Get Your Pre-Spawn Bass

PROFILE NAME: Micropterus salmoides ALIASES: Largemouth bass; lunker; bigmouth; bucketmouth; green trout; great ol' big 'un. POSSIBLE LOCATIONS: Lakes, reservoirs, ponds and rivers in every state except Alaska. DESCRIPTION: Green and scaly. Huge mouth, capable of devouring big minnows, bluegills, crayfish and foot-long swimbaits. Pot belly. Known to reach weights exceeding 10 pounds, even 20. HABITS: Often found lurking around submerged stumps, logs and weed beds, which it uses for concealment before attacking victims. In early spring, it displays a propensity to hang out, or "suspend," in a seemingly torpid state until hunger and/or the urge to procreate forces it to go on the prowl for a meal or a mate. Sluggish and slow-moving in cold water, it goes into high gear once its environment heats up. WARNING! This is a cold-blooded killer, capable of marked mood swings. Apprehension will require extreme diligence, stealth and patience due to the target¿s mobility and numerous hideouts. It has a reputation for putting up a savage fight when cornered. Use extreme caution when attempting to bring this predator to bay.Outdoor Life Online Editor
DISPOSITION: Your target is a cold-blooded predator- literally. Its body temperature is exactly the same as that of the water surrounding it. In cold water, it doesn't move around much and feeds infrequently. As the water warms, it becomes more active and requires more food. But in spring, hunger isn't the only force that drives its behavior. The urge to procreate also dictates its movements, gradually compelling it to gravitate from its deep winter haunts to its eventual spawning grounds. Bass normally spawn in water between 65 and 75 degrees. Therefore, if you want to apprehend a bass prior to spawning, while it's stuffed with food, fat with roe and feisty from the hormones raging within its body, you need to familiarize yourself with its most likely routes leading from deep to shallow water.Outdoor Life Online Editor
MOVEMENTS: In winter, most of a lake's bass population will focus on deep main-lake structures, such as drop-offs, steep banks and channels. But as the water temperature inches up during the transitional period between winter and early spring, your target will move toward shallow water. It will travel via underwater "highways" in the form of submerged river and creek channels, snaking depth contours and seemingly insignificant ruts and ditches. Or it may start its migration at the end of a steep point and then move shallower onto this structure, eventually following it into a tributary arm. As the water continues to warm, the bass will move shallower still, seeking a spawning spot that's protected from north winds and where the sun can incubate its eggs. Whichever path your target chooses, know that it will take its sweet time, stopping often along the way to feed or rest, waiting patiently for that magic moment when the time is right for it to complete its spawning cycle.Outdoor Life Online Editor
TRIGGERS: Those first few degrees of water warm-up are critical. No matter how cold the lake got over the winter- 38 degrees, 45 degrees, whatever- a warm rain, or the first mild and sunny spell of the year, can trigger bass to move shallow. They'll travel along a deep migration route, slide up into shallow water to feed or warm themselves, and then move deeper again, either to rest or to continue on their way.Outdoor Life Online Editor
STAGING: As the water gradually warms into the mid-50-degree range, bass often congregate in deeper spots close to potential spawning areas. Bass pros call this behavior "staging." Sometimes large numbers of bass will stage along a steep channel bank that's close to a shallow cove, or on some fast-dropping ledge that breaks off the outer edge of a stump flat. Staging bass are biding their time, waiting for the water to warm up before moving shallow and staking their claim on a spawning site. They'll either suspend in the water column or hang out on the bottom close to some stump, rock or weed patch. And though they appear to be inactive, they'll smack a lure pulled past their noses.Outdoor Life Online Editor
