Bass fishing during the spawn can be an exciting event. It is the time of year when true giants lurk in the shallows and most anglers catch their personal best during this season. You can too.
To increase your odds of success when fishing during the spawn, anglers should think about the following items:
- Wear sunglasses that match the cloud conditions
- Operate the Trolling Motor Efficiently
- Read the Behavior of the Bass
- Use Bright Colored Lures
- Use Heavy Tackle
- Be Ready for a Light Bite
- Release the Bass Properly
In this article, I will break down each of these areas in detail. When finished, you will have an excellent idea of the best way to approach bass fishing during the spawn.
What is the Spawn?
This is the one time of year when monster-sized female bass move shallow to lay eggs. The male bass will be the first up to scout bedding locations, fan out silt and debris, and protect the nest after the female leaves.
Anglers of all ability levels are most likely to catch the largest bass of the year during the spawn.
1. Proper Sunglasses
Another name for fishing during the spawn is “sight fishing.”
The ability to see huge bass in shallow water is dependent on the type of sunglasses that are worn. I’m not necessarily referring to high-priced glasses vs. price-point models, but instead, I am focusing on lens color.
There are a range of lens options available today, but I like to keep it simple and focus on two colors that will satisfy most situations bass anglers will run across.
On a side note, make sure that the sunglasses are polarized. This type of lens eliminates glare and reflections.
How do you know if your glasses are polarized?
Look at the tinted windows of a car through them. Can you see splotchy dots in the window tinting? What about if you turn them ninety degrees? If the window tinting on the car looks like there are dozens of dark dots in it then you do have polarized sunglasses.
Many bed-fishing experts rely on amber lenses for most of their sight work. Amber lenses offer high-contrast and because of this are excellent choices during lowlight periods.
Using them in the morning, evening, and on cloudy days will increase the odds that you can distinguish between a dark spot on the lakebed, a rock, and an actual bedding bass.
Having a pair of polarized sunglasses with amber lenses should be something that every angler interested in fishing during the spawn has with them.
Gray lenses are best used on bright, sunny days. Many bed-fishing experts will switch from amber to gray during the middle of the day.
Gray lenses do an excellent job of blocking out the excessive light and let bass anglers see definition and detail under the surface of the water.
When not sight fishing, I use gray lenses for the majority of my outings.
Cheap vs. Expensive Sunglasses
Like most things, better quality comes at a price.
Higher quality lenses offer better protection from harmful rays, are much clearer, and offer the angler a more distinct image of what they are looking at.
With that said, do not be deterred from sight fishing just because you cannot afford a pair of top-end sunglasses.
2. Trolling Motor Operation
When focusing on bedding fish, a bass angler needs to put that trolling motor on high and start working down the shoreline. There is no need to wet a line yet if your sole focus is to locate a monster bass sitting on a bed.
Once you find a bedding bass there are likely others in the area.
What attracts one bass is often attractive to others. I have seen stretches of shoreline that have a new bed every twenty to thirty feet. When you find that type of location it is very exciting.
This is where trolling motor operation changes drastically.
If you have a model with a GPS anchoring system – use it. This will allow you to focus on casting and not worry about constantly repositioning the boat because of wind or boat wakes.
Anglers that have shallow water anchors also put them to good use during the spawning season. These anchors can silently slip into the lake or river bed and hold a boat in one position without moving all day if needed.
Believe it or not, a traditional anchor will also work.
3. Read the Behavior of the Bass
There are some anglers that will spend hours trying to catch a single bass.
I prefer to keep moving until I find a bass that is “locked on” to the bed.
As a bass angler approaches a bed, it is easy to see what type of a mood this fish is in. If it is a smaller male and they scoot off the bed the instant they see you, that is going to be one very difficult fish to catch. If you like the challenge, by all means, go for it.
If you approach a bass and they stay close to the bed as they circle away from you, then this is a fish that can be caught without too much trouble.
This fish can be landed simply by bothering it. Drop a lure onto their bed. Pop it, shake it, or bump it into the bass as they come to investigate what is going on. This constant irritation will eventually cause the fish to grab that lure and attempt to move it off of the bed.
They are not eating the artificial offering out of hunger, they are moving the bait out of frustration which makes them easy to catch.
The Big Female May be Close
If the male, or buck bass, is locked on to the bed and does not want to stray the big female is likely close. In that situation, I always like to probe the deeper water just out of sight.
That female may be hanging just into the shadows waiting for the right time to come up an complete the spawn. When the male stays nearby, the time is right for the spawn to happen.
