By David MacDonald, Lunkerhunt Founder
Not all fish spawn at the same time. So you need to understand where they are during their different spawn phases so you’ll increase your chances of success—and if you understand what the bass are doing, you can catch some of the biggest fish of the season.
The spawn is mainly determined by water temperatures and highly influenced by moon phases. At the time of writing, the spawn is over in most of the southern states right now and is just starting up along the Great Lakes.
This past March, I went bass fishing with my colleague, Jesse Bleeman in Lake Fork, Texas. Lake Fork is known as one of the best trophy bass lakes in the US, so we were excited to fish there. We had a great time and caught a lot of fish! The biggest of the trip was 9 plus which is a trophy in most places. But during our trip, I quickly realized that some our biggest fish would not have been caught if we were not aware of the different spawn stages. We would have focused on the obvious bedding fish and would have missed out on the larger bass that we were catching in the pre-spawn phase.
There are three main spawn phases. I’ll provide a brief overview of each phase, what you can expect, and some tips for fishing at each phase. For those of you in the South that are out of the spawn, you can keep these stages and techniques in mind for next season.
Phase 1: Pre-spawn
The pre-spawn phase occurs just as spring is emerging. This is when bass are most catchable. At the pre-spawn phase, the bass slowly start to move towards shallower water by following the structural changes underneath the water. These could be drop offs, long tapering points, and underwater channels. The water is cold during this phase, usually falling at 58 degrees or lower. The bass will stage in these deeper areas while they wait for the shallow water to become warmer. Sometimes the bass will stack up in these pre-spawn locations waiting for the water to warm up. If you catch one don’t leave. Fish around. There could be more.
Tips for fishing pre-spawning bass: A prominent food source for pre-spawn fish relating to structure is crawfish. Working tubes, jigs, and other soft plastics along structure this time of year can be very productive. Lunkerhunt’s Squarebill crankbaits and lipless cranks in crawfish patterns like the Lunkerhunt Fillet and swimbaits like the Swim Bento are also good lures for pre-spawn.
Phase 2: The spawn
When water temperatures hit 58 degrees or higher bass move to the shallows to spawn. As the water temperatures get warmer, the bass will bed deeper. So don’t focus your attention solely to the shallows. Look a little farther from the bank. Spotting the beds can be tricky, depending on water clarity, wind conditions, and how deep into the water they are.
Depending on the stage of the spawn you may see a single buck, a pair of fish, or the female rolling and dropping eggs (the final stage of the spawn before the female leaves the bed). Once the female rolls and drops the eggs, she moves onto the post-spawn location. If you are fishing for big fish and see males guarding nests. Move onto post-spawn patterns.
Bass don’t feed during the spawn. Instead, they’re guarding their nests and territory. So catching in the spawn means threatening the nest in order to get a rection strike.
There are a lot of activities that go on during the spawn stage, so I’ve provided a very simple overview here. However, the way you would fish in this situation would be the same.
Tips for fishing spawning bass: Drop-shotting, Texas Rigging soft plastics, and swim baits.
Phase 3: Post-spawn
After spawning, females will move slightly deeper into the water to recuperate. During the post-spawn phase, it can be difficult to catch bass, but it’s not impossible.
Tips for fishing post-spawn female bass: Working surface baits tight to docks and pilings as well as trees outside of spawning bays can be a good way to catch post-spawn females that are feeding up. If they are not eating aggressively, slowly working soft plastics around the same cover can also produce good results.
Surface baits like small poppers that generate a lot of action without too much movement and weedless rigged soft plastics like Lunker Sticks or drop shotting Limit Worms using super light weights can also be effective.
Bottom line: Knowing which spawn stage bass are at will make your fishing more successful and will help you catch big fish!