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Pre-Spawn Bass

Aaron Martin

As old man winter begins to ease his grip on lakes across the country and water temperatures begin to climb, anglers know that the antidote to their cabin fever is in the making. Bass are appearing in places that previously held no fish. Anticipation of big female bass making their way to familiar staging areas and thoughts of males cruising the bank can cause even the most experienced angler to go weak in the knees.

This sudden shift in behavior means that the females are putting on weight and the males are busy selecting sites and building beds. It’s the time of year that anglers can catch more and bigger bass. But spring can also present some daunting challenges as weather changes can mean starting from scratch each day.

B.A.S.S. Elite Series Pro, Bradley Stringer of Huntington, Texas, is no stranger to the wide range of conditions faced by anglers from one spring day to the next. Growing up on the banks of Sam Rayburn Reservoir, Bradley has learned to catch bass during all seasons under most weather conditions. He said that some of his more frustrating, as well as memorable, moments have been during the pre-spawn period.

Getting Visual

“Pre-spawn is a great time of year because the males are moving in shallow to make the beds and the females are staging in very close proximity,” Bradley explained. “So the hardest part, locating where the fish are, is basically done and the only thing left is to get them to bite.”

On lakes where he has experience, Bradley starts in pockets or bays that bass have used for spawning in years past. With his trolling motor on high, he heads down the bank looking for beds.

“I want to visibly see how close the bass are to actually spawning. Given the current phase of the moon and the water temperature, I can then better prepare for how those bass will position over the next few days.”

If bass are cruising, not yet holding tight on their spawning beds, he will make long casts to minimize the chances of disturbing them. If no visible signs of bass are seen in relation to the freshly made beds, he will move to the first transition area of the spawning flat or cove.

Bradley says that most spawning areas have access to deeper water or structure. On some lakes that may only be a difference of a few feet -- perhaps an original creek channel. But it can also be a significant drop-off like a bluff end or point. Grass, woody structure and rocks are also prime areas for bass to stage before moving in to spawn.

“If I can find an area that has a secondary point with a grass line or structure on it, located close to the spawning area, you better believe I am all over it.”

Instability

When the weather remains relatively stable, success is as predictable as a Santa Claus visit on Christmas Eve. But what should you do when a dramatic weather change rains on your parade? Bradley recalled a recent outing on Georgia’s Lake Seminole when a cold front did just that “A few days prior to rolling into town, a massive cold front moved in, dropping the surface temperature of the water by 13 degrees.”

Local guides David Kirkland and David Johnson told Bradley that it was the worst cold front in five years. The week leading up to the trip, bass had moved into the shallows and beds were being built. With the full moon just a few days away, it was seemingly shaping up to be a phenomenal trip.

Bradley checked countless beds and tried to entice the Florida-strain bass into biting without success, but typical for spring, a weather change would soon be on its way.

“Each day the water temperature slowly began climbing, and we knew it was only a matter of time before the bass moved back in. During the cold-snap those bass moved so deep into the grass that we couldn’t even get our bait to them.”

Realizing the surface water was warming, Bradley began searching for areas where the wind was blowing the warming surface water into pockets. That’s where the first pre-spawn bass would set up. He began probing the holes of lily pads with his soft stick-bait, and it quickly paid off.

“It was unbelievable, almost as if someone flipped a switch to turn the bass on. Shortly before we started getting bit, David Kirkland shared he was catching them on white flukes on the outside of the grass line, so we knew those fish were coming in.”

Trust Your Instinct

Although weather systems can play havoc on even the best laid plans, spring is still a favored time of year for most bass anglers. Those who are able to locate spawning pockets with transitional staging areas, pay close attention to the moon phase and water temperature, and trust their instincts will be better positioned to take on even the most challenging conditions.

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