Early Season Bass: Prespawn

with Jeff Simpson

With weather conditions stabilizing following a turbulent spring, largemouth bass move shallow in earnest, feeding aggressively prior to constructing nests for spawning as the water temperature rises above 60º F.
 
In most cases, bass gather in areas with some type of flooded wood cover that offers safety and security. Fallen trees, logs, stumps, wooden dock pilings, beaver lodges, etc., are good examples. The best cover is often visible to the naked eye. If not, a pair of polarized sunglasses cuts the surface glare and allows you to peer down 3, 4 or 5 feet to detect the wood. Sometimes, you see the bass as well.
 
Lower your bowmount trolling motor, and slowly cruise the back ends of bays, channels, boat harbors—any shallow areas protected from harsh winds, where sunlight penetration warms the water a few degrees above the temperature level of the nearby deeper main lake. If you stand at the bow while casting to shoreline cover, you get a bird’s eye view of everything in the shallows, including fish swimming out a little deeper from the shoreline.
 
A ¼- to 3/8-ounce tandem spinnerbait is perhaps the easier lure for most anglers to use at this time, typically with a straight, steady retrieve just beneath the surface. Hold the rod tip up at a slight angle, and simply reel fast enough to make the blades spin, and the lure swim in a steady path. Early on, you don’t want lots of irregular action or excess lure speed. Slow and steady gets the best results.

Pitch your casts in and around visible cover, as close as you can, without spooking bass. Crawl the lure over logs; bump it against stumps or flooded trees. Slight changes in speed and direction make the lure appear vulnerable to attack, and trigger strikes.

The best casting style for precisely probing shoreline cover incorporates an underhanded pitch that sails the lure on a flat trajectory, followed by a soft landing to avoid spooking bass in the extreme shallows. This style of fishing is easiest to perform from the low, flat deck of a bass boat, which is almost like standing atop a flat aircraft carrier. When you’re standing a foot or more down within the high-sides of a traditional deep-v aluminum boat, keep your rod tip low to the water, outside the gunwale, whereas in a bass boat, you can simply swing your rod tip over the top of the deck.

If bass aren’t right on the shoreline, focus your attention over the adjacent deeper water. This is a particularly good strategy as the water warms and weeds begin to sprout throughout the shallows, causing bass to shift their locations slightly. They may spawn along inside weededges, where weedgrowth meets open sand bottom in 3 to 5 feet of water, where bass sweep out a pit-type nest for spawning.

As bass shift into spawning mode, they become very territorial and defensive, but reluctant to chase lures. You’re best off targeting them with lures that drop vertically toward bottom, like a tube jig, jigworm, wacky worm, small jig & trailer, etc. Let it fall near them, and then let it sit, perhaps with a slight wiggle every 10 seconds or so. It’s enough to aggravate them into biting, at times when they’d totally ignore faster lures swimming above their heads.

early season bass

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