Spring Pre-spawn & Spawn Bass Fishing Tips
By Owen Gartner
Springtime is upon us. Much to the glee of many outdoorspeople, anglers and non-anglers alike, lakes and ponds are thawing out, trees and flowers are beginning to bloom, and excitement for summertime is in the air! In addition to improved weather, bass anglers also know that spring brings another treat: the bass spawn. Every year, as the water warms up largemouth, smallmouth, and spotted bass move from their deep winter hideouts to the shallows where they make beds and lay their eggs. In fact, because females gain so much weight as their egg sacs grow and they bulk up for the enormous amount of energy they expend during spawning, the pre-spawn and spawn can be some of the best opportunities for you to catch your new personal best (PB) bass. To help you capitalize on this once-a-year opportunity, we’ve put together a collection of our favorite pre-spawn and spawn bass fishing lures.
Where your local fish are in their spawning cycle can vary wildly by your geographic location and local climate. In perpetually warm and sunny places like South Florida and Southern California, the spawn can begin as early as February, while up north in regions like the Great Lakes and Pacific Northwest the spawn may not kick into full swing until May.
Umbrella rigs (aka Alabama rigs or A-rigs) are super effective almost any time of year, but they really shine in the late winter and early spring. That's because during this time of year the bass, along with baitfish, become more active as they bulk up for the spawn, making them extremely willing to chase high-reward snacks like whole schools of baitfish. During the pre-spawn bass can be somewhat hard to find too as they migrate from their deep winter hideouts to their shallow spawning grounds, making baits that can be used to cover large swaths of water mid-column essential for identifying where the fish are holding.
YUM's YUMbrella Flash Mob Bladed Umbrella Rig is a perfect choice for pre-spawn fishing of this sort. Its 5-arm design allows you to create a larger-profile baitfish school that is further enhanced by the four silver Willow blades that come pre-rigged on it. The blades create enhanced vibration and flash that enables bass to track the rig from farther away, bolstering its effectiveness as a searchbait.
Keitech Fat Swing Impact 4.8 in Pro Blue Red Pearl
For umbrella rig baits, we recommend using Keitech's Fat Swing Impact 4.3 inch or Fat Swing Impact 4.8 inch paddle tail swimbaits rigged on VMC Boxer Jig swimbait jigheads. The Fat Swing impacts have an excellent, consistent swimming action while the Boxer Jigs 1X strong, razor-sharp hooks have what it takes to haul in the big bass that umbrella rigs often produce.
Another great pre-spawn favorite of ours is crankbaits, specifically lipless crankbaits. These rattle-filled hard baits are excellent at both covering water and moving all throughout the water column so you can pinpoint exactly where fish are suspended. Lipless crankbaits have been around for a while now, with ol' Bill Lewis developing one of the first commercially available models, the Rat-L-Trap, over 50 years ago.
While classics are all fine and good, we've really been enjoying 13 Fishing's Magic Man Multi-Pitch Lipless Crankbait (formerly known as the Pro-V Lipless) lately.
13 Fishing Magic Man Lipless Crankbait in Louisiana Frog Cakes
The Magic Man's great for a few reasons, first and foremost being the lure's unique rattling sound produced by a series of rattle-filled chambers of various sizes that, like the name implies, produce a wide range of tones and timbres, as opposed to one consistent rattling sound. The Magic Man's body shape is also unique in that it produces a nose-down swimming stance with a tight wobble on a fast retrieve. And to top it all off, they come pre-rigged with reliable hardware (Mustad KVD Triple Grip Trebles to be exact).
When the water finally hits the right temperature (usually somewhere between 55 and 65 degrees), bass will begin to settle into the shallows and make their spawning beds. Once the bass have made their beds, and especially after their eggs have been laid, they become extremely territorial and protective of them. This makes catching big bass a pretty darn simple task once you've found their beds. Depending on the clarity of your local waters, this is also a good opportunity for sight fishing.
Regardless of water clarity, pitching or flipping creature baits near spawning bass is an excellent way to get them PO'd and entice a bite. Specifically, we've been enjoying the eponymous Big Bite Baits Creature Bait. It comes in both 4 and 6 inch sizes and a wide range of colors, including a significant number of "Chartreuse Tail" colorways that offer the color contrast needed to give you that extra edge. They're super affordable too.
Big Bite Baits Creature Bait in Junebug/Chartreuse Tail
We recommend Texas rigging it on an EWG-style hook like the Gamakatsu EWG Offset Worm Hook. If you're fishing in particularly stained water it may also be beneficial to rig it with a rattling brass bullet weight like Gambler's Brass Pro Rat'lin Weight to add a sonic element to your presentation that helps alert bass to its presence.
Bluegill & Panfish-imitating Swimbaits
One of the biggest threats to bass' offspring during the spawn is opportunistic bluegill and other panfish who try to raid nests and snack on their eggs and fry. Therefore throwing a bait that imitates these sorts of fish near bedding bass can be another great way to draw their ire and, in turn, get them to hit your lure.
When it comes to swimbaits of this sort we have a few favorites. On the cheaper side of things, there's the Storm WildEye Live Bluegill and WildEye Live Crappie. Both come in under $10 and offer a realistic presentation that's essential when fishing in clearer water.
For those interested in going for something a bit more substantial, it's hard to go wrong with the Vatalion 190 Swimbait from Megabass. Released last year and based off of Megabass's already successful Vatalion Swimbait, the Vatalion 190 has a 7 1/2 inch panfish profile and a seductive swimming action designed to attract big bites from trophy bass. With slower retrieves, which are preferable for this presentation, its jointed body exhibits sharp, quick turns for pinpoint movement through grass bed channels, around submerged weeds, and along structure where bass have made their spawning beds.
Megabass Vatalion 190 Swimbait in GG Wild Gill
Overall, pre-spawn and spawn fishing can be an excellent opportunity to catch trophy bass and set a new PB, so get out there and get fishing!
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