Coast-to-Coast Guide to Where, When, and How to Catch Largemouth Bass During the Spawn
The spring spawn is the best time to catch giant bass. Here’s when it’s best to fish for them and what the experts use to catch them
Many largemouth bass fishermen look forward to the bass spawn much the same way whitetail hunters anticipate the rut. It’s the best time to catch the biggest bass of your life. It’s also a time when nest-guarding fish are particularly vulnerable to your offerings.
The bass spawn is, of course, contingent upon water temperature. It typically takes place in late February or early March in the South and in late May or early June in northern latitudes.
So when, where, and how should you fish the bass spawn where you live? We asked biologists and fishing pros for their recommendations as to prime spawning dates, hotspots, and lures to use in order for you to jumpstart your season.
Our Top Pick: Presque Isle Bay, Lake Erie, Pennsylvania
No. 1 Tactic: Prespawn largemouths will stage in healthy milfoil and coontail in the mouths of bays and canals. Cast jerkbaits, lipless crankbaits, and spinnerbaits.
Our Top Pick: Gaston, Virginia
No. 1 Tactic: Big largemouths spawn early in water willow and around stumps in small, main-lake pockets. Bass pro Greg DiPalma teases bites pitching a blue-steel or green-pumpkin Riot Baits Little Fuzzy and a drop-shot-rigged morning dawn 4.5 inch Roboworm.
Our Top Pick: Lake Anna, Virginia
No. 1 Tactic: Largemouths spawn in south-opening pockets and coves. A little trickery from pro Bryan Schmitt: “Pitch a weighted, Texas-rigged green-pumpkin Missile Baits 48 stickworm into the bed as you pull the boat away. Wait 2 minutes.”
Our Top Pick: Pymatuning Reservoir, Pennsylvania
No. 1 Tactic: Largemouths spawn in lily pads and stump fields in the north end. Pennsylvania pro Destin DeMarion scores by flipping a jig, winding a square bill or chatterbait, or dragging a creature bait. Fish slow.
Our Top Pick: Potomac River, Maryland
No. 1 Tactic: Largemouths spawn in bays and pockets on the main river out of the current. Focus on areas with lily pads and clumpy, healthy milfoil. Maryland pro Bryan Schmitt relies on an El Diablo color Missile Baits D Bomb.
Our Top Pick: Oneida Lake, New York
No. 1 Tactic: Largemouths spawn against hard targets like docks and clumps of emergent grass. Jigs, creature baits, wacky-rigged stickworms, and chatterbaits will attract bites. Don’t overlook marinas.
Our Top Pick: Chesapeake Bay, Maryland
No. 1 Tactic: Largemouths spawn in the center of the Susquehanna Flat. Look for areas of thick, healthy milfoil on contour changes. Cast a white chatterbait or a white or green-pumpkin swim jig.
Our Top Pick: Lake Champlain, New York/Vermont
No. 1 Tactic: “Largemouth bass like to bed against things,” says bass pro Destin DeMarion. Pitch jigs, creature baits, and stickworms to weed clumps, pad stems, and holes in the grass. “Let it sit,” DeMarion adds.
Our Top Pick: Union Lake, New Jersey
No. 1 Tactic: Largemouths spawn on the sandy flats in the north end of spawning pockets. With the sun at his back, bass pro Greg DiPalma makes long pitches with a blue-steel or green-pumpkin Riot Baits Little Fuzzy and a drop-shot-rigged morning dawn 4.5 inch Roboworm.
Our Top Pick: Candlewood Lake, Connecticut
No. 1 Tactic: For mid-spawn largemouths, multi-species Candlewood guide and Bassmaster pro Paul Mueller looks for deeper spawners on the inside grass edge on the main lake. Tubes, drop shots, wacky-rigged stick worms, and Deps 175 Slide Swimmers make bass bite.
Our Top Pick: Lake Sam Rayburn, Texas
No. 1 Tactic: It’s early spawn and time for giants. “Pitch a weightless, wacky-rigged Strike King Ocho to flooded bushes and cypress and willow trees,” says veteran pro Clark Wendlandt.
Our Top Pick: Lake Seminole, Florida/Georgia
No. 1 Tactic: Largemouths spawn along protected banks. Look for bass on beds or cast a Texas-rigged stick worm under an 1/8-ounce weight to holes in the grass.
Our Top Pick: Logan Martin Lake, Alabama
No. 1 Tactic: Pre-spawn largemouths and spotted bass congregate in pockets out of the current. Bass pro Wes Logan recommends red/orange squarebill crankbaits, big chartreuse/white spinnerbaits, and Rapala Shad Raps. Have a jig ready to pitch to hard cover.
