Spring can offer some of the most exciting bass fishing an angler could hope for, but during the course of the season, bass behavior changes more drastically than any other time of year. This is because bass spawn in the spring, and during the spawning phase their feeding activity goes up and down like a rollercoaster.
Careful lure selection and technique adjustments are two essential measures a bass angler must take to be successful fishing throughout the entire spring season. As bass feeding activity changes, so too will your strategy if you want to keep the bite going, and the biggest factor in bass activity is water temperature.
Temperature Is The Reason For The Season
The sweet spot temperature for bass feeding and activity is generally between the high 50’s and low 70’s, and this is also the range in which the spawn cycle begins. Temperatures above 80 degrees tend to have a negative effect on bass and they begin to become more inactive and seek out deeper, more stable water.
What constitutes deep is relative to the overall depth of the body of water. Generally, bass stay on or close to the bottom, whether they are in the shallows or deep, and they will seek out some sort of structure and/or cover. Whether the deepest point is 10, 15, or 35 feet, bass can be found there during periods of extreme heat or cold.
Bass hold, migrate, feed, and spawn based on the seasons– more specifically, based on the temperature of the water during those seasons. Spring, summer, fall and winter fishing each call for different techniques and lure selection. But the most important factor is the water temperature during a given season.
In North America, spring months are March, April and May. But March in Texas is usually about 30 degrees warmer that March in Minnesota. Since bass are more active in warmer water, you could expect the bite to be tougher, and you would fish your lures slower in Minnesota than if you were in Texas during the same time of year.
In other words, the bass don’t care that it’s March, or whether they’re in Texas or Minnesota; they care whether the water is 45 degrees or 65 degrees. Remember that fact as we talk about spring fishing because water temperature tells an angler where the bass are located, and for spring fishing it’s all about the shallows.
Spring Bass Fishing
Due to the spawn, spring bass fishing is broken down into three phases that make up the spawn cycle: prespawn, spawn, and post spawn. Bass behave very differently in each phase, so your lure choice and technique will need to adjust with these phases.
The spawn cycle can begin and end at different times of year and vary from lake to lake, even between lakes that are close to each other. For instance, a shallow lake usually warms quicker than a deeper one, causing the spawn cycle to begin earlier.
That’s why you should always be tracking the water temperature in spring so you know what phase of the spawn cycle bass are in and how they are behaving. Most bass anglers get the water temperature from their fish finders, but if you don’t have one or it’s not in the budget, then use a basic fishing thermometer.
1. The Prespawn
When bass enter the prespawn phase, it’s in conjunction with the rest of the body of water waking up after winter. Typical water temperatures range from the high 40’s in colder climates to the high 50’s in more temperate climates.
Bass are slowly making their way from the depths to the shallows during this phase. They are preparing for the spawn and begin searching for food to restore energy that was depleted during the winter. They also head for shallow water for the warmer water temperatures they provide, since the shallows are warmed more quickly by the sun.
It’s between now and the actual spawn phase that bass fishing becomes pretty active. When water temps are hovering in the 50’s, bass will be feeding. Actively feeding, but not full throttle just yet, so stick to slow moving lures. This is an excellent time of year for jerkbaits like the Husky Jerk.
As water temps get closer to the 60’s, you can pick up the speed a little with spinnerbaits. Overall, the best lures for early spring fishing are:
- Jerkbaits: Hard bodied and soft bodied
- Plastic Worms: The smaller the better
- Spinnerbaits: Retrieved as slow as possible
If spring temperatures rise slowly then you can have a nice window of bass fishing, but it they increase rapidly, bass will quickly go into spawn mode. However, the longer the window is, the more you should take advantage of this time because the bite will dramatically change as we enter the next phase: the spawn.
2. The Spawn Phase
During the spawn, male bass make rounded nests called beds. They form them with their tails in sand, mud, clay or gravel. Typically, they are located along the shoreline, in about 2-5 feet of water. When the water is clearer, beds are usually located a bit deeper and when the water is murky, beds are found in shallower water.
When the bed is complete, the male bass with entice females into it to spawn. Once the female bass lays her eggs and the male fertilizes them, they stop feeding. This “lockjaw” phase can last two to four weeks as the males will be guarding the eggs, while the females head to deep water to recover.
You can forget about the females during this period, but you can still catch the males. While guarding the beds, male bass will ferociously attack any natural predictors that come too close, like sunfish or crawfish looking to make a meal of the eggs. The male bass are not attacking to feed, but strictly to protect the eggs.
Catching males that are guarding nests is refereed to as “bed fishing”. It’s when you make multiple casts at a bed in hopes of tricking the bass into thinking your lure is a natural predator looking to steal his eggs. This is best done with very small plastic worms like a finesse worm rigged with a weighted shaky head.
The problem is bass are on such a high alert during this phase that they will often identify lures as unnatural and ignore them. Bass fisherman will spend hours on a single bed in hopes of landing a big male. Others argue that bed fishing is unethical, and bass should be left alone during the spawn to preserve their abundance. Anglers have been arguing the ethics of bed fishing for years, but with post spawn around the corner, both sides will be at peace.
3. Post Spawn
When the spawn phase is over and baby bass are too big and active for the male to keep guarding them, the adult males will begin to abandon their beds and resume normal feeding behavior. Once the females have recovered from spawning, they will move up to the shallows to feed as well. It’s about five to six weeks after the actual spawn that bass fishing begins to really pick up.
This is when bass fisherman can really unleash their full arsenal of lures, especially the fast moving ones like buzzbaits and crankbaits. All lures are in play at this point, and you can focus more on conditions like time of day and cloud cover when choosing a lure.
Late spring and early summer is when a lake is at its peak in regards to bass fishing. Bass are in a feeding frenzy, so you do not want to miss this window of opportunity. Especially since the action can begin to slow down as summer progresses, but with the right summer bass lures you can keep catching them right into fall.