From personal experience, I can tell you it’s not wise to irritate a soon-to-be mother in the red zone. Unless, of course, we’re talking largemouth bass.

In that case, it’s game-on.

Florida gets a jump start on the seasonal cycles, but with most southern bass entering or currently in the prespawn stage, this is the best time of the year to catch (and release) a legitimate trophy. The fish are at their heaviest and their appetites, whoa-ho-ho, those appetites!

Notwithstanding the late-spring cold fronts that can temporarily stall the activity, prespawners will be actively patrolling the snack bar right outside the maternity ward. Their mission: pack on the calories to sustain them through the forthcoming spawning fast.

Without a doubt the fish are amped up and looking to gorge, so don’t be shy. When the mossback mamas with bulging bellies stage along those shallow ledges, rock piles, points and outer grass lines, a noisy, in-your-face approach can fast track the bass attack.

Crankbaits are one of the most efficient methods for covering broad areas and finding active fish. Where grass is present, intentionally snag the salad with a lipless crankbait and expect a strike when you rip the bait free.

Back this up with a squarebill crankbait, which deflects off wood, rock or whatever the fish are staging around. Also, the squarebill floats, so you can pause it in a promising spot if you think the teasing look will push one over the edge.

Other dependable options:

Bladed Swim Jigs
Fit them with swimming trailers and bump the grass edges and pad stems.

Frogs & Buzz Toads
Walking, spitting and popping a topwater frog or burning a buzz toad over sparse grass, lily pads and other shallow vegetation.

Umbrella Rigs
Big, bold, obnoxious—but highly enticing to hungry fish. State laws and tournament regulations vary on how many hooked baits you can pull, but even a small cluster of swimbaits or grubs will get plenty of prespawn love.

Topwater Plugs
Target the open lanes in vegetation or work across shallow rocks on transitional banks. Try different sounds – high-pitch rattles, or one-knocker models.

Weightless Worms
Rig ’em Texas-style and swim them through sparse grass. Simple, but versatile, this rig is also a good bet for pitching into holes in grass, pads, etc.

With all of these, prespawn strikes are typically pretty aggressive and despite the fish’s inherent feistiness, handle with care and release the fish by gently easing her back into the water.

Prespawn can be a straight-up stickfest, but let’s make sure these mama bass return to the water for the big delivery day.