We’ve been teaming up with expert bass anglers in recent weeks to predict and break down some of the best days of the spawn, and based on what they’ve told us, it’s safe to say there will be no day better in 2024 than April 23rd. Big female bass will be shallow, hungry, and ornery—a great combination if you want them to hammer a bait dragged into their beds.

Mid to late April is generally prime spawning time across a wide swath through the middle of the country. What surprised us, however, was that when we asked the five experts we handpicked from throughout the country for this series, three picked the same date as the best day to catch bass spawning. And that day is tomorrow—April 23rd. Here is why our experts love this date, plus their best tactics and tips to help you make the most of it.

The Region: A wide swath of the U.S. stretching roughly north to south from southern Michigan to Tennessee and clear across the country east to west, with some variation where big changes in elevation play a role. 

The Experts: Mark Menendez, Alex Rudd, and Ben Nowak 

From left: Pro angler Mark Menendez and YouTube anglers Alex Rudd and Ben Nowak. Mark Menedez/Alex Rudd/Ben Nowak

Professional angler Mark Menendez has based his 34-year fishing career out of his home state of Kentucky, competing across the country and winning at the highest levels. Alex Rudd, a content creator and avid kayak angler, has spent most of his time chasing smallmouths, spots, and largemouths across the southeast, building a large social-media audience in an extremely competitive market. Fellow YouTuber and smallmouth guru Ben Nowak of Michigan has earned a big following for his videos of chasing and boating behemoth bronzebacks around the Midwest. These three anglers, from these diverse backgrounds, all selected April 23rd as the best day to catch bass spawning in their respective areas.

Typical Regional Spawning Conditions Around April 23rd

Bass beds dot the bottom of a shallow flat on Lake Michigan. Ben Nowak

Menendez: We started with Menendez, asking him to lay out spawning conditions this time of year in and around his home state of Kentucky. “Sometimes, if we get an early full moon in mid- to late March and we’ve had a good solid warming trend and steady weather, you’ll have a bunch of fish go that last week of March,” he said. “That’s about one in 7 or 8 years.” The more likely scenario, however, is a mid-April spawn, according to Menendez, for Kentucky and the other fisheries along its latitudinal line. 

April 15th is the day the TVA starts raising the water level on Kentucky Lake from the winter pool, Menendez pointed out, and although other conditions can be right for spawning at that time, the fluctuating water level will make those fish wait a bit until conditions stabilize. “It’s hard to pick one day,” he said, “but if I had to, I’d go with April 22nd or the day of that full moon, which is April 23rd, plus or minus a day or two. That will be about the right time when they all flood the bank.”

Rudd: Transitioning to Alex Rudd for his take, he also lands on mid-April as the sweet spot on the bass spawn calendar. “My number one thing that I look for is pollen on the water,” he told us. “When the pollen starts coming off the trees, the bass are spawning. A day when it’s kind of stagnant and calm and there’s literally pollen on the water to the point you can’t see into the water, those are the days that I look for spawning fish.”

The only problem is that the pollen is hard to see through, but Rudd has a trick for that. “We’ll put just a little bit of Dawn dishwashing liquid in a bottle with water and spray it onto the water, because it pushes the pollen away. It allows us to see the bass better when they’re on the bed.”

With smallmouths, largemouths and spots in many of the waterways around Rudd’s home in Tennessee, he’s dialed in the differences on when each species will spawn based on the water temps. “For smallmouths, they’ll start spawning at 55 degrees. So, they’ll be a little bit early. But largemouths, I’m looking for 57 to 60, into the mid 60s.”

Rudd, with one of each. Alex Rudd

Rudd stressed, too, that bass in the South don’t spawn in one big wave like they do up North. Instead, they spawn in phases, with bass often spawning on different sections of the same fishery at different times. “You could catch a fish on a bed in one location one day and come back and that fish is completely gone and done spawning. And you go a mile down the lake and then there’s a whole new wave of fish that have moved up that weren’t even there the day before. For up to three weeks, they’ll come in these waves.”

