March 06, 2023
By David A. Brown
The smart money, the sure bet, the slam dunk—we toss around a lot of hyperbole to stress our confidence in a given premise; and, in fairness, there’s often some level of factual basis. But for those seeking their personal best bass, or at least a solid day of toad taming, the prespawn is the time for off-the-charts opportunity.
Think about it: The largest fish in the lake are at their heaviest point in the year and their shoreward movement will put them at peak vulnerability. Can we catch some of these fish at other times of the year? Sure, but prespawn staging makes the game much more predictable and accessible.
Here’s a handful of points to help dial in your prespawn game.
Clearly, the prespawn specifics will vary by fishery, but two criteria remain consistent: 1) Staging fish want cover/ambush points from which to pick off their meals and 2) They like quick access to deeper water.
“Deeper,” of course, is relevant to the fishery, but even on shallow lakes without distinct contour breaks and well-defined creek channels, a few feet can make a big difference. In Florida, the fish often set up on the outer weed edges, move up to spawn when the moon and water temperature get right, then slide back out to the weedy perimeter.
Similarly, Bassmaster Elite pro Gerald Swindle knows that highland reservoir docks can offer bass just about everything the bass need for much of their year. Prespawn finds them feeding and sunning under the deep end floats, where they’re only a short swim from the rocky end or seawall where they’ll spawn.
Elsewhere, common prespawn positions include points, secondary points, fixed docks, bridge riprap and rocky breaks just off the spawning flats. Stump fields, standing timber and pad stems are all players in the prespawn.
Reigning Bassmaster Classic champ Jason Christie once told me he always wants the fish coming to him. This applies to multiple scenarios, but the prespawn defines the logic, especially in a traditional creek/pocket migration route.
Drilling down a little deeper, overshooting or undershooting your target area can leave you thinking they need to restock the pond. Get it right and you’ll need a box of Band-Aids for your tattered thumbs. (The only downside to catching and releasing a bunch of bass.)
Later in the season, you can skip a lot of the outer areas and go right to those prespawn areas right outside the spawning flats. However, earlier in the prespawn, it makes more sense to start on the outer edge and fish your way in. Hit the key spots and you’ll quickly find out if the fish are there or not.
Don’t dally if you’re gettin’ no love; press on until you run into a chunky one, then spend a little more time in that zone. Also try deeper and shallower to see if you can dial in a cluster of prespawners peppered around an attractive feature.
Key point: As you get closer to the spawning zone, pay attention to your surroundings and note the likely “fall back” spots—secure cover with a little more depth. Pad fields, new spring grass, docks—these are the spots to which bass will retreat if a cold front disrupts their spawning movement. The fish simply won’t backtrack to the main lake, but they will fall back to the nearest shelter until the weather stabilizes and warmth returns.
In grass lakes, ripping lipless baits and bladed jigs through the vegetation is one of the more popular prespawn techniques. It’s pure reaction bite, but don’t make the bait disappear too quickly. Bass are often holding right in the grass, so their visibility is marred. They may catch a glimpse of your ripped bait, but if you’re pedal to the metal on the retrieve, they might lose visual contact.
The challenge is finding the right combination of lure weight, trailer style (for bladed jigs) and line size that allows you to catch some grass without bogging down and then float your bait through the open spots. Bites usually follow the ripping action, but the better window you allow a reacting fish, the more connections you’ll enjoy.
Also, topwater frogs can offer tremendous prespawn action, but don’t move them as fast as you would for summer or fall. As pro angler Ish Monroe once told me, the frog represents an appealing meal for last-minute prespawners, as well as newly arrived bed fish. That means feeding bites, which are often less aggressive and kinda boring.
Case in point, during a photo shoot a few years ago, Monroe nabbed a 7 1/2pounder that slurped the bait off the surface with less aggression than a bluegill sucking in a water spider.
That’s why Monroe and others like white frogs this time of year. Easy for the fish to spot, but they’re also easy for anglers to monitor. Watch your white object meander through the shallow cover and if it suddenly disappears—absent the crushing strike—reel down and lay the wood to ‘em.
It’s A Drag
Darold Gleason, Bassmaster Elite pro and Toledo Bend guide knows the importance of keeping a Carolina-rigged V&M Swamp Hog on is deck during the prespawn. While he does a lot of grass ripping with lipless baits and bladed jigs, he’ll scoot a C-rig through grassy staging areas and offer fish a little different look.
In Gleason’s view, intense tournament pressure often finds the fish shying away from those traditional prespawn search baits; possibly a downturn after a day or two of heavy reaction bait action. Cleaning up with a more subtle presentation might just be the deal for temping another big bite—maybe your PB.