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Figuring out the spawn.

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  • Figuring out the spawn.

    In the beginning, the bass spawning process eluded me for many years. Every year, year after year, I'd religiously study every written article I could find on the subject. Despite my best efforts, I still couldn't grasp what was actually happening until it was to late to take advantage of it. So my intent here is to make this as simple as I can, and not get mired in the mud along the way.
    I am going to start with the bass on the bed and back plan from there. So let's get started.

    The first two most important things you need to know, is where to look and when.
    Where to look? The number one preferred spawning habitat is aquatic grass/vegetation (includes pad stems), this is inclusive to the root systems of grass beds not yet growing. Secondly, it's stumps. Maximum depth 3 foot to the shoreline. These are the two preferred types of structure you're looking for. Other types of structure that attract spawning fish are sea-walls, lay downs, dock posts, etc. In river systems you need to look for these types of cover in back water areas or eddies where current is the least.

    When to look? When 'morning' surface water temps get to about 63 degrees, +- a couple of degrees, and are stable, the bass are going to be on the bed, and you can take that to the bank. You don't necessarily need to see them, you just need know they're there. That being said, if you're fishing on the right stuff, at the right time, and you still aren't getting bit, then one of three things are going on. You are most likely fishing to fast, fishing with the wrong bait, or you're not in an area of the lake or river that has an abundance of spawners. The third choice being the most unlikely. Some areas of a lake or river may be hotter than another, but there is going to be some spawning fish around. So if you're struggling, slow down and go with proven baits like tubes, and creature baits. From here on, we're going to start back planning and it's all based on water temps. Water temp is the most critical element of tracking that initial wave of spawners. Last words about this: you are going to hear a lot of chatter about bass being on beds in 55 degree water temps. It may be true, it may not. It might be that someone mistook a male bass building a nest as spawning fish. Studies have shown that bass to have a successful spawn, and for best survivability of fry, water temps need to be at least in the low to upper 60's. If there are bass on bed in 55 degree water temp, it's only going to be a very few. So don't get side tracked when you hear that chatter. Stay focused on water temps getting into the low 60's.

    Late Pre-spawn: morning surface water temps between 53 and 60 degrees + or -. Remember, your first course of action is to find the spawning habitat! When water temps are between 53 and 60 degrees the male bass are going to be roaming around searching for a suitable spot and building a nest in that grass or around those stumps. If you're catching a lot of males then it only stands to reason there's a lot of females nearby. The females are going to be cruising around or hanging out around the first break line to deeper water nearest the cover. When these females come shallow for the first time, they are very cautious and spook easily. It may take a little work on your part to figure out the bite. Some days its dead sticking senko's and shaky heads, some days it's all power fishing. If you aren't finding the males, then move on until you do.

    Early pre-spawn. Water temps between 43 and 53 degrees. As water temps begin to emerge out of the high 30's and low 40's the early stages of pre-spawn feeding begin. Initially, you will find the bass near their wintering holes. As water warms into the mid to upper 40's the bass begin to roam further away from their deep haunts and nearer to the bank. Once water temps get into the mid 50's they're going to be closer to where they will spawn.

    I will leave you with a few last thoughts about pre-spawn bass. Not all bass are going to migrate from main lake to the back of a creek for spawning. There are a lot of bass that are going to spawn in a main lake pocket or cove as long as there's some spawning structure present. In your deeper creeks, bass live there year round. Therefor there's no need for them to migrate anywhere but shallow. In deep creeks, bass are most likely wintering in the last deep water nearest a flat, located in the back of the creek. These bass will frequently push Shad onto the flat for feeding even when water temps are still in the low 40's.
    Finally, I've searched some creeks before at the perfect time, and hit all the right spots, and never got a bite. Then return to the very same creek the following day and put 20+ pounds in the boat. That's how fast it can happen. Bass will move from a late pre-spawn stage to going on bed literally over night. The lesson here is this: just because a creek didn't produce today doesn't mean it won't be on fire tomorrow. This is a time of the year when things can happen fast. If it's a good creek that has spawning habitat, then sooner or later there's going to be some very nice bass showing up.

    Well, that's pretty much it. It's actually pretty simple. Why it took so long for me to get it, I'm not sure. I think a lot of confusion comes in if you're doing everything right, in the right places at the right time and you're not getting bit. If it happens to you, then most likely you're fishing to fast. It's hard to put 'to fast' in perspective when you already believe your fishing slow to begin with. I will say it again. If you are on good spawning habitat and water temps are right and your not getting bit, don't give up. Keep trying to figure it out. The bass are there!

    If you use the above as a general guide for targeting pre-spawn and spawning bass you will do just fine. I hope it really helps you to understand the process a little better. Now let the fun begin.

    God bless you and see ya on the water.
    2010 VAO Polar Bear Overall Winner
    2010 VAO Polar Bear Big Striper


  • #2
    Good report Jim