SPAWNING: Contrary to what many anglers believe, bass don't all spawn at the same time. When the lake's temperature reaches about 70 degrees, for example, some bass will be in their pre-spawn phase, staging on secondary points inside tributary arms. Others might be bedding in shallow pockets; still others might be finished spawning and are making their way back to the main body of the lake via a creek channel.Outdoor Life Online Editor
DEBRIEFING: It's time for you to put the pieces of the puzzle together. Your target is elusive, true, yet fairly predictable in its movements. Early in the season, concentrate on banks and points with a deep channel close by. As spring advances, key on progressively shallower targets, initially with some deep water nearby, then close to protected spots suitable for bedding.Outdoor Life Online Editor
NAME: Kevin VanDam AGE: 41 HOMETOWN: Kalamazoo, Michigan WEAPON OF CHOICE: Strike King's KVD Suspending Wild Shiner jerkbait CREDENTIALS: Tournament winnings top $2.5 million. Has won two Bassmaster Classics. Considered by his peers to be the most-feared competitor on the pro bass tour today. "A suspending jerkbait is the deadliest and most exciting lure you can fish during the late winter/early spring transition, when the lake is in the 39- to 44-degree range and clear. This minnow mimic can be fished slowly to draw strikes from lethargic bass suspending in the water column, a common scenario during pre-spawn. My favorite jerkbait is Strike King's KVD Suspending Wild Shiner, a 4.5-inch lure of my own design. It has the perfect combination of flash, wiggle and erratic side-to-side roll. I have my jerkbaits custom-painted by lure artist Dale Sellers (sellerscustomlures.com) to match the baitfish prevalent in the region where I'll be competing, and I fish them on a 6.5-foot, soft-action cranking rod with 10- to 14-pound fluorocarbon line. Position your boat off the end of a deep point or a 45-degree channel bank, make a long cast, wind the jerkbait down to its maximum depth and work it with sharp downward strokes of the rod. Pause between jerks¿they'll usually smack the lure when it's sitting still."Outdoor Life Online Editor
NAME: Marty Stone AGE: 43 HOMETOWN: Linden, North Carolina WEAPON OF CHOICE: Lucky Craft LVR D10 crankbait CREDENTIALS: Has won more than $500,000 on the pro tour while qualifying for four Classics. DEMEANOR: Don't be fooled by his sunny, upbeat manner; with big money on the line in a tournament, he'll reach deep into his bag of tricks to bury you. "My number one lure choice for big pre-spawn bass is a .75-ounce lipless vibrating crankbait, specifically the Lucky Craft LVR D10. This is the best lure I've found when the water temp is in the 40s to mid-50s-you can cover a lot of water quickly with a lipless crank, yet still catch lunker bass on it. I prefer a matte finish, like firetiger or red craw, when it's cloudy, and a reflective finish, like blue back/silver sides, under sunny skies. I fish lipless crankbaits on a 7.5-foot soft-action cranking rod with a high-speed bait-casting reel spooled with 30-pound-test braided line, and key on little pockets and indentations along the bank. These shallow areas warm up quickly, and big bass will ease into them to fatten up on shad and crayfish prior to spawning. Just fan-cast the lure all around the pocket-bass will often stack up in the middle of these spots. Use a steady medium-speed retrieve, just fast enough to keep the lure off the bottom- and keep your drag loose!"Outdoor Life Online Editor
NAME: Michael Iaconelli AGE: 36 HOMETOWN: Runnemede, New Jersey WEAPON OF CHOICE: Shaky-head worm on a Tru-Tungsten Ikey Head Ball Buster CREDENTIALS: Classic winner, with more than $1.3 million in tournament payouts to his credit. IDENTIFYING MARKS/BEHAVIOR: Bass tattoos and a propensity to scream loudly after catching a big fish. "In cold water, the name of the game is getting the greatest number of bites, and nothing gets more bites than a shaky-head worm. This presentation centers around a slender finesse worm, usually 4 to 6 inches in length, with a straight or slightly flattened tail, rigged weedless on a jighead and fished on a stiff spinning outfit with 6- or 8-pound line- I use fluorocarbon for its sinking qualities and enhanced sensitivity. Cast the worm around steep banks and shallow cover, let it hit bottom, then gently shake the rod tip just enough so that the bait quivers and pulsates in place. You don't want it to hop around- just sit there and shimmy. Shake, pause, shake, pause- there's something about this presentation that really ticks off bass, and if there's a fish there, it'll bite it. I use Tru-Tungsten jigheads like the Ball Buster and Ike's Spike; these have extra-strong hooks with an M-shaped bend to hold the worm in place and, unlike lead heads, they're environmentally friendly. Green pumpkin, watermelon and pumpkin pepper are dependable worm colors."Outdoor Life Online Editor
