet.
So, why do these fish move off of the bank? These fish slide out into deeper water to escape warmer temperatures and find water that has a higher oxygen content. Remember, there is still that group of bass that will push extremely shallow. These fish go so shallow that most people overlook them. They are sitting in less that 5 feet of water, most of the time, and are in thick cover to escape the heat.
While fall is a season that brings most bass fishermen to think about the ever impending winter and the “end” of the bass fishing season, this is not the case. Fall should be a time to take advantage of fish that are feeding up and preparing for the colder months. These fish need to eat as much as they can to better prepare themselves for the cold that will inevitably slow their metabolisms down. So what is fall?
The fall bite is triggered by the first cold spell of the year, cold being relative it could be 50 degrees or it could be 30 degrees it just depends on the area you live in. This cold spell tells the bass that winter is coming so you better eat up. As the cooler weather starts to cool the water temperatures back down, this brings both the bass that were deep back to the shallows and it brings the bait up shallow as well.
When bait and bass collide, a feeding frenzy usually ensues.
The bass will be wherever the bait is during this fall transition period. So, finding the bait means finding the fish. So how do you find the bait? The first thing is wind, the wind will be putting current into the water that will push the phytoplankton into certain banks and pockets. This will bring the bait and eventually the bass. The biggest thing is put down those slow moving baits from the summer and pick up your fast moving search baits to find those schooled up bass.
As the water keeps getting colder, the fish will begin to transition into those winter haunts, so finding the transitional areas between these deep water areas will be key. Locating these travel routes of these migrating bass can be the difference between a great day and a tough one. So stick to reaction baits and look for bait. You will be shocked by what the fall bite is holding in store for you.
The dreaded W word that all anglers fear, winter. This is a time when virtually no anglers still have their boats active, and most of the ones that do don’t take them out. Granted it does depend on where you live. For example, if you live in in the north where lakes end up getting a foot of ice, then you’re not going to be taking your boat out much.
However, if your fisheries don’t freeze over, then winter can be one of the best time of year to catch some giant fish. The myth that fish don’t eat in the winter is just that, a myth. They may have slowed down, but they still need to eat. They have moved off into deep flats and steep bluff areas where they in stay in that warmest water column. During this time of year it’s important to look at the areas that have a steep break.
These steep breaks allow fish to move up and down very easily and in a short distance. This way, when the fish are ready to feed, they can just slide up into slightly shallower water. To target these bass, you are going to want to slow everything down. Use baits that have virtually no action, use your reaction baits and be patient.
When using bottom baits like a jig, you want to give it a big profile in a compact body but make it have very subtle action, that means no trailers with loads of action. Stick to your chunks, senkos, and ned rigs. Swimbaits can be a great option to cover water, but you need to barely move it, whatever your normal pace is, divide that by 5 or 6, you want the tail to barely kick.
As for jerkbaits, take your time on the pauses count to ten or more before jerking it again. One overlooked bait is the lipless crankbait, these baits can be used to hop of the bottom to call fish in.
The big picture is that the fish still need to feed, they will be active during shorter periods during the day but they will be active. So, don’t be afraid to layer up and get out on the water to chase some cold water fish.