Fishing The Spawn (Do Stages Really Matter)
9:30 AM | Author: Tech Tactical

Spring is here and we’re all thinking about the spawn. What an exciting time of year! No other season brings more excitement, more enthusiasm and bigger hopes and dreams than spring time and the spawn. The big females start moving up, feeding heavily and getting in shape for the spawn and we’ve all got our eyes on them.

Depending on your location, the spawn can occur anywhere from late January through mid June. Breaking the spawn down into stages will make your springtime fishing more successful. The mistake many of us make is thinking that we should be able to go into any cove or shallow water flat, get on any bank or point and catch fish simply because it’s spring.

That may sometimes be true but you need to look for the “right” points, coves, flats and banks to increase your odds of catching that spawn hawg. We’ll break the spawn down into three phases and look closely at each one.

Pre-Spawn
Pre-spawn coincides with lengthening daylight and the first short warming trends. Once the water temp reaches the high 40- to low 50-degree mark, the big females start making short ventures into the shallows to feed and cruise. This almost always happens on the north end of the lake first – it’s usually shallower and the water has more color to it, causing it to warm quicker. The northwestern parts and feeder creeks of the lake will warm up first because they’re exposed to the sun longer during the day and they’re also protected from the north wind that is predominate that time of year. The northern part of your lake is a good place to start early in the season.

With the water temps still fairly low, the fish’ metabolism is still slow – this means our presentation should also be slow. A logical bait of choice is a crawfish imitator and it’s effective throughout the different pre-spawn stages. A jig with a craw trailer extremely effective, but don’t overlook a Texas-rigged tube or craw worm either. Lipless crankbaits in varying shades of reds and yellows are really popular here in Texas, and my favorites are the Lucky Craft LVR-D7 and LVR-D10’s in Tomato Craw and Winter Craw.These are the baits I’ll start throwing all the way through the pre-spawn stage right on into the post spawn. Everyone has a confidence bait, so use yours, but don’t overlook the ones I’ve mentioned here.

I fish anywhere from two to eighteen feet early in the spawn. Isolated clumps of grass (hydrilla or milfoil), stumps and standing timber along creek channel bends with shallow flats nearby are good places to target.

When the water temp starts staying in the low to mid fifties, we’ve reached the second “phase” of pre-spawn. The fish become more active and begin aggressively feeding. This is a good time to tie on your favorite lipless crankbait , spinner baits, shallow diving crankbaits and the ever popular Senko and Kut Tail worms. Keep in mind, “big” girls like big meals but they don’t want to expend a lot of energy feeding. Would you get up and walk across the street for half a peanut-butter sandwich? You might for a 16-oz ribeye!

The third and final phase of the pre-spawn is when the water temp moves into the high fifties to low sixties. The fish have moved up, they’re actively feeding and they’re looking for a place to spawn. Now is a great time to throw Senkos and Kut Tails in shallow cover, flip and pitch jigs in cover, throw lipless cranks and spinner baits on flats, in the backs of coves and on points leading into these areas. Don’t forget about those northwest banks and coves – fish like to spawn in the warmest areas that are protected from the north wind.

Spawn
The actual spawn can be tricky so let’s break it down into phases to make things a little easier. Watching for fish you can see will pretty much tell you what you need to know and how much time to spend trying to catch a fish off her bed. The male will move up first to get things ready, then find a female and bring her to the bed. Males will be the easiest caught during this time but they’re usually smaller than the females and probably aren’t what you’re looking for. Not that they’re not fun to catch – it’s their job to protect the nest and they take their jobs seriously, so they can be quite aggressive.

When you locate a pair on the bed you should immediately notice one of three moods. Early in the bedding process, fish will spook easy and act timid. If they’re spooked off the bed they might cruise nearby and not come back to the bed very readily. These fish are hard to catch and I usually won’t spend much time on them.

The second scenario will consist of the fish staying on the bed when you cruise near them, but they’ll usually take off, swim around and come back to the bed when you cast to them. This mood holds my interest a little longer. When they take off and come back to the bed, each time they’ll come back a little faster, more agitated and aggravated until they’ll finally bite. Sometimes it can take as little as five or ten minutes, but I have actually spent several hours with no bite! Because you can actually see the fish, it can be very exciting and very frustrating at the same time. Experience bed fishing will tell you if you’re going to get them to bite.

Finally, you’ll locate a fish and it stays put. You cast to the bed and it stays put, but as soon as you work your lure onto the bed it flares its gills and noses down on the bait. These are the easiest spawning fish to catch because they’re locked on the bed. They’re committed to spawn and they aren’t leaving. The most common problem you’ll usually encounter here is getting your bait past the male. I have at times had to put the male in the live well long enough for me to catch the female, then turn them both loose to get back to doing what Mother Nature intended.

I may have made this sound a lot easier than it really is, but, in a nutshell, this is how it works. There is always the exception to the rule, but this is what I’ve found during the spawn.

Post Spawn
This can be the best time or the worst time to catch a fish. The fish have just gone through a very tiring, labor intensive process and a lot of times they’ll just suspend. They’ve gone a week or two without eating so you’d think they’d be hungry, right? Wrong. They need to rest before they’ll start feeding and getting ready for the summer pattern.

These fish are normally the hardest to catch. They’re worn out and only interested in one thing: rest! They’ll usually move out to the nearest deep water and suspend. Dropshotting, crankbaits and spoons such as the Lake Fork Tackle Flutter Spoon work well on these suspended fish, but it requires a lot of patience. I normally go on looking for more cooperative fish.

Toward the end of this resting period they’ll start on a feeding binge and this is again a much easier time to catch them. From here on out they start moving back into their summer pattern. I love top water baits early and late in the day and reaction baits throughout the day. I’ll actually throw top water such as the Sugoi Splash off and on all day and get lots of good fish on clear, blue, sun shiny days with fast moving top water baits. This is a good time for frog fishing as well.

Keep in mind is that all three spawning phases can overlap and might be occurring at the same time. The north end of the lake may be in post spawn while the south end is in pre-spawn and mid-lake is full blown spawn. The overlap can become a bit crazier when you find them in spawning and post spawn stages in the same cove!

I try to fish the stage I like to best until the fish tell me I’m wrong. Don’t let them beat you! It’s just fishing and they will be on one pattern or the other – it’s your job to figure it out.

With the spawn nothing is carved in stone. Try different lures and tactics and please remember to practice catch and release. Weigh them, measure them, take their picture and turn ‘em loose for another battle another day!

Tip Via - Gary Yamamoto Inside Line

Other Spawning Bass Articles:

Field and Stream

Bama Bass Fishing

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