Nowak: Interestingly, despite hundreds of miles separating the fisheries where Rudd and Menendez live from the waters Ben Nowak knows best, the date is still the same. All three anglers again chose April 23rd as one of the best days to catch bass spawning in their respective areas.

“The largemouth may start around that April 23rd date in the more southerly parts of my region if the temperature is right, about 59 to 64. In general, though, the smallmouths tend to spawn a little earlier than the largemouth, when water temps are about 57 to 61.” The key, according to Nowak, is to be ready to fish right around that April 23rd full moon, and to keep a close eye on water temperatures at the same time.

Top Spawn Tactics for April 23rd   

Though the spawn fires up around the same time for this expansive region, the lakes and rivers where the bass are spawning are often drastically different. As a result, our experts each take a different approach in terms of tactics and bait. Here’s how they put fish in the boat now, starting with Menendez.

Menendez: “I slow down during this period,” Menendez said. “I’ll use a little 18-inch Carolina rig with about a 1/4-ounce sinker and a Strike King Game Hog. And when fish start getting closer to bushes, I’ll take a little 5/16 Texas rig in that same Game Hog. Bama Bug is the best color for me.”

Rudd: Down in Tennessee, Rudd prefers a fast approach to begin with, using a search bait to find productive water before slowing down. “One of my favorite search baits is either a buzzbait or a frog. With a frog, you have the chance for them to blow up on it. I’ve caught some really big bedding fish by throwing a frog past the bed and working it over the bed. With a buzzbait, fish will follow it off of the bank and you can literally watch them swim back, and then work them with a slower approach.”

Rudd locates spawners by working a topwater frog past potential beds. Alex Rudd

If the bass are unwilling to react to Rudd’s topwaters, he’ll swap over to a Berkley Cull Shad—a 6-inch harness swimbait. “Again, it’s kind of two-pronged: You’ll have a chance where some of them are going to smoke it and you’ll put big fish in the boat because they eat it. And others are just going to follow it and then you can watch them swim right back to their beds where you can try them again.”

Nowak: Though some quality largemouth are in the more northern waters where Ben Nowak fishes, big smallmouths are the targets for most anglers in his area. “For smallmouths, one of the best things is to just cover lots of water until they show themselves,” he told us. “Throw a topwater and then go back and catch the fish on a hair jig if you didn’t catch it on that moving bait.” 

Since large schools of smallmouths move up to spawn all at once, finding one bedder typically means you’ll find a load of them. “The biggest thing with smallmouths is that you want to get on a pretty expansive flat with the right type of bottom and then cover water until you locate beds. And then, typically, you’ll find a group of bedded fish to work,” Nowak said. “For largemouth, it’s a lot more about just getting in the back of a pocket and looking for beds. Keep that trolling motor on high until you find a fish to work.”

Nowak with a pair of jumbo smallies. Ben Nowak

Find a Way to Get on the Water

April 23rd is set to be a big day for the bass spawn across a large portion of the map. So this is a day you’re going to want to spend on the water. Unfortunately, the 23rd falls on a Tuesday. I don’t suggest you let that stop you though. 

One of my fondest memories from childhood started off a little scary; I was called to the office in the second or third grade, which is not usually a good thing. But when I got there, my aunt, who worked in the office, told me my dad was outside waiting for me. I walked out to a beautiful spring day and found my dad sitting in the parking lot, boat in tow with it still dripping wet. 

He’d gotten on the bass so good on our local lake that he took out and came to get me from school to go back out with him. We’re big believers around here in the value of a mental health day. So, call into work and maybe check the kiddos out of school to spend some time on the water together. Remember that a stellar day of bass fishing will almost certainly make you a more amiable employee in the long run. That’s what I’m telling my boss, at least. And I’ll be out there.