When it comes to bass fishing, we never want to stop and wait for the spawn to be over to keep fishing for bass. The main problem is that during the spawning season, the bite can go almost nonexistent and your day out on the water will be filled with empty casts. Is it possible to catch bass during the spawning season, and not have to take months off from fishing for fear of being skunked?
There are lots of opinions out there on how to catch bass during the spawning season, but do all of them work, and is it even worth it. The main problem with spawning bass is that they fill up before the spawn and then usually do not eat as much until after the spawn is over, that is why fishing in early spring is so good for bass. They are trying to fill up so they can make it through spawn and protect their eggs, so they can hatch and we have a new generation of bass to catch over the next years to come.
How do you make bass bite during spawn season? You need to make the bass mad enough to want to kill your bait, and not exactly want to eat it. This is really important because instead of just eating your bait completely, they will more likely attack it, and that is when learning how to set the hook is important.
You will only have a few strikes to set the hook, or it will go about its business of making the nest and you will lose the fish. During the spawn, you want to make your bait look like a predator coming to eat the eggs, and make them want to expend their energy trying to get your bait. Bass will rarely go after your bait out of hunger or any sort of feeding unless they did not get enough to eat before the spawn cycle.
Stages Of The Spawn
There are generally 4 stages of the spawn season, and it starts when the water starts to warm up to about 60 degrees, which is usually early to mid-spring in most areas. In colder states this could differ a bit, but when the water is right, the bass will move in. They spawn in very shallow waters, usually around the 18 to 24 inch mark, so sometimes you can see the beds and the bass, but they will start to move deeper, if the heat picks up too fast. Here is a breakdown on the stages they go through:
- Males Move In: The males will move in while the females swim around, and they will start to make the beds using their tails. If you catch a bass during this, look at their tails for markings of being cut up or missing pieces and you will know that the spawn is happening.
- Pairing: At this stage, the males and females will pair up on a bed, and start the spawning process together. They will continue to work on the beds until the female is ready to lay eggs.
- Egg Drop: This is when the females actually start to lay their eggs. The females will move around, while the male hits them to loosen up the eggs. This is an extremely hard time to catch bass.
- Females Leave Males Move Back In: Right after the female lays her eggs, she will take off, and the males will move in to fertilize the eggs, this is a perfect time to catch females because they will be extremely hungry after laying eggs.
Each one of these stages has a pretty good chance of making the bass attack, except the Egg Drop stage. They are so busy trying to get the eggs out that they really will not bother with a worm at all, so you have to be patient during this. You also do not want to spook them and make them want to leave because we want that next spawn to happen.
What Eats Bass Eggs
Bass have lots of predators when it comes to the spawn, especially their eggs. Lizards are one of the primary predators when spawning because they love to eat the eggs, but they also have other fish like bluegills and smaller fish that will go after them as well.
Almost anything in the water that is hungry will try and get to the eggs, but crayfish, and frogs will also be a huge predator for them. Any smaller reptile or fish that can get to the eggs, will try to get a free meal out of them, but keep in mind, they will not just attack a fish swimming by, it has to be trying to get to their eggs. Snakes have also been known to try and get after a bass egg every now and then.
Baits To Use
So, we know what eats a bass egg, so what is the best bait for a bass on the spawn? The best bait that we have seen used over and over again, is a lizard, or a brush hog. Other good baits are usually larger plastic worms, or anything that can move along the bottom right over the bedding. You will want to rig your bait so that it can be twitched right over the spawn bed, and makes it look like your bait is trying to invade the nest for eggs.
Doing this will put both the male and female bass into defense mode, and they will attack your bait. You can also try and twitch your bait into bobbing up and down off the bottom so it hops over and into the nests, but we have found that more people are having success with slithering right along the bottom. If you try and keep your bait off the bottom at all times, you will most likely find yourself not getting a single bite because the bass do not feel threatened at all.
Is It Safe For The Bass?
It is extremely important to keep in mind that a female bass is carrying eggs, so when you fish during the spawn, it can be a lot of stress on the mama fish, so you want to try and be as careful as possible. When a female bites your bait it is out of defense and feeling threatened, so there is already a lot of stress on the bass, so when you land one, try to be easier on the way you pick it up from the water, and how you put it back into the water.
I have seen some anglers just toss bass back in the water, and during the spawn it could make them leave their nest. Remember, if you have a successful spawn, there will be more bass the following years for us to catch. In general terms of catching a bass during the spawn, there has been no evidence that catching a bass actually does any damage to the eggs if handled correctly and there is no significant damage to the bass like swallowing the hook. This type of thing should be rare since they are not actually trying to eat your bait.
When it comes to spawn, we now know that they will go to the shallowest point where the water is the perfect temperature. I have seen some bass spawn in less than two feet of water in places that stay to the cooler side in April and May, but have also seen them bed in eight to ten feet of water, in places that get super-hot, super-fast. You will have to figure out when the water warms up and how hot your area gets to get a general idea of how deep they might have to go to be comfortable.
Even though there is a large gap between two and ten feet of water, you will most likely not have to cast very far to find a spawning bass. During the spawn, you can typically cast a lot closer to shore and spend the time twitching the bait over the bed then trying to work the bait from a long distance.
I have caught bass about four feet out from me before, so there is no need for a long cast and a lot of weight. Some people think they have to play the fish for 20 yards before landing it on shore, but that just is not going to happen during the spawn unless the female bass has laid her eggs and is moving out to eat.
Will Lures Work?
We have talked about the best bait to use for catching bass during the spawn, but there are people that love to use lures, and do not like to use soft plastics. Depending on the lure, you might have some success, but you will honestly not get as many bites as someone pulling a bait right over the beds. The bass is not trying to eat, so unless your lure is very low in the water, you are going to have a hard time catching anything with it.
Topwater will also be something that is going to be hard to catch fish with unless you see activity on the surface. You would be better of sticking to some sort of swimbait that you can try to get as close to the bottom as possible and right in front of the bass’s face to see if it will strike. Lures just are not as effective as bottom baits during the spawning season, so I would avoid them if possible.
When Are Bass Most Active?
Bass tend to be more active post spawn into mid to late fall, but can be caught all year round if the proper bait is used. As for time of day, earlier morning before heat starts to set in is generally the best time to fish, which is normally between 7am and 11am for a lot of the population. This time is great for both plastic worms and baits, and also lures like jigs and swim baits.
In the evening time, right around dusk, bass will generally feed top water for all the little insects flying around, so a top water lure like a popper will be the best when you see them jumping or starting to boil. This can happen between the hours of 6pm and 8pm, right before the sun goes down.
Bass will stay active at night, so night fishing will be good for plastic worms and other baits as long as the bass can see the shadow, or the actual bait. A light colored bait will be more useful during night time fishing.