Many anglers will catch the bass on the nest, take a photo, release it and then leave. They often forget to investigate the deeper water near the nest and try to find other bass in the area.
The larger female will only be up and on the nest for a short time. I have watched big females be on the bed one day and gone the next. The males are the ones that will hang around for some time. They are the caretakers and the bulk of the responsibility falls on them.
4. Bright Colored Lures
The color of the lure is important when sight-fishing. Not because of how the bass respond to it, but because the angler needs to be able to see it.
Bass protecting beds can pick up and spit out a lure so fast an angler might not ever feel a thump.
The use of brightly colored lures give bass anglers the ability to see when their bait is inhaled, alerting them to the possibility of a needed hookset.
A traditional bedding bass lure over the years has been a floating worm in merthiolate. This bright, bold worm can be seen from a distance and even cloudy, overcast conditions cannot hide it.
If there is some chop on the water seeing a lure in the shallows is almost impossible, but bright colors, like merthiolate and hot chartreuse, can still be effective enough to allow anglers fishing the spawn to see them.
Other popular colors include white and pink.
Keep changing these bright colors and see what works best against the background you are looking at.
If the wind is calm and the water is ultra-clear, you can use about any color you want – even more natural variations that you might use throughout the year.
It is important to remember bass behavior when choosing color. If the bass is locked on, the color doesn’t matter as much. The main goal is for the angler to see it.
If the bass is easily frightened, a combination of bright, yet somewhat natural-looking colors may be a better option.
5. Heavy Tackle
Fishing during the spawn for bass in-and-around beds is not the time for ultra-light tackle.
First, you may catch a bruiser. A ten-pound trophy that charges to deep water is best turned with a medium-heavy or heavy power rated rod.
Second, when the bass can pick up and spit that lure out so fast an angler wants maximum energy transfer to the lure and hookset. A rod with a moderate or slow action and a limber backbone in the medium power rating is going to have too much give and might result in missed opportunities.
The bass already is aware of your presence. You are not as concerned with light line and tiny hooks when the fish is locked on. The goal is to frustrate the lunker into biting and heavy tackle is best suited for that job.
6. Wait for Pressure – If You Can
As mentioned earlier, bass can inhale and spit a lure out in a microsecond. That is not what you are waiting for.
The goal is to have the bass so annoyed with your bait that it actually picks it up and moves it away from the bed. When this happens, you should see and/or feel pressure on the line.
The slack should be almost gone and you are in the perfect position for a hookset.
There have been times when I am experimenting with bass during the spawn and gauging how far they will remove a lure from a bed. At these times I will refuse to set the hook. I just want to see what their behavior is like.
It is not unusual to have a bass pick up a bait and drop it three or four feet from the bedding area.
When this happens, an angler should have ample time to swing away.
Take a Photo – Release the Fish
Fishing during the spawn, especially for bed fish, can be controversial.
The bass are doing their best to propagate the species and when they are removed from their bed other critters, like bluegills, can raid the nest and devastate it quickly.
This is where taking a quick photo and returning the fish back to the water as soon as possible will allow that couple to take care of their spawning duties. The end result should be a healthy fishery that is well-stocked for years to come.
During tournaments, where the five biggest fish are brought to the scales, bedding bass are taken from their nesting sites and brought miles-and-miles back to a weigh-in stage.
Ethical? Responsible? Perfectly fine?
I will leave that up to each individual angler to decide.
If you have the chance and are not in a tournament, I think that most die-hard bass anglers agree that snapping a fast photo and putting the bedding bass back is just fine.
There is something that gets the adrenaline pumping when the biggest bass you have ever seen decides your lure needs to be inhaled.
Following these seven steps can help you experience success during this spawning season.
Be sure to utilize the correct color lens for your polarized sunglasses. Remember, amber for lowlight periods and gray for bright sunshine.
Use that trolling motor as a tool to search for bedding areas and bass that appear to be locked on. Put it on high and start covering the shoreline
Once you located bass, determine what type of mood they are in. If they are skittish, move on to one that is more locked on to the nest.
Focus on lures that are extremely bright in color. These are so you can see them and gauge when the bass inhales that lure.
Make sure you are prepared for a bruiser by using heavier tackle. A medium-heavy or heavy power rated rod is perfect.
Wait for pressure on the line before you set the hook if you can. When we see the lure disappear, the fish doesn’t always have it real good yet.
Take a photo and then release the fish.
Have fun out there and make this spawning season one that you will always remember.
What are some of your favorite methods of catching bass during the spawn? Drop a comment below.
Be safe. Tight lines and remember to go out and encourage someone today. You never know how you might just change their life forever.