Spring Bass Fishing Tactics
By: Nick Teschler and Conrad Demecs of Fishin’ 48
Every spring as lake temperatures rise, anglers in the know start planning fishing trips to take advantage of this special time of year. The bass spawn is triggered by rising lake temps, and as they rise, the fish move up in shallow water to lay eggs. There are three distinct periods of the bass spawn, and we’ll cover each of them below. Just remember that even though it may be “easier” to catch bass during the spawn, there are no guarantees out on the lake. We’ve included some of our favorite “go to” spawn techniques below. Take a look then find a spot to hook some fish and unforgettable memories!
Before the spawn, bass must first emerge from their deeper winter homes. They will often take migration highways like creek channels, ditches, or other pathway to shallow spawning areas. Look especially for migration highways that lead to shallow pockets or flats near the backs of creeks. During the pre-spawn period, females are growing eggs, feeding aggressively, and putting on weight. This is the best time of year to catch your personal best bass! Please release her; only a small percentage of her eggs will reach adulthood and they need all the help they can get to make it!
Pre-Spawn Bait Selection
Bait selection varies from lake to lake depending on water color, structure you’re trying to fish, and forage of the area. Swimbaits, Senkos, and drop shots work well at most of Arizona’s state park lakes. If you’re fishing stained or dirty water, a small red crankbait fished tight to the bank or cover feature can be dynamite! If you’re fishing from shore, try walking the bank and casting at a 45-degree angle so you’re able to get a little deeper while paralleling the bank at the same time.
Pro crankbait tip: In order to trigger a reaction bite from bass while fishing a crankbait, the lure must be making contact with the lake bottom or other fish holding structure. After finding where the fish are with a crankbait, slow down and use other presentations (like dropshot) to pick up more fish.
Once the water temperature hits 60-degrees, the following full moon will trigger the first wave of spawning bass. When fishing for bass during the spawn, it is crucial to have a good set of polarized sunglasses so you can see them on their beds. If the fish see you, it can make them more difficult to catch, so the polarized lenses cut the glare and help you see them first! This is called “sight fishing” and can be a very productive tactic both from a boat or shore when fish are shallow.
Sight fishing tip: Don’t overlook sight fishing smaller bodies of water. Places like Dead Horse Ranch and Roper Lake/Dankworth Pond state parks still have plenty of shoreline (and spawning bass) to keep you busy this spring.
Catch Spawning Bass From Shore
Bass are always available to shore anglers, but even more so during the annual spawn. The following scenario will help shore anglers capitalize on spawning fish and their close proximity to shore this time of year.
- Walk the bank slowly while looking ahead for bass on their beds. Try to stay hidden from potential fish as you work the bank looking for them.
- After finding fish on beds, circle back and put some distance between you and the fish before your first cast.
- If they don’t bite, slowly approach while remaining out of sight and flip a Texas rigged 3-inch white craw or Arizona Custom Baits drop shot minnow in white or chartreuse into their bed. It’s crucial at this point that you can see them eat your bait.
- Didn’t get any takers with the 3-inch bait? Go bigger with something like a power worm or a big tube bait.
If you don’t see any beds, fan cast the area with a dropshot presentation. We like Arizona Custom Baits for drop shotting because they are super buoyant and their action is so natural and smooth. Keep water clarity in mind when rigging up your dropshot rig. For instance, at Lake Havasu and also downstream by Buckskin Mountain in the Parker Strip area, we’ll use a light 7-pound fluorocarbon so the fish can’t see the line in the super clear Colorado River water. Try this light set up with a 6-inch straight tail in the oxblood color.
Reminder: When spawning fish are released, they will return to their bed almost immediately to protect their eggs/fry.
This can be a very fun time to catch bass because they bite a variety of lures, and very aggressive bucks (male bass) are still on beds protecting the fry, even though a majority of females have finished up the spawn and headed for deeper water. Far and away the most exciting way to catch bass is with topwater lures, and the post spawn is a great time to entice bass to the surface! I really like popping style baits (poppers) in a natural shad color. Find some stick-ups, trees, stumps, or other structure that might hold fish, and cast right by it. Make a point to vary the retrieve cadence. . . one pop, pause, two pops, pause, but when the bait is close to any structure, let it sit for a moment and wait for that unforgettable topwater explosion!”
The male bass on beds will likely be smaller than the females (now in deeper water), but their aggression level is at a 10 and they could bite almost anything thrown into their bed. To target females during the post-spawn period, find areas that have somewhat deeper water close to the spawning areas. They will spend most of their time deeper, but come up into shallow water to feed. Casting across submerged points that lead to deeper water from the spawning area is a great way to catch fish with crankbaits and plastics (dropshot) as they are coming and going to feed.
Flipping is also one of the most popular post spawn techniques, and Alamo Lake State Park just might be the best spot in Arizona to use this time-tested technique. There are so many submerged trees at Alamo and many of them have bass suspended at different depths. At Alamo, we like to start with a 3/8oz pegged (bobber stop) bullet weight with a 4/0 straight shank flipping hook, and an Arizona custom baits green pumpkin creature flip bait. You’ll want to flip or pitch the bait into the middle of the tree and let it fall naturally into the water. It will bounce off of branches on the way down. While flipping at Alamo, we recommend a 7’6 casting rod with 20-25lb fluorocarbon or 60lb braided line. Tighten your drag down and be ready for the thump!
We hope these spring bass fishing tips will help you gain confidence on the water this year and help you level-up your bass fishing game! Please be persistent, try new things, and stay positive on your journey to become a better bass angler. The benefits of a newfound passion far outweigh any learning curve. You’ll be hooking them on a regular basis in no time!