Our Top Pick: Lake Fork, Texas
No. 1 Tactic: Veteran pro Jay Yelas recommends fishing Texas-rigged Yamamoto Senkos and PsychoDad, drop shots, and white tubes in emergent shoreline vegetation in western, protected pockets to catch giant spawning largemouths.
Our Top Pick: Toledo Bend Lake, Louisiana/Texas
No.1 Tactic: With the water up, bass will spawn against the inside edges of the submerged grass. Fish a weightless, wacky-rigged Strike King Ocho or, for thicker cover, a bluegill-pattern swim jig.
Our Top Pick: Lake Dardanelle, Arkansas
No. 1 Tactic: “Try Texas-rigged Zoom Zlinkys or Z Craw Worms (black or black/red flake) around water willow, lily pad stems, stumps, and laydown logs in dead-end pockets without current,” says veteran pro Brian Snowden.
Our Top Pick: Smith Lake, Alabama
No. 1 Tactic: Largemouth bass spawn in the backs of protected pockets. Bass pro Wes Logan catches them with Ned rigs, wacky-rigged Zoom Zlinkys, and shaky head Zoom Trick Worms. Catch bonus giant spotted bass with the same baits on red-clay points and rock shelves.
Our Top Pick: Lake Norman, North Carolina
No. 1 Tactic: Largemouths spawn in pockets off long creek arms or the main lake. Bassmaster pro Shane LeHew pitches 4-inch Berkley Max Scent General stickworms to visible beds and skips the same bait to shallow dock poles.
Our Top Pick: Arkansas River, Muskogee Pool, Oklahoma
No. 1 Tactic: “Largemouth bass spawn on hard-bottom flats out of the current,” says Bassmaster Classic qualifier Luke Palmer. Palmer relies on swim jigs and Texas-rigged YUM Dingers and Christie Craws to get bites.
Our Top Pick: Lake Texoma, Oklahoma/Texas
No. 1 Tactic: Here, largemouths spawn on pea gravel and hard-bottom banks in coves and in marinas. Bassmaster Elite pro Luke Palmer tempts bites with a Texas-rigged YUM Dinger and Bad Mama
Our Top Pick: Lake Guntersville, Alabama
No. 1 Tactic: Cast Texas- or wacky-rigged soft plastics to holes in eelgrass and milfoil. Bassmaster Elite pro Clark Wendlandt also likes to mix it up by twitching a Strike King Popping Perch over the holes.
Our Top Pick: Table Rock Lake, Missouri
No. 1 Tactic: Bassmaster pro Mark Menendez looks for prespawn largemouths in the dirtier water up the river arms. He entices bites with a green-pumpkin/brown Strike King Bitsy Bug with a Menace Grub trailer cast to more gradually sloping banks.
Our Top Pick: Kentucky Lake (south end), Tennessee
No. 1 Tactic: Prespawn largemouths stage on primary and secondary points. Veteran pro Mark Menendez casts red Strike King Series 3 crankbaits and Red Eyed Shad to gravel-to-chunk rock transitions.
Our Top Pick: Cumberland Lake, Kentucky
No. 1 Tactic: Cast a spinnerbait or vibrating jig to secondary points in the middle and back third of coves for prespawn largemouths. “Areas with waterfalls and inflowing water will concentrate fish,” says bass pro Mark Menendez.
Our Top Pick: Kentucky Lake (north end), Kentucky
No. 1 Tactic: Sight-fish for largemouths. Look for sandy areas around docks and in the back of shallow, flat pockets. Pitch creature baits to dock poles and bushes.
Our Top Pick: Bull Shoals, Missouri
No. 1 Tactic: Largemouths spawn in shallow, protected pockets and ledges on stair-step banks. Green-pumpkin and watermelon-red-flake plastics on Ned rigs, shaky heads, and drop shots are good choices for spawners.
Our Top Pick: Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri
No. 1 Tactic: Bass bed at the backs of docks. Missouri pro Brian Snowden skips bass jigs and Zoom Magnum Trick Worms and Zlinkys on shaky head jigs to entice bites.
Our Top Pick: Mississippi River (pools 4 and 5), Minnesota
No. 1 Tactic: Largemouths spawn in slack-water pockets and coves. Bassmaster Elite pro Bob Downey casts Texas-rigged and weightless soft plastics to hard cover. “Fish slow,” says Downey.
Our Top Pick: Lake Nepessing, Michigan
No. 1 Tactic: Largemouths spawn in canals and along the inside edge of grass in 5 to 6 feet of water. Cast weightless, wacky-rigged worms to light spots on the bottom.
