When spawning season begins, fishermen have a happy dilemma. Because not all bass spawn simultaneously on any given body of water, you can either head for spawning areas and target bedded bass, or hit staging zones to tempt feeding bass still in their prespawn mode. Either way, there is a host of hotspots to choose from.
SPAWNERS Bass that have moved onto their beds to spawn offer exciting shallow-water action, including sight-fishing opportunities and the chance to specifically target trophy fish. But casting randomly to the bank won't get you a lot of action; bass seek optimum habitat in which to deposit their eggs. Here's what you should be targeting:
Creeks and Coves: The back ends of creeks and coves are good places to find spawners almost anywhere on a lake. But they are especially good when situated along northern banks that receive plenty of sunlight.
Boat Canals: Boat canals warm up quickly and are among the first places to support spawning activity. Target boat docks, the corners of dead-end canals, and any visible cover.
Lily Pad Roots: These plants are dispersed throughout the country and provide excellent cover. Many anglers are unaware that bass commonly spawn on the roots of the pads because they provide the fish with a firm surface on otherwise soft bottoms.
Stumps: Soft silt commonly builds up on shallow fats and banks in the upper reaches of reservoirs, creating a bottom too muddy for spawning. In such waters, fish will spawn on the harder roots or submerged tops of stumps.
Pea-Gravel Banks: Bass love to spawn on hard, clean, pea-gravel bottoms, which are usually most prevalent in creek arms and coves on the lower (or deeper) ends of reservoirs where siltation is less common.
Sandy Holes in Grass: Milfoil, hydrilla, coontail, and other aquatic vegetation can grow thickly on shallow flats and points. Here, sandy spots on the bottom remain open and offer idea nesting sites.
Flooded Bushes: In reservoirs, spring rains often flood shoreline bushes that were high and dry during the winter drawdown. The firm bottom and protective cover attract spawning bass in droves.
Coaxing a strike from a fish that's eyeballing you from its bed can be a challenge. If you'd rather cast to more aggressive bass, or just don't care to go after spawners, hit the following staging areas for prespawn bass:
Lower Ends of Reservoirs: Bass usually spawn first in the upper reaches of reservoirs, where the lake's source carries warmer water from spring rains and runoff. So hit the lower, cooler portions closer to the dam, where bass are likely on a prespawn feeding binge.
Main-Lake Bluffs: While some bass are busy spawning in shallow coves, others are intently feeding along bluff banks on the main lake. Look especially for steep banks that drop directly into deep river channels, because stagers prefer areas where they can move quickly between deep and shallow water.
Points: As bass migrate to shallow spawning areas, they often set up and feed on points along the way. Target main-lake points near the mouths of creek arms as well as secondary points in the creek arms themselves.
Creek Channel Banks: The shallow waters of creek arms may attract spawning bass, but the deeper waters along steep banks hold stagers. Look for places where the creek channel bends sharply, then focus on the ledge formed along the outside of the curve.
Grass Flats: Main-lake grass flats are often covered with young, submerged aquatic vegetation that teems with minnows and crayfish. These are prime feeding areas for hungry prespawn bass.
Shaded Creeks and Coves: While creek arms and coves are generally excellent spawning areas, those that are deeply shaded should hold feeding fish. Bass there will tend to remain in the prespawn mode longer.
In Spawning Areas: Even where largemouths are actively spawning, some prespawn fish may be feeding in the same area. Target these fish with aggressive lures, such as spinnerbaits and jerkbaits.
TWO FOR ONE
LOUISIANA BASS PRO Sam Swett likes to fish a suspending jerkbait in cold, early-spring water. But as the season progresses, he switches to a floating jerkbait, which can be fished as either a topwater or subsurface lure. It's like fishing two different lures but without ever having to retie.
In grass lakes, Swett casts a blue-backed silver Bomber Model 15A to the edges of visible, shallow vegetation. He retrieves the lure with a lively twitching action and alternates between surface and subsurface presentations until the bass show a preference. When rising water floods bushes and willows, Swett catches shallow, aggressive bass by fishing the 15A as a topwater bait. Under those same conditions, fish suspended around the base of the flooded wood will respond to slow, tantalizing twitches that pull the minnow beneath the surface. --MARK HICKS