During the spring fling that bass fishermen call the spawn, some fish areindeed on their beds and ready for business, but plenty of others are still inthe pre-breeding mode. Shallow coves such as this one hold both staging andspawning fish. To catch them, you need to tailor your tactics to the specificsituation.
1 LEDGES AND DITCHES
Use your depthfinder to locate subtle contour changes, such as ledges orditches, on the main-lake edge of a spawning cove. Stagers will stack up here,near cover or creek-channel intersections.
TACTICS: Comb these spots with a Carolina-rigged lizard in pumpkinseed or watermelon,concentrating on any cover or structure you can find.
2 SHALLOW GRASS
Search the edges of grassbeds for openings with spawning redds. ****
TACTICS: If you see bluegills pestering a large bedded bass, tie on a swimbait, such asone in the Mattlures Bluegill series, and hop it into the nest. The weightednose makes it look like a sunfish munching bass eggs.
3 ROCKS AND DOCKS Nearshore gravel beds are natural spawning sites, especially where there isoverhead cover such as a dock or overhanging trees or brush. ****
TACTICS: Look for these gravel bottoms along shallow creek arms. If bass are bedded farbeneath cover, tie on a 3½-inch white tube with a 1/16-ounce internal jig anduse a sidearm cast to skip the bait into the bed. A twitching retrieve shoulddraw a strike.
4 PADS AND STUMPS If the bottom is too soft for spawning, bass make beds near the root-balls oflily pads or on the roots and submerged tops of flooded stumps.
TACTICS: Scout these areas using your trolling motor, marking bedded bass. Texas-rig a6-inch white or chartreuse lizard on a 4/0 hook with a ¼-ounce bullet sinker.Cast past the bed and inch the bait into the nest, shaking it there. If bassare skittish, go to a smaller rig.
5 POINTS Staging bass often gather on the main-lake side of the point closest to aspawning area. A nearby channel bank, as well as rocky or woody cover, willmake this spot doubly hot.
TACTICS: Use a 3/8-ounce white spinnerbait with at least one No. 5 to 7 Colorado blade,and wake the bait just under the surface tight to shoreline cover. Next, tryslow-rolling a ½- to ¾-ounce chartreuse model with a No. 4 Colorado blade.Cast, then crawl it near structure.
6 CREEK-CHANNEL BEND Wherever a channel bends sharply in otherwise shallow water, you can expect tofind stagers.
TACTICS: Cast a 3/8-ounce black-and-red or black-and-blue jig with a matching porktrailer to cover on the shallow lip of the outside bend. Let it sink, then hopit to the edge and down the steep bank.
7 DEEP GRASS Stagers often stack up along a grassbed’s deeper edge, especially if it flanksa creek channel or dropoff.
TACTICS: Tie on a ½- to ¾-ounce craw-colored rattling crankbait such as a Rat-L-Trap.Cast it parallel to the deep edge of the vegetation, and retrieve it fastenough to keep it ticking along the weed tops. Be ready for explosivestrikes.
** Staging and spawning fish are in and around the shallows now. You can focus onstagers, sight-fish for spawners, or follow the route shown and fish forboth.
** Sight-fishing active spawning beds offers a type of excitement you can’t get atany other time of year. Spawning fish aren’t very interested infeeding. Your challenge is to goad them into biting by working a bait intotheir beds and shaking it in their faces.
** Many fish are now on their way to the spawning grounds or are in that area butnot on beds yet. These staging fish commonly stack up nearvertical structure such as creek banks and dropoffs. They are feedingaggressively and can provide all the action you can handle.