December 02, 2021
It’s considered “the” time for targeting giant bass. An opportunity for the P.B., or at least, a bragging-rights stud. Eagerly anticipated, it’s the largemouth bass prespawn.
Whether we’re talking northerns or Florida-strain fish in their native or stocked waters, the weeks preceding the baby making ritual find the lake’s largest fish.
With the exception of Florida’s shallow bowl type lakes, where the fish may only move 50 yards or less to spawn, the course from winter habitat to spawning flats usually involves a stop-and-go journey in which the fish stage on various structure en route to the honeymoon suite. Stumps, docks, points, secondary points — options are many. So how do you narrow down the search?
You ditch your plan.
Well, not in the sense of abandoning your objective. Rather, it’s about focusing on the gut, or drain at the bottom of the main channel that meanders from the main lake, back into the creek’s inner reaches.
Driven by instinct, fish consistently trace this seasonal lifeline year after year. It’s familiar, dependable and, most of all, it allows them to rise up and take feeding positions on various cover, while maintaining the safety of depth proximity.
Will some wander out of this main avenue? Sure, but the prespawn is one of those times when finding one big fish can dial you in on a pile of heavy-heavies.
Dredge The Ditch
Once inside a creek, prespawn bass can be very specific on where they gather. For your best shot at finding clusters of fish, identify the bends.
On the main lake or in the creeks, channel bends or turns always hold seasonal relevance, as they redirect water flow and corral baitfish. In the prespawn, they’re particularly important because not all the approaching fish can fit into a given spawning area. Think of channel bends as waiting rooms.
Note: don’t overlook minor depth variances. An outside bend may only be a couple feet deeper, but even relatively moderate depth changes can be sufficient to gather fish awaiting nature’s green light.
Also consider that outside bends often present hard, vertical structure — the result of current scouring. Arriving prespawners and existing postspawners favor such cozy digs, so be sure to hit these sweet spots at both ends of the spawning season.
Small sloughs and drains can also play big during the prespawn, as the secondary arteries offer create creek channel intersections where fish can sit and feed. For these and all of the creek’s particular attractions, invest a solid recon pass before making a single cast. Mark the sweet spots, give the fish time to settle after watching a boat pass overhead and then fish your way into the creek channel.
Covering water is definitely essential to the prespawn search, so it’s no surprise that crankbaits hold a prominent place in the arsenal. A good selection of shallow to medium depth baits will help you cover whatever you encounter and dial in the strike zone.
Lipless baits deserve their spot in the lineup pretty much anywhere throughout the southeast, but grass lakes bring out their best. Let the bait sink into the hydrilla or milfoil, feel it load with vegetation and then rip the bait free.
For a highly effective one-two punch, pair a lipless bait with a squarebill. Use the former for rapid-fire coverage and then target specific cover or gaps in grass with the latter. (A squarebill’s buoyancy allows you to pause it in the open spots for a taunting look that may trigger a reluctant bass.)
Flesh out your reaction bait lineup with topwaters, spinnerbaits, bladed jigs and swim jigs. You’ll also want to have a jerkbait element in your prespawn arsenal, as well as the Alabama rig. Not always tournament-legal, but the multi-armed madness is a prespawn fish-getter.
Football head jigs or wobble heads fitted with craws or creature baits offer another good bet for covering water and finding active fish. For another look, a Carolina rig will also serve you well this time of year by keeping a vulnerable forage profile close to the bottom.
With the fish progressing almost daily, the prespawn typically emphasizes the search mode, but don’t assume this is all about moving baits. Savvy prespawn seekers will keep a couple of flipping/pitching outfits handy with jigs or Texas-rigged craws or creature baits meant for docks, laydown or other targets—emergent or sonar spotted.
Distinct objects certainly make life easier but remember: Prespawners utilize whatever their neighborhood offers. So, if you don’t have a lot of structure in a ditch, throw across it or cast into the middle and pull your bait uphill. Either way, you’ll make contact with the edges where most of the subtle fish attracting features are found.