NAME: Alton Jones AGE: 45 HOMETOWN: Waco, Texas WEAPON OF CHOICE: Booyah Pro Boo Bug finesse jig with matching Yum Baby CrawBug CREDENTIALS: Ten-time Classic qualifier. Has pocketed more than a million bucks on the pro bass circuit. DEMEANOR: Cool, calm, capable; a consistant come-from- behind threat. "My go-to pre-spawn bass lure? A 3/16-ounce green-pumpkin Booyah Pro Boo Bug finesse jig. The skirt on this bad boy is tied spider-style, with part of the strands sticking out to form a collar over the head. This gives it the leggy look of a small crayfish, preferred bass forage in early spring. And when a bass sucks in the jig, all those 'legs' move around in its mouth so it hangs on longer. I rig the Boo Bug with a matching Yum Baby CrawBug soft-plastic trailer and fish it on a 6.5-foot medium-heavy bait-casting outfit with 30-pound braided line. If the water is clear, I'll tie a leader of 20-pound fluorocarbon between the braid and the jig. Head for the upper end of the lake, which is shallower and warmer than the lower end early in the season, and pitch the Bug tight to scattered wood or rock cover- in other words, to likely crayfish habitat. Move along the bank slowly, dropping the jig around every piece of cover you see- bass usually hit it on the fall."Outdoor Life Online Editor
Pop on top Name: Bernie Schultz Hometown: Gainesville, Florida Weapon of choice: Rapala SkitterPop "Most guys use bottom-hugging lures to catch bedding bass, but I've caught some wall-hangers on a surface popper- unlike other topwater baits, you can fish a popper in one place for a long period of time, which is exactly what you need to do to tick off a wary bedding fish. Just locate the bed, chunk the popper right on top of the nest, drop the rod tip and pull the slack out of your line with a sharp upward stroke so the plug spits and pops. Pop, rest, pop-pop, rest- the name of the game is varying the number and intensity of pops and the time the bait sits motionless until you come up with a combination that provokes a reaction strike. My favorite bed popper is the Rapala SkitterPop in silver foil finish."Outdoor Life Online Editor
Double trouble Name: Charlie Ingram Hometown: Santa Fe, Tenn. Weapon of choice: Snag Proof Bass Grabber Jig "Often the biggest bass in a spawning cove will be bedding in a spot that's hard to get a lure into, like in the crotch of a fallen tree or in an open hole in the middle of a big hydrilla patch. If you cast the lure past the bed and try to work it onto the nest, nine times out of 10 it gets hung up and you either have to shake it loose or bust it off, which invariably spooks the bass off its bed and make it 10 times more wary than it was once it circles around and returns to the nest. To make sure I don't get hung up, I use a .5-ounce Bass Grabber jig, which I designed for Snag Proof. It has two upswept hooks instead of one, which prevents the lure from rolling to one side when you crawl it over a piece of cover- this is where 90% of the hang-ups occur with a traditional single-hook jig. Just cast it into the gnarliest stuff you see and crawl or hop it onto the nest. Green pumpkin and black and blue are dependable color patterns.Outdoor Life Online Editor
Lure rotation Name: Jay Yelas Hometown: Portland, Oregon Weapon of choice: Various "When I'm bed fishing, I keep several lures rigged on different rods and rotate my presentations- one cast with a pink floating worm, the next with a pumpkin tube bait, then a black shaky head worm, then a green craw creature bait, and so on. This gets the bass riled up, much more so than when you keep casting the same bait to the nest over and over again. I've had days when I'll cast 10 different baits onto the nest and the bass will totally ignore every one of them, then I¿ll lay #11 onto the nest and the fish instantly lights up like an electric sign and crushes the bait. I get goose bumps thinking about it!"Outdoor Life Online Editor
