Third Member Of The Black Bass Clan
The spotted bass may just be the toughest of that trio of america's favorite fish.
In several regions of the country, spotted bass are overlooked by anglers set on catching largemouths or by purists seeking only smallmouths. But in top locations, spots combine the best features of both fish.
Indeed, many characteristics are intermediate between largemouths and smallmouths, so much so that ichthyologists regarded the spotted bass as a hybrid or a type of smallmouth until the 1930s.
FISHING FOR SPOTTED BASS
Spring patterns--The late Prespawn Period offers a predictably hot bite, as fish mill along the edges of flats sloping from 2 to about 10 feet of water, along rock and gravel points, in natural brush along creek channels, and in manmade brushpiles. As the reservoirs warm, spotted bass leave the main river and enter large sloughs and side channels, eventually spawning on flats or steep cuts.
Four-inch ringworms or 5- and 6-inch straight-tail worms Texas rigged with 1/8- and 3/16-ounce slip sinkers excel, though Carolina rigs accounted for some of the largest females, which typically held deeper along channel ledges. Dropshot rigs also are deadly on deeper holding fish.
Heavy but compact jigs tipped with craws work well all year. In Logan Martin, deep-diving cranks also are a good choice in summer when spots hold deep, which is about 18 feet in this reservoir. In clear lakes like Lewis Smith or Lake Martin, bigger spots move beyond the range of crankbaits in summer."
Summer patterns--The shallow nature of spotted bass in the prime impoundments on the Coosa River, like Logan Martin and Lay Lake contrasts with Lake L.anier, Lewis Smith Lake, and most other top waters for this species. Water clarity seems to affect preferred depth. On the Coosa system, a productive tactics is skipping worms and jigs under boat docks, where 3-and 4-pound spots spend sunny summer days.
Deep-diving crankbaits are another good choice when spots hold along mide-depth ledges in the 10- to 16-foot range. In general, downsizing baits helps catch more spots by matching their prey size preference and smaller size and smaller mouth, relative to largemouths. Spots also respond to sound, hitting rattling crankbaits, rattlebaits, and plastics presented with glass beads and brass sinkers.
In spring and early summer, spots typically feed on bottom or suspend near brush or bluff walls, but they may also form schools to pursue shad on the surface. They're aggressive slashers and commonly hit baits as big as a Heddon Zara Spook.
To attract spots to the surface, position the boat over deep water and cast across underwater humps or stands of submerged timber. Work baits like Spooks, Pop-Rs, or propeller baits fast to trigger bites. When spots hold along steep rocky breaks, work baits parallel to the bank or break, with each cast progressively deeper.
Fishing at night is another option for spotted bass in summer. Like other black bass species, they roam from cover more at night and feed consistently, particularly in clear impoundments like Lake Lanier where Patrick Bankston caught the Georgia record spot of 8 pounds 1/2 ounce. Worms, grubs, and small jig-and-pig combos work well around structure. Small spinnerbaits, crankbaits, and bladebaits catch spots on progressively deeper structure.
Fall Patterns--Since spotted bass can't tolerate cold extremes as largemouth and smallmouths can, their aggressiveness in cool and cold water is surprising. In early fall, summer patterns hold, but as water temperatures fall into the 50F range, spotted bass typically move deeper, whether the habitat is bluff banks, creek channels, offshore humps, or boat docks.
Along bluff banks, spots often suspend between 20 and 30 feet deep. Shad also hold deep at this time and key location of spots. If baitfish don't show on sonar, concentrate on rock slides along bluff banks, transitions from bluff to more gradual shoreline, and shoreline cover like boulders or fallen trees. Where timber remains along creek channels, spotted bass may hold in tree branches 10 to 30 feet off bottom.
Texas-rigged worms and grubs and hair jigs drifted through the school usually tempt a few biters, but spots soon become wary. Jigging spoons weighing from 1/2 to 3/4 ounce imitate shad well and effectively reach deep fish.
As water temperatures fall into the low 50F range, spotted bass move shallower and bite more aggressively. Spoons, jigs, and doodle worms work in the typical depth range of 15 to 30 feet. Spots form large aggregations, and catching 50 fish a day isn't rare. Once you find fish, they tend to stay in the area for the winter.