Fishing with Kenny
March Madness…. From Pre-Spawn to Post-Spawn
article by KENNY COVINGTON
For bass fishing enthusiasts spring time is arguably the best time of the year to catch bass. Arguments aside, the spring season can be, at times, one of the most confusing and difficult times to catch bass as well. In our area lakes and rivers, it’s not uncommon to have bass in all phases of the spawn; pre-spawn bass that are wanting to move up to spawn; bass that arev\ in the phase of actually spawning; and bass that have already spawned. These phases all take place in the month of March.
With so much happening at once, it can make fishing your favorite body of water quite confusing. While there is nothing better than seeing a nice sized bass slurp a floating Rogue off the top of the wate, or seeing your line take off from a bass that has grabbed a weightless Senko slowly fished around shallow spawning cover, there are just as many frustrations as there are triumphs. It’s not unusual to fish productive areas as well as techniques, and after a long day leave believing there isn’t a fish to be caught in the lake.
To help with the frustration one of the first questions to ask is, “What phase are the fish in on the body of water I am fishing?” This gives you a good starting point. The pre-spawn fish are probably the most predictable in their areas and feeding habits but can move quickly. The spawning fish will be area specific and weather sensitive while the post-spawn fish will be the most finicky and sporadic. All three phases of the springtime spawning ritual will require different mindsets to be successful. Once you figure out what the bass are doing and where they are located, things should get a bit easier.
The first phase I want to look at are the post-spawn fish. A lot of fishermen will say “Post-spawn? How can you have fish that have already spawned when our weather has been so unpredictable?” I have always believed a lot of the bigger bass on any given body of water will spawn the first chance they get. Biologists will tell you about the magic mid-60s water temperatures that bass need to actively spawn but I personally don’t believe they wait for that to happen.
Since the post-spawn fish are ones that have already spawned, the question is what is the best way to target these fish? For years it was believed these fish were hard if not impossible to catch, but I have found them to be the easiest. Post-spawn fish are feeders and like to eat. From personal experience I have found that fishing shallow flat areas just outside of where you would find them bedding to be good starting points. If I had to choose a few lures for targeting these bass it would be a Rat L Trap type of lure, a topwater such as a Pop-R and a spinnerbait.
When it comes to the spawning phase, I have found bass on beds as early as mid-January and in water as cool as 53 degrees. Many believe the most important aspect of the spawning season is the moon phase, but I’m not sure if I believe that or not. I believe weather to be a more important factor. If there has been a warm stable weather pattern with nights with lows only in the high to mid-40s, I will direct my efforts to searching the shallows for spawning fish. Warm days help raise the water temps but it is the cold nights, with temperatures below 40 that are key. These colder nights bring the water temperatures down quickly. Remember, fish can pull up to spawn relatively overnight but they can also abandon shallow water just as quickly.
One misconception of spawning fish is they can be hard to catch. In the latter stages of the actual spawning process I have found this to be somewhat true. However, if you catch the first wave of fish to move in, they are usually the biggest but they are also the dumbest ones. Lack of boat pressure and the number of anglers chasing them makes them easier to catch. Moving baits such as chatterbaits, spinnerbaits, and squarebill crankbaits are good choices because the fish will react more positively to lures they haven’t seen.
Once these spawning fish have been pressured, an angler usually has to resort to fishing slower and more methodically. This isn’t to say you can’t catch them on the aforementioned moving baits but usually your bigger fish will be caught on more vertical presentations. Heavily pressured spawning fish are more likely to be caught on a Texas rigged lizard, a wacky rigged Senko or even a shaky head. Keeping an open mind and adjusting your presentations are probably the most important aspects of fishing the spawning phase.
Fishing for pre-spawn fish is usually all about timing. As mentioned earlier, these fish tend to be nomadic. Where you caught them one day, they may be completely gone the next. Over the years I have heard more than my share of “I caught them yesterday but I have no clue where they went” stories this time of year. Oftentimes it was a weather change that affected the fish movements. A major cold front can move fish from a spawning stage back to a pre-spawn situation.
Here is a good example of what I am talking about. Several years ago I was pre-fishing for a tournament and I found a shallow spawning area that had both numbers of fish and quality sized ones as well. The day before the tournament a major artic front came through and dropped the water temperature almost ten degrees overnight. The next morning I went to the area I had located the fish the week before and sure enough they were gone.
Instead of panicking, I made a simple adjustment. On the outside of this spawning pocket was a small feeder creek that ran along the edge of it. Those fish had moved from a shallow 2-4 foot deep flat to a 15-foot channel drop in a matter of hours. Because I was able to find where the fish had moved I had a successful event. When dealing with pre-spawn fish it is very important to think about where they may go or where they may have gone if conditions arise.
I have always believed the better fishermen are the ones who consistently figure out the pieces of the bass fishing puzzle. In order to be successful you have to have your share of on the water failures. That is what the philosophers call experience and in bass fishing, there is no substitute for it.
It looks like we have run out of time and space for another month. I sure hope we have given you some good information that you can apply on your next trip to your favorite fishery. Be safe out on the water and be sure to catch one for me! See you next month!