By Cal Kellogg
I am sure that many of you are familiar with the expression “I have no idea how I got here?” This saying may be true of human beings but certainly does not apply to bass as they migrate during the prespawn.
Each spring bass respond to their natural instinct to reproduce and begin the migration from their winter haunts to their spawning locations. Bass are driven to spawn my many factors. As the days get longer the sun begins to warm the water. In addition, moon phase play a major role in triggering bass to spawn. The prespawn is an exciting time to be a bass fisherman and is eagerly anticipated each year. For some anglers, the prespawn can be a frustrating period as well.
Many years ago, a friend who is a very accomplished tournament angler helped me solve this problem. He instructed me to start my search in a nontraditional manner. He told me to approach the process as if it was the post spawn and the fish are beginning their migration from their spawning banks back to their summer locations on the main lake. This methodology has been very successful for me.
I start out by locating spawning flats and shallow areas near backs of coves. I will work my boat or kayak out from these areas making note of creek channels and other migration paths that intercept secondary points, then primary points and finally main lake structure.
Along the way, I will search for small cuts and irregularities that the bass will hold on and stage along the way. Once I have plotted out the likely migration path, I will reverse my route and fish in the traditional manner, starting from deep water and progressing toward the shallows.
A common stumbling block that many anglers including myself have fallen victim to is to search for prespawn bass based on our own human thoughts and emotions rather than to focus on placing ourselves in the fish’s environment. For example, let me present a common scenario. Saturday dawns a beautiful early spring like day with afternoon air temps projected to reach into the low 70’s. Immediately our human instinct convinces us that the fish should be up shallow and feeding actively.
Unfortunately, in this case this is just wishful thinking. What I have neglected to mention is that this is the first true spring like day in many weeks. For the past several weeks the lake has been bombarded with many days of unstable weather characterized by cold front after cold front. Water temperature is only in the low fifties and there is not a bass to be found shallow anywhere. It is easy to misread a situation like this if an angler is not observant.
I like to search for prespawn bass with reaction baits. Power fishing often works best when Mother Nature is at her worst. Stormy weather can bring about some incredible fishing. Wind and rain can act as a catalyst to put the fish into an aggressive feeding mode. I will start by placing my boat in the 20 foot range out on a primary point and work my way towards shallower water.
If the water has some color to it, I will start off by slow rolling a 5/8 oz. chartreuse and white spinnerbait. Conversely if the water has better clarity, I will throw a small Fish Trap style swimbait in the 3 to 4 inch range. My choice of tackle for both these baits is a 7’ medium heavy Cousins casting rod matched to an Abu Garcia Orra baitcaster spooled with 15lb. Maxima Ultra Green.
If reaction baits fail to produce any strikes I will slow down and switch over to traditional soft plastic baits. I always make my bait choices based on the current conditions. When the water is slick and calm and there is no wind and sunny high skies plastics become my first choice.
I fish tube baits with an internal jig head under these conditions. A 3/16 oz. head teamed with a watermelon colored tube is a highly effective choice when the bass are not eating reaction baits.
Another technique that works extremely well is to split shot a 6” straight tail Robo. Scent is a must. I cover all of my plastics with Pro-Cure in either crawfish or threadfin shad. Finally, I employ a 7’ medium action Cousins spinning rod paired with an Abu Garcia Cardinal loaded with 8 lb. Maxima Fluorocarbon line for fishing plastics.
Here is one final tip. During the early spring or when time is at a premium, I will look for spawning areas that are extremely close to vertical structure. Forty five degree banks that lead to adjacent small shallow pockets are prime areas to target. By shortening the distance from the spawning grounds to deeper water, I have effectively narrowed down the amount of water that I need to cover.
As bass make their way along their journey, they have a tendency to school up. Catching one fish can give away the location of a larger group of bass. Stay persistent, as the prespawn is one of the best times of year to be on the water.