Last week, I spent a few hours on the water with my fishing buddy Paul Shuey. This particular trip was a shining example of how many patterns can present themselves on any given spring day. This time of year, many bass anglers have a habit of focusing on just one pattern, because they’re stuck on the idea of the fish only being in one spawn stage. Truth is, once the water temps hit the 50s, you’ll find bass doing all sorts of different things related to different cycles of the spawn, even within one body of water. We caught the two fish in the photo out of the same cove only ten minutes apart. Paul ran a hardbait next to a log and the big pre-spawn girl on the right came out and clobbered it. Then we wandered into the back of the pocket. That’s where I caught the smaller fish off a fallen tree on pitch number 10 with a soft plastic creature. This bass is thinner with a worn tail, indicating that it’s post-spawn. So am I saying choose the method that caught the big aggressive bass instead of the one that was picky and slow to strike? Not at all. I’m saying be ready to switch gears often, because one of these two fish may not have been in the boat if we had one-track minds.
Pretty much everyone knows you can catch bass shallow in spring, but it’s those that capitalize on a few different patterns at once that regularly survive the daily (or hourly) swings in fish mood and precise location choice. Overall, I’d say I’ve had many more days where targeting pre-spawn bass scored more hookups than targeting the spawners, but that doesn’t mean I’m not ready for a tactical change to fish for a spawning bass. I’ve also noticed that when the pre-spawn bite is lights out one day, I can usually count on an onslaught of bass showing up shallow on beds the next morning.
Looking back on my session with Paul, I’m reminded that the location of the bulk of the bites teaches me a lot on a spring day, but the manner in which the bites come is what continues to keep my wheels turning. If it’s taking multiple pitches, slower retrieves on the bottom, or at least three bites before an actual connection, then most likely your bass are setting up on the bed even if you don’t actually see the beds. If it’s wide open in certain locations with fish chasing and smashing your baits like it’s the last meal in the lake, then there’s a good chance those bass are prespawn. But it’s wise to never disregard what those fish may do and where they may go spawn if conditions change quickly. If you switch between the pre- and post-spawn mindset throughout the day and as you move around, you’ll find yourself becoming noticeably better at this annual springtime cat and mouse game.