Lizard logic Name: Pam Martin-Wells Hometown: Bainbridge, Georgia Weapon of choice: Wave-Tiki Lizard "It's tough to beat a lizard for spawning bass. Bass instinctively know that lizards, actually salamanders, are egg predators, and they won't tolerate these slimy critters snooping around their beds. Last spring I was fishing a tournament and found a quiet cove, shallow and loaded with big stumps. The water was tannic and it was hard to make out any bass beds, but every once in awhile I'd see a tell-tale flash next to a stump- it was a big female rubbing up against the wood to loosen its eggs before dropping them. I pitched a green Wave Tiki Lizard, Texas-rigged on a 4/0 hook with a 3/16-ounce sinker, to every stump I saw and ended up with five-bass limit weighing over 20 pounds.Outdoor Life Online Editor
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HOT SPOTS: The northwest corner of a lake is a major pre-spawn bass hot spot because it is the first area to warm up in early spring, and the earliest WEED growth will be there as a result. Try a Rat-L-Trap, spinnerbait or suspending jerkbait in this area.Outdoor Life Online Editor
SHALLOW COVER: In murky lakes, bass are less likely to suspend and will usually hold tight to shallow cover. Target-casting to STUMPS, submerged brush piles, laydown logs and rocks with a jig, creature bait, spinnerbait or square-bill crankbait is your best bet here.Outdoor Life Online Editor
REST STOPS: SECONDARY POINTS, often overlooked by anglers, are rest stops for bass migrating into reservoir tributary arms to spawn. Hit them with a diving crankbait, jig or Texas-rigged lizard.Outdoor Life Online Editor
DAM ROCKS: RIPRAP lining the dam will hold bass during pre-spawn; along with being great crayfish habitat, these rocks hold heat, so the water is likely to be slightly warmer here on sunny days. Fish riprap with a square-bill crankbait, finesse jig or spinnerbait.Outdoor Life Online Editor
SUSPENDING: In lakes with good water clarity, expect to find your target suspending off 45-degree channel banks, PRIMARY POINTS and submerged creek channels lined with standing timber. Suspending bass will hit suspending jerkbaits, like a Pointer or Rogue, twitched repeatedly with intermittent pauses.Outdoor Life Online Editor
STAGING AREAS: OFFSHORE HUMPS will attract bass out of deep water and are excellent pre-spawn staging areas. Bass will either suspend over the structure or hunker down next to stumps, brush or rocks scattered around it. Fish the top of the hump with a diving crankbait, then probe the deeper sides with a football jig.Outdoor Life Online Editor
LAYDOWNS: Bass will suspend around LAYDOWNS along steep channel banks. Swim a jig or slow-roll a spinnerbait along the length of the trunk and major branches, and twitch a suspending jerkbait off the ends of the branches to trigger ambush strikes from your target.Outdoor Life Online Editor
RUNOFF AREAS: Any runoff entering the lake via an INFLOWING CULVERT, creek or ditch will attract baitfish and bass in early spring, provided it's warmer than the lake water. This is especially true in clear lakes, where murky runoff provides concealment and a shallow ambush point for bass. Fish these areas with lures that put out vibration, such as lipless crankbaits and spinnerbaits.Outdoor Life Online Editor
DEEP CHANNELS: In the earliest part of the pre-spawn period, think "steep and deep." Your target will be in or close to a deep channel but will gravitate to FLATS, shoreline pockets and points with a slow taper to feed and to warm itself in the sun. These shallow waypoints adjacent to channels are best fished in the afternoon on calm, sunny days. Lures and presentations depend on what depth bass are using and could range from crankbaits to jigs.Outdoor Life Online Editor
DOCKS: Boat DOCKS will hold pre-spawn bass, provided the water around them is sufficiently deep; fish them with a shaky-head worm or finesse jig.Outdoor Life Online Editor

Catching pre-spawn bass doesn't have to be Mission: Impossible. Get all the info you need to catch them here.