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Great Spot's For Spring Bass

One of the most frequently asked questions thrown my way during spring guiding is "when do bass first become active in the spring?" Well as a Wisconsin Fishing Guide my standard answer for people who live in the northern states is that bass become active as soon as the ice melts. In the south, it's as soon as the water temperatures become consistent in the mid to upper 40s. I've caught many big bass in lakes and ponds with ice still on the water.

Bass want to get shallow and they want to eat. People who wait until April and May to start fishing are missing some great action and the chance at a really giant bass. A lot of 8-pound fish and bigger are caught in water temperatures less than 50 degrees.

Bass stage sooner than many people realize as they typically can spawn in cooler water, often going through the spawn weeks before the big waves of smaller fish move up. It's also surprising to many anglers how active these early fish can be. Dragging jigs and bottom dredgers at a snail’s pace in deep water is not the answer to big cold-water spring bass. These bass are after shallow baitfish, and my favorite baitfish imitator for these springtime cold-water periods is anything that resembles these baitfish

In the spring, from ice out and through water temps in the 40s, I like to fish the breaklines where big bass are staged for the spawn. Areas that go from 4 to 8-feet deep are prime target areas for me during late winter and early spring. Points, humps, ledges or breaklines with old grass or wood cover such as stumps or lay-downs are excellent areas to start. You don't have to fish deep to find big bass this time of year, just make sure there is a breakline close to deeper water.

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Secondary points, shallow points in creeks and pockets and shallow main lake ledges and humps hold a lot of active early bass.With water temperatures in the 40s, bass are often on the edges of humps, points or banks, and the slow, steady retrieve is very productive. I'll make long throws and keep the rod tip low so the bait stays just above the bottom, lifting the rod tip only if the bait begins to make contact with the bottom or the cover I'm fishing.As the water warms into the 50s, I begin fishing the tops of the humps and ledges and I begin moving further back into the creeks where the bass will do the bedding.So, if you're suffering from cabin fever, remember that for bass, spring starts earlier than you might think. Get to your favorite fishing hole and take the edge off. Throw your lure on the edges of those spawning grounds, and just be ready, because that first bite of the year could be the one you've been dreaming of all winter.

Where to fnd largemouth bass in the spring

Largemouth bass will seek out different types of structure at different times of the year. In the spring, fish will gravitate towards ideal spawning areas, and in the fall, they will shift their attention towards finding an abundance of food to fatten up for the winter.


After ice-out in late winter or early spring, bass begin moving from deeper areas where they spent the winter toward rapidly warming shallow waters. However, early spring weather is unpredictable, and as the water temperature in the shallows fluctuates from day to day, bass will move back and forth between shallow and deep water. Along with water temperature, spring largemouth location is driven by spawning behavior, so fishing can be broken down into three stages: pre-spawn, spawn and post-spawn, with largemouth exhibiting different behaviors and holding in different locations through each stage of the spawning process
 

Pre-Spawn

Early in the spring, largemouths will be looking to feed to regain the weight lost during the lean winter and to build up energy for the spawn. Until the shallows begin to warm, shoreline points near deep water, sharp breaks that lead to large flats, channels or depressions in spawning coves, or any type of cover in deeper water located near shallow spawning areas will function as staging areas for pre-spawn bass. Many of these structures are not visible and must be located with electronics. Crankbaits, lipless crankbaits and jigs slowly dragged across the bottom are all effective on deep, early-spring bass.

Bass moving toward spawning coves will stop to feed at isolated cover such as rocks or fallen trees. Even old weed patches from last year will hold fish. Use a medium-diving crankbait like the Storm Wiggle Wart to explore the water leading to spawning coves and flats. Go with bright color patterns in stained water and natural patterns in clear water. The crankbait should run deep enough to bump bottom. A jig tipped with a plastic craw is another good option to slowly explore an area. Use black and blue in stained water and pumpkin or watermelon in clear water.

Bass will begin looking for the warmest available water and start to move into the shallows as soon as these areas warm under the spring sun. Shallow, stained lakes will warm the fastest, and bass in these waters will move shallow earlier than those in deeper, clear lakes. Look to the northern sections of a large lake, particularly south-facing shorelines that are exposed to the sun for long periods of the day and protected from cold northern winds. Protected, shallow coves will also retain water that warms quickly in the spring. Avoid shaded areas and areas exposed to wind that will mix the water.

Spawn

Once the water temperature in spawning coves is above the 60-degree mark, bass will move shallow and spawn. However, water temperature in the shallows can change rapidly—literally overnight. A cold front can chase the bass off the beds and send them deep until the weather stabilizes. Most of the time, the bass won’t move very far. If you were catching them a foot off the bank before the cold front, try 5 to 10 feet off the bank and closer to the bottom after water temperatures drop.

You will see spawning beds on the warmest, most protected sections of the lake first. Bass spawn in shallow water on a hard bottom, preferably next to some sort of cover like a stump, dock piling, tree or bush, which helps protect them from wind and predators.

All bass in a body of water don’t spawn at the same time. Some bass are spawning while some are still moving up. So when shallow bass are unresponsive, target the bass that are staging in deeper water.

Though bass in shallow water are often more aggressive, they also experience more angling pressure than bass holding in deeper water. Shift your focus to the mid-range fish and you will be rewarded.

Another benefit to fishing the mid-range depths during pre-spawn/spawn is the shot at the large females that lurk on the outskirts of spawning areas as the males prepare the beds. When you see the smaller male sitting on the bed, know that there may be a large female waiting somewhere nearby—fish the deeper water leading up to the spawning bed for a shot at this bigger fish.

When the time is right, the female will move up and spawn, only holding in the shallow water for a short period of time.

If you choose to target bass on their spawning beds, it can be very easy at times. The less you are seen by the bass, the easier it will be to get them to bite. Low-light conditions and wind will help camouflage you. The most basic way to fish for bedding fish is throwing a 4- or 5-inch Texas-rigged soft-plastic bait past the bed and slowly moving it into the bed. If the bass picks it up, wait a second and set the hook.

After the spawn, the larger female bass will move off to the outskirts of the spawning area to recuperate from the stresses of the spawn while the smaller male protects the eggs and fry.

Post-Spawn

After the bass spawn, bluegills move into the same areas and set up shop. This is a great time to catch big bass. Bass will wait at ambush points during bluegill spawning and readily eat lures worked past these points. Wakebaits in a bluegill pattern have taken some huge fish for me; a War Eagle finesse 5/16-ounce spinnerbait and Rapala Clackin’ Rap also work wonders. The best spots are shoreline points on either side of a spawning cove, shoreline pockets, the front and sides of a downed tree, dock, or any kind of large structure near the bluegill beds. When you find early season bluegill beds, know the bass are somewhere close.

Post-spawn bass hold in shoreline cover as the spring weather stabilizes. There is a lot of fishing pressure at this time of year, and to catch more fish, you need to get your lure where most guys don’t. Weed lines have not yet set up, so bass are keying in on trees and brush. When fishing a laydown, pitch your bait deeper into the tree than most guys—don’t worry about getting snagged, it’s part of fishing.