Our Top Pick: Lake Minnetonka, Minnesota
No. 1 Tactic: Early spawners bed in boat cuts and can be caught on Texas-rigged craws and worms. Later spawners nest on flats in the lake’s main bays. Try Texas-rigged soft plastics under light weights.
Our Top Pick: Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
No. 1 Tactic: “Your eyes are your friends during the spawn,” says Bassmaster Elite pro Chris Groh. Cast green-pumpkin Berkley Chigger Craws and weightless, wacky-rigged Max Scent Generals between docks and on main-lake flats where you see bass and beds.
Our Top Pick: Burt and Mullett Lakes, Michigan
No. 1 Tactic: “The big smallmouths spawn 10 to 20 feet deep,” says pro Chad Pipkens. Pipkens relies on deep-diving jerkbaits, swimbaits on scrounger heads, and drop-shotting a Lunker Hunt 4-inch Limit Worm.
Our Top Pick: Ten Mile Lakes, Oregon
No. 1 Tactic: Pre-spawn largemouths congregate around docks, laydowns, lily pads, and submerged grass. Starting halfway up each arm and fishing toward the back, Bassmaster Elite pro Cody Hollen relies on a wacky-rigged green pumpkin/red flake stickworm to pattern the bass.
Our Top Pick: Coyote Lake, California
No. 1 Tactic: This lake, which is stocked with trout, grows big bass. Pro Chris Zaldain caught 11- and 14-pound bass on successive days. Fish big swimbaits in shallow creek arms and flip big plastics in flooded bushes for pre-spawn giants.
Our Top Pick: Roosevelt Lake, Arizona
No. 1 Tactic: Look for trees in pockets and on flats to find largemouths moving shallow to spawn. Veteran Bassmaster pro Cliff Pirch likes weightless or Neko-rigged stickbaits around the trees and bushes on calm, sunny days. Look for the bass in the tops of the trees on cloudy and windy days.
Our Top Pick: New Melones Lake, California
No. 1 Tactic: Largemouths spawn in coves and on shallow, shale flats in the main lake. Bassmaster pro Randy Pierson uses a River2Sea S-Waver as a search bait and Texas-rigged brush hog, drop shots, and weightless stickworm to cast to beds.
Our Top Pick: Lake Havasu, Arizona
No. 1 Tactic: Spawning largemouths are easily seen along shallow reed lines and around installed fish attractors. Back off and cast a drop shot rigged with a green-pumpkin/blue-flake X Zone Deception Worm.
Our Top Pick: Siltcoos Lake, Oregon
No. 1 Tactic: Oregon pro Cody Hollen entices spawners with Texas-rigged 6-inch stickworms and Missile Baits D Bombs pitched to lily pads, logs, and under overhanging trees in the back half of the lake’s main coves.
Our Top Pick: California Delta, California
No. 1 Tactic: Pro Brandon Palaniuk flips a green-pumpkin X Zone Adrenaline Bug rigged on a 4/0 VMC Tokyo Rig with a ½-ounce weight to holes in submerged grass where current slows.
Our Top Pick: McClure Lake, California
No. 1 Tactic: “Low and slow,” says Chris Zaldain. It’s the key to catching spawning bass. Weightless stickworms catch largemouths in the backs of coves. The same baits fished on ledges along bluff walls catch bonus spotted bass.
Our Top Pick: Shasta Lake, California
No. 1 Tactic: Largemouths spawn in quick-warming shallow coves. California pro Randy Pierson casts weightless, wacky- or Texas-rigged Senkos and large Texas-rigged Brush Hogs. Bonus giant spotted bass await.
Our Top Pick: Clear Lake, California
No. 1 Tactic: Sight-fish for giant largemouths. Veteran pro Jay Yelas casts Yamamoto Senkos and small Texas-rigged Psychodads to bedding fish around docks and in the backs of coves.
Our Top Pick: Columbia River, Washington
No. 1 Tactic: Largemouths spawn on vegetated flats far from the current in the backs of creeks, but the real excitement is giant smallmouths spawning on the submerged railroad beds parallel to the bank. Throw a Megabass Vision 110 jerkbait in loud colors.
Our Top Pick: Coeur d’Alene Lake, Idaho
No. 1 Tactic: Largemouths spawn in shoreline vegetation from April to July. Pro Brandon Palaniuk relies on a Terminator Walking Frog Jr. as a search bait and a green pumpkin Texas-rigged X Zone Adrenaline Bug as a follow-up bait and to pitch to choice cover
Our Top Pick: Lake Washington, Washington
No. 1 Tactic: Cast Yamamoto Senkos and small Texas-rigged Psychodads to visible beds